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

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Battle of Callinicum - Romans vs Persians

Cataphract Cavalry used at Callinicum
Both the Persian Sassanid (above) and the Eastern Roman Empires used highly trained Cataphract armored horse archers.  These highly mobile troops would let fly a deadly barrage of arrows into an enemy to break up their formation and then charge in for the kill. 

The Battle of Callinicum (April 19, 531 AD) was the last of a series of battles between the armies of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanid Persian Empire in the Iberian War that lasted from 526 – 532 AD.

The Iberian War

After the Anastasian War, a seven-year truce was agreed on, yet it lasted for nearly twenty years. Even during the war in 505, Emperor Anastasius I had already started fortifying Dara as a counter to the Persian fortress city of Nisibis for a looming conflict. In 524/525, the Persian shah Kavadh I (r. 488–531) proposed that Roman Emperor Justin I adopt his son, Khosrau I; the priority of the Persian king was to secure the succession of Khosrau, whose position was threatened by rival brothers and the Mazdakite sect.

The proposal was initially greeted with enthusiasm by the Roman Emperor and his nephew, Justinian, but Justin's quaestor, Proculus, opposed the move. Despite the breakdown of the negotiations, it was not until 530 that full-scale warfare on the main eastern frontier broke out. In the intervening years, the two sides preferred to wage war by proxy, through Arab allies in the south and Huns in the north.

Tensions between the two powers were further heightened by the defection of the Iberian king Gourgen to the Romans. According to Procopius, Kavadh I tried to force the Christian Iberians to become Zoroastrians, who in 524/525 under the leadership of Gourgen rose in revolt against Persia, following the example of the neighboring Christian kingdom of Lazica. Gourgen received pledges by Roman Emperor Justin I that he would defend Iberia; the Romans indeed recruited Huns from the north of the Caucasus to assist the Iberians.

By 526-527, overt fighting between the two empires had broken out in the Transcaucasus region and upper Mesopotamia.

The Iberian War saw the Persian and Roman Empires in a fight
from the Caucasus to the upper Mesopotamia region. 

Battle of Callinicum

The Byzantines’ eastern borders, especially the area of Syria and along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, were under constant dispute with the Persians. One of the ways the Persians gave the Eastern Romans fits was raiding this disputed area during time of war.

Generally, a substantial Sassanian military force – 10,000 to 20,000 men, usually all cavalry – would be sent into Byzantine territory to temporarily capture some forts, towns or cities, take any valuables they could carry, and beat a hasty retreat back to Sassanian territory. Usually by the time a sufficient Byzantine military response could be formed, the raiders slipped away with their loot.

In April 531, a Persian force under Azarethes, numbering about 15,000 cavalry, with an additional group of 5,000 Lakhmid Arab light horse allies under their King Al-Mundhir, crossed the frontier at Circesium on the Euphrates and marched north.
The Roman - Persian Wars
For over 700 years, from 92 BC to 629 AD,
the two great empires fought wars for
the control of western Asia.

As the Persians neared Callinicum in modern day Syria, Belisarius, who commanded the local Roman troops, set out to follow them as they advanced westwards. 

Belisarius was the Magister Militum per Orientum (the commander of all Roman forces east of Constantinople) reacted swiftly to the Persian thrust.  Belisarius was riding the wave of a stunning victory over a Persian army twice his size at the Battle of Dara just a year before and was an experienced commander.

Belisarius had gathered his forces, beginning his pursuit within days of the Persian crossing of the Euphrates. His force initially consisted of 5,000 Byzantine cavalry and 5,000 Ghassanid Arab light cavalry.  Part of his army had been left to secure Dara and other border towns against Persian attack.

Belisarius was expecting reinforcements as he continued shadowing the Persian raiders.

After a few days, Belisarius received some reinforcements from nearby Roman provinces, as well as directly from the Byzantine capital. These men were led by Hermogenes, the Roman Emperor’s Magister Officiorum. 

The additional troops swelled Belisarius’ force to 9000 infantry, 12,000 Byzantine cavalry and the 5,000 Ghassanid light horsemen.   At least two thousand of the troops were Isaurians under the command of Longinus and Stephanacius.  The commanders of cavalry were all the same ones who had previously fought the Battle at Dara with Mirranes and the Persians, while the infantry were commanded by one of the body-guards of the Emperor Justinian, named Peter.

Belisarius' army began to approach the invading Persians.  Once word reached the Persians that it was Belisarius who was coming for them they immediately decided to retire back to Persia.  Through a series of forced marches, Belisarius kept his men moving, barely missing contact with the fleeing Sassanid force on several occasions.

At dawn on the morning of April 19 – the day before Easter – the Roman army came upon the Sassanids still encamped on the southern bank of the Euphrates, across the river from the town of Callinicum
Kavadh I
Persian King of Kings.
Image of Kavadh I on one of his coins.

General Belisarius was also not interested in a head to head fight with the fleeing Persians. He really had nothing to gain, and he also probably realized that his army was tired from the forced marches. In addition, the army was probably hungry from the enforced Holy Week fasting. Finally, the Persian camp was well fortified, with a defensive ditch as well as anti-cavalry caltrops sown around its perimeter.

The Byzantine troops, however, were restless, and clamored for battle.  The strategy of just pushing the Persians out of Roman lands did not sit well with many of the commanders, especially Hermogenes, who seems to have wanted to prove his bona fides as a military man. Perhaps the senior Roman officers wanted to punish the Persians for their incursion; or, maybe they were still flushed with the glow of victory from battles in the previous year.

According to Procopius: “…the army began to insult [Belisarius], not in silence nor with any concealment, but they came shouting into his presence, and called him weak and a destroyer of their zeal; and even some of the officers joined with the soldiers in this offence…” Seeing that his men were determined to fight the Sassanians, Belisarius – against his better judgment – began deploying his army for battle.

Events like this are recorded over and over.  They show that military discipline was minimal if the troops, and even the officers, had no fear of their own generals.

The Euphrates River
Belisarius anchored his infantry on the river with an island mid-river in view 
and the Roman town of Callinicum on the far shore.

The Byzantine left was anchored on the Euphrates River with the
Roman town of Callinicum located just across the river.  The Persian
left mounted a strong attack on the 5,000 Ghassanid Arab light cavalry
on the Roman right.  The Ghassanids fled without firing a shot allowing
the Persians to attack the rear of the Roman cavalry in the center.  

The Armies Meet at the Euphrates

The two armies met outside Callinicum on 19 April 531. Both groups formed up differently.

Belisarius chose an "odd" formation that confused his opposing general. In this case he anchored his left flank on the bank of the river with the Roman infantry and put the Ghassanid Arab allies on his far right flank on slopping ground.  He then placed several ranks of Roman heavy cavalry, the armored cataphracts, in the center of the front line.

By anchoring his infantry on the Euphrates perhaps Belisarius was trying to prevent his troops from being flanked by the more mobile Persians as well as creating a sense of security to any prevent panic.

Most of these infantry spearmen would have worn metallic armor – at least the front few ranks – metal helmets and carried large shields, possibly with greaves to protect their legs. They were probably arranged 5 to 10 ranks deep. The remainder of the infantry consisted of 2,000-3,000 bowmen, likely lined up behind the spearmen, or possibly mixed in among them. All of the infantrymen, spearmen and archers, were armed with a sword as a secondary weapon, with the bowmen probably having a small round shield for more protection.
Infantry Officer in the era of Justinian
(6th century AD)

The Roman cavalry in the center divided into three divisions. Next to the left wing he placed his limitanei cavalry; to their right were the comitatensis horsemen, then  the limitanei cavalry.

