« ForrigeFortsett »
A.D. 988. NAVY OF THE GREEKS. 29
liquid fire. The whole crew, as in the infancy of the art, performed the double service of mariners and soldiers; they were provided with defensive and offensive arms—with bows and arrows, which they used from the upper deck; with long pikes, which they pushed through the port-holes of the lower tier. Sometimes, indeed, the ships of war were of a larger and more solid construction; and the labours of combat and navigation were more regularly divided between seventy soldiers and two hundred and thirty mariners. But for the most part they were of the light and manageable size; and as the Cape of Malea in Peloponnesus was still clothed with its ancient terrors, an Imperial fleet was transported five miles over land across the Isthmus of Corinth.7'1 The principles of maritime tactics had not undergone any change since the time of Thucydides: a squadron of galleys still advanced in a crescent, charged to the front, and strove to impel their sharp beaks against the feeble sides of their antagonists. A machine for casting stones and darts was built of strong timbers in the midst of the deck; and the operation of boarding was effected by a crane that hoisted baskets of armed men. The language of signals, so clear and copious in the naval grammar of the moderns, was imperfectly expressed by the various positions and colours of a commanding flag. In the darkness of the night the same orders to chase, to attack, to halt, to retreat, to break, to form, were conveyed by the lights of the leading galley. By land, the fire-signals were repeated from one mountain to another; a chain of eight stations commanded a space of five hundred miles; and Constantinople in a few hours was apprised of the hostile motions of the Saracens of Tarsus.75 Some estimate may be formed of the power of the Greek emperors by the curious and minute detail of the armament which was prepared for the reduction of Crete. A fleet of one hundred and twelve galleys, and seventy-five vessels of the Pamphylian style, was equipped in the capital, the islands of the Aegean sea, and the seaports of Asia, Macedonia, and Greece. It carried thirty-four thousand mariners, seven thousand three hundred and forty soldiers, seven hundred Russians, and five thousand and eighty-seven Mardaites, whose fathers had been transplanted from the mountains of
"Constantin. Porphyrogen. in Vit. Basil, c. lxi. p. 185. He calmly praises the stratagem as B friuynt rutirni ««< eefiiv; but the sailing round Peloponnesus is described by his terrified fancy as a circumnavigation of a thousand miles.
"The continuator of Theophanes (1. iv. p. 122, 12:1 (p. 197, ed. Bonn]) names the successive stations, the castle of Lulum near Tarsus, Mount Argseus, Isamus, ^Egilus, the hill of Mamas, Cyrisus, Mocilus, the hill of Auxentius, the sun-dial of the Pharus of the great palace. He affirms that the news were transmitted i. ixitu, in an indivisible moment of time. Miserable amplification, which, by saying too much, says nothing. How much more forcible and instructive would have been the definition of three, or six, or twelve hours!
30 TACTICS AND CHARACTER Chap. LIU
Libanus. Their pay, most probably of a month, was computed at thirty-four centenaries of gold, about one hundred and thirty-sa thousand pounds sterling. Our fancy is bewildered by the endles recapitulation of arms and engines, of clothes and linen, of bread for the men and forage for the horses, and of stores and utensils of every description, inadequate to the conquest of a petty island, but amply sufficient for the establishment of a flourishing colony.76
The invention of the Greek fire did not, like that of gunpowder.
produce a total revolution in the art of war. To these character of liquid combustibles the city and empire of Constantine owed
their deliverance; and they were employed in sieges and sea-fights with terrible effect. But they were either less improved, or less susceptible of improvement: the engines of antiquity, the catapultae, balistae, and battering-rams, were still of most frequent and powerful use in the attack and defence of fortifications; nor withe decision of battles reduced to the quick and heavy fire of a line of infantry, whom it were fruitless to protect with armour against a similar fire of their enemies. Steel and iron were still the common instruments of destruction and safety; and the helmets, cuirasses, and shields of the tenth century did not, either in form or substance, essentially differ from those which had covered the companions of Alexander or Achilles.77 But instead of accustoming the modem Greeks, like the legionaries of old, to the constant and easy use of this salutary weight, their armour was laid aside in light chariots, which followed the march, till, on the approach of an enemy, thcv resumed with haste and reluctance the unusual encumbrance. Their offensive weapons consisted of swords, battle-axes, and spears; but the Macedonian pike was shortened a fourth of its length, and reduced to the more convenient measure of twelve cubits or feet. The sharpness of the Scythian and Arabian arrows had been severely felt; and the emperors lament the decay of archery as a cause of the public misfortunes, and recommend, as an advice and a command, that the military youth, till the age of forty, should assiduously practise the exercise of the bow.78 The band*, or regiments, were usually three
70 See the Ceremoniale of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, 1. ii. c. 44, p. 376-392 [torn. i. p. 651, sqq., ed. Bonn]. A critical reader will discern some inconsistencies in different parts of this account; but they are not more obscure or more stubborn than the establishment and effective, the present and fit for duty, the rank and file and the private, of a modern return, which retain in proper hands the knowledge of these profitable mysteries.
