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The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and Society, 1204-1453 (The Middle Ages Series) Paperback – 1 Jan 1997


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Product details

  • Paperback: 476 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press; New Ed edition (1 Jan 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812216202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812216202
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,352,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"An essential tool for comparative historians, Byzantinists, Balkanologists, historians of the later Crusades, medieval Islamic, especially Ottoman, and western European medieval and Renaissance history. Its publication reinforces the reputation of Bartusis as a foremost authority on many dimensions of late Byzantine institutions and the related social and economic context."-Walter Kaegi, Journal of Military History

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By Mark C. Bartusis

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After the Fourth Crusade Constantinople became the capital of a Latin Empire with Baldwin of Flanders as emperor and feudal overlord of all. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 Jun 2012
Format: Paperback
Mark Bartusis' book on the Late Byzantine Army remained for almost tenty years the only Reference on the shrinking Empire's armed forces during the last two centuries of its existence. Since the publication of Savvas Kyriakidis' work on Warfare in Late Byzantium (Brill, 2011), which completes it but does not superseed it, it is still one of the two references, although it is a bit dated in some areas. Ideally, both should be used together.

The first merit of Bartusis' book is to show that, unlike during the Komnenian period before 1204 (1081 to 1204), no part of the Empire was "immune to sudden and frequent attacks" and this meant that the army's importance increased correspondingly. This is what he means when mentioning that Byzantium was in a state of "permanent" war, especially after 1282 and the death of Michael VIII. In his own terms, it was "a highly visible institution". Although he does not quite manage to demonstrate that it was any more "visible" or more important than the armies of the Komnenes, what is probably meant is that it was increasin gly unable to both defend the Empire's existing territory AND reconquer lost territory and that, as time went by, the latter objective was dropped in practice, if not in theory, as it became increasingly difficult to defend what it already had.

Another merit of the book is to examine the components of the army - the mercenaries (mostly "foreign", although this needs also to be qualified), the pronoiars (holders of fiscal grants), which he shows as clearly different from feudal landholders, and the guards (whether palace guards or gerrisons). He shows that neither of the first two can be held responsible for the Empire's slow demise and shrinking territory and resources.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The Late Byzantine Army by Mark C. Bartusis 18 Jun 2000
By Emmett Strode - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Mark C. Bartusis' book is a tightly written and well organized scholarly exploration of the Byzantine army in the final two-and-a-half centuries of the empire. Divided into two sections, the first part of the work is an overview of the army's role in the political organization of the empire. The section concludes with a very well-written short essay on the fall of Constantinople. The second section is a technical discussion of the organization and financing of the army. Coming to the book as a general reader with an interest in Byzantine history, I found the glossary of court and military terms very helpful. The bibliography provides a wealth of possibilities for future reading. Bartusis' writing is scholarly but it is not stilted and overly-formal as is the work of many scholar-historians. "The Late Byzantine Army" provides the general reader and the reader of military history with a brief but well-drawn and understandable portrait of the subject.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and Society, 1204-1453 3 Nov 2010
By Eric Williams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and Society, 1204-1453. Mark C. Bartusis. 1997. 464 pages.

This is not a book about tactics, strategy, orders of battle, training, equipment or philosophy of war. It is not a military history and skimming the table of contents is deceptive. Along the lines of a quote by Graf Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf about the primary national requirement for a war being money and the second being money and the third being money, this book is largely about financing the Byzantine Military establishment.

The first section of the book discusses the size and use of the Imperial Military from 1204 to 1453. 1204 is the beginning of the Latin Crusader occupation of Constantinople which was taken back by the Byzantines in 1261. The Byzantine forces of this period and until the end in 1453 were very different in composition from those of earlier times. The composition was different but there were attempts to tie them to those earlier forces by function, title, or honorifics. There is some discussion of the fleet but 85% or more of the text is given over to ground forces their composition, source of recruitment and financing.

What becomes apparent is that warfare, especially civil war was constant even beyond 1261 and the re-establishment of the empires capital in Constantinople. Given the costs involved in warfare, there was reluctance by the Byzantines to use their own forces when surrogate forces could be had for payment at a cheaper rate. Consider the cost of recruitment, training, equipping, maintaining, and the need to replace that person in the civilian work force as well. Drawing a significant part of their sovereign forces from landholders meant that when the y were mobilized either they had to find some one else to work the land (source of income for soldier and through taxation for the state) or in the case of larger estates to oversee the workers. To fight a battle with your army is to risk losing it and possibly your state as well. This seems to have been well understood by the pragmatic Byzantine mind. To allow for the continued use of armed force as an aspect of statecraft and diplomacy the Byzantines preferred to hold their own native force in reserve and use other forces when ever possible in pursuit of their goals.