These units would have lined up 10 files deep in battle. The first two files would have been armed with lances and swords, the next two files with have been armed with bows and swords, and the remaining files would have had some bows, most probably were armed with javelins and swords. The lancers probably had the most metal armor, with helmets and small round shields, while the other men probably were limited to leather or padded armor.

To the right of the cavalry was a 2,000-man contingent of infantry, newly raised by Hermogenes as he rode to link up with Belisarius. These men were not well trained, probably not well equipped, and armed with little more than javelins.

Completing the Byzantine deployment, the 5,000-strong Ghassanid Arab horsemen were stationed on the upward sloping ground, guarding the army’s right flank. These men would be lightly armored, armed with light spears, javelins, swords and some bows.

It is probable that lined up behind the Byzantine center was a 1,000-man reserve commanded by Belisarius and Hermogenes, consisting of their bucellari, their personal retainers. These men, sworn to the personal service of the general and the bureaucrat, would have worn the best armor possible, complete with small round shields, and probably greaves. However, they probably didn’t have any protection for their horses. These men were probably mostly Goths or Thracians.

The Sassanid deployment is a bit simpler, but most of the Persian sources don’t give quite as much detail. The 15,000 Persian cavalry was divided into three divisions, placed on the right and center of their battleline, with their Lakhmid Arab allies on the left facing their traditional enemies the Ghassanids.

The other 5,000-man Persian division was lined up behind the center as a tactical reserve.

The sources stated that the Sassanid army was marching under a “royal standard,” probably meaning that these were the closest thing to “regulars” that the Persians had to offer. It can be further assumed that the majority of the army consisted of the elite riders of the Persians, the cataphracts: heavily armored, well-trained horsemen armed with lances, bows, and swords or maces. Their horses were also well-protected, and could logically be referred to as the “tanks” of the sixth century battlefield.

These warriors probably comprised the front two or three ranks of each Persian division, with the remainder consisting of light Parthian or Hunnic horsemen armed with bows. The Persians usually fired their bows to disrupt their enemy’s formations, then sent the heavy horsemen in deep wedges to pound them into submission.
6th Century Roman Infantry

For much of the day, the battle was a stalemate, with the Persians and Romans trading arrows and cavalry charges.

The historian Procopius says the battle was exceedingly fierce and went on for hours. The arrows, shot from either side in very great numbers, caused great loss of life in both armies, while some placed themselves in the interval between the armies and made a display of valorous deeds against each other, and especially among the Persians they were falling by the arrows in great numbers.

The Persians began a series of attacks along the Byzantine line, using the treasured tactic of attacking and feigning retreat in hopes of drawing out the Romans to pursue them. Apparently, the Romans’ discipline held fast.

After several hours, probably now late afternoon, the Persians gathered their heavy cavalry into a single unit.  They marched to attack the Roman right flank made up of some 5,000 Ghassanid Arab light cavalry.  With the Persians approaching Procopius says the Arabs simply turned and fled the battlefield without even trying to fight.

The entire Roman right wing had instantly vanished.

The advancing Persians swung around and attacked the Roman center from both the rear and the front.  At this point the Romans were exhausted by the long marches and the day long battle.  Most of the troops rapidly left the battlefield right into the Euphrates River to try and take shelter on the islands offshore.

But many other Romans stayed to fight.  One was Ascan who, after killing many of the notables among the Persians, was gradually hacked to pieces and finally fell, and with him eight hundred others perished after showing themselves brave men in this struggle. Almost all the untrained militia-style  Isaurians fell with their leaders, without even daring to lift their weapons against the enemy.

The infantry commander Peter still had a large force available though most of his men had fled.  Belisarius and his cavalry had been with Ascan.  When that warrior and his men fell the general retreated to Peter's infantry phalanx.  Belisarius commanded all his men to give up their horses and join the infantry to fight on foot.  There would be no retreat from this spot.

The Romans under Belisarius and Peter turned their backs to the river in what was probably a half circle so the Persians could not flank them. 

Belisarius' Shield Wall Holds Firm.
Roman infantry re-enactors (above) do a shield wall to repel a cavalry
attack.  Belisarius and his men put their backs to the Euphrates River to
form a phalanx of shields and spears to fight off the endless charges
of the elite Persian cavalry units.

The Persians attacked the Roman wall of shields again and again with no results.  Belisarius and his smaller force was taking on the entire Persian army.  Procopius reports that the Romans stood shoulder to shoulder in a tight formation with shields in an unyielding barricade.  Every time the Persians attacked the Romans poured arrow fire into their ranks creating huge numbers of casualties and confusion.

This last phase of the battle appears to have lasted for hours.  The Persians did not give up their endless assaults on Belisarius until nightfall.  Only then did the Persians withdraw to their fortified camp.

Belisarius with a few men then found a small freight-boat and crossed to the island in the middle of the river that many other Romans had reached by swimming.

On the following day many freight-boats were brought to the Romans from the city of Callinicus to ferry the remaining troops across the Euphrates.  The Persians, after despoiling the dead, departed homeward.

Exact casualties are not known, but both sides suffered badly in the encounter.

And After the Battle

The direct outcome of the battle was something of a stalemate; the Byzantine army had lost many soldiers and would not be in fighting condition for months, but the Persians had taken such heavy losses that it was useless as to its original purpose, the invasion of Syria. 

The leadership on both sides were unhappy with the battle results.

Upon return, Emperor Kavadh I removed General Azarethes from command and stripped him of his honors due to the general's actions in the battle.  When Belisarius returned to Constantinople, he was brought before a review board and dismissed from his position.

Justinian's envoy, Hermogenes, visited Kavadh immediately after the Battle of Callinicum to re-open negotiations but without success. Justinian therefore took steps to bolster the Roman position, trying, at the same time, to engage Kavadh diplomatically. Kavadh died shortly afterwards, and in spring 532 new negotiations began between the Roman envoys and the new Persian king, Khosrau I, who needed to devote his attention to secure his own position.

The two sides finally came to an agreement, and the Eternal Peace, which lasted less than eight years, was signed in September 532. Both sides agreed to return all occupied territories and the Romans to make a one-off payment of 110 centenaria (11,000 pounds of gold). The Romans recovered the Lazic forts, Iberia remained in Persian hands, but the Iberians who had left their country were allowed to remain in Roman territory or to return to their native land.

Belisarius and his Staff
(Johnny Shumates Portfolio)

Persian Cavalry Reenactment
Sassanid Persian Cataphract
Sassanian Elite Savaran Persian Cavalry
History of the Wars:  Book I
The Persian War

By Procopius of Caesarea
(AD 500 – c. AD 565)
Procopius was with Belisarius on the eastern front at the Battle of Callinicum in AD 531.  Here is his eyewitness account of the battle.

At the opening of spring a Persian army under the leadership of Azarethes invaded the Roman territory. They were fifteen thousand strong, all horsemen. With them was Alamoundaras, son of Saccice, with a very large body of Saracens. But this invasion was not made by the Persians in the customary manner; for they did not invade Mesopotamia, as formerly, but the country called Commagene of old, but now Euphratesia, a point from which, as far as we know, the Persians never before conducted a campaign against the Romans.

