Use of mercenaries of various ethnic origins in the Byzantine army during the 11th century : a source of strength or weakness?



Year of publication 2016
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description In the past few decades there has been an intense debate about the nature of the so-called 11th century crisis in Byzantium. One of the main aspects discussed is the seemingly undermined ability of the Byzantine army to protect Byzantine provinces against new enemies during the second half of the 11th century. Some of the more traditionally-minded scholars argue that this problem was partly or wholly caused by the increasing use of various mercenary units with foreign ethnic background within the ranks of the Byzantine army. Whereas the Byzantines, as the direct heirs of the Romans, had a very long tradition of using foreign mercenaries (e.g. institution of foederati/symmachoi), the foreign mercenaries in the views of such authors fought only for higher pay and, therefore, were notoriously unreliable. However, another group of scholars started to challenge this traditional view and is less convinced about the validity of such arguments. The author of this contribution presents and subsequently discusses several cases in which the Byzantines made use of mercenary foreign units. His aim is to achieve a possibly more balanced view of this intensively debated issue. The main emphasis is be given on units of the so-called Franks (the Byzantines used this designation for the inhabitants of Western Europe, and more specifically, the Normans).
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