Byzantium at Lowpoint: AD 718-814

August 5, 2017 | Author: vasilefs | Category: Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, Pottery, Pope
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Except in the West, Byzantium kept what it held after 718. In the Levant, although there were many military incursions b...



BYZANTIUM AT LOW-POINT: A DETAILED CHRONOLOGY OF THE EASTERN ROMAN EMPIRE, FROM THE LIFTING OF THE LAST ARAB SIEGE (718) TO THE DEATH OF KHAN KRUM AND CHARLEMAGNE (814) Compiled by Michael O’Rourke Canberra, Australia July 2010 List of Roman (‘Byzantine’) Emperors 717-41: Leo III ‘the Syrian’ (mistitled “the Isaurian”) 741-75: Constantine V ‘Copronymus’ 741-43: Artavasdus, rival emperor at Constantinople 775-80: Leo IV ‘the Khazar’ 780-97: Empress Irene, regent for Constantine VI ‘the Blinded’ 797-802: Empress Irene, ruling in her own name 802-11: Nicephorus I 811-13: Michael I Rhangabe 813-20: Leo V ‘the Armenian’ This paper includes mini-essays on: ‘The Lombard Advance in NW Latium’: placed before the entry for 739. ‘A Ruralised Empire with Few Urban Centres’: after the entry for 775. ‘The Reorganised Armed Forces of 770’: after 775. ‘The Empire in 780: Territorial Review’. ‘Iconoclasm Rejected, 786-87’. ‘Empires and Kingdoms in 799’: after 802. ‘Emperor Nicephorus vs Khan Krum, 811’. ‘The Battle of Versinikia, 813’.

The ‘Christian Roman Empire of the Greeks’ in AD 717 Based on the map in Haldon 1990: 81. Byzantium’s neighbours and rivals in the 8th century were: [1] The Umayyad (Arab) Caliphate in the western, southern and eastern Mediterranean Sea. The Empire ruled the key islands, namely Sardinia, Sicily, Crete and Rhodes,


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY while North Africa was entirely Muslim, or rather, Muslim-ruled: the local populations of course continued to be almost entirely Christian. In the Levant, the Arab-Greek border was marked by the Taurus Mountains in what is now south-central Turkey, north of Cyprus. Cyprus itself was a sort of condominium or ‘both men’s land’, from which the Emperor and the Caliph both took tribute. In Europe [2] the so-called ‘Danube Bulgars’ or Bulgarian Khanate ruled the larger part of present-day Bulgaria and Rumania, while [3] many independent Slavic tribes controlled most of the rest of the Balkans: west to what is now Slovenia and south as far as what is now southern Greece. The Empire was still dominant in the Adriatic Sea and along its Balkan coast. In Italy, however, the Byzantines looked to be close to losing their long struggle with [4] the ‘proto-Romance’-speaking Lombards.* (*) The Lombardic language, a Germanic tongue, was effectively dead by the 8th century (except for pockets of speakers in the NW of Italy) [NCMH 1995: 8]. Thus ‘Lombards’ becomes little more than a tag for ‘non-Greeks’ or ‘Romance-speaking Italians’, or at least those subject to Romance-speaking kings and dukes bearing Germanic names. It is useful to list also several nations that did not abut the Empire but who were sometimes allied with or against it:

The Khazars: a Turkic-speaking people occupying the Transcaucasian region between the Black and Caspian Seas, including the lower Volga River. They adopted Judaism in the period 775-825, or at least the ruling caste did.

The ‘Volga Bulgars’ and ‘Onogur Bulgars’: other Turkic-speaking peoples dominating respectively the Upper Volga and the DonetzDneiper steppe.

The Avars: a formerly powerful Turkic-speaking people, now declining in power, who ruled what is now greater Hungary. Most of their subjects were speakers of Romance, Germanic and Slavic languages.

The Franks: in what is now France and western Germany. Under the Merovingian kings, the actual rulers were the Mayors of the Palace [maior domus] who also took the title dux et princeps Francorum, Duke and Prince of the Franks.

Let us now look in more detail at this picture. (a). The Lombards were dominant in Italy, although, in the entire region, if we count Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily, the Empire nominally held roughly the same extent of territory as the Lombards. (Sardinia and Corsica were lost soon after 717.) The enclave around imperial Ravenna - Venetia and the Exarchate proper was separated from a smaller imperial enclave around papal Rome by a large


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY swathe of Lombard domains under the ‘duchy’ [ducatus, domain of a dux] of Spoleto. The town of Spoleto in Umbria lay at a strategic point SE of Perugia on the eastern branch of the Via Flaminia. More than half the south of the peninsula, including modern Basilicata to the Gulf of Taranto and nearly all Puglia/Apulia, was now under Lombard (Beneventan) rule. The Romanics held nearly all of Calabria, an imperial duchy, but only the barest tip of the heel around Otranto. The latter was governed from imperial Cephalonia. Others say the Lombards even controlled modern Otranto itself, medieval Hydrus, from about 711 (Brown in NCMH vol 2 p.344; also Stranieri 2007). The Times Atlas 1994: 57 and McEvedy’s New Atlas have the Land of Otranto still in imperial hands in the 730s. In the West, the only really large and well-populated region controlled by the empire was Sicily. —For the population of Sardinia, Sicily and peninsular Italy in AD 700, McEvedy & Jones 1978: 107 offer 3.75 million. We may guess that some 1.125 M lived in Sicily and perhaps 750,000 in the Byzantine-administered portions of the peninsula. (b). Nearly the whole of the Balkans was in “barbarian” hands, with Byzantine rule restricted to parts of the coastal fringe. Slav tribes controlled all of present-day Croatia except for the seven porttowns of Dalmatia, and all of Albania and Epirus except for a few imperial outposts such as as Dyrrhachion (present-day Durres) and Cephalonia. The Theme [thema: province] of Hellas comprised (probably) the eastern Peloponnesus and Athens; but the larger part (two-thirds) of the Peloponnesus was Slavic. That is only to say: the imperial tax-gatherers did not operate there. The majority population of Greeks and the minority population of Slavs in that region either governed themselves or they paid some limited taxes to local Slav chieftains. Likewise all of Thessaly and Macedonia were in the hands of the Slavs, except for a pocket of imperial territory around Thessalonica. Alternatively, if we follow the Times Atlas of 1994, Byzantium held all the littoral from Athens through Thessalonica to Thrace. (c). Nearly all of Thrace, including the hinterland of Adrianople (modern Edirne), was dominated by the Slavs (western Thrace) and the Bulgars (northern Thrace) – these were the enemies located nearest to the imperial capital. Following a treaty of 716 with Bulgaria, Byzantium held only the coastal hinterlands along the lower Black Sea coast and the western littoral of Sea of Marmara. (By contrast the Times Atlas has Byzantium still controlling most of Thrace to beyond Philippopolis in 732; McEvedy 1992 limits imperial territory to inner Thrace, i.e. excluding Philippopolis.) McEvedy & Jones, Population Atlas, put the population of Inner Thrace (modern Turkey in Europe) in this era at 300,000. (d). There was a Byzantine outpost at Cherson or Chersonesus on the southern tip of Crimea. The Onogur Bulgars controlled present-day Ukraine. The Khazars ruled the Caucasus.



(e). Nearly all of Asia Minor remained East Roman, but from 712 (see there) the caliphate controlled all of Cilicia as far west as Alanya (Antalya was Byzantine). The Times Atlas, however, has Byzantium still ruling western Cilicia in 732. The Anti-Taurus Range was a marchland, while Northern Syria (present-day SE Turkey) and upper Mesopotamia were largely in Muslim hands. The Byzantines held only a short section of the west bank of the far Upper Euphrates in the Divrigi (Tephrice)-Erzincan region. In short, the size of Byzantine Anatolia was some 2/3 that of modern Turkey-in-Asia. McEvedy & Jones offer a guesstimate of 6,000,000 for the population in 800. (f). Crete was Byzantine, with Cyprus paying taxes to both the empoer and the caliph.

Above: The Empire in 717. Not shown is corridor between Ravenna and Rome along the Via Amerina.* 1. Ravenna. 2. Venetia and Istria. 3. Duchy of Rome (nominally subject to Ravenna). 4. Duchy of Naples 5. Thema [province] of Sicily including Calabria. 6. Thema of Hellas. 7. Thema of Thrace. 8. Thema of the Opsikion. 9. Thema of Thrakesion. 10. Thema of Anatolikon. 11. Thema of the Karabisianoi. 12. Thema of Armeniakon. (*) The Via Amerina was a highway that ran north to Perugia. The better known Via Flaminia - or Viae: the ‘old’ Flaminia Vetus and the ‘new’ Flaminia Nova - diverged at Narni. These roads ran to the east, broadly parallel with the Amerina. Spoleto was located on the eastern-most leg, the Nova. The southern end of the Amerina broke off from the Via Cassia, the ancient road from Rome via Viterbo to Florence, near Baccanae, SE of modern Sutri. It ran thence NE through Falerii – present-day Civita Castellana: 65 km


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY directly north of Rome - or in other words NE of Nepi. From Civita Castellana it then continued directly north through Orte on the middle Tiber to Tuder [present-day Todi: west of Spoleto], and on through the valley of the Upper Tiber to Perusia [modern Perugia] and, after crossing the upper Tiber, NNE to Gubbio (Diehl, Etudes byzantines 1905: 69-70, citing the ‘Anonymous of Ravenna’). There were Byzantine garrisons at Nepi, Orte, Fano (where it reached the Adriatic) and elsewhere (Potter 1990: 216). If one draws a line west-east through Todi to Spoleto, it crosses three south-north roads in succession: the Amerina at Todi, the Flaminia Vetus at Masa Martana and the Flaminia Nova at Spoleto. As the new military and strategic route, the Via Amerina "became [had become] the communications core of Imperial Italy and the chief support to the claim that imperial Italy was still extant". —Hallenbeck, 1982. THE WESTERN AND BYZANTINE DARK AGES A Post-Antique World of Wood and Thatch Before AD 400, it had been quite usual for a peasant in upland central Italy to eat off a fine pottery bowl manufactured in North Africa (Ward-Perkins 2006). Archaeology shows that in the high Roman times people had used many different types of ceramic vessels for cooking, serving and eating: jugs, plates, bowls, serving dishes, mixing and grinding bowls, casseroles, lids, amphorae and others. Already by the 7th century, however, the standard vessel of northern Italy had become the metal (brass) olla, a simple bulbous cooking pot (Ward-Perkins 1984: 106). In the West, where in high Roman times even the poorer half of the rural population had had tiles on their roofs, there are virtually no surviving ceramic roof tiles already from the 400s, suggesting the use of wooden shingles or thatch, which can easily catch fire, leak and harbour insects (see the discussion in Ward-Perkins 2005: 95 ff). “The scale and quality of buildings, even of churches, shrank dramatically —so that, for instance, tiled roofs, which were common in Roman times even in a peasant context, became a great rarity and luxury. In the 6th and 7thcentury West the vast majority of people lived in tiny houses with beaten earth floors, drafty wooden walls, and insect-infested thatch roofs; whereas, in Roman times, people from the same level of society might well have enjoyed the comfort of solid brick or stone floors, mortared walls, and tiled roofs” (Ward-Perkins, interview 2006). In Italy, then, we see, already in the late 500s, a sharp fall in the number of surviving inscriptions and the disappearance of high quality glazed pottery (“African Red Slip Ware”). This appears to confirm the literary evidence for a marked economic decline by 600. In the 600s even low-quality pottery was replaced by wooden dishes, plates and cups. The end of the trade in pottery meant that most household goods were wooden by about 650. Amphorae


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY gave way to wooden barrels, or rather they gave way entirely to barrels, for wooden casks had long been used for transporting wine in NW Europe (Brown 1984: 7). And so too vintage wines finally disappeared, as barrels were not airtight. Pottery had been replaced by wood in the 600s. In Italy there was a sharp fall in the number of surviving inscriptions and the disappearance of high quality glazed pottery (“African Red Slip* Ware”). The late 500s had seen the appearance of wooden dishes, plates and cups. Fired-clay amphorae giant pitchers commonly of 39 litres - gave way to wooden barrels (Brown 1984: 7; also Hodges & Whitehouse 1983: 25 ff). Or at least this was the case in the West; amphorae contained to be manufactured at Ganos on the Thracian (western) shore of the Sea of Marmara until the end of the empire (Jeffreys et al. 2008: 434). (*) ‘Slipped” means colour-coated. ‘Slip’ is the slurry formed when water is mixed with clay; the moulded vessel was immersed in the slip to form its outer coat. ‘African Red Slip Ware’ was a type of decorated tableware produced from the late first century AD until the mid seventh century in the area of modern Tunisia and exported around all of the Mediterranean, reaching even to Scotland in the north and Ethiopia in the south at the peak of its distribution. Other ‘red slips’ were produced at Phocaea on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor and near Paphos in Cyprus (”Cypriot Slip Ware”). In the East many productions of both amphorae and fine table wares ended in the later seventh century; this was a systemic collapse. For example, it is now definite that “Phocaean RS” (PRS: sophisticated ‘red slip’ ceramics from Phocaea in the west Aegean), once traded across the whole Mediterranean, ceased to be produced in the period 670-700, somewhat later than used to be thought. This is clear from excavations at Emporio on Chios, Gortyn on Crete, and in the Crimea. Trade in PRS had been contracting since the 500s, but the local RS [local types of less sophisticated red slipware] productions did not replace it, for they ceased as well. They were replaced by coarser types of pottery (Wickham 2005: 784 ff). As we have said, however, amphorae contained to be manufactured at Ganos on the Thracian (western) shore of the Sea of Marmara until the end of the empire (Jeffreys et al. 2008: 434). The reasons for decline in the West are not hard to find: “By the later sixth century [in Byzantine Italy], the regular market was both a thing of the past and of the future. Clearly when towns declined the markets declined with them and the rurally based ceramic production sites became anti-economical for professional potters. Though their position had been based on primary resource location (clay, wood, water, etc.), this was with the guarantee that large markets were readily at hand through an efficient (Roman)


