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Military


379-861 - Byzantine Macedonia

The genius of Rome expired with Theodosius in AD 395, the last of the successors of Augustus and Constantine, who appeared in the field at the head of their armies, and whose authority was universally acknowledged throughout the whole extent of the empire. The memory of his virtues still continued, however, to protect the feeble and inexperienced youth of his two sons. After the death of their father, Arcadius and Honorius were saluted, by the unanimous consent of mankind, as the lawful emperors of the East and of the West (AD 395, Jan. 17). Arcadius, who was then about 18 years of age, reigned over the East; his younger brother, Honorius, assumed, in the 11th year of his age, the nominal government of the West. The great and martial prefecture of Ulyricum was divided between the two princes: the defence and possession of the provinces of Noricum, Pannonia, and Dalmatia, still belonged to the Western empire; but the two large dioceses of Dacia and Macedonia, which Gratian had intrusted to the valour of Theodosius, were for ever united to the empire of the East.

The death of the great Theodosius was speedily followed by the revolt of the Goths, who were now directed by the bold and artful genius of Alaric. Thrace and Dacia had hitherto been the scene of the Gothic ravages; but Alaric, disdaining to trample any longer on these prostrate and ruined countries, resolved to seek a plentiful harvest of fame and riches in a province which had hitherto escaped the ravages of war. In the summer of A.d. 395 he entered Macedonia, and in the course of this and the following year he carried his ravages into almost every district of Greece. In A.d. 396 Stilicho marched into Peloponnesus to chastise the invaders. He surrounded the Gothic army upon the borders of Elis and Arcadia; but Alaric broke through the lines of circumvallation which were formed to prevent his escape, and conducted his army in safety across the mouth of the gulf of Corinth.

In the reign of Attila the Huns became the terror of the world. The career of Attila divides itself into two parts. The first (a.d. 441450) consists of the ravage of the Eastern empire between the Euxine and the Adriatic, and of the negotiations with Theodosius. The second (as 450453) consists of the invasion of the Western empire. As the Romans were pressed by a victorious enemy, they gradually, and unskilfully, retired towards the Chersonesus of Thrace; and that narrow peninsula, the last extremity of the land, was marked by their third, and irreparable defeat. By the destruction of this army, Attila acquired the indisputable possession of the field. From the Hellespont to Thermopylae and the suburbs of Constantinople, ho ravaged, without resistance and without mercy, the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia. Theodosius, his court, and the unwarlike people, were protected by the walls of Constantinople; but the words the most expressive of total extirpation and erasure are applied to the calamities which he inflicted on to cities of the empire.

The fortifications of Europe and Asia were multiplied by Justinian; but the repetition of those timid and fruitless precautions exposes, to a philosophic eye, the debility of the empire. From Belgrade to the Euxine, from the conflux of the Save to the mouth of the Danube, a chain of above fourscore fortified places was extended along the banks of the great river. The progress of the barbarians was sometimes retarded, and their hopes of rapine were disappointed, by the innumerable castles which, in the provinces of Dacia, Epirus, Thessaly, Macedonia, and Thrace, appeared to cover the whole face of the country. Yet these military works, which exhausted the public treasure, could not remove the just apprehensions of Justinian and his European subjects.

While the Southern Slav States of Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia were being built up in the countries north of Macedonia, and the Bulgarian State and nation resulted from the amalgamation of the Southern Slavs between the Danube and the Balkan Chain with their conquerors, the Macedonian Slavs still remained under the domination of the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine writers invariably refer to them as "Slavs," or the "Slav nation". They still lived mainly in villages; they were an agricultural people, and retained their primitive tribal organization. The Byzantine writers say that the territories occupied by the individual tribes in Macedonia were called "Slovenia", and that each tribe had a semi-independent prince. The dignity of these princes was hereditary, and they were quite independent as regards the internal management of the tribe. They acknowledged only the suzerainty of the Greek Empire, and they paid a fixed tribute.

A ray of historic light seems to beam from the darkness of the tenth century. The provinces - the themes, as they were then denominated - under the obedience of the emperors were cast into a new mould; and the jurisdiction of the presidents, the consulars, and the counts was superseded by the institution of the themes, or military governments, which prevailed under the successors of Heraclius, and are described by the pen of the royal author. Of the 29 themes, 12 were in Europe and 17 in Asia. In the 11th century the relics of Italy were swept away by the Norman adventurers, and almost all the Asiatic branches were dissevered from the Roman trunk by the Turkish conquerors. After these losses the emperors of the Comnenian family continued to reign from the Danube to Peloponnesus, and from Belgrade to Nice, Trebizond, and the winding stream of the Meander. The spacious provinces of Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece were obedient to their sceptre.





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Page last modified: 20-11-2012 16:22:29 ZULU