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Western Civilisation

Until the advent of materialism and 19th c. dogma, Western Civilisation was  superior to anything Islam had developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Proof of this resides in the 'modern' world and the unending political-economic and spiritual poverty of Muslim states and regions.  Squatting on richer civilisations is not 'progress'.  Islam is pagan, totalitarian, and irrational.   

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Monday, March 27, 2023

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Byzantium and the end of glory

John Julius Norwich and 'Byzantium, the Apogee'

by Ferdinand III


Alexius I Comnenus | Byzantine emperor | Britannicajohn julius norwich byzantium apogee - Google Search | Magical book ...

(Alexius Comnenus)


John Julius Norwich’s very detailed and well written narrative entitled ‘Byzantium, the Apogee’ is a great primer for any who are interested in the most Christian, and for nigh on 1000 years, the world’s wealthiest and most sophisticated empire.  As Norwich relates, the battle of Manzikert on August 26, 1071 AD, was unquestionably,


“…the greatest disaster suffered by the Empire of Byzantium in the seven and half centuries of its existence.  The humiliation was bad enough, the performance of the imperial army having been characterised by a combination of treachery, panic and ignominious flight; the fate of the Emperor, too, was unparalleled since the capture of Valerian I by the Persian King Shapur I in AD 260….the real tragedy lay not in the battle itself but in its appalling epilogue.  Had Romanus Diogenes been permitted to retain his throne, all would have been well…”


The Musulman Seljuk Turk annihilation of Romanus and the largely mercenary armies of Byzantium at Manzikert, denuded the Christian empire of valuable and arable land, which provide men for the armies, taxes for the state and food for Constantinople.  The Musulman Sultan was more focussed on conquering Fatimid Shia Egypt than in eradicating Byzantium.  He took Romanus prisoner and on very lenient terms, without demanding more land or excessive ransom, allowed him to return to Constantinople, assuming that his northern border would now be secured and he could assault and reduce the Fatimid Caliphate.  Romanus never regained the throne, losing it to the usurper Michael VII, who blinded the former emperor, and imprisoned him in a monastery, where he died 2 years later.  One of the first acts of Michael VII was to repudiate the treaty between Romanus and the Seljuks. 


The abrogation of the lenient treaty meant that by 1080, the Turks had conquered wide swathes of Anatolia, some 30.000 square miles according to Norwich, renamed the Sultanate of Rum (Eastern Rome).  In a short period of time Byzantium had lost half its manpower and a considerable portion of its grain output.  The court intrigues in Constantinople, the persona ambition, the smug ‘intellectualism’ of the inner circle, led to disastrous and quite ignorant decisions.  The empire did nothing to obstruct the flood of Muslim Turks over once Christian territory, with wealthy cities, trade routes and valuable farmland given up with nary a fight.  The magnificent achievements of Basil II or the Bulgar slayer, in extending Byzantine control over the Balkans and to the Danube were also crumbling away due to ineptitude and corruption.  The empire was seeing itself torn from the south and from the north.


Inflation and economic malaise followed political and military turmoil and tumult.  The standard gold coin lost 25% of its value in a decade, with Emperor Michael VII nicknamed ‘Minus-a-quarter’.  A weak and feckless leader, Michael VII allowed the government to be run by a corrupt eunuch from his inner circle, one Nicephoritzes, who promptly continued the great centralisation of authority.  Corn and grain trade became government monopolies, which predictably became disasters.  The socialisation of key agricultural output created shortages, high prices and poor quality.  The supply of grain dropped as the landowners were squeezed by high taxation and reduced prices and profits, whilst consumers saw their price of basic bread rise sharply.  Inflation simply accelerated.


As with all flailing and failing empires, civil war followed and hollowed out a lost decade after Manzikert.  It was a mixture of ‘the anarchy’ in the England (1138-1153) and the War of the Roses (1455-1485).  It ended with the rise of a young, dynamic and successful military commander to the throne, one Alexius Comnenus.  He gave the empire 30 years of solid leadership but even his skills and acumen could not repair the damage of Manzikert and the lost years from 1025 and the death of Basil II, to 1080.  As Norwich states, ‘But he could, and did, restore to Byzantium its reputation and its good name among nations, thus preparing it to play its part in the great drama that was to begin to unfold even before the end of that turbulent century: the Crusades’.


The fate of Byzantium leads to one of the great ‘what if’ questions of history.  What if after 1025, the leadership of the Christian Byzantine leadership had been as intelligent, skilful, ruthless and militarily bold and capable as Basil II, or Alexius Comnenus?  It is unlikely that Manzikert would have occurred, and improbable that the Muslim Turks would have swept through Anatolia and beyond.  It is highly likely that modern day Turkey would be Christian, and Istanbul unknown and still called by its rightful name – Constantinople.

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