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History Questions Not Worth Their Own Thread VII

Discussion in 'World History' started by Plotinus, Sep 24, 2014.

  1. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Super Moderator

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    A thread for general historical discussion. See its most immediate predecessor here.

    As always, please keep discussion civil and constructive, and on historical topics.
     
  2. JohannaK

    JohannaK Heroically Clueless

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    What was the actual power of the HRE in the late Middle Ages?
     
  3. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    You have to be a hit more specific than that, I think. The HRE didn't have much 'acual power', as it was an elective empire with little in the way of any central institution or power.

    First, there was no final war against the Sassanians. Not by Byzantium anyway. Second, having acquired territories far to the West of the actual base of Byzantine power means stretching resources. And, as I said, as it turned out the East was capable of holding on to those Western territories only by dangerously stripping their Eastern base of resources. Until Justinian's campaigns some territory might be lost and gained and vice versa, but overall the situation was under control. (Also keep in mind that the Eastern effort to recapture Africa was called off because of Hun incursions into the Balkans.) The empire, neither East nor West, simply didn't have the resources anymore for grandiose expansionist policies. It's hard to see how the Sassanians could have overrun all of Syria and Egypt (temporarily, to be sure) if the East hadn't spent resources far in the West. So while Justinian's conquests looked great on the map, they served no overall strategic purpose. Obviously, this is arguing from hindsight, as neither the empire nor the Persians expected the 7th century Arab onslaught, but in the event they prepared for it in reverse by weakening themselves mutually.
     
  4. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    It wasn't particularly centralised, but then nowhere was until comparatively late into the time when the HRE was relevant as a concept. Before about 1200 it was indistinguishable from any other state, but others like France increasingly centralised while the HRE remained a tight alliance more than a single country. However, as late as the Thirty Years' War there were still moments when the emperor could enforce his will on the empire - in 1629 he controlled all of the HRE except the port city of Stralsund and was secure enough to issue the Edict of Restitution. Had Gustav Adolf and the Swedes not intervened, things might have gone very differently.
     
  5. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

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    I think the fact that the Sassanians ceased to exist not longer after the war in question ended in 628 suggests that it was. But I could be wrong?

    I think it's pretty well accepted that Justinian's acquisitions in the West were self-funding and probably generated a surplus? Treadgold for example notes that: "The treasuries of the Vandals and Ostrogoths by themselves probably covered the expense of taking and defending Africa and Italy up to 541" and concludes that "Justinian's stupendous reconquests... appeared affordable, defensible and altogether beneficial".

    Which Eastern effort are we talking about?

    Why? Treadgold again notes that the sole break on further expansion after Justinian's reconquest was not the reconquests but the plague and that even then "the reconquests did little to aggravate the effects of the plague and even compensated for them somewhat by adding new lands and people to tax".

    I don't think this is the case and if it was why didn't the Empire collapse in the wars of 572–591 or the War of 526-532 both of which were much closer to Justinian's supposed overreach?

    I think securing Africa which was a rich province and easily defensible has a pretty compelling strategic logic. Italy and Spain can be defended on much the same grounds.
     
  6. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    I think you are confusing two issues here: the Empire and the Catholic Habsburgs, who from late medieval times on managed to monopolize the position of emperor. The power of the emperor rested primarily on his dynastic lands. Also, especially in the Thirty Years War, it is stretching the truth to call the empire 'a tight alliance'. For most of the time it was a loose alliance at best, and the Western part of it was heavily influenced by France and French money, which found little trouble in adding nominally imperial land to France proper, a process which extended over centuries.

    In addition, unlike the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, there were no central institutions. That is, there was a Reichstag, but this was not in permanent session (it wasn't a parliament), which could be convened for urgent matters, but not for daily business. In addition there was no imperial army, save that which the emperor could muster. The secession of Switzerland was not fought by any imperial army. The secession of the Netherlands wasn't even directly related to the empire.

    Or you could have misread. Either way, as I said, it was the Arabs that finished off the Sassanian empire. So Byzantium did not wage any final war.

    I was speaking of military resources. As said, most of Justinian's conquests lasted quite awhile; the core of the empire, not so much.

    I'm not sure what the plague would do, except further diminish available soldiery and taxable peasantry.