. . . . This man's suggestion at that time therefore pleased Cabades, and he chose out fifteen thousand men, putting in command of them Azarethes, a Persian, who was an exceptionally able warrior, and he bade Alamoundaras lead the expedition.

So they crossed the River Euphrates in Assyria, and, after passing over some uninhabited country, they suddenly and unexpectedly threw their forces into the land of the so-called Commagenae. This was the first invasion made by the Persians from this point into Roman soil, as far as we know from tradition or by any other means, and it paralyzed all the Romans with fear by its unexpectedness.
6th Century Eastern Roman reenactor

And when this news came to the knowledge of Belisarius, at first he was at a loss, but afterwards he decided to go to the rescue with all speed. So he established a sufficient garrison in each city in order that Cabades with another hostile army might not come there and find the towns of Mesopotamia utterly unguarded, and himself with the rest of the army went to meet the invasion; and crossing the River Euphrates they moved forward in great haste.

Now the Roman army amounted to about twenty thousand foot and horse, and among them not less than two thousand were Isaurians. The commanders of cavalry were all the same ones who had previously fought the battle at Daras with Mirranes and the Persians, while the infantry were commanded by one of the body-guards of the Emperor Justinian, Peter by name. The Isaurians, however, were under the command of Longinus and Stephanacius. Arethas also came there to join them with the Saracen army. When they reached the city of Chalcis, they encamped and remained there, since they learned that the enemy were in a place called Gabboulon, one hundred and ten stades away from Chalcis.

When this became known to Alamoundaras and Azarethes, they were terrified at the danger, and no longer continued their advance, but decided to retire homeward instantly. Accordingly they began to march back, with the River Euphrates on the left, while the Roman army was following in the rear. And in the spot where the Persians bivouacked each night the Romans always tarried on the following night. For Belisarius purposely refused to allow the army to make any longer march because he did not wish to come to an engagement with the enemy, but he considered that it was sufficient for them that the Persians and Alamoundaras, after invading the land of the Romans, should retire from it in such a fashion, betaking themselves to their own land without accomplishing anything. And because of this all secretly mocked him, both officers and soldiers, but not a man reproached him to his face.

Finally the Persians made their bivouac on the bank of the Euphrates just opposite the city of Callinicus. From there they were about to march through a country absolutely uninhabited by man, and thus to quit the land of the Romans; for they purposed no longer to proceed as before, keeping to the bank of the river.

The Romans had passed the night in the city of Sura, and, removing from there, they came upon the enemy just in the act of preparing for the departure.  Now the feast of Easter was near and would take place on the following day; this feast is reverenced by the Christians above all others, and on the day before it they are accustomed to refrain from food and drink not only throughout the day, but for a large part of the night also they continue the fast.

Then, therefore, Belisarius, seeing that all his men were passionately eager to go against the enemy, wished to persuade them to give up this idea (for this course had been counselled by Hermogenes also, who had come recently on an embassy from the emperor); he accordingly called together all who were present and spoke as follows:

Byzantine Armor
Manufactured by Dimitrios
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

"O Romans, whither are you rushing? and what has happened to you that you are purposing to choose for yourselves a danger which is not necessary? Men believe that there is only one victory which is unalloyed, namely to suffer no harm at the hands of the enemy, and this very thing has been given us in the present instance by fortune and by the fear of us that overpowers our foes. Therefore it is better to enjoy the benefit of our present blessings than to seek them when they have passed. For the Persians, led on by many hopes, undertook an expedition against the Romans, and now, with everything lost, they have beaten a hasty retreat. So that if we compel them against their will to abandon their purpose of withdrawing and to come to battle with us, we shall win no advantage whatsoever if we are victorious,—for why should one rout a fugitive?—while if we are unfortunate, as may happen, we shall both be deprived of the victory which we now have, not robbed of it by the enemy, but flinging it away ourselves, and also we shall abandon the land of the emperor to lie open hereafter to the attacks of the enemy without defenders. Moreover this also is worth your consideration, that God is always accustomed to succour men in dangers which are necessary, not in those which they choose for themselves. And apart from this it will come about that those who have nowhere to turn will play the part of brave men even against their will, while the obstacles which are to be met by us in entering the engagement are many; for a large number of you have come on foot and all of us are fasting. I refrain from mentioning that some even now have not arrived." So spoke Belisarius.

But the army began to insult him, not in silence nor with any concealment, but they came shouting into his presence, and called him weak and a destroyer of their zeal; and even some of the officers joined with the soldiers in this offence, thus displaying the extent of their daring. And Belisarius, in astonishment at their shamelessness, changed his exhortation and now seemed to be urging them on against the enemy and drawing them up for battle, saying that he had not known before their eagerness to fight, but that now he was of good courage and would go against the enemy with a better hope.

He then formed the phalanx with a single front, disposing his men as follows: on the left wing by the river he stationed all the infantry, while on the right where the ground rose sharply he placed Arethas and all his Saracens; he himself with the cavalry took his position in the centre. Thus the Romans arrayed themselves.

And when Azarethes saw the enemy gathering in battle line, he exhorted his men with the following words: "Persians as you are, no one would deny that you would not give up your valour in exchange for life, if a choice of the two should be offered. But I say that not even if you should wish, is it within your power to make the choice between the two. For as for men who have the opportunity to escape from danger and live in dishonour it is not at all unnatural that they should, if they wish, choose what is most pleasant instead of what is best; but for men who are bound to die, either gloriously at the hands of the enemy or shamefully led to punishment by your Master, it is extreme folly not to choose what is better instead of what is most shameful. Now, therefore, when things stand thus, I consider that it befits you all to bear in mind not only the enemy but also your own Lord and so enter this battle."

After Azarethes also had uttered these words of exhortation, he stationed the phalanx opposite his opponents, assigning the Persians the right wing and the Saracens the left. Straightway both sides began the fight, and the battle was exceedingly fierce. For the arrows, shot from either side in very great numbers, caused great loss of life in both armies, while some placed themselves in the interval between the armies and made a display of valorous deeds against each other, and especially among the Persians they were falling by the arrows in great numbers.

Vandoforos (Ensign) Klivanarios horseman of the time of Justinian
(6th century AD.)
The horseman depicted represents one of the elite units of the early Byzantine army. Bring complex defensive armor of metal plates that protect the ends, scaly lorikio and chained chest. Bring style helmet with chain spagenhelm hood and uses a small round shield painted over with religious representations. The elite cavalry of the time were trained to fight with all types Mêlée and ranged weapons like the Persians counterparts.

For while their missiles were incomparably more frequent, since the Persians are almost all bowmen and they learn to make their shots much more rapidly than any other men, still the bows which sent the arrows were weak and not very tightly strung, so that their missiles, hitting a corselet, perhaps, or helmet or shield of a Roman warrior, were broken off and had no power to hurt the man who was hit. The Roman bowmen are always slower indeed, but inasmuch as their bows are extremely stiff and very tightly strung, and one might add that they are handled by stronger men, they easily slay much greater numbers of those they hit than do the Persians, for no armour proves an obstacle to the force of their arrows.

Now already two-thirds of the day had passed, and the battle was still even. Then by mutual agreement all the best of the Persian army advanced to attack the Roman right wing, where Arethas and the Saracens had been stationed. But they broke their formation and moved apart, so that they got the reputation of having betrayed the Romans to the Persians. For without awaiting the oncoming enemy they all straightway beat a hasty retreat. So the Persians in this way broke through the enemy's line and immediately got in the rear of the Roman cavalry.

