It’s in the Water: Byzantine Borderlands and the Village War
1. ‘We Can Never Go Back to Our Village, or We Will Die’
2. Defending Romanía: Experience, Security, and Landscape
3. The Village War
4. ‘The State of Affairs Was No Less Grievous Than Captivity’
5. The Beekeeper of Dohuk
Conflicts of Interest
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See especially the contributions by Alessandro Petti (2017); Ayham Dalal (2017); Samar Maqusi (2017).
Emblematic is the heated exchange between Niall Ferguson and Pankaj Mishra in the London Review of Books, 3 November 2011: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n21/pankaj-mishra/watch-this-man. More recently, the journal Third World Quarterly published and later retracted a highly flawed essay titled ‘The Case for Colonialism.’ See Prashad (2017a); Andrews (2016) and Tripathi (2018) report on the growth of colonial and imperial nostalgia in the UK. Colonial and imperial nostalgia is also percolating elsewhere, for example, in Turkey, the United States, and Russia.
The real and imagined frontiers between Byzantium and dâr al-Islâm has been discussed in Eger (2015, pp. 1–21). Further views of Byzantium, borderlands, and warfare in this period: El-Cheikh (2004, pp. 83–93).
Haldon (1999) expertly surveys these changes. It is not my intention here to lay out with precision how these many fundamental changes in the constitution and deployment of the Byzantine army affected the treatment of rural populations inside and outside the borderlands of the empire. For discussions of these changes, see (Grosse  1975; Haldon and Kennedy 1980; Kaegi 1981, 1982; Haldon 1995a, 1995b; McGeer 1995; Treadgold 1995; Krsmanović 2008; Eger 2015).
Stratêgikon Praef. (ed. Dennis 1981; trans. Dennis 1984).
Romanía, ‘our chôrai,’ and theirs: Peri Paradromês 4, 7, 20 (ed. Dennis 1985). Boundaries (akra or akrai) of themes: Peri Paradromês 2. Borderlands: Peri Paradromês 3, 6, 7.
[Anônymou Biblion taktikon]  (ed. Dennis 1985).
For officials: Anon. Peri Stratêgias 3 (ed. Dennis 1985); for generals: Anon. Peri Stratêgias 4 (adapted trans.).
Stratêgikon, Praef. Dennis (2001) strongly asserts that Byzantium waged war with extreme caution. In spite of references like this one, which discuss waging war in the name of the Virgin (e.g., Evagrius Scholasticus, HE 4.24), Dennis argues that Byzantines did not think of their wars as ‘holy wars.’ Of course this is a definitional problem subject to different interpretations. It is not my intention here to argue that the routinized forms of frontier maintenance reflected in the military manuals were thought of as somehow ‘holy.’ One can certainly observe that Byzantine religious ideology pervades the military manuals, energizing and justifying military action.
Children: Stratêgikon 5.1.
Soldiers as kin (oikeioi): Stratêgikon, 8.1.16, 8.2.75.
For Byzantine law and provincial society, see (Haldon 1990, pp. 125–72; Neville 2004).
Stratêgikon, 5.1, 7.B.12, 7.B.13, 8.1.34, 8.2.36, 8.2.56, 10.3.
As far as I know, Andrews (1973) coined the term ‘village war’ narrowly to describe the nature of the communist insurgency against the south Vietnamese government. Published in 1973, Andrew’s Village War is partisan in decrying the communist ‘village war’ as a tyrannical attack against ‘freedom.’ Bergerud (2011), however, has widened the concept of the ‘village war’ to include the ideological and strategic importance of villages in the American war in Vietnam for all sides of the conflict.
Illuminating is Drohan (2017, pp. 81–113) on British brutality in the quelling of the Nasserite Radfan revolt in the colony of Aden in the early 1960s. Drohan dubs this the ‘hunger war.’ We will see that there are conceptual affinities between a ‘village war’ and a ‘hunger war.’
Peri Stratêgias 5.