    I didn't say anything about Justinian overreaching anything, so I can't comment on that.

    You have to count his gain against the loss of Syria and Egypt. It seems to me that the balance than would be negative, or at best zero.
     
  7. SeekTruthFromFacts

    SeekTruthFromFacts King

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    Subscribe
     
  8. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    You need to use the Subscribe button.
     
  9. JohannaK

    JohannaK Heroically Clueless

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    If I understood correctly, I believe Masada's point is that Justinian conquest, resulting in surplus, aren't the reason why they later lost Syria and Egypt, but that the plague was. Because, as you disingenously pointed out, all it could do is diminish available soldiery and taxable peasantry.
     
  10. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    A tight alliance in conception - I'm stretching for a model which comes somewhere between 'Switzerland' and 'Somalia', though I suppose it oscillated between those at times. It wasn't a coherent or monolithic country at all, but it's a mistake to write it off as a state too early in its history. As I pointed out, central authority could enforce itself on unwilling provinces and noblemen in 1629, so something of the 'state' had survived until then.
     
  11. Lone Wolf

    Lone Wolf Deity

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    But failed to cover all this after 541, I presume?

    Halsall notes in his work on "barbarian invasions" that post-Justinianic North Africa was quite prosperous and beneficial, despite some problems with the Moors, yet that Italy was devastated by the Ostrogothic War (of course, regarding the latter, it takes two to tango).

    Also, how significant was the difference between Vandalic Kingdom of 460'ies and it in 530'ies? It seemed to have declined somewhat during this time, although Halsall notes that the result of Justinian's reconquest of it wasn't a completely preordained affair.

    I don't understand where all that stuff about measuring Justinian's conquests vs Levant and Egypt is, though. By the time the latter two were lost completely, the Visigothic kingdom had already taken Eastern Roman Spania and Byzantine mainland Italy was reduced to Ravenna and the Pentapolis, semi-autonomous Rome and Apulia-Calabria. On the other hand, neither Justinian himself nor his 6th-century successors suffered any large-scale loss in Egypt or Levant.
     
  12. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    It is important to remember that when the Vandal's took over North Africa, they weren't going up against a Roman Field Army -that had been smashed to bits in various civil wars. A foreign military elite came in and set up shop. A few decidedly middling kings didn't help matters either. When Justinian's army showed up it was an experienced army that was largely comprised of veterans from the Eastern Field Army.
    The early Vandal successes were characterized by an almost complete lack of organized opposition. Ostrogothic Italy was sufficiently organized to make raiding it en masse a dicey proposition, and relations with the Moors were cool at best.
     
  13. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    So, in hindsight, the East would have done better to keep its soldiery where it was. Which, again, would be my point. The net result would still be negative to zero at best. Not to mention that most of Justinian's conquests were taken over by Arab armies anyway, notwithstanding any supposed surplus. So in the end he thinned defenses instead of concentrating them. That's not to say that if Justinian had not gone West the East would be secure, just that they would have a better chance of keeping the East as intact as possible instead of losing their richest territories.

    This is contradictory: either the HRE was an alliance (ether loose or tight) or it was a state. The point is, none of the constituent parts of the HRE lost any of its independence because of it; the only actual parts of the empire were the Free Cities, which were guaranteed by the empire. It seems to me it is already a stretch to call the HRE a state: what government functions there were, were primarily represented by the dynasty which happened to hold the title of emperor. also, the empire did not have any provinces, as you seem to think. If 'central authority' pressed its will, then it did so on the member states. And your example is particularly ill-chosen, as the Edict had a disastrous effect, extended the Thirty Years War, and was effectively revoked in 1635.
     
  14. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    If Justinian hadn't reconquered Africa, there would have been no Exarchate of Carthage from which Heraclius could bring a Field Army to save the Empire.

    Trying to predict what would have happened had Justinian not done something (keeping in mind he was a product of his time) is a bit silly, to be honest.
     
