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πŸ›Quo Usque Pro Roma Ibis?πŸ›  This page is dedicated to the mighty Roman Army and Navy. From the Kingdom of Rome to the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire! c. 753 BC - 1453 AD πŸ“œ

When Constantinople fell in 1204 AD, it resulted in the creation of three breakaway Byzantine empires, each claiming rightful ownership of the former capital and the Imperial throne. These were the Despotate of Epirus, ruled by the Doukas dynasty, and controlling Albania and the western part of Greece north of the Gulf of Corinth; the Empire of Trebizond ruled by the prestigious Komnenian dynasty which arguably had the strongest claim to the Byzantine throne, and ruled north-eastern Anatolia and southern Crimea; finally there was the Empire of Nicaea ruled first by the Lacris dynasty but later on by the Palaiogolos dynasty, and held on to a broad diagonal band of western Anatolia from the Aegean to the Black Sea coasts.
Each of these three Byzantine states had its advantages: Epirus was closely situated to the empire's political heartland and very nearly also retook Constantinople thanks to this but was defeated by the Bulgarians on March 1230 AD at Klokonitsa and forced back. Trebizond was the wealthiest of the Byzantine successors, being positioned at the western terminus of the Silk Road, and their realm prospered greatly whilst their superbly fortified capital furthered security. Nicaea held on to the empire's most populous areas, and thus could still raise fairly large armies, and frequent contact with the Turks and Latins made it battle-hardened.
It was the Nicaeans who would come to the final rescue of Byzantium. They had already shown that they were a force to be reckoned with when they decisively threw back a much larger Turkish army near Antioch at Meander in 1211 AD. In January 1259 AD, following the death of the late emperor Theodore Lacris, the ambitious general Michaeal VIII Palaiogolos was able to seize the throne, and that same year decisively defeated a combined Latin and Epirote army at Pelagonia. Irrespective of his success on the battlefield, only the recovery of Constantinople would truly cement his place as the new Byzantine emperor - his attempt to retake the capital in 1260 AD failed, but on July 1261 AD, the effort succeeded. The short-lived Latin Empire subsequently also fell, after a tumultous reign.

Although the history of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire had always been a chaotic one, the history of it from the 13th century AD onward was particularly disturbed. The empire had to consistently deal with the emerging threat of the Turks to its east, where the two powers struggled over control of Byzantium's eastern frontier, while in the west the issue was the powerful Serbian and Bulgarian empires and the Latins - the latter being a term used by the Byzantines to describe anyone belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. In this case the Byzantines had to contend with the Italians, Franks and the more dangerous Venetians.
In 1202 AD, Europe was preparing to march on another Crusade into the East against the Turks. As usual, the Crusader army would stop by at the Byzantine capital of Constantinople to gather supplies and intelligence and possibly even reinforcements - during the First Crusade Byzantine soldiers, siege specialists and officers accompanied the Crusaders. The Crusaders were also accompanied by a large contingent of Venetians, who also supplied them with a fleet. However Crusader-Byzantine relations had always been complex and unstable, and this dangerous mix blew over into full scale war in 1202 AD when the army of the Fourth Crusade shockingly turned against the Christian Byzantines. And with gusto.
The idea that an army marching in the name of God could turn on one of the holiest of Christian cities on Earth was unfathomable - yet turn on it they did, and though the struggle for Constantinople was long and costly for the Crusaders and Venetians, they eventually took the city in 1204 AD. Disregarding threats of excommunication and the place's importance to their faith, the Crusaders and Venetians sacked Constantinople and murdered and raped all before them. The act sent shockwaves across the Christian World, and it also decentralized and split Byzantine Imperial power for nearly sixty years, as the empire was split up into smaller successor states. Constantinople became the new capital of the Latin Empire - a power based in the Balkans that would soon find itself in perennial turmoil from all sides.

