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TWO MILITARY ORATIONS OF CONSTANTINE VII


Eric McGeer
Un empereur doit faire la guerre, comme Basile I
er
, ou crire sur la
guerre, comme Lon VI so wrote Paul Lemerle in his essay on the
military encyclopedias produced during the reign of Constantine VII.
True to the example of his father, Constantine saw it as his duty to pro-
mote the revival of military science by collecting and copying treatises
on warfare in its various aspects, yet he also aspired to lead his armies on
campaign in person, in the pattern of his grandfather and founder of his
dynasty. Although Constantine was never to realise his ambition to
accompany his soldiers in the field, his place in the history of Byzantine
military literature is assured, and his reign as sole emperor (945-59)
stands out as the pivotal stage in the wars against the Arabs during the
tenth century. After ousting his Lekapenid co-rulers with the support of
military aristocrats whose fortunes were intertwined with his own, prin-
cipally the members of the Phokas family, Constantine rewarded his
allies by elevating them to the high command and placing the resources
of the empire at their disposal. The regulation of the soldiers properties,
the changes in the military administration, the improvements in training,
tactics and equipment, and the increased recruitment of foreign merce-
naries combine with the renewed interest in military theory to demon-
strate the intensification of the Byzantine military effort during the reign
of Constantine VII. At the time of the emperors death in November 959,
the Byzantines stood poised to achieve a series of landmark victories
the recovery of Crete, the conquest of Cilicia, and the capture of Antioch
which would establish them as the dominant power in the eastern
Mediterranean for the next century.
Byzantine supremacy along the eastern frontiers did not come about
easily or automatically, however. In fact, through much of Constantines
reign the Byzantines lurched from one defeat to another, none more glar-
ing than the failure of the expedition sent to take Crete in 949.
1
The sting
of this disaster, painful to an emperor who had staked the prestige and
divine sanction of his dynasty on the success of this venture, was com-
pounded by the humiliations visited upon the Byzantines by a new adver-
sary whose rise to power coincided almost exactly with Constantines
1
The lists recording the mobilisation and rates of pay for this expedition have now been
edited by Haldon (2000) 201-352.
112 ERIC MCGEER
assumption of sole authority. This was Sayf al-Dawla, Hamdanid emir of
Aleppo from 944 until his death in 967, reviled in the Greek chronicles
as the foul or impious Hamdan, who in the spirit of the djihad led
yearly raids into Byzantine territory, seizing booty and prisoners and
scoring some notable successes against the foremost Byzantine com-
manders of the time.
2
Much more significant than the material gains and
losses resulting from these campaigns were the reputation and propagan-
da value which the Muslim emir acquired from his exploits against the
infidel, and the corresponding damage to Constantines image as the
divinely appointed defender of the Christian realm.
3
The Byzantine
response to the challenge posed by Sayf al-Dawla was therefore not con-
fined to the battlefield; it also involved staging triumphs and ceremonies
to promote the aura of imperial victory,
4
and bolstering the morale of the
host beloved by Christ sent forth to fight against a foe singled out as
the archenemy of the Christian faith.
Two harangues attributed to Constantine VII record the appeals and
the incentives, spiritual and worldly, by which the emperor sought to
rouse the martial ardour of his men. Both were composed as circulars to
be read out to the soldiers of the eastern armies, and both refer directly
to Sayf al-Dawla as the enemy they must confront. The first, published
by Hlne Ahrweiler, comes from the early stages of the Byzantine-
Hamdanid conflict when Sayfs reputation was on the rise.
5
The second,
published by Rudolf Vri, was composed at the moment when the tide
had turned decisively in favour of the Byzantines.
6
What follows is a
translation and discussion of the two harangues which will set them in
their historical context and explore them as sources for the study of mil-
itary policy and ideology during the reign of Constantine VII.
The two speeches are preserved in a single codex, the Ambrosianus B
119 sup., one of the major collections of military works assembled dur-
ing the tenth and early eleventh centuries.
7
The Ambrosianus has been
studied in detail by C.M. Mazzucchi whose analysis clarified a number
of points relating to the origin of the manuscript and the chronology of
Constantines speeches.
8
From the dedication extolling the military
2
The course of these wars is traced by Canard (1951) 715-863; Vasiliev (1935-1968) II.1
311-80. The lan and skill of Sayfs leadership were at their best in the 956 campaign: Howard-
Johnston (1983).
3
The poems of Mutanabbi memorably convey the drama and spirit of Sayfs campaigns:
see Canard (1973).
4
McCormick (1986) 159-78.
5
Ahrweiler (1967) 393-404 (Greek text on pp. 397-9).
6
Vri (1908) 75-85 (Greek text on pp. 78-84).
7
Dain (1967).
8
Mazzucchi (1978) 276-92, 310-16.
achievements of Basil the parakoimomenos and from the presence of
several works on naval warfare, Mazzucchi concluded that the manu-
script was commissioned by the eunuch and courtier Basil Lekapenos
sometime between his return from his successful eastern campaign in the
autumn of 958 and June of 960, when the large force under Nikephoros
Phokas set sail for Crete, an expedition which the ambitious Basil had
apparently hoped to lead.
9
An inventory of the manuscripts contents
shows that the parakoimomenos had reserved a section for works of mil-
itary oratory. The first is a sixth-century manual known as the Rhetorica
militaris
10
, which is followed by a collection of military speeches
(Conciones militares) drawn from the ancients (Xenophon, Flavius
Josephus, Herodian), and the two harangues of Constantine VII.
11
The attachment of the imperial harangues to this small anthology of
military rhetoric has some bearing on the study of the two speeches, par-
ticularly the second. It is evident that they were included as contempo-
rary models of the protreptikoi logoi, or exhortations, outlined in the
Rhetorica militaris, and therefore underwent slight revisions to give
them the faceless character proper to literary exemplars. In three places
in the second speech, the copyist replaced the name of a Byzantine com-
mander with the elliptic dena (so and so) or a generic plural,
12
put-
ting us at one remove (at least) from the oration as composed by
Constantine or drafted for him by an official.
13
The art of inciting men to battle is as old as the Iliad, and the power
of oratory to inspire soldiers could be used to great effect by ancient
commanders, as shown by an Alexander or a Caesar.
14
The ability to
rouse the courage of their soldiers with the spoken word ranked high
among the desirable attributes of Byzantine generals, who could pad
their repertoires with the pithy sayings and beaux gestes of illustrious
113 TWO MILITARY ORATIONS
9
Mazzucchi (1978) 292-5, 302-3; Basils interest in the documents pertaining to the 949
expedition is noted by Haldon (2000) 236-8. On Basils life and career, see Brokkaar (1972);
Bouras (1989).
10
Ed. Kchly (1856); see also Dain (1967) 343-4, and Hunger (1978) II 327-8. Only a por-
tion of the text is preserved in the Ambrosianus; the full text is found in the Laurentianus LV,
4, the great military manuscript copied during the reign of Constantine VII. Once thought to
be anonymous, the Rhetorica militaris in fact forms part of a larger work attributed to Syrianus
Magister: see Zuckerman (1990) 209-24 (in which a forthcoming edition of Syrianuss text is
announced).
11
Dain (1967) 364.
12
Cf. Mazzucchi (1978) 303-4, esp. note 110.
13
It is possible that Theodore Daphnopates had a hand in the composition of the second
speech, as the parallels between this work and the final portion of Theophanes continuatus,
which Daphnopates is thought to have written, suggest; see below, note 79.
14
Alexander the Greats use of oratory, with its dramatic effects of timing, variation of tone
and emotion, and performance, is discussed by Keegan (1987) 54-9.
commanders recorded in the military handbooks.
