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Byzantium's most powerful autocrat

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    Posted: 21 Jul 2009 at 16:55
Byzantium throughout its history long symbolised the apex of caesaro-papist autocracy, imperial philosophy dictating that the Emperor was the deputy of God who ruled with his blessing. In practice, the Byzantine Emperors often did enjoy a degree of control and power within their own borders which would only again be seen with the rise of absolutism three centuries after Byzantine power was extinguished.

In practice, however, some Emperors exercised more real power than others. Fitting this criteria best, I think, is Constantine V. You may have previously read our community's article on him, and he indeed a remarkable fellow. At merely 22, he beat older and more experienced rivals who rebelled against him after he succeeded his father Leo III to the throne. His retaliation against his enemies was clever and swift. He killed Artabasdas, the rival usurper. The Patriarch of Constantinople was blinded, stripped naked, placed backwards on a donkey and paraded through the hippodrome to the jeers of the spectating public. The Patriach was then placed back upon his throne. In such a way did the Emperor subordinate the church, by utterly humiliating its leader in the eyes of the people.

In this age the Byzantine aristocracy was also weak, the devestation of previous centuries having thinned their ranks. Byzantium was largely a nation of soldier-farmers. Even Constantinople was estimated by some scholars to number as low as 30,000 people in this period, greatly reducing the power of the mob.

Constantine, for his many victories and military prowess, plus his inconoclasm, was adored by his soldiers. Perhaps the only limit on his effect power was his alientation of a great many iconodules by his staunch iconoclast policy.

To me, Constantine V represents the apex of effective autocracy in Byzantium. Do you agree? Would you put forward any other candidates?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Knights Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jul 2009 at 17:25
Constantine V is a definite candidate. For me, another is Alexios I. He actually parallels Constantine V in many respects. He was a powerful member of the nobility prior to ascension, and was the Empire's foremost commander - he had quelled rebellions of Nicephorous in Greece and Frankish pretenders/rebels in Asia Minor. This initially earned him grave respect but also mass popularity, putting him in an excellent position to knock his incompetent predecessor Botaniates off the throne.

When he did ascend to the throne, Alexios visibly wielded a great deal of moral force, but the Empire was in quite a weak position, having recently lost most of its soldier recruitment base to the Seljuqs in Asia Minor; the treasury was also empty. This is where some may argue that he falls down in terms of autocratic power, because he lacked the resources to wield this power with. I would disagree by saying that from this meagre position, he almost single-handedly initiated the Komnenian restoration of the Empire, resulting in his full autocratic control.

Another interesting parallel to draw between Constantine V and Alexios is the diminished power of the aristocracy under their reigns. In the case of Alexios, he technically vastly increased the size of the bureaucracy and aristorcracy, at the same time dissolving their collective and individual gravity. Alexios came up with a plethora of new, fancy titles for aristocrats and bureaucrats, making them feel important with all the pomp and ceremony to accompany their new positions. So now only did he diminish their power in this sense, but this also gained widespread respect and popularity for Alexios within the upper echelons of society.

Militarily, Alexios was also quite a powerhouse (not the greatest Byzantine general of course, but not one to be messed with). He fended off the Normans from the West in Greece through his specialty of trickery and deceit, Cumans and Pechenegs from the North, Seljuqs in the East, and countless rebellions and uprisings throughout the Empire. All this, and the First Crusade's overseeing and facilitation.

One interesting thing about Emperor Alexios -especially in relation to his 'autocratic power- was that when away on campaign, he would leave primary control to his mother, Anna Dalassena. She entrusted fiscal, religious and administrative duties to her, and clearly she was highly capable of the job. This might lead one to tihnk that Alexios was not an outspoken, uncontested autocrat - I suppose that is their conviction though.

On a final note, Alexios' legacy is another factor which points towards his consolidatory power as autocratic Emperor. He re-established various facets of society which remained engrained in the Empire for many years to come. He showed that in spite of hurdles on every level and at every stage (invasion, financial despair, rebellion, lack of resources, diplomatic dispute, crusaders.etc) he had the resolve and power to overcome these, and go one step further.

So Alexios is one candidate I would put forward Smile

Regards,

- Knights -



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jul 2009 at 19:36
How about that chap who brought the fight from Nicaea back to Constantinople? Can't remember his name exactly, but I remember that the one did some serious things which would not have been quite like the earlier (and later) basileus'.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Jul 2009 at 00:12
Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

How about that chap who brought the fight from Nicaea back to Constantinople? Can't remember his name exactly, but I remember that the one did some serious things which would not have been quite like the earlier (and later) basileus'.


