Lingering Martial Romanitas in Byzantium

 

Howdy, readers! Easter break provides the rare opportunity to make a post. I have a ton of projects that I am simultaneously working on at the moment. I have just finished a clearance review of a book and  an article. Both are very good, which makes the task more pleasing. I have article coming out in the next AABS publication that is very hard work because it needs a substantial rewrite, since much of what I wrote originally on Narses has already been published. This turned out to be a good thing since a refocus on other eunuch-commanders such as Solomon and Eleutherios has made for a much more interesting and innovative piece. I may offer some bits here. What follows is very much a draft from the conclusion from my forthcoming book…so enjoy and make comments  and criticisms if you like.

 

 LINGERING MANLY ROMANITAS IN BYZANTIUM

Why did you assume you were addressing an assembly of women, insulting our nature as well as our race? With words you misrepresent deeds, bringing shame on the council. Did you not realize that you were pouring forth disgraceful words in the presence of men [ἀρρένων]? Or do you not see an assembly of Roman people, proud of their zeal, vigorous in arms, knowledgeable in their experience of danger and Providence for future advantage?

Theophylact Simocatta, History 2.14.3 (trans. Whitby).

The excerpt above comes from what would prove to be the last Greek history composed in the grand classical style for more than three centuries.[1] The Egyptian Theophylact published his work in the euphoric period surrounding the soldier-emperor Heraclius’ emphatic victory over the Persians in 628—a brief interlude of triumphant calm before the sudden emergence of the Arab threat in the 630s that saw the near snuffing out of the Byzantine Empire.[2] The sudden disappearance after 640 of many genres of secular literature and inscriptions, as well as the Muslims’ emergence as a new religious and political rival in this period,[3] demarcate the dawning of a new age.[4] I have chosen the era of Theophylact’s history to conclude this investigation for these reasons, as well as the obvious martial aspect and gendered implications of the passage. The set-speech from which this quotation is drawn certainly touches on two of this book’s primary themes: the primacy of military matters and the manliness of war. In the anecdote, which describes the Roman response to an Avar invasion of Thrace in 587, the historian constructed a debate between two Roman soldiers, one a tribune, and the other a grizzled veteran. The deliberation provides the reader with both the standard commentary on the fine lines between courage and rashness and the familiar linking of traditional martial virtues to masculinity. The tribune suggested that it was best to avoid a direct confrontation with the Avars, whilst the veteran advocated a more aggressive approach. The older soldier appeared to win the debate with his refrain that Rome’s rise to world dominance had been due to its men’s embrace of the rigours and courageous virtues of the soldier’s life.[5] His assertion from the rhetorical opening of the speech that bold action on the battlefield helped to prove that Roman soldiers’ souls were ‘masculine’ [ἄρρενας] like their bodies serves as an important final reminder for my readers of how conceptualizations of the Roman soldier’s life remained linked intimately to masculine ideology.[6] According to Theophylact, ‘courage’ in battle represented a sure sign of ‘manliness’, whereas ‘cowardice’ in the face of conflict indicated that one had fallen into the realm of ‘effeminacy’.[7]

We have seen such motifs before. Indeed, the emotive rhetoric associating traditional Roman codes of masculinity with idealised visions of the soldier’s life is so common in the ancient Roman and the early Byzantine sources that the modern reader is tempted to skip over such bombastic speeches to get to the ‘relevant’ parts. Ancient and modern scholars have quite rightly criticised Theophylact for his heavy reliance on ‘extravagant metaphors, sententious artistry, and ornate rhetoric’.[8] Yet, as I have argued throughout this study, an exploration of these standard themes helps one to understand these early Byzantine texts and the society that produced them. Although such anecdote’s heavy reliance on standard rhetoric and stock heroes and villains may tell one very little about the combatants’ ‘real’ personalities, or the actual debates among the Roman soldiers before battle, they provide important insights into wider societal attitudes towards gender and masculinity. The episode above, for instance, relied on the traditional appeal of the manly Roman soldier and the conventional disdain for the cowardly and effeminate man.

Martial virtues and images of the soldier’s life continued to represent an essential aspect of masculinity and Romanitas in the early Byzantine period. This is not to say that the masculinity of soldiers represented the only type of heroic manliness in this period. As was discussed in chapters 4 and 5, alternative pathways to achieving ‘true’ manliness had long been a feature of masculine ideology in the Late Roman and the early Byzantine period. Extreme ascetics, courageous martyrs, fearless philosophers, and powerful political and Church leaders were all, at times, compared favourably to military men. Moreover, Christian historiographical concepts like providence and miracles played a role in the classicising histories of Procopius, Menander, and Theophylact.[9]

Traditional hegemonic masculinity secured in acts of masculine bravery in warfare, however, proved resilient in the early Byzantine period. Certainly, one need not serve in the military to perceive the soldier’s life as an exemplar of the manly life. Civilian elites admired the manliness of war and the masculine deeds of the Empire’s soldiers. As Theophylact had the Bishop Domitianus of Melitene explain to a group of soldiers headed off to fight the Persians:

Let no one receive a scar on his back: the back is incapable of seeing victory. In the contest be united in spirit more than body, comrades in toils but not in cowardice. Let him who has not taken up the inheritance of danger be disowned. In death reach out for victory. Trophies are bought with wounds and blows. Sloth brings no glory. There is nothing sweeter than death in war, for if there is no advantage in growing old and being struck down by wasting disease, assuredly it is more appropriate for you heroes to die in the battle-line while you are young, reaping glory in your tombs.[10]

Scholars have long recognised how Heraclius’ wars against the Persians and Muslims neatly synthesised traditional secular and religious rhetoric.[11] This pairing is understandable since the martial and devout Heraclius was a by-product of a Byzantine world that inextricably interwove the political with the spiritual. Faced with a fight for its very survival, Heraclius’ Byzantium naturally ramped up the bombast. As Walter Kaegi suggests, Heraclius ‘was emphasizing participation and even deaths in this war as a means to heaven’. Nonetheless, we would be wise to heed Kaegi’s further warning, that Heraclius military campaigns were ‘no simple religious crusades’. They were ‘multidimensional’ conflicts ‘of which religious zeal was only one aspect’.[12] Of course, as we have observed in the previous chapters, these important developments of the seventh century had firm roots in earlier times. Unquestionably, however, the deft intermingling of spiritual and secular codes of warfare and masculinity had evolved somewhat over the years. The fifth-century Theodosian emperors lack of military experience and prowess had little place in a world where the Empire’s very survival was on the line. As we mentioned in Chapter 2, in 611 Heraclius had broken with precedent by leading the Roman army into battle against the Persians. The emperor probably had taken this step out of necessity since the Persian forces at this time were marauding freely within large swathes of Byzantine territory. In this highly charged climate, Heraclius’ propaganda naturally fell back on Old Testament and classical examples of warrior-leaders protected by God, manfully defending their religion and their lands.

