Theme (Byzantine district)

The subject ( ancient Greek θέμα, the etymology of the word is disputed) was succeed the Roman Provincia an administrative unit of the Byzantine Empire. The first theme emerged around the middle of the 7th century. It was military districts, later also perceived civil administrative tasks whose commander. The probable meaning is " assignment " or " hold space ", the original meaning of the word was probably simply " army "; referred to it since the early 7th century, the army group of Master of the Soldiers ( Army Master ) of the late Roman army. A precursor of the topics was the Exarchate in some respects.


Under pressure from the Arab invasion from the 630 model years emerged in the mid- 7th century, first in Asia Minor new military districts ( Armeniakon, Thrakesion, Opsikion and Anatolikon ). It is the most historians do not consider as the result of the efforts of only one emperor, but asked this development a longer periods of time protracted process dar.

Became necessary this transformation of the management by the massive Byzantine territorial losses in the 7th century. In the subsequent decades Byzantium fought for the sheer existence. Only relatively few, scattered sources report about this time; yet the topics organization seems not to have marginally contributed to the stabilization of the empire, although other factors, such as later inter-Arab disputes, played a role.

The civilian eparchiai ( provinces ) survived but parallel to at least the 8th century. Later, the subjects management was transferred to the risk of Slavs and Bulgars Byzantine territories in Europe and the re-conquered areas to the east. Although the military government was at first strictly separated from the civil administration as it had already been common in late antiquity, the military governors took no later than 840 also this function now supported by subordinate protonotarioi whose meaning, however, more and more increased in the course of the 9th century. But even now seems like the Kletorologion of Philotheos displays ( 899) to have existed a parallel civil administration, albeit under the control of the corresponding strategos ( στρατηγός, General ).

The major themes were eventually divided into smaller units ( particularly in the context of Byzantine expansion from the mid-9th century ). This should also prevent not least the danger that ambitious generals were able to use the themes as a springboard for a usurpation. In the 11th century the issues order in which the settlement of soldiers farmers was involved at the border broke (see also Akriten ), due to the economic and military disasters of the Byzantine Empire together. Emperor Basil II abolished many topics and entrusted the defense instead mercenary units that were under his direct control.

The number of subjects varied between four (at the time of their creation ) and approximately fifty ( during the Byzantine expansion end of the 10th and beginning of the 11th century ).

Research problems

Not least because of the extremely poor source position relative to the conditions in the Byzantine East in the 7th century, numerous individual issues related to the topics constitution are highly controversial. This is particularly, but not exclusively, the dating and the procedures for introducing the topics constitution. She was a very long time as a reform of the Emperor Heraclius. After Georg Ostrogorsky she created Heraclius in the environment of the Persian Wars, by assigning to the troops of the country and military provinces einrichtete in which preferred recruitment took place. He referred to a statement in the (though not contemporary ) Theophanes manuscript, after Emperor Heraclius had gone in 622 in the areas of the topics. His interpretation joined, among others, Franz Dölger, Wilhelm Ensslin and Charles Diehl.

Nevertheless, so no agreement was reached, because soon this argument was contradicted by several other scholars. For example, Norman Baynes pointed out that the sources that led Ostrogorsky as evidence, are not contemporary and therefore could hardly be taken as evidence for his thesis. Also was difficult to envisage that Heraclius troops have settled in Asia Minor, as suggested Ostrogorsky while were still operating to 626 Persian troops in this very region. The first explicit mention of the subjects was not secured before the 60s of the 7th century. Agostino Pertusi also disagreed Ostrogorsky and pleaded with other researchers for it to set the origin of the Anatolian themes in the second half of the 7th century. Some researchers went again a gradual emergence in the late 6th or 7th century from the late Roman army movement and the limitanei from. Paul Lemerle, Pertusi, Karayannopulos and others, however, rejected any link between the military and the country first issues, as soldiers goods are attested until much later.