Thus the Romans, who were already exhausted both by the march and the labour of the battle,—and besides this they were all fasting so far on in the day,—now that they were assailed by the enemy on both sides, held out no longer, but the most of them in full flight made their way to the islands in the river which were close by, while some also remained there and performed deeds both amazing and remarkable against the enemy.

Among these was Ascan who, after killing many of the notables among the Persians, was gradually hacked to pieces and finally fell, leaving to the enemy abundant reason to remember him. And with him eight hundred others perished after shewing themselves brave men in this struggle, and almost all the Isaurians fell with their leaders, without even daring to lift their weapons against the enemy. For they were thoroughly inexperienced in this business, since they had recently left off farming and entered into the perils of warfare, which before that time were unknown to them. And yet just before these very men had been most furious of all for battle because of their ignorance of warfare, and were then reproaching Belisarius with cowardice. They were not in fact all Isaurians but the majority of them were Lycaones.

Persian Cavalry
Belisarius with some few men remained there, and as long as he saw Ascan and his men holding out, he also in company with those who were with him held back the enemy; but when some of Ascan's troops had fallen, and the others had turned to flee wherever they could, then at length he too fled with his men and came to the phalanx of infantry, who with Peter were still fighting, although not many in number now, since the most of them too had fled. There he himself gave up his horse and commanded all his men to do the same thing and on foot with the others to fight off the oncoming enemy.

And those of the Persians who were following the fugitives, after pursuing for only a short distance, straightway returned and rushed upon the infantry and Belisarius with all the others. Then the Romans turned their backs to the river so that no movement to surround them might be executed by the enemy, and as best they could under the circumstances were defending themselves against their assailants.

And again the battle became fierce, although the two sides were not evenly matched in strength; for foot-soldiers, and a very few of them, were fighting against the whole Persian cavalry. Nevertheless the enemy were not able either to rout them or in any other way to overpower them. For standing shoulder to shoulder they kept themselves constantly massed in a small space, and they formed with their shields a rigid, unyielding barricade, so that they shot at the Persians more conveniently than they were shot at by them. Many a time after giving up, the Persians would advance against them determined to break up and destroy their line, but they always retired again from the assault unsuccessful. For their horses, annoyed by the clashing of the shields, reared up and made confusion for themselves and their riders.

Thus both sides continued the struggle until it had become late in the day. And when night had already come on, the Persians withdrew to their camp, and Belisarius accompanied by some few men found a freight-boat and crossed over to the island in the river, while the other Romans reached the same place by swimming. On the following day many freight-boats were brought to the Romans from the city of Callinicus and they were conveyed thither in them, and the Persians, after despoiling the dead, all departed homeward. However they did not find their own dead less numerous than the enemy's.

When Azarethes reached Persia with his army, although he had prospered in the battle, he found Cabades exceedingly ungrateful, for the following reason. It is a custom among the Persians that, when they are about to march against any of their foes, the king sits on the royal throne, and many baskets are set there before him; and the general also is present who is expected to lead the army against the enemy; then the army passes along before the king, one man at a time, and each of them throws one weapon into the baskets; after this they are sealed with the king's seal and preserved; and when this army returns to Persia, each one of the soldiers takes one weapon out of the baskets. A count is then made by those whose office it is to do so of all the weapons which have not been taken by the men, and they report to the king the number of the soldiers who have not returned, and in this way it becomes evident how many have perished in the war. Thus the law has stood from of old among the Persians.

Now when Azarethes came into the presence of the king, Cabades enquired of him whether he came back with any Roman fortress won over to their side, for he had marched forth with Alamoundaras against the Romans, with the purpose of subduing Antioch. And Azarethes said that he had captured no fortress, but that he had conquered the Romans and Belisarius in battle. So Cabades bade the army of Azarethes pass by, and from the baskets each man took out a weapon just as was customary. But since many weapons were left, Cabades rebuked Azarethes for the victory and thereafter ranked him among the most unworthy. So the victory had this conclusion for Azarethes.

Byzantine Cataphract
(Iberian War)        (Radpour.com)        (Gutenberg.org - Procopius)

(Battle of Callinicum)        (Burnpit.legion.org)        (eclass31.weebly.com)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Column of Flavius Marcianus Augustus

Column of Flavius Marcianus Augustus

The Column of Marcian is a Roman honorific column erected in Constantinople by the praefectus urbi Tatianus (450-c.452) and dedicated to the Emperor Marcian (450-57). It is located in the present-day Fatih district of Istanbul. The column is not documented in any late Roman or Byzantine source and its history has to be inferred from its location, style and dedicatory inscription.

The column is carved from red-grey Egyptian granite, in two sections. The quadrilateral basis is encased by four slabs of white marble. Three faces are decorated with IX monograms within medallions, and the fourth with two genii supporting a globe.

The column is topped by a Corinthian capital, decorated with aquilae. The inscription confirms that the capital was originally surmounted by a statue of Marcian, in continuation of an imperial architectural tradition initiated by the Column of Trajan and the Column of Marcus Aurelius in Rome. The basis of the column is orientated northwest/southeast, while its capital is aligned north/south, possibly so that the statue could look towards the nearby Church of the Holy Apostles.

A dedicatory inscription is engraved on the northern side of the basis. Its lettering was originally filled with bronze, which has since been removed. The inscription reads:
[pr]incipis hanc statuam Marciani | cerne torumque |
[prae]fectus vovit quod Tatianus | opus
(Behold this statue of the princeps Marcian and its base,
a work dedicated by the prefect Tatianus.)

Computer Recreation of the Statue on the Column
This image and those below used under FAIR USE from Byzantium1200.
Review for comment, criticism and scholarship as allowed under FAIR USE section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
The website Byzantium 1200 published an article about the Column of Marcianus.  The Column still exists today making that job much easier.  But the artists decided to recreate the long lost statue of the Emperor.
Based on the time Emperor Marcianos (450-457) ruled I suspect the dress is dead on being more Roman than Byzantine.  What the Emperor actually looked like is anyone's guess.
The Column is never mentioned by Byzantine sources.  The recreation is a job well done.

One of the faded IX monograms inside a wreath at the base of the column.

Solidus of Emperor Flavius Marcianus Augustus
Emperor Marcian was born in 392 in Illyricum or Thracia. The son of a soldier, he spent his early life as an obscure soldier, member of a military unit located at Philippopolis.

Marcian was dispatched with his unit for a war against the Sassanids (probably the Roman-Sassanid war of 421–422), but along the road East he fell ill in Lycia; at this time he might have already been tribunus and commander of his unit.
After recovering from his illness, he went to Constantinople, where he served for fifteen years as domesticus under the generals Ardaburius and Aspar. In 431/434, while fighting in Africa under Aspar, Marcian was taken prisoner by the Vandals; according to a later legend, he was brought before King Geiseric (428–477), who knew by an omen that Marcian was to be Emperor and was released on his oath never to take up arms against the Vandals.
He became a captain of the guards, and was later raised to the rank of Senator. On the death of Theodosius II (450) he was chosen as consort by the latter's sister and successor, Pulcheria.
Marcian reformed the Empire's finances, checked extravagance, and repopulated devastated districts. He repelled attacks upon Syria and Egypt in 452, and quelled disturbances on the Armenian frontier in 456. The other notable event of his reign is the Council of Chalcedon in 451, in which Marcian endeavored to mediate between the rival schools of theology.
Marcian generally ignored the affairs of the Western Roman Empire, leaving that tottering half of the empire to its fate. He did nothing to aid the west during Attila's campaigns, and ignored the depredations of Geiseric even when the Vandals sacked Rome in 455.
Marcia Euphemia was the only known daughter of Marcian, and she was married to Anthemius, later Western Roman Emperor. The identity of her mother is unknown.
Pulcheria was his second wife. Pulcheria had taken a religious vow of chastity. The second marriage was a mere political alliance, establishing Marcian as a member of the Theodosian dynasty by marriage. The marriage of Marcian to Pulcheria was never consummated, and consequently Euphemia never had younger half-siblings.
Marcian died on 27 January 457 of a disease, possibly gangrene, contracted during a long religious journey.