Michael VIII Palaeologus?

Yes he was probably fairly autocratic. But the strength of his power was tarnished greatly by his acceptance of reunion with the Roman church. Even his own sister turned dissident and had to be removed from court life. While he enjoyed some success in Europe, his administration increasingly neglected the Anatolian land holdings which led them to become fairly autonomous in their government.

One step forward, one step sideways, and one step back.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Praetor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Jul 2009 at 02:43
Great idea for a thread Constantine and you and Knights have made formidable cases for the candidates Constantine V and Alexios ISmile. I myself would like to suggest the emperors Justinian I and Basil II as candidates, These two figures presided over the peak of Byzantine power for their respective era's but that is not the sole reason I propose them as candidates.

Basil II during the earlier part of his long reign faced many challenges to his power in the empire. He ascended the throne as a minor in a Byzantium where a powerful landed aristocracy commanded the loyalty of much of the army and the Imperial court was dominated by his great uncle Basil Lekapenos the castrated youngest son of the prior emperor Romanus Lekepenos, and then there was the foreign threat presented by Samuel of Bulgaria. By the end of his reign however Byzantium possessed more territory than at any other time since the initial Arab conquests, Bulgaria was not only conquered but pacified. The power of the nobility was firmly suppressed (though only temporarily as it turned out, to the empire's detriment). The emperor was the uncontested master of his own court and basil Lekapenos and those noble born commanders who seeked to hold Imperial power whether de facto or de jure had been crushed (as well as those Armenian princes who had dared aid them). Even the emir of Aleppo was his fearful vassal.

There were more popular emperors than Basil II to be sure but that hardly seemed to matter, the aristocracy despite their hatred of him had had their power broken and had perhaps come to fear him more than they disliked him. Though seemingly not loved by his subjects barring the army, he was respected and feared and most important to an autocrat: obeyed by all segments of society without question, the church, the court, the nobility, the army and the peasantry.

I would recommend Justinian I for similar reasons, like Basil II, Alexius and Constantine V his position was initially far less secure, the Mob of Constantinople and the empire's prominent circus factions the Reds and the Blues possessed great power, the cultured aristocracy of the empire who dominated the inflated beureacracy grew to detest their peasant born emperor wth his avaricous tendencies and meritocratic inclination. Despite almost being deposed by the famed Nika riots their brutal suppression broke the will of the circus factions and the mob to oppose his rule and Procupius's secret history is considerable evidence not just for the hatred in which the emperor was held by the upper classes but also their increasing inability to do anything about it.

Well before the end of his long reign Justinian had surrounded himself with capable men (and women in the case of Theodora) who owing to their low social status and general lack of connections were largely dependent on his patronage for power further securing their obedience. The empire was wracked by theological controversy whose solution ultimately eluded Justinian (as this controversy did all emperors prior to the rise of Islam (and then it only ceased to be a serius concern to Byzantiums emperors as the majority of its once officially heretical subjects now resided in foreign territory)) however this did not seriusly threaten his power and possessed the necesarily clout and more importantly military force to depose and imprison anyone who defied him from Eastern patriarchs to powerful nobles to Popes of Rome.

Like Basil II he wasn't an especially popular emperor but he was obeyed, that being the key to being a succesful Autocrat.

The key to being an Autocrat it seems is to concentrate all power in your hands, often by destroying seperate bases of power in the state (to state something rather obvius). Both these men did this, as did the priorly mentioned candidates of Alexius and Constantine V (who I believe tried to weaken the power of the church and bring the army under his control via his religous policy and military reforms, such as the founding of the Tagmata) to varying extents.

I would personally consider Basil II to have possessed greater autocratic power than Justinian I as among other reasons Justinian's economic difficulties and overextension weakened his control of the army later in his reign on the empire's fringes, though I still think he was worth mentioning as a candidate.

Well thats my rant finished for now, I'd be fine with going into greater detail as to my reasoning if anyone would like that.

Regards, Praetor.




Edited by Praetor - 25 Jul 2009 at 01:57
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Jul 2009 at 06:54
this is an interesting topic but it would take a bit of research for me but I tend to side with Alexios.