The set of nine seventh-century silver plates known as the David plates (e.g., plate 15: ‘fight between David and Goliath’), which illustrate various Old Testament scenes from King David’s life, offer us visual evidence of elements of this propaganda. Modern research suggests that the scenes depicted on the plates intentionally provide direct analogies with events from Heraclius’ Persian war. Ruth Leader, for example, posits that the use of ‘imperial costumes and settings’ represent the designer’s attempts to invoke ‘a visual analogy between the kingdom of Israel and the Roman Empire’.[13] Such iconography echoed similar motifs found in Heraclian literature. As Mary Whitby explains, contemporary writers like George of Pisidia took a keen interest in depicting Heraclius as a military leader who, through a combination of God’s guidance and his own courage, wisdom, clemency, and mildness achieves ‘not only personal, but also cosmic salvation’.[14] This model of strong spiritual convictions and traditional active militaristic leadership would continue to play an essential role in imperial self-definition throughout the Byzantine period. Indeed, the majority of Byzantine emperors who followed Heraclius served as actual rather than symbolic warriors; 2/3 of these emperors had ‘led troops before or after their accession’.[15]

With East Rome in crisis, Byzantium’s enemies also wielded gendered religious rhetoric to endorse their own rights to dominion. The seventh-century Armenian historian, Sebeos has a Muslim commander accepting the surrender of parts of the Eastern Roman Empire scoff at the protective power of Christ and the cross. Recording what seems to be a genuine ultimatum from the caliph,[16] the historian wrote:

If you wish, he said, to preserve your life in safety, abandon that vain cult which you learned from childhood. Deny that Jesus and turn to the great God whom I worship the God of our father Abraham. Dismiss from your presence the multitude of your troops to their respective lands. And I shall make you a great prince in your region and send prefects. I shall make an inventory of the treasures and order them to be divided into four parts: three for me and one for you. I shall provide you with as many soldiers as you wish, and take tribute from you as much as you are able to give. But if you do not, that Jesus whom you call Christ, since he was unable to save himself from the Jews, how can he save you?[17]

The tactic used by the Muslim commander above, of criticizing the unmanliness of Christ’s crucifixion should cause little surprise, since, as Colleen Conway states, ‘it was Jesus’ death that most called his masculine honor into question’. In fact, despite multifaceted attempts by the New Testament to portray Christ’s crucifixion as a manly act similar to examples in the Greco-Roman noble death traditions, many Christian Romans appeared reluctant to embrace these more pacifist strains of Christ’s masculinity.[18]

This sentiment helps to explain why in the first thousand years of the Church’s history the figure of the dead Christ was almost never shown. Christian tradition seemed reluctant to portray Christ as a suffering man, preferring to emphasize his divine power (e.g. plate 8).[19] As Felicity J. Harley-McGowan explains, there was ‘A fundamental hesitancy on the part of Christians to approach this particular narrative, but also an inherent lack of creativity in formulating iconography for the representation of critical episodes from that narrative, such as the Crucifixion or the Resurrection’.[20] This hesitancy was not limited to visual iconography. One finds early Byzantine writers like Eusebius largely ignoring details of the crucifixion, concentrating instead on His rebirth, and focusing on the ‘treachery’ committed by the Jews in Christ’s condemnation.[21] The same is largely true as well for the fourth and fifth century Church Fathers from both halves of the Roman Empire.[22]

We see in his history, however, Sebeos subtly addressing the Muslim commander’s denigration of Christ’s feebleness. Likely writing between 656-661, a period when internal divide within the Muslim world stalled its expansion, Sebeos went on to relate the Byzantines’ ‘glorious’ victory over an Arab naval attack on Constantinople in 654— a victory that the historian attributed to God and the ‘pious prayers’ of the Emperor Constans II (ruled 641-668). We know of course, that this respite was only temporary, and that Byzantium survived by the thinnest of margins.

Historians have long admired the Byzantines for their resilience in the face of near extinction at the hands of a seemingly relentless Muslim foe. These perilous circumstances have tended to shape opinions of the age as one of doom and gloom. James Howard-Johnston echoes the voice of modern consensus when he insists that a long series of military defeats at the hands of the Muslim armies had convinced many Byzantines that the hand of God was against them:

Each successive defeat likewise impressed on Christians the plain truth that the Muslims were indeed agents of the Lord and that the End of Time was approaching. No wonder then that the morale of an army might suddenly plummet or that a whole province might submit once there was no prospect of help from field forces. There was also no point in continuing resistance from the cities, doomed as it was to failure and likely cost their ruling elites all their suburban villas, gardens, and orchards.[23]

There is definitely some truth in this view. Nonetheless, we should not place all of the ebbs and flows of Byzantine fortunes at the feet of eschatological and apocalyptic Christian belief. If apocalyptic paralysis represents the primary factor behind the Muslim’s triumphs and the Byzantines’ failures in the second half of the seventh century, it does little to explain Byzantine resilience in the same period and at the siege of Constantinople in 717-718. Surely if the majority of the Byzantines believed whole heartedly that the long-line of Arab victories and territorial conquests served as a ‘true’ sign that God had turned against them, Constantinople’s citizens and its armies would have bowed down to the inevitable. On the contrary, they innovated, resisted and survived.

As is well known, the seventh-century Byzantines’ ability to adopt political reforms and adapt ‘new’ military technologies helped them to survive the initial shock of the rapid Muslim advance. The use of the incendiary compound we call ‘Greek-fire’ represented a crucial factor in the Byzantine’s capacity to resist the Muslim naval attacks on Constantinople.[24] So too did the resettlement of Slavs during Constans II’s reign into areas of Anatolia depopulated by the Arab invasions play a part in Byzantium’s defense. Furthermore, Constan’s refinement of the basic elements of what would become by the eighth and the ninth centuries the themata (a division of Roman territory into separate military provinces, whereby a general [stratēgos] held civilian and military power) assisted in ensuring the East Romans’ long-term survival.[25] Such practical tactical and organisational innovations demonstrate that political and military leaders did not place Byzantium’s survival purely in the hands of God, but continued to seek practical solutions to the military dilemmas they faced.

A lingering sense of manly martial Romanitas offers a further explanation of Byzantine endurance in the face of extinction. As we have seen, Romans—Christian and pagan—had a long record of overcoming foreign foes in similarly dire situations. One cannot help but to suspect that a combination of a continued belief in the resilience of Roman military virtues and the practical need to survive, represent the primary factors behind Byzantium’s continued resistance and century-long battle back to relevance.

