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)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice piece to.