(Column of Marcian)        (Marcian)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Catepanate of Italy - Military Province of Byzantium

Bari - Capital of the Byzantine Catapanate of Italy

Byzantine Southern Italy

The Roman domination of southern Italy began in the third century BC and lasted until the fall of the Western Empire in 476 AD.   A period of Roman control lasting over 700 years.

Italy was ruled under the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths for a rather short 60 years period until 553 AD with the re-conquest of Italy by armies sent by the Eastern Emperor Justinian.

The Eastern Empire continued to rule all or part of Italy for more than 500 years until the last Byzantine outpost of Bari fell in April, 1071.  In all, Republican and Imperial control of southern Italy lasted about 1,200 years.

The Roman Republic conquest of Italy.  By the 3rd century BC Rome had
gained control of all of Italy and kept control for another 700 years.

Eastern Roman Army Re-enactors

The Catapanate of Italy

The Catepanate (or Catapanate) of Italy was a military-civilian province of the Eastern Roman Empire, comprising roughly the southern third of mainland Italy south of Naples.

The province was ruled by a Katepano  "[the one] placed at the top", or " the topmost").  The term was a senior Byzantine military rank and office. The word was Latinized as capetanus/catepan, and its meaning seems to have merged with that of the Italian "capitaneus" (which derives from the Latin word "caput", meaning head).

This hybridized term gave rise to the English language term captain and its equivalents in other languages (Capitan, Kapitan, Kapitän, El Capitan, Il Capitano, Kapudan Pasha etc.)

The Italian region of Capitanata derives its name from the Catepanate.

Amalfi and Naples were north of the Catepanate, but they maintained allegiance to Constantinople through the catepan.

In 871, the Byzantines re-conquered the short lives Emirate of Bari from the Muslim Saracens.

Along with the already existing military theme of Calabria, the region of Apulia, around Bari, formed a new theme of Longobardia.

Norman Soldier
In ca. 965, a new theme, that of Lucania, was established, and the stratēgos (military governor) of Bari was raised to the title of katepanō of Italy, usually with the rank of patrikios.

The title of katepanō meant "the uppermost" in Greek. This elevation was deemed militarily necessary after the final loss of nearby Sicily, a previously Byzantine possession, to the Arabs.

The Norman Conquest

Some Norman adventurers, on pilgrimage to Monte Sant'Angelo sul Gargano, lent their swords in 1017 to the Lombard cities of Apulia against the Byzantines.

From 1016 to 1030 the Normans were pure mercenaries, serving either Byzantine or Lombard, and then Duke Sergius IV of Naples.  Installing their leader Ranulf Drengot in the fortress of Aversa in 1030, gave them their first foot hold and they began an organized conquest of the land from the Byzantines.

In 1030 there arrived William and Drogo, the two eldest sons of Tancred of Hauteville, a petty noble of Coutances in Normandy. The two joined in the organized attempt to wrest Apulia from the Byzantines, who had lost most of that province by 1040.

Bari was captured by the Normans in April 1071, and Byzantine authority was finally terminated in Italy, five centuries after the conquests of Justinian I. The Byzantines returned briefly to besiege Bari in 1156.

The title Catapan of Apulia and Campania was revived briefly in 1166 for Gilbert, Count of Gravina, the cousin of the queen regent Margaret of Navarre. In 1167, with his authority as catapan, Gilbert forced German troops out of the Campania and compelled Frederick Barbarossa to raise the siege of Ancona.

The Catapanate of Italy
The approximate territorial extent of the Catapanate of Italy (in yellow).
The themes of Calabria, Longobardia and Lucania together formed a larger military province - the Catepanate of Italy.  The Catepan (military governor) coordinated the local Roman armies of the three themes to defend Italy. 

The Castle of Sant'Aniceto
The castle was a major Byzantine fortification in Rhegion (Reggio Calabria), the capital of the military theme of Calabria. 
The Byzantine castle of Motta Sant'Aniceto was built in the 11th century. In the background, the Etna volcano.  The Byzantine troops in the castle were looking directly at the now Muslim conquered island of Sicily.  The Arabs were constantly attacking Byzantine troops in southern Italy. 

(Military Theme of Calabria)

Bari and its fortress.

Castello Normanno-Svevo (Bari)
The castle was built on a former Byzantine fortified site.  Bari was the capital of the Catepanate of Italy.  The current look and plan of the fortress might be close to the Byzantine floor plan.  The castle is surrounded by a moat on all sides, except the northern section, which was bordering the sea and can be accessed from the bridge and the gate on the southern side.

Catepans  -  Military Governors 

  • 970 – 975 Michael Abidelas
  • before 982 Romanos
  • 982 – 985 Kalokyros Delphinas
  • 985 – 988 Romanos
  • 988 – 998 John Ammiropoulos
  • 999 – 1006 Gregory Tarchaneiotes
  • 1006 – 1008 Alexius Xiphias
  • 1008 – 1010 Ioannes Curcuas
  • 1010 – 1016 Basil Mesardonites
  • May 1017 – December 1017 Leo Tornikios Kontoleon
  • December 1017 – 1027 Basil Boioannes
  • c. 1027 – 1029 Christophoros Burgaris
  • July 1029 – June 1032 Pothos Argyros
  • 1032 – May 1033 Michael Protospatharios
  • May 1033 – 1038 Constantine Opos
  • 1038 – 1039 Michael Spondyles
  • February 1039 – January 1040 Nicephorus Doukeianos
  • November 1040 – Summer of 1041 Michael Doukeianos
  • Summer of 1041 – 1042 Exaugustus Boioannes
  • February 1042 – April 1042 Synodianos
  • April 1042 – September 1042 George Maniakes
  • Autumn 1042 Pardos
  • February 1043 – April 1043 Basil Theodorokanos
  • Autumn of 1045 – September 1046 Eustathios Palatinos
  • September 1046 – December 1046 John Raphael
  • 1050 – 1058 Argyrus
  • 1060 Miriarch
  • 1060 – 1061 Maruli
  • 1062 Sirianus
  • 1064 Perenus
  • 1066 – 1069 Michael Maurex
  • 1069 – 1071 Avartuteles
  • 1071 Stephen Pateran

    A wider view of the Eastern Roman Empire at about 1025 AD
    including the Catepanate of Italy.

    The Fall of Bari
    Bari and Castello Normanno-Svevo.
    The Normans first arrived in Italy in 999AD.  That began a 70 year struggle between the Romans and Normans for control.  By 1060, only a few coastal cities in Apulia were still in Byzantine hands.  During the previous few decades, the Normans had increased their possessions in southern Italy and now aimed to complete the expulsion of the Byzantines from the peninsula.
    The Normans laid siege to Byzantine Bari in August, 1068.  In a three year campaign against Bari and other towns, the Byzantines were forced to surrender Bari in April 1071.  With the fall of Bari, the Byzantine presence in southern Italy ended after 536 years.