I wonder if a similar topic could be created about Byzantiums most autocratic women? Byz Emp you are the A&E expert on Byzantine history.

I have one book titled Byzantine Ladies but I wonder if there are not other books which covers this topic but another period of time in Byzantine history?


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Hi,

 

This is an interesting thread.  I would like to put forth the name of Nicephorus I. 

 

Firstly, he demanded high levels of competency, honesty and efficiency from his officials.  Those who failed to perform, like Leo the Armenian for his negligence during the Arab raid when he was strategus of the Armeniacs, were promptly dismissed.  Corruption had no place in his government.  In this manner, Nicephorus showed that his will was absolute and as emperor, he answered to no one in the civil service or the military. 

 

Secondly, he reorganized the empire to make it more efficient, rich and powerful.  The treasury was enriched under his reign though his overhaul of the tax system.  The money collected was prudently spent in strengthening and expanding the army, by creating new units like the Hicanati, which he then used as he wished.

 

Thirdly, he used his armies to reclaim the Greek peninsula from the Slavs for the Byzantine Empire.  He also annexed part of the Balkans from the Bulgars for the empire.  

 

Fourthly, with his foresight, he colonized the Greek peninsula with settlers from other parts of the empire, rich and poor.  Although many had to give up their ancestral lands, no one had the power to oppose his wishes or his vision in making such sweeping changes.  The number of colonists may well have reached a quarter of a million people; such was the power of the autocracy of Nicephorus.  Despite the hardships involved in resettlement, his government ensured that there was no famine by helping out the colonists by being carefully prepared for this enterprise.

 

Lastly, even the clergy and the monks had little sway over Nicephorus.  The emperor raised the patriarch Nicephorus to his position.  Hence, the emperor could even get away with the reinstatement of Joseph of Cathara, whom he wished to reward for his part in ending the rebellion of Bardanes Turcus.  Even the influential Theodore of Studius was largely powerless against the emperor who was not afraid to exile him for opposing his will.

 

No doubt there was the revolt of Bardanes Turcus and the mutiny at Serdica, Nicephorus was always able to successfully hold on to his throne.  No one could accuse him of not bravely facing these challenges to his power and crushing them with his determination. 

 

Therefore I am putting forth the name of Nicephorus I as an alternative to the other more famous and usual choices as the most powerful autocrat of Byzantium





Edited by Emperor John VI - 25 Jul 2009 at 01:47
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jul 2009 at 02:07

Hello to you all

Well although my knowledge of Byzantine history is limited, I think that both Heraclius and Leo III were the most autocratic. Both managed to control the uncontrollable church and force it to follow their desires. Both managed to rally the nation against enemies that were powerful and saved the country by their leadership. Both had their leadership extend beyond crisis times.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Praetor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jul 2009 at 04:12
Thanks for adding some candidates Al-Jassas, Heraclius and Leo III are interesting candidates.

Heraclius seemed to demand the church's full cooperation and obedience early in his reign and he would definitely earn the armies loyalty, seemingly faced with annihilation by the Sassanids the Church and byzantine populace as a whole seems to have understood that internal dissension would spell their doom, unity being required. Thus Heraclius was able to obtain an unprecedented level of cooperation from the church, seemingly having its great stores of wealth handed to him on a silver platter and his incestous marriage to his niece Martina was ignored.

However with the war against Persia finished and the general feeling of impending disaster with it, that level of cooperation came to an end. Heraclius had in the course of his war with Persia restored the empire's territories in Syria and Egypt which had a population that was mostly composed of Monophysite Christians as opposed to the Chalcedonian Christians that composed the majority throughout most of the empire's other territories. With the restoration of these territories and the end of the war, controversy and conflict between these two groups soon reignited and all Heraclius's attempts to impose uniformity or affect a compromise ultimately dismally failed, some further exacerbating the situation. On religous matters late in his reign Heraclius was openly defied and often unable to effectively deal with this defiance (The pope in particular proved to be an eccliastical thorn in his side when it came to controlling Byzantium's christian populace). He had failed to control the church.

Leo III I imagine would share many of the advantages his son had in enforcing his will throughout the empire that have been listed by Constantine, however the extent to which he controlled the church is arguable, certainly he soundly established his authority inmost of the empire and in most of the empire those who did not agree with his religous policies at least accepted them. the major exception being the empire's remaining Italian territories which rose in revolt against him and refused to obey his edict against Icons, due to preoccupations further East and a storm which devastated the fleet he sent out to restore his suzerainty he was never able to end the defiance of the citizens of the exarchate of Ravenna.