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY communication network. However, the collapse of many pottery industries in the fifth and sixth centuries is probably not only to be explained by cessation in demand (although demand presumably diminished with diminishing population levels) or by rising marketing costs, but also by internal costs. As population levels dropped and intensive agriculture diminished, agricultural surplus became increasingly restricted and more highly valued as an exchange commodity. It would therefore be used primarily for exchange with money to pay taxes or for exchange with other basic goods. In this context we could expect the emergence of an economic system directed principally towards fundamental needs. Pottery could, instead, be made by the household or by a household industry for group use and this seems to be a pattern that emerges with the development of the village community.” –Arthur and Patterson 1994. In the East, the rich continued to use fine ceramics but only the rich. Glazed ‘white ware’ pottery replaced red slipware in the period 650-750 but it was not much traded outside Constantinople. Glazed pottery also began to be produced at Corinth from before 700. Other glazed types have been found at various towns around the Aegean shore, but probably they too were locally produced (Laiou and Morrisson 2007: 75). Contraction of trade and a transition to exchange in kind There had been no radical break in trade, but the period 550-700 saw a “relentless contraction” of the economic networks inherited from Antiquity (Loseby in NCMH vol. 1, pp.616, 639). A feature of the seventh century had been the constant decline in the weight of the standard copper coin called the follis, which decreased from an average 12 gm under emperor Phokas to 3.60 gm* by ca. 660, while its value in carats slid from 1⁄20 to 1⁄40 in 621 and perhaps 1⁄96 by ca. 660. The lesser copper coinage, used for trade, had virtually disappeared after 658 in archaeological sites, and copper coins do not reappear in Anatolian sites until the 800s (Haldon 1984: 226). The gold coinage continued: it was used mainly for paying state taxes and such state salaries as were still being paid. Morrisson (2002) gives a few examples sum up the well-known and frequently commented-on monetary gap that reveals the process of decline and impoverishment whereby “towns” were reduced to the role of places of refuge: at Ankyra, no coins found that were minted between Constans II [d. 668] and a single follis of Leo IV [d. 780]; yet Ankyra was sufficient of a town to be made a provincial capital – the seat of the Bucellarion theme – in the 760s. At Aphrodisias in inland SW Asia Minor no coins have been found between Constans II and Theophilos [acc. 829]; at Pergamon, none between 715 and 820; at Kenchreai [Corinth], nothing between Constans II and Leo VI [acc. 886]; and in the Albanian finds, no bronze pieces between 668 and 802. Even in peaceful Carthage, where there had been some new building after the Byzantine conquest (AD 534), the new quarters were filled with rubbish


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY and huts already by the early seventh century. From the mid 600s the city suffered what has been described as a ‘monumental meltdown’: shacks clustered into the circus and the round harbour was abandoned (Wickham 2005: 641). Such was the ‘city’ that had fallen to the Arabs in 698. The End of Antiquity: Coins, Pottery and Trade

The nadir of sea-trade and sea-communication between the West and East across the Mediterranean was reached around AD 700. But there was still a certain amount of naval traffic. Curta (2005) has noted that until about AD 700 coins from Italy had continued to reach the Balkans. Many copper coins of Constantine IV, acc. 668, as well as of his successors Justinian II and Tiberius III, acc. 698, have been found in coastal regions, including the five folles of Constantine IV minted in Sicily and retrieved from excavations in the southern Agora of Corinth. This indicates some naval traffic across the Adriatic at least – into the Gulf of Corinth. Curta has proposed that the presence of small change in Greece indicates that oarsmen or sailors of either commercial or war ships could rely on constant supplies of fresh food in certain ports along the coast. And the coins struck in Carthage, Rome, or Syracuse found in Dobrudja - the Danube delta - must be explained with reference to the navy. —Curta, ‘Dark Age’, 2005b. Brown in NCMH, vol 2, p.357 (also Wickham 2005 passim), says, citing archaeological evidence of pottery types, that trade “almost dried up” around 700, partly due to Muslim sea raids, including against Italy from as far as Egypt. A Muslim fleet operated from Tunisia. But the main factor was the long term decline in demand for luxury goods. As Kennedy neatly puts it (2008: 203), western Mediterranean markets had become too poor to import much, while the eastern Mediterranean could survive without African products.



The “final eclipse of the ancient Mediterranean economic system” can be seen, according to Loseby, in two ‘ceramic assemblages’ or sets of excavated amphorae [large pitchers] at Old Rome. The first, from c.690, is composed 80% of vessels from outside Italy, mainly from Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean, while the latter, from c.720, is mainly locally made, the most distant being sourced from Sicily. None of the amphorae of AD 720 come from Africa or the East. Moreover, following the loss of Carthage to the Muslims Arabs (698), Constantinople no longer took imports from the West, but drew its supplies from the Black Sea region and the northern Aegean (Loseby in NCMH vol 1, pp.635, 637; a similar analysis can be found in Wickham 2005: 712-13). Wickham emphasises that trade in Africa amphorae and fine tableware was already effectively dead before the Arabs took control of northern Tunisia in 698. In the longer-term view we can see trade starting a long downturn from as far back as 450, following the Vandal takeover of Carthage. Trade had continued between Vandal Africa and Gothic Italy, but at a lower level. The Byzantine recapture of Tunisia and Italy in the 500s did not lead to a revival of the commercial networks that had existed before 450. To the contrary, local economies became steadily more self-reliant, which is to say: imports to Italy from Byzantine Africa had become more marginal. In the 600s they were limited mostly to Naples, Rome and Marseilles. Thus it was entirely coincidental and not causal that, after a halfmillennium of history, the trade in African productions to Italy came its final end just as Carthage fell to the Muslims (Wickham 2005: 712). Thus, although some trade continued into and even through the ‘Dark Ages’, it cannot be denied that it declined both in volume and distance, with even the ‘regional’ networks probably eventually giving way to much more localised exchange. Thus the African imports to Italy do not continue into the eighth century, giving way to very local production, as seen in the amphorae kiln found at Misenum on the Bay of Naples. Similarly at Constantinople ‘ARSW’ [African red slip ware], ‘PRSW’ [Phocaean red slip ware from Phocaea in Asia Minor*] and Cypriot RSW were completely superseded by the local glazed-wares by about 710. – Anon.,‘Trade in the Byzantine Empire’,; accessed 2009. (*) The Muslims took control in Tunisia for good in 698, but as we have said, the sea trade from the Aegean was already effectively dead. Likewise the trade from Cyprus would have been affected by Muslim sea raids; but the collapse of the trade from Phocaea presumably not. Thus we must imagine a failure in demand during the century 600-700. This seems confirmed by the fact that, putting Italy to one side, in Gaul and Spain African goods were not replaced by local or other foregn goods of the same quality. The fall in demand in the West was global already by 600 (cf Wickham 2005: 713).



717-741: LEO III ‘the Syrian’ or "Isaurian" Gibbon writes of the “wisdom of his administration and the purity of his manners”. Treadgold 1997: 346, 356 calls him vigorous, with good diplomatic and military skills, and judges his reign as “successful by recent standards”. Norwich, Early Centuries p.352, calls him “the greatest emperor since Heraclius [d. 641]”. Birth-name Konon. Formerly general of the Anatolikon theme [province], Leo was aged about 40 or 42 at accession. Dies aged about 66. He is known, although his initial intentions are unclear, as the first of the Iconoclast emperors (Gk eikonoklasmos, "imagebreaking"). Founder of the so-called "Isaurian" dynasty, Leo was not of Asia Minor provenance as the erroneous epithet "the Isaurian" suggests, but was born in Germanicia, North Syria, circa 685. According to Theophanes, his family had been removed by Justinian II to Thrace, i.e. Mesembria, on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, where he was raised. (Mesembria lies about half way between the mouth of the Danube and Constantinople). Wife: Maria. Children: Anna, who married Leo's colleague Artavasdos, general of the Armenaikon theme; and Constantine, the future emperor Constantine V. The 'Isaurian' Dynasty so-called, 717-802, was Greek-speaking from the start. In the course of the 700s, "Dominus Noster" [Latin: ‘Our Lord’] disappeared from Imperial coins. The words "Perpetvus Augustus" [Latin: ‘eternal emperor’] also began to fade in the same era, replaced by "Basileus", Greek for ‘king’ or ‘emperor’. The style Basileus ton Rhomaiôn ('Emperor of the Romans') briefly appears on seals of Leo III, but its usage remains quite rare until 812, i.e. not until the Franks' claim to a Western imperium was recognised. 713-26: The Byzantine exarch (governor) of N Italy, based at Ravenna, was Scholasticus. 715-30: The patriarch Germanus I (August 715 - January 730), was a eunuch. Son of


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY the patrician Justinian, an accomplice in the assassination of Emperor Constans II (668), Germanus had been made a eunuch by order of Constantine IV (668-685), although he had already passed the age in which the operation was usually performed (Zonaras III 222, cited by Guilland 1943). 717: 1. Constantinople: Leo and Artavasdus, commanders, respectively, of the two most important themata, the Anatolic and the Armeniac, combined forces. Theodosius voluntarily abdicated, and again the throne of Constantine was occupied by a strong ruler, well fitted for his position, Leo of Germanicia (now Marash in old Northern Syria, part of modern Turkey). After Leo's capture of Theodosius’s son in Nicomedia, Theodosius took the advice of Patriarch Germanus and the ‘senate’ [the magnates] and abdicated in favour of Leo III on 25 March 717. Along with his son, he subsequently entered the clergy and became bishop of Ephesus. The senate comprised the chief palatine officials, both civil and military. In earlier years it had had a largely Latino-Greek membership. By this time, however, it included many ’non-Greeks’, i.e. Armenians and Caucasians (Haldon 1990: 169). 2. New Rome: The strengthening of the capital’s land and sea walls ordered by Leo in 717 was the first large-scale construction project since the early ‘dark age’ of the 600s. Cf 767: restoration of the main aqueduct. “The western walls, those of the great gates, were restored under Leo the Great and Pious (Leo III); on that occasion they also held a religious procession and chanted the 'Kyrie eleison' [‘praise the Lord’] 40 times, and the demos [faction] of the Greens shouted 'Leo has surpassed Constantine'.” —Thus the Parastaseis syntomoi chronikai; accessed 2010. To keep out ships, the narrow entrance to the Golden Horn was traversed by a chain [Gk: alysis] strung from towers on either side and supported in the water with wooden floats. It is first mentioned in connection with the siege in 717-18 when Leo lowered it in the hope of enticing the Arab fleet into the harbour (Turnbull 2004: 16; Dromon p.31). Made of giant wooden links that were joined by immense nails and heavy iron shackles, the chain could be deployed in an emergency by means of a ship hauling it across the Golden Horn from the Kentenarion Tower in the south to the Castle of Galata on the north bank. Securely anchored on both ends, with its length guarded by Romaic warships at anchor in the harbour, the great chain was a formidable obstacle and a vital element of the city's defences. —Plummer, ‘Constantinople’, at; accessed October 2009. The Arab Siege of 717-18 3. The formal dates for the Arab siege are 15 August 717 to 15 August 718. Proceeding from Pergamum, as we noted earlier, Maslama crosses the


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY Hellespont at Abydus (July 717) and arrives at Constantinople (15 August 717), which he besieges by land and sea. His land forces are said to have numbered 80,000 while his fleet numbered “1,800” ships and boats (Theophanes’ figure: Norwich 1988: 352; also Kennedy 2008: 331). Drawn mainly from Greater Syria, the Arab forces threatening the imperial capital are said, by Mas'udi, to have numbered 80,000 or 120,000 troops and, according to Theophanes, "1,800" war galleys and transporter sailing-ships (TCOT: 88; Treadgold State p.346; Hocker in Gardiner 2004: 91). Presumably the number reached 120,000 men after being reinforced in 718. This was more men than were enrolled in the entire Romanic-Byzantine army. Caliph Sulayman’s navy, led by a general of the same name, Sulayman*, had occupied Rhodes in 717 while Maslama’s land troops proceeded to capture the (by now) "fortress-villages" of Sardis and Pergamum [mod. Bergama] in eastern Asia Minor. At the same time, part of the Arab land forces crossed into Thrace and besieged the capital from the land side (the west). This was briefly complemented by a sea blockade, Sulayman’s fleet having arrived arrived on 1 September 717. The Arab fleet was divided into two squadrons: one was stationed on the Asiatic coast, in the ports of Eutropius and Anthimus, the two harbours near Chalcedon, to prevent supplies arriving from the Archipelago; the other occupied the bays in the European shore of the Bosphorus above the point of Galata, in order to cut off all communication with the Black Sea and the cities of Cherson and Trebizond. (*) The Greek sources confused the caliph Sulayman, brother of Maslama and son of `Abd al-Aziz, with the general Sulayman who was son of Mu`ad. Sept: The Arab fleet under Suleiman attempts to blockade the city by sea, but is driven off by the Byzantine fleet with Greek Fire* and fire-ships; the Arab fleet refuses any major engagement with the Byzantines. His fleet was scattered by adverse winds and largely destroyed by the use of Greek Fire; it is said that only “five” galleys reached their home-port of Alexandria. (The caliph of the same name, Sulayman, died on 8 October 717, and was succeeded as caliph by Omar: Theoph. AM 6209, pp. 395-396). (*) This is a Western term: the East Romans called it “liquid fire”, “sea fire” or “wet fire”. There were small hand siphons as well as large fixed noozle-points on war galleys; Greek Fire was also launched from catapults and in grenades (Tsangadas 1980: 111, 126, 295, citing Theophanes AM 6163, Nicephorus and Const. Porphyr.; cf Partington 1960). Ibn Asakir, quoting an eyewitness on the Muslim side: “Maslama had drawn up the Muslims in a line (I had never seen one longer) with the many squadrons. Leo, the autocrat of Rûm, sat on the tower of the gate of Constantinople with its towers. He drew up the foot soldiers in a long line between the wall and the sea opposite the Muslim shore. We showed arms in a thousand [sic] ships, light ships, big ships in which there were stores of Egyptian clothing, etc, and galleys with the fighting men … 'Umar and some


