Siege Warfare and Military Organization in the Successor States (400-800 AD)

Byzantium, the West and Islam

Series:

Siege Warfare and Military Organization in the Successor States is the first study to comprehensively treat an aspect of Byzantine, Western, early Islamic, Slavic and Steppe military history within the framework of common descent from Roman military organization to 800 AD. This not only encompassed the army proper, but also a greater complex of client management, private military retinues, labor obligations and civilian conscription in urban defense that were systematically developed by the Romans around 400, and survived to be adopted and adapted by all successors.
The result was a common post-Roman military culture suitable for more restrained economic circumstances but still able to maintain, defend and attack city walls with skills rivalling those of their Roman forebears.
Restricted Access

E-Book:

EUR €236.00USD $308.00

Biographical Note

Leif Inge Ree Petersen, Ph.D. (2011), NTNU, is a postdoctoral fellow of the Norwegian Research Council investigating the fate and role of female captives in the post-Roman world. He has published several articles on Scandinavian and Byzantine military history.

Review Quotes

"...The eight narrative and thematic chapters, of which the last is devoted to ‘the Diffusion of the Traction Trebuchet’, fill just over four hundred and fifty pages. They are followed by an extremely helpful Corpus Obsidionum, which has its own separate index, and fills a further three hundred pages. Structured chronologically, the corpus includes all of the episodes of siege warfare the author has found in a very extensive search of the sources, with bibliographical references and a brief synopsis of the evidence and of the events in each case. This is an extremely valuable aid to further research in this and related areas, and would justify publication even just in itself. Added to the impressive if sometimes controversial interpretative section, the result is a work of very considerable and thoughtful scholarship on a topic that has received all too little attention hitherto."
Roger Collins, Journal of Military History, vol. 78

"...The volume is a major achievement and the author deploys his arguments with a wealth of supporting detail. The “Corpus Obsidionum” will prove a very valuable resource."
Denis Sullivan, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 77/03 (October 2014), pp. 572-574

"This exhaustive study, based on the most recent research, will lead scholars to look again at evidence that they thought they knew well. Many scholars have assumed that between the dissolution of the Roman Empire in the West and the Carolingian Empire sieges were insignificant in warfare, because the “successor states” that followed the Roman Empire in the West lacked the military technology, organization, economy, and population to wage warfare on the same scale and with the same efficiency as the Roman Empire had done. Leif Inge Ree Petersen sets out to show that siege warfare did not die out in the West with the fall of the Western Empire and the loss of Roman technology... Petersen sets out a carefully structured case, founded on analysis of a very wide range of primary evidence from both Christian and Islamic writers, as well as critical scrutiny of modern secondary studies.... This is not only a history of warfare in what is still popularly called the “Dark Ages,” but also a history of governments and administrative structures. As such, it will prove useful to scholars of later periods... Readers may consider that Petersen paints too rosy a picture of continuity. Nevertheless, the evidence he sets out is persuasive and suggests that we can no longer assume that the successor states were a decline from the Roman Empire, a “Dark Age” of barbarism."
Helen Nicholson, Speculum 89/4 (October 2014)

Table of contents

Preface and acknowledgements ... xvii
Conventions of transcription, translations, references and resources xxi
List of Maps ... xxv

PART ONE: MILITARY ORGANIZATION AND SIEGE WARFARE
Introduction ... 1
0.1 Historiography ... 2
0.1.1 Exceptionalism, Eastern and Western ... 2
0.1.2 The (Even More) Exceptional Rise of Islam ... 6
0.2 Methodological and Theoretical Approaches ... 10
0.2.1 Thick and Thin Descriptions ... 10
0.2.2 Co-evolution and Continuity ... 14
0.2.3 Technological Difffusion: The Cultural and Institutional Foundations ... 16
0.2.4 Construction of Identity and the Difffusion of Knowledge and Technology ... 18
0.3 Sources and Limitations ... 19
0.3.1 Limitations ... 19
0.3.2 General Observations ... 21
0.3.3 Greek Sources ... 23
0.3.4 Syriac Sources ... 25
0.3.5 Arabic and Other Eastern Sources ... 27
0.3.6 Latin Sources ... 27
0.4 Structure of the Argument ... 29