    (Norman conquest of Italy)        (Roman Republic)        (Catepanate of Italy)


    Sunday, November 3, 2013

    Zealots - A "Marxist" Revolution in Byzantium

    Civil War - The Rise of the Zealots
    Byzantium's Marxist Revolution

    Rule number one - the "correct" history of any given moment in time is mostly written by those who win the wars.  The point of view of the defeated is usually swiftly discarded into the trash can of history.  That fact limits what we know about the Zealot Revolution.

    The great failing of Imperial Rome and Byzantium was the collapse of any meaningful type of representative Senate or Plebeian Council.  With no political voice representing the people the only outlet was revolution or the armed backing one family of dictators over another family of dictators for the Imperial crown.

    We have seen a number of major people's revolutions against dictatorship over the centuries from Spartacus to Oliver Cromwell to George Washington to Hồ Chí Minh.

    But true popular revolts were not common in Rome or Byzantium for the obvious reason of fear of the Emperor's military.

    Our view of the Zealot Revolution in Byzantine Thessalonica is tainted by our modern knowledge of Socialism and Communism.  It was not a "Marxist" revolution in the true sense because Marxism had not been invented yet.

    Still all the elements of savage class warfare, killings and taking of private property were there just like there was in the French Revolution.

    The Rise of the Zealots

    "... They roused up the people against the aristocracy, and for two or three days, Thessalonica was like a city under enemy occupation and suffered all the corresponding disasters. The victors went shouting and looting through the streets by day and by night, while the vanquished hid in churches and counted themselves lucky to be still alive. When order returned, the Zealots, suddenly raised from penury and dishonour to wealth and influence, took control of everything and won over the middle class of citizens, forcing them to acquiesce and characterizing every form of moderation and prudence as "Kantakouzenism"."
    John Kantakouzenos, History
    Thessalonica at the time was the second most important city of the Empire after Constantinople itself. Wealthy and at least as populous as the capital, its people had already resented control from the far-off capital, and had already once rebelled against the Constantinople-appointed governor: in the first Palaiologan civil war, in 1322, they had ousted the despotēs Constantine Palaiologos in favour of Andronikos III and his lieutenant, John Kantakouzenos.

    When the second civil war broke out, control of the city was of great importance to both camps, and Kantakouzenos' aristocratic supporters, led by its governor Theodore Synadenos, tried to deliver it to him.

    The common people of the city however, led by the dockworkers and sailors, reacted, ousted them and took control of the city. Apokaukos himself arrived shortly after at the head of a fleet, and installed his son, the megas primikērios John, as its nominal governor. Real power in the city however rested with the Zealots' leader, a Michael Palaiologos, who jointly with John held the title of archōn. A council (boulē) was also established, but its composition and role is unclear.

    Although the Zealots, throughout their existence, continued to recognize the legitimate Emperor John V Palaiologos, the city was effectively run as a commune and a people's republic. Under the new regime, the possessions of the aristocracy were confiscated. The Zealots, who were regarded in conservative ecclesiastical circles as disciples of Barlaam of Calabria and Gregory Acindynus, were also violently opposed to the Hesychasts, who supported Kantakouzenos. The political Zealots were therefore enemies of the church Zealots.

    Michael and Andreas Palaiologos were the leaders of the revolt. Despite efforts to identify them however, they do not fit in any way into the known Palaiologan family tree, and we do not even know their relationship to each other: they may, indeed, simply have come from some sort of client family or families who took the dynastic name by extension. But one point does remain unavoidable: the so-called “revolutionaries” did consistently identify themselves with Palaiologan legitimacy.

    Apokaukos' coup, reaction and terror
    "...one after another the prisoners were hurled from the walls of the citadel and hacked to pieces by the mob of the Zealots assembled below. Then followed a hunt for all the members of the upper classes: they were driven through the streets like slaves, with ropes round their necks-here a servant dragged his master, there a slave his purchaser, while the peasant struck the strategos and the labourer beat the soldier [the land-holding pronoiars]."
    Demetrius Cydones describing the anti-aristocratic killings of 1345
    During the next years, the city successfully resisted attempts of Kantakouzenos to capture the city with the aid of his allies, the Seljuk Emir Umur and Stefan Dusan of Serbia. As the tide of the civil war gradually turned toward Kantakouzenos however, John Apokaukos began plotting against the Zealots. He contacted the remnants of the pro-Kantakouzenian aristocracy, and after having Michael Palaiologos killed, assumed power himself.

    After learning of his father's murder in Constantinople in June 1345, Apokaukos decided to hand the city over to Kantakouzenos, but the city mob, led by Andreas Palaiologos, another leader of the Longshoremen (parathalassioi), rose up against him. Apokaukos and about a hundred of the leading aristocrats were lynched, and everyone even suspected of "Kantakouzenism" was liable to be killed and his house and property plundered.


    In 1347 Kantakouzenos and the emperor John V reconciled, but the Zealots ignored the orders from the capital, such as the appointment of Gregory Palamas as its archbishop. The city remained isolated from the outside world, suffered from the Black Death, and was further subject to the continued threat of Stefan Dushan.

    The situation became increasingly desperate, and there was even talk of surrendering the city to the protection of foreign, namely Serbian, rule. This however was unacceptable to many Thessalonicans, including the other archon, Alexios Laskaris Metochites.  At the end of 1349, the Zealots were defeated, and Andreas Palaiologos fled to Mount Athos. Negotiations followed, and in 1350, Kantakouzenos, accompanied by Emperor John Palaiologos and Palamas, made a triumphal entry into the city.

    Byzantine Thessaloniki
    The second most important city in the 10th century Eastern Roman Empire
    with a population of about 200,000 people.
    Hesychasts and Zealots:
    Spiritual flourshing and social crisis in 14th century Byzantium

    by Protopresbyter fr. George Metallinos
    (f. Dean of the Athens University School of Theology)
    “Hellenism combatting”, Tinos Publications, Athens 1995.

    The 14th century has been acknowledged as one of the most critical periods of “Byzantine” History. It was marked by a peculiar paradox. Its socio-political crisis (evidence of its disorganization and decomposition) was interwoven with spiritual disputes (evidence of spiritual vigor and robustness). The territorial shrinkage of the Empire may have been progressing (territories shared between Serbs, Bulgarians and Ottomans), however, a parallel rebirth of education and a theological-spiritual flourishing was also being noted.

    Civil upheaval peaked during the movement of the Zealots of Thessaloniki.

    The second civil war - far more violent and broader than the first - had taken on a purely social character, so that it could boldly be referred to as a «social war». A leading role in this war was played by the lay strata, which the conflicting powers had, from the very beginning, hastened to "utilize". The Viceroy John Apokafkos - a supporter of Palaeologos - had roused the public of Constantinople in 1341 against Kantakouzinos. The looting of the latter's home functioned like something programmed, because very soon, an even broader civil uprising took place - one that went entirely out of control. However, the social turn of this social conflict was sealed with the appearance and the involvement in the lay masses of a group in Thessaloniki, who bore the name "Zealots". Their intervention (1342) and its consequences were the coarsest expression of political ideology in "Byzantium" (Romania). 

