Byzantine diplomacy

Byzantine diplomacy concerns the principles and methods, the mechanisms the ideals and techniques that the Byzantine empire espoused and used in order to negotiate with the other states and to promote the goals of its foreign policy. Dimitri Obolensky asserts that the preservation of civilization in Eastern Europe was due to the skill and resourcefulness of Byzantine diplomacy, which remains one of Byzantium's lasting contributions to the history of Europe and 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 Empire was 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 Machiavelli and Carl von Clausewitz, Byzantine historian John Kinnamos writes, "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=|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= |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 Constantinople would 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=|chapterurl=] When Liutprand of Cremona was 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= |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 steppe nomads — 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 Bulgars threatened, 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 Cumans or Uzes could 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 VIII sponsored a revolt in Sicily against Charles of Anjou called the Sicilian Vespers. Emperor Heraclius once intercepted a message from Persian rival Khosrau II which 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.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Byzantine Empire — This article is about the medieval Roman empire. For other uses, see Byzantine (disambiguation). Roman Empire Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων, Ῥωμανία Basileia Rhōmaiōn, Rhōmanía Imperium Romanum, Romania …   Wikipedia

  • Byzantine Empire — the Eastern Roman Empire after the fall of the Western Empire in A.D. 476. Cap.: Constantinople. * * * Empire, southeastern and southern Europe and western Asia. It began as the city of Byzantium, which had grown from an ancient Greek colony… …   Universalium

  • Diplomacy — For the textual analysis of historic documents, see Diplomatics. For other uses, see Diplomacy (disambiguation). The United Nations, with its headquarters in New York City, is the largest international diplomatic organization. Diplomacy (from… …   Wikipedia

  • Byzantine law — Byzantine Culture Art • Architecture • Gardens Literature • Music Aristocracy &am …   Wikipedia

  • Byzantine–Arab Wars (780–1180) — Part of the Byzantine Arab Wars …   Wikipedia

  • diplomacy — /di ploh meuh see/, n. 1. the conduct by government officials of negotiations and other relations between nations. 2. the art or science of conducting such negotiations. 3. skill in managing negotiations, handling people, etc., so that there is… …   Universalium

  • Byzantine economy — The Byzantine economy was among the most advanced in Europe and the Mediterranean for many centuries. Constantinople was a prime hub in a trading network that at various times extended across nearly all of Eurasia and North Africa. Some scholars… …   Wikipedia

  • Byzantine architecture — The Pammakaristos Church in Constantinople. Byzantine architecture is the architecture of the Byzantine Empire. The empire gradually emerged as a distinct artistic and cultural entity from what is today referred to as the Roman Empire after AD… …   Wikipedia

  • Byzantine–Ottoman Wars — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Byzantine Ottoman wars caption=Clockwise from top left: Walls of Constantinople, Ottoman Janissaries, Byzantine Flag, Ottoman Bronze Cannon. partof=|date=1299 to 1453 place=Asia Minor result=Decisive Ottoman… …   Wikipedia

  • Byzantine coinage — Numismatics Terminology Portal Currency …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.