15
On a more formal
level, as with other branches of rhetoric, the technique of composing and
delivering military orations was well established, following the design
and examples laid out in the aforementioned Rhetorica militaris. The for-
mulaic nature of these set pieces, however, should not obscure the valu-
able function ascribed to them by Byzantine tacticians. The Strategikon
of Maurice (ca. 600) records brief instructions on the useful role of the
cantatores, heralds who before the clash of arms should say a few words
of encouragement [tina ... protreptika] reminding the soldiers of previous
victories.
16
The author of the De velitatione (ca. 970) instructs the com-
mander to deliver a speech sweet as honey to his men to stir their
courage before they close with the enemy,
17
and in his second harangue
Constantine himself praises a commander who made effective use of
inspiring speeches (logois protreptikois) as he led his forces on a suc-
cessful raid into the regions of Tarsos.
18
In a broader sense, the orations
read out to the army also formed, along with acclamations, official salu-
tations, and daily religious rituals, an integral part of the imperial propa-
ganda which affirmed the armys special status, its loyalty to the emper-
or, and the ideals for which it fought.
19
A reading of Constantines speeches reveals the influence of the
Rhetorica militaris, a work he certainly knew,
20
and of his father Leo VIs
Taktika (extensively reworked during Constantines reign), in which the
contents suitable to an address to soldiers are summarised as follows:
XII. 70. We think that the role of the so-called cantatores is appropri-
ate at the time of battle. These are the men who incite the army with
speeches, offering advice, repeating their message, and summoning it
to battle. Such a task should be performed, if possible, by men from
among the soldiers themselves or their officers. The officers select
those men who are eloquent and capable of addressing the army, for
114 ERIC MCGEER
15
E.g. Leonis Tactica II.12; Sylloge tacticorum, sections 76-102.
16
Strategikon II.19, VII A.4.
17
Dagron, Mihaescu (1986), chapter XXIII.
20-31
, with comments on 284-6.
18
The speeches put in the mouths of emperors or commanders lend dramatic effect to the
narratives of campaigns and battles: see Theophanes (Mango and Scott) 436, 439 (recycled in
Theophanes continuatus 478.
7-18
), 441, 442-3, 448; De Creta capta I.
59-70
,
73-100
, II.
140-166
, IV.
45-52
,
54-
56
; Leo the Deacon 12.
5
-13.
10
, 21.
12-23
, 72.
23
-74.
12
, 130.
19
-131.
12
. Speeches of Arab leaders to their
men, as recorded in Byzantine sources, make an interesting contrast: Karapli (1993).
19
Koutrakou (1993) 350-86. The salutation recited by the emperor to his soldiers, recorded
in the third of the three campaign treatises prepared by Constantine, should be taken in con-
nection with our two harangues: Haldon (1990) Text C.
466-473
, and commentary 284-6.
20
Constantine recommends that the text of Syrianus Magister, to which the Rhetorica mil-
itaris belonged, be included in the imperial campaign baggage: Haldon (1990) Text C.
196-204
, and
commentary 210-12.
the sharing of hardship and the toils of war make the listeners more
receptive to fellow soldiers who accompany them.
XII.71 The cantatores should say such words of encouragement as
these to the army facing battle: first, they should remind them of the
reward of faith in God, of the emperors benefactions, and of previous
successes; that the battle is for the sake of God and for the love of
Him and for the whole nation; moreover, that it is for their brethren of
the same faith and, as it may be, for their wives and children and their
fatherland; that the memory of those who earn distinction in wars for
the freedom of their brethren remains eternal; that this struggle is
against the enemies of God, and that we have God as our ally, Who
holds the power to decide the outcome, whereas the enemy, as unbe-
lievers, have Him set against them; and thinking of anything else in a
similar vein, [the cantatores] should stimulate morale. This sort of
address, delivered at the right moment, can rouse spirits mightily,
more than any amount of money can.
These themes all appear, in greater or lesser measure, in both of
Constantines circulars, shaped to the circumstances of the moment. He
was also the heir to the distinction his father had drawn half a century
earlier between the Christian empire and the realm of Islam, now mani-
fest in the struggle between the heroic defenders of Christian Byzantium
and the forces of Sayf al-Dawla along the eastern frontiers.
21
Yet despite
the derivative character of the two harangues, they are more than mere
rhetorical exercises or a pastiche of clichs. They refer to contemporary
events, they bear witness to the changes in Byzantine military policy dur-
ing the 950s, and they shed light on the question of morale and motiva-
tion in the armies of the time. Most importantly, they display the image
which Constantine VII an emperor ever mindful of the precariousness
of imperial power and succession sought to promote among his sol-
diers, and how he hoped to translate military success into confirmation
of the divinely sanctioned legitimacy of his dynasty.
We come now to the translations of the texts themselves.
22
The first
harangue can be divided into five main sections:
115 TWO MILITARY ORATIONS
21
On these and other passages of the Taktika, and Leo VIs reaction to the Arabs, see
Dagron (1983), esp. 224-32; Dagron, Mihaescu (1986) 161-2, 284-6.
22
I have taken into account the (minor) corrections made to Ahrweilers Greek text by
Mazzucchi (1978) 296 note 83, and by Sevcenko (1992) 187 note 49 (who also lists correc-
tions to Vris edition of the second harangue). I wish to thank Alice-Mary Talbot and Paul
Magdalino for reviewing the translations and suggesting a number of improvements.
1) introduction praising the armys recent victories which have won
fame throughout the empire;
2) exhortation to the soldiers, emboldened by their victories and by
their faith in Christ, to fight even more eagerly against the enemies
of God;
3) dismissal of Sayfs boasts and posturing as a bluff concealing his
fear and weakness in the wake of his defeat;
4) expression of the emperors longing to be with his soldiers in per-
son, among the truly virtuous and worthy;
5) administration of an oath to imperial officials to submit accurate
reports of the armys actions and to identify the soldiers and offi-
cers deserving of rewards.
Ahrweiler proposed that the speech should be dated to the years 952-3,
but Mazzucchis arguments for an earlier dating must be accepted.
23
The
recent (prhn) triumphs over the Hamdanids which the emperor lauds in
section 1 are without question those achieved by Leo Phokas, strategos
of Cappadocia, during the spring and summer of that year. The first was
his assault on the small fortress of Buqa when he succeeded in taking
Nasir al-Dawla prisoner and inflicting heavy losses on the enemy; the
second, and more spectacular feat of arms, came in October 950 when
Phokass forces ambushed Sayf al-Dawlas army as it returned laden with
plunder from a raid into Byzantine territory.
24
These achievements were
all the more praiseworthy since they offset the failure of the expedition
to Crete the year before, but for our purposes it is significant to note that
the Byzantines initially chose to exploit their success not with military
action but with the prompt offer of a truce and exchange of prisoners.
This offer, however, was defiantly refused by Sayf, who vowed instead
to avenge his defeat by resuming his raids into the realm of the infidel
with even greater zeal.
25
This truculent rejection of terms, raising the
prospect of further defensive campaigns against Sayf, lies behind
Constantines lengthy disparagement of the Hamdanid emirs bluster and
theatrics in section 3 (roughly a quarter of the speech), which follows the
appeals to his soldiers in section 2 to return to the struggle against the
enemy with the confidence derived from their victory and their hope in
Christ. The correspondence between this sequence of events and the con-
tents of the speech places its composition and delivery late in the year 950.
116 ERIC MCGEER
23
Mazzucchi (1978) 296-8.
24
Canard (1951) 763-70; Vasiliev (1935-68) II.1 341-6; Dagron, Mihaescu (1986) 301-6.