In the 13th century AD, the Byzantine Empire underwent one of its most tumultous periods. The capital of Constantinople was taken and sacked by treacherous Crusader forces, and reclaimed only decades later by Byzantine remnants from the Empire of Nicaea, reforming the empire. However, still divided between varried successor states and faced with enemies from all sides, Byzantium is in for a fight for its life. One of the most important ones took place near the port of Demetrias in Greece, as the Byzantine emperor Michael VII Palaiogolos attempts to revive the empire's power...
Will Michael's grand plan to restore the greatness of the Byzantines succeed? Or will his forces be overcome and his hopes dashed? In this series, spanning eleven chapters, we will explore the causes behind the Battle of Demetrias in 1275 AD, how the opposing forces fought, and how the battle was won. And lost.
#Byzantine #Byzantium #ByzantineEmpire #EasternRomanEmpire #History #ByzantineHistory #MedievalHistory #MilitaryHistory

Carthago Delenda Est
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On this day in history, October 19, 202 BC, the Battle of Zama is fought between the forces of the Roman Republic and Carthage.
In 218 BC, the Carthaginians had launched a devastating invasion into the Roman heartland of Italy under the command of the brilliant general Hannibal Barca. Although he won a number of victories over the Romans, Hannibal was unable to capitalize on any of his success' and as a result he was finally forced to retreat from his doomed front in Italy to Africa in 203 BC, the heartland of Carthage, where the Romans under Publius Cornelius Scipio had landed.
Scipio had ousted the Carthaginians from Spain after his decisive victories at Nova Carthago and Ilipa, and now was poised to strike at Carthage itself as he landed in Africa and smashed them at Utica and the Great Plains. The Carthaginian Senate placed Hannibal in charge of a large army, heavily outnumbering Scipio, and the two great generals faced off at the flat desert plains of Zama in October 202 BC. Although Hannibal had the edge in numbers along with a corps of war elephants, his troops weren't as experienced as Scipio's who also had the advantage in cavalry.
Hannibal first sent in his elephants to break Scipio's lines, but the Roman countered these and then sent his cavalry in to attack Hannibal's inferior horsemen. The Carthaginian infantry then clashed with the Roman infantry after the skirmishers of both sides had been throwing missiles at one another for a while, and in vicious fighting many from both sides fell. However the battle was quickly decided in Scipio's favor when his cavalry routed Hannibal's horsemen, and then returned to attack the latter in his exposed rear. The Carthaginian infantry, already engaged from the front, suffered horribly from this cavalry attack and Hannibal's army was totally routed and destroyed as a fighting force. After the defeat, Hannibal explained to the Carthaginain leadership that the war was lost, and that it was time to make peace and accept that fact. Rome imposed humiliating terms upon Carthage, which was absolutely defeated never to emerge again as a major military or economic power.

Balkan Bloodshed
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On this day in history, October 18, 1081 AD, the Battle of Dyrrhachium is fought between the Byzantine Empire and the Normans.
With the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings not far behind us, it need not be said that October was an eventful and victorious month for the Normans. Following their conquests in southern Italy and Sicily, the Normans made a peace treaty with the Byzantines in 1077 AD, with emperor Michael VII marrying his son to the Norman lord Michael Guiscard's daughter. However with the deposing of Michael and the rise of Alexios I Komnenos to the Byzantine throne, Guiscard took this as a pretext to invade the Byzantine Empire. Alexios personally lead an army against Guiscard, and the two forces clashed outside the Byzantine city of Dyrrhachium on October 18, 1081 AD.
Alexios placed his elite Varangian Guard in the center of the battleline, screened by foot archers, where he was in command in person, assigning his other troops to protect the flanks. Guiscard stationed a contingent of Norman knights in the middle, flanked by his other troops. Alexios had hoped to catch Guiscard offguard, however the Norman commander had spotted his advance in time and positioned his army accordingly, forcing a regular battle. The battle initially began well for the Byzantines, with the Varangians in the center advancing steadily forward supported by their archers, who also succeeded in driving off Norman cavalry.
Guiscard also attempted to perform a feigned retreat on Alexios' center. However unlike at Hastings the tactic didn't work for the Normans. All appeared to be going well for the Byzantines, especially since both flanks of the Norman army collapsed, causing signifigant casualties. However his Varangians soon became isolated and unsupported after driving off another Norman cavalry force, and became exhausted to a point of being unable to resist an attack effectively. Guiscard exploited this immediately and had his own infantry supported by crossbowmen attack the exposed Varangians. The whole Byzantine force was then gradually driven off, and Guiscard emerged victorious after the close struggle.

