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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Roman Army on the Eastern Front - Provincia Cappadocia

(Roman Empire.net)

The Front Line Against Persia
Roman Province from 18 AD to the 7th century

The Eastern Front of the Roman Empire was in endless danger of invasion by the Persians.  There were many outposts and strongpoints meant to stop or slow down an invading enemy until reinforcements could arrive.

The front line against Persia was Cappadocia, a province of the Roman Empire in Anatolia, with its capital at Caesarea. It was established in 18 AD by the Emperor Tiberius (ruled 14-37 AD), following the death of Cappadocia's last king, Archelaus.

Cappadocia was an imperial province, meaning that its governor (legatus Augusti) was directly appointed by the emperor.

Bording the Euphrates river to the east, Cappadocia was the most eastern province of the Empire. Its capital, Caesarea, was located in more central Anatolia, further back from the Parthian frontier. Upon annexation, the province was governed by a governor of Equestrian rank with the title Procurator. The Procutors commanded only auxiliary military units and looked to the Senatorial ranked Imperial Legate of Syria for direction.

The 16th Legion was one of
many stationed on the frontier.
The first Cappadocian to be admitted to the Roman Senate was Tiberius Claudius Gordianus, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius during the middle second century AD.

When the emperor Vespasian added Commagene to the Roman empire (72 CE), the upper Euphrates became a frontier zone; across the river were the Oersian Parthian Empire and the buffer state Armenia.

The main road along the Roman border (limes) was from Trapezus on the shores of the Black Sea to Alexandria near IssusSeleucia, and Antioch near the Mediterranean in the south.

The legionary bases in the general area of this highway included the Sixteenth Legion Flavia Firma, Melitene (XII Fulminata), Samosata (VI Ferrata), Zeugma (IIII Scythicaand XV Apollinaris.

The city-fortress of Satala was a main strongpoint because it commanded not only the Euphrates, but also the road from central Anatolia to Armenia.

The province of Cappadocia was ground zero for the endless invasions and counter invasions on the Persian frontier. 

Although warfare between the Romans and the Parthians/Sassanids lasted for seven centuries, the frontier remained largely stable. A game of tug of war ensued: towns, fortifications, and provinces were continually sacked, captured, destroyed, and traded. Neither side had the logistical strength or manpower to maintain such lengthy campaigns far from their borders, and thus neither could advance too far without risking stretching its frontiers too thin. Both sides did make conquests beyond the border, but in time the balance was almost always restored. 

The line of stalemate shifted in the 2nd century AD: it had run along the northern Euphrates; the new line ran east, or later northeast, across Mesopotamia to the northern Tigris. There were also several substantial shifts further north, in Armenia and the Caucasus.

Provincia Cappadocia

The Eastern Empire and Cappadocia

As the 300s progressed the Western Empire was put under more and more pressure by invading barbarians.  That meant the Eastern Empire was acting increasingly in an independent manner until the final break between east and west in 395 AD. 

In the late 330s, the eastern half of the province was split off to form the provinces of Armenia Prima and Armenia Secunda. In 371, emperor Valens split off the south-western region around Tyana, which became Cappadocia Secunda under a praeses, while the remainder became Cappadocia Prima, still under a consularis.

As the re-organization of the province took place, the wars with Persia went on. From the war of Emperor Julian in 363 the Persian conflicts around Cappadocia continued for centuries.
6th Century Roman Soldier

In the period 535-553, under emperor Justinian I, the two provinces were rejoined into a single unit under a proconsul. Throughout late Roman times, the region was subject to raids by the Isaurians, leading to the fortification of local cities. In the early 7th century, the region was briefly captured by the Sassanid Persian Empire.

The Persian Empire was totally crushed in 628 AD. But peace lasted only a short time.  In the 630s and 640s the eruption of the Muslim conquests and repeated raids devastated the region.

The old Roman province of Cappadocia became a frontier zone with the Arabs and dissolved as an administrative unit.

Following the disastrous defeats of the 630 - 640 period, units of the East Roman Army fell back into central Anatolia.  The army of the magister militum per Armeniae (the "Armeniacs") was withdrawn from Syria and settled in the areas of PontusPaphlagonia and Cappadocia, giving its name to the region - the new theme of Armeniac.  The new Anatolic Theme also took over part of the area.

The Ameniac theme's capital was at Amaseia, and it was governed by a stratēgos, who ranked, together with the stratēgoi of the Anatolic and Thracesian themes, in the first tier of stratēgoi, drawing an annual salary of 40 gold pounds. In the 9th century, it fielded some 9,000 men and encompassed 17 fortresses. Its size and strategic importance on the Byzantine Empire's north-eastern frontier with the Muslims made its governor a powerful figure.

After six centuries Cappadocia and it's main enemy Persia were gone. But wars never end. The Eastern Empire simply reorganized the provinces to face their new enemy - Islam.
Reconstruction of a Persian Sassanid Cataphract

The expense of resources during the centuries of Roman–Persian Wars ultimately proved catastrophic for both empires. The prolonged and escalating warfare of the 6th and 7th centuries left them exhausted and vulnerable in the face of the sudden emergence and expansion of the new Muslim Caliphate, whose forces invaded both empires only a few years after the end of the last Roman–Persian war.