Leo III and Heraclius were Strong and brilliant sovereigns to be sure but I would hesitate to say they controlled the church.

Regards, Praetor.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jul 2009 at 16:18
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Byzantium throughout its history long symbolised the apex of caesaro-papist autocracy, imperial philosophy dictating that the Emperor was the deputy of God who ruled with his blessing. In practice, the Byzantine Emperors often did enjoy a degree of control and power within their own borders which would only again be seen with the rise of absolutism three centuries after Byzantine power was extinguished.
 
I do not mean to criticize my distinguished colleague CXI but thought to point this out.
"Caesaro-Papism" is generally not held to be an accurate description of the relationship between Emperor and Patriarch in modern historiography.  It is a product of 18th and 19th century opinions and distrust of those historians (like Gibbon) who were advocates of more democratic, republican forms of government and a Protestant belief in the separation of church and state.
 
Of course, there are plenty of instances where the Emperor in word and deed lorded over the Patriarch and the Church in Byzantium - Constantine I, Constantine V, John VIII.  At times it did operate almost as a "department of the state."  Nevertheless, there are also plenty of instances where the Patriarch pursued a more or less independent course of action in opposition to imperial policy - bishop Photius, Arsenius.
 
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

In this age the Byzantine aristocracy was also weak, the devestation of previous centuries having thinned their ranks. Byzantium was largely a nation of soldier-farmers. Even Constantinople was estimated by some scholars to number as low as 30,000 people in this period, greatly reducing the power of the mob.
 
I agree with the statements that the aristocracy and general population had thinned out.  This was due to a combination of factors, including bouts of the plague and devestation wrought by the various invasions.
 
But to include the fact that the backbone of the army was soldier-farmers strikes me as a bit of a stretch.  The thematic armies had protected Byzantium for over a century at this point at a time of great unrest and destruction.  The coinage was in flux and parts of the imperial economy reverted to barter.  The cash was not there to pay the army and that always equals trouble.  These soldiers were raised not only with a method for payment and procuring equipment, but also with a fierce sense of patriotism.  Their livelihood was based on the security they had a hand in preserving.  It could be argued, rather, that the disbandment of the thematic armies sometime in the 9th and 10th centuries caused even greater problems which the Komnenoi were forced to deal with later.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jul 2009 at 02:42
What a pity to have come down ill shortly after beginning this threads, we are getting some excellent responses. I shall endeavour to respond to these all.

Originally posted by Knights Knights wrote:

Constantine V is a definite candidate. For me, another is Alexios I. He actually parallels Constantine V in many respects. He was a powerful member of the nobility prior to ascension, and was the Empire's foremost commander - he had quelled rebellions of Nicephorous in Greece and Frankish pretenders/rebels in Asia Minor. This initially earned him grave respect but also mass popularity, putting him in an excellent position to knock his incompetent predecessor Botaniates off the throne.


This is indeed a parallel, though with key differences. Constantine was Crown Prince from his birth, and a rarity in that he was born a porphyrogenitos. He would certainly have received military training and experience from a young age, although unlike Alexios his early experience would have been fighting Arabs rather than Byzantine rebels. With the revolt of Artavasdas, of course, that changed briefly and decisively.

Originally posted by Knights Knights wrote:

When he did ascend to the throne, Alexios visibly wielded a great deal of moral force, but the Empire was in quite a weak position, having recently lost most of its soldier recruitment base to the Seljuqs in Asia Minor; the treasury was also empty. This is where some may argue that he falls down in terms of autocratic power, because he lacked the resources to wield this power with. I would disagree by saying that from this meagre position, he almost single-handedly initiated the Komnenian restoration of the Empire, resulting in his full autocratic control.


It is an interesting point of debate, the state of the Empire at the accession of our Emperors. Having read the Alexiad the picture Anna Komnena paints is a very grim one, perhaps only mitigated by the suspicion lurking in the reader's mind that she is an author given to fanciful exagerration of events. More than once we must contend with incidents of sheer wishful thinking on her part. But the Empire was in genuinely a terrible state, this much is certain. The coinage was devalued, the Asian themata gone, the Normans, Pechenegs and Turks all on the march, and with no established dynasty in place (ignoring the small reign of Isaac a generation before).

