Byzantine Military Organization on the Danube, 10th–12th Centuries

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The Rus who sailed along the coast come to the Selinas, to the so-called branch of the Danube River. And until they are past the river Selinas, the Pechenegs keep pace with them. And if it happens that the sea casts a monoxylon on shore, they all put in to land, in order to present a united opposition to the Pechenegs.

17.12.29, Matheou, et al., eds., From Constantinople to the Frontier

But after the Selinas they fear nobody, but, entering the territory of Bulgaria, they come to the mouth of the Danube. From the Danube they proceed to the Konopas, and from the Konopas to Constantia, and from Constantia to the river of Varna, and from Varna they come to the river Ditzina, all of which are Bulgarian territory.

From the Ditzina they reach the district of Mesembria. While the number of Byzantine coins in Dobrudja increased after the middle of the 10th century according to finds not only from Mangalia and Constana, but also from Isaccea, Hrova, Capidava and other points ,81 that is not enough to prove a restoration of the Byzantine power in northern Dobrudja.

The increasing number of coin finds is simply a reflection of the accelerated commercial exchanges between Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire. During the period when Bulgaria had control over the entire region now known as Dobrudja, the so-called Stone Dike was erected, which is the most recent among the three linear fortifications across that land from Cernavoda to Constana the Stone Dike overlaps the Small as well as the Great Earthen Dikes see Fig.

The Stone Dike is an earthen rampart, 59 km long and 1,72,2 m thick, surmounted by a wall built of limestone blocks and mortar, with a ditch to the north. Twenty-six forts with an area between 2,5 and 10,8 hectares were erected along the dike. Pottery of the Dridu type, which is typical for the 10th century was found in some of those forts.

Moreover, a solidus struck in is known from fort XIV. The inscription, although damaged, reads, translated by the Slavicist Damian Bogdan as The first one includes two lines from the end of an inscription which mentions the year AD , while the last two lines referring to a upan named Demetrius were carved with less precision at a later date.

Some believed that in that year the Pechenegs invaded Bulgaria, despite the failure of the campaign planned by Igor. The region behind the dike was a march-like district of medieval Bulgaria. It appears that the rock monastery built in the chalk quarry in Murfatlar-Basarabi was there at the time the wall was built, for the stones were extracted from that same quarry. The inscription was first published by Coma , and Bogdan, Coma, Panaitescu , Its authenticity was questioned by Nandri , , who noted that the language presents old Russian and not old Bulgarian features, as one could expect: Whereas the philological arguments plead, in Bogdans view, for a Russian version of the text, palaeographically the inscription is South Slavonic.

A refugee from Communist Romania, Nandri lived at that time in London and was vehemently anti-Communist. His intention seems to have been to cast doubts about what he viewed as a forgery designed to prove the earliest Russian presence in Romania. His views were not adopted by anyone else, and the inscription is still viewed as one of the oldest Slavonic monuments. The most recent study on the rock monastery in Damian, Samson, Vasile , This reading has been corrected by Kazimir Popkonstantinov, who believes that the word upan should be replaced with Tupai the name of the man who built a church consecrated to Saint George.

The limestone block with the inscription was not found in situ, but had apparently fallen next to the precinct of fort VIII. The block was apparently extracted from the wall as the late Eugen Coma, the author of the discovery, once told me ; it was therefore not part of the foundation. On the other hand, it is sure that the stone was taken from another construction, because mortar remains may still be observed on the block it is important to note on the other hand that the wall was not built with mortar.

This construction was most probably a monument erected to commemorate a battle several Bulgar inscriptions attest to that practice. It is more probable that the block with the inscription was inserted during a repaired wall at the time when the dike served as protection against the Byzantine forces in northern Dobrudja, that is between and see below.

Byzantine army

This linear fortification must have been conceived as a protection against Pecheneg attacks directed at Preslav and other Bulgarian settlements, mostly because it was provided with forts for soldiers. Not surprisingly, the region next to the Stone Dike was well developed and populated, as a recent archaeological excavation has demonstrated.