The various unit types or classification of these other forces and the native forces are well documented in this text. The bulk of the text discusses their recruitment, definition, role in the imperial system and how they were financed. It is very detailed and interesting but not for the general reader or the military specialist. It is easy to get lost in the details. There were surprises in the financial and legal aspects of the text. The first is the relationship between Church, Money, State and War. The encroachment and growth of monasteries' economic power had a serious impact on the solvency of the state. Some monasteries were charged with recruiting and paying for defenses including soldiers in the field.

I was interested in the late recruitment of the Varangians and other Imperial Bodyguards. They were initially Viking but in this later period they were predominantly English and the book detailed some of their civic and military responsibilities. What was interesting was their proclaiming in church (Saint Sophia) using English in the heart of Greek speaking Byzantium. The texts are clear that they proclaimed in their own language. The state seemed willing to forego any attempt at forced conversion or Hellenization as a way to insulate the forces from domestic politics.

The book is tedious though detailed in its writing. Not a casual or light read. I would not recommend it as a starting point or an intermediate point of entry into the world of Byzantium or military history. It has a function and it is well suited to that function, detailing the recruitment, structure, and financing of Byzantine ground force from 1204-1453. Beyond that function is little appeal.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Fighting a losing war? 3 Jun 2012
By JPS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Mark Bartusis' book on the Late Byzantine Army remained for almost tenty years the only Reference on the shrinking Empire's armed forces during the last two centuries of its existence. Since the publication of Savvas Kyriakidis' work on Warfare in Late Byzantium (Brill, 2011), which completes it but does not superseed it, it is still one of the two references, although it is a bit dated in some areas. Ideally, both should be used together.

The first merit of Bartusis' book is to show that, unlike during the Komnenian period before 1204 (1081 to 1204), no part of the Empire was "immune to sudden and frequent attacks" and this meant that the army's importance increased correspondingly. This is what he means when mentioning that Byzantium was in a state of "permanent" war, especially after 1282 and the death of Michael VIII. In his own terms, it was "a highly visible institution". Although he does not quite manage to demonstrate that it was any more "visible" or more important than the armies of the Komnenes, what is probably meant is that it was increasin gly unable to both defend the Empire's existing territory AND reconquer lost territory and that, as time went by, the latter objective was dropped in practice, if not in theory, as it became increasingly difficult to defend what it already had.

Another merit of the book is to examine the components of the army - the mercenaries (mostly "foreign", although this needs also to be qualified), the pronoiars (holders of fiscal grants), which he shows as clearly different from feudal landholders, and the guards (whether palace guards or gerrisons). He shows that neither of the first two can be held responsible for the Empire's slow demise and shrinking territory and resources. However, one the explanations that he provides, that economy had been in decline since the XIth century, has been challenged by more recent works. The decline set in in the final decades of the XIIth century and over the XIIIth century, but the Empire was still prosperous enough, at least until 1180, to be able to afford the larger armies that it needed. This was no longer the case after 1204.

While interesting and fascinating, the detailed and technical presentation of the army's organisation and performances mask what it perhaps the main limit of this book. Although not entirely the author's fault, there is an assumption that the army and the state never had the resources their needed to fight winning and decisive battles and wars, rather than to just repel the multiple attackers and ennemies until the next time, where they would have to start all over again. While this was clearly and increasingly true after 1282, and Bartusis makes a strong and convincing case that the Empire's standing army forces should be counted in the thousands (a figure of 5000 is mentioned prior to 1282) rather than the tens of thousands, his arguments are somewhat less convincing for the period prior to 1282. Also, while the sources do make it very difficult to estimate numbers, whether those for specific campaigns or, and even more so, overall numbers for the army, it seems that until Michael's death in 1282, the Army did manage to put a larger number of men in the field than afterwards, as illustrated by the year 1262 when three armies seem to have been fielded on three different theaters of operations. Even if small (say 3000 each), this would be double the author's estimate.

Another strongpoint of this book is to show how Michael VIII was both highly successful over the short-term while undermining the Empire's strength over the medium to longer term. His campaigns in the the Balkans stretched the Empire's finances to the extent that his son had to drastically cut expenses and disband the fleet to avoid bankcruptcy, with very damaging consequences on the Empire's security. Second, by using and transplanting soldiers from Anatolia to Europe, he is blamed for considerably weakening the borders of the latter which was entirely lost to the Turks by the end of his son's reign. Third point, while he was devoting his limited resources to the reconquest of the West, a must for any Byzantine Emperor, he missed the "window of opportunity" that he had to crush the Turkish Emirates arising from the collapse of the Sultanate of Konya, and these Emirates, once united by the Ottomans, would prove irresistable by the time his son succeeded him.

Finally, there are the maps of the Empire's territory, which are excellent. In particular, they illustrate very well the Empire's strategic dilemna and show that at sone at it chose to expand on one front, it would be attacked on another one and lose territory and therefore substance and resources, as a result, making it that much weaker when the next confrontation came up.

An excellent book, highly recommended
Great book for researching . . . 28 April 2013
By smhunder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
a paper on the Fall of Constantinople. This will give background information needed to give the reasons for the ultimate fall of Constantinople.
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