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY of those from the ships were afraid to advance against the harbour mouth, fearing for their lives. When the Rum saw this, galleys and light ships came out of the harbour mouth [the Golden Horn] against us and one of them went to the nearest Muslim ship, threw on it grapnels with chains and towed it with its crew into Constantinople. We lost heart”. —Text in S. Tritton, D. N. Mackenzie, J. Duncan, M. Derrett, ‘Siege of Constantinople’ Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 22, No. 1/3 (1959), pp. 350-358. *** 4a. S Italy: The Lombards take Cumae near Naples; but local imperial troops, encouraged by the pope, recover the town. 4b. N Italy: In the 570s, when the incursions of Faroald, the Lombard Duke of Spoleto, first cut the Via Flaminia, the lifeline between Rome and Ravenna, the Via Amerina – a little to the west - was improved and fortified at intervals. Apparently the Byzantines controlled the Amerina until the end. Brown says that the empire, or in other words: Ravenna, permanently* lost the town of Narni, north of Rome, where the Via Flaminia divides into its ‘old’ and ‘new’ routes, half-way to Perugia and Assisi, to the Lombards of Spoleto in 717-18 (Brown in NCMH vol 2 p.324). Cf below under 717-26: collusion against the tax-gatherers of Ravenna by papal Rome and Lombard Spoleto. (*) If the Lombards controlled the Flaminian at Narni, one might expect this to prevent the exarch asserting any control over Byzantine Rome; but as will be seen, he did – until about 740. Presumably his troops bypassed Narni, travelling down the Amerina. 5. Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem completed. Note, by the way, that the Dome of the Rock is not itself a mosque. End of the Siege, July-August 718 The new Caliph ‘Umar II sent reinforcements by sea and land. Sophiam of Sufyan brought 400 grain-ships and dromons [large warships] from Egypt; and Yezid followed with 360 transports from Africa (Tunisia) carrying arms and provisions (Tsangadas 1980: 143; Kennedy p.331). The caliph’s younger son Yezid was commander of an Arab fleet of “260” merchantmen which brought fresh supplies from Africa to the Arabs during the siege of Constantinople in spring and summer 718 (Nicephorus: Nic. Brev., de Boor edn 54). Through fear of Greek fire, he put in on the Asian side of the Marmara at Satyros (and Bryas and as far as the village of Kartalimen, adds Theophanes), where his fleet was destroyed in an East Roman attack after the desertion of Egyptian sailors: Nic. Brev. de Boor 54, Theoph. AM 6209. “He (Leo III) readied fire-carrying siphons and put them aboard warships and “two-storied” (bireme) ships, then dispatched them against the two (Arab) fleets” (Theophanes). Many of the Christian Egyptians and Africans serving in the Muslim navy defected to the Byzantine side. Leo’s forces captured the grain, provisions


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY and arms they had brought. As a result, the Arab land forces faced starvation and disease. Consequently on 15 August 718 the Caliph ordered withdrawal (Haldon 1990: 83; Kennedy p.331). This brought the last great Muslim siege of the imperial capital to an end. Cf 739-40 and 806. Bulgarian alliance: Leo III was aided (July 718) in his defeat of the combined forces of the Arab army, led by Maslama, and the enemy navy led by Sulayman, by the help of the Bulgarian khan Tervel. Following the example of Patriarch Sergius (610-638), who had carried an icon of Mary around the city walls during the Avar siege of Constantinople in 626, Patriarch Germanus faced the Arab siege with the power of an icon of the Theotokos. Miraculously, the city was saved, though Leo's role in the affair is played down by iconophile sources. The Arabs, weary from the long attrition of siege warfare, thinned out by disease and hunger, and demoralized by the lack of success in assaulting the city, were devastated by a Bulgarian attack against their land forces in July 718. Contemporary chroniclers report at least 30,000 - Theophanes says 22,000 - Arabs died in the first Bulgar attack. 717-726: Italy: (The exact date is obscure:) Opposition to Leo's heavy taxation** - for his wars - emerges in Italy. The patriarch of Rome or ‘pope’, Gregory II, 71531, is reluctantly drawn in. When Scholasticus, the Byzantine Exarch, intervened, the local, Rome-based imperial troops and the Lombards of Spoleto opposed him. The Ravennate troops retired. Cf 732. (**) “The unfortunate colonus [serf] was deprived of about a third of his yield in tax, on top of which he had to pay rent to his landlord” (Mango 1980: 44). The West: It was at about this time - before 733 - that Sardinia and Corsica were lost to the empire. Treadgold 1997: 938n4 observes that in 733 (see there) Leo was able to confiscate the papal estates of Sicily and Calabria but not those of Sardinia and Corsica. Whether the latter two were taken by the Lombards or became effectively independent is unclear. Significantly, the last coins known to have been minted at the Cagliari mint date from 720. See 720: Arab attack on Sardinia. Also ca. 725: Corsica apparently captured by the Lombards. 718: 1. Thrace: From his exile, the former emperor Anastasius tried to regain the throne, seeking the help the Bulgars and writing to Theoktistos and Niketas at Constantinople for their support; but at Herakleia the Bulgars turned against him and they surrendered him to the emperor Leo III. He was beheaded in the Kynegion amphitheatre (the old arena or theatre near the easternmost point of the city used for animal fight-shows in Antiquity)* and his head paraded in the hippodrome with that of a supporter, the bishop of Thessalonike (Anonymus 179): Nic. Brev. 55-56, Mango 57, Theoph. AM 6211, Zon. XV 2. 15-18 (cf. Also Niketas).



(*) Where the Topkapi Palace now is. The document called the Parastaseis Syntomoi Chronikai reveals that the Kynegion and many other antique buildings to have been in a ruinous condition already at this time (Cameron and Herrin 1984: 201). 2. 15 August: As related earlier, the Arabs break the siege of Constantinople and withdraw; their army marches safely through Anatolia; their fleet is partially destroyed in a storm in the Sea of Marmara and later burnt by ash from the volcano at Thera in the Aegean. Allegedly only “10” ships survived; five were captured by the Byzantine fleet and just five made it back to the caliphate (TCOT: 91). The patriarch Germanus alludes to Islam in his sermon commemorating the Constantinopolitans' deliverance in 718 from the Arab siege of their city. It is a celebration of the role of the Virgin, who "alone defeated the Saracens and prevented their aim, which was not just to capture the city, but also to overthrow the royal majesty of Christ". Throughout the oration the Christians are presented as the Israelites, "who with the eyes of faith see Christ as God and therefore confess that it is truly the Theotokos who bore him". The Muslims, on the other hand, are cast in the role of the impious [monophysite] Egyptians, "who say regarding Christ: 'I do not know the Lord,' and think concerning his mother: 'She is by nature a woman; she can in no way come to the aid of those who glory in her assistance'." The sermon ends on a hopeful note, for like the Egyptians, the Muslims are cast into the sea and the Christians live to fight another day. — Kirby 2003. 2. Opsikion troops are again in revolt. A Bulgarian force took part in the revolt, advancing from around Thessaloniki to Herakleia, on the Sea of Marmara, 80 km from Constantinople, by land and sea, using dug-out sailboats, presumably built by their Slav allies or subjects (Browning p.139, citing the chronicler Nicephorus). 3. First reference to the Walls regiment [Greek: Teiché], a special infantry unit guarding the Hippodrome area and the walls surrounding the imperial palace.* Its commander was called the archon tou Teichon or tou Teichou. The regiment will become part of the the elite Tagmata in the 760s; its commander rose from archon to komes (‘count’) (see there). (*) For a good illustration of the section of the city containing the palace, hippodrome and Hagia Sophia, see page 60 of the Time-Life book (1989). 5. b. Constantine, future emperor, son of Leo III. 719: East Francia, our S Germany: Boniface, the English-born monk Winfrith or Wynfrid, is active in Bavaria and Thuringia, christianising pagans. See 730.


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY 720: 1. A new and more lasting return to silver was made in 720. Leo III, formally in association with his infant son Constantine V, 720–741, introduced a coin known as a miliaresion. 2. Arabs under Muhammad b. Aws al-Ansari raid Byzantine Sardinia (Blankinship p.139). They held parts of the west coast, i.e. Arborea in the SW, for over 100 years. Cf 725: Corsica, and 727: Sicily. Significantly, the last coins known to have been minted at the Cagliari mint date from 720. 720-24: Caliph Yazid II. 721: Leo III orders forced baptism for all Jews and Muslims living within the empire (Theophanes a.m. 6214). Many Jews fled to Syria and other Islamic-ruled lands. Cf 732. 721: Major Christian victory in present-day France: Muslims from Spain under the governor-general Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani enter Occitania in early spring, 721, and immediately march NW toward Frankish Toulouse. The siege of Toulouse, with its near-impregnable walls, lasted until early summer. The defending Franks, short of provisions, were close to surrendering when, around 9 June 721, Eudes of Aquitaine returned at the head of a large force, hurled himself at alSamh's rear, and launched a highly successful encircling movement. So serious was the Muslim defeat that, each year for the following 450 years, those who died at Balat al-Shuhada' (‘Plateau of the Martyrs’) were honoured in a special remembrance ceremony. 722: Asia Minor: Caria (the SW corner of Asia Minior) would become (after 727: see there) part of the theme [province] of Kibyrrhaiotai or ‘Cibyrrhaeots’; it is mentioned as a distinct province as late as 722, when it appears as belonging to the apotheke (lit. “storehouse”, i.e. supply-district) of ‘Asia, Caria and the Islands and the Hellespont’, organised to collect the trade tax and supply the army. Presumably this kommerkiariate [tax and trading concession*] covered part of the Carabisian and Thracesian themes. See 729-31. (*) The private entrepreneurs contracted (or, later, public officials employed) to collect the tax on goods - import and circulation taxes were called kommerkiarioi. It was not sales that were taxed but the movement of goods, including slaves. “The customs system in 7th and 8th C Byzantium allowed the empire not only to control the commercial routes . . . but also to preserve something of a monopoly on the slave trade” that passed through it (Rotman 2009: 70). Oikonomides notes that each kommerkiarios (government tax collector and supply contractor) seems to have been in charge of an establishment called an apotheke (lit. “storehouse”); there was usually


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY one of these in each province (or group of provinces) under his control. The word apotheke is thus an abstract term referring to an institution rather than a specific building and it covered a broad geographical area (rather than being confined to cities, harbours, or roads) (in Laiou ed., Economic History of Byzantium 2002; also in Laiou 2008: 985). 723: Slavic Greece: 723-730: Key sources show the presence of Slavs and Avars in central and southern Greece: (a) In c. 723 (between 723 and 728) bishop Willibald of Eichstatt (Bavaria) travelled from Syracuse to Constantinople and stopped at Monemvasia, at the southernmost tip of the Peloponnese; he called the place "the Slavic land" or ‘the land of Slavinia’ (MGH SS 15:93: The Life of St Willibald, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Script. xv, i, p. 93); - Monemvasia was recovred from the pagan Slavs sometime btween the 720s and 780s, as we know that the bishop of Monemvasia attended the Council of Nicaea in 787. (b) Perhaps in the 730s (the date given by Ekonomou 2007): The Life of St. Pancratius records that a Byzantine warlord from Taormina (Sicily), or else the strategos [military governor], organised an expedition across the sea; he took a number of prisoners from among the pagan “Avars” living in the province of Athens. Others would date the writing of this text to around 710 (Curta 2006: 105). The standard view is that the Slavic tribes ruled the interior, while the ‘Greeks’ continued to control much of the coastal fringe. Thus the Time Atlas 1994: 56 shows imperial rule along the whole coast of the Balkans except in the southwest (west Peloponnesian coast) and in the far west (part of the coast of Epirus). Willibald’s Eastern Pilgrimage, c.721-c.728 A good overview of the geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean is embedded in the reminiscences of the Bavarian bishop Willibald: Life of St Willibald, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, text in C. H. Talbot 1954, pp 160 ff: “They went on board a ship [galley] and crossed over the sea to Naples, where they left the ship in which they had sailed and stayed for two weeks. These cities [the towns of Campania] belong to the Romans [i.e. Byzantines]: they are in [surrounded by] the territory of Benevento, but owe allegiance to the Romans.” —Byzantine Campania lay between the emerging semiindependent imperial Duchy of Rome or nascent Papal State and the Lombard duchy of Benevento. “And at once, as is usual when the mercy of God is at work, their fondest hopes were fulfilled, for [at Naples] they chanced upon a ship that had come from [Muslim-ruled] Egypt, so they embarked on it and set sail [i.e. rowed] for a town called Reggio in [Byzantine] Calabria.” “Sailing from [Byzantine] Syracuse, they crossed the [mouth of the]