25
Mutanabbis poems recounting the 950 disaster are replete with Sayfs promises of
revenge: Vasiliev (1935-68) II.2 308-14.
26
Theophanes continuatus 271.
1-2
, Skylitzes 137.
55-6
(Basil I); Leo the Deacon 53.
19
-54.
4
.
Commanders returning from campaign held reviews before disband-
ing their armies to take stock of their manpower and equipment, to
apportion plunder, and to confer promotion and rewards for valour. Basil
I had conducted such ceremonies, and the historian Leo the Deacon
records that at the end of the 964 campaign, Nikephoros Phokas brought
his army back to Cappadocia and dismissed the soldiers with gifts and
rewards, bidding them return in the spring with their weapons and hors-
es in good condition.
26
We may assume that Constantines speech was
read out in a similar scene, as the soldiers disbanded for the winter and
received instructions on their mobilisation for the campaign the follow-
ing spring.
[MILITARY ORATION OF THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE]
27
1. As I receive word of the surpassing renown of your exploits, men,
I do not know what words of praise from the emperors tongue I shall
now fashion for you. What great things I have heard about you, and
what great tidings have been brought back to me through the reports
of my faithful servants, for they have given me accurate information,
they have given me a true account of your valour, the amount of
courage, the amount of zeal, the amount of spirit you have displayed
against the enemy, and how you were embroiled in combat not as if
against men but as if triumphing over feeble women, succeeding not
as in battle or in war, but rather dealing with them as though it were
childs play, even though they were mounted on horses whose speed
made them impossible to overtake,
28
even though they were protected
by equipment unmatched in strength, equipment unmatched in crafts-
manship, and lacked nothing at all of those things which bring secu-
rity and cause astonishment. But since they were without the one
paramount advantage, by which I mean hope in Christ, all of their
advantages were reduced to nothing and were in vain. And so, saith
the Lord, their carcasses were for an example on the face of the field,
like grass after the mower, and there was none to gather them
29
. With
confidence in this hope, and after entrusting your souls to it, you have
set up such trophies as these against the enemy, you have striven for
such victories as these, which have reached every corner of the world,
and have made you famous not only in your native lands but also in
117 TWO MILITARY ORATIONS
27
The title and first letter are missing in the manuscript, for reasons explained by
Mazzucchi (1978) 303-4.
28
The great speed of the horses ridden by the Bedouin was frequently remarked upon by
Byzantine observers: cf. McGeer (1995) 238-42.
29
Jeremiah 9: 22
every city. Now your wondrous deeds are on every tongue, and every
ear is roused to hear of them.
2. I still want you men, my peculiar people
30
, my strength and my
indomitable might, emboldened by this faith, to fight against the
enemy more eagerly than before. I know without a doubt that you will
fight more eagerly, for the very nature of affairs teaches me. The man
who has engaged his adversary and won does not afterwards regard
him as he did before but, once having dispelled all the fear
31
which
troubled him before the trial, he goes to the attack with great boldness
against an opponent now clearly perceived for what he is. All the
more so with regard to the enemy we know that they will not come
back with the same zeal now that they have sampled your bravery, but
will hold back and look warily, and they will guard against suffering
the same fate as before. What now inspires courage in you assuredly
drives fear into them. Therefore have no fear, my men, have no fear,
fill your souls with zeal and show the enemy who rely on the help of
Beliar or Muhammad what those who put their faith in Christ can
accomplish. Be the avengers and champions not only of Christians but
of Christ Himself, Whom they wickedly deny. What then? Do men
know that those who fight on their behalf are rewarded, and will
Christ not stretch forth His hand to those girded for battle against His
foes? He is our ally, men, Who alone is strong and mighty in battle
32
,
Whose sword is sharpened like lightning
33
, Whose weapons are drunk
with the blood
34
of those set against Him, Who breaks bows
35
and
makes strong cities a heap
36
, Who brings low the eyes of the over-
weening
37
and teaches the hands of those who hope in Him to war
38
,
makes their arms as a brazen bow, and gives to them the shield of His
salvation
39
. And so let us put all our hope in Him, and instead of our
whole panoply let us arm ourselves with His cross, equipped with
which you have lately made the fierce soldiers of the Hamdanid the
victims of your swords, and the others whom, like the Egyptians long
ago, you consigned to the waters
40
.
118 ERIC MCGEER
30
Exodus 19: 5
31
Reading pan t dow pr tw peraw.
32
Psalm 23: 8 (LXX)
33
Deuteronomy 32: 41
34
Deuteronomy 32: 42
35
Psalm 75: 3 (LXX)
36
Isaiah 25: 2
37
Isaiah 5: 15
38
Psalm 17: 30, 34 (LXX)
39
Psalm 17: 34-35 (LXX)
40
The accounts of the 950 campaign record that the last phase of the battle took place along
the shores of Lake al-Hadat.
3. We have heard that the men whom the foul Hamdanid had, the ones
in whom he invested his hopes, were his whole arm and might. You
who have so easily routed those so brave, how will you appear to the
ones left behind who are unfit for war, who are utterly terrified and
intimidated? The words of the holy Isaiah are not inappropriate to
them, they that are left shall be as a fleeing fawn, and as a stray
sheep, he says
41
. In truth, the Hamdanid has no power. Do not believe
in his skills and wiles he is afraid
42
, he is devious, and without a
reliable force, in mortal fear of your onslaught and driven back head-
long by it, he is trying to put fear in your minds with ruses and decep-
tions. One moment he proclaims that another force is on its way to
him and that allies have been despatched from elsewhere, or that from
another quarter a vast sum of money has been sent to him, while at
other times he has exaggerated rumours spread about for the conster-
nation of his listeners. All of this is the product of a deeply frightened
mind, not of a confident one, for if he were truly confident he would
not resort to these tricks and ruses. Now that he is at a loss for real
strength, he is falling back on artful devices. Do you not see how the
king of beasts, the lion, on account of his innate superiority, knows no
ruses nor devises tricks? Laying aside such worthless trifles, and con-
fident in his natural strength, he goes straight for his adversary. The
fox, by contrast, and cowardly creatures like him who lack true
strength, seeks refuge in cunning, hunts with craft, and with craft tries
to escape being hunted. Were it possible to look into the mind of the
Hamdanid, then you would see how much cowardice, how much fear
oppresses it, and how as he hears of your power and regards your
onslaught with apprehension, he knows not what will become of him
and where to turn, even though he is putting up a bold and confident
front. And so do not let these actions trouble you
43
, my people, pay no
heed to his theatrics, but with confidence in Christ rise up against the
foe. You know how virtuous it is to fight on behalf of Christians, and
how much glory the man who does so achieves for himself. This is more
profitable than all wealth
44
, more praiseworthy that all other honour.
4. What great yearning possesses me, what great desire inflames my
soul, I am now consumed by the matter, I dream of those days, I
would much prefer to don my breastplate and put my helmet on my
head, to brandish my spear in my right hand and to hear the trumpet
119 TWO MILITARY ORATIONS
41
Isaiah 13: 11.
42
Reading deilw for deinw.
43
Reading m tata on mw.
44
Reading pantw plotou kerdaleteron.
calling us to battle, than to put on the crown and the purple, to wield
the sceptre, and to hear the imperial acclamations. For the latter are
given by God in the ways that He knows, and often to those who are
not worthy, whereas the former are for those only who love virtue, for
those only who esteem glory before pleasure. It is not for no reason
that I have sent out my officials to these places, but because I wanted
to use them as my eyes. I shall now bind them with an oath and turn
my address to them.