Manly Romanitas, then, helped to hold Byzantine society together.[26] Certainly one finds evidence of the power of cultural memory in later Byzantine historians. Anguishing over his contemporaries’ failure to live up to the martial masculine prowess and ideals of his Republican Roman forbearers, the eleventh-century Byzantine aristocrat and historian Michael Attaleiates encapsulates the appeal of a continuing belief in the vital connection between martial virtues, manly Romanitas, and the prosperity of the Roman State that we have explored throughout this monograph. When explaining the reasons behind his Roman forbearer’s greatness, he opined:

For the noble Romans of that time did not strive for money and the acquisition of wealth but simply for renown, the demonstration of their manliness, and their country’s safety and splendour.[27]

The sentiments expressed above, reveal the extent that a later Byzantine like Michael could identify with his non-Christian Roman past. Michael sees himself as one of the ‘modern Romans’ [Τοῖς δὲ νῦν Ῥωμαίοις] admiring the manly martial virtues of his pagan ‘Roman ancestors’ [οἱ πάλαι Ῥωμαῖοι].[28] A mutual admiration of the manly values found in the soldier’s life united these ancient and modern Romans. His Republican forebears may not have shared all of Michael’s Christian values, but they both embraced the manly and martial virtues that represented a fundamental facet of their shared Romanitas. An ability to tap into this Roman cultural memory represents a key factor in Byzantium’s longevity. In this process, the State was not essential. Indeed, the social bonds among aristocrats were particularly important during periods when the State’s authority waned. In these times of crisis, the ruling elites could become the voice of the social order. By conjuring a view of aristocratic power and Roman identity that stretched back to the Roman Republic, Michael thus vividly roused his fellow members of the social hierarchy. This helps us to understand why a societal value like manly martial Romanitas remained largely impervious to the tides of political and communal change.[29]

Therefore, I suspect that for many Byzantines, defeat at the hands of their enemies did little to shake the entrenched notion that ‘Roman’ greatness had been earned by the manly blood of its soldiers. The battlefield continued to provide one of the easiest places for men in Byzantine civilisation to prove not only their courage, but also to express their enduring manly Romanitas.

[1] For some possible reasons for this decline in almost all genres of Greek secular literature, see Whitby ‘Greek Historical Writing’, pp. 66-74, Treadgold, Byzantine Historians, pp. 348-9, 393-9, Croke, ‘Historiographical Audience’, pp. 34-5. On the disappearance of stone inscriptions, see M. Whittow, ‘Early Medieval Byzantium and the End of the Ancient World’, Journal of Agrarian Change 9.1 (2009), pp. 134-53.

[2] Theophylact’s career and the date of composition and publication of his history are discussed in M. Whitby, The Emperor Maurice and his Historian: Theophylact Simocatta on Persian and Balkan Warfare (Oxford, 1998), pp. 39-45.

[3] For the seventh-century conquests of Byzantine territory as primarily a Muslim, not an Arab phenomenon, see J. Howard-Johnston, Witness to a World Crisis: Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century (Oxford, 2010), p. 527. On the idea that Islam’s formation and subsequent ‘militant ideology’ represented a ‘late antique’ phenomenon, see R. Hoyland, ‘Early Islam as a Late Antique Religion’, in The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity, ed S. F. Johnson (Oxford, 2007), pp. 1053-77.

[4] On the transformative nature of this age for Byzantium, see J. F. Haldon, Byzantium in the Seventh Century (Cambridge, 1997).

[5] Theophylact, History 2.14.6, ed C. de Boor and re-ed P. Wirth. (Stuttgart, 1972); trans. M. and M. Whitby (Oxford, 1986).

[6] Theophylact, History 2.14.1: ‘Men of Rome, unless you would belie the name by your actions; men, that is if your souls [ψυχάς] are masculine [ἄρρενας] like your body. Even though the tribune is expert at high-flown talk and at confusing the issue, nevertheless deeds are more vigorous than words and do not tolerate empty sounds’. I have changed the translator Whitby’s ‘hearts’ for ψυχάς to ‘souls’.

[7]Theophylact, History 3.13.4: ‘Comrades-you are my comrades both in toils and tumults because of the war-the engagement is established as a test of virtue [ἀρετῆς] and vice [κακίας], and is the arbiter of souls: for this day will either convict us of effeminate [θηλυπρεπὲς] cowardice [δειλίας], or with garlands and glorious triumphs will proclaim our manly [ἀρρενωπὸν] bravery [εὐτολμίας]’. I have changed the translator Whitby’s ‘courage’ for ἀρετῆς to ‘virtue’ and ‘cowardice’ for κακίας to ‘vice’.

[8] Whitby, introduction to Theophylact, History, p. 28. For a later Byzantine view, see Photius, Bibliotheca cod. 65.

[9] For this role in Theophylact and his sixth-century predecessor, Menander, see Whitby, ‘Greek Historical Writing’, p. 44

[10] Theophylact, History 5.4.8-9.

[11] On the increasing focus in Heraclian propaganda in the Persian war based on religious themes, see S. Alexander, ‘Heraclius, Byzantine Imperial Ideology, and the David Plates’, Speculum 52 (1977), pp. 217-37, M. Whitby, ‘Defender of the Cross: George of Pisidia on the Emperor Heraclius and his Deputies’, in The Propaganda of Power: The Role of the Panegyric in Late Antiquity, ed Mary Whitby (Leiden, 1998), esp. pp. 247-65, Y. Stoyanov, Defenders and Enemies of the True Cross, The Sasanian Conquest of Jerusalem in 614 and Byzantine Ideology of Anti-Persian Warfare (Vienna, 2011). For Byzantine attitudes towards ‘crusade’ and ‘holy war’, see J. Koder and I. Stouraitis, eds Byzantine War Ideology Between Roman Imperial Concept and Christian Religion (Budapest, 2012).

[12] Kaegi, Heraclius, p.126. Cf. Dennis, ‘Holy War’, pp 31-9.

[13] R. Leader, ‘The David Plates Revisited: Transforming the Secular in Byzantium’, The Art Bulletin 82. 3 (2000), pp. 413-14.

[14] Whitby, ‘Defender of the Cross’, p. 263.

[15] Treadgold, Byzantium and Its Army, pp. 1, 214.

[16] Howard-Johnston, Witness to a World Crisis, p. 91.

[17] Sebeos, The Armenian History of Sebeos 50 (170), trans. R. W. Thomson, TTH 31 (Liverpool, 1999).

[18] Conway, Behold the Man, p.177.

[19] The literature on the transformation from ‘triumphant’ to ‘suffering’ Christ in both literary and visual forms has attracted much interest, see e.g., C. Morris, the Discovery of the Individual (New York, 1972), C. Chazelle, The Crucified God in the Carolingian Era (Cambridge, 2001), R. Viladesau, The Beauty of the Cross: The Passion of Christ in Theology and the Arts from the Catacombs to the Eve of the Renaissance (Oxford, 2006). Boin (Coming Out Christian, pp. 50-53), considers some of the reasons behind early Roman-Christians’ reluctance to embrace images of the ‘crucified’ Christ.