A large 10th-century settlement with stone houses was identified during the rescue excavations made in May near the village Valul lui Traian, not far from Constana. A cemetery of more than graves was also found near the northern side of the Small Earthen Dike some of the graves cut through the rampart. From the area of the same settlement a small part of a coin hoard with 50 nomismata was recovered in Both hoards were hidden during the events of Other nomismata issued between and are known from various points along the Stone Dike or just behind it, at Oltina, Rasova, Urluia, Basarabi Murfatlar , and Constana.

This reversal of alliances in the Black Sea region led to a joint action against Bulgaria in , in addition to a Magyar raid against the Empire. Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas stopped the payment of the usual tribute for Bulgaria, which had been established by the treaty of , and prepared for a large-scale campaign, which had to be cancelled at the last moment because of a rebellion in Antioch.

BttnerWobst, ; Ostrogorsky , ; Stokes , , ; Gjuzelev , 17; Fine , ; Busetto , 11; Whittow , , ; Treadgold , ; Spinei , It was a better option to strike this country from the north, because an offensive from the south required access to the mountain passes across Stara Planina, which were too dangerous for the Byzantine army.

The emperor was certainly aware of the catastrophe of , when a Byzantine army was ambushed and slaughtered in one of those passes, in which the usual combat formation was impossible to deploy. He suggested to Svyatoslav that in return, he would keep Bulgaria, in addition to a generous payment of 1, pounds of gold pounds around kg. In the summer of , the Kievan prince launched his campaign with an army said to be as large as 40, men, with which he reached the mouths of the Danube and then Dorostolon.

The Bulgarian army, of about 30, men tried to defend the city, but was easily defeated, and Svyatoslav conquered several fortresses in eastern Bulgaria, including the capital at Preslav. Some Bulgarian aristocrats went to the Rus side, choosing that over the Byzantine rule. Thus, the rising Rus maritime power gained control of the Lower Danube region, with the consent and support of the Byzantine emperor. This appears to have been a major strategic mistake, for the Rus gained control not only over the river, but also over a country of great strategic and economic importance.

Svyatoslav was fully aware of the real meaning of his achievement.

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According to the Russian Primary Chronicle, he declared that I do not care to remain in Kiev, but should prefer to live in Pereiaslavetz on the Danube, since that is the centre of my realm, where all riches are concentrated; gold, silks, wine, and various fruits from Greece, silver and horses from Hungary and Bohemia, and from Rus furs, wax, honey, and slaves. Jewish merchants are known to have traveled from Spain to Khazaria by several routes, one of which followed the Danube, while Kievan traders are said to have already reached the German towns on the Upper Danube River in.


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In that respect, gaining control of the Lower Danube was both a military and an economic target for the Rus. He acted like Symeon during the Magyar invasion in Bulgaria in , but with less success, since the Rus were a redoubtable force, difficult to stop by means of a simple Pecheneg raid.

In fact, the Rus prince showed no desire to abandon his expansionist plans. Svyatoslav returned to Preslav from Kiev in August , subduing the new Bulgarian emperor Boris II , who had recovered his capital a few months before that with Byzantine assistance. In the second campaign, Svyatoslav was wise enough to ally himself with the Pechenegs and the Magyars. From Preslav, he attacked the Byzantine territory in cooperation with those Bulgarians who had accepted his rule. That shows how ineffective the diplomacy of Nikephoros Phokas has become.

The internal conflicts within the empire, in which Kalokyros had intended to get involved, have by now undermined any possible success in the military field.

Nonetheless, because the Byzantine general Bardas Skleros obtained a decisive victory against the Rus at Arkadiopolis today Lule Burgas , km to the west from Constantinople, in the spring or summer of The Byzantine army of no more than 12, men, was most certainly outnumbered by the Rus coalition with as many as 30, men, but managed to obtain the victory by means of moving an army corps to the flanks, thus encircling the enemy by surprise.