5. I therefore administer this oath to you in the name of God and upon
our person and life, that you will esteem nothing before our love, or
to say it better, before goodness and truth, but that you will inform
Our Majesty about all events, just as each of you has the virtue and
will to do. Better yet, you will keep written records, so that when you
come here you may tell us, in order that we will look with favour upon
the men and deem them worthy of our praises and rewards. The strat-
egoi who command the smaller themes will be transferred to larger
ones
45
, while the strategoi of larger themes will be honoured with
gifts and other recompense, whereas the commanders of the tagmata
and other units who fight courageously will be rewarded in proportion
to their deeds, some to become tourmarchs, others kleisourarchs or
topoteretai. Not only these men, but also the rest, members of the
common soldiery who display the traits of valour, will receive their
due reward
46
. But we who now receive information through you about
each soldier will soon not have you or any other witness to these men,
but our eyes alone, and when we are present in person and beholding
for ourselves the valour of each man, we will ourselves present
awards to the combatants
47
.
The victory which prompted Constantines harangue had restored much
needed prestige to his rgime, and it appears to have been exploited for
120 ERIC MCGEER
45
In other words, the commanders of the small frontier zones, known as the Armenian
themes (first attested during Constantines reign), will be promoted to command of the larg-
er, long established themes lying to the interior. On this new distinction between large and
small themes, see Oikonomides (1972) 345-6; Haldon (1990) 251.
46
The novel of Nikephoros Phokas dealing with the Armenian themes refers to abandoned
military lands being given as rewards to soldiers who had distinguished themselves in battle:
McGeer (2000) 86-9. Other rewards will have included cash donatives, promotions, gifts, and
the division of spoils: Haldon (1984) 307-18, 328-37, and note 1016.
47
The gifts bestowed by the emperor and the protocol of such an occasion can be
inferred from a passage in the third of Constantines three campaign treatises: Haldon
(1990) Text C.
502-511
.
its propaganda value far out of proportion to its actual gains.
48
It also kin-
dled the emperors desire to take part in a military expedition, as he
declares in the concluding portion of his address, and thus to emulate his
grandfather Basil I who had led his armies to victory against the
Paulicians and Arabs in the campaigns recounted in the Vita Basilii.
Commentators have tended to take Constantines declaration as more
wishful than realistic; but one purpose of this paper will be to demon-
strate that he fully intended to go on a campaign when the right opportu-
nity presented itself.
49
Subsequent events were to conspire against the
emperors reprise of dynastic glory, however, for the promise of Leo
Phokass victory soon evaporated as Sayf al-Dawla made good his
threats and went on to enjoy his greatest period of success between 951
and 956.
50
Yet Constantine did not renounce his ambition to accompany
his army on campaign. As we shall see, he would revive this project in
his second harangue.
Ironically enough, the nearly unbroken string of triumphs won by
Sayf during the early 950s proved to be his undoing. A recent paper by
Jonathan Shepard has shown how the aims and methods of Byzantine
policy along the eastern frontiers shifted during the reign of Constantine
VII.
51
The emperor initially pursued a policy that was defensive in pur-
pose, directed primarily towards the regions of the Caucasus and the
Armenian principalities controlling strategic areas along the upper
Euphrates, and designed to deny passage to Arab raiders seeking to break
into central Anatolia. Only when the raids of Sayf al-Dawla proved too
much for local Byzantine defensive forces to handle, and when his
intransigence ruled out a diplomatic rapprochement, did Constantine
decide to turn the full might of his armies against the Hamdanids and
their bases along the southeastern frontiers. The transition which Shepard
traces, from a policy of containment to one of outright conquest, is
reflected in our two speeches. Where the first was addressed to a local
theme commander and his men in recognition of a successful defensive
action, the second is to an army rigorously selected and trained for offen-
sive operations, reinforced by units transferred from the western
provinces of the empire and by contingents of foreign mercenaries, and
121 TWO MILITARY ORATIONS
48
Cf. the triumphant note struck in the poem composed for Romanos II in 950, in light of
Leo Phokass recent victories: Odorico (1987) 68-9, 76-80, 91-2, and the comments of
Sevcenko (1992) 170 note 8.
49
It was at about this time that Constantine began to assemble the materials for his second
treatise on imperial expeditions to the east: Haldon (1990) 52-3.
50
Canard (1951) 770-93.
51
Shepard (2001); see also idem (2002).
succoured from on high through the prayers of holy men and the miracle-
working power of the most sacred relics. It displays the full deployment
of the empires military strength for a war in which the aims were no less
than the subjugation and annexation of the Muslim territories in Cilicia
and northern Syria.
The following summary will help to establish the background of the
second harangue and its points of interest:
1) introduction expressing the emperors desire to address and inspire
his soldiers, his children with whom he is united in body and soul;
2) his appointment of loyal, competent commanders to select and
train the most courageous soldiers for the coming expedition;
3) the emperors joy that the army is now ready for battle, and his
solicitation of prayers from monks and holy men for the soldiers
welfare;
4) earlier successes owed more to chance than to courage, but this
select body of men is urged to display its valour to the imperial
officials accompanying the army;
5) the emperors readiness to bring his son on a future campaign
should inspire the soldiers, as should a series of recent successes
against the Hamdanids and their allies;
6) the soldiers are urged to show their courage and martial prowess to
the foreign contingents present in the ranks;
7) the emperor encourages a spirit of comradeship between the sol-
diers of the eastern and western armies brought together for this
campaign;
8) the emperors love for his soldiers, his despatch of holy water sanc-
tified by contact with the True Cross and relics of the Passion, and
his prayers for the armys safe conduct and return.
The events leading up to the occasion for which the speech was com-
posed can be retraced from a number of allusions in sections 2, 4, and 5.
The remarks on the undeserved successes of earlier years and the purge
of the armys ranks noted in section 4 hearken back to Constantines dis-
missal of Bardas Phokas after the rout of the Byzantine army at the bat-
tle of Hadat in October 954 and his promotion of Nikephoros Phokas to
supreme command in 955. The Greek chronicles all record the swift revi-
talisation of the army under Nikephoross direction, which brought a
series of impressive victories during the late 950s, in contrast to its dis-
mal performance under the incompetent Bardas.
52
The painstaking
122 ERIC MCGEER
52
Theophanes continuatus 459.
13
-460.
12
; Skylitzes 241.
4-18
; Zonaras III 492.
15
-493.
13
; see also
Dagron, Mihaescu (1986) 275-80.
process of selection and training of the soldiers to which Constantine
refers throughout sections 2 to 4 is fully in keeping with the methods
employed by Nikephoros to develop battleworthy armies, as is the
increasingly conspicuous presence of foreign soldiers in the the armys
ranks, a feature noted by contemporary Greek and Arab observers alike.
53
References in sections 5 and 7 to recent military activities can be col-
lated with contemporary sources to bring the background of the harangue
into sharper focus.
54
Two of the campaigns mentioned, a foray into the
region of Tarsos led by Basil Hexamilites and an expedition to southern
Italy led by Marianos Argyros, took place in the year 956;
55
reference to
a more recent campaign clarifies the date and occasion of the speech. At
the end of section 5, Constantine extols the host despatched a short
while ago to Mesopotamia with the patrikios so-and-so which inflicted
a crushing defeat on the Hamdanid force sent to oppose it. The com-
mander in question was John Tzimiskes, who as patrikios and strategos
of Mesopotamia took an army into the area of Amida in June of 958 and
routed an enemy force commanded by Sayf al-Dawlas lieutenant Naja
al-Kasaki.
56
Later that summer, a second Byzantine army under the com-
mand of the parakoimomenos Basil Lekapenos joined Tzimiskess forces
for an assault on Samosata. This combined army took the town in less
than a day, and went on to annihilate another Hamdanid force, led this
time by Sayf himself, near the fortress of Raban in October or November
of 958.