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY Adriatic and reached the city [read: port-village] of Monembasia, in the land of Slavinia, and from there they sailed to Chios, leaving Corinth on the port side.” —Byzantium controlled some coastal areas in Greece but most of the Balkans was ruled by Slav chieftains. “Sailing on from there, they passed [Byzantine] Samos and sped on towards Asia, to the city of Ephesus, which stands about a mile from the sea.” —This indicates that the silting-up of the River Cayster, the modern Küçük Menderes, was already well-advanced. Ephesus today is about six km from the coast. “Sailing from there [Miletos], they reached the island of Cyprus, which lies between the Greeks [Byzantines] and the Saracens, and went to the city of Pamphos, where they stayed three weeks.” —Cyprus was a condominium, coruled by the Byzantines and Caliphate. “Once more they set sail and reached the town of Antarados [Tartus on the coast of Syria, south of Latakia] which lies near the sea in the territory of the Saracens.” —The Byzantine-Caliphate border ran through Cilicia. Palestine: The ‘king of the Saracens’ is named as “Emiral Mummenim”. This was of course his title: Amir al-Mu'minin, ‘Commander of the Faithful’ or Caliph. The incumbent was Yazid bin Abd al-Malik or Yazid II, 720-24, succeeded by Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, 724-43. Willibald’s party visited, among many other places, Mar Saba, the Monastery of St Sabas near Bethlehem. It was, or it became, the home of the great iconodule (“icon-slave”) John of Damascus (aged about 46 in 722), called the “last of the Greek Fathers” of the Church. He wrote his On Holy Images in about 730. It is not known when John retired from the court at Damascus to Mar Saba, but many believe it was before 715 as by that time Arabic had replaced Greek as the language of the Caliph’s chancery. — Griffith 2008. Later in Syria: “His [Willibald’s] companions, who were in his party, went forward to the King of the Saracens, named Murmumni [recte: Amir alMu'minin], to ask him to give them a letter of safe conduct, but they could not meet him because he himself had withdrawn from that region on account of the sickness and pestilence that infested the country.” After visiting Constantinople and Nicaea, Willibald sailed back to Syracuse. “After two years they set sail from there [Constantinople] with the envoys of the Pope and the Emperor and went to the city of Syracuse in the island of Sicily.” —The envoys were carrying the hostile correspondence conducted between pope Gregory II, 715-31, and Emperor Leo about iconoclasm. Willibald reached central Italy again seven years after leaving it. fl. Winfrith or Wynfrid, born 680 or 683, the future St Boniface. An English-born monk, he was afterwards known as the 'Apostle of the Germans', i.e. to the pagan East Franks beyond the Rhine. Pagan Germany: In 723, Boniface felled the holy oak tree dedicated to the god Thornear [Thor] at the present-day town of Fritzlar, near Gottiningen in northern Hesse, NW of Frankfurt. He built a chapel from its wood at the site where today stands the cathedral of Fritzlar, and later established the first bishopric in Germany north of the old Roman limes or fortified frontier at the Frankish fortress of Büraburg, on a


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY prominent hill facing the town across the Eder river. The felling Thor's Oak is commonly regarded as the beginning of German christianization.- All of what is now southern and central Germany, then eastern Francia, was quickly Christianised; the only remaining pagan region was in the north, i.e. Saxony. It remained obdurate and had to be converted by the sword: by Charlemagne from 772 (see there). 724-43: Caliph Hisham. In this reign the main Muslim naval base was moved from Acre in Palestine to Tyre in Syria, where a large new ‘arsenal’ (ship repair workshop) was built inside a walled harbour. Acre was again reconstituted as the main naval base in 861 (Kennedy 2008: 335. citing al-Baladhuri). Cf 747: major defeat at the hands of the Byzantines. 725: CONVENIENT DATE FOR THE MID-POINT OF THE BYZANTINE ‘DARK AGE’ Coinage The denominations were as follows from c. 725: one gold solidus or nomisma (4.55 g) = 12 silver miliaresia = 288 bronze folles [singular: follis]. And 1 silver miliaresion = 2 silver siliquae or keratia (an accounting unit) = 24 bronze folles. Coin portraits, already for a long time far less finely rendered than during the times of Constantine the Great and his successors, become now even cruder or at least ‘further stylised’ - a state that will last for about another 200 years.

Above: Coin depicting emperor Leo III. 725:


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY 1. The East: Arabs raid Cyprus, presumably as punishment for non-payment of taxes or for molesting the local Muslims. The island remained a de facto condominium in line with the treaty of 688; there was no intention to occupy or annex it. 2. The Aegean: The theme of Hellas - “the men of the themes of Hellas and the Cyclades”, presumably iconodules - revolted in 725/6 against the iconoclastic emperor Leo III, and sent (727) a large fleet under the command of an officer called Agallianos, the turmarch or deputy commander of Hellas. But the imperial fleet destroyed the rebel fleet with “artificial [Greek] fire” near Constantinople (Theophanes: TCOT: 97). See 727. Kosmas was with them as their candidate for the crown. Theophanes writes thus: “Agallianos (the turmarch of the theme of Hellas) and Stephen led their army. They neared the imperial city on 18 April of the 10th indiction [727] and . . . were defeated because their ships were consumed by the artificial fire. Some men went to the bottom of the sea, among them Agallianos, who drowned himself in his armour, but the survivors went over to the victors. Kosmas and Stephen were beheaded, the impious Leo was strengthened in his evil ways, and his faction stepped up its persecution of piety.” 3. Italy: The exarch Paul assembled troops from the strongholds around Ravenna and sent them to Rome to depose the patriarch of Rome Gregory II for his boycott of imperial taxes. The local army detachment at Rome sided with the pope and prevented this (Liber Pontificalis, cited in Brown 1984: 91). Italy c. 725: “There were probably few concentrations of Germanic settlers entirely immune to Roman cultural influence. The Lombard language seems to have disappeared by the 8th century, leaving few loanwords in the Italian language. The impression conveyed is of a gradual Romanization of the society and culture of the Lombards within the framework of their continuing political dominance.” – ‘Italy’ (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved June 24, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service: c. 725: 1. Italy: The Lombards occupy Byzantine Corsica. Or perhaps earlier – by about 700? (cf Noble p.172.) Acting as the protector of the catholic church and its faithful, Liutprand subjected the island to Lombard government (c. 725), though it was nominally under Byzantine authority. Corsica remained with the Lombard kingdom even after the Frankish conquest, by which time Lombard landholders and churches had established a significant presence on the island (Wikipedia, 2009, ‘Luitprand’). 2. Text: the Parastaseis syntomai chronikai. The title of this work may be translated as ‘brief historical notes’ or ‘expositions’, i.e. an antiquarian discussion of the sights of Constantinople, explaining the origin and significance of the many statues and other “spectacles” found throughout the city. References are made to emperors living as long ago as 500+ years in the past, and to oral history.



It is clear that many of the buildings and monuments of Antiquity had fallen into disrepair or were long since abandoned and that large areas of the city within the walls were deserted. The document was written in the early eighth century, although the text is preserved in only one 11th-century manuscript. Cameron and Herrin call it "a rare source of knowledge of the late antique and early medieval city ... [which] offers intriguing insights into the cultural world of an age from which very little other literary evidence has survived". —Averil Cameron & Judith Herrin ed. & tr., Constantinople in the early eighth century (Leiden, 1984), online at topicid=112.topic; accessed 2010. 726: 1. Cappadocia: Arabs sack Caesarea. This began a period of almost annual raids into Byzantine Asia Minor. 2. DARK AGE: The Ecloga, a revision of the law, was issued in 726 according to the usual dating; others say in 740. It was not superseded until the 870s, after the restoration of 'Iconodule' or pro-icon orthodoxy. Its date is 741 according to L Burgmann (1983), Ecloga. Das Gesetzbuch Leons III. und Konstantinos' V, Frankfurt am Main: Löwenklau-Gesellschaft. The law codes were distilled into a summary or ‘selection’, Gk Ekloga. So far had standards of literacy fallen, however, that even the most expert officials had trouble understanding some of the older law texts (Treadgold 1997: 398 ff). Mutilation is formally recognised for the first time in the Ecloga. But, as we have said, the practice had begun about a century earlier. The contemporary view was that blinding and castration (see 813) were less un-Christian than execution. Theft could be punished by the loss of a hand, and lying by the cutting of the tongue. Likewise the Farmer’s Law [Gk: Nomos Georgikos], not clearly dated but probably from the period c.775-825, also notes punishments that we would see as harsh and barbarous: amputation of hands or tongue, blinding, impalement, and death by fire (Mango 1980: 47). For example: “If a (free) man finds an ox in a wood and kills it, and takes the carcass let his hand be cut off. If a slave kills one ox or ass or ram in a wood, his master shall make it good” [with, we assume, the slave being left to the private mercy of his master!]. Officials and Officers According to Treadgold, State, p.384, there were some 2,500 officials in the early period; but by the eighth century, say by AD 750, the central bureaucracy in Constantinople shrank to about 600 men, while the provincial officials, once around 15,000, dwindled to mere hundreds when the strategoi (generals) of the themes and their military subordinates became the real


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY administrators. If we count 20 senior military men in each of 12 themes and fleets in 773, and guess that they were supported by 10 lesser officials, administrators and clerks in each jurisdiction, then we have a ruling stratum of just 360 men outside the capital. From 726: Conventional date for the beginning of ICONOCLASM. The emperor ordered an icon of Christ to be removed from its display over the Chalke (“bronze") gate to the palace - the entry point into the palace from Hagia Sophia. It is reported that at the very beginning of the iconoclastic period, when a soldier was dispatched to destroy the image of Christ above the Chalke Gate at the Great Palace, a group of nuns led by St. Theodosia (as she became) pulled down the ladder on which he was standing. These women were the first iconodule (pro-icon) martyrs, as they were all executed by order of Leo III. Theodosia was executed by having a ram's horn hammered through her neck (Alexander Van Millingen, 1912: Byzantine Churches of Constantinople. London: MacMillan & Co). It has been proposed that, at first, the banning of religious icons was enforced only in the Capital; certainly it was not until 754 (see there) that the veneration of icons was declared a heresy. Cf 730. Scholarly opinion is divided as to whether Leo III fairly deserves to be called "the first Iconoclast emperor" (cf Angold 2001: 72). It is noteworthy that he is not known as an iconoclast in contemporary Muslim and Armenian sources. Leo's actions in Italy in the mid-720s, which antagonised the the pope or archbishop of Rome, seem to have more to do with punishing tax evasion than imposing the destruction of icons. But, whether prompted by iconoclasm or by resentment at Leo's interference in Italian affairs, or both, the pope protested and attacked the idea that the emperor could have authority in making doctrinal pronouncements. “Together with the territorial losses suffered by the empire during his early reign, the devastating underwater earthquake at Thera and Therasia [north of Crete] in 726 [see there] was interpreted by Leo as a sign of divine displeasure, and as a warning to turn back to the "real protector of the empire in its full greatness", i.e. to Christ. It was at around this time, either in 726 or 730 - the sources are divided as to whether the ruling patriarch was Germanus or his successor Anastasius - that he replaced the relief of Christ on the Chalke Gate at the entrance to the imperial palace with a cross bearing the inscription "I drive out the enemies and kill the barbarians." – Bronwen Neill, “Leo III”, at; 2006. The Beginning and End of Iconoclasm Sunk in its own even darker Dark Age, 'barbarian' Western Europe remained tied to the developed East by a shared faith in Christianity. The East, however, fell under an enthusiasm for Iconoclasm - the rejection of religious images - for more than a century (ca. 729-843). According to Herrin 2007: 109, the primary aim (better: its vindication) of iconoclasm was regaining divine favour in battle. Hence the inscription "I drive out the enemies and kill


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY the barbarians." It was far from being a widely 'popular' movement, being imposed and then removed by imperial diktat. As Mango puts it, the absolutism of the East Roman state meant that "the will of the government dictated the suppression of Iconoclasm in 787, its reintroduction in 814 and its final liquidation in 843" (1980: 99). Even so, there were popular elements to iconoclasm: the letters of Germanos the patriarch of Constantinople during the mid to late 720s reveal that there was considerable agitation against images in western Asia Minor (Angold 2001: 72). Cf 726. The Bishop of Rome purported to excommunicate (731) the first of the iconoclast emperors, Leo III, 717-41, and placed the icons under papal protection. In response, Leo strengthened the position of the Patriarch of Constantinople. The provinces of south Italy, Greece and parts of the Balkans were transferred from Rome’s religious jurisdiction to that of Constantinople. * * * To recap. Militarily strong, the empire remained weak economically. As we have said, it had become "ruralised". Its territories comprised hardly more than Asia Minor, Thrace, parts of lower Greece, Crete and Sicily. In Italy proper, the empire controlled just the toe and heel and several coastal towns around Naples (also in theory Sardinia and Corsica). The empire was hemmed around by enemies: Muslims, Bulgars, Slavs and Lombards. The Muslims dominated the coast of the southern Mediterranean Sea, but the empire still controlled the central and northern sectors: from Sardinia to Sicily, Crete and Asia Minor. The army consisted of many semi-professional units drawn from the "Themes" (Greek Themata), the famous Romanic-Byzantine administrative structure of militarised provinces, each with locally raised troops, and ( — from AD 760) a number of highly trained standing regiments called the Tagmata, based in the capital. The navy relied on 'Greek Fire': chemical warfare in the shape of war-galleys armed with fire catapults and large flame-throwers. Greek Fire was used both offensively and defensively. GREEK FIRE was said to have been invented by a Syrian engineer, Callinicus, a refugee from Maalbek, in the seventh century (673 AD): It was a flammable composition possibly consisting of sulphur, naphtha, and quicklime; other say oil (petroleum). Rumours about its composition include such chemicals as liquid petroleum, naphtha, burning pitch, sulphur, resin, quicklime and bitumen, along with some other "secret ingredient". The exact composition, however, remains unknown. Although perhaps known in antiquity, it was first employed on a large scale by the Greek Romanics. Bronze tubes ("siphons") that emitted jets of liquid fire were mounted on the prows of their galleys and on the walls of Constantinople. The Romanics in 678 and again in 717–18 destroyed two Saracen fleets with Greek fire. The "liquid fire", as the Byzantines called it, hurled on to the ships of enemies from siphons, burst into flames on contact. Reputed to be inextinguishable and able to burn even on water, it caused panic and dread.