But Byzantium in Constantine V's day was not so rosy either. Perhaps the worst effects of bubonic plague struck during his reign and that of his father, heavily reducing manpower and contributing to the almost total destruction of urban life and the trade which came with it. The Slavs had flooded the Balkans, and even much of modern Greece remained in their hands. The Isaurian victories had secured much of Anatolia, but Arab raids into it continued, particularly in Cappadocia. The retreat of civilians into monastic orders further drained the empire of soldiers, farmers and craftsmen, not to mention potential mothers. Indeed, devaluation of the coinage was not so much the embarassment but rather the fact that such a bare and desolate economy had a tendency to revert to barter.

I must say I am a little more in favour of Constantine because, while Alexios' achievements were largely diplomatic, political and somewhat military, Constantine went further and made concrete changes to the structure of the economy. Constantine, and in fact all the Isaurians, quite energetically promoted the cultivation of vacant land. Conquered peoples were resettled elsewhere and made subjects, monastic clergy were forced to marry and cultivate the land, and the famous Farmer's Laws were enacted under the Isaurians which truly stressed the importance of promoting the cultivation of the land. Agricultural yield in Thrace alone (hardly the most secure of provinces militarily) tripled in the 8th century. With that increase came a revival in population, trade and military manpower. All of this resulted in an improvement in the power and prestige of the emperor.

While Alexios' ability to improvise with very meagre resources is very admirable, I am left wondering what pro-active economic vision he promoted to improve the empire and extend his power as autocrat.

Originally posted by Knights Knights wrote:

Another interesting parallel to draw between Constantine V and Alexios is the diminished power of the aristocracy under their reigns. In the case of Alexios, he technically vastly increased the size of the bureaucracy and aristorcracy, at the same time dissolving their collective and individual gravity. Alexios came up with a plethora of new, fancy titles for aristocrats and bureaucrats, making them feel important with all the pomp and ceremony to accompany their new positions. So now only did he diminish their power in this sense, but this also gained widespread respect and popularity for Alexios within the upper echelons of society.


It is a credit to the man that he was able to placate his political opponents in this way. But it also symbolises how vulnerable he was. The Byzantine state, at that time, was in need of a streamlining of its bureaucracy. Many members held entirely ceremonial positions which entitled them to state wealth, they were essentially leeches. If anything, a thinning of this glut of people holding sinecures was very much in need to help free up funds for more worthy projects. Alexios proved himself incapable of rising to the occasion, something one might have expected him to do late in his reign when his position was more secure.

Already in the mid-11th century, Michael Psellos tells us how the Byzantine bureaucracy had grown from a well functioning creature into a monstrosity with too many appendages and parts to ever be functional. For a courtier like Psellos, who was himself a member of this bureacracy, to admit to this is a strong indication of how serious a problem this was.

Some may see Alexios taking the necessary survival measures with the creation of these many titles. There is some justification in that. But the members of the Komnenos dynasty still continued to allow these many useless people a piece of the imperial largesse for no good reason. Money taken from the provinces was instead squandered on members of the elite who contributed little to strengthening the empire's fundamental strength. It also bred at court an effete culture of entitlement. I can't help but think that Alexios would have eventually had the opportunity to prune the tree of deadwood once he had consolidated his reign.

Originally posted by Knights Knights wrote:

Militarily, Alexios was also quite a powerhouse (not the greatest Byzantine general of course, but not one to be messed with). He fended off the Normans from the West in Greece through his specialty of trickery and deceit, Cumans and Pechenegs from the North, Seljuqs in the East, and countless rebellions and uprisings throughout the Empire. All this, and the First Crusade's overseeing and facilitation.


In fairness, I am not certain he was all that militarily impressive. He defeated the Pechenegs, certainly. But he fared badly against the Normans, despite some attempts at innovative tactics and enjoying a defensive advantage (though in fairness he was facing Robert Guiscard). Against the Turks he merely garrisoned towns taken by the Crusaders. Really it was John II who pursued a more energetic approach in the east, steadily sieging and capturing regional Anatolian strongholds.