    Only the raw military power of the ruling class kept the lower and middle classes from rising up in revolution against assorted forms of  "imperial" dictatorships.  One such revolt was by Spartacus (c. 109–71 BC) who was a Thracian gladiator.  Spartacus, along with the Gauls Crixus, Oenomaus, Castus and Gannicus, was one of the slave leaders in the Third Servile War, a major slave uprising against the Roman Republic.

    The hierarchically second and essentially first city of the Empire during this period - Thessaloniki - became the epicenter of social uprising. The city had already (as of the 7th century, with the expansion of the Arabs) proved itself to be the second centre of the Empire, and in the 10th century its citizens numbered 200.000. In the 14th century, it continued to be a densely populated city and a flourishing urban centre (international marketplace), with powerful guilds (naval, mercantile), but also with glaring social antitheses (many poor - wealthy aristocrats). The Zealots succeeded in rallying the indignant lay forces and utilizing them for the achievement of their goals.

    b. But what was the identity of the Zealots? Bibliographical research is convinced, that a definite answer has not yet been given to this question. Sources make mention of «rabble-rousers and the stand of exarchs» (Bios of Saint Isidore) and of «new people», who previously had no involvement in governing (D. Kydonis). Gregoras characterizes them as a «riffraff lot». The Patriarch Filotheos (a hesychast) calls them «outsiders» and «barbarians», adding that: «who have come together [...] from our outermost reaches». The view that is prevalent today is that they were a «stratum» of society, which «they could tell apart from the remaining population (A. Laios). It has also been recorded that they were named «Zealots», because they placed the interests if the populace above their own (Thom. Magistros).

    American colonists rising up against their
    royal master King George III.  Around
    60,000 died on both sides of the civil war.
    The term «zealots», already familiar from the Old Testament (Exodus 20:5, 1Esdras 8:72, 2 Maccabees 4:2) and the New Testament (Acts 21:20, 1 Corinthians 14:12, Galatians 1:14, Titus 2:14), also passed into «byzantine» social reality with its religious connotation - as evident even in the New Testament (Romans 10:2): «...they have zeal, but it is a mindless one») from where it also took on its negative hue, which remains strong, even to this day. From the beginning of the 12th century, two ecclesiastic factions were active in byzantine society, which did not coincide between them and were both competing against each other in their attempts to influence the organization and the administration of the Church. Their appearance in the life of the Empire can be seen as early as the 9th century: they were the "Zealots" and the "Politicals". The former were supporters of the Church's independence from the State; they undervalued education and displayed a fanatic loyalty towards ecclesiastic tradition. With the majority of monks at their side, they influenced the People very noticeably. The "Politicals" had a diametrically opposed ideology: they were tolerant towards the separation of State and Church, they were in favour of school education, they were loosely tied to tradition, they had influence among the secular clergy and the educated ranks of society. With regard to the West, the Zealots were against unification, while the Politicals were in favour. One of the first clashes of these two factions can be seen in the Fotios-Ignatios dispute (9th century), but their opposition took on even larger proportions during the time of Michael Palaeologos (the "arseniates" schism) and the pseudo-union of Lyons (1274-1282). The battle at the time leaned in favour of the Zealots. It was maintained (Vasiliev) that this religious faction had regrouped in the 14th century and had involved itself in political life, by projecting reformatory trends and by having popular support on account of social disorder. But is that really how things were?
    It is indeed clear that - in spite of the confusion in the sources - the Zealots of Thessaloniki constituted a «social group», as discerned by the People. It had ties to seamen (the "maritimers") - a well-known guild with Palaeologos family members at its head. The collaboration between Zealots and maritimers was obviously a coinciding of mutual interests. In other cities, merchants also participated in this collaboration. The presence of aristocracy (Palaeologos family) in its leadership should not disorient us. This was a common phenomenon in Western Europe also, in analogous situations. The Zealots identified with the people and they expressed the demands of the lower social strata, which partially coincided with those of the army as well.

    It is our estimation that the Zealots of Thessaloniki were a particular kind of social group, one that was basically comprised of monks - which was the reason that it had acquired its name from the already familiar religious faction in Byzantium; ie, on account of the trends and analogous psychology (=fanaticism) that they had in common. However, this was a clearly politically-oriented faction, with clear-cut social motives and demands: against rich landowners and in favour of the hungry and oppressed. That non-political "Zealots" may have quite possibly collaborated cannot be excluded, given that the majority of the Zealots' ranks was comprised not only of monks but also of beggars and poor. The presence of a large number of monks also explains the absence of anti-religious trends, as well as the existence of a social ideology, which is permanently preserved in an Orthodox monastic coenobium.

    When the hesychast Patriarch Filotheos refers to them as «apostates from the Church», this probably refers to their vehement stance which according to a general perception had overturned the "God-sent" established order, or, because of their negative reaction towards Palamas, the canonical metropolitan of Thessaloniki, whom Filotheos supported, as one who was like-minded. At any rate, it has been testified that the Zealots did not hesitate to use a Crucifix (which they had snatched from a holy altar) as a flag and that they had attacked the governor Synadinos and the aristocracy. Their lay "backup" also reinforces the view that the monks were the majority among them. The crimes that were committed do not exclude something like that, inasmuch as fanaticism can blind a person. Monks and non-monks (but definitely politically-minded individuals with rabble-rousing capabilities) consequently appear to have been in the leadership of the Zealots' movement.

    c. The causes of this stand were sought out and were located by many researchers. Almost all of them converge on the position that there were social reasons: the wretched state of the populace and a request for a more democratic organization of society. The influence of analogous movements in Italy (revolution of Genova, 1339) is not regarded as decisive (per Charanis), given the democratic spirit, together with the broader participation of the people in the choice of emperor. Politically speaking, Kantakouzinos' coup was a provocation to the lay conscience and mentality (a respect for God-given monarchy and legality). Besides, the Zealots were sentimentally linked to the Palaeologos family, because some of its members governed Thessaloniki. And then, even though Kantakouzinos was clearly in favour of centralized administration, the Zealots strove for autonomy. Furthermore, Kantakouzinos' descent and the support he had by the aristocracy had intensified the reactions against him. The People found an opportunity to demonstrate its anti-aristocratic or even its anti-plutocratic conscience on account of the oppression they were under, and their financial wretchedness. Visions for a radical change, economic upgrading and social restructuring had become linked to the Zealots' stand. This - as things have shown - was an eruption of proto-Christian (cf. Acts 2, 4 and 6) common ownership or at least communality
    , opposite the increasing social inequality and injustice, because of the accumulation of lands and wealth in the hands of the few "pronoiarioi" etc..

    German Peasants' War
    The burning of Little Jack (Jacklein) Rohrbach, a leader of the peasants during the war 1524–1525.  Being burned alive or tortured to death tended to discourage revolution against the nobility.  The aristocracy slaughtered up to 100,000 of the 300,000 poorly armed peasants and farmers. 

    Naturally the attempt to give a Marxist interpretation of the events in Thessaloniki was not omitted (for example G.Kordatos), within the limits of researching the historical backings of the Marxist ideology's prehistory. However, although the existing sources may allow for a verification of common points, still, they exclude every certainty of a complete coincidence of ideological presuppositions. The absence in "our East" of Frankish-German "racial" presuppositions precludes the relating - even the event itself - that the stand of the Zealots in Thessaloniki did not begin as a social revolution with an independent organization and a pre-designed goal, but that it was merely a circumstantial movement and an aspect (or phase) of the civil war (per P. Christou). Underlying social antitheses and demands had also manifested themselves during the course of the civil war.