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY Its introduction into the warfare of its time has been compared (perhaps extravagantly) in its demoralising influence to the introduction of nuclear weapons in our time. Certainly both Arab and ‘Greek’ [Rhomaioi: Byzantine] sources agree that it surpassed all incendiary weapons in destruction. The secret behind the Greek fire was handed down from one emperor to the next for centuries. A further important event was the formation of an aggressive Bulgar state on the inner, or southern, side of the lower Danube, 681-685. The pagan Bulgarians were to be, for many centuries, the empire's mortal enemy. They had a fairly sophisticated political system, with a centralised monarchical state, unlike many of the nomadic peoples of the steppe who invaded eastern Europe in the Middle Ages (see Browning 1975). Originally a Turkic people, the pagan Bulgars were relatively quickly assimilated by the Slavonic population of the sub-Danube region. The ruling caste was subsumed, becoming in effect another group of Slavs. They were to adopt eastern-style Christianity in the late 9th century (from AD 864). The Bulgar Khan had intervened in the Empire's dynastic disputes in 705 and raided to the walls of the City itself in 712. Under a treaty of 716 the Bulgars gained more territory from the empire, extending their rule as far as northern Thrace. Later they extended their control westward, eventually to Belgrade, after the destruction of the Avar state by the Franks (796). REIGN OF LEO III ‘the Syrian’ (continued) 726: 1. The western Aegean: The volcano of Santorini (Thera) lies SE of Athens. As we have said, its spectacular explosion was taken by Leo III and others as a sign: the veneration of images was to be further attacked, or at least their improper use as magical healing powers was now forbidden (Angold 2001: 73; Herrin 2007: 108). Cf 730: decree against icons. Theophanes the Confessor, writing at the end of 8th century, and George Kedrinos, 11th century, record that in AD 726 people on Mount Athos in NE Greece—the future “holy mountain” dotted with monasteries—saw the eruption of Santorini (Thera) volcano on Santorini which lies SE of Athens. Santorini is the southernmost island of the Cyclades group (N of Crete). Pumice stone fell as far away as Crete and the shores of western Asia Minor. This proves, as one would expect, that at that time there were inhabitants on the Mt Athos peninsula, although whether there were already monks there is not established. 2. Italy: fl. Liutprand, king of the Lombards, 712-44. End of 60 years of peace with Byzantium in the north. Under Liutprand’s rule the Lombard-Italian kingdom reaches its zenith, surrounding the remnants of the Byzantine ("Greek") Exarchate. He favoured


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY Roman (Latin) law and institutions, and centralised power in his kingdom. And by now the Germanic, Lombard, language has been overtaken by Late Latin or early proto-Italian. Liutprand kept a firm hand on the Lombard dukes, and from 726 moved aggressively against the other powers on the peninsula: — 726-7 (see there) he invaded the Exarchate of Ravenna as far as Ancona and Ravenna’s port Classis; — 733 he set his own nephew over Benevento; — 739 he expelled the Lombard duke of Spoleto and occupied four towns of the 'Roman patrimony' [papal domains] in response to a hostile alliance between Spoleto, Benevento and the papacy; and — 743 [or 738] he briefly took the city of Ravenna (soon recovered by Byzantium). The only place where Lombard-Italian art survives in full appearance is at Cividale in Friuli, NW of Trieste, near the Slovenian-Italian border. The Church of S Maria-in-Valle, has six female figures, a series of very high relief sculptures, which are quite sophisticated and ‘un-barbarian’ (illustrated in Rice 1965: 166). 726-7: 1. Asia: Arabs resume their annual raids on Asia Minor: brief siege of Nicaea, Gk Nikaia, which is modern Iznik (Whittow p.140, Treadgold 1997: 353). Theophanes: “Amr went ahead with 15,000 light armed men to surround the unprepared city, while Mua’wiyah followed with another 85,000 [sic]. Even after a long siege and the partial destruction of the walls, they could not enter Nikaia's sacred precinct of the honoured and holy fathers because of its inhabitants' prayers, which were acceptable to God” (TCOT: 97). It is near to incredible that a small fortress-town could resist 100,000 besiegers, - unless the latter were short of supplies. If we drop one zero, the numbers become credible: 1,500 light troops and 8,500 in the main force. 2a. Tax revolt in Italy: Sometime between 723 and 726, Leo III had increased taxes in Italy, apparently in an attempt to help pay to defend the Empire from the Arabs. The patriarch or pope, Gregory II, 715-31, was the largest landowner in Italy. He was therefore the most affected by the tax decree. He refused to pay. Most of the rest of Byzantine Italy followed suit. Some, a few loyal to the Emperor, plotted to kill the pope. Before this plot could be carried through, however, a new Exarch, Paul, gov. 726-27, was sent to Ravenna, supposedly with orders to kill Gregory II. The new exarch Paulus attempted (727) to arrest Gregory, but was prevented by the joint action of the Romans and the Lombards, and met his death at the hands of the people of Ravenna during a riot. Thus the entire Exarchate rose in revolt in response to imposition of iconoclasm - and probably more importantly: higher taxes - in 727; the Lombards, the papacy, and the Italian cities all moved to eliminate Byzantine authority. See next. 2b. Italy: The Roman patriarch Gregory II ordered (726) the people to resist the emperor’s iconoclastic decree. Meanwhile in Naples the Byzantine duke, Exhiliratus, was killed by a mob while trying to carry out the imperial


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY command to destroy all the icons. The Lombard king Liutprand chose this time of division to strike at the Byzantine possessions in Emilia. In 727, he crossed the Po and took Bologna, inland from Ravenna, and Osimo and Rimini on the coast below Ravenna, and Ancona, along with the other cities of Emilia and the Pentapolis, to the south of Ravenna. He took Classis, the seaport of Ravenna, but could not take high-walled Ravenna from the exarch Paul (Wikipedia, 2009, under ‘Liutprand’). See 728. As a result, Byzantium now controlled only a long narrow corridor running north-south from present-day Venice to Ravenna and thence via Perusia [near mod. Perugia] along the Via Amerina to Rome. 2c. Dalmatia: Between 726 and 727 the Exarch Paul’s orders ceased being received in Spalato (Split), and there followed three years in which Ravenna and Dalmatia were virtually independent (Praga, Dalmatia p. 50). See 727: The exarch is killed in a revolt. 2d. Italy: Venice elected its first duke (doge), which some today see as a gesture of revolt against Byzantine iconoclasm. - When the patriarch of Rome resisted the emperor’s iconoclastic edict, the troops of Byzantine Italy proclaimed their own dukes; in Venice this may have been Orso, third in the traditional (but unreliable) list of doges. Cf 727-29: Venice helps recover Ravenna; and 740. Malaria in Italy The gradual spread of malaria in mainland Italy clearly occurred in historical times, as Sallares et al. note (2004). The final step in this process did not happen until the medieval period, by about 600, when endemic malaria emerged in the Po delta region of northeastern Italy, presumably as a result of the arrival of the mosquito Anopheles sacharovi, the dominant vector in recent times in that region. The spread of malaria to northeastern Italy occurred at a time when Ravenna and the emerging commercial centre of Venice were closely associated with the Byzantine Empire, as McCormick has pointed out (cited by Sallares et al.). It is significant that it was the predominantly an eastern Mediterranean species A. sacharovi, rather than the western Mediterranean A. labranchiae that became dominant in northeastern Italy. Modern Italian epidemiology of the genetic blood disorder beta-thalassaemia (a form of sickle-cell anaemia) reveals that its distribution matches the borders of Byzantine Italy as they were in about 600. This suggests that, on a molecular level, Italo-Byzantines may have enjoyed a superior resistance to malaria, compared with other inhabitants of the peninsula. Those with β thalassaemia have a 50% decreased chance of getting clinical malaria. McCormick, 1998: 30, speculates that it may have been their resistancne to malaria that allowed the Byzantines to hold the lower the Po Valley for so long. 727:


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY 1. Sea of Marmara: Leo deployed the central fleet* at the capital, armed with Greek Fire, to defeat a rebellion by the thematic navies of Hellas and Carabisia. A revolt broke out in Greece, fueled mainly by religious greivances, but it was was crushed by the imperial fleet in the Sea of Marmara (727), and three years later, by deposing Germanus the patriarch of Constantinople (he was forced to resign), Leo suppressed the overt opposition in the capital. (*) Hocker in Gardiner 2004: 99 notes that there is evidence that Greek fire was not widely distributed throughout the navy, but was usually limited to the Imperial fleet at Constantinople. The revolt was, at bottom, religious. The chronicler Theophanes writes thus: “The men of the themes of Hellas and the Cyclades islands [the western segment of the Carabisian theme], impelled by holy zeal, entered into agreements with each other and rebelled against Leo in a great seacampaign. Kosmas was with them as their candidate for the crown; Agallianos [the turmarch of the theme of Hellas; literally “of the Helladics”**] and Stephen led their army. They neared the imperial city on April 18 of the tenth indiction [AD 727] and engaged the Romans [Byzantines], but were defeated because their ships were consumed by the artificial fire.” (**) It is possible that the ranking officer in the theme of Hellas held the lesser rank of turmarch rather than the higher rank of strategos (Mango & Scott, notes to Theophanes 1997: 561). Hocker (p. 91) argues that this brief civil war seriously weakened the maritime power of Byzantium so that in 742 (see there) the Italian city-states had to help out the imperial fleet. After the revolt of 727, the HQ of the Carabisian* theme was moved from Samos to Cibyra in southern Anatolia (to be further away from the capital); the theme was renamed the Cibyrrhaeot, Gk Kibyrrhaiotai or Kivyrrhaiótai,* theme, a name first mentioned in 732. A little later Attalia became the seat of the Cibyrrhaeots (Toynbee p.260; Treadgold, Army p.27 and State p.352). The lands of the Cibyrrhaeots stretched across the whole southern coast of Asia Minor from the SE Aegean (the Dodecanese islands) past modern Bodrum to medieval Sycae in Cilicia (map in Treadgold, Army p.30). The Cyclades were part of the theme of Hellas. (*) Beta (β ) is pronounced as v in later Greek; cf the Latin form Caravisiani. 2. Western Mediterranean: Bishr b. Safwan sent an Arab raiding party to Sicily, took a large number of prisoners and made a truce with the Byzantines, but the truce was not observed: see 728 (Blankiship 1994: 139; Ahmad p.3). 3. The Patriarch of Rome, Gregory, replies to emperor Leo. Answering Leo's threat that he will come to Rome, break the statue of St. Peter—apparently


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY the famous bronze statue in St. Peter's—and take the pope prisoner, Gregory answers by pointing out that he can easily escape into the Campagna, and by reminding the emperor how futile and abhorrent to all Christians was Constans's persecution - in the previous century - of Martin I (Cath. Encyc. under ‘Iconoclasm’). See next: 727-29. 4. Italy: “When in 727 the order for the destruction of the images was renewed, [pope] Gregory armed himself against the emperor. The people now elected dukes for themselves in different parts of Italy and proposed to elect a new emperor, but the Pope restrained them, not wishing perhaps to have an emperor close at his side or possibly fearing a greater danger from the Langobards. Italy was distracted by internal struggles; the Pope, aided by the Spoletans and Beneventans, prevailed, and the exarch Paul was killed” (Paulus Diaconus). Ravenna: The new (and last) exarch of Italy, Eutychius, caused a storm by his seizure of church property soon after his arrival in 727, most probably in retaliation for local resistance to iconoclasm (Brown 1984: 114). See next. 727-29: Italy: Liutprand attacked the Exarchate, and, before the end of AD 727, the whole of it (in the north) was in his hands, with very little fighting. The recently appointed new exarch, Eutychius, however, escaped to Venice, now rising to prominence in the security of her lagoons, and in AD 729 his troops recovered Ravenna by a surprise attack in Liutprand's absence [others say in 738]. Eutychius then marched on Rome to bring Gregory to reason. Cf next: 727-43. Correspondence between emperor Leo and pope Gregory II; the pope is not persuaded to support iconoclasm. Italy was heavily taxed by Constantinople but received little or no protection in return. The patriarch of Rome led the Romano-Italians in their resistance to the empire's tax demands. Cf 731, 737. It is only fair to point out, however, that, in the same period, the pope spent a great deal of money on beautifying Rome's churches (Duffy p.62; also Richards pp.220 and 226). 727-43: The Lombards wrest permanent control of north-central Italy—the region between Florence and Ravenna—from the empire. Cf 728, 729. First, in 727 or 728, Luitprand crossed the Po and took Bologna, Osimo, Rimini [until 735] and Ancona, along with the other towns of Emilia and the Pentapolis. He took Classis, the seaport of Ravenna, but could not take Ravenna itself from the exarch Paul (killed 727). And the Byzantines later recovered Classis (Wikipedia, 2010, ‘Liutprand’) Cf 728 ff. 728: 1a. Italy: (Or 727:) Rimini, along with many other ‘cities’ (read: fortressvillages), was taken by the Lombard King Liutprand but it and some others returned to the Byzantines about 735 (Wikipedia, 2010, ‘Rimini’).


