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Anecdote on Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Diplomacy 
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Black Guard

Joined: Mon Nov 03, 2014 8:23 am
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Given the partially Byzantine inspiration for Warhammer High Elves' precarious situation of depopulation, mighty fortifications and mustering of forces to protect themselves plus glittering Hoeth of the straits (Constantinople, anyone?), this should be relevant here, for the sworn foes of Ulthuan:

Kenneth Harl of Tulane University gives a lecture here on the western steppe peoples' and the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire during the first half of the Middle Ages.

Early on, he explains why Eastern Roman diplomacy was so complicated. Having survived the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Eastern half drew lessons from the chaos. One lesson learnt was to trust in the extremely well-fortified walls of Constantinople (and lesser, though still very sturdy walls around cities such as Thessaloniki, which became islands of order in the sea of chaos, collapse and depopulation) and to withdraw to within the city walls whenever steppe nomad enemies showed up.

Another lesson was to divide and conquer and never let a strong confederation of tribes arise on the steppe, mastering a daft game of hazard with bribes, gifts, alliances and other subtleties to play off one nomad group against another and never let them coalesce under one overpowering confederacy such as the Huns had achieved under Attila. Keep them fighting among themselves. The Chinese dynasties far to the east attempted to do much the same thing:

It has often been remarked that Byzantine diplomacy is perhaps the most contorted and clever of all diplomacies that anyone has ever created, and it was largely deviced for dealing with steppe nomads. Not so much the people of the Balkans or the great Islamic powers.

And there's an anecdote that captures the attitude of the steppe peoples themselves to the Byzantines. Particularly Byzantine diplomats who were known as Basilikoi, that is representatives of the emperor (the emperor is Basileus in Byzantine Greek). And one of them, a man named Valentinus, probably in 575 AD, was sent to negotiate with Tardisch [sp?], who was the leader of the western Gökturks. His official title of the time was probably not khan, but yabgu, a subordinate title, and as the envoy approached - and Tardisch had been in contact with the Byzantines before - he saw the Byzantine envoy in his presence and he immediately said:

"Oh my gosh! It's a typical Roman who speaks ten languages and one lie."


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Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:16 am
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