77 See the" fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters, ripi SrKmt, «■»;! itrxUtii, and rui yvttimrUs, in the Tactics of Leo, with the corresponding passages in those of Constantine.
7a They observe rtit yat T»£ii»f vxtrO.v; otftlXtttitrni ... . it vatt 'Puuattis <r« reAAac tit 'Uh rfxXfi*r* yititltu. (Leo, Tactic, p. 5HI [c. vi. § 5]; Constantin. p. 1218). Yet such were not the maxims of the Greeks and Romans, who despised the loose and distant practice of archery.
A.D. 988. OF THE GREEKS. 31
hundred strong; and, as a medium between the extremes of four and sixteen, the foot-soldiers of Leo and Constantine were formed eight deep; but the cavalry charged in four ranks, from the reasonable consideration that the weight of the front could not be increased by any pressure of the hindmost horses. If the ranks of the infantry or cavalry were sometimes doubled, this cautious array betrayed a secret distrust of the courage of the troops, whose numbers might swell the appearance of the line, but of whom only a chosen band would dare to encounter the spears and swords of the barbarians. The order of battle must have varied according to the ground, the object, and the adversary; but their ordinary disposition, in two lines and a reserve, presented a succession of hopes and resources most agreeable to the temper as well as the judgment of the Greeks.79 In case of a repulse, the first line fell back into the intervals of the second; and the reserve, breaking into two divisions, wheeled round the flanks to improve the victory or cover the retreat. Whatever authority could enact was accomplished, at least in theory, by the camps and marches, the exercises and evolutions, the edicts and books, of the Byzantine monarch.80 Whatever art could produce from the forge, the loom, or the laboratory, was abundantly supplied by the riches of the prince and the industry of his numerous workmen. But neither authority nor art could frame the most important machine, the soldier himself; and if the ceremonies of Constantine always suppose the safe and triumphal return of the emperor,81 his tactics seldom soar above the means of escaping a defeat and procrastinating the war.82 Notwithstanding some transient success, the Greeks were sunk in their own esteem and that of their neighbours. A cold hand and a loquacious tongue was the vulgar description of the nation ; the author of the Tactics was besieged in his capital; and the last of the barbarians, who trembled at the name of the Saracens or Franks, could proudly exhibit the medals of gold and silver which they had extorted from the feeble sovereign of Constantinople. What spirit their government and character denied might have been
"Compare the passages of the Tactics, p. 669 and 721, and the xiith with the xviiith chapter.
*° In the preface to his Tactics, Leo very freely deplores the loss of discipline and the calamities of the times, and repeats, without scruple (Proem, p. 5H7), the reproaches of apiy.ua. ir«;i'a, ayvfuarla, iuXia, &c, nor does it appear that the same censures were less deserved in the next generation by the disciples of Constantine.
•' See in the Ceremonial (1. ii. c. 19, p. 353 (tom. l. p. 610, sq., ed. Bonn]) the form of the emperor's trampling on the necks of the captive Saracens, while the singers chanted '' Thou hast made my enemies my footstool I" and the people shouted forty times the kyrie eleison.
"Leo observes (Tactic, p. 668) that a fair open battle against any nation whatsoever is inefakis and iranivtn: the words are strong, and the remark is true; yet if such had been the opinion of the old Romans, Leo had never reigned on the shores of the Thracian Bosphorus.