    The People had participated in the revolution, only for the resolving of their own problems, with no connection whatsoever to the familiar "agrarian uprisings" of history. The character of this stand remained purely urban and social. Furthermore, there are no testimonies which indicate that the Zealots had basically turned against the churches and the monastic holdings; on the contrary, they remained faithful to the legal emperor and the Patriarch's supporter, I.Kalekas. According to professor Nicol, what is strange is that the rich landowners (aristocrats) and the military aristocracy were the ones who were opposed to the church and her holdings. But there is also the view - which has been witnessed in contemporary sources - that refugees from lands which had been conquered by the Serbs had been added to the poor of Thessaloniki and that it was they who had pressured the Zealots into turning against the rich, with lootings as the end result. Because it is a fact that heinous crimes were not absent from the overall procedure. In 1347-49, when the Zealots had taken full command of Thessaloniki, they had hurled rich people from atop the city walls, while they had murdered others who were in hiding inside the city. This was the most violent aspect of their revolution, but also of the overall war.
    The Reign of Terror
    In the French Revolution the lower classes killed
    16,594 by guillotine and another 25,000
    in summary executions.

    d. After Thessaloniki, the stand extended into other cities of the Empire, and as far as Trebizund. This signifies that the social clime of Thessaloniki was more of an overall phenomenon, and this is confirmed by many testimonies. The reaction was focused on the person of I. Kantakouzinos and the aristocracy. But in 1345, a crisis regarding the Zealots and their authority was noted, because the situation had begun to lean in favour of Kantakouzinos. The head of the Zealots - Michael Palaeologos - was assassinated, Zealots were arrested, imprisoned and/or exiled. Andronicus Palaeologos was proclaimed the new leader of the Zealots; an aristocrat, unassertive, and head of the maritimers' guild. The People once again regained power. New slaughters of aristocrats are noted, one being of I. Apokafkos. And the uprising against the rich takes on a more general character; now out of control, the People resort to an orgy of blood and looting, thus securing power for the Zealot leaders.

    As surmised from the sources, the Zealots were in favour of decentralization. Even though their ideology is difficult to determine amd in spite of the limited information, the same did not apply to their political plans. Already in the summer of 1342 an unprecedented government was established in Thessaloniki: the independent Republic of Thessaloniki, with self-government and the exercising of external politics. Thsi was probably a kind of "commune"; one that endured up to 1350. However, the precise character of their polity is difficult to determine. It is a fact, that when threatened with a fall, the Zealots turned to Serbia's "kraly" (regent) Stefan Dusan for help, but this displeased the People to such an extent, that they had approached Kantakouzinos and had looked upon the aristocrats with sympathy. Apart from the existence of a powerful patriotic sentiment, what else could this signify, other than the absence of a class conscience? The People had never ceased to look upon the overall matter as an opportunity to improve their living conditions and nothing more.

    e. The coincidence of the stand by the Zealots of Thessaloniki with the climax in the theological dispute eventually led to their implication, but not because the Zealots had actually become involved in the theological (hesychast) dispute. As previously mentioned, even though the Zealots had been named «apostates of the church», they had not included anti-ecclesiastic or anti-religious activities in their political agenda, nor does it appear that Theology had developed any particular dynamic with their activities. Their contrary views, which were valid in the past, were attributed to an erroneous linking of a text by N. Kavasilas to the Zealots, when in fact it was referring to a different case altogether. The engagement of theology and politics was the fruit of interdependence and inter-concessions between these two areas of byzantine life. However, the search itself for some kind of association between them is proof of the absence of every notion of a concentrated anti-hesychast ideology on the part of politicians (or politics) with an anti-hesychast ideology within the ranks of the Hesychasts.
    The Russian Civil War (1917 - 1922)
    Between war and famine perhaps 10 million or more people died.

    Besides, it was not a rare phenomenon to have the adversaries of one area having a common stance with the other area; the protagonists of the civil war, I.Kantakouzinos and I.Apokafkos, had coincided in their friendly stance towards hesychasm. N. Gregoras and D. Kydonis - both against Palamas in their convictions - were nevertheless friends and followers of Kantakouzinos on account of their common interests. The Patriarch I. Kalekas and the empress Anna of Savoy had collaborated in the political area, but the Patriarch had remained fanatically anti-Palamas, while the empress had for a time supported Palamas. As usual, the People were dragged in every direction during this entire tragedy. Initially (in 1341), a large part of the People had shown an anti-hesychast disposition, which may have made the Hesychasts turn in favour of Kantakouzinos. But no-one can assert that all the Hesychasts followed Kantakouzinos, or that all of his followers were declared anti-hesychasts. D. Kydonis and Ni.Kavasilas for example were amicably disposed towards Kantakouzinos, but theologically belonged to opposing sides. Besides, there were many humanists who supported Palamas.

    The Zealots - at least all those with an ecclesiastic origin (monks) - had preserved from the time of the Iconomachy a fondness towards Old Rome and that brought them closer to the pro-union Palaeologos family, even though Rome had now become Frankish and heretic. As is known, the emperor John Palaeologos had attempted to realize a union with Rome and had eventually become a papist. This element alone was enough to make the Zealots turn against the Hesychasts. Furthermore, their associating Palamas with Kantakouzinos (on account of the hesychast phronema of both men), had made them - as was expected - hinder the enthronement of Palamas when he was elected metropolitan of Thessaloniki (in 1347).

    For the entire duration of that social turmoil, Gregory Palamas had remained a genuine hesychast and Patristic in his choices. It would be a huge injustice to Palamas, if one were to ascribe aristocratic ideas to him. By placing the tradition of theosis (deification) above political fluidity, he remained friendly towards John Palaeologos and the empress, himself behaving like a genuine "byzantine", within the clime of lawfulness. His correspondence with monks of the Holy Mountain is proof of his pacifist endeavours. He never moved between opposing sides and he avoided every involvement in favour of the one or the other side. His perseverance to the hesychast tradition and his opposition to Barlaam and the byzantine anti-hesychasts (e.g. Gregoras) had the exclusive objective of the continuation of patristic tradition and the preservation of the Empire's spiritual identity. He exiled himself to Heracleia, where he was often annoyed by (but not involved in) political disputes. His sympathy towards Kantakouzinos was attributed to Kantakouzinos' dedication to the tradition of Orthodoxy; there were no political motives. It must be regarded as certain, that the presence and the activities of Barlaam in the East had convinced Palamas of the inherent danger of subjugation to Rome, whose spiritual alienation had been exposed by his Calabrian opponent. This explains why he appeared friendly towards Kantakouzinos, even when he was still a friend and supporter of Barlaam and the protector of the humanistic renaissance. It is also known that Palamas had contributed towards the reconciliation between I. Kantakouzinos and John Palaeologos.

    The People, with their infallible sensor had correctly interpreted Palamas' stance and had diagnosed the sincerity in his intentions. After the fall of the Zealots - whom Palamas had treated in a pacifist manner - the People welcomed him into Thessaloniki (December 1350) with jubilations. Palamas condemned the crimes that had been committed by the Zealots, but entered as a peacemaker into Thessaloniki, which had regained its normal rhythms.

    For the full article go to (www.oodegr.com/english)

    The Walls of Byzantine Thessaloniki

    (doaks.org)        (oodegr.com - hesychast-zealot)        (books.google.com)

    (h-net.org/reviews)        (barnesandnoble.com)        (Zealots of Thessalonica)