Chapter One An Age of Transition: From the Fall of the Roman West to the Early Middle Ages ... 34
1.1 From Late Roman to “Barbarian” Poliorcetics ... 34
1.1.1 Late Roman Siege Warfare ... 35
1.1.2 The Thin Description: Visigoths and Romans, 376-474 ... 39
1.1.3 The Thick Description: Huns and Romans, 441-452 46
1.2 From Emergency Measures to New Institutions ... 49
1.2.1 The Regular Army in the 5th Century ... 49
1.2.2 New Ways of Recruiting Troops ... 53
1.2.3 The Military Following (obsequium) in East Roman Warfare ... 56
1.2.4 The Rise of Private Military Forces in the West ... 63
1.2.5 The Origins of Medieval Military Obligations: Munera Publica ... 67
1.3 Where Did All the Romans Go? The Military Implications of Ethnogenesis ... 74
1.3.1 Roman Influences beyond the Frontier ... 75
1.3.2 Civil Wars by Proxy and the Involution of the Frontier 78
1.3.3 The Legions on the Rhine Become Franks ... 84
1.3.4 The Last Roman Civil Wars in the West, 496-511 ... 90
1.4 Conclusion: From Emergency Measures to Medieval Institutions ... 92

Chapter Two East Rome to Byzantium: Survival and Renewal of Military Insti tutions ... 94
2.1 Continuity and Change in East Roman Warfare and Society, 450-800 ... 94
2.1.1 The Strategic Situation of the East Roman Empire: A Brief Overview ... 95
2.1.2 The East Roman Army in the 5th and 6th Centuries ... 97
2.1.3 The “Two Hundred Years’ Reform,” or before the Thematic System ... 103
2.1.4 From Late Roman client management towards a Byzantine Commonwealth ... 111
2.2 Organization of Siege Warfare I: The Army ... 115
2.2.1 Specialist Skills among the Regular Troops ... 115
2.2.2 Military Engineers ... 116
2.2.3 New Developments from the Late 6th Century ... 119
2.3 The Many Faces of East Roman Siege Warfare: The Example of the Anastasian War ... 123
2.3.1 The Background to the Anastasian War and the East around 500 ... 124
2.3.2 Abject Surrender: *Theodosiopolis and *Martyropolis 502 ... 125
2.3.3 Fierce but Flawed Resistance: *Amida (502-3) ... 126
2.3.4 Multiple Approaches: *Constantina-Tella 502-03 ... 130
2.3.5 Complex Operations against Country and City: *Edessa 502-03 ... 131
2.3.6 Complex Operations and the Fog of War: *Amida 503-04 ... 133
2.4 Organization of Siege Warfare II: The Militarization of Society ... 135
2.4.1 The Construction of Dara, 505-06 ... 135
2.4.2 Civilian Cooperation in the 6th Century ... 139
2.4.3 Use of Civilians in the 7th and 8th Centuries ... 143
2.5 Conclusion ... 147

Chapter Three The Successor States in the West: Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Lombards ... 149
3.1 The Ostrogoths, 493-554 ... 149
3.1.1 Ostrogothic Ethnogenesis ... 150
3.1.2 Strategic Situation ... 152
3.1.3 Military Organization ... 153
3.1.4 Logistics: Adminstration, Labor and Supplies ... 157
3.1.5 Ostrogothic Siege Warfare ... 162
3.2 The Visigoths in Spain, 508-711 ... 164
3.2.1 Strategic Situation of the Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo ... 165
3.2.2 Visigothic Military Organization ... 166
3.2.3 Visigothic Siege Warfare ... 173
3.3 The Lombards ... 176
3.3.1 Ethnogenesis on the Middle Danube ... 176
3.3.2 The Lombards in Italy ... 179
3.3.3 Lombard Military Organization ... 183
3.3.4 Lombard Siege Warfare ... 188

Chapter Four The Last Legions on the Rhine: Siege Warfare in the Frankish Kingdoms ... 192
4.1 Frankish Warfare and Military Organization in the 6th Century ... 192
4.1.1 The Problem of Gregory of Tours ... 193
4.1.2 The Establishment of Frankish Burgundy and Wars with the Visigoths, 534-89 ... 196
4.1.3 Austrasian Interventions in Italy, 538-90 ... 200
4.1.4 Frankish Civil Wars ... 206
4.1.5 Military Organization and Siege Logistics in the 6th Century ... 211
4.2 The 7th Century: Ascendancy of Military Followings and Proprietal Warfare ... 224
4.2.1 Fredegar, the Liber Historiae Francorum, and the United Frankish Kingdom ... 224
4.2.2 Bishops, Magnates and Monasteries ... 229
4.2.3 Late Merovingian Siege Warfare ... 232
4.3 The Carolingian Ascendancy in the 8th Century ... 234
4.3.1 The Debate Revisited ... 235
4.3.2 Size, Composition, and Distribution of Carolingian Military Forces ... 238
4.3.3 Objectives and Means: Charles Martel and Pippin the Short ... 245
4.3.4 Organization and Supplies: Charlemagne and Louis 250
4.4 Conclusion ... 254