  15. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    I don't think the Edict actually did extend the Thirty Years' War; yes, it was unpalatable, but it was what the emperor had been going for all along. It was something like the Emancipation Proclamation in that by issuing it he was demonstrating that he felt strong enough to enforce it. What prolonged the war was the intervention of Sweden - in other words, the upset of that superiority of power of which the Edict was the mark. Hubristic, perhaps. I'm also not sure that 'provinces' is a worse term than 'member states', to be honest, though the latter is certainly more appropriate in later periods - what matters is distribution of power rather than nomenclature, and the HRE was certainly not conceived as less of a coherent polity than any other. Granted, actually using the word 'provinces' means you have to accept that Texas and California are those in practice.
     
  16. Lone Wolf

    Lone Wolf Deity

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    I remember reading that the whole thingy went largely satisfactorily for the ERE in this war until the Heraclii started this rebellion of theirs. This issue seems sort-of-guesswork to me.
     
  17. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

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    You misread then because it's quite obvious that I was saying it was the final war between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanian Empire.

    What do you think tax revenues are?

    That was clearly the gist of what you think Justinian did. Here's some examples:

    And if you aren't arguing Imperial overreach and tracing it back to Justinian's conquests, what are you arguing exactly?

    Can you provide evidence that Justinian's conquests actually resulted in a net reduction in the Empire's forces in the East? This is also a good example of an overreach argument.

    At which point tax revenues took over.

    I think it was more or less the same entity. I also agree with Halsall, Belisarius' forces were not that much larger than the Vandals. It was just his side fought well and the Vandals not so much. Where the Roman's didn't roll so well, like in the Gothic Wars, things could get hairy but even so Rome's superior resources won out.

    You're right. That argument doesn't make a lot of sense.

    Yeah. It didn't help. And it weakened the central government. But having said that, Phocas' performance was not fantastic and was a major reason for the Heraclii rebelling. Had Phocas won more often, his regime wouldn't have begun to crack as it did.
     
  18. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    I don't have Treagold's Byzantium and its Army handy, but one of his conclusions was that initially the Byzantium Field Armies in the East were enlarged (which included creating an Army of Armenia) in preparation for a Western Reconquest to ensure a decisive blow against the Sassanid Empire, allowing for a transfer of troops to the west. While the number of troops in the Eastern Field Armies did go down during that transfer, the Byzantine forces in the region during Justinian's reign maintained a pretty heavy superiority to whatever the Sassanids could muster short-term. (Long term, the Empire would be able to shift the Field Armies around to regain superiority over the Sassanids).
    The victory at Daara and the extra Field Army in the region convinced the Shahanshah (don't remember who it was at the time) to sign the poorly named 'Perpetual Peace' which nonetheless managed to last Justinian's reign more-or-less intact.
     
  19. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    So in the short term Justinian's actions were a success. Which noone is contesting.

    Obviously. But you are overlooking two things: a field army in Carthage would not have been necessary had it not been conquered. (Part of my original argument: sending resources where they are not needed). And, secondly, Africa was also lost to the Arabs. So in hindsight, again, this proved an expansionist adventure with little regard to the East's actual concerns, which were, as always, in the East. The onlt gains that served any long-time goal were in Italy - the least valuable asset. And Venice, prospering under Byzantium's umbrella would ultimately spell its doom. Again, hindsight, obviously. But the irony of it. All this just makes me think of Augustus's cross-Rhine exploits in Germania: not worth the trouble, best keep the borders as is.

    Which only was a final war because the Arabs did them in.

    Something which plague will reduce.

    Not only am I arguing imperial overreach (all of Justinian's gains would fall to the Arabs except Italy), but I am arguing strategic error: the East's interests were in the East, not the West. They always were.

    See above: a field army to 'save' the East needed to be brought from Africa. Which it needed have if it weren't in Africa in the first place.

    Again, this is a short term view. In the long term all those gains were lost: Africa, bits of Spain and Mediterranean islands, but, more importantly, Syria and Egypt. Yes, the East managed to hold on, but with a very reduced territory. So in the end it was a giant waste of resources.

    It actually did: it extended the territory where armies were fighting. And the intervention by Sweden was in part inspired by it, so it may also have extended the war in time. Claiming the emperor imposed his will by it is beyond a stretch, as it was a hevaily contested edict which was ultimately revoked. so it would be better to term it an attempted imposing of will. Whether the HRE was conceived as a regular state seems a bit irrelevant. In reality it never really was.
     
  20. JohannaK

    JohannaK Heroically Clueless

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    It's hard to aim when the goalposts keep moving.
     

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