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY Luitprand took Bologna, Osimo, Rimini and Ancona, along with the other towns of Emilia and the Pentapolis. He took Classis, the seaport of Ravenna, but could not take Ravenna itself from the exarch Paul (Paulus D., book VI). 1b. Italy, NNE of Rome: The Lombard king Liutprand took the fortress of Sutri, west of Nepi, which dominated the highway node near Nepi - where the Via Cassia, which came from Tuscany SE into Rome via Sutri, met the Via Amerina coming south from Perugia into Rome.* He held in for only 140 days. For the king, a Catholic Christian, was softened by the entreaties of Pope Gregory II, and restored Sutri "as a gift to the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul". (*) Sutri, NNE of Rome, lies between the Vicolo and Bracciano Lakes. The Via Cassia ran from Tuscany SE to Rome. The Via Amerina, which ran south from Umbria, joined the Via Cassia near Sutri. Thus Sutri was on the Via Cassia, while Nepi was on the Via Amerina. Liutprand advanced from Tuscany SSE towards Rome along the Via Cassia; he was met at the ancient ‘city’ (read: fortress-village) of Sutri by Pope Gregory II (728). There the two reached an agreement by which Sutri and some hill towns (villages) in NW Latium, e.g. Vetralla further out - on the Via Clodia, were given to the Papacy, says the Liber Pontificalis: "as a gift to the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul". At Ventralla the ancient Roman posting station was on the Via Cassia; the medieval village lies two kilometres distant. These acquisitions were the first extension of Papal territory beyond the confines of the Duchy of Rome. (At this time there was serious tension between the imperial Exarch at Ravenna and the pope in Rome. See 729. )



Above: Italy after the Emilia/Bologna stretch of the Po Valley had been lost to the Lombards. In the 730s emperor Leo III was unable to confiscate the papal estates in Sardinia, a signal that it had now slipped from the empire in practice if not in theory. And also the pope ruled independently in the Duchy of Rome, although formally he still recognised the emperor. The last pope to seek imperial confirmation of his election was Gregory III, elected in 731. 728-30: Africa-Sicily: In successive years raids were conducted against Sicily by the Muslims, but without achieving any considerable results (Ahmad p.3). See 732. 729 (or 728): 1. Italy: The Exarch Eutychius promised the Lombard King Liutprand assistance in subjecting the Lombard duchies of Benevento and Spoleto to his authority in exchange for the king's help in removing the pope (Noble p.36). Thus the Lombards under Liutprand, aided by the imperial Exarch, besieged iconodule Rome, but the Pope shamed the Lombard king into withdrawal. See more under 729-30. Exarch Eutychius recovers Ravenna by a surprise attack. A temporary truce between the Lombards and Eastern Romans in northern Italy now put papal Rome in jeopardy. Bizarre as it must seem to us, the Lombard king and the Byzantine Exarch Eutychius agreed to mount a joint attack on Papal Rome. Laying siege to the city, they hoped to force Pope Gregory II into surrender. Gregory, however, went to Liutprand and confronted the king. As a result of the meeting, Liutprand agreed to lift the siege and offered his weapons and armour at the tomb of St. Peter (then outside the walls). In return, Gregory agreed to condemn Tiberius Petasius, a rival claimant to the


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY Lombard throne. Without Liutprand, Eutychius was forced to withdraw as well. —Noble p.36, citing the Liber Pont. 2. Italy: (Or 732-33:) Emperor Leo III orders the confiscation of the papal ‘patrimonies’ or revenue-producing land holdings in Sicily and Calabria. The chronicler Theophanes said their annual income or revenues was a surprisingly high 250,000 solidi or nomismata (Richards p.307). For comparison, Treadgold estimates the entire revenue of the secular state or imperial administration and army in 775 as 1.9 million solidi. In peninsular Italy, the Byzantine-ruled territories were by now confined to just the Ravenna-Rome corridor; Sardinia (nominally); the region of greater Naples; and the bare toe and heel: S Calabria and the ‘Land of Otranto’. The Lombard duchy of Benevento ruled most of Apulia including Brindisi. 729-30: Italy: Rome asserts independence from Byzantium: Pope Gregory II inaugurates a new policy of using the Lombard dukes and the militia of Rome to assert his independence or autonomy from both the Lombard king in Pavia [near Milan] and the Empire in the person of the Exarch of Ravenna. To this end Gregory struck an alliance with Duchy of Spoleto and the Duchy of Benevento in 728 or 729 (Noble 1984: 35). In response, the Exarch Eutychius made an agreement (729) whereby Liutprand, the Lombard king at Pavia, would attack the pope if Eutychius’s ‘Greeks’ aided him – Liutprand - in subjugating Spoleto and Benevento. Because he possessed very few troops, Eutychius was very much the junior partner; Luitprand made an arrangement with the exarch probably only to give himself a sort of imperial legitimacy. The dukes surrendered at Spoleto - though control of the two duchies from Pavia was not to endure for long - and the king and the exarch marched, possibly together, on Rome (Noble p.36). At Rome, Liutprand camped in the "Field of Nero" - on the right bank of the Tiber, outside the walls - and arbitrated, returning to the Exarch the city of Ravenna alone among the Byzantine territories and prevailing on Gregory II, the patriarch of Rome, to restore his (the pope’s) allegiance to the emperor by promising to reconcile with the Exarch (730) (Wikipedia, 2010, under ‘Luitprand’). In fact no such reconciliation took place, and the imperial doctrine of iconoclasm was not imposed. Iconcodule Rome and the papacy remained autonomus by the grace of Luitprand. The pope nevertheless lent his Roman militia to aid the Exarch’s troops in suppressing an anti-papal, anti-imperial rebellion under Tiberius Petasius in southern Tuscany (Noble p.37). 729-32: Kommerkiarioi were private contractors managing the state’s taxes and purchasing activities. Primarily they were entrepreneurs engaged in the silk trade but also dealing in other goods and collecting custom duties [import and trade circulation taxes] (Oikonomides in Laiou 2008: 987). Their seals bearing the imperial portrait are found until the year 728/729. As noted earlier, one of their main activities was selling arms and uniforms to the thematic troops; the soldiers purchased them using cash or, probably more


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY often, they paid in kind (Treadgold, Army p.185; Oikonomides in Laiou 2008: 984, note 30, disputes that they were arms-procurers). After 730/731, however, a radical change takes place: the seals of the traders or kommerkiarioi and the depots or apothekai – a term covering supply regions, store-bases and warehouses - of the provinces disappear and are replaced by seals with the impersonal inscription “of the imperial kommerkia” followed by the name of the province or city. It seems clear that the custom of leasing the kommerkia or state trading licences to private citizens had fallen into abeyance, and that they were being managed directly by officials of the state (Oikonomides in Laiou, ed., Economic History of Byzantium 2002; and in Laiou ed. 2008: 987). Cf 785. The system ended soon after 840 when soldiers were again receiving enough cash pay to be able to do without it. 730: 1. Date of the edict commonly seen as the 'first universal edict against icons'. Germanus, the long-serving patriarch, protested against the edict and appealed to the patriarch of Rome. But the emperor deposed Germanus as a traitor (730) and had Anastasius (730-54), formerly syncellus of the patriarchal Court, and a willing instrument of the Government, appointed in his place. Opposition to Islam: As will be seen, the new patriarch was well informed about the other more distant enemy: “With respect to the Saracens [he wrote], since they also seem to be among those who urge these charges against us, it will be quite enough for their shame and confusion to allege against them their invocation which even to this day they make in the wilderness to a lifeless stone, namely that which is called Chobar [the Ka'bah stone at Mecca], and the rest of their vain conversation received by tradition from their fathers as, for instance, the ludicrous mysteries of their solemn festivals” (Germanus, Patr. Gr. 98). 2. Prince Constantine, aged 12, was betrothed by his father to the daughter of the (pagan) khagan of the Khazars. See below: c.730 – Judaism. 730: fl. Boniface, the English-born Benedictine monk, later known as the "Apostle of Germany". He was archbishop of Mainz from 746. Paganism in Germany is superseded by Christianity: See 739.730: The Khazars achieve a major victory over the Muslims on the plains of Azerbaijan. The Arabs were also defeated in the battle of Tours in what is now France (732). The Pyrenees and the Caucasus remained henceforth the extreme limits of Islam and Christendom. c. 730: 1. Persecution: George Limnaiotes, an iconodule martyr, is known only from short synaxarion notices (a synaxarion is a liturgical book). In his youth he became a monk on Mt Olympos in NW Asia Minor; under emperor Leo III, ca. 730, he was tortured to death for his iconodule beliefs, having his nose slit and his head burned (perhaps with burning coals, as in the case of Anthousa


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY of Mantineon). He supposedly died at age 95, and therefore may have been born ca. 635. – Hagiography database by Kazdhan et al., at Transcaucasia: The pagan Khazar king converts to Judaism. See 737. c.731: Northumbria: Bede completes his Historia Ecclesia, a history of the church in England. There were three kingdoms in Anglo-Saxon England: Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex. 730-31: Italy: In 730, emperor Leo III issued a second Iconoclast edict which fared no better than the first. The pope or patriarch of Rome Gregory III denounced it immediately upon his accession to the papacy in March 731. Gregory also summoned, in November, a synod in Italy which pronounced (12 April 732) Iconoclasm heresy and affected to excommunicate the emperor (Ekonomou 2007: 246).The Exarch Eutychius was not even able to prevent the Archbishop of Ravenna from attending the synod. Infuriated, Leo III sent (see 732) a fleet to Ravenna but this show of force failed when the fleet was shipwrecked in a storm. 731-41: Rome slips from the empire: The “Greek” pope Gregory III, a Benedictine of Greco-Syrian origin, was the last to obtain the Imperial mandate before his consecration as Pope. Cf 752. As Gregory was not consecrated for more than a month after his election, it is presumed that he waited for the confirmation of his election by the exarch at Ravenna. A great missionary pope, he organized the religious structure of Germany under St. Boniface as Metropolitan. In 732, he condemned the Iconoclastic heresy and proclaimed his veneration for the holy images and relics by building an oratory, dedicated to all the saints, at Rome. It was he who obtained the political sovereignty of Rome (with himself as temporal ruler) from Pepin the Short. —Cath. Encyc. under Gregory III. See below: 732-33. 731: Papal resistance to Constantinople: A synod of Italian bishops in Rome denounces iconoclasm and authorises letters of protest to the emperor. Cf 732/33, 737. Elected by popular acclamation, Gregory was - as we have said - the last pope to seek the Byzantine exarch's mandate. He immediately appealed to Emperor Leo III to moderate his position on the iconoclastic controversy. When this elicited no response, Gregory called a synod in November 731, denouncing iconoclasm and excommunicating destroyers of icons. In 731 Gregory III held a synod of 93 bishops at St. Peter's in which all who ‘broke, defiled, or took’ images of Christ, of His Mother, the Apostles or other saints were declared excommunicate. Another legate, Constantine, was sent with a copy of the decree and of its application to the emperor, but was again arrested and imprisoned in Sicily (Cath. Encyc. under ‘Iconoclasm’).



The demonstrated inability of the Exarch in Ravenna to prevent or interrupt the Roman Synod of AD 731, at which iconoclasm and the emperor were formally condemned, and the failure of Constantine V to either prevent or disrupt the Franco-papal alliance of AD 754, effectively signified the permanisation of the papal ‘secession’ from the empire. Theophanes writes of “the defection of Italy” (TCOT: 101). + 100th ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF MUHAMMAD. Cf 739. Italy in 732 After The Times Atlas 1994: 59. The Lombards controlled nearly the entire peninsula. All the north including Tuscany was Lombard; but Venice still belonged to the empire. Byzantium controlled a long narrow corridor, running north-south from present-day Venice to Ravenna and thence via Perusia [near mod. Perugia] along the ancient Via Amerina to Rome (cf 733 below.) The Naples area and Amalfi were also under imperial rule, along with just the bare heel and toe of Italy. Otherwise Lombard (Beneventan) control extended south as far as the Gulf of Taranto [mod. Basilicata] and N Calabria. The heel-tip (Otranto), S Calabria, Sardinia and Sicily continued under imperial rule. Corsica was in Lombard hands (conquered c.725 or earlier), but the Balearics and, as noted, Sardinia still formally acknowledged Constantinople, or perhaps better: had not repudiated the emperor. 732: 1. W Mediterranean: raids by the Muslims of Ifriqiya. ‘Abd al-Malik b. Qatan raids Byzantine Sicily to seize booty and prisoners; and ‘Abd-Allah b. Ziyad makes an incursion into Sardinia (Ahmad p.3). See 733. 2. Aegean-Anatolian coast: First mention of the re-badged maritime theme of the Cibyrrhaeots, Greek: Kibyrrhaiotai, named for Cibyra, the port east of Attalia (opposite the western tip of Cyrprus). It was the renamed old Carabisian. See 770. Leo sends a large fleet under Manes, general of the Cibyrrhaeots, to Italy to re-assert control over Rome and the papacy, but his ships are shipwrecked in the Adriatic. This was the last attempt to assert effective imperial control over N Italy (Collins 1991: 216, citing Theophanes a.m. 6224: TCOT p.101). But where he could do so, Leo punished the pope. He confiscated [729-32] all of the papal ‘patrimonies’* in southern Italy and Sicily, the main source of the Pope's income and the only areas where imperial authority still remained strong. Cf 737. As we noted earlier, he was able to confiscate the papal estates of Sicily and Calabria but not those of Sardinia and Corsica, a signal that the latter two islands had effectively been lost to the empire. (*) A patrimony, governed by a rector, was a collection of estates leased by the church to tenants who paid rent and farmed the land.


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY The estates also supplied grain, horses and timber. The Papal patrimonies in the Naples region (Campania), Apulia and Calabria and elsewhere are first attested under pope Pelagius I [acc. 556], but probably they date from much earlier. There were altogether 11 patrimonies in the mid 500s, but by 729 many had been lost to or curtailed by the Lombard invasions (Richards p.312).3. Khazar alliance: The emperor's son, the future Basileus Constantine, marries the daughter of the (Jewish) Khazar khagan. Cf 737. Prince Constantine, aged 14, was betrothed to the Khazar Chagan's daughter, still a child, who became a Christian and was renamed Irene [Gk Eirene, ‘peace’]. In 750, having grown into a woman, she will provide Constantine with his son and heir Leo IV, who was thus half-Khazar. The Byzantine emperor Leo III married his son Constantine (later Constantine V Kopronymos) to the Khazar princess Tzitzak, daughter of the Khagan Bihar, as part of the alliance between the two powers. Tzitzak, who was baptized as Irene, became famous for her wedding gown, which started a fashion craze in Constantinople for a type of robe or mantle (for men) called tzitzakion (Constant. Porph. De Cerimoniis, Book 2, cc.1-2 ). Their son Leo (Leo IV) would be better known as "Leo the Khazar". "The deed and the guilt of Constantine Copronymus [“name of dung”] were acknowledged. The Isaurian heretic, who [allegedly] sullied [shat in] the baptismal font, and declared war against the holy images, had indeed embraced a Barbarian wife. By this impious alliance he accomplished the measure of his crimes, and was devoted to the just censure of the church and of posterity" (- so declaims Gibbon, ch 53). 732: The Franks and Burgundians under Charles, called Martel: "the Hammer”, defeat an Arab incursion north of the Pyrenees near Poitiers in what is now west-central France. As well as Arabs, there were Berbers and subject Visigoths in the Muslim-led army. Watson notes that the Mozarabic Chronicle of 754 describes the battle in greater detail than any other Latin or Arabic source: the Franks drew themselves into a large infantry square, so that they were "like an immovable wall" and a "glacier". The Muslims, who included mailed cavalry, threw themselves at the Frankish square in fruitless attempts to break the formation. Many Muslims were cut down by Frankish swordsmen. The Arab cavalry several times broke into the interior of the Frankish square, but it held. The Muslim assault, however, ceased when night fell. The discipline and resolve of the Franks was apparently too much for the Muslims, as Frankish scouts discovered on the following morning that the Muslim camp had been abandoned in haste during the night, with a great deal of plunder having been left behind in the tents. - William E. Watson, in Providence: Studies in Western Civilization v.2 n.1 (1993). Much has been made in the West of how this battle saved Christendom. But it is noteworthy that Tabari (d. 923), the greatest Arab historian, and Ibn al-Qutiyya (d. 977), the first historian of Muslim Spain, make no mention at all of the Battle of Tours/Poitiers (Lewis 1982: 19).



