19963738 10th Century Navy and Marines of the Roman Byzantine Empire

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Transcript of 19963738 10th Century Navy and Marines of the Roman Byzantine Empire

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FROM THE HALLS OF ASIA MINOR TO THE SHORES OF SICILY:

THE NAVY AND MARINES OF THE ROMAN (BYZANTINE) EMPIRE IN THE 10TH CENTURY

RomaniaByzantiumby Michael ORourke mjor (at) velocitynet (dot) com (dot) au Canberra Australia September 2009

"The epochs of [Byzantium's] dominion are those in which it held control of the sea, and it was when it lost this that its reverses began." Louis Brehier, 1949.Introduction.......................................................................................................................................................2 Vessels and Crews in AD 900...........................................................................................................................3 Ship Types and Crew Sizes...............................................................................................................................5 Designed for Speed: Galleys as Surface Torpedoes.......................................................................................8

Slenderness.....................................................................................................................9The Size of Ships............................................................................................................................................10

Beamtolengthratios.................................................................................................10 Length.......................................................................................................................12 Beamorwidthatwidestpoint..................................................................................12 DepthandHeight.......................................................................................................13Speed and Range.............................................................................................................................................13 Provisions.......................................................................................................................................................14 Fleet Sizes.......................................................................................................................................................15 Marines, Soldiers and Armed Oarsmen..........................................................................................................17 Armament of Ships.........................................................................................................................................18

WhatwasGreekFire?................................................................................................19 FightingEquipmentusedbythecrewofaDromon.................................................20Tactics.............................................................................................................................................................21 Appendix: Ship Speeds in Antiquity and the Middle Ages............................................................................22 References.......................................................................................................................................................23

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Introduction The Christian Roman Empire of the Greeks with its capital at Constantinople is known today as the Eastern or Byzantine Empire. Its people knew it as Romania [Gk ], the Empire of the Romans. They called themselves Romans [Gk , Rhomaioi). The word Greek was used only by Westerners. In the West the Frankish kings also claimed to be emperors. The first was Charlemagne in AD 800. Thereafter one or other of the contending Frankish kings assumed the title emperor of the Romans (imperator Romanorum) when from time to time the Latin patriarch (called Pope) agreed, or was forced, to crown him as such. The Pope crowned Arnulph of Carinthia, the Carolingian king of East Francia (todays Germany), as emperor in 896. In 901 he crowned as emperor the King of (Frankish) Italy, Hludwig [Louis] III the Blind. In AD 900 the whole southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea had for centuries been Muslim lands. The Aghlabid emir, nominally recognising the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, ruled Tunisia and Sicily, except for the north-east of that island. There a number of towns remained in the hands of the Greeks. The Eastern Empire had lost Malta to the Arabs in 869 (Ahmad p.15; Brincat 1995). Crete (Arabic Ikritis) was ruled by an independent emir, while Cyprus was a kind of condominium or no mans land sitting between the Empire and the Abbasid Caliphate in the Levant. Thus the Byzantine (Roman) navy dominated only the northern shores of theMediterranean. The pirate ships from the Emirate of Crete had been brought almost to check by 900. From time to time, however, the Cretans would still launch naval raids deep into the northern Aegean. In the West, although the Muslims ruled most of Sicily, the ChristiansByzantium, along with its allies among the coastal towns of the lower mainlandstill controlled both sides of the Straits of Messina at the toe of the Italian boot. This did not, however, prevent Muslim fleets from Palermo raiding to the coasts of Calabria, Campania and Latium. Indeed the Saracens sacked the suburbs of Rome in 846, Apulia the back heel of Italy together with the Ionian Islands on the west of what is now Greece made up the Byzantine Theme (thema, military province) of Cephalonia. Thus the Empire also controlled the mouth of the Adriatic. In the northern Adriatic the contending naval powers included not only Byzantium but also the small republic of Venice and various Slavic tribes along what is now the Croatian coast. A Theme of Dalmatia, with its seat at Zadar (Zara) on the north Dalmatian coast nearer Venice, is first mentioned in 870. This signals the return of imperial authority after a period of Frankish rule and then autonomy. By 871 all of Romance-speaking Dalmatia* again acknowledged Byzantine suzerainty. But this suzerainty was loose: the emperor agreed that the Dalmatian towns could, instead of paying taxes to the imperial governor (strategos), pay protection money to the neighbouring Slavic rulers (Harris 2003: 34). The chief pirates nest or base was at the mouth of the Narenta (Neretva) River, which gave its name to the Narentine pirates. Their land, located in what is now Croatian Dalmatia below Split, was also called Pagania. ThemaintownwasMokro,modern Makarska,betweenSplitandDubrovnik. As with the Byzantines and later the Turks,