57
As Mazzucchi noted, the emperors commendation of his most
worthy servants (yerpontew, in section 2) is a generic plural masking
the original reference to Basil Lekapenos. It was upon receiving word of
Tzimiskess successful operations in June, and as Lekapenoss forces
prepared to embark on the second phase of the campaign in August or
September, that Constantine sent his address to be read to the soldiers
under the command of the parakoimomenos.
The setting of the second harangue does much to account for its
impassioned tone, for the sense that the decisive moment is now at hand
pervades the speech and lends the emperors appeals an urgency and
anticipation not found in the first harangue. The contrast begins with the
structure of the piece which, with its introductory greeting, selection and
elaboration of Scriptural passages, and concluding doxology, follows the
pattern of a homily and presents the emperor in a more exalted relation
to his soldiers. Where in the first harangue Constantine had addressed his
123 TWO MILITARY ORATIONS
53
See below, note 81.
54
The discussion follows Mazzucchi (1978) 299-303, esp. notes 102 and 110.
55
See below, note 83.
56
Vasiliev (1935-68) II.1 362-4; Canard (1951) 793-6.
57
Theophanes continuatus 461.
9
-462.
4
.
men as my peculiar people (Exodus 19: 5), an appellation likening the
special status of the army with the covenant between God and the people
of Israel,
58
he forges closer bonds of unity and kinship between army and
emperor in the second. Beginning with a citation from John 3: 16 (for
God so loved the world...) Constantine goes on to declare that out of
love for his soldiers he gives to them his whole being, mixes his flesh and
blood with theirs, and considers his body and soul one with theirs. His
words recall a number of passages in the New Testament, such as
Ephesians 5: 30 (for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of
His bones), Romans 12: 4-5 (for as we have many members in one
body ... so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one mem-
bers of another), and the lengthier passage in I Corinthians 12: 12-27
which portrays Christ as one body whose parts are all the Christians, and
expresses the unity of the parts acting in harmony for the good of the
whole. Speaking as Christs regent on earth, Constantine frames his
address in terms emphasizing the parallel between Christ and Christians,
emperor and army, and enjoining the army as an aggregate of different
parts to strive as one body for the same goal. His appeal to the soldiers
as his beloved children echoes the words of Paul, who addressed the
Corinthians in the same way, and reinforces the image of the soldiers
being the emperors flesh and blood; but it also confers upon him the
paternal authority to admonish them as his sons, to reassure them of his
concern for their welfare, and to expect their obedience.
In his role as sovereign and father, Constantine is at pains to assure
his men that he has done all humanly possible to secure their success on
the battlefield, and that his officials have faithfully carried out his
instructions to prepare a select force made up of proven soldiers and offi-
cers. His efforts, however, have not been restricted to earthly measures,
for his solicitude has also led him to invoke the aid of higher tutelary
powers through the prayers of monks and holy men. Imperial requests for
prayers are are found in official correspondence, such as the following
letter attributed to Symeon the magistros and addressed to the monastic
communities of Olympos, Kyminas, Latros, and Athos.
59
The letter solic-
its the monks prayers for the armies gathering for battle against Sayf al-
Dawla, and is worth presenting in full:
124 ERIC MCGEER
58
Koutrakou (1993) 416; see also Haldon (1990) Text C.
453-454
, and commentary 242-3.
59
Darrouzs (1960) 146-7; although the editor puts this letter between 963 and 967, it must
surely date from Constantines reign. By 963 the Byzantines were pounding at Sayfs gates,
not the other way around, as the situation is presented in Symeons letter. Another letter seek-
ing prayers for a force on its way to Calabria (idem148) may refer to Marianos Argyross expe-
dition in 956: see below, note 83.
I know that I have become a provider of toils and troubles to you, my
most honoured fathers, writing continually and enjoining you to offer
prayers and entreaties to the Lord. But when this labour is for the
safety of Christians, I am sure that it is not an unwelcome task but one
you perform with pleasure. Since we have once again been informed
that an expedition of the impious Hamdan is now at our gates and that
our armies, with the help of God, are about to confront him in battle,
we call upon your piety to raise your holy hands to God with greater
earnest and to entreat His goodness not to turn His eyes away from
His people nor on account of our sins to allow the impious to defile
His holy name, but to remember his compassions, for they are from
everlasting and to strengthen his chosen people, so that again He may
be glorified upon the rash and hostile soul of Pharaoh and we may
sing a hymn of victory and a song of thanksgiving to thy name glori-
fied for eternity. We have at the same time written to the most holy
and divinely beloved metropolitan of Kyzikos so that he too may
direct you to offer your devout prayers and entreaties on behalf of
Christians.
The supplication of divine intercession through the prayers of monks and
holy men is but one aspect of the spiritual comforts the emperor sought
to provide for his army. In his first harangue Constantine had called upon
his soldiers to place their hope in Christ and to arm themselves with His
cross. The cross was, of course, the pre-eminent symbol of salvation and
victory, the stavros nikopoios long cherished by Byzantine armies, and it
had particular relevance for Constantine VII whose dynastic propaganda
emphasized his association with Constantine the Great.
60
But the power
of the cross and the presence of Christ, abstract in the first speech, are
now communicated physically to the soldiers by the emperors despatch
of holy water sanctified by contact with the fragments of the True Cross
and the relics of the Passion. The combination is significant, since the
symbol of imperial victory was now accompanied by the symbols of the
triumph over death and the redemption from sin. The soldiers were to be
anointed with the holy water to invest them with divine power from on
high and to furnish them with confidence and might and domination
against the enemy, in other words, to strengthen them in body and soul
and to protect them in battle.
61
125 TWO MILITARY ORATIONS
60
Cheynet (1993); Luzzi (1991); Markopoulos (1994); Thierry (1981).
61
On the translation and use of relics in this period, see Mergiali-Sahas (2001); Kalavrezou
(1994), James (2001), Flusin (1999), and Barker (1993). See also McCormick (1986) 237-52,
on the rituals of purification before battle.
The list of Passion relics which Constantine gives in his harangue is
of particular interest. It comes nearly two centuries before the invento-
ries of relics in pilgrim itineraries and other sources begin to appear,
62
and it is the first list to identify a set of relics which at an unknown time,
and in unknown circumstances, were grouped with the True Cross and
the Lance, both known to have been transferred to Constantinople in the
early seventh century. As to the location of the relics mentioned in the
speech, we know from the De cerimoniis that by the mid-tenth century
three fragments of the True Cross were kept in the palatine chapel of the
Theotokos tou Pharou.
63
Where the other relics were kept at this time is
not stated, but as the Mandylion was deposited in the chapel of the
Pharos upon its arrival in Constantinople in 944, it is most likely that the
Passion relics were stored there.
The gift of holy water is also offered in compensation for the emper-
ors absence. As a final incentive to his men, however, Constantine
announces that success in the coming expedition will prepare the way for
him and his son to accompany the army on a future campaign as fellow
cavalrymen, fellow infantrymen, and comrades in arms. He thus reiter-
ates the promise made in his first harangue, but I would argue that the
favourable military situation and the accompaniment of his son, co-
emperor, and heir Romanos, now of an age to go on campaign, set the
stage for the realisation of a grander purpose. The Vita Basilii records
that Basil I took his eldest son and heir Constantine with him on the
expedition to Syria in 878 so as to instruct the young man in the art of
war and to inure him to the hardships of campaigning. The account of the
campaign goes on to list the towns and fortresses brought under imperi-
al control, and concludes with the triumph celebrated by Basil and
Constantine upon their return to the City.