733: 1. Italy: The troops of the Byzantine garrison of Venice marched to Ravenna to recover the capital from the Lombards (Brown 1984: 91). Or later: see 73738. Treadgold 1997: 355 dates the loss and recapture of Ravenna to the one same year, 738. 2. Off Sicily: A Byzantine flotilla using Greek Fire (“naptha”) destroys several ships of a corsair expedition led by Abu-Bakr b. Suwad. The battle took place off Trapani on the western side (Blankinship p.193; Ahmad p.3; Kennedy 2008: 334). See 734. 734: Visigoths, Arabs and Franks in Occitania: The Muslim governor of Narbonne, Yusuf ibn 'Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri, concluded agreements with several Visigoth-ruled towns on common defence arrangements against the encroachments of the Franks under Charles Martel, who had systematically and brutally brought the south to heel as he extended his domains. Charles failed in his attempt to take Narbonne in 737, when the city was jointly defended by its Muslim Arab and Christian Visigoth citizens. Francia: After 732, according to some writers, Charles Martel began the integration of Arab-style heavy cavalry, using the stirrup and mailed armour, into his army, and trained his infantry to fight in conjunction with cavalry, a tactic which stood him in good stead during his campaigns of 736-7, especially at the Battle of Narbonne. Others have noted that there is no mention of stirrups in inventories, literary sources or military manuals even as late as Charlemagne's reign (fl. 791). Stirrups first appear in Frankish graves in the 800s. – Butt 2002. 734: Sicily: Unsuccessful attack by Muslims from Africa; Byzantine ships intercept the Muslim fleet and take many prisoners. The expedition to Sicily in 116/734 under 'Uthman b. Abi 'Ubayda al-Fihri was apparently a considerable disaster, as the Byzantine fleet again intercepted the Muslims at sea on their return, capturing 'Uthman's two sons (Blankinship 1994:194; Ahmad p.3; Kennedy 2008: 334). See next and 740. 735: 1. Iberia [present-day Georgia]: It was not until 735 that the Arabs succeeded in establishing their firm control over a large portion of the country. In that year, Marwan, governor of Armenia, took hold of Tbilisi and much of the neighbouring lands and installed there an Arab emir, who was to be confirmed by the Caliph of Baghdad or, occasionally, by the Wali of Armenia. 2. Muslim raid on Byzantine Sardinia. 735: d. Venerable Bede, the "English", i.e. Northumbrian, monk and historian. What is now England was still divided among the Anglo-


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY Saxon kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria. 736: The caliphate: Mu’awiya, the son of Hisham, whose descendants reigned later in Spain, was in command of the Muslim army until AH 118 (AD 736), when he met his death accidentally in Asia Minor by a fall from his horse. After his death, Suleiman, another son of the caliph, took the supreme command. Cf 739-40. Territory in 737 The Umayyad Caliphate dominated the whole ‘bottom’ half of the Mediterranean, from Provence [vs the Franks] and Spain across North Africa to Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Armenia and Georgia. Byzantium ruled Sicily, but nearly all of the Italian peninsula was controlled by the Romance-speaking Germano-Italian Lombards. The duchy of Rome, no longer securely connected by land with the imperial outpost at Ravenna, was de facto a vassal of the Lombards. Slavic tribes controlled or dominated most of the Balkans, including our Greece, although nearly all of Thrace was under imperial rule as far as Philippopolis (modern Plovdiv in Bulgaria). Sicily, Thrace, Crete and Asia Minor were the only large areas wholly under imperial rule [cf 751 – Thrace]. But, because its navy remained relatively strong, Byzantium still dominated, or could in principle dominate, the seas: from the Balearics, Sardinia and Corsica to the heel of Italy, and from Venice and the Dalmatian coast to what is now eastern Greece, Crete and Rhodes. Cf 739 and 739-40. 737: 1. The emperor transfers religious control of South Italy from Rome to Constantinople: cf 800. Cath. Encyc.: “When . . . Leo the Isaurian, by a stroke of his pen, withdrew Southern Italy from the patriarchal jurisdiction of Rome and gave it to the Patriarch of Constantinople, the process of hellenization became more rapid; it received a further impulse when, on account of the Saracenic occupation of Sicily, Greeks and hellenized Sicilians repaired [escaped] to Calabria and Apulia.” - This statement must not be read too literally. Calabria was already deeply hellenised, and most of Apulia continued to be Romance-speaking (late Latin/proto Italian) to beyond AD 1,000. 2. Venice: Orso Ipato [Ursus surnamed Hypatos, ‘consul’], 726-737, was traditionally the third doge (elected dux) but probably in fact the first. Commander of the imperial garrison at Venice, he received the title of ‘consul’ from the emperor for recapturing Ravenna. He rebelled against Constantinople in not accepting iconoclasm. He was chosen as dux by the clergy and people. He eventually surrendered and was murdered. For five years, 737-742, the doge was replaced by a magister militum (‘master of soldiers’ or general) named Domenico Leoni, strictly controlled by the Exarch.* After Orso's violent death (assassinated perhaps at the instigation of


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY Eutychius, Exarch of Ravenna), there was a brief interregnum before his son, Teodato, was elected as the second historical doge of Venice. Cf below: 737, 738-40. (*) The post of dux had been an imperial appointment since 697; it appears that Orso was the first local to be elected leader by the Venetian ruling caste. Emperor Leo awarded him the title of ‘consul’ (hypatos), which evidently was de facto recognition of Venice’s independence only from the Exarch. Venice was seen, at least from the time of the second doge, Teodato, as self-ruling but still an imperial province under imperial authority (Nicol 1992: 11). 3. In Transcaucasia the Khazar homeland is invaded by Muslim Arabs. But the Alans withdrew and the Khazars (allied with Byzantium) maintained their control of Transcaucasia. — The Arabs defeated the Khazars and drove them north of the Caucacus. An Arab army then sacked the Khazarian capital before withdrawing south of the Caucasus, effectively establishing that mountain range as their boundary. — The Umayyad commander and future caliph, Marwan b. Muhammad, in AH 120/AD 737 made a daring advance into Khazar territory, capturing the city of “al-Bay's" (probably Sarkel on the Don). Proceeding further, he “attacked the al-Saliba [Slavs] and the various infidels [Alans] who lived beyond them”, taking prisoner some 20,000 families. Marwan continued his advance and made camp on the “River of the Slavs” (nahr al-al’Saliba), possibly the Volga. — During the 720s, the Khazars had moved their capital to Samandar, a coastal town in the north Caucasus noted for its gardens and vineyards. In 750, the capital would be moved to the "city" (town) of Itil (Atil) on the edge of the Volga River at the top of the Caspian Sea. The name "Itil" also designated the Volga River in the medieval age. Itil would remain the Khazar capital for at least another 200 years. 737: The Franks under Charles Martel drove south along the Rhone River in 737 seeking to dislodge the Muslims from their receently established bases at Lyon, Avignon, Carcassonne, and Nimes. Although he decisively established Frankish supremacy in the Rhone valley, Charles was unable to capture Narbonne. 737-38: 1. The Eastern marches: The Caliph went to Melitene* where his son Sulayman was raiding Romaniyan territory and carried away many captives: ‘Chron. of 1234’, §165 (p. 312). = Chronicon Anonymi ad annum 1234 pertinens, ed. and tr. J.-B. Chabot, I = CSCO 81-82 (Paris, 1916-20), II = CSCO 109 (Louvain, 1937). (*) Samosata (Sumaysat) was the strategic crossing point on the upper Euphrates, whence Arab armies from the east proceeded to the main frontier outposts of Malatya (Melitene), Hadath (Adata) and Mar’ash (Germanicia) (Kennedy 1981: 22). 2. Georgia: The town of Archaeopolis [modern Nokalakevi] in Lazica or Egrisi


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY was destroyed by the Arab commander, the governor of Armenia and Azerbaijan and future caliph, Marwan ibn-Muhammad. He became known to the Georgians as Murvan Kru (Murvan the Deaf) because he was oblivious to their pleas for mercy in his rampage throughout Georgia (Wikipedia 2010 under ‘Nokalakevi’). 737 or 738-740: Italy: Luitprand’s Lombards briefly seize Ravenna (?737 or 738), but the Byzantine Exarch, aided by the Venetians, recovers the city (possibly in 740). Treadgold 1997: 355, citing Noble 1984, places its loss and recapture in the one same year, 738. The pope encouraged Orso, the dux or doge of Venice, to aid the exarch Eutychius. While the exarch led troops from Imola to besiege the landward side, Orso led a small squadron of ships to blockage Ravenna’s port Classis. The Lombard garrison that Liutprand had left in place was surprised and overwhelmed. This success could not disguise that Byzantine authority in Italy was falling apart, an inevitability that in 739 caused the pope to appeal (in vain) to Charles Martel of the Franks. Further warfare erupted in 739. Pope Gregory III had supported the dukes of Benevento and Spoleto against Liutprand, causing the latter to invade central Italy. The exarchate, as well as the Duchy of Rome, was ravaged. 738-39: N Italy: In 738 the Lombard duke Transamund or Thrasimund of Spoleto, without reference tio King Liutprand, captured the papal ‘castle’ (fortress) of Gallese, N of Rome: east of Viterbo, which protected the papal-imperial road north from Nepi to Perugia and onwards, i.e. the Via Amerina (Noble p.43). Gallese is halfway between Civita Castellana (the nodal point where the Via Amerina touched the Via Flaminia) and Orte. By the payment of a large sum of money, the Roman patriarch Gregory III induced the duke to restore the castle to him or at least to the Duchy of Rome. He acted without reference to the exarch or emperor. The pope then sought by an alliance with Transamund to protect himself against King Liutprand. Lombard Advance in NW Latium Pope Gregory III had supported the dukes of Benevento and Spoleto against king Liutprand, causing the latter to invade central Italy. The Exarchate, which is to say: the Ravenna-Venice region, as well as the Duchy of Rome, was ravaged. Liutrand sacks Ravenna (738). Luitprand’s troops ravaged the exarchate proper around Ravenna, and he himself marched south to bring to subjection his vassals, the dukes of Spoleto and Benevento, and the ex-imperial duchy of Rome. Transamund of Spoleto fled to Rome, and Gregory implored (739 or 740) the aid of the great Frankish chief, Charles Martel. At length ambassadors from Charles, the subregulus or viceroy of the Franks, appeared in Rome (739/40). Their arrival, or the summer heat, brought a momentary peace. But in the following year, Liutprand again took the field.


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY The following year Liutprand expelled the Lombard duke of Spoleto and occupied four towns, or better: fortified villages, of the 'Roman patrimony' [papal domains] in response to a hostile alliance between Spoleto, Benevento and the papacy. Liutprand conquered (739) Spoleto, besieged Rome, laid waste the Duchy of Rome, and when he withdrew north kept hold of four important frontier fortresses in the region around Viterbo: *[Note 1 below] Blera [medieval Bieda], [2] Orte, [3] Bomarzo, and [4] Amelia (Noble p.45). These towns were recovered after 741: see there. Amelia and Orte lay on the Via Amerina. Thus the Lombards had nearly* cut off Rome from communication with Perugia and Ravenna. And Blera lay on the Via Clodia, one of several highways into Rome from Tuscany. In this exigency the pope now (739) for the first time turned to the powerful Frankish kingdom for aid. Noble p.48 imagines that the pope and his advisers had decided that a papal republic protected by the Franks must replace the old Byzantine Duchy of Rome. (*) Since about 600 it was the Via Amerina and its forts that had been "the communications core of Imperial Italy and the chief support to the claim that imperial Italy was still extant". —Hallenbeck 1982: 8. The Via Amerina was a road that broke off from the Via Cassia, the ancient road via Viterbo to Florence, near Baccanae [SE of Sutri]. It ran thence NE through Falerii [modern Civita Castellana: 65 km directly north of Rome, i.e. NE of Nepi, SE of Viterbo], and then north to Orte/Horta and Tuder [presentday Todi: west of Spoleto], and on to Perusia [modern Perugia]. Rome (s), Spoleto (n), Viterbo (w) and l’Aquila (e) form the points of a cross: [Note 1] Orte, on the Tiber east of Viterbo, was a key fortress on the route south from Umbria to Rome along the Via Amerina. Location: With Bomarzo and Amelia, it forms a triangle staddling the Tiber and the modern A1 highway from Rome to Orvieto. [2] Bomarzo, ancient Polymartium: Bomarzo is a small town, located NW of Viterbo and NW of Orte. [3] Amelia: directly north of Orte on the Via Amerina; NW of Narni; west of the Via Flaminia. Location: About halfway between Viterbo and Spoleto. [4] Blera, SE of Viterbo, was a key point on the route from Tuscany to Rome along the Via Clodia. The Via Clodia was an ancient high-road of Italy. Its course, for the first 18 km out of Rome, was the same as that of the Via Cassia; it then diverged to the NNW and ran on the W side of the Lacus Sabatinus, past Forum Clodii and Blera. The Via Cassia ran past the other, E side of the lake, and thence NNW. The eastern leg of the ancient Roman highway, the Via Flaminia Nova, ran from Spoleto roughly SE through Terni and Narni and on to Rome. The older western leg, the Via Flaminia Vetus, joined it at Narni. Thus the fortresses in question lay between two key highways to and from Rome: the Via Clodia through Blera, linking Tuscany to Rome; and the Via Flaminia, linking Umbria to Rome.