3 Venice entertained both commercial and warlike relations with the Paganians, the doge Pietro I Candiano having perished in an encounter with them in 887. (*) The Byzantine citizens of Croatia spoke Dalmatian, a language related to the Italian tongues, rather than Greek or Slavic. To simplify, wecna say that Slavic was sppoek in the hinterland, Dalmatian in the towns and Greek in the citadels. Lower Greece and the Cyclades were imperial domains, while, as we have said, Crete was under Muslim rule (map in Treadgold 1995: 209). Thus the lower Aegean was a frontline in the contest between Christianity and Islam. Rhodes and Asia Minor were ruled by Constantinople. Cyprus was shared between the Greek empire and the Arab caliphate. Both Greek and Arab tax collectors had operated on Cyprus since the seventh century. There were at least 28 major naval engagements across the Mediterranean from AD 800 to 1000. The Christians - mainly the Greeks but on occasion the Italians - won 16, the Muslims 12 (Pryor 1988: 104). But strategically the contest had already gone to the Muslims because they took control of most of the key islands along the trunk routes, or what used to be the main sea lanes, of Antiquity: east-west trade largely ceased by AD 700. Byzantium lost, or it began to lose, Crete from 825 and western Sicily from 827; eastern Sicily including Syracuse held out until 878. But after that the tide of naval war turned back in favour of the Empire. With renewed prosperity, the emperors could afford to enlarge their sea forces. Between 842 and 900 the numbers of oarsmen enrolled in the navy more than doubled, from 14,600 to 34,200. And to arm the new additional ships further marines were recruited: in about AD 870 the Imperial (central) Fleet at Constantinople received its own dedicated troops in the form of 4,000 new marines (Treadgold 1995: 66, 197 etc). Three major expeditions were sent to conquer the piratical Emirate of Crete: in 911, 949 and 960-61. The first two were botched, the last was successful (Treadgold 1997: 494 ff). Vessels and Crews in AD900 Oarsmen (Gk kopelatoi) were salaried professional or semi-professional seamen, which is to say: not amateur civilians who volunteered their time, and certainly not slaves. Marines (polemistai) and ordinary oarsmen were paid nine nomismata (gold coins) per year. The higher ranks obviously received more, e.g. ships masters (centarchs of the ships: two per vessel) and pilots or helmsmen (protokaraboi) were paid 72 nomismata per year (Treadgold 1995: 128, 131 etc). Marines, like land soldiers, also had other income, namely as the holders of tax-free military lands, typically a good-sized holding of 432 modii [35 hectares], which they sublet to tenant farmers (peasants).* A marine was more of a soldier than a farmer, however, since his holding was large enough for him to afford to have his relatives, tenants and hired hands run it for him when necessary. The marine (or in the case of an older men, his son) was able to devote the larger part of a year to military training and exercises and/or fighting in naval expeditions, with minimal time living with his family and managing the farm.

4 It is unclear how many, if any, of the oarsmen farmed plots of state land. Evidently the rowers who manned the Imperial (central) Fleet did not; but perhaps some oarsmen in the maritime