Warfare, State, and Society in the Byzantine World, 565-1204

By John Haldon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO

Warfare and the East Roman state: geography and strategy

The person who wants to wage war against an enemy must first make sure that his own lands are secure. By secure I mean not only the security of the army but of the cities and the entire country, so that the people who live there might suffer no harm at all from the enemy. 1


Strategy and diplomacy: theories and practice

Strategy teaches us how to defend what is our own and to threaten what belongs to the enemy. The defensive is the means by which one acts to guard his own people and their property, the offensive is the means by which one retaliates against his opponents. 2

Strategy, strategia, associated with or derived from stratos, army, and strategos, leader of an army, “general”, means “the art of generalship”. In contrast to the modern sense of the word—the art and technique of deploying all available resources to gain the objects of war, a meaning which developed only from the nineteenth century—strategy for East Roman and Byzantine generals and governments was not always easily distinguished from tactics, so that the medieval military treatises which provide us with so much of our information on military matters treat the two as part of a continuum, normally using the word strategy to refer to the structure and organization of warfare, and the art of planning and directing specific campaigns, bearing in mind geographical and climatic factors, communications and the dispositions and movements of the military forces available to the general. In the opening section of the Tactica of the emperor Leo VI, compiled in the first years of the tenth century, we read the following:

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