Face To The Facts
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A little while back, I did an introductory post on myself, however since then I have gained many new followers, and I figured It'd be a good time to introduce myself and talk about why I created this page. So my actual name is Eric TenWolde, a 21 year old student currently living in Helsinki, Finland. I was born in Cinncinati in the US, but have lived here in the North for most of my life, and I am part Finnish and part American. Obviously, Roman history is my greatest, but not only, passion, thanks to me growing up in a very history-loving family and also simply developing an interest of my own.
I created this page for a few reasons. Firstly I love to write, it being something I've been doing since I was little, and second because of my love for writing about the Romans. However I also wanted to create a history page here on Instagram that was both active, new and also offered a chance for readers to actually learn something new. Too often will you find "history" pages here that are content with posting pictures accompanied by a few meek sentances that do little to actually educate one's audience, and disturbingly many are just copy-paste accounts on the two World Wars.
I also wanted to create this page to disspell the countless ridiculous myths and outright lies about the Romans and the ancient world in general, and to advise people on where to find that good information from elsewhere also. Roman history today is corrupted by modern people ignorantly trying to cram modern ideas and morals into the ancient world where they are not relevant, and the Romans seem to be viewed in a highly biased light nowadays mainly as a result for the modern mind's natural dislike for empires, among many other factors. What the problems are with modern study and attitude towards the Romans is something fit for a whole other post. Anyway, I would like to thank my followers, old and new, for getting this page up to prosperity. For someone like me who spends much time worrying about the fate of Rome's history and how its corrupted, its quite relieving to see such widespread and passionate interest in the subject remain.
Roma Aeterna Est!

Book Review: Imperial General - The remarkable career of Petillius Cerealis
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Petellius Cerealis is known almost universally for his thrashing at the hands of queen Boudicca's rebel horde in 60 AD, where he lead a small detachment of the Legio IX Hispana into a deadly ambush. However to a more studied eye, Cerealis was much more, and as a fine general he deserves to be remembered. I am glad that Matyszak made this book with that in mind. Unfortunately, "Imperial General" was not quite what the title of the book makes it appear, and the book itself had bumps along the way.
Firstly, Cerealis is completely absent from most of the book, not becoming heavily involved until the very end of the story and before that appering only in bits and pieces at best. The story is dominated instead by his description of the famous Year of the Four Emperors and also the Batavian Revolt, and prior to all that he explains the history of Roman generals and their role in the Roman state, providing examples of different Roman commanders. This all makes for fine reading but it also negates the title of the book completely. Matyszak would have been better off naming this book "Imperial General - The Roman Generals".
However this strange misnaming aside, Matyszak provided quite good accounts of both the Year of the Four Emperors and also the Batavian Revolt, and if you get this book after reading this review know that those are the parts you are really buying it for. Earlier I said this book was of somewhat mixed quality. This is because the early pages of the book are comtaminated with hugely inflated accounts of the Social War, Cimbrian War and the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, offering wildly exaggerated accounts of the threat posed by the German tribes to Rome, and even making a huge error or two along the way, and he is also at times somewhat uncritical of primary sources, failing apparantly to asess them properly, among others. What these errors were and what the reality of them was would take another post entirely. Overall, this book was of mixed quality. Whether you wish to buy it even so is up to you in the end.