Most of Italy was lost to imperial rule by this time. Rhomaniya was supreme at sea, but on the peninsula it ruled only the toe and heel of Italy and the coastal sector at the top of the Adriatic in the Ravenna-Venice region. Sicily was the great Byzantine bastion. The independent Romano-Greek 'cities' (towns) of Naples, Amalfi, Venice, and a tiny Papal State based on Rome, contended almost unaided against the Lombard kings and dukes who controlled most of the peninsula. 739: 1. Lombard Italy: A panegyric on the city of Milan, written in 739 by an anonymous author, proclaims proudly that “the building on the forum is most beautiful, and all the network of streets is solidly paved; the water for the baths runs across an aqueduct” (trans. Wickham 1981: 82). 0r: “it takes water through a channel to the baths” (Ward-Perkins) - which suggests the whole scheme was still functioning (thus Greenhalgh 1989). Ward-Perkins 1984: 129 doubts that the water was for secular communal bathing and more likely it was used for ecclesiastical purposes; but if we follow Squatriti 2002: 16, 48 ff this may be wrong: more likely the baths were used communally by the ruling caste. 2. Egypt: According to Ibn Khaldun and others, a fleet of “360” Imperial ships attacked Damietta in Egypt. If correct, this number must have included many small boats (Dromon p.33). 3. Egypt: First of several revolts by Copts, i.e. local Christians, against Muslim rule. (We may guess that the population was still about 80% Christian.) 739: Central Europe: The English-born monk Boniface establishes a bishopric at Salzburg in pagan Slav territory (present-day Austria). It was not until later in the century that the Franks would extend their rule to Austria … c. 740: The Khazars - between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea adopt Judaism. The instability of the Umayyad regime made a permanent occupation impossible; the Arab armies withdrew and Khazar independence was re-asserted. It has been speculated that the adoption of Judaism - which in this theory would have taken place around 740 - was part of this re-assertion of independence. Others prefer to date the adoption to the later 700s (Wikipedia, 2006, under ‘Khazars’). 739/40: Offensive strategy resumed in the East: Leo leads out an army which includes the Thematic forces: battle of Acroinion or Acroenus which is today’s Afyon, SW of Amorium and NE of the Lakes District in west-central Asia Minor. Leo ascribes the decisive imperial victory (740) over the Umayyad armies to God’s approval of Iconoclasm. He renames Acroenus ‘Nicopolis’, ‘victorycity’.“Leo's actions were dictated by an overriding concern for the unity of the empire, which was under threat from the Arabs, against whom he joined


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY forces with the Khazars and the Georgians: the victory against Arab forces led by Sayyid al-Battal at Akroinon, a Phrygian city of the Anatolikon theme: modern Afyon, in 740 proved decisive in halting the Umayyad advance in Asia Minor.” – Bronwen Neill, “Leo III”,; accessed 2006. As Angold notes, 2001: 77, this victory, and the disintegration of Umayyad rule the subsequent civil war: see 743-50, gave the Byzantines nearly 40 years of peace along the Eastern frontier. The Victory of 740 An Umayyad Arab army under the caliph’s son Suleiman invaded Asia Minor and plundered widely in several detachments. In May 740 he mounted an attack on the empire jointly with the three generals: Gamer or Ghamr; ‘Melich’ or Malik, a name meaning ‘kingly’; and ‘Batal’: Abdallah b. Hosain, called al-Battal, “the brave”. (1) Ghamr led 10,000 light-armed troops into Anatolia; (2) Malik and Battal with 20,000 cavalry proceeded to Akroinos; and (3) Suleiman himself led “60,000” troops through the Cilician Gates to Tyana (TCOT). Theophanes says that Sulayman with "60,000" men attacked the district around Tyana in S. Cappadocia. “He captured many men and women and animals and returned safely but [another army or large detachment under] Melich (Malik) and Batal (al-Battal) suffered a major defeat near Akroinon and only a few of their men survived and managed to join Sulayman and return safely to Syria”: Theoph., Chronicle AM 6231 (TCOT: 103). Leo’s victory (740) against Arab forces led by Sayyid al-Battal at Akroinon, a Phrygian town or village of the Anatolikon theme: near modern Afyon Karahissar, in west-central Anatolia*, proved decisive in halting the Umayyad advance in Asia Minor. The Arab army of "20,000" men, mainly Syrians, was hampered by the amount of booty it was carrying; and, cornered at Acroinion, it was virtually exterminated. Theophanes says that 6,800 escaped and survived, implying that 13,200 died or were captured. (*) At the centre of the triangle formed by Ephesus, Dorylaeum and Iconium. Renamed Nicopolis or ‘victory city’ in 740. One part of the raiders was defeated by Leo III and his son Constantine at Acroinon, on the western edge of the Anatolian plateau. Although the East Romans had won some smaller victories over Arab raiders in the preceding decades, this victory left Constantine well-placed to take advantage of the collapse of the Umayyad dynasty in the ensuing Muslim Civil War, 743-48. 2. Across Thrace-Constantinople-Bithynia: A series of earthquakes: the ancient land walls of the Capital had to be repaired. At least one tower wholly collapsed and had to be rebuilt from its foundations (Tsangadas 1980: 62). Nicomedia, once an imperial capital city, was wrecked by the same earthquake; it was left mostly in ruins. After 740: Hagia Eirene ('Holy Peace'), in Constantinople, the renowned


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY Iconoclastic-period church, is rebuilt following its destruction in this earthquake. Decoration is restricted to non-figural mosaics, including the apse mosaic representing the Cross. The period 740-47, which saw a great earthquake followed by a severe plague, would constitute, according to Mango (1980: 79), the greatest crisis that Constantinople ever faced. – But, through it Constantine V (acc. 741) maintained an offensive policy against the Muslim Khalifate. 3. Italy: When the Lombard king Liutprand captured Ravenna in 740, the exarch took refuge on the Venetian lagoon, from where he recaptured his capital with the help of the Venetici (Noble p.42; or in 738 according to Treadgold). As we noted earlier, the exarch Eutychius and pope Gregory appealed to Venice to liberate Ravenna, which they succeeded in doing. Nevertheless, it was clear the Byzantine authority in Italy was falling apart, an inevitability that caused the pope to appeal to Charles Martel of the Franks that same year (739). 4. Sicily: The first governor of N Africa to contemplate the actual conquest of Byzantine Sicily was ‘Ubayd-Allah b. Habhab. The Saracens launch (740: see next) an attack in strength against Sicily. Led by ‘prince’ Habib, a young commander called Habib b. Abi-‘Ubayda, who had participated to the 728 attack, and the governor’s son Abd-ar-Rahman, the Saracens tried to capture Syracuse by siege and planned to use the city as a base to conquer the rest of Sicily. Their plans were thwarted when a revolt (in Tangier) by the Maysata or Matghara tribe of Berbers—‘the Great Berber Revolt’—forced them to return to Tunisia (Ahmad p.4). See 753. 740: The West: The Muslims of Ifriqiya launch a large scale campaign against Byzantine Sicily. The objective was Syracuse, capital of the province, and the Arabs brought horses with them (an interesting early example of the use of horse-transporter ships: cf AD 827). It failed, and it was not followed up because the next year, 740-41, saw a massive Berber revolt in North Africa against Arab tax gatherers and slavers (Kennedy 2008: 334). Imperial Territory With the loss of Tunisia to the Arabs, 670-702, and with nearly the whole of the Balkans still controlled by Slavic tribes, Byzantium had reached its early low-point in terms of territory ruled. Losses since 650: N Africa - Kairouan and Carthage - to the Caliphate; central Italy to the Lombards; part of N Balkans to the Bulgars; S Caucasus to the Caliphate [cf Muslims vs Khazars 737]; and Cilicia Minor to the Caliphate. In the West, only Sardinia (notionally), Sicily, the region of Campania around Naples, along with the front foot and lower heel of Italy,


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY acknowledged Byzantine rule. The only large imperial province in the West was Sicily. All of central and N Italy was Lombard except for several tiny parcels around Ravenna and Venice and at the top of the Adriatic. The Duchy of Rome, under the popes, was efefctively independent. Other borders: around Thessalonica and along the Dalmatian coast, vs Slavs. Asia Minor of course constituted the immense heartland of the empire. Cities New Rome (Constantinople) remained by far the largest city in the Mediterranean sphere. Among the cities or towns of the second rank, just three were Christian: Byzantine Thessalonica; Byzantine Venice, surrounded by Lombard-ruled territory; and papal Rome: also dominated by surrounding Lombard domains. All the other significant cities, perhaps 11 in number, were under Muslim (Abbasid) rule: North African Kairouan, Alexandria in Egypt, Damascus (the seat of the Caliphate), Antioch, Syrian Aleppo, Kufa [Edessa] in present-day far E Turkey, Wasit, Basra, Hamadan, Persian Istakhr and Merv in Khurasan. In his New Atlas, 1992, McEvedy lists 14 major cities and towns in the caliphate: he would delete Kairouan, Aleppo, Istakhr and Merv as still quite small; and he would add Toledo in Spain, Fustat [modern Cairo], Mosul, Ctesiphon, Shiraz, Rayy [modern Teheran] and Nishapur to the list of secondrank cities.

Above: Constantine V. Miniature from the ‘Modena Zonaras’, a manuscript of the 12th century chronicler Zonaras in the Biblioteca Estense, Modena. Although the manuscript is a copy made in the 1400s, the miniatures are similar to


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY contemporary coin portraits of the emperors, and therefore perhaps accurate depictions.

741-775: CONSTANTINE V ‘Copronymus’ Copronymus or “dung-name” was a nickname applied afterwards by his icon-loving enemies. As a baby he was supposed to have shat in the baptismal font. Son of Leo III, Constantine was aged 22 at accession. First wife, marr. 732: Irene (birth name Chichak) ‘the Khazar’, dau. of the khagan, d. 750, mother of the future emperor Leo IV, born 749. Second wife: Maria, d. 751. Third wife: Eudocia/Eudoxia. Gibbon accepts that Constantine was “dissolute and cruel”, notwithstanding the unfairness of his detractors, but even they reluctantly praised his activity and courage. Treadgold, 1997: 356, calls him “astute and active”. They agree that his success was decidedly mixed. His armies won notable victories in Syria against the Muslims; and East Roman expeditions raided into Mesopotamia on several occasions: see 751, 752, and 776. In nine campaigns from 756 to 775 he virtually destroyed the Bulgarian army, and yet (says Treadgold 1997: 366), he gained no decisive advantage against Bulgaria and added only a little territory in Thrace (from the Slavs). And in horthern Italy nothing was done, probably because nothing worthwhile could have been done, to save the tiny remnant of the empire that was Ravenna. Constantine's succession was contested by his brother-in-law, Artavasdus married to Constantine's sister Anna, - who defeated Constantine in battle and was proclaimed emperor and reigned for nearly two years, 741-43. But in 743 Constantine recaptured the capital, executed Artavasdus and his son, and ascended the throne. Nicknamed ‘dung-name’ by his outraged opponents, he vigorously carried out the Iconoclast program by waging open warfare on the monastic establishments. He confiscated properties, martyred monks, drafted others into the army and forced many to marry nuns. He also crushed the Bulgarians, fought off the Arabs and completed his father's financial and administrative reforms. Notably, in the 760s, he reformed the army. The sources are mostly hostile to Constantine, so we do not know how unfair Theophanes is when he says that the emperor “enjoyed kithara*playing and drinking bouts, and educated the men around him to foul language and dancing” (TCOT s.a. 768, when the emperor was aged 50). (*) Not a guitar, but rather the seven stringed sound-boxed lyre inherited from Antiquity. Because it is played with a rigid plectrum it can sound like a guitar. Cf sound samples (2008) at


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY; ‘Ancient Greek Music’ website of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Violently cruel and savage, Constantine was also a first-rate general and a personally brave man. He died of natural causes. In later years the people of Constantinople would stand on his tomb imploring his aid against enemies who imperilled the city's defences, or, as Gibbon puts it: "the Christian hero [was supposed to have] appeared on a milk-white steed, brandishing his lance against the pagans of Bulgaria". This refers to 813 (38 years after his death: see there) when the populace broke into the imperial mausoleum at Holy Apostles and threw themselves before his tomb and beseeched him to return and save the empire from the Bulgarians. 740-42: Berber rebellion in Muslim-ruled Africa. By 741: Italy: The gold coins minted at Syracuse were restored to their previous fineness, i.e. back to 80% gold, while the mints of Rome and Ravenna continued to reduce the amount of gold in their coins. This reign saw the last gold nomismata minted at Rome (McCormick in NCMH vol 2 p.543; Rome: Grierson, Byz Coinage 1982).

Above: Gold nomisma or solidus (4.41 g) minted at Constantinople. Facing busts of Constantine V and son Leo IV; above, cross. Reverse: Facing bust of Leo III holding cross potent. 741: Palestine and Syria: At this time the strongest regional armies of the Caliphate, those of Hims/Emesa, Damascus, Jordan and Palestine, were organised much like the Romanic themes, and each could muster 6,000 cavalry and infantry. Cf 747. 741-42: Italy: The Greco-Calabrian Zachary or Zacharias, “the last Greek pope”, 74152, was born in Santa Severina. He became Roman patriarch in December


O’ROURKE: BYZANTIUM IN THE 8TH CENTURY 741 just when the Lombards under king Luitprand were preparing to attack the ducatus of Rome. Zacharias sent an embassy and persuaded the king to abandon his plans and to promise the return of certain towns recently seized by the Lombards. Shortly afterwards (742) the Lombards mounted an expedition jointly with troops from Rome against Thrasimund, the dux of Spoleto, who was deposed. The towns were returned to the papacy. —Lib. Pont. 93. 5. See more detail below under 741-52. “The real ruler of the city and of the Roman duchy, who conducted affairs, who commanded because he paid, was the Pope. The Liber Pontificalis relates that Zacharias having to make a journey, set out from Rome >>leaving the government to the duke and patrician [Gk patrikios*] Stephen.
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