Byzantine diplomacy concerns the principles and methods, the mechanisms the ideals and techniques that the
Byzantine empireespoused and used in order to negotiate with the other states and to promote the goals of its foreign policy. Dimitri Obolenskyasserts that the preservation of civilization in Eastern Europewas due to the skill and resourcefulness of Byzantine diplomacy, which remains one of Byzantium's lasting contributions to the history of Europeand the Middle East.cite book |last=Obolensky |first=Dimitri |authorlink=Dimitri Obolensky |title=Byzantium and the Slavs|year=1994 |publisher=St Vladimir's SeminaryPress |isbn=088141008X|pages=3 |chapter=The Principles and Methods of Byzantine Diplomacy]
Challenges and goals
After the fall of
Rome, the key challenge to the Byzantine Empirewas to maintain a set of relations between itself and its sundry neighbors, including the Germanic peoples, the Bulgars, the Slavs, the Armenians, the Huns, the Avars, the Franks, the Lombards, and the Arabs, that embodied and so maintained its imperial status. All these neighbors lacked a key resource that Byzantium had taken over from Rome, namely a formalized legal structure. When they set about forging formal political institutions, they were dependent on the empire. Whereas classical writers are fond of making a sharp distinction between peace and war, for the Byzantines diplomacy was a form of war by other means. Anticipating Niccolò Machiavelliand Carl von Clausewitz, Byzantine historian John Kinnamoswrites, "Since many and various matters lead toward one end, victory, it is a matter of indifference which one uses to reach it." With a regular army that never exceeded 140,000Fact|date=March 2008 men after the losses of the seventh century, the empire's security depended on activist diplomacy. Byzantium's " Bureau of Barbarians" was the first foreign intelligence agency, gathering information on the empire’s rivals from every imaginable source.cite journal |last=Antonucci |first=Michael |year=1993 |month=February |title= War by Other Means: The Legacy of Byzantium|journal=History Today |volume=43 |issue=2 |pages=11–13 |url=http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb4706/is_199302/ai_n17277331|accessdate=2007-05-21]
Principles and methods
Byzantine diplomacy drew its neighbors into a network of international and interstate relations, controlled by the empire itself.cite journal |last=Neumann |first=Iver. B. |year=2006 |month=August |title= Sublime Diplomacy: Byzantine, Early Modern, Contemporary |journal=Millennium: Journal of International Studies |volume=34 |issue=3 |pages=869–70 |id=ISSN 1569-2981 |url=http://www.clingendael.nl/publications/2005/20051200_cli_paper_dip_issue102.pdf |accessdate=2007-05-21 |quote= ] This process revolved around treaty making. Byzantine historian Evangelos Chrysos postulates a three‐layered process at work:
*The new ruler was welcomed into the family of kings.
*There was an assimilation of Byzantine social attitudes and values.
*As a formalization of the second layer of the process, there were laws. [cite book |last=Chrysos |first=Evangelos |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Byzantine Diplomacy: Papers from the Twenty‐Fourth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Cambridge, March 1990 (Society for the Promotion of Byzant) |year=1992 |publisher=Variorum |isbn=0-860-78338-3 |editor= Jonathan Shepard, Simon Franklin|pages=35 |chapter=Byzantine Diplomacy, A.D. 300–800: Means and End]
In order to drive this process, the Byzantines availed themselves of a number of mostly diplomatic practices. For example, embassies to
Constantinoplewould often stay on for years. A member of other royal houses would routinely be requested to stay on in Constantinople, not only as a potential hostage, but also as a useful pawn in case political conditions where he came from changed. Another key practice was to overwhelm visitors by sumptuous displays. Constantinople's riches served the state's diplomatic purposes as a means of propaganda, and a way to impress foreigners. [cite book |last=Laiou |first=Angeliki E. |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=The Economic History of Byzantium (Volume 1)|year=2002 |publisher=Dumbarton Oaks|editor=Angeliki E. Laiou|pages=3|chapter=Writing the Economic History of Byzantium|url=http://www.doaks.org/EHB.html|chapterurl= http://www.doaks.org/EconHist/EHB01.pdf] When Liutprand of Cremonawas sent as an ambassador to the Byzantine capital, he was overwhelmed by the imperial residence, the luxurious meals, and acrobatic entertainment. Special care was taken to stimulate as many of the senses in as high degree as possible: brightly lighted things to see, terrifying sounds, tasty food; even the diplomatic set‐piece of having barbarians standing around the throne wearing their native gear.cite journal |last=Neumann |first=Iver. B. |year=2006 |month=August |title= Sublime Diplomacy: Byzantine, Early Modern, Contemporary |journal=Millennium: Journal of International Studies |volume=34 |issue=3 |pages=870–71 |id=ISSN 1569-2981 |url=http://www.clingendael.nl/publications/2005/20051200_cli_paper_dip_issue102.pdf |accessdate=2007-05-21 |quote= ]
The fact that Byzantium in its dealings with the barbarians generally preferred diplomacy to war is not surprising: for the East Romans, faced with the ever‐present necessity of having to battle on two fronts — in the east against
Persians, Arabs and Turks, in the north against the Slavs and the steppenomads — knew from personal experience how expensive in money and manpower is war.The Byzantines were skilled at using diplomacy as a weapon of war. If the Bulgarsthreatened, subsidies could be given to the Kiev Rus. A Rus threat could be countered by subsidies to the Patzinaks. If the Patzinaks proved troublesome, the Cumansor Uzescould be contacted. There was always someone to the enemy’s rear in a position to appreciate the emperor's largesse. Another innovative principle of Byzantine diplomacy was effective interference in the internal affairs of other states. In 1282, Michael VIIIsponsored a revolt in Sicilyagainst Charles of Anjoucalled the Sicilian Vespers. Emperor Heracliusonce intercepted a message from Persian rival Khosrau IIwhich ordered the execution of a general. Heraclius added 400 names to the message and diverted the messenger, provoking a rebellion by those on the list. The emperor maintained a stable of pretenders to almost every foreign throne. These could be given funds and released to wreak havoc if their homeland threatened attack.
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