Mystery Savior
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Among the numerous different deities in the Roman Empire, Mithras tends to stand out from the rest. An oriental god possibly of Indo-Iranian origin, Mithras first appeared in Rome around the 1st century BC, usually portrayed wearing Persian clothes and wearing a Phyrgian cap, whilst also slaying a bull of cosmic darkness. He became a savior-deity to the Romans, promising the worshippers of his cult redemption, with the evil scorpion sometimes appearing on his altars being crushed. Mithras was spread around the empire by the Roman army, from which came the majority of his worshippers.
Despite Mithras' great popularity among the Roman military and generally among the empire, almost nothing is actually known of his cult and its initiation rights and ways. So mysterious was the cult of Mithras that most Mithraic shrines, known as Mithraea, were even built underground, and only the initiated were permitted to gaze upon the rites on them, whose secrets are now lost to us. Initiates were divided into congregations composed of Fratres (Brothers) and Patres (Fathers), who swore to support one another. The final initiation of the Mithraic rite may have involved a neophyte laying in a pit while the blood of a sacrificed bull is poured on, but even this is uncertain.
Mithras appealed most to soldiers, unsurprising considering his cult was restricted to men alone and that it was very hierarchic, however unmilitary types like merchants also found his worship attractive, since as many as fifteen Mithraea have been discovered in Rome's port of Ostia. The cult's restrictive membership and secrecy was an obvious limitation to its spread, though this did not prevent its popularity and it also established itself as a rival for Christianity. Indeed, Christians in fact copied elements of Mithraism such as the cult titles of Brothers and Fathers. Similarities between Mithraism and Christianity were already noted by the Romans back in Antiquity, and worship of Mithras was also tied with worship of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. Worship of Mithras quite mysteriously died in the 5th century AD after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Book Review: Roman Empire
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Few will deny that the Roman Empire was critically important to the shaping of this world, even fewer will deny its place as a great empire. Yet even with that, many misconceptions and outright lies have developed around the Romans which even these people have come to accept: thats where "Roman Empire" by Nigel Rodgers comes in to disspell these myths. Covering everything from Rome's rise to its fall to civil and military life, Rodgers' book is a very complete account of the life of the Romans and their achievements.
The book begins with an overview of the Romans, speaking swiftly of the creation of the Pax Romana; the Peace of Rome, and its prosperity and how the Romans created their empire. The book's first section is a quick history of its rise and fall, covering many important moments and figures. Then there are sections on a selection of great Roman generals and also various emperors, providing a good wealth of information on these. It is just the tip of the iceberg however, since as I said this is a complete history of the Romans and thus very thorough in what it covers.
If the book has any weaknesses, it is in its detail: you will not find any detailed descriptions of battles and only quick overviews of wars, and the same is largely true of the other parts as well. This is to be expected however, since the book already has an immense ammount of information to be crammed into its pages. Overall this is a very good book, and in fact was a major factor in boosting my own interest in the Romans. Especially to someone who is new to the Romans, this should be a great addition to your library, and I'd imagine even an expert on Roman history would enjoy this.
#Rome #Roma #RomanArmy #RomanLegion #RomanKingdom #RomanRepublic #RomanEmpire #SPQR #History #RomanHistory #AncientHistory #MilitaryHistory

Puppet Master
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On this day in history, October 16, 456 AD, Flavius Ricimer defeats the forces of emperor Avitus at Piacenza.
Like so many other Roman generals of the 5th century AD, Ricimer was of Germanic background. He entered Roman service from a noble Suevic family, and climbed up the ranks of the Roman army to eventually serve as a high-ranking Magister Militum and became thoroughly Romanized, serving under the great general Flavius Stilicho, also of Germanic origin, specifically the Vandals. However he was most famously associated with the to-be emperor Flavius Julius Maiorianus, or Majorian, whom he befriended. The two eventually staged a coup against the Western Roman emperor Avitus, with support from the Eastern emperor Leo.
Once Avitus was defeated at Piacenza Majorian was elevated to the purple. Ricimer assumed he would be able to control his friend and thus dominate the Western Empire - his barbarian background prevented him from becoming emperor himself. However Majorian intended to be an effective emperor and was not dominated by Ricimer or any other of his subordinates for that matter. Majorian campaigns in Gaul and Spain nearly restored the Western Empire to prominency, however when his fleet to reconquer a lost North Africa was burned due to treachery, Ricimer had his erstwhile friend murdered.
Ricimer then began to exersize control over the Western Empire via a succession of puppet emperors whom he placed on the throne to support him, combining this shrewd politicking with support from the Western Roman army to become the most powerful man in the Western Roman Empire. In 467 AD, the Eastern Roman emperor Leo stepped in personally to settle the chaos in the western half of Rome's empire and appointed the general Anthemius as emperor there. Initially Ricimer got along well with the new emperor, deriving much power from his position as Magister Militum, however relations between the two deteriorated until in 472 AD Ricimer deposed Anthemius after a civil war. He then placed one Olybrius on the Western Roman throne on July, 472 AD, as a puppet, however Ricimer's assendancy lasted just a month as he soon died in August 472 AD from a hemorrhage.

