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

By John Haldon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN

Warfare and society

The impact of war: the physical environment

It remains to survey the ways in which warmaking, fighting and the presence of soldiers affected medieval East Roman society, and to examine the physical and cultural environments as they were influenced and determined by these factors.


The military and the provincial populations

The East Roman empire from the seventh century until its disappearance in the fifteenth was, as we have seen in an earlier chapter, in an unenviable strategic position. It had to organize for almost constant warfare on one front or another, and this had enormous implications for the whole population, not just those living adjacent to the frontiers. Warfare was for much of society for considerable periods of time an entirely “normal” element in day-to-day existence, a fact borne out by the constant presence of the topic in personal letters, for example, even in those of the most important members of the ecclesiastical establishment. 1 The impact of warfare manifested itself in several ways. Not only was the population directly affected by hostile activity, it was also subject to the effects of the presence of soldiers of the East Roman forces, whether on campaign or not. The very existence of an army, and the need to supply and provision it and to provide materials and livestock for it when it was on campaign, all contributed. We have already discussed the extensive and burdensome logistical demands of the army, and although few specific examples of the effects of these demands upon the civilian population are revealed in the written sources, enough is known to hint at its magnitude. The burden of supporting soldiers passing through on campaign had always been onerous as many late Roman sources show. This was not just a question

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