Originally posted by Knights Knights wrote:

One interesting thing about Emperor Alexios -especially in relation to his 'autocratic power- was that when away on campaign, he would leave primary control to his mother, Anna Dalassena. She entrusted fiscal, religious and administrative duties to her, and clearly she was highly capable of the job. This might lead one to tihnk that Alexios was not an outspoken, uncontested autocrat - I suppose that is their conviction though.


I think it shows how politically vulnerable the man was when not personally in Constantinople. If there is one person you are meant to be able to trust unconditionally, it should be your mother.

Overall I agree that Alexios should be a candidate, hope you don't mind a couple of my dissenting points on some aspects of his power. He still did an amazing job and established himself as a very powerful figure within his own empire.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jul 2009 at 03:03
Originally posted by Byzantine_Emperor Byzantine_Emperor wrote:

I do not mean to criticize my distinguished colleague CXI but thought to point this out.
"Caesaro-Papism" is generally not held to be an accurate description of the relationship between Emperor and Patriarch in modern historiography.  It is a product of 18th and 19th century opinions and distrust of those historians (like Gibbon) who were advocates of more democratic, republican forms of government and a Protestant belief in the separation of church and state.
 
Of course, there are plenty of instances where the Emperor in word and deed lorded over the Patriarch and the Church in Byzantium - Constantine I, Constantine V, John VIII.  At times it did operate almost as a "department of the state."  Nevertheless, there are also plenty of instances where the Patriarch pursued a more or less independent course of action in opposition to imperial policy - bishop Photius, Arsenius.


Great you could join the thread BE Smile. I am certainly aware of such incidents of dissent within the Eastern Church. Certainly Leo VI still had the utmost difficulty getting his last two marriages through, the Arsenites made life a pain for their Emperor, and there was no shortage of ecclesiastic opponents to Michael VIII's attempt at Union with Rome.

But that said, the Byzantines very often behaved with an unusually high level of control over even the highest levels of their clergy. Could we really imagine the Kings of England, Castile or Denmark doing to their Bishops what Justinian II did to Pope Martin, or Constantine V did to Patriach Anastasios? Compared to the independence the Roman Curia enjoyed, the Byzantine Patriachate cannot but seem a subordinate arm of the Byzantine state, even if given to moments of courage and dissent.

Quote
I agree with the statements that the aristocracy and general population had thinned out.  This was due to a combination of factors, including bouts of the plague and devestation wrought by the various invasions.
 
But to include the fact that the backbone of the army was soldier-farmers strikes me as a bit of a stretch.  The thematic armies had protected Byzantium for over a century at this point at a time of great unrest and destruction.  The coinage was in flux and parts of the imperial economy reverted to barter.  The cash was not there to pay the army and that always equals trouble.  These soldiers were raised not only with a method for payment and procuring equipment, but also with a fierce sense of patriotism.  Their livelihood was based on the security they had a hand in preserving.  It could be argued, rather, that the disbandment of the thematic armies sometime in the 9th and 10th centuries caused even greater problems which the Komnenoi were forced to deal with later.


Forgive me but I think you may have lost me here. You claimed it may be a bit of a stretch to say a majority of the soldiers were soldier-farmers. But you then go on to say the coin was not there to pay professional soldiers. Unless by 'soldier-farmers' you think I am referring to tagmata, which I am not as I instead refer to themata here.

I do think a majority were soldier farmers, that they did fight for patriotism and probably received a remission in economic duties (payment of taxes in coin or in kind).

I do think only a small number of soldiers were part of the professional mobile field army ( the tagmata created by Constantine) or the foreign mercenaries which had always existed within the Empire.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jul 2009 at 03:07
Originally posted by eaglecap eaglecap wrote:

this is an interesting topic but it would take a bit of research for me but I tend to side with Alexios.

I wonder if a similar topic could be created about Byzantiums most autocratic women? Byz Emp you are the A&E expert on Byzantine history.

I have one book titled Byzantine Ladies but I wonder if there are not other books which covers this topic but another period of time in Byzantine history?


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Interesting, eagle, what is it that makes you think Alexios is the best candidate?

I suppose we could have a debate on Byzantium's most powerful woman. Theophano, Irene, Theodora..... to name just a few. Though might be best to create a separate thread for them.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jul 2009 at 13:49
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

But that said, the Byzantines very often behaved with an unusually high level of control over even the highest levels of their clergy. Could we really imagine the Kings of England, Castile or Denmark doing to their Bishops what Justinian II did to Pope Martin, or Constantine V did to Patriach Anastasios? Compared to the independence the Roman Curia enjoyed, the Byzantine Patriachate cannot but seem a subordinate arm of the Byzantine state, even if given to moments of courage and dissent.
 
