Book Review: The Byzantine Wars by John Haldon, History Press, 2008

Leave a comment


At times I receive emails with which my readers ask me to suggest to them some studies, treatises, sourcebooks etc for specific issues of history, military history and engineering/architecture. Due to the unfortunate fact that I do not have the time to answer to each one separately (which is why I also had to disable the comments on the posts), I decided to write some reviews on books that I’ve studied on such topics. The Greek readers know that I’ve written two historical novels on Antiquity, so some readers ask me which my favorite historical novels are; thereby from time to time I’ll also suggest some of these works for the English-speaking and German-speaking readers, especially recent ones and some older.
I will start this new section with a military study that is a work by the well known Byzantinologist John Haldon: The Byzantine Wars.          The Byzantine Empire during her very long history, faced a multitude of enemy states, peoples and nomadic hordes, thus developing the characteristic Byzantine warfare, one of the most advanced of its time concerning the entire planet. Her geographical position at the “crossroads of civilizations”, her weighty heritage from both the Roman and the ancient Greek armies and her confrontation with particularly dangerous enemies in all her borders, led her to always maintain a vigorous and well-organized army, an army of the real “imperial” kind.




1 Comment


Map of Byzantine Asia Minor in 780 AD, with the classic regions in black letters.  These regions must not  be confused with the Byzantine themata (provinces) in red letters (map source: wikipedia)
By Periklis Deligiannis

In the 4th century BC, before the conquests of Alexander the Great, Asia Minor (or Anatolia) was a multiracial area inhabited by several peoples with different ethno-linguistic origins. The Lydians, Carians, Lycians and the natives of Pamphylia and Cilicia were of Luwian origins. The Lycaonians, the Pisidians and the Phrygians belonged to the Phrygian group of peoples. The regions of Ionia, Aeolis, Doris, Troas and the coasts of Pamphylia and Cilicia had Greek population (descended from the Mycenaean and Archaic Greek colonization and the Hellenization of the natives). The Mysians and Doliones were Proto-Thracian populations, while the neighboring Bithynians were a Thracian proper tribe. The Cappadocians of Cappadocia proper and the Western Pontos (see below) were speaking several “hybrid” Phrygian, Iranian, Luwian, Hurri-Urartian and Palaeo-Caucasian  dialects like the neighboring Armenians did, but the mixed Irano-Phrygian ethnic character with a lead of the Phrygian element, tended to prevail in both mentioned peoples.

The Kartvelian (Palaeo-Caucasian) tribes were the main population in Eastern Pontos (Pontus in Latin). In Paphlagonia, the local Palaic language (of the region Pala or Pa(ph)la in the Hittite archives) was loosing speakers in favour of the Phrygian. The following clarification needs to be made on the place terms “Cappadocia” and “Pontos”. Both regions were initially a geographical unit: Cappadocia, which extended to the south coast of the Black Sea (Euxeinos Pontos for the ancients) but since the establishment and development of the Hellenistic kingdom of the Mithridatids in coastal Cappadocia (3rd-2nd century. BC), known as “Cappadocia of Pontos”, or possibly even earlier, the specific area was geographically separated from the mainland and was eventually called simply “Pontos”. Moreover a geophysical separation of the region from the rest of Cappadocia existed, because of the high mountains that stretch between them. Finally, the north coast of Anatolia was also dotted with Greek city-colonies.
I do not mention Anatolian Galatia because this area was just a state, being the result of an invasion and not an ethnic region. The area of Galatia was comprised from parts of Cappadocia and Phrygia. The Gallic/Celtic overlords were scant in number compared to their numerous native subjects. That is why in this study I consider Galatia as the western part of Cappadocia and the eastern part of Phrygia.



1 Comment

By  Periklis    Deligiannis

Walls of Constantinople

The Walls of Constantinople today.

In 661 AD, the new caliph Muawiyah (Muāwiyah ibn Abī Sufyān AD 602–680)became the absolute master of the Islamic-Arab Caliphate after the murder of his antagonist, Ali. He made Damascus the Arabic capital, while Syria became the new political center of the Islamic world. The advanced peoples of Syria-Palestine and Egypt were the main supporters of the new Ummayad Dynasty (AD 661-750) of caliphs founded by Muawiyah. The new caliph based his power on the old Byzantine administrative officials, because the Arabs had not yet the required experience in governance issues. The Ummayad Caliphate had its political-administrative center in former Hellenistic Syria and used the Greek of the former Byzantine rule as its administrative language (and also used the Greek/Byzantine administrative infrastructure), thereby closely resembled to a more extensive Seleucid Kingdom. The main politico-military supporters of the Ummayads were the pre-Islamic local Arabs of Syria and Palestine (the Arab tribes of the Ituraeans, Palmyrans, Gasanids and others), who had become Muslims.
After the proclamation of Muawiyah as caliph, the Arab forces moved again against Byzantium (Eastern Roman Empire), following two directions of attack. A portion of them was carrying out devastating raids in Asia Minor, while another portion attacked the Byzantine Exarchate of Africa (modern NW Africa). One by one the Byzantine fortresses and the (Berber) tribes of the Numidians, Mauri and Maurusians were subjugated by the Arab invaders.