(livius.org)      (Persian Wars)      (Cappadocia)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Byzantine Empire – Manuel I Aspron Trachy

Byzantine Gold Coins

Making The World Go Around Since 395 AD

(Coin Week)  -  In 1092 CE the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus enacted sweeping coinage reforms. He stopped production of previous denominations and introduced five new ones:
The gold hyperpyron (which served as the unit of account for the new money), the electrum aspron trachy, the billon (copper and silver) aspron trachy, the copper tetarteron, and the copper noummion or half-tetarteron. Three electrum aspra trachea equalled one hyperpyron.
Electrum is a naturally-occurring alloy of gold and silver, and was the metal of choice for the Lydians of Asia Minor, who are generally agreed to have made the first coins in European history. When found in nature, the admixture of the two precious metals can differ depending on the geographical point of origin. But in the case of the aspron trachy, the Byzantines mixed the electrum themselves, with six karats of gold to 18 karats of silver.
This predominance of silver in the alloy gave the denomination the first part of its name; aspron was a Byzantine term meaning “white” when used in reference to silver. The second part (trachy) referred to the “rough” or uneven shape of the coin.
“Cupped”, in other words.
Starting in the early 11th century–almost 60 years before the reforms of Alexius–the Byzantine Empire began to produce gold coins with a slight curve. Within a hundred years, the majority of Byzantine coinage in all metals and alloys was deeply cup-shaped. Exactly why has intrigued numismatists for generations, but according to CoinWeek’s Mike Markowitz, a thin and debased coinage became increasingly concave in order to improve its sturdiness and durability.
Design-wise, Byzantine cup-shaped (scyphate) coinage typically features an image of Jesus Christ on the obverse (the convex side), with the ruler featured on the reverse. The coin pictured above and below is a fully struck aspron trachy minted at Constantinople during the reign of Manuel I Comnenus (ruled 1143-1180 CE).
Manuel I Komnenos (November, 28 1118 – September, 24, 1180).  Eager to restore his empire to its past glories as the superpower of the Mediterranean world, Manuel pursued an energetic and ambitious foreign policy. In the process he made alliances with the Pope and the resurgent West. He invaded the Norman Kingdom of Sicily, although unsuccessfully.
The passage of the potentially dangerous 
Second Crusade was adroitly managed through his empire. Manuel established a Byzantine protectorate over the Crusader states of Outremer. Facing Muslim advances in the Holy Land, he made common cause with the Kingdom of Jerusalem with a combined Byzantine-Crusader invasion of Fatimid Egypt. Manuel reshaped the political maps of the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean, placing the kingdoms of Hungary and Outremer under Byzantine hegemony and campaigning aggressively against his neighbors both in the west and in the east.

A bearded Christ stands on a dais facing the viewer, wearing a tunic known as a colobium and a full-body cloak called a pallium. A halo with a cross inside it (nimbus cruciger) surrounds His head. Two eight-pointed stars appear next to Him, one on each side. To the left of Jesus are the letters IC; the letters XC are to the right. In His left hand is a book of Gospels.
There appears to be significant strike doubling of the halo and Christ’s left shoulder.
A bearded, front-facing and full-body image of Manuel I stands on the left while a similarly bearded, front-facing and full-body image of St. Theodore (presumably St. Theodore of Amasea, one of two military saints named Theodore in the Eastern Orthodox Church) stands on the right. Manuel appears to be closer to the ground than St. Theodore. Both men hold a Patriarchal cross (a version of the Christian cross with a second, smaller crossbar on top) between them, St. Theodore’s right hand above Manuel’s left. At the bottom of the cross is a ball or globus.
A halo surrounds Theodore’s head. The emperor wears a crown, along with a long, close-fitting military tunic (divitision). A long, embroidered, gem-encrusted scarf (loros) is wrapped around his abdomen. St. Theodore appears to be wearing some kind of military tunic, possibly armor, and boots. Both men rest their other hands on the handles of unsheathed swords.
The letters MANOVL are usually found to the left of the emperor, but here are practically illegible.

Coin Specifications:

Nationality: Byzantine
Issuing Authority: Manuel I
Date: ca. 1143-1180 CE
Metal/Alloy: Electrum (1:3 gold to silver)
Denomination:Aspron Trachy
Weight: approx. 3.90 grams
Diameter: approx. 31 mm

The Wealth of Constantinople
Constantinople was a prime hub in a trading network that at various times extended across nearly all of Eurasia and North Africa. The Eastern Roman Empire had the most powerful economy in the world. From the 10th century until the end of the 12th, the Byzantine Empire projected an image of luxury, and the travelers were impressed by the wealth accumulated in the capital.

By the end of Marcian's reign, the annual revenue for the Eastern Empire was 7,800,000 solidi, thus allowing him to amass about 100,000 pounds of gold or 7,200,000 solidi for the imperial treasury. The wealth of Constantinople can be seen by how Justin I used 3,700 pounds of gold just for celebrating his own consulship. By the end of his reign, Anastasius I had managed to collect for the treasury an amount of 23,000,000 solidi or 320,000 pounds of gold.

By 1343 the Byzantine economy had declined so much that Empress Anna of Savoy had to pawn the Byzantine crown jewels for 30,000 Venetian ducats, which was the equivalent of 60,000 hyperpyra. In 1348, Constantinople had an annual revenue of 30,000 hyperpyra while across the Golden Horn in the Genoese colony of Galata, the annual revenue was 200,000 hyperpyra.

(Coin week)      (Manuel I Komnenos)      (Economy)