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Byzantine resurgence

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Al Jassas View Drop Down
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  Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Byzantine resurgence
    Posted: 12-Jan-2008 at 19:50
Hello to you all
 
I have been wondering for a long time actually on why did not the Byzantines take full control and regained the holy lands during their resurgence in the time of Nikephoros Phokas and John Tzimiskes. The Byzanties during those years reached Damascus and the borders of Palestine. The Levant was nothing more than city states most of which did not even have a military force period. Remember that those campaigns used usually scorched earth policies burning the entire crop of the orontos several years in a raw. Tartus, the biggest of the mediterranian ports of that time was reduced to a mere village and in one campaign over 150 000 women and children were taken for slavery just from the Syrian coast cities. Arab historians say that those campaigns were even worse that the crusades and despite the opportunity was there, since Cukurova plains and most of Antioch were under occupation never to be retaken by the muslims untill 400 years later. Those rich and populous areas were to be a base of a future invasion that did not come,.
 
Why did it not come? 
 
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  Quote Vorian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Jan-2008 at 19:59
That's something I never thought of. Perhaps cause of the Bulgarians and the revolts from the nobles in Anatolia?
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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Jan-2008 at 04:24
A very good question.
 
We must keep in mind that both Nikephoros II and John I had relatively short reigns of around 7 years - at least by the standards of the Macedonian dynasty. Nikephoros was militarily very active during his reign, seizing Crete, Cyprus and Antioch before he was assassinated.
 
John I inherited a key problem of Nikephoros' reign, an invading horde of Kievan Rus. This occupied the opening years of his reign. If Byzantine sources are to be believed, a crack Byzantine force of 12,000 defeated the 50,000 strong Russian force and made them retreat. With this problem taken care of, John did turn his attention to the Levant. He made numerous conquests along the Syrian and Lebanese coast before turning back at the close of the campaigning season. At that point, it is most likely he was poisoned.
 
Then came Basil II. Basil's early reign was fully occupied with the revolts of the generals Bardas Sclerus and Bardas Phocas. These were not simple revolts, but saw the powerful military aristocracy of Anatolia, the dynatoi - Greek for powerful, in an all out civil war with the Emperor. The earlier Byzantine state in the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries was remarkably un-aristocratic. The small hold farmer, a free man with his own land, paid taxes, produced food and served in the army. It was a system which worked well and allowed Byzantium to grow again into a viable state after centuries of decline. But from about the 9th century onwards the more entrepreneurial landowners began buying up their neighbours' land and turning into effective aristocrats. Many of these aristocrats became absentee landlords, leaving the running of their estates to servants while they themselves went off to enjoy the good life in Constantinople. In the process the Emperor lost taxable income, productive labour and a source of military manpower.
 
Basil's civil war did not end quickly. It caused massive disruption in the heartland of the empire. Once he has won, Basil was quick to disenfranchise the aristocrats of much of their land in an attempt to break their power. The historian may think this a good move, but that fact that the aristocracy was able to revive so quickly after Basil died is proof that he did not do a thorough job of breaking their power - (it is also proof of the extremely corrupt, nepotist and short sighted nature of many of his successors in the 11th century).
 
Basil next had to fight Simeon the Bulgarian. In his first battle he was defeated. Simeon was a capable and cunning leader, and so Basil worked patiently to destroy him - not wanting to risk losing another battle like he did early on. This campaign took up most of his reign and explains why no campaign in the Levant was launched.
 
But at this point I do want to say that the Levantine cities were not simply on their own. The Fatimids were established in Egypt and made moves into the area to establish their sovereignty over it. In the middle of Basil's reign, they even launched a major attack on Antioch. It was extremely difficult for the Byzantines to respond to a major attack on Antioch when the bulk of the Emperor's soldiers were fighting in the hills of the Balkans, sometimes as far away as Croatia. The ingenuity of the Byzantines in their defensiveness demonstrates how they defended Antioch. A series of towers all along Anatolia lit fires from one to the next, so that each saw a smoke signal from the one before, and in this manner relayed to Constantinople the news that Antioch was under attack. Constantinople knew of the attack just a few hours after it had begun. Basil had to mount his soldiers on donkeys and have them travel lightly, to cross the whole of Anatolia in just a couple of weeks. In this manner he prevented Antioch falling to the Fatimids.
 
