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PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2018 4:02 pm 
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Byzantine (Mediaeval Eastern Roman) emperor Leo V (r. 813-820) has been deemed too clever by half by some students of history.

First he toppled the inept reigning emperor Michael I Rangabe by withdrawing his troops in the middle of an open field battle at Versinikia against the Bulgars, a battle that the Byzantines were in the process of winning (for similar reasons of organization and drill that made the ancient Romans excel at open field battles against foes such as Celts, Iberians and Germans). This resulted in a great slaughter of Constantinople's army, whereupon Michael I resigned voluntarily, Leo seized power and had all Michaels' sons gelded. The triumphant Bulgar army marched to Constantinople, sacrificing in full view of the city walls and demanding negotiations. The Bulgar Khan Krum entered into a meeting with Leo V, but spotted a sign that betrayed how Leo had filled his retinue with assassins. The attempt at the Khan's life was botched, and fleeing slightly wounded back to his host, the enraged Khan burnt Constantinople's suburbs, massacred populations across the southern Balkans and ravaged Byzantine lands. Some years of external peace and internal iconoclam then followed.

In 820, Leo had his former friend and military commander Michael the Amorian arrested on treason charges. Instead of just executing Michael swiftly, Leo concocted a scheme where Michael was to be tied to an ape and cast into a bathhouse furnace, to be either maimed by the monkey or die from burning or dehydration under the heated bathhouse floor. However Christmas got in the way, and Leo delayed with Michael's punishment until after Christmas, whereupon Michael's supporters gathered and assassinated Leo V.

Then Michael II ascended the throne as a man who was not tied to an ape and cast into a furnace.

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PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2018 8:48 pm 
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So the moral is, tie the dude to an ape while you've got the chance?

:)

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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2018 7:12 am 
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Karak Norn Clansman wrote:
However Christmas got in the way, and Leo delayed with Michael's punishment until after Christmas, whereupon Michael's supporters gathered and assassinated Leo V.

#-o :shock: :lol:
SA is correct of course. It's the downfall of a lot of evil overlords. Just watch enough movies. The evil overlord always talks too much and postpones what could have been a swift solution to the good guy trying to overthrow him. It's much better to simply tie the dude to an ape while you have the chance and then do the talking afterwards to a corpse...

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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2018 8:19 pm 
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This prompted me to read up a bit on the Empire (I knew a little already). Good grief! Zeno for example seemed to spend most of his reign trying to retain his throne and he was one of the better Emperors!

Funny how the word 'Byzantine' has come to mean labyrinthine and duplicitous.

:roll:

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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 7:39 am 
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It seems to be the risk all great empires are at when they get older. At some point the rulers are no longer either elected or appointed by divine rule / because they were born that way. When the military discovers that they have the power to overthrow rulers and appoint new ones then the hardest job of the ruler is not actually ruling but simply staying in power.

The west roman empire went through similar episodes. Towards the end they had episodes where an emperor had trouble staying in power for more then a year. Which probably contributed to the whole downfall thingy...

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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 8:44 am 
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Great story! Its a testament to how stable the Empire was that it managed to continue despite all this! :lol:

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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 9:11 am 
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RE.Lee wrote:
Great story! Its a testament to how stable the Empire was that it managed to continue despite all this! :lol:

Just goes to show that the influence and power of a leader is somewhat limited. Things tend to simply go on running even when there is no one in charge.

It reminds me of an example from recent times, when in Belgium they needed almost two years after national elections to form a government. While this meant that there was no one with any real decision making authority for that period stuff just kept on working and there were no major issues anywhere.

Of course, it's not good for the long term future of a country (or company for that matter) if there is no (stable) leadership. Which is probably one of the reasons why the Byzantine empire probably slowly kept declining. But a stable, solid country can survive in the short term.

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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 8:07 pm 
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Don't sloth around with the monkey-binding-burning!

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Its a testament to how stable the Empire was that it managed to continue despite all this! :lol:


Much of it lies in the bureaucracy and military themes. The Byzantines went through a lot of civil wars and coups Roman-style while facing too many enemies from the outside, for century after century. It's rather mindboggling how it kept standing through all that turmoil, when so much else fell and disintegrated. But Constantinople always seemed to rebound, time and time again, reclaiming much lost land after being reduced to little more than a city state with scattered fortified coastal holdings. Astonishing grand strategy that revolved around the rich capitol itself being impregnable. You wouldn't think something that turbulent and beset would survive for long in those times!

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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 10:03 pm 
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Prince of Spires wrote:
The west roman empire went through similar episodes.

I wonder what the key differences were that reversed the decline in the East in the 5th and 6th centuries? Anastasius seems to have put things on a solid financial footing, as far as I can tell.

