Mehamadiev E. A. IX century Arabic Geographer Ibn Khordadbeh and Military Organization of Byzantine Empire in VIII – the first half of IX centuries: Problems of the Byzantine Theme Order’s Development (.pdf)


The paper is an attempt to analyze the internal structure of the Byzantine themes that were military territorial districts. The author presents the analysis on the example of the themes located in Asia Minor as a central region of the empire. It has been stated in the recent studies that the Byzantine themes of Asia Minor emerged at the turn of the 7th – 8th centuries, and many scholars ascribe the creation of the system of internal theme government to the same period. That system consisted of three important elements: 1) the office of strategos – the governor who combined two branches of power (military and civil ones), 2) a conditional military landowning, according to which peasants received lands from the state for their service, and 3) the system of military salaries for the service during military campaigns. It’s clear from the sources that themes as military territorial districts had already existed by 821/822 and had been mentioned in the same status by an Arabic geographer of the 9th century Ibn Khordadbeh. Approximately in 846-847, he published the first reduction of his work «The Book of Ways and Lands» where he enumerated and described all the Byzantine provinces of that time. However, the question is whether all the indicated elements were always a part of internal organization of the theme districts or not; did those elements arise simultaneously and did they already function during the 8th century. Moreover, it should be questioned what the internal structure of themes was by the time of the first edition of Ibn Khordadbeh’s work. The answers to the questions will give opportunity to clarify the time of the Byzantine theme order’s emergence and the time of themes’ establishment as military territorial districts of the empire.


Key words: themes, Byzantium, strategos, army, seals, military landowning, salary.


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