Perhaps the Western European monarchs could not have done this during the same period as Justinian II or Constantine V.  The political situation was much different there than in Byzantium in the early middle ages.  Later, however, there are instances such as Frederick II and Henry VIII, who strongarmed their local clergy/churches into doing their bidding, despite whatever the Pope had in mind.
 
I guess what I am trying to stress is that we should be careful in making too "black and white" of statements concerning this relationship in Byzantium.  "Caesaropapism" is going to far in one direction.  A division between church and state is going too far in the other.  One must consider the socio-political as well as the theological conditions (very important during the times mentioned above) of the specific time before making a characterization.
 
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Forgive me but I think you may have lost me here. You claimed it may be a bit of a stretch to say a majority of the soldiers were soldier-farmers. But you then go on to say the coin was not there to pay professional soldiers. Unless by 'soldier-farmers' you think I am referring to tagmata, which I am not as I instead refer to themata here.

I do think a majority were soldier farmers, that they did fight for patriotism and probably received a remission in economic duties (payment of taxes in coin or in kind).

I do think only a small number of soldiers were part of the professional mobile field army ( the tagmata created by Constantine) or the foreign mercenaries which had always existed within the Empire.
 
No, I did mean the themata.  What I was arguing for was the strength of the institution of this military contingent in the face of economic problems during the late seventh and into the eighth and early ninth centuries.  Perhaps I read your earlier statement incorrectly but it seemed as if you thought the themata was an indication of institutional weakness.
 
In Christ, loyal emperor and autocrat of the Romans.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Sep 2009 at 20:24
*bump* Let's keep this thread going guys, it's a winner.

Originally posted by BE BE wrote:


Perhaps the Western European monarchs could not have done this during the same period as Justinian II or Constantine V.  The political situation was much different there than in Byzantium in the early middle ages.  Later, however, there are instances such as Frederick II and Henry VIII, who strongarmed their local clergy/churches into doing their bidding, despite whatever the Pope had in mind.
 
I guess what I am trying to stress is that we should be careful in making too "black and white" of statements concerning this relationship in Byzantium.  "Caesaropapism" is going to far in one direction.  A division between church and state is going too far in the other.  One must consider the socio-political as well as the theological conditions (very important during the times mentioned above) of the specific time before making a characterization.


Would you say that the Western monarch's went as far as their Byzantine counterparts though? I personally do not think so. It was common practice for the Emperor to appoint the Patriarch, and also fairly common for him to appoint one of his own relatives like a brother. This was far rarer than in the west regarding the Pope (though admittedly appointment of bishops and cardinals who were relations was fairly common). The Pope was also quite often subject to elections within the Curia.

The Emperor's right to rule was also not dependent on being crowned by the Patriach, unlike the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the West. Emperors regularly imposed their own theological positions on the church itself, something I see a good deal less of in the West. The Roman church seems to have also had a good deal more autonomy in its actions, including its ability to unilaterally deem heresy and declare Crusades.

When making comparisons, the East looks quite a lot like a department of state, even when given to its own rebellions against the Emperor now and then.

Quote No, I did mean the themata.  What I was arguing for was the strength of the institution of this military contingent in the face of economic problems during the late seventh and into the eighth and early ninth centuries.  Perhaps I read your earlier statement incorrectly but it seemed as if you thought the themata was an indication of institutional weakness.


Ah I see now. No, I don't view the themata as an indication of institutional weakness. I do view it as an adaptable, economical and truly viable means of supplying the Empire with its military manpower as well as keeping it safe. I fully agree with you that it was a strong system with laudable qualities that enabled the Byzantine revival.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Justinian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Sep 2009 at 18:40
I would have responded sooner but I'm still vacillating on which individual to propose.  It really is an intriguing thread Constantine.  Perhaps a bit more pondering and then, finally, responding.
"War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace."--Thomas Mann

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Knights Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Sep 2009 at 12:10
Sorry Constantine, I have been too busy to respond. I can't be sure when I'll get a chance to do a thorough response; I don't want to do some half-hearted sloppy proposal for Alexios, see Smile

Apologies,

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2010 at 22:38
*BUMP*
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