Karak Norn Clansman wrote:
Astonishing grand strategy that revolved around the rich capitol itself being impregnable.

Perhaps this might compare to Hannibal's inability to take Rome and the rather earlier repulse of the Gauls?

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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2018 7:53 am 
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Karak Norn Clansman wrote:
Much of it lies in the bureaucracy and military themes. The Byzantines went through a lot of civil wars and coups Roman-style while facing too many enemies from the outside, for century after century. It's rather mindboggling how it kept standing through all that turmoil, when so much else fell and disintegrated.

I remember reading about one of the greater conquerors the world has had over the centuries that he made a point of always keeping the bureaucrats alive after capturing a territory. Kill all the rulers but leave the administrators in place. This ensures that things keep running and that the day after the dust settles things revert to almost normal again and people are fed and paid and taxes get collected. Few people cared who was really inm charge (since they had no influence on it and one was as bad as the next). But they did care about the administration of the place.

I just can't remember who it was anymore.

Thanks for the grand strategy link by the way. Looks like a fun read (yes, I'm silly that way).
SpellArcher wrote:
Prince of Spires wrote:
The west roman empire went through similar episodes.

I wonder what the key differences were that reversed the decline in the East in the 5th and 6th centuries? Anastasius seems to have put things on a solid financial footing, as far as I can tell.

It's probably a couple of factors.

I think a very big one is the 3 factors involved in real estate purchases: "location, location, location". Byzantium was just in such an amazing location. Which made it almost impregnable, combined with a big natural harbor and an empire where if you captured one half the other half is on a different continent and you have to go through that impregnable city to get to it. Which really helps rebounding. And even as a city state it was important enough to be able to survive. It could control al lot of the trade from east to west through the Bosporus. So it was always assured of some importance as long as they could hold on to Byzantium.

The other could very well be that although they share the same Roman roots the eastern empire was relatively new. The Western empire was long set in its ways and those were probably hard to change.

And the rest is probably luck. Having the right figure at the right time in the right place. This sets an empire on a certain course and can make or break an empire in the long run. Similar to how the Marian reforms were pivotal in the rise in power of the early Roman empire.

Of course, the downside of the focus on Byzantium is that it more or less naturally limited the size of the eastern empire. Or at least the stable size. They gained a lot of territories over the years. But they lost them just as fast again (though in a 1000+ year history fast is a relative term of course...)

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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2018 10:01 pm 
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Well put, Prince of Spires! It wasn't Tamerlane, by any chance? He was at any rate famous for carting off all the artisans, artists and learned men to Samarkand.

SpellArcher, there are some parallells for sure. Hannibal after Cannae may have been left with an army that was heavily wounded. He had left siege equipment back in Spain and wasn't skilled as a besieger himself. Rome wasn't impregnable as such, but it may have been more of a hard nut to crack than Hannibal's commander believed.

One direct parallell is the Roman bloody-mindedness. Just as they had a fondness for civil wars after the Republic had played most of its course, they never knew when to quit. Hannibal was probably aghast to find that Rome refused to negotiate after he had slaughtered their enormous army at Cannae, but refuse they did, and then they swamped down Hannibal in south Italy, wrestled Spain from Carthage and landed in North Africa. They did have massive manpower at their disposal at this time, but most ancient powers in a similar situation would have been likely to fold from such a disaster.

Decidedly less manpower was available for Heraclius' devastating last gamble campaign against Shapur II's Sassanid Persia. See Byzantine-Sassanid war of 602-628. A war that lasted more than a generation, with most of the Romans' wealthy and populous areas under Persian occupation. A war that ravaged cities and countrysides, and brought both Romans and Persians to the brink. The almost 700-year long struggle between Rome and Persia ended with a resounding Roman victory in the last conflict, but at a horrible price. A deathgrip fight of empires, leaving both exhausted and quiet ripe for the plucking for conquerors from down south.

Romans didn't really know when to quit, and that helped them through their worst patches until the disaster of 1204.

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PostPosted: Sat May 19, 2018 9:02 pm 
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Karak Norn Clansman wrote:
The almost 700-year long struggle between Rome and Persia ended with a resounding Roman victory in the last conflict, but at a horrible price.

Decidely Pyrrhic.

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PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2018 7:45 am 
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Karak Norn Clansman wrote:
Romans didn't really know when to quit, and that helped them through their worst patches until the disaster of 1204.

Very true.

Also, they as a society were very focused on warfare. A lot of their technological advances were in the area of war and logistics. Which often helped them stay ahead of a lot of their opponents.

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Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

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PS: Bring cookies!

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