When Basil at last finished off the Bulgarians, in 1018, he had only 7 more years on the throne. He spent it energetically incorporating his new Balkan posessions into the Empire - and then swung east to take more lands in Armenia and in Upper Mesopotamia. His subordinate Boianes had re-established Byzantine control in Southern Italy, and Basil was planning and invasion of Sicily when he died in 1025 on Christmas.
 
So let's sum it up to a few key reasons as to why the Byzantines did not attempt to reconquer the Holy Land:
 
1. Their campaigns aimed at bringing in defensible conquests. Expanding the Balkan frontier up to the Danube, taking back Sicily, and controlling new lands in the east in mountainous terrain similar to Anatolia made sense militarily and economically. These areas has natural barriers that made them defensible. Palestine is not similar in that respect. It is open to attack from nearly every side. The Fatimids in Egypt would want it, the Caliph in Mesopotamia may become powerful enough to campaign, and the Bedouin tribes in the desert areas were automatically going to be enemies. And unlike Antioch, Jerusalem is a long way from the Byzantine power base in Anatolia.
 
2. The empire was often pre-occupied with other foreign enemies, and its own internal difficulties with the dynatoi.
 
3. Basil's successors were largely complacent, incompetant or short lived.
 
4. Under Basil's successors in the 11th century, the dynatoi continued to grow in power which undermined Imperial authority. The economy was mismanaged and went into decline, the army became increasingly expensive and staffed with foreign mercenaries of doubtful loyalty. Half a century of mismanagement, complacency and sheer incompetance ensured Byzantium did not attempt to take the Holy Land.
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  Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Feb-2008 at 16:26
Hello COnstantine
 
Good post, but don't you think that the tough resistance the Byzantines got and the absence of any help from local Christians unlike the crusades when they were actively involved in crusader cause was also a reason for the failure of this resistance. Remember, though the Byzantines had the upper hand most of the time they suffered some terrible defeats, at least the Arab sources of the Period tell us.
 
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  Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Feb-2008 at 13:12
Absolutely, Al Jassas, but I'd presume those were minor factors compared to the ones listed by Constantine XI. As you say, there was little to stop the Byzantines in the Levant itself, so we need to look for the causes elsewhere.
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  Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Feb-2008 at 18:00
Hello Regi
 
I did not say the arguments of Constantine are not valid, they are more important in my opinion than my own claims. But what I was saying is that the Byzantines did have the time to conquere. It took the crusaders just 3 years to complete the conquest and the Byzantines had a 40-60 year advantage over muslims not just 10 years. During the campaigns against the levant, the borders were completely calm and no major threat came except on just two or three ocasions. WHat I am tyrying to say is that the level of resistance was quite fierce and that even when Nikphor was sacking the lands all the way to Damascus serious incursions into Byzantine lands as far as Ankara took place. Though these were no more than raids they did give a shock that you may get far but we also can get far. The Fatimids of course ended all hopes of ever gaining ground in the levant but they came only 50 years of Nikphor took office.
 
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  Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Feb-2008 at 20:38
When you say fierce resistance do you mean popular resistance or state organised resistance?

You confuse me, since on the one hand you say there was nothing to stop the Byzantines, that the region was divided into city-states and had no proper army, but then you speak of fierce resistance and diversionary raids. Now, unless there was large-scale organised resistance against the Byzantines, then the only reasonable thing to do is search for internal rather than external explanations, such as the ones listed by Constantine XI. If raids were organised, well, there you have an external factor, but that would mean there was a military presence there to fight the Byzantines after all.

