Dedicated to the military history and civilization of the Eastern Roman Empire (330 to 1453)

"Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity."

- - - - Princess Anna Comnena (1083–1153) - Byzantine historian

Friday, November 2, 2012

Byzantine Military Theme of Longobardia

Castello Normanno-Svevo
Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (or of Souabe) reigned over the Puglia in the early 13th Century and raised the region to the height of its splendour. In 1233, he had this castle built on the former Byzantine and Norman buildings. The castle was reworked and reinforced in the 16th Century.

Theme of Longobardia

The themes or themata were the main administrative divisions of the middle Byzantine Empire. They were established in the mid-7th century in the aftermath of the Muslim conquests of Byzantine territory and replaced the earlier provincial system established by emperors Diocletian and Constantine the Great.

In their origin, the first themes were created from the areas of encampment of the field armies of the East Roman Army, and their names corresponded to the military units they had resulted from. The theme system reached its apogee in the 9th and 10th centuries, as older themes were split up and the conquest of territory resulted in the creation of new ones. The original theme system underwent significant changes in the 11th and 12th centuries, but the term remained in use as a provincial and financial circumscription, until the very end of the Empire.


Longobardia was a Byzantine term for the territories controlled by the Lombards in Italy. In the 9th-10th centuries, it was also the name of a Byzantine military-civilian province known as the Theme of Longobardia located in southeastern Italy.

The term was traditionally used for the Lombard possessions, with the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor distinguishing between "Great Longobardia", namely the Lombard kingdom in northern Italy, and "Lesser Longobardia", which comprised southern Italy, with the Lombard duchies of Spoleto, Salerno and Capua, the Byzantine possessions, and the city-states (Naples, Gaeta and Amalfi) under Byzantine suzerainty.

In its strictest and most technical sense, the name referred to the Byzantine thema which encompassed the modern Italian region of Apulia and parts of Basilicata, with Bari as its capital. Its exact origin and evolution are not entirely clear. Its establishment, perhaps first as a subordinate division (tourma) of the thema of Cephallenia, dates to c. 876, when Bari was recovered by the Byzantines, who used it as a base to re-establish their control over southern Italy, lost in previous centuries to the Lombards and Arabs.

Eastern Roman Infantry

Each Byzantine tourma was usually headed by a tourmarchēs.  The tourmarchēs was usually based in a fortress town. Aside from his military responsibilities, he exercised fiscal and judicial duties in the area under his control.

In function and rank, the tourmarchēs corresponded with the topotērētēs of the professional imperial tagmata regiments.  The tourmarchai were paid according to the importance of their thema: those of the more prestigious Anatolian themes received 216 gold nomismata annually, while those of the European themes received 144 nomismata, the same amount paid to the droungarioi and the other senior officers of the thema.

In the mid-10th century, the average size of most units fell. In the case of the tourma, it dropped from 2,000–3,000 men to 1,000 men and less, in essence to the level of the earlier droungos, although larger tourmai are still recorded. It is probably no coincidence that the term "droungos" disappears from use at around that time.

Consequently, the tourma was divided directly into five to seven banda, each of 50–100 cavalry or 200–400 infantry. The term tourma itself fell gradually into disuse in the 11th century, but survived at least until the end of the 12th century as an administrative term. Tourmarchai are still attested in the first half of the 11th century, but the title seems to have fallen out of use thereafter

In the late 9th century, it appears that Longobardia was administered jointly with other European themata of the Byzantine Empire.  In 891 the first known strategos of Longobardia, Symbatikios, was also governor of Macedonia, Thrace and Cephallenia, while his successor George administered Longobardia jointly with its parent thema, Cephallenia.

A dedicated strategos is only attested from 911 on. In 938 and 956, it also appears united with the thema of Calabria, although the duration of this arrangement is unclear. At any rate, after c. 965, the two themata were permanently united into the new Catepanate of Italy, with the catepan's seat again at Bari.
(Wikipedia - Longobardia)

Theme of Longobardia
Theme of the Byzantine Empire
873–ca. 965
Capital  Bari

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