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

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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.

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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. 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.

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

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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.

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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. In other words, only the un-named forts were beyond the river. Some have proposed to locate those forts in northern Walachia at Slon , or even in the Banat or in Transylvania, as no forts are known to have existed on the northern bank of the Danube in the vicinity of Dorostolon.

Since they took for granted the location of those forts in the lands north of the river Danube, others advanced solutions that ignore the political and military framework of the events. For example, Mihai Smpetru believed that the forts in question must have been located to the west from the mouth of the Arge river, only because most 9th-century building materials believed to be Byzantine have been found in that area.


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Since they are known to have returned to the empire in , their settlements could not have possibly been the same as fortresses said to been in operation in The forts must have been in the vicinity of Dorostolon, and if so, their mission was probably to prevent Pecheneg attacks. It is impossible that John Tzimiskes would have sent his soldiers at a great distance, at a time when he needed them for the siege of Dorostolon. Therefore, one would have to admit that the forts mentioned by Skylitzes could not have been too far from Dorostolon. Control over them meant a serious blow to the enemys forces and, perhaps, an attempt to cut any possibility of withdrawal.

It is obvious that Constanteia Constana served as anchorage for the Rus, in case they needed to withdraw by sea. Another way to withdraw was by the Danube, either on water or along the valley, by land. Given that the Byzantine navy was already at Dorostolon, withdrawing by water on monoxyles was not an option.

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Meeting in council with his leaders, Svyatoslav was aware that. That was without any doubt the reason for which Tzimiskes gladly accepted the offer to extend his control over Constanteia and other forts, the position of which could have blocked the access of the Rus to the Danube route.

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This is in fact another argument in favor of locating those forts in the vicinity of Dorostolon. At any rate, they were all located within the main theater of operations, either on the right, or on the left bank of the Danube. If the fortress from the Pcuiul lui Soare island was built before the war, then it could well be one of those Bulgarian strongholds in the vicinity of Dorostolon, especially since it was initially on the left bank of the river the present branch of the Danube known as Ostrov was the Leo the Deacon, IX.

Talbot, Sullivan, The reference given by Oikonomides , 63, footnote 25 and uncritically reproduced after him by Barnea, tefnescu , 74 is wrong.

File:Central and Eastern Europe around 950 AD.png

The landscape around Pcuiul lui Soare has changed considerably since the Middle Ages, and it is quite possible that some other forts existed on the left bank, which have meanwhile been flooded. If there were any Bulgarian forts on the northern bank of the Danube in the vicinity of Dorostolon, then those forts must have been part of the defense system built against the Magyars and the Pechenegs, to which belonged a number of fortifications on the southern bank, such Oltina, Rasova and Cochirleni-Cetatea Ptululuiall dated between the 9th and the 10th century on the basis of the fine Gray Ware of the Dridu B type found inside each one of them.

The fort at Cochirleni, located at m from the western end of the Great Earthen Dike, has ramparts made of stones and mortar, enclosing an area of 3 ha. The fort near Rasova was built in the same technique, with a 4 m wide rampart.


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No excavations have been carried so far in any of them. Those are most likely the forts mentioned by Skylitzes and Yahya-ibn-Said. The last attempt to break the siege of Dorostolon was decided on July 20th, by Svyatoslav in a council with his chieftains, but ultimately failed. Leo the Deacon mentions that the council in question was called in the language of the Rus. Nikolaos Oikonomides remarked that Leo the Deacon had found the word Vlceanu , This in fact is a valuable piece of information about the presence of Romanians or at least speakers of Romanian in the area, and of their use for collecting intelligence for the Byzantine army.

Incidentally, the same word o is used by Skylitzes in reference to a council of the Pecheneg chieftains during the events of Some believe that the word is Pecheneg. That, in fact, was the reason for which Oikonomides proposed its transmission via Romanian. A military treatise composed under Emperor Basil II insists that actual spies, however, are the most useful. They go into the enemys country and can find out exactly what is going on there and report it all back to those who sent them.

The domestic and the generals along the border should be sure to have spies not only among the Bulgarians but also among all the other neighboring peoples, for example, in Patzinakia, in Turkey [the land of the Hungarians], in Russia, so that none of their plans will not be known to us. The Rus promise to withdraw from Bulgaria under the supervision of the Byzantine navy.