64
This triumph is described at
length in the third treatise on imperial expeditions, composed about the
year 958
65
, and appears to have furnished the script which Constantine
wished to follow upon returning with his son from a tour of the frontier
in his grandfathers footsteps. The first triumph held in Constantinople
126 ERIC MCGEER
62
Cf. the studies of the contemporary Limburg Staurothek by Sevcenko (1994), Bouras
(1989), and Koder (1989). The most recent survey of the relics of the True Cross and of the
Passion in Constantinople is in Durand, Lafitte (Paris: 2001) 20-36; see also Gould (1981)
336-41.
63
Haldon (1990) Text C.
487
, with comments on the protocol for display of the True Cross in
military processions, 245-7 (with further references); on the Theotokou tou Pharou, see
Jenkins, Mango (1956); Janin (1969) 232-6; Kalavrezou (1994) 55-7.
64
Theophanes continuatus 277.
18
-279.
13
; see also Lemerle (1973) 104-10.
65
Haldon (1990) Text C.
724-807
, with commentary 268-85; see ibid. 52-3 for the date of the trea-
tise. The problem of legitimation was not unknown to Basil I: see McCormick (1986) 152-7.
during Constantines reign was staged largely to prop up the sagging rep-
utation of his dynasty; another celebrated the combined achievements of
Tzimiskes and Lekapenos in 958;
66
but a triumphal entry of his own
would have made manifest the divine sanction of his rule and, much
more importantly, helped to secure the succession of Romanos.
Constantine was old and infirm by 958, and as events were to prove, not
long for this world. The spectre of assassination, regency, usurpation,
and palace coups which hung over his dynasty could hardly have set his
mind at ease as he contemplated the prospects for his own sons uncon-
tested accession to power. Now, on the brink of success against the
Muslim archenemy, the opportunity beckoned to go to war at the head of
his army and to embody the legitimating principle of imperial victory.
That Constantine did in fact intend to go to Syria in 959, an intention
which the victories won by Tzimiskes and Lekapenos could only have
affirmed, is supported by evidence from three sources.
67
But as the dirge
composed for the emperor laments, I set my foot upon strange ground ...
and right away I must begin an even stranger journey death inter-
vened on 9 November 959, and his plans to lead his armies on campaign
came to nothing.
ADDRESS OF THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE VII TO THE STRATEGOI
OF THE EAST
1. To speak to you often, even without a proper occasion, is my hearts
desire and dear to me, just as to be deprived of conversing with you is
in my judgement distressing and painful. For I do not so love and
cherish my soldiers and deem you worthy of every address and salu-
tation as not to carry out this very act in writing to you, whom the sole
eternal and immortal sovereign has in His boundless compassion
granted to me as my legacy, a host assembled by God, and the most
excellent share of the lordly inheritance; but to exhort your good will
and obedience with my tongue is most pleasing of all to me and eager-
ly sought, while to teach and instruct you in the art of war through my
words, and, as to courage, to make those so inclined more brave, and
to inspire the more sluggish and to rouse them to boldness and hardi-
ness is familiar to me and has become more pleasing than all enjoy-
ment and all delight. The sacred words of the holy Gospel, wishing to
express the greatness of God the Fathers love for mankind, say For
God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son
68
unto
127 TWO MILITARY ORATIONS
66
McCormick (1986) 159-67.
67
Skylitzes 246.
66
-247.
83
; McGeer (2000) 82-5; Sevcenko (1969-70) 213, 214, 221.
68
John 3: 16.
death, whereas I give not my only begotten son but my whole being,
in body and soul, and I link and mix my flesh with your flesh and my
bones with your bones, and I consider each one of my limbs united
with and of common origin with you, and my very soul, one though it
is, I distribute and divide among all of you, and I want my host assem-
bled to be made animate and to be brought alive by me in the part that
is mine. Children, whom I have begotten through the Gospel
69
and
implanted in the inheritance of God
70
, whom God has raised to matu-
rity and brought to the full measure of youthful vigour, accept the
present exhortation issued to you from the very depth of my soul and
the hidden chambers of my heart. For my heart and my flesh, in the
words of the psalmist David among the prophets, hath rejoiced
exceedingly
71
in you. How indeed could one not exult and rejoice and
be gladdened when God has bestowed upon His inheritance such
armies, such a courageous and valiant host, such champions and
defenders of the Byzantines? Many times through written memoranda
have we roused you to courage, very often have we given you our
guidance, yet we have no surfeit of communication with you. Why is
that? In our wish to present the zeal and ardour and warmth of our
yearning for you, we do not take this moment lightly, as not to take up
the wings of a dove and to come to rest
72
among you, and to display
our affection for you.
2. Now, as if unsatisfied with our previous endeavours and judging
them meagre in comparison to the fiery heat of our love for you, we
have despatched to you these men, whom we have come to regard as
the more excellent of our servants, the most obedient, the most loyal,
the most worthy, distinguished by wisdom and experience, and held
by us in greater esteem than the others, so that you can see that after
wrenching them away from the seat of our affections and our heart we
have set them over you as your leaders and commanders.
73
Their first
task is to pick out the most courageous and valiant among you and to
separate these men from the others so that your virtue will not remain
unnoticed and unremarked because the cowardice of the latter has
overshadowed and obscured your courage, and they will replace them
with the men whom they choose. With this kind of preparation, selec-
tion, toil, and painstaking effort, let them bring our Christ-loving tag-
128 ERIC MCGEER
69
cf. I Corinthians 4: 14-15.
70
cf. Exodus 15: 17.
71
cf. Psalm 15: 9 (LXX)
72
cf. Psalm 54: 6 (LXX)
73
Generic plurals covering the original reference to Basil Lekapenos.
mata and themata to a stronger and better state, so that by their repute
alone they will intimidate their adversary.
3. Since we have learned through despatches from the same most
illustrious men and our most worthy attendants that in accordance
with my command, or rather in accordance with the inclination and
influence of God, they have already rejected all that is useless and
unsuited to war, while the valiant and serviceable element that bears
the brunt of battle they have selected and set aside for combat, that
they have exercised all their diligence and care, and unceasing toil,
with regard to your battle order and worthiness, and that these ser-
vants of Our Majesty are about to take you, now that you are equipped
and prepared, to embark on campaign and to set out against the enemy
in the areas where they have been assigned by Our Majesty, our joy
has been increased a thousand-fold. Suffused with tears and delight at
the same time, we have considered ourselves unworthy of offering
prayers of supplication to God, and after appealing to the most vener-
able and saintly fathers who dwell in mountains, and in dens and in
caves of the earth
74
and enjoining them to offer prayers of supplica-
tion, we have appointed them to pray incessantly and unstintingly on
your behalf; but we have also directed those in the churches of the
City guarded by God and the pious monasteries to perform the same
task, so that as the entreaty of all those holy men rises up to the ears
of the Lord God of hosts and is blended and united with your fervour
and trust in us, the route before you may be easy and smooth
75
. And
so, since we take courage from the providence and help of our benev-
olent God, from the sacred prayers of the holy and hallowed fathers,
and from your praiseworthy bravery and audacity, accept our exhor-
tation as though from an affectionate father who has ardent affection
for you and is occupied every day with his innumerable cares for your
welfare.
4. Children faithful and beloved, army sacred and assembled by God,
now, if ever, the time has come for your bravery to be displayed, for
your audacity to be made known, for your praiseworthy courage to
become clear to all. For even if many times in past years you fought
bravely against the enemy and prevailed against them, some of these
exploits were accomplished by accident and by unstable and capri-
cious chance, others by design and skill decorated by the name of
courage but recognised as cowardice in fact. The deeds of the brave
were not clearly remarked, nor were those of the cowardly discerned,
129 TWO MILITARY ORATIONS
74
Hebrews 11: 38.
