Event Title

From Hospitalitas to Themata: Late Antique Precedents for the Theme System

Session Title

History and Literature

Faculty Mentor

Gregory Bell, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of History

Location

West 214

Start Date

12-4-2019 3:15 PM

Description

The theme system was the military-administrative complex characteristic of the Roman empire during the first half of the Middle Ages. Its proper establishment is now typically attributed to the reign of Emperor Nikephoros I in the ninth century, yet the “settlement” of the Roman field armies in Anatolia can be traced back to the middle of the seventh century CE, as declining territory and revenue forced the region to become the primary producer for the empire. However, this “settlement” was not a proper landing of the military, by which a system of “farmer-soldiers” was created, but rather bore similarities to earlier fourth- and fifth-century practices of supporting the army and the “settlement” of the barbarian foederati in the western Roman empire. This paper seeks to explore how the system of hospitalitas outlined by Walter Goffart, which involved granting allotments to “settling” foederati from the tax value of the land, could serve as a precedent to the system implemented by the Roman Empire in the mid-seventh through eighth centuries to support the field armies in Anatolia, as outlined by John Haldon. Embedded in these two unique historiographies, culminating with Goffart and Haldon, lies a connection between the fifth-century technique of accommodation and the fiscal accommodation of the seventh- through ninth- century field armies. Further, the context of hospitalitas requires a complete reassessment of the understanding of the granting of hereditary military lands (stratiotika ktemata) under Emperor Constantine VII in the tenth century.

Course Assignment

MDST 510 – Bell

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Apr 12th, 3:15 PM

From Hospitalitas to Themata: Late Antique Precedents for the Theme System

West 214

The theme system was the military-administrative complex characteristic of the Roman empire during the first half of the Middle Ages. Its proper establishment is now typically attributed to the reign of Emperor Nikephoros I in the ninth century, yet the “settlement” of the Roman field armies in Anatolia can be traced back to the middle of the seventh century CE, as declining territory and revenue forced the region to become the primary producer for the empire. However, this “settlement” was not a proper landing of the military, by which a system of “farmer-soldiers” was created, but rather bore similarities to earlier fourth- and fifth-century practices of supporting the army and the “settlement” of the barbarian foederati in the western Roman empire. This paper seeks to explore how the system of hospitalitas outlined by Walter Goffart, which involved granting allotments to “settling” foederati from the tax value of the land, could serve as a precedent to the system implemented by the Roman Empire in the mid-seventh through eighth centuries to support the field armies in Anatolia, as outlined by John Haldon. Embedded in these two unique historiographies, culminating with Goffart and Haldon, lies a connection