Chapter Five The Anatomy of a Siege: Tactics and Technology ... 256
5.1 Siege Strategy and Tactics: Basic Defijinitions ... 256
5.1.1 The Blockade ... 259
5.1.2 The Storm ... 264
5.2 Siege Tactics ... 267
5.2.1 The Basic Approach: Archery and Ladders ... 268
5.2.2 Artillery ... 272
5.2.3 Siegeworks: Camps and Encircling Fortifijications ... 278
5.2.4 Siegeworks: Firing Platforms—Mounds and Towers 281
5.2.5 Wallbreaking: Machines ... 283
5.2.6 Wallbreaking: Engineering ... 286
5.3 Defensive Responses ... 289
5.3.1 Technological Responses ... 289
5.3.2 Sorties ... 290
5.3.3 Relieving Armies ... 293
5.4 Conclusion: Towards a Thick Description of Sieges ... 295

Chapter Six The Anatomy of a Siege: Economy, Society and Culture ... 299
6.1 The Topographies of a Siege ... 299
6.1.1 Defensive Topography: Infrastructure and Fortifijications ... 300
6.1.2 The Topography of Settlement: City and Country in the “Dark Ages” ... 307
6.1.3 Cultural Topographies: Morale and Ritual under Siege Conditions ... 316
6.2 The Urban Community at War ... 326
6.2.1 The Politics of a Siege: Loyalty and Dissension ... 327
6.2.2 Societies at War: Garrisons and Civilians ... 336
6.2.3 Specialists at War ... 343
6.3 Ending the Siege ... 347
6.3.1 Consequences of Survival ... 348
6.3.2 Consequences of Fall ... 350
6.4 Conclusion: Deconstructing, or Reconstructing, Thin Sources 357

Chapter Seven Appropriation of Military Infrastructure and Knowledge ... 360
7.1 The Hunnic, Persian and Visigothic Templates ... 361
7.1.1 Client Integration and State Formation: The Visigoths 361
7.1.2 Inter-state Transfers: The Sassanids ... 363
7.1.3 Conquest Appropriation: The Huns under Attila ... 365
7.2 The Balkans, 530-825: From Client Assimilation to Conquest Appropriation and Back ... 369
7.2.1 Huns as Clients: Utigurs, Kotrigurs, Sabirs and Bulgars in the 6th Century ... 369
7.2.2 Slavs and Appropriation ... 371
7.2.3 Avars and Appropriation ... 378
7.2.4 The Bulgars, 680-825 ... 383
7.2.5 On Northwestern Peripheries: Western Slavs, Saxons and Danes ... 387
7.3 The Arabs and Islam: Appropriating and Domesticating the Late Antique System ... 389
7.3.1 Background and Early Events ... 390
7.3.2 The Sources of Expertise ... 392
7.4 Conclusion: From Appropriation to Domestication ... 405

Chapter Eight Difffusion of the Traction Trebuchet ... 406
8.1 State of the Question: Historiography and Technical Aspects ... 406
8.1.1 Historiography of the Traction Trebuchet ... 406
8.1.2 Technical Aspects of the Traction Trebuchet ... 409
8.2 The Philological Evidence ... 410
8.2.1 Generic, Classicizing and Uncertain Terms ... 411
8.2.2 Manganon and Its Derivatives ... 413
8.2.3 Descriptive and Functional Terms ... 417
8.3 The Difffusion of the Traction Trebuchet: The Historical Context ... 419
8.3.1 The Early Introduction of the Traction Trebuchet: Difffusion or Independent Invention? ... 419
8.3.2 The Wider Difffusion of the Traction Trebuchet within the Former Roman World ... 422
8.4 Epilogue ... 425

Appendix One Reconstructing the Arab invasion of Palestine and Syria from contemporary sources and the importance of Arab siege warfare ... 430
Appendix Two ‘Iyad ibn-Ghanm’s invasion of Armenia in 640 and the Arab capacity for storming cities without heavy siege engines 434
Appendix Three Arab grand strategy, 663-669: ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Khalid’s invasion, Saporios’ revolt, and the battle for Anatolia 439

Part TWO: CORPUS OBSIDIONUM (CATALOG OF SIEGES)
Conventions Adopted ... 457
The 5th Century ... 460
The 6th Century ... 484
The 7th Century ... 613
The 8th Century ... 693
The Early 9th Century ... 754

Bibliography ... 765
Abbreviations of Series, Reference and Collective Works ... 765
Sources ... 768
Secondary Literature ... 772

Index Obsidionum ... 789

General Index ... 811

Readership

Military historians, everyone interested in late Roman, Byzantine, early medieval Western and early Islamic warfare and society, military technology, transmission of knowledge among successors and conquest societies: Huns, Avars, Slavs.