In modern research is rarely assumed that Heraclius was responsible for the introduction of the theme system. The majority of historians today assumes that the first subjects after the start of the Arab invasion caused by the regrouping of the old Eastern Roman frontier troops in the interior of Asia Minor, first not as a permanent installation, as you initially hoped for a recovery of the old boundaries. A particularly important argument represents the reference to the names of the first four issues is: The troops who had served to attack the Arabs under the magister militum per orientem in Syria and Mesopotamia, apparently attracted to the subject Anatolikon ( gr Anatole = Latin Oriens ) back, while the soldiers of the Master of the Soldiers defended the topic Armeniakon by Armeniam. The same applies - you follow this hypothesis - for the troops who had been subordinate to the magister militum per Thracias (Theme Thrakesion ), as well as for the Master of the Soldiers praesentalis subordinate units of the Guard ( obsequium ), which should defend the topic Opsikion. At the same time in the 660 years disappeared the Roman office of magister militum. Does this theory, the emergence of themes order was the result of the collapse of the late Roman frontier defense and retreat of the defeated armies to Asia Minor in 640, not the result of a targeted reform.

The earliest incurred topics were:


The boundaries of the first topics was followed essentially the late antique civil administrative units; the territory of an early theme so comprised several provinces. When they lost their practical significance, the new issues were not taking any more consideration to the old boundaries. The management of the topics subordinate to the military, the governor of a topic was also the supreme commander of the army. His name was usually strategos ( " commander ", the traditional Greek translation of magister militum ), that of the Opsikion Komes (from Latin comes obseqium ) extending from Anatolia and Armenia Patrikios (from Latin patricius ). From John I. Tzimiskes the commanders of the tagmata and border issues was designated as Komes. Africa and Italy were Exarchien, Cyprus, Crete and Thessaloniki Archontate.

The reorganization gave the strategists relatively large amount of power, from 668 also rebellions of strategists are therefore occupied. Therefore, the topics have been reduced under the following emperors, Constantine V hosted parts of the troops of the Opsikion tagmata one, a kind of imperial troops home, which will also farmed Military. Your final expression were the subjects only in the second half of the 8th century, when it finally constituted new administrative- geographical units. About the only report on the organization sources from the 10th century detail.

The soldiers, the foreign mercenaries, were assigned from the 8th Century in the thematic country so that their pay could be significantly reduced. Recent research emphasizes, however, that with the establishment of the topics are not creating a Soldatenbauerntums was connected. Rather, initially caused the state to supply the troops, the organization for this lay in the hands of kommerkiarioi. The soldiers of the soldiers later goods ( it is problematic that only later sources from the 10th century stratiotika of this report ktemata, so that a slow formation in the 7th and 8th centuries can not be excluded ) finally had the cost of uniforms, equipment, horses and forage from the proceeds of their agriculture deny.

The subjects were divided into 2-18 Droungoi, each consisting of 1,000 soldiers goods. They were under a Drungarchen. Several Droungoi formed a Turma under a tower arks. Warren Treadgold estimates the strength of the army in the field for 773 to a total of 80,000 men. In the 11th century troops were repeatedly removed from the topics armies and laid in the tagmata.

In Chapter 18 of Taktika organizing a themed army is demonstrated by means of a 4,000 -strong cavalry unit. Instead, in the case of an enemy attack to mobilize the whole issue, it is recommended that the strategos to proceed only with the help of an association formed of 4,000 selected cavalrymen against your opponent and to distribute the remaining soldiers to other units. If this is insufficient, the strategos should join together with one or two other strategoi and their associations. The list of officers listed includes: 2 Tower hierarchs, 4 Droungarchen, 20 Komes, 40 Hekatontarchen, 80 Pentekontarchen (also known as Tribune), 400 and 800 Dekarchen Pentarchen.

The land that was allocated to the soldiers, probably came from the great imperial estates, also fallow land to the large family estates - the late ancient senatorial aristocracy was caught in a severe crisis since about 600 - was perhaps used. Earlier it was sometimes assumed that they had perhaps oriented in the reorganization of the Persian army reforms of Khosrau I, but this is ultimately speculation. Already Kaiser Maurikios had assumed the exarch of Prätorianerpräfektur and mixed military and civil administration.

After the Arab raids on Asia Minor fell, the combat missions were rare in many subjects, the soldiers were gradually to farmers. Some of the soldiers had to pay money, but overall they received payments without spending a lot to do. Constantine IX. began to unravel issues, but contributed to the weakening of frontier defense.

After the Battle of Manzikert ( 1071 ), the topics organization began to break, from about 1100 it seems to have disappeared after it had arrived in the 11th century back to a still further separation between civil and military administration. The emperor sat now a particularly mercenary troops. Although the term themata also appears in Late Byzantine sources, but he had at this time only the role of fiscal administrative units.