Religia a wojskowość bizantyńska w świetle traktatów wojskowych IX–XI wieku


  • Michał Wojnowski


Religion and the Byzantine Military in the Light of Treatises on Military Art
9th–11th c.


The article discusses the influence of religion on the functioning of the Byzantine army. The author conducts his inquiry on the following treatises devoted to military art: Tactica by Emperor Leo VI 886–912, Per strategias by an anonymous author, Praecepta Militaria of Emperor Nicephoros Phocas 963–969. He also exploits the writings of Emperor Constantine Porphyrogennetus and the Alexiad by Anna Comnena.Wojnowski points out that among the writers mentioned above only Nicefor Fokas was an experienced military leader. Nevertheless the sources consider not only the postulated condition, but the actual state of the armed forces too. In accord with their accounts, the Byzantine army utilised religious insignia, displayed Christian symbols on soldiers’ shields, and emphasized religious accents e.g. defence of Christianity in speeches of commanders to their troops. The men and officers repeated individual and common prayers for victories, which became increasingly intensive in the face of the enemy. Apart from invoking God’s assistance, the practices mentioned above served the purpose of psychologically mobilising soldiers for combat. The fact that some of the enemies of the Byzantine Empire Arabs; Bulgars prior to 9th–11th c.; Slavs and the Rus’people were non–Christians facilitated the introduction of religious motifs. Interestingly enough, the Byzantine Church. Despite the efforts of the emperors and of the provincial aristocracy who had landed estates in the regions threatened by the invaders, never did introduce the idea of a “holy war”, and never proclaimed soldiers killed in wars with non–Christians as martyrs. Hence, the status of war in defence of the faith was lower in the Byzantine Empire that in the Muslim world or in theWest during the crusades. This attitude of the Eastern Church prompted the emperors to keep to diplomatic means, if circumstances permitted. And if war proved inevitable, the Byzantine leaders were inclined to avoid unnecessary casualties among their forces.





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