Phalanx VS Legion
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From the early 2nd century BC onward, the Romans waged many bloody and highly successful wars against the Hellenistic kingdoms, crushing the famous Macedonian Phalanx with its ranks bristling with pikes again and again. The Romans had a multitude of advantages over a Phalanx that allowed it to routinely crush it in battle with little loss of life to themselves, the main reason being the Legion's far greater tactical flexibility over the Phalanx. The Roman historian Livy best describes this as he writes on the Battle of Pydna, fought on June 22, 168 BC:
"The strength of the Phalanx is irresistable when it is close-packed and bristling with extended spears; but if by attacks from different points you force the troops to swing around their spears, unwieldy as they are by reason of their length and weight, they become tangled in a disorderly mass; and further, the noise of any commotion on the flanks or rear throws them into confusion, and then the whole formation collapses. This is what happened in this battle, when the Phalanx was forced to meet the Romans who were attacking in small groups, with the Macedonian line broken at many points."
In addition, the Legion had a higher proportion of officers to men than the Phalanx, and thus also was easier to control and keep together. Another critical weakness of the Phalanx, which can be attributed to its lack of flexibility, was that it could only fight one way and in one place: on flat ground, making an advance forward. In any rougher ground its formation would break up and be slowed down, whereas the flexible Roman units had no such issues. The Phalanx also absorbed all available manpower, whilst the more flexible Romans maintained reserves to plug any possible gaps in the line. The Greek historian Polybius gives a fine summing up of the Legion's edge:
"What then is the factor which enables the Romans to win the battle and causes those who use the Phalanx to fail? The answer is that in war the times and places for action are unlimited, whereas the Phalanx requires one time and one type of ground only in order to produce its peculiar effect."

Throne Rush
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On this day in history, October 15, 1211 AD, the Battle of Rhyndacus is fought between the forces of the Latin Empire and the Empire of Nicaea.
In 1204 AD, the Byzantine Empire had suffered a terrible and unexpected reverse when the capital of Constantinople was captured and sacked by the forces of the Fourth Crusade, who proceeded to establish the Latin Empire in the area around the great city. The Byzantines however were not defeated as a fighting force, and they survived in the form of three successor states: the Despotate of Epirus and the Empires of Nicaea and Trebizond. However they were not united, and instead they all quarelled over control of the Imperial throne.
In 1211 AD, the Nicaeans won a great victory over the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Antioch on the Meander, however the battle also depleted their army's numbers and the Latins took advantage of this to invade the Nicaean Byzantines. The Latins were commanded by emperor Henry of Flanders, in power since 1205 AD, and second ruler of the Latin Empire. The Nicaean emperor, Theodore I Laskaris, personally lead a field army against Henry and met him at Rhyndacus, outnumbering the Latins.
The Nicaeans did not give the same account of themselves against the Latins as they had against the Turks just recently. They were swiftly defeated, and their army suffered serious casualties, and Theodore was forced to conclude an ignonimous peace treaty with Henry in which a chunk of Nicaea's northern frontier was ceded to the Latins. This in turn strenghtened the Latin Empire's position in Asia Minor. Although the Nicaeans had outnumbered the Latins at Rhyndacus and by all means were good soldiers, they were at a great disadvantage due to heavy losses to their Latin mercenaries who had provided them with a contingent of armored knights. As usual in Medieval warfare, these knights dominated the battlefield on the Latin side, hence their easy and overwhelming defeat of the Nicaeans.
#Byzantine #Byzantium #ByzantineEmpire #EasternRomanEmpire #History #ByzantineHistory #MedievalHistory #MilitaryHistory

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