32 CHARACTER AND TACTICS Chat. LIE
inspired, in some degree, by the influence of religion; but the religions of the Greeks could only teach them to suffer and to yield. TW emperor Nicephorus, who restored for a moment the discipline aac glory of the Roman name, was desirous of bestowing the honours a martyrdom on the Christians who lost their lives in a holy *x against the infidels. But this political law was defeated by the opp sition of the patriarch, the bishops, and the principal senators; aK they strenuously urged the canons of St. Basil, that all who were polluted by the bloody trade of a soldier should be separated, duriK three years, from the communion of the faithful.83
These scruples of the Greeks have been compared with the tear: Character of the primitive Moslems when they were held back from of'thT"cs battle; and this contrast of base superstition and high- Smc"* spirited enthusiasm unfolds to a philosophic eye the history of the rival nations. The subjects of the last caliphs s< had undoubtedly degenerated from the zeal and faith of the companions of the prophet. Yet their martial creed still represented the Deity as the author of war ;85 the vital though latent spark of fanaticism still glowed in the heart of their religion, and among the Saracens who dwelt on the Christian borders it was frequently rekindled to i lively and active flame. Their regular force was formed of the valiant slaves who had been educated to guard the person and accompany the standard of their lord; but the Musulman people of Syria and Cilicia, of Africa and Spain, was awakened by the trumpet which proclaimed a holy war against the infidels. The rich were ambitious of death or victory in the cause of God; the poor were allured by the hopes of plunder; and the old, the infirm, and the women assumed their share of meritorious service by sending their substitutes, with arms and horses, into the field. These offensive and defensive arms were similar in strength and temper to those of the Romans, whom they far excelled in the management of the horse and the bow; the massy silver of their belts, their bridles, and their swords displayed the magnificence of a prosperous nation ; and, except some black archers of the South, the Arabs disdained the naked bravery of their ancestors. Instead of waggons they were attended
83 Zonaras (tom. ii. 1. xvi. cc. 25] p. 202, 203) and Cedrenus (Compend. p. 668 [p. 658, ed. Par.; tom, ii. p. 369, ed. Bonn)), who relate the design of'Nicephorus, most unfortunately apply the epithet of yur*i*t to the opposition of the patriarch.
84 The viiith chapter of the tactics of the different nations is the most historical and useful of the whole collection of Leo. The manners and arms of the Saracens (Tactic. p. 809-817, and a fragment from the Mediceau MS. in the preface of the vith volume of Meursius) the Roman emperor was too frequently called upon to study.
Uavris ds xtt Hxkvv 'tKyav rat ©itn tiva.1 mnty vir«Titttrai, xa'i vroXificit y^a'iotit Xiysuei T09 Bibv, Tfl» $j«<rx»pTi£e*T« ihft ra roils vt^ifiovf Ot'/.mTa. Leon. Tactic, p. 809 Dec. 18 §111].
A.r». 983. OF THE SARACENS. 33
by a long train of camels, mules, and asses; the multitude of these animals, whom they bedecked with flags and streamers, appeared to swell the pomp and magnitude of their host, and the horses of the enemy were often disordered by the uncouth figure and odious smell of the camels of the East. Invincible by their patience of thirst and heat, their spirits were frozen by a winter's cold, and the consciousness of their propensity to sleep exacted the most rigorous precautions against the surprises of the night. Their order of battle was a long square of two deep and solid lines; the first of archers, the second of cavalry. In their engagements by sea and land they sustained with patient firmness the fury of the attack, and seldom advanced to the charge till they could discern and oppress the lassitude of their foes. But if they were repulsed and broken, they knew not how to rally or renew the combat, and their dismay was heightened by the superstitious prejudice that God had declared himself on the side of their enemies. The decline and fall of the caliphs countenanced this fearful opinion, nor were there wanting, among the Mahometans and Christians, some obscure prophecies86 which prognosticated their alternate defeats. The unity of the Arabian empire was dissolved, but the independent fragments were equal to populous and powerful kingdoms, and in their naval and military armaments an emir of Aleppo or Tunis might command no despicable fund of skill, and industry, and treasure. In their transactions of peace and war with the Saracens, the princes of Constantinople too often felt that these barbarians had nothing barbarous in their discipline, and that, if they were destitute of original genius, they had been endowed with a quick spirit of curiosity and imitation. The model was indeed more perfect than the copy; their ships, and engines, and fortifications were of a less skilful construction; and they confess, without shame, that the same God who has given a tongue to the Arabians had more nicely fashioned the hands of the Chinese and the heads of the Greeks.87
A name of some German tribes between the Rhine and the Weser had spread its victorious influence over the greatest part of Ti,e Franks Gaul, Germany, and Italy; and the common appellation of or La,insf Ranks 88 was applied by the Greeks and Arabians to the Christians
a Liutprand (p. 484, 485) relates and interprets the oracles of the Greeks and Saracens, in which, after the fashion of prophecy, the past is clear and historical, the future is dark, enigmatical, and erroneous. From this boundary of light and shade, an impartial critic may commonly determine the date of the composition.
"The sense of this distinction is expressed by Abulpharagius (Dynast, p. 2, 62, 101); but I cannot recollect the passage in which it is conveyed by this lively apophthegm.
88 Ex Francis, quo nomine tam Latinos qnam Teutones comprehendit, ludum habuit (Liutprand in Legat. ad Imp. Nicephorutn, p. 48H, 484). This extension of
VOL. VII. D