Thurn, , ; transl. Flusin, , ; transl.

Wortley, , ; Zonaras, XVI, Bttner-Wobst, ; Stokes , ; Lewis , ; Wozniak , , Fine , ; Barnea b, ; Franklin, Shepard , , ; Busetto , ; Whittow , ; Stephenson , ; Curta , The location of Pereiaslavetz will be discussed in chapter II. Talbot, Sullivan, , ; Skylitzes, John Tzimiskes, 56 ed. Bttner-Wobst, ; Wozniak , ; Fine , ; Hanak , ; Franklin, Shepard , ; Busetto , ; Treadgold , , ; Krsmanovi , 35, As soon as he finished dealing with Bardas Phokas, the Byzantine army moved rapidly through eastern Bulgaria, taking back the ports that had been lost in According to Leo the Deacon, the Byzantine forces included 13, pedestrians and 15, cavalrymen.

The army was commanded by the emperor himself, assisted by the stratilates Bardas Skleros and the stratopedarches Peter Phokas who commanded troops from Thrace and Macedonia. The capital Preslav was taken from the Rus and the Bulgarians on April 4th. The city was renamed Ioannoupolis after the emperor. The victory at Preslav was only the first step in a large offensive against the Rus, for the main body of the army headed by Svyatoslav was at that time concentrated in Dorostolon.

For Svyatoslav, that city was not only a place of refuge, but also a position that allowed him to maintain control over the Danube. A seal of that commander of the fleet was in fact found in Preslav, a clear indication of pre-planned, joint operations.

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Meanwhile, the Byzantine land army, marching from Preslav toward Dorostolon, took several other fortresses, such as Pliska and Dineia. Initially, Svyatoslav appears to have effectively defended the city and even to have launched small attacks against the Byzantine troops. However, when the Byzantine fleet showed up on April 25th, the Rus suddenly found that their retreat routes had been blocked.

Moreover, the Byzantines could now use the Greek fire from the ships against those on the ramparts. The chronicle of John Skylitzes mentions that a delegation came to the emperor during the siege: A delegation now came to him from Constanteia and the other Iorga , Talbot, Sullivan, , ; Skylitzes, John Tzimiskes, ed. They sought an amnesty for their misdeeds [in return for] handing over themselves and the strongholds.

He received them kindly, dispatching officers to take charge of the fortresses and with sufficient troops to secure them. Unlike Leo the Deacon who framed the narrative in comparison to battles of Antiquity, Skylitzes paid more attention to the details. To be sure, he does not explain of what exactly have been guilty the garrisons of those fortresses.

Asking for forgiveness from the emperor would make sense only if they had been either Byzantines, or allies disobeying orders or betraying oaths.

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Since it is hard to imagine the emperor being so clement, had those soldiers been his own, it is more likely that they were Bulgarians. Tzimiskes wished to be seen as a liberating Bulgaria from the Rus occupation. He recognized Boris II as emperor the Bulgarian ruler was captured by Svyatoslav and freed when Preslav had been conquered. In the mean time, some Bulgarians had chosen Svyatoslavs side.

Such opportunists have by now started to leave the Rus as the victorious Byzantine army was approaching. The emperor had no reason to reject the offer of the Bulgarians who controlled those forts, but could not trust them either.

For this reason he set new garrisons in those forts, as if following the advice of the military treatise of Syrianos Magister, according to which we must not entrust the safety of these forts or assign to their garrisons men who have once been captured by the enemy. This Constanteia is most certainly the same as the port mentioned by Constantine Porphyrogenitus, the ancient city of Tomis and the present-day city of Constana. As a consequence, some have advanced the idea that the passage contains two different sentences, which have been collapsedone.

Wortley, For the date and authorship of this treatise, see Rance , Much more likely is the reading of the passage as from Constanteia, and from other forts, [located] beyond the Danube.

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