The Goths were far from out of the running and although they had pulled back from Rome they still held plenty of territory in northern Italy, had a very strong base in Ravenna and were mobile and numerous enough to counterattack at any time. Continue reading HBR The Gothic War Continues – Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 41 Part 4
Despite all his efforts it was still very much touch and go as to whether the Romans would be able to keep Rome. The Byzantine position in Italy was still highly precarious. Holding Rome depended on keeping out the Goths who had rapidly regrouped and were now laying siege. There had been a change in leadership too, with the rather indecisive Theodatus by replaced by the much more aggressive Witiges. The Goths were getting back into form as barbarian invaders and finally pulling together as a coherent force. Continue reading The Siege of Rome – Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 41 Part 3
The Goths with their extensive kingdom in Italy ought to have found events in Africa thought provoking. Here was a resurgent Empire confidently recovering a lost province. They must have guessed that they were now top of the to do list. Perhaps now was the time to unite against a common enemy. Continue reading The Reconquest of Italy – Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 41 Part 2
One of the problems of reading history is that we get a very distorted view of it. We are looking at the past down the wrong end of a telescope. A good example is the Vandal kingdom of North Africa. This seems like a very ephemeral kind of thing from our point of view. In fact the Vandal Kingdom lasted for over 50 years and it must have seemed pretty well established to people living in it. It was possible to have been born in it and to have lived to a pretty mature age without knowing any different. Continue reading The Reconquest of Africa – Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 41 Part 1
If you are a regular follower you’ll know that most of my output is an extended review in great detail of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. This episode fits in with that review but I have stepped out of the frame of the book briefly. I have reached the reign of Justinian, and I want to go into a bit more detail about the changes in the military set up in the Empire at around this time. Gibbon covers it well enough and his account is okay, but I think it is important enough to warrant going into a bit more depth. So I have dug into Gibbons source, the historian and soldier Procopius, and also into Edward Luttwak’s book on Byzantine strategy which I have reviewed previously. Edward Luttwak is a Romanian born strategic thinker and consultant to the American defence department. I am not sure how he got his Anglo Saxon forename, but I do know he has been into the sources of information about what made the Byzantine Empire tick in a lot of detail.
With these three guides I hope we can have an illuminating journey.
So why do I say the Byzantines had a military revolution, and what prompted it? Continue reading The Byzantine Military Revolution
The extraordinary flowering of thought in Athens in the fifth century before Christ has demanded an explanation but has defied submitting to one. People have suggested all sorts of reasons from the development of the Greek economy to the availability of exceptionally nutritious shellfish.
The largest man-made enclosed space in the world is the Pentagon. The United States is a big country, with a big opinion of itself and which asserts that it has an important mission. Their defence headquarters is not just somewhere to keep their photocopy paper. It is a building that is meant to impress. Continue reading Hagia Sofia – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 40 Part 4
You know how strong a marriage is when it has to cope with a problem. Justinian and Theodora had a crisis early on in their reign. But they were a tough and resourceful couple. She was from the streets. He was a wily peasant who knew that he had landed on the throne by luck and that it could all unwind easily enough. He had his bags packed and was ready to go if things went wrong. Continue reading Nika Nika! Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 40 Part 3
Globalisation is not a new thing. The Roman and Chinese economies were linked by the trade between them, and this trade was significant enough to have an effect on their economies. Although they weren’t in a direct dialogue with one another, they were aware of each other’s existence and the policies they followed made a difference. Continue reading Silk – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 40 Part 2
The Byzantine Empire survived the turmoil that had wrecked the western Roman Empire despite having some pretty unimpressive leadership. Leo was the first emperor to use Greek for his legislation, but had little notable impact on the big picture. His successor was Zeno who was newly in post when the western Empire was ended. He consolidated the situation in the East but there was still instability at the top with other candidates for the throne creating problems. Zeno’s reign was briefly interrupted by the reign of Basiliscus. He was finally succeed by Anastasius, who owed his elevation to the favour of Zeno’s widow. This was hardly the most legitimate of grounds for rule, and to add to the problem he contrived to approach death childless and with no obvious heir. Continue reading The Rise of Justinian – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 40 Part 1