[20]F. J. Harley-McGowan, ‘The Narration of Christ’s Passion in early Christian Art’, in AABS 16 (Melbourne, 2006), p. 223.

[21] Eusebius, HE 1.2.

[22] See, e.g. A. Bain, Four Interpretations of Biblical Crucifixion Narratives in the Latin West, c. 350-430. (PhD thesis, Queensland University, 2007).

[23] Howard-Johnston, Witness to a World Crisis, p. 473. Cf. F. M. Donner, Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam (Cambridge MA, 2010), pp. 14-17, G. J. Reinink, ‘Pseudo-Methodius: A Concept of History in Response to the Rise of Islam’, in The Byzantine and Early Islamic Near East, ed A. Cameron and L. Conrad (Princeton, 1992), pp. 149–87.

[24]On the current debates surrounding the development and effectiveness of this weapon, see J. Haldon, ‘“Greek fire” Revisited: Recent and Current Research’, in Byzantine Style, Religion and Civilization: In Honour of Sir Steven Runciman, ed E. Jeffreys (Cambridge, 2006), pp. 290–325.

[25] The literature on the origins and extent of the implementation of the thematic administration in the seventh century is vast. For good introductions, see R. J. Lilie, ‘Die zweihundertjährige Reform: zu den Anfängen der Themenorganisation im 7. Und 8. Jahrhundert’, BS 45 (1984), pp. 27-39, 190-201, J. F. Haldon, Byzantium in the Seventh Century (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 208-53.

[26] C. Leyser (‘Introduction: Making Medieval Societies’, in Making Early Medieval Societies: Conflict and Belonging in the Latin West, 300-1200 [Cambridge, 2016], pp.1-15) discusses the ways such shared convictions hold societies together during periods of political rupture.

[27] Michael Attaleiates, History 27.11, Greek text according to the edition of E. Tsolakis, Michaelis Attaliatae Historia [CFHB 50], (Athens 2011), pp. 169-170. Cf. Miguel Ataliates: Historia, ed I. Perez Martin, (Madrid 2002); trans. according to A. Kaldellis and D. Krallis, The History, DOML (Cambridge MA, 2012) : Οὐ γὰρ πρὸς ἀργύριον καὶ πλούτου ἐπίκτησιν οἱ εὐγενέστατοι Ῥωμαῖοι τὸ κατ᾽ ἐκεῖνο καιροῦ ἠγωνίζοντο, ἀλλὰ δι᾽ εὔκλειαν μόνην καὶ ἀνδρίας ἐπίδειξιν καὶ τῆς ἰδίας πατρίδος σωτηρίαν τε καὶ λαμπρότητα.

[28] For this theme in Michael’s history, see A. Kaldellis, ‘A Byzantine Argument for the Equivalence of All Religions: Michael Attaleiates on Ancient and Modern Romans’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition 14. 1/2 (2007), pp. 1-22, L. Neville, Heroes and Romans in Twelfth-Century Byzantium (Cambridge 2012).

[29] For this communal stability in societies beset by political turmoil and fragmentation, see Leyser, ‘Making Early Medieval Societies’, p. 5.

Romanitas

Romanitas  has been described aptly as not the shared biological traits of ‘a specific group’, but the fluid characteristics ‘that made a man Roman, made him an appropriate husband, father, general, and politician, and which distinguished him from a woman, child, barbarian or slave’. Moreover, different ethnic groups and regional identities could appropriate and shape ‘the form in which Romanitas was expressed in different places and in different circumstances’.[1] In other words, Roman identity represents a flexible concept that over time meant distinct things to diverse peoples.[2]

Admittedly, ancient references to Romanitas are not common. As Guy Halsall notes, it appears more frequently in the works of modern academics than in the ancient sources.[3] Our first evidence of its use comes from a early third-century harangue, where the Christian writer Tertullian ridiculed the men of Carthage for aping Roman culture.[4] Yet, despite its rarity, Romanitas captures the ancient Romans’ sense of ‘us’ versus ‘them’, and consequently, provides a valuable tool for one hoping to recover the nuanced ways individuals regarded themselves and others as Romans/non-Romans and manly/unmanly men. It also captures the Romans’ androcentrism. Following recent scholarship’s lead, I use the expression ‘manly Romanitas’ in my own work as a way to convey this intimate relationship between Romanitas and existing codes of idealised masculinity.[5]

Although there is no precise counterpart in ancient Greek to Romanitas, the adverb, Ῥωμᾰϊκῶς, with its meaning ‘in the Roman fashion’, comes close to capturing its essence.[6] As Ionnas Smarnakis comments, through its long history, vital facets of their identity remained linked to the Byzantines lingering sense of Romanitas:

The traditional Byzantine concept of the term “Roman”, which defined their own God-protected empire and emphasized the Roman and Christian roots of the imperial ideology, underwent several changes through the centuries. Besides its strong political content, romanitas eventually came to encompass a vast body of different, changing, and often overlapping meanings: it stressed the contrast between civilized” Romans and “uncivilized” barbarians; it declared a political identification with the Roman state; and finally, it referred to an ethnic group of people who believed that they had a common origin, spoke the same Greek language and followed the Christian Orthodox religion.[7]

 

[1] A. Merrills and R. Miles, The Vandals (London, 2010), pp. 88-9.

[2] The notion that Roman identity represented primarily an ideal of the ruling elite is posed by I. Stouraitis, ‘Roman Identity in Byzantium: A Critical Approach’, Byzantion 107 (2014): pp. 55-7. Though not without its merits, this position, to my mind, too readily dismisses the lower-classes sense of Roman identity.

[3] G. Halsall, ‘The Barbarian Invasions,” in NCMH, ed P. Fouracre (Cambridge, 2005), p. 40.

[4] Tertullian, De pallio 4.1, quoted and trans in P. McKechnie, ‘Tertullian’s De Pallio and Life in Roman Carthage’, Prudentia 24 2 (1992), pp. 57-8:Why at this time, if Romanness is salvation for everything, are you still not taking honourable attitudes towards the Greeks? [quid nunc, si est Romanitas omni salus, nec honestis tamen modis ad Graios estis?’].

[5]As Andy Merrills explains (The Vandals, pp. 88-9), by the fifth century, Romanitas ‘was based overwhelmingly upon certain notions of appropriate male behaviour’.

[6] For the early Byzantines emphasise on the religious and political aspects of Romanitas, see C. Rapp, ‘Hellenic Identity, Romanitas, and Christianity’, in Hellenisms: Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity from Antiquity to Modernity, ed K. Zacharia (Burlington, VT, 2008), pp. 127-47.