75
Reading pstei for pptei, and prskoptow for prskopow.
but your actions were dimmed and hidden as though in a welter of
confusion, a moonless night, or a battle in the dark. Since the process
of selection which has now taken place through our most faithful ser-
vants and genuine attendants has made manifest the courage and val-
our of each one of you, while those men previously hidden and
ignored because of envy (I cannot speak other than truthfully) can
come forward into the light, and the courage, the audacity, and the
endurance of each one of you have been acknowledged, and you have
been picked out for selection like pure wheat, whereas the others, just
as the tares grown with the wheat
76
, have been cast away and let loose,
show your irresistible onslaught against the enemy and your hardi-
hood. Advance against them, and advance without wavering, not
skulking and withdrawing to the rear, but drawn up in the front
ranks.
77
You have as witnesses of your courage the representatives of
Our Majesty who are taking my place. You have them to arouse your
zeal with their words and deeds. Show them the most noble and
steadfast determination innate in you. Let them see your sturdy arms
fighting against the enemy, let them marvel, and let them glorify God
for it. For wholly devoted to you, as one entering and dwelling in
your hearts, so greatly have I been moved and stirred by love and
yearning for you that, with Gods approval and sanction, I have pre-
pared and readied myself to accompany you on campaign and to be
convinced by my own eyes of what in times past I used to learn and
hear by report.
5. If, then, there is any longing in you to see us and our son as your
fellow cavalrymen, fellow infantrymen, and comrades in arms, con-
firm this longing now by your very deeds, strengthen the love in your
hearts for us by your exploits, so that, invigorated and emboldened by
your heroism, your victories and dominance against the enemy, and
by your unconquerable monuments of triumph, I may become more
eager to embrace the idea of taking part with you on campaign. For
earlier, some rumour concerning the most impious Hamdanid and the
Christ-hating Tarsiots was going around, to the effect that they are
brave and have acquired a host invincible in war, wherefore out of ter-
ror and weakness you avoided engaging them in combat; but this is
not now the case, for as you yourselves know, some time ago so-and-
130 ERIC MCGEER
76
Matthew 13: 29-30.
77
Perhaps echoing Theophanes continuatus 459.
13
-460.
12
, especially where the chronicler
relates that the reformed armies of Nikephoros Phokas neither hid themselves, indulged in
pleasures, nor turned in flight, as had been their habit beforehand....
so
78
was sent out with the rest of the strategoi against the lands and
fortresses of the accursed Tarsos and penetrated deep within their ter-
ritory, and after arming his host with the utmost zeal and inspiring
speeches, the kind of campaign he conducted and the number of offi-
cers
79
and the huge host of Tarsiots he took prisoner has not escaped
the notice of any of you. Moreover, the host despatched a short while
ago to Mesopotamia with the patrikios so-and-so
80
and the others,
which descended on the valiant and unbeatable as was thought
corps of the Hamdanids army and effortlessly subdued it, will no
doubt convince your souls to become more bold and more confident
in combat with the enemy.
6. The great and widespread report of your courage has reached for-
eign ears, to the effect that you have an irresistible onslaught, that you
possess incomparable courage, that you display a proud spirit in bat-
tle. When several contingents of these foreign peoples recently joined
you on campaign, they were amazed to see with their own eyes the
courage and valour of the other soldiers who performed heroically in
earlier expeditions; let them now be astonished at your audacity, let
them marvel at your invincible and unsurpassable might against the
barbarians.
81
Be for me the wonder and amazement of the nations, and
the might and strength of our people. Brace your souls, strengthen
your arms, sharpen your teeth like wild boars, let no one attempt to
turn his back to the enemy, as the man who takes this thought into his
mind will soon give up his own life. Let your heroic deeds be spoken
of in foreign lands, let the foreign contingents accompanying you be
amazed at your discipline, let them be messengers to their compatri-
131 TWO MILITARY ORATIONS
78
Constantine refers to the naval battle and raid conducted by Basil Hexamilites, patrikios
and strategos of the Kibyrrhaiotai, in September/October 956, during which he defeated an
Arab fleet and ravaged the environs of Tarsos, taking many prisoners: Theophanes continua-
tus 452.
20
-453.
19
; Vasiliev (1935-68) II.1 360; Mazzucchi (1978) 299-301. Aray of light after a
series of demoralising defeats at the hands of Sayf, this otherwise minor success was celebrat-
ed with a triumph in Constantinople: McCormick (1986) 165-6.
79
psouw ... kataw: kathw is an Arabic word, listed by E.A. Sophocles and Du Cange
(katow), which also appears in the account of Hexamilitess raid in Theophanes continuatus
(453.
17
): cf. the parallel passages noted by Mazzucchi (1978) 300 note 102. On the unresolved
question of Theodore Daphnopatess authorship of the last book of Theophanes continuatus,
see Darrouzs, Westerink (1978) 6-10.
80
i.e. John Tzimiskes; see note 56 above.
81
The presence of foreign soldiers in Lekapenoss army is confirmed by a poem of Abu
Firas who records his encounter with a Khazar warrior during the battle at Raban; the com-
mentary preceding the poem states that in preparation for the campaign Constantine sought
soldiers from the Bulgars, Russians (Rhos), Turks (Hungarians), and Franks: Vasiliev (1935-
68) II.2 368-70; see also McGeer (1995) 200-201.
ots of your triumphs and symbols which bring victory, so that they
may see the deeds you have performed.
7. We say this both to the Christ-loving and divinely assembled armies
of the East and to the forces from Macedonia and Thrace which have
joined you on campaign. This we declare and make known: these men
too have been your comrades in arms and companions, and they have
demonstrated their valour in war on many occasions. When
82
they
were sent to Longobardia, they won victories against the enemy
take our word for it that they mastered and subdued those who
opposed Our Majesty.
83
And so, as servants and soldiers of one realm
and emperor, eagerly undertake the present campaign with them, dis-
posed towards them as brothers and tending like fathers to their safe-
ty. They have been sent to share your labours, and they have become
your partners in dangers and heroic exploits.
8. In addressing this to you all, as to my vitals and my limbs, and
speaking to you through the present letter, I have placed my trust in
Christ the true God, the sole immortal king, and I am bolstered by the
hope that you will not dishonour my expectation of you, that you will
not extinguish my hopes, that you will not dull my consideration, that
you will not debase your service; but because as true and most faith-
ful servants and subjects of Our Majesty, as sturdy and invincible
champions of the Byzantine people, you have now shown this kind
and this degree of courage and all manner of audacity and valour, we
will embrace you as victors appearing as triumphant conquerors
against the enemy and receive you with joyful acclamations as you
return. We will kiss your bodies wounded for the sake of Christ in
veneration as the limbs of martyrs
84
, we will pride ourselves in the
defilement of blood, we will be glorified in you and your valorous
accomplishments and struggles. So that you may know how much I
am on fire in my soul for you, that I am completely consumed, that I
burn all over as I devote my exertions to your salvation and to pros-
132 ERIC MCGEER
82
Reading nka for lka.
83
Referring to the expedition (which included contingents from Thrace and Macedonia)
sent to southern Italy in 956 under the command of Marianos Argyros, anthypatos patrikios
and strategos of Calabria and Longobardia. Argyros succeeded in regaining control of Naples
and Salerno in 956 and campaigned against the Arabs until a truce was arranged in 958:
Theophanes continuatus 453.
20
-454.
21
; Vasiliev (1935-68) II.1 371-8; von Falkenhausen (1978)
39, 83-4, 132. On Argyross career, see Vannier (1975) 30-2.
