Byzantine military manuals

This article lists and briefly discusses the most important of a large number of treatises on military science produced in the Byzantine Empire during its thousand-year existence.

Background

The East Roman or Byzantine Empire was, for much of its history, one of the major powers of the medieval world. The inheritor of the traditions and institutions of the Roman Empire, throughout its history it was assailed on all sides by various numerically superior enemies. The Empire therefore maintained a highly sophisticated military system, which relied on discipline, training, knowledge of tactics and a well-organized support system. A crucial element in the maintenance and spreading of this military know-how, along with traditional histories, were the various treatises and practical manuals. These continued a tradition that stretched back to Xenophon and Aeneas the Tactician, and in many Byzantine works, use is made of the works of ancient authors.

List of works

The number of such works that have survived intact or in a fragmented form exceed 200. They proliferate greatly in the 10 century, when the Byzantines embarked on their conquests in the East and the Balkans, and dry up after the 11th century.

* The mid-6th century "Anonymous Treatise on Strategy" (περὶ στρατηγικῆς) written by a retired military engineer.
* The late-6th century "Strategikon" is attributed to Emperor Maurice (r. 582-602), and concerns the setting up of an army in formation for battle, giving special emphasis to cavalry. It also includes a section on the fighting methods and habits of the various enemies of the Empire. The "Strategikon", although relatively unknown, is widely considered a masterpiece of military art, and forms the core of Byzantine military thought, from which all later treatises borrow.
* The "Naumachiai" (Ναυμαχίαι, "Sea Battles") of Syrianos Magistros on sea warfare, written in the 6th century
* The "Tactica" of Emperor Leo VI the Wise (r. 866-912), written ca. 903. In most aspects, they are a verbatim copy of the "Strategikon", with a few emendations to reflect changes and contemprary practice.
* The so-called "Three Treatises on Imperial Military Expeditions", an appendix to the "De Ceremoniis" of Emperor Constantine VII.
* The "De velitatione bellica" (περὶ παραδρομῆς πολέμου) attributed to Emperor Nicephorus II Phocas (r. 963-969). It is an essay on light infantry and skirmishing warfare.
* The "Praecepta militaria" of Emperor Nicephorus II Phocas, which presents the army of the latter 10th century during the "Byzantine Reconquest", composed of heavy infantry and heavy cavalry.
* The "Sylloge Tacticorum", compiled in the latter half of the 10th century.
* The "Parangelmata Poliorcetica", a manual on siege warfare, by the so-called Hero of Byzantium.
* The "Tactica" of Nikephoros Ouranos, one of the best generals of Basil II, written ca. 1000. It draws upon the "Praecepta", but also includes chapters from Ouranos' own experience on raiding and sieges.
* The "Strategikon" of Kekaumenos, written ca. 1075-1078. Not strictly a military manual, it contains general advice in military, administrative and household affairs, often illustrated by examples from 11th century events.

References

Sources

*cite book
first = John F.
last = Haldon
title = Warfare, state and society in the Byzantine world, 565-1204
year = 1999
publisher = Routledge
isbn = 1857284941

*cite book
first = Dennis F.
last = Sullivan
coauthors = Heron
title = Siegecraft: Two Tenth-century Instructional Manuals
year = 2000
publisher = Dumbarton Oaks
isbn = 0884022706

* cite book
first=Shaun
last=Tougher
title=The Reign of Leo VI (886-912): Politics and People
year=1997
publisher=BRILL
isbn=9004097775

*cite book
title=Byzantium and Its Army, 284-1081
last=Treadgold
first=Warren T.
year=1995
publisher=Stanford University Press
isbn=0804731632

* cite conference
first = Frank
last = Trombley
title = The "Taktika" of Nikephoros Ouranos and Military Encyclopaedism
booktitle = Pre-modern Encyclopaedic Texts: Proceedings of the Second COMERS Congress, Groningen, 1-4 July 1996
pages = 261-274
publisher = BRILL
date = 1997
location =
url =
accessdate =
id = ISBN 9004108300


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