[7] I. Smarnakis, Rethinking Roman Identity after the Fall (1453): Perceptions of ‘Romanitas’ by Doukas -and Sphrantzes’, Byzantina Symmeikta 25 (2015), pp. 212-13.

slacking, some excuses, and a lexicon

 

 

Okay, I have been slacking on the blog, granted with some excuses. I turned in my manuscript (on time) December 5th. All in all, I feel pretty pleased with the revision of my 2013 dissertation. Fingers crossed, it will be published around July of this year as the Soldier’s Life: Martial Virtues and Manly Romanitas in the early Byzantine Empire.  It includes two stand-alone chapters on the fifth-century East and West that never made it into the original thesis and I reworked all the chapters. It represents major revision, and a bit  different from the original thesis, in that it looks a bit more deeply at the concept of Romanitas.

I have also been researching for my upcoming class at Queensland University, Age of Crusades. Having spent much of the past ten years studying developments from the fourth to the seventh centuries this process has entailed a bit of refreshing on the books read as a graduate student in San Diego from 2000 to 2003. In order to shape my lectures I also created a twitter account @agecrusades,  and have been tweeting my notes, visuals, and articles that I have found interesting. Re-reading Bynum’s seminal Holy Feast and Fast and Giles Constables’s Twelfth-century Reformation after ten plus years, have been highlights.

I am using John Cott’s Europe’s Long Twelfth Century as a class text, since it is a fluid read and touches on many important themes that we will be exploring.

Unlike the previous two year, so far no plans to attend any conferences this year…since I will be pushing for my book to be out and available for IMC Leeds in July…..it is being published by a new Leeds based press.

I also am hoping start my Procopius book sometime this year….. something in the same vein as Penelope Buckley’s fine study on Anna Komnene. With three published articles on Procopius,  it is high time to get my a** in gear.

To end today’s blog here is a ‘masculine’ lexicon from my thesis that I may be updating for the book…if there is space. Some day I hope to do something far larger.

ἀνδρεία–(and cognates): manliness, bravery, courage. Aristotle, Politics 1277b20 (Aristotle maintains that ἀνδρεία and restraint differed in a man and a woman. In fact, a man would seem cowardly if he were only as ἀνδρειος as an ἀνδρεία woman). Eudemian Ethics 1228a26-30a37 (Aristotle argues that ἀνδρεία was an attribute of a man whose actions demonstrate a balance between rashness and fear). Eunapius, frag. 3.18 (Julian recognises that ἀνδρεία needed to be combined with other less martial virtues to make a good leader). Frag. 68 (Eunapius stresses the importance of promoting the ἀνδρεíον of the Roman emperor when making murals describing the destruction of foreign peoples). Eusebius, HE 1.4.2 (Christians receive praise for outdoing their pagan rivals in ἀρετης ἀνδρεία). HE 6.41.16 (A martyr, the Roman soldier Besas, is called the ἀνδρειότατος soldier of God). HE 8.6.1 (The author contends that the ἀνδρεία of the martyrs could be compared with the courage of any Greek or barbarian). Hippocrates, Airs, Waters, Places 23 (The treatise suggests that “harsh” lands contribute to peoples development of endurance and ἀνδρεῖαι). Julian, Letter to Alypius 404 (Julian avers that the most virtuous of men combined gentleness and restraint with ἀνδρεία and force). Libanius, Or. 18.209 (Libanius comments that Constantius II drained the ἀνδριαν of the Roman soldiers). Menander, Second Treatise 373, (Menander suggests that ἀρεταὶ was made up of four vital virtues: ἀνδρεία, δικαιοσύνη, σωϕροσύνη, φρόνησις). Procopius, Wars 5.1.27 (Procopius suggests that Theoderic’s combination of ἀνδρίας and wisdom allowed him to protect Italy from barbarian invaders). Wars 5.2.12 (One faction of Goths contend that ἀνδρίας was far removed from a literary education). Wars 5.11.20-1 (Vitigis proclaims that the title of the coward, fittingly applied, has saved many, while the reputation for ἀνδρείας, which some men have gained at the wrong time, has afterward led them to defeat). Wars 5.20.9-10 (Gothic ambassador explains to the Italians and the Byzantines that rashness was different from ἀνδρεία). Wars 6.26.13 (Vitigis calls on the Goths to endure ἀνδρείως). Wars 7.40.9 (Procopius eulogises the Byzantine general Germanus by calling him an ἀνηρ ἀνδρεῖός). Wars 8.3.7 (In Procopius’ telling, after all of their male soldiers died in a previous battle, the Amazons were still able to make display of ἀνδρεῖα). Sozomen, HE 1.13.6 (Sozomen describes the holy man Anthony as gentle, prudent and ἀνδρεῖος). HE 1.12.1(Sozomen praised all ascetics for their ability to ἀνδρείως subjugate their passions). HE 6.21 (Sozomen praises bishops who ἀνδρείως opposed the emperor when he interfered in Church affairs). HE 6.24.6 (Sozomen described the ἀνδρείως way that Ambrose served as bishop). Thucydides, Peloponnesian War 2.39.1 (Pericles argues that, from childhood, Athenian boys were educated to pursue τό ἀνδρεῖoν). 2.39.4 (Pericles suggests that the Athenians’ ἀνδρείας derived more from their way of life than compulsion of laws). Zosimus, New History 3.3.5 (Zosimus reveals that Julian’s soldiers admired him for his ἀνδρείον in battle).

 

ἀπόλεμος–unwarlike, unfit for war. Priscus, frag. 1.3 (Eunapius describes Theodosius II as ἀπόλεμος). Procopius, Wars 5.3.1 (Procopius criticises Theodahad for being ἀπολελειμμένος and taking no part in the active life).

 

ἀρετή–excellence, virtue, manhood, valour, prowess, goodness. Athanasius, Life of Anthony 1.5 (Devil reminds Anthony of the difficult path to ἀρετή). Eunapius, frag. 3.18 (Eunapius concludes that justice combined with authority was like a fountainhead of ἀρετῶν, which made even those far away manageable and obedient). frag. 44.3 (Eunapius describes Sebastianus as an exemplar of virtue whose ἀρετή matched that of the ancient Roman heroes). Libanius, Or. 18.230 (Libanius argues that if you force a naturally ἀρετῆς man to live among drunken revelry, his goodness deserts him and he learns these vices instead of the glories of the honourable). Menander, Second Treatise 373 (Menander suggests that ἀρεταὶ was made up of four vital virtues: ἀνδρεία, δικαιοσύνη, σωϕροσύνη, φρόνησις). Procopius, Wars 5.18.16 (In a skirmish outside of Rome, Belisarius and his men prove their superior ἀρετή). Wars 5.20.11 (Gothic emissary warns Belisarius that when rashness takes possession of a man it brings him into danger with discredit, but bravery bestows upon him an adequate prize in a reputation for ἀρετῆς). Wars 5.28.9 (Belisarius explains to his men that with ἀρετή they could overcome the Goths’ superior numbers). Wars 7.24.1-26 (Belisarius and his soldiers’ ἀρετή and courage helped them to recapture Rome from the Goths). Wars 8.29.22-23 (Byzantine soldiers make a display of ἀρετῆς). Wars 8.30.1(In a set speech, Narses claims that his army far out-stripped Totila’s force in ἀρετῆ). Wars 8.32.11 (Romans and their barbarian allies show a common zeal and ἀρετῆ at the battle of Busto Gallorum). Wars 8.35.22 (Byzantine soldiers are motivated purely to make displays of ἀρετῶντες). Theophylact, History 3.13.4 (Byzantine soldiers are told that battle functions as a test of ἀρετῆς and vice). Thucydides, Peloponnesian War 2.45 (Thucydides suggests that γυναικείας ἀρετῆς are best displayed by women who are hidden away from the public arena).

