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Byzantium and Its Army, 284-1081 Paperback – June 1, 1998

3.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The Byzantine Empire was almost always ready to fight, and often fought for its life. During much of its history its provinces were military districts called themes, and acclamation by the army, not coronation or inheritance, was what made a man emperor. The army overthrew twenty-odd rulers, and tried to oust many more. It was large and expansive but on the whole it served its purpose well. Over eight centuries, despite losing a surprising number of battles, the army succeeded in preserving both itself and Byzantium. In view of its importance in Byzantine history, it is surprising that this volume is the first general book on the Byzantine army in any language.
The author traces the army’s impact on the Byzantine state and society from the army’s reorganization under Diocletian (284-305) until its disintegration in the aftermath of the battle of Manzikert (1071). He suggests solutions to some major unresolved questions of Byzantine military history: how big was the army, how was it organized, how much of it was cavalry, how much was it paid, how was it supplied, when and why did it receive land grants in the themes, and why, after surviving so many disasters, did it fail to survive the not particularly disastrous eleventh century?

About the Author

Warren Treadgold is Professor of History at Florida International University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (June 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804731632
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804731638
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #867,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Byzantium and Its Army" covers the evolution of the (Eastern) Roman army from the time of Diocletian until the decline of the Byzantine military after the battle of Manzikert. During this period (284-1081 A.D.) the Byzantine army displayed incredible adaptability and managed to hold its own whether fighting axe-wielding barbarians or nimble nomad horsemen, protecting the extensive frontiers of the Empire, while remaining a major factor of the political stage. This work is unique, because it is focused on the army itself and gives answers to many questions arising from the cursory treatment of the Byzantine military history by many other scholars. As far as I know it is the only book about the Byzantine army (except Bartusis' "The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and Society, 1204-1453", which, however, covers an other period, when the fractured remains of the Empire could do nothing more but bid for time). It is an excellent piece of work that has filled a major gap in the field of Byzantine studies and helped me a lot. Personally, even though I liked the book a lot (besides its uniqueness, it is sensibly laid out and well produced, provided with nice maps and interesting statistical tables), I would have preferred a more extensive study of the army's impact on Byzantine politics, as it focuses mainly on issues such as organization, size and pay. However, I would have underestimated this book's importance and its author's contribution to the subject by giving it any lower rating.
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Format: Paperback
First posted on Amazon.co.uk on 23 January 2012

The first edition of this book came out in 1995, if I remember correctly, and created a bit of stir amoung some historians (for instance Mark Whittow with the Making of Orthodox Byzantium and John Haldon with Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World, among others), partly because of the author's tendancy to present things in a systematic and quantified way and partly because some of his conclusions were somewhat controversial, if not spurious.

If anything, and irrespective of its merits, by creating such a stir, it may also have promoted byzantine military history and studies in byzantine warfare. For that alone, the book can be commended. This relatively short book had a number of additional merits, including the following:
- it examines the development and changes of the armies of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire and of Byzantium over some 800 years, stopping in 1081
- it insists on the obvious but often overlooked link between the Empire's armed forces and the state of its finances- It emphasizes that the army was always the main post of expenditure, by far, absorbing up to 70% of the imperial "budget".
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Format: Paperback
'Byzantium and Its Army' is an incorrectly titled book. It lacks just about everything that one would expect from a book entitled as it is. There is scant mention of equipment or the armies' actual performance in warfare. Treadgold focuses primarily on two things: the pay and the size of the army, and much of it in the Diocletianic to Justinianic periods, although other important names such Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos, Theophilos and Basil II Bulgaroktonos do get a mention. Many of Treadgold's numbers regarding troop sizes are very large and taken directly from the sources with little or no modification; however Byzantine army sizes are one thing that we just don't know much about. Tourmai from the same theme called up for the same campaign are known to have had radically different sizes, so to just accept figures given by the historians and subtract 10% in acceptance of the fact that they likely weren't up to full strength isn't terribly erudite. Treadgold's thesis on the creation of the thematic system dating to Constans II based entirely on new methods of payment and coin finds is also a leaky boat and has very little to commend it, as John Haldon has demonstrated in his 'Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World'.

Nonetheless, there are some good things to be found in the book. There is some excellent work done here in the structure of the army. Treadgold presents a very detailed analysis of the issues that the Notitia Dignitatum presents to scholars of the Late Antique army. There are also some useful tables regarding state expenditure. The problem ultimately stems from where these numbers come from and how accurate they are. Much of the work surrounding them is good, but the reliability of the figures is this book's downfall.
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