Peri Paradromês 7. See (Dennis 1985, p. 165, n. 1).
Peri Paradromês 2, 8, 12, 20, 22.
Peri Paradromês 12.
Peri Paradromês 10.
Peri Paradromês 6.
Peri Paradromês 10–11.
Peri Paradromês 16–17.
Peri Paradromês 21.
Hughes (2014, pp. 152–56) strangely downplays the effectiveness of these forms of ‘environmental warfare.’
Peri Stratêgias .
Stratêgikon, 8.2.99 (trans. adapted).
Stratêgikon, 9.3 (trans. adapted). ‘Captive’ is also an acceptable translation for aichmalôtos, suggesting that these prisoners could well have been local non-combatants in enemy territory and not necessarily enemy soldiers. Here, the Stratêgikon also gives a historical example of when a Byzantine army was successfully duped into feeding barley, poisoned by Sasanian forces, to their horses with disastrous consequences. The Chronicle of John of Nikiu, chapter 96, elaborates on this episode.
Peri Paradromês 21. It is unclear what is meant by oikophylax in this passage. Dennis translates the term as ‘steward’ and ‘peasant steward.’ Its usage here suggests not a village official or a free peasant household head, but rather a servant in charge of managing the day-to-day duties of an individual farm. For the oikophylax as a city official equivalent to an oikonomos in the epigraphy of Asia Minor, see Kern (1915). For the application of this title to a ‘slave steward,’ see Robert (1984, p. 484, n. 79).
[Anônymou Biblion taktikon] .
Theophanes, Chronographia AM 6201 (De Boor 1883–1885; trans. Mango and Scott 1997). In this case, the peasant milita (referred to as meta ... geôrgikou laou chôrikoboêtheias) failed miserably, resulting in the Arab capture of the city of Tyana and the enslavement of some of its inhabitants. Discussed in Eger (2015, p. 251).
Theophanes, Chronographia AM 6305.
Theophanes, Chronographia AM 6302.
Pseudo-Joshua the Stylite, Chronicle 39, 52, 54, 70, 77, 86, 93, 96, 101 (ed. Wright 1882; trans. Trombley and Watt 2000); Jones (1986, 1:629 n. 45) comments on Pseudo-Joshua’s account of forced bread baking. Analogous is the report found in the Syriac Chronicle of Zuqnîn on the rapacious and destabilizing treatment by Muslim administrators of Syrian Christian villages in the last half of the eighth century (trans. Harrack 1999, pp. 289–303).
By the fifth century, Edessan Christians celebrated the legend of a local woman’s ill-fated marriage to a Gothic soldier at the end of the fourth century. See Euphemia and the Goth (ed. Burkitt 1913).
Pseudo-Joshua the Stylite, Chronicle 86.
For peasant strategies of resistance in the late empire, from indifference to invasion to revolt, see De Ste. Croix (1981, pp. 474–88); more generally, MacMullen (1974, pp. 1–27); Garnsey (1988, pp. 43–68) discusses peasant survival strategies; Neville (2004, pp. 119–64) the informal ways in which provincial society in the Middle Byzantine period regulated itself.
Pseudo-Joshua the Stylite, Chronicle 33, 36, 38, 85–86. See Mazzarino (1966, pp. 58–76) on the ‘judgments of God as an historical category.’
Pseudo-Joshua the Stylite, Chronicle 94.
(Brown 1970, 1971).
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Moralee, J. It’s in the Water: Byzantine Borderlands and the Village War. Humanities 2018, 7, 86. https://doi.org/10.3390/h7030086
Moralee J. It’s in the Water: Byzantine Borderlands and the Village War. Humanities. 2018; 7(3):86. https://doi.org/10.3390/h7030086Chicago/Turabian Style
Moralee, Jason. 2018. "It’s in the Water: Byzantine Borderlands and the Village War" Humanities 7, no. 3: 86. https://doi.org/10.3390/h7030086