 

ἄρρην–masculine, manly, strong. Eunapius, frag. 3.58.1 (Describes Valentinian II as ἀρρενωπὸν). Procopius, Wars 5.2.3. (Procopius describes Amalasuintha as displaying very much an ἀρρενωπὸν nature). Wars 8.3.7 (According to Procopius, the death of all their male soldiers forced the Amazons to put on ἀρρενωπὸν). Theophylact, History 2.14.1 (Veteran soldier claims that courageous deeds proves to soldiers that their hearts are ἄρρενας like their bodies). History 3.13.4 (Byzantine soldiers are told that the coming battle will either reveal their effeminate cowardice or their ἀρρενωπὸν courage). Zosimus, New History 4.23-4 (Zosimus suggests that under the guidance of Sebastianus the Roman soldiers had achieved ἀρρενωπὸν out of effeminacy).

 

ἀσφαλής–firm, steadfast, unfailing. Procopius, Wars 5.1.27 (Theoderic ἀσφαλῶς protected Italy from the barbarians). Wars 7.1.14 (Procopius describes Belisarius as ἀσφαλεῖ without taking unnecessary risks in battle).

 

βέβαιος–firm, steadfast, trusty, sure, safe. Procopius, Wars 5.7.11 (Procopius criticises Theodahad for his lack of a βέβαιον mind).

 

γυναικεῖος–(and cognates): of or belonging to a woman, womanish, effeminate. Procopius, Wars 5.2.21 (Procopius “compliments” Amalasuintha for not acting γυνὴ). Wars 6.14.11 (The Heruls accuse their king, Rodolphus, of being soft and γυναιkώδη, which causes him to make a rash attack). Zosimus, New History 4.23 (Zosimus criticises Valens’ army, claiming that under the emperor’s watch, lax discipline and flawed training had led the army to be prepared only for retreat and for γύναι and unworthy desires).

 

δειλία–(and cognates): cowardice, timidity. Aristotle, Politics 1277b20 (Aristotle maintained that a man would seem δειλός if he were only as ἀνδρειος as an ἀνδρεία woman). Priscus, frag. 1.3 (Priscus accuses the Emperor Theodosius II of living a life of δειλία). Procopius, Wars 5.2.12 (A Gothic faction argues that a Roman literary education leads to δειλὸν). Wars 5.11.20-1 (Vitigis suggests that the title of δειλίας, fittingly applied, has saved many, while the reputation for courage, led to often to disaster). Wars 8.32.29 (Procopius suggests that Totila’s inglorious death in battle had occurred because a deity had smote him with δειλίαν). Theophylact, History 3.13.4 (Byzantine soldiers are told that the coming battle will either reveal their effeminate δειλίας or their manly bravery).

 

δραστήριος–energetic, active, vigorous. Procopius, Wars 5.3.1 (Procopius describes Theodahad as not δραστήριος). Wars 6.13.16 (Procopius declares that the eunuch Narses was δραστήριος in comparison to the typical eunuch). Wars 7.2.7 (Procopius describes Totila as δραστήριος). Wars 7.8.18 (Goths ask Totila to spare a Gothic soldier accused of rape because he was δραστήριος. Totila executes the soldier anyway).

 

ἡδονή–pleasure, luxury, effeminacy. Athanasius, Life of Anthony 1.5 (The Devil attempts to convince Anthony to give up his pursuit of asceticism by reminding him of his previous ἡδονήν life). Eunapius, frag. 55 (Eunapius maintains that the well-to-do have an inclination to τὴν ἡδονήν). Herodian, BH 1.3.1 (Herodian suggests that young men are easily led into a life of ἡδονὰς).

 

ἡρωϊκός–(and cognates): for heroes, heroic. Olympiodorus, frag. 40 (Olympiodorus describes both the Goth Saras and the Roman Boniface as ἀνὴρ ἡρωϊκός). Procopius, Wars 8.35.20-38. (Procopius declares that the Gothic king Teïas’ noble death in battle compared to those ήρώων of legend).

 

θῆλυς–female sex, belonging to a woman. Procopius, Wars 3.3.9-16 (Procopius suggests that Valentinian III’s θηλυνομένην education led to the losses of Roman territory in North Africa to the Vandals). Zosimus, New History 4.23-4 (Zosimus suggests that the Eastern Roman army had attained manliness out of θήλεος). Theophylact, History 3.13.4 (Byzantine soldiers are told that the coming battle will either reveal their θηλυπρεπὲς cowardice or their manly bravery).

 

θράσoς–in a positive sense courage, confidence, in a negative sense over-boldness, rashness. Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics 1228a26-30a37 (Aristotle argues that ἀνδρεία was the attribute of a man whose actions demonstrate a balance between θράσoς and fear). Athanasius, Life of Anthony 1.6 (Anthony faces the Devil and hordes of demons with καταθαῥήσας). Procopius, Wars (Theodahad enters into a state that Procopius describes as the antithesis of θράσος). Wars 5.17.18 (Outside the gates of Rome Belisarius and his men hope to make a display of their own θάρσους). Wars 5.20.11 (Gothic envoy tells Belisarius that θάρσος is different from courage ἀνδρεία, because it often leads to disaster in battle). Wars 8.23.27 (Gothic commander suggests that θάρσoς is related to a lack of fear). Thucydides, Peloponnesian War 2.11.3 (Pericles suggests that θράσoς means ignorance).

 

κακία–badness, baseness, cowardice, vice. Libanius, Or. 18.65 (Libanius describes Roman army before Julian took command as by nature κακοὺς. He wonders if the κακία of their previous commanders was responsible). Priscus, frag. 11.2. 441 (A Greek serving in Hun’s army remarks that the κακία of the Eastern Roman generals had endangered the demilitarised segment of the Roman population). Theophylact, History 3.13.4 (Byzantine soldiers are told that battle functions as a test of virtue and κακίας).

 

καρτερός–strong, staunch, brave. Eusebius, HE 1.4.7 9 (Christians receive praise for embracing the καρτερία life).

 

κράτος–strength, mastery, force, violence. Eunapius, frag. 3.18 (According to Eunapius, Julian recognised that the martial virtue of κράτος needed to be combined with justice to make a good leader).