Personally I believe Constantine XI's reason 1. should be emphasised more than any other.

NB: The crusaders did not conquer the Holy Land in 3 years. It took them 3 years to capture Jerusalem, yes, but there was much work left to be done at that point before the crusader states had been carved out in their final form.
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  Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Feb-2008 at 22:12

Hello Regi

The city states were not as weak as you think. Damascus the city had some 200 000 people in the 11th century and up to 1 million in its vast countryside. The Hamdanis, the only big state in the levant cotrolled all the way from Tarsus in present day Turkey all the way to mosul and had the loyalties and hundreds of tribes. When Nikphor sacked Aleppo a counter raid reached to Caesaria if I'm not mistaken and a large ambush cost many Byzantine troops and under pressure Nikphor withdrew back from the city. John Tzimiskes faced violent resistance in Lebanon and the lebanese cost in particular and the Fatimid navy was decisive in keeping the Byzantines at bay. The reason why this resistance worked is because the Byzntines underestimated it and found that to conquer those land much more money and manpower was needed and thus the reasons that Constantine mentioned became clear. Further disintegration afterwards and fierce rivalry between different states meant that the crusaders, who came in much larger numbers and with more vogour, would be more successful.
 
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  Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Feb-2008 at 13:45
That sounds reasonable.
 
A possible strength of having many city-states rather than one large, centralised empire could be that armies could be gathered on a short notice, whereas assembling troops from an empire consisting of more or less the entire Middle East would take considerably more time and be a greater logistical challenge, even if the army in the end would be able to bulldoze most opposition.
 
A weakness would of course be the lack of a concerted military effort. In my opinion the crusaders did in total handle the entire military force of the Levant, as they fought and defeated the armies of Kilij Arslan of the Seljuks of Rum, Danishmend, Yaghi-Siyan of Antioch, Ridwan of Aleppo, Duqaq of Damascus and even Egypt and Baghdad/Mosul (Kerbogha), but the crusaders fought them separately as (relatively) smaller armies instead of all at once as one massive force, like with Saladin later on. I presume this was the case when the Byzantines invaded too, although as you can see my field of interest is rather the first crusade than the campaigns of Nicephoros Phocas and John Tzimisces.
 
Another interesting problem which then emerges is why the somewhat haphazardly organised crusader armies were more successful than the Byzantines were, at least in terms of land conquered. As you say the disintegration in the Levant had progressed further, but the crusaders weren't exactly united either; there was fierce rivalry between Bohemond of Taranto and Raymond of Toulouse, which almost descended into open violence. Baldwin of Boulogne was hated by the Normans, relations between the crusaders and the Byzantines were mutually hostile, and after having passed through Anatolia the crusading army no longer marched as a unit but followed different routes to the Holy Land, Baldwin of Boulogne choosing a different course entirely towards Edessa. It could be said the crusaders were just as badly concerted as their opposition, but this cannot be said of the Byzantine army of Nicephoros and Tzimiskes, which was one of the most well-organised armies of its time.
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Feb-2008 at 15:48
The Crusaders had luck, too. After the defeat of the Peopple's Crusade, which was annihalated, Nicea's garisson mostly left alongside Kilij Arslan to handle matters in the East. They did not take the next waves seriously due to this; what seemd decisive battle.

Also in Antioch; the Edessan governor decreed his help, a contigent of the Crusaders went there, and it became the first Crusader state upon the governors death. He in fact adopted Baldwin of Boulogna, and a few days after found dead... with Baldwin gainng the city through hereditary right... and Kerboghen leaving Antioch trying to lift the siege, giving the main force enough time to take the city through politics.

They marched from Antioch to Jersualem largerly unharassed, with many independent emirs and governors giving aid, or remaining neutral.

They fit into the general scheme of things. The local politics allowed for them, and Christians were abundant in the EAst, thus not a novelty to the Islamic aristoracies of various cities.

Furthermore, Fatimids took control of Jerusalem, which in turn meant for a Shi'a controled holy city, which helped, too. To a lot of the emirs a Christian or a Shi'a holding the city was more or less the same thing, either one wasn't the correct holder in their view.




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  Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Feb-2008 at 08:44
Hello es_bih
 
I think calling the crusaders lucky is a bit injust towards them. Yes some of their victories did come as a direct result of treason and disunity but when the first onslaught came about 6 years after the fall of Jerusalem, they artfully manipulated muslim princes against each other, demonstrated that they can win battle against a real equivalent foe, not the troops of petty princelings, even if they were outnumbered and adapted to thier surroundings. Arabic was more spoken than French, many Arab and Islamic minorities fought with them, Druze, Shia etc and they controled the sea and they bought tribes to make trouble whenever they were in trouble.  Untill the fall of Edessa in 1148, some 50 years since the crusades started, they were self sufficient and needed little help from Europe. Only after its fall they became fully dependent on Europe for survival and their fall was just a matter of time.
 
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Feb-2008 at 16:16
They were not fully based on luck; however if those conditions were not present, during the siege of Antioch for example they would most likely have been defeated, when you read Fulcher for example you see that even though he usually exponentially exaggerates his estimates the death toll was rather high and they were defenseless if Kerbogah had not dispatched for Edessa. Furthermore, the taking of Edessa helped a lot. And that politic of alliances, neutrality, and denominational differences in rulers also fueled the Crusade's sucess. We are doing a seminar on the crusades and I am doing my disertation on the subject this semester. My professor who is a rather good medieval and Byzantine scholar tends to agree with that view, too. It was not all luck, however, some of the instances were luck, some were shrewd planning, etc... Nevertheless without those conditions the Crusade would not have lasted as long.


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  Quote Carpathian Wolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 23:36
I'm curious to what your sources are concering the whole ordeal to be honest. You seem to be the type that likes to take only the Arabic chronicles in which they state that their expansion was this peace loving holy warrior expansion for the rights of the people against an oppressive world while the crusaders and the Romans were always the rapists, pillagers, killers, slave sellers and so on and so forth.
 
I hope i'm mistaken however.
 
As for your questions, i'll try to reply avoiding your more tilted words.
 
The Romans probably did not try to expand because they were unsure and the saracens the same. They had quite some trouble with the with the smaller crusader forces and perhaps did not want to try their luck with the full might of the Roman Empire. Even the Turkish expansion was more of a population shuffle to be honest. I mean even Manzerkrit was an over dramatization by the Turks as those units that had "lost" in that battle were seen fighting the very next season.
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 03:40
Who exactly are you talking to?
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  Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 09:09
Me
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 09:46
And how did you establish this "peace loving conqeust" theme because I did not see it in your post?Dead
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  Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 15:11
Well if you found such theme in my post please tell be because I'm even more confused than youConfused.
 
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  Quote Carpathian Wolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 19:17

It just seems you have a typical view of history concerning the situation there that is more favorable and ideal to one or another rather then objective. And even that is just my opinion.

For example could you show me any sources that the Romans "pillaged and sacked" everything that you said they did selling 150,000 women and children into slavery?

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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 19:42
Read Treadgold's Byzantine history on this subject he deals with it rather well. They did as much pillaging and looting as any other army in the region. You seem to be in a bubble in most of your posts, too, so why attack him on some fanciful Arabic tirade of which neither I nor him can see his posts being on?
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  Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 19:56

Hello wolf

Well, Arab sources mention that and I am not going to be surprised that Byzantine sources will mention that too. The reason is slavery was legal and accepted at that time and if you want to know where the Turcopoles came from you just need to know that many of them came from these slaves. As for the source, the history of Damascus by Ibn Asakir, a contemporary of the crusades, is the main source and the guy was a state official who had access to documents. Of course there are exaggerations but in a time period of several years and a densly populated area the number is not completely unreasonable.
 
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