84
In kissing the wounds of his soldiers Constantine is perhaps recasting himself as
Constantine the Great, who kissed Paphnoutios and other confessors on their eyes that had
been gouged out and their limbs that had been mutilated in the persecution, receiving a bless-
ing from them: Theophanes (Mango and Scott) 36.
pering you
85
, behold, that after drawing holy water from the immacu-
late and most sacred relics of the Passion of Christ our true God
86

from the precious wooden fragments [of the True Cross]


87
and the
undefiled Lance
88
, the precious Titulus
89
, the wonder-working Reed
90
,
the life-giving blood which flowed from His precious rib
91
, the most
sacred Tunic
92
, the holy swaddling clothes
93
, the God-bearing winding
sheet
94
, and the other relics of His undefiled Passion
95
we have sent
it to be sprinkled upon you, for you to be anointed by it and to garb
yourselves with the divine power from on high. For I trust in my true
God and Saviour Christ, that just as He restored and endowed the
human race with life through the blood and water which flowed from
His precious rib, so will He through the sprinkling of this holy water
quicken and restore you and furnish you with confidence and might
and domination against the enemy. Christ, the creator of the ages and
upholder of all creation, our true God, Who is worshipped and glori-
fied with His eternal Father and with the life-giving Spirit of the same
nature, Who strengthens feebleness and invigorates the lowly, Who
engulfed the army of Pharaoh in the depths of the sea and saved the
lowly people
96
, Who alone is lofty and master, Who sits upon the
cherubs
97
and looks upon low things
98
, Who girds the sword
99
for the
133 TWO MILITARY ORATIONS
85
Psalm 67: 19 (LXX)
86
pomursantew: in other words, the condensation was rubbed from the relics (or the reli-
quaries) with a cloth; this extract was called myron, or holy oil.
87
tn te timvn jlvn: on the history of the True Cross in Constantinople, see Frolow
(1961) 73-94, 238, and no. 143; Durand, Lafitte (2001) 20-4, 61-6.
88
tw xrntou lgxhw (cf. John 19: 34): known to have been in Constantinople since 614;
see Sevcenko (1994) 290-1; Durand, Lafitte (2001) 24.
89
to timou ttlou (cf. John 19: 19): a rare attestation of the Titulus, which is absent from
the table of relics in Durand, Lafitte (2001) 32-3, and from the inventories in Gould (1981)
335-41.
90
to yaumatourgo kalmou: the reed by which the sponge was held up to Christ on the
cross (cf. Mark 15: 36); but note that kalamos is also the word used for the mock sceptre put
in Christs hands by the Roman soldiers (cf. Matthew 27: 29), and the rod used by the Roman
soldiers to beat Christ (Mark 15: 19).
91
John 19: 34; see Durand, Lafitte (2001) 67-8.
92
to pansptou xitnow: Christs tunic for which the Roman soldiers cast lots; cf. John
19: 23-24.
93
tn ern spargnvn (cf. Luke 2: 7, 12): kept in the High Altar in Hagia Sophia accord-
ing to the De cerimoniis; see Vogt (1935/40) vol. 1, part 1, 11; vol. 2, 61, and Durand, Lafitte
(2001) 68.
94
tw yeofrou sindnow (cf. Matthew 27: 59, Luke 23: 53): not to be confused with the
Mandylion. Cf. Durand, Lafitte (2001) 87.
95
Conspicuous by their absence from the list are the Crown of Thorns and the Sponge; on
these relics, see Durand, Lafitte (2001) 55-60, 87.
96
cf. Psalm 17: 27 (LXX)
97
Psalm 79: 1; Psalm 98: 1 (LXX)
98
cf. Psalm 112: 6; Psalm 137: 6 (LXX)
99
Psalm 44: 3 (LXX)
mighty in war and provides help from on high to those who call upon
Him, Who resists the proud
100
, Who brings sinners down to the
ground
101
, Who instructs hands to war
102
, Who makes the arms of them
who hope in Him as a brazen bow
103
, Who has given the shield of sal-
vation
104
to pursue the impious enemies until they are consumed
105
,
Who girds strength for war
106
, Who beats down all that rose
107
against
those who fight for Him, beating them small as dust before the wind
108
,
may He in His infinite and ineffable goodness and in His immeasura-
ble and incomprehensible compassion watch over you with mercy and
favour, may He look upon you from above with a kindly eye. May He
prepare your route before you; He Himself will send His angel and He
will guide your journey
109
, and may He help to surround you with
hosts of angels and to keep you safe from harm at the hands of the
enemy, so that through His power and might you may have upon your
return to us in victory and triumph praise everlasting in memory of
men, remaining indelible and spoken of from generation to genera-
tion, so that you may cause Our Majesty to be joyful and to rejoice in
your achievements, and to be embellished by your heroic deeds
through the intercession of the immaculate Mother of God, His moth-
er, and all the incorporeal angelic powers, and the saints who have
served Him from eternity and been martyred for His sake. Amen.
It remains to offer some thoughts by way of conclusion. One is that
Constantines two speeches are of greater historical interest than has usu-
ally been supposed. They are rare examples of formal imperial military
rhetoric which, although based on long established models, nevertheless
have an immediacy and intensity which set them apart from most
Byzantine orations. They present the time-honoured images and themes
of imperial propaganda, but these acquire an added significance when
viewed against the insecurity of Constantines reign and the problem of
dynastic legitimacy he had to contend with. They cast further light on a
134 ERIC MCGEER
100
cf. Proverbs 3: 34.
101
cf. Psalm 146: 6 (LXX)
102
Psalm 17: 34 (LXX)
103
Conflating Psalm 17: 30, 35 (LXX)
104
Psalm 17: 35 (LXX)
105
Psalm 17: 37 (LXX)
106
Psalm 17: 39 (LXX)
107
Psalm 17: 40 (LXX)
108
Psalm 17: 42 (LXX)
109
John Tzimiskes likewise called for an angel to be given to him who would go ahead of
the army and guides its way as he prepared to go to war against Svendoslav in 971: Leo the
Deacon 129.
6-7
.
little known project which Constantine ultimately did not achieve, but it
would now appear that his efforts to compile military manuals and trea-
tises on imperial expeditions were more than just didactic or antiquarian
in purpose.
The two harangues also present valuable evidence on the subject of
religion and morale in the Byzantine wars against the Hamdanids. There
can be no doubting the force of the emperors appeals to his soldiers to
fight against the infidel with the conviction that they were fighting on
behalf of Christs people; but we should take into account what the
harangues do not say before we adduce them as evidence for the concept
of holy war in tenth-century Byzantium.
110
Nowhere does the emperor
proclaim that these wars are fought at Gods command or at the behest of
the Church, or that death in battle confers instant spiritual reward to the
fallen soldier. The wars are fought in defence of the Christian realm, not
to propagate the Christian faith, and there is no word in the speeches that
the goal of the wars is the recovery of a sacred place or object. The need
to match their Muslim foes on the level of ideology as well as in the
physical contest of battle certainly escalated the religious motivation of
Byzantine armies during the tenth century, but as Nicolas Oikonomides
observed, when religious differences were at stake, the arguments and
the propaganda would change accordingly, but this would be a difference
in intensity, not a basically different approach.
111
135 TWO MILITARY ORATIONS
110
Kolia-Dermitzaki (1989), (1991); whether one agrees or disagrees with her conclusions,
it must be acknowledged that her work has led Byzantinists to examine the question of war in
Byzantium in greater depth and detail; cf. Laiou (1993), Kolbaba (1998), and Haldon (1999)
13-33. For an examination of popular attitudes to war, see the interesting study of Trombley
(1998).
111
Oikonomides (1995) 86.