 

μαλακία–(and cognates): weakness, softness, tenderness: of men, effeminacy, weakness. Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander 2.7.5 (Alexander tells his army that the most warlike races of Europe, will be facing the most indolent and μαλκώτατα peoples of Asia). Herodotus, Histories 9.122 (Cyrus chides his colleagues to abandon their thoughts of further conquest in Asia, warning that μαλακῶν countries breed μαλακοὺς men). Procopius, Wars 1.18.13 (Byzantine troops accuse Belisarius of μαλθακος, which causes him to launch a rash attack). Wars 3.9.1 (Procopius maintains that the Vandal king Hilderich’s μαλθακός in war forced him to rely on his nephew to fight his battles). Wars 6.14.11 (The Heruls accuse their king, Rodolphus, of being μαλθακόν and womanlike). Thucydides, Peloponnesian War 2.40.1 (Pericles describes the Athenians as lovers of beauty, yet with no extravagance, and lovers of wisdom, yet without μαλακίαs).

 

Πολεμικός­–warlike. Eunapius, frag. 44.3 (Eunapius explains that the Emperor Valens was in search of πολεμικῶν soldiers to improve his army). Julian, Against the Galileans 138b (Julian proposed that only the ancient Hellenes and Romans were able to combine an unyielding πολεμικός nature with an inclination for the political life).

 

προθῡμία–fighting-spirit, zeal, readiness. Athanasius, Life of Anthony 1.13 (The biographer describes Anthony as heading into the desert to battle the Devil and hordes of demons with προθυμία). Procopius, Wars 1.18.24 (Byzantine soldiers claim that Belisarius’ fear of attacking the enemy had destroyed their προθυμίας). Wars 8.32.11 (Romans and “barbarian allies” show a common προθυμία and virtue that helps lead them to victory over the Goths at the battle of Busto Gallorum). Socrates, HE 3.1 (Socrates praises the Emperor Julian for his ability to infuse προθυμία into the Roman soldiers).

 

ῤαθυμα­­–carelessness, laziness, effeminacy. Eunapius, frag. 55 (Eunapius submits that the well-to-do have an inclination to ῥαθυμíαν). Hippocrates, Airs, Waters, Places 23 (Treatise suggests that “fertile” lands contribute to Eastern peoples’ slackness and propensity towards ῤαθυμίαι). Justinian, Nov. 30.11 (The Novel blamed the loss of the Western provinces partly on the ῤαθυμία of the Western emperors). Procopius, Wars 6.26.13 (Fearing that their opponents might think the Goths had succumbed to ῤαθυμία, Vitigis calls on the Goths starving in Auximum and Faesulae to endure manfully).

 

ῥώμη–might. Eunapius, frag. 3.18 (The Emperor Julian recognised that courage, ῥώμη, and strength played a vital role on the battlefield, he concluded that δικαιοσύνη combined with authority was like a fountainhead of virtues which made even those far away manageable and obedient). frag. 68 (Eunapius argues that “appropriate” political murals promoted the manliness of the emperor and the ῥώμην of his soldiers). Julian, Letter to Alypius 404 (Julian claims that the most virtuous of men combined gentleness and restraint with courage and ῥώμη).

 

σωφροσύνη–temperance, restraint, self-control, temperance, chastity. Aristotle, Politics 1277b20 (Aristotle suggests that σωφροσύνη and ἀνδρεία differ in a man and a woman). Julian, Letter to Alypius 404 (Julian claims that the most virtuous of men combined gentleness and σωφροσύνην with courage and might). Libanius, Or. 18. 281 (Libanius proclaims that the emperor Julian was σωφρονέστερος than Hippolyctus). Menander, Second Treatise 373 (Menander suggests that ἀρεταὶ was made up of four vital virtues: ἀνδρεία, δικαιοσύνη, σωϕροσύνη, φρόνησις). Procopius, Wars 7.1.11 (Procopius praises Belisarius for his σωφροσύνης, which allowed him to remain monogamous). Wars 7.20.28 (According to Procopius, Totila’s protection of upper-class Roman women from violence won him great renown for σωφροσύνη).

 

τόλμα–(and cognates): courage to venture on a thing, daring, boldness. Procopius, Wars 5.2.13 (“Martial” Goths suggest that only training a young man in arms cultivates his τολμητήν). Wars 7.1.14 (Procopius praises Belisarius for being εὐτολμότατος without taking unnecessary risks). Wars 7.24.1 (Belisarius’ τόλμα helps him to recapture Rome from Totila). Wars 8.35.21 (The Goths’ starvation drives them to εὐτoλμίαν at the battle of Mons Lactarius). Theophylact, History 2.14.6 (A Byzantine soldier claims that part of the reason for Rome’s rise to supremacy was its men’s innate τολμητὰς). History, 3.13.4 (Byzantine soldiers are told that the coming battle will either reveal their effeminate cowardice or their manly εὐτολμίας).Thucydides, Peloponnesian War 3.74.2 (Thucydides praises the τολμηρῶς of a group of women who had joined a raging battle by dropping tiles from the rooftops onto their enemies. He labels this behaviour, however, as contrary to their “normal” nature).

 

τρῠφή–luxury, effeminacy. Eunapius, frag. 55 (Eunapius argues that to thrive the Empire must reject τρυφῂν and embrace war). Herodian, BH 1.6.1, 1.8.1 (The τρυφῆς life in Rome corrupts Commodus). Julian, Against the Galileans 138b (Julian suggests that the Persians and other “Eastern” peoples’ propensity for τρυφηλός leads to their tendency to be ruled by despots). Procopius, Wars 5.20.11 (Goth describes Italians’ life of τρυφερω under Gothic rule). Wars 3.3.9-16 (Procopius suggests that the Emperor Valentinian III had been educated in a τρυφην manner).

 

Φιλοπολεμος–warlike, lover of war. Eunapius, frag. 44.3 (Eunapius describes Sebastianus as a Φιλοπόλεμος). Themistius, Or. 4.54a (Themistius praises the Emperor Constantius II for being a Φιλοπόλεμος).

 

φόβος–timidity, fear, terror, fright. Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics 1228a26-30a37 (Aristotle proposes that ἀνδρεία was an attribute of a man whose actions demonstrated a balance between θράσoς and φόβος). Procopius, Wars 5.1.31 (Procopius praises Theoderic for being an object of φοβερὸς to all his enemies). Wars 5.2.13 (Martial Goths suggest that a military education frees young men from the φόβου inspired by teachers).

 

χειροήθης–submissive, obedient, tame. Julian, Against the Galilaens 138 (Julian suggests that the Persians and the majority of “Eastern barbarians” were χειροήθης).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eschatological and apocalyptical Christian belief in the Age of Heraclius

1200px-Greekfire-madridskylitzes1

Historians have long admired the seventh and eighth-century Byzantines for their resilience in the face of near extinction at the hands of a seemingly relentless Muslim foe. These perilous circumstances have long shaped opinions of the age as one of doom and gloom. James Howard-Johnston echoes the voice of modern consensus when he suggests that a long series of military defeats at the hands of the Muslim armies had convinced many Byzantines that the hand of God was against them. He writes:

Each successive defeat likewise impressed on Christians the plain truth that the Muslims were indeed agents of the Lord and that the End of Time was approaching. No wonder then that the morale of an army might suddenly plummet or that a whole province might submit once there was no prospect of help from field forces. There was also no point in continuing resistance from the cities, doomed as it was to failure and likely cost their ruling elites all their suburban villas, gardens, and orchards.[1]

There is certainly some truth in this view. Yet, we should not place all of the ebbs and flows of Byzantine fortunes at the feet of eschatological and apocalyptical Christian belief. If apocalyptic paralysis represented the primary factor behind the Muslim’s triumphs and the Byzantines’ failures in the second half of the seventh century, it does little to explain Byzantine resilience in the second half of the seventh century and at the siege of Constantinople in 717-718. Surely if the majority of the Byzantines believed whole heartedly that the long-line of Arab victories and territorial conquests served as a ‘true’ sign that God had turned against them, Constantinople’s citizens and its armies would have bowed down to the inevitable. On the contrary, they innovated, resisted and survived.

As is well known, the seventh-century Byzantines’ ability to adopt political reforms and adapt ‘new’ military technologies helped them to survive the initial shock of the rapid Muslim advance. The use of the incendiary compound we call ‘Greek-fire’ represented a crucial factor in the Byzantine’s capacity to resist the Muslim naval attacks on Constantinople.[2] So too did the resettlement of Slavs during Constans II’s reign into areas of Anatolia depopulated by the Arab invasions play a part in Byzantium’s defense. Moreover, Constan’s refinement of the basic elements of what would become by the eighth and the ninth centuries the themata (a division of Roman territory into separate military provinces, whereby a general [stratēgos] held civilian and military power) assisted in ensuring the East Romans’ long-term survival.[3] Such practical tactical and organisational innovations show that political and military leaders did not place Byzantium’s survival purely in the hands of God, but continued to seek practical solutions to the military problems they faced.

Lingering Romanitas offers a further explanation of Byzantine endurance in the face of extinction.  Romans—Christian and pagan—had a long record of overcoming foreign foes in dire situations. One cannot help but to suspect that a combination of a continued belief in the resilience of Roman military virtues and the practical need to survive, represent the primary factors behind the ‘Romans’ continued resistance and century-long battle back to relevance.

We find evidence of this classical sentiment in later Byzantine historians. Anguishing over his contemporaries’ failure to live up to the martial masculine prowess and ideals of his Republican Roman forbears, the eleventh-century Byzantine aristocrat and historian Michael Attaleiates encapsulates the lingering appeal of the connection between martial virtues, manly Romanitas, and the prosperity of the Roman state. When explaining the reasons behind his Roman forbearer’s greatness, he opined:

For the noble Romans of that time did not strive for money and the acquisition of wealth but simply for renown, the demonstration of their manliness, and their country’s safety and splendour.[4]

The sentiments expressed above, reveals the extent that a later Byzantine, like Michael, could identify with his non-Christian Roman past. Michael sees himself as one of the ‘modern Romans’ [Τοῖς δὲ νῦν Ῥωμαίοις] admiring the manly martial virtues of his pagan ‘Roman ancestors’ [οἱ πάλαι Ῥωμαῖοι].[5]His Republican ancestors may not have shared all of Michael’s Christian values, but they embraced the manly and martial virtues that represented a fundamental facet of their shared Romanitas.

To conclude, I suspect that for the early Byzantines, defeat at the hands of their enemies did little to shake the idea that ‘Roman’ greatness had been earned by the manly blood of its soldiers. As is repeatedly demonstrated in the Byzantine sources , the battlefield continued to provide one of the easiest places for men in Byzantine civilisation to prove not only their courage, but also to express their enduring manly Romanitas.

 

 

 

 

[1] Howard-Johnston, Witness to a World Crisis, p. 473. Cf. F. M. Donner, Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam (Cambridge MA, 2010), pp. 14-17, G. J. Reinink, ‘Pseudo-Methodius: A Concept of History in Response to the Rise of Islam’, in The Byzantine and Early Islamic Near East, ed A. Cameron and L. Conrad (Princeton, 1992), pp. 149–87.

[2]On the current debates surrounding the development and effectiveness of this weapon, see J. Haldon, ‘“Greek fire” Revisited: Recent and Current Research’, in Byzantine Style, Religion and Civilization: In Honour of Sir Steven Runciman, ed E. Jeffreys (Cambridge, 2006), pp. 290–325.

[3] The literature on the origins and extent of the implementation of the thematic administration in the seventh century is vast. For good introductions, see R. J. Lilie, ‘Die zweihundertjährige Reform: zu den Anfängen der Themenorganisation im 7. Und 8. Jahrhundert’, Byzantinoslavica 45 (1984), pp. 27-39, 190-201; J. F. Haldon, Byzantium in the Seventh Century (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 208-53.

[4] Michael Attaleiates, History 27.11, trans. A. Kaldellis and D. Krallis, The History, DOML (Cambridge MA, 2012) : Οὐ γὰρ πρὸς ἀργυρίου καὶ πλούτου ἐπίκτησιν οί εὐγενέστατοι Ῥωμαῖοι τοῦ κατ’ κεῖνο καιροῦ ἠγωνίζοντο, ἀλλὰ δι’εὔκλειαν μόνην καὶ ἀνδρείας ἐπίδειξιν καὶ τῆς ἰδίας πατρίδος σωτηρίαν τε καὶ λαμπρότητα.

[5] For this theme in Michael’s history, see A. Kaldellis, ‘A Byzantine Argument for the Equivalence of All Religions: Michael Attaleiates on Ancient and Modern Romans’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition 14. 1/2 (2007), pp. 1-22.

Uncovering Manly Eunuchs in the Byzantine Empire

CERAE

Could a eunuch be considered “manly” in the early Byzantine Empire? This is the question Michael Stewart has set out to answer in the fourth article for Volume 2 titled “The Andreios Eunuch-Commander Narses: Sign of a Decoupling of Martial Virtues and Masculinity in the Early Byzantine Empire?”

In this guest post, Michael sheds some light on where this article came from and why he chose to publish it in Ceræ.

‘Narses’, from the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna

The genesis for this article sparked from a moment of crisis. In September of 2012, I received the results back from the examiners of my University of Queensland Doctoral dissertation, ‘The Soldier’s Life: Martial Virtues and Hegemonic Masculinity in the Early Byzantine Empire’. Put simply, in this work, I argued that martial virtues and images of the soldier’s life represented an essential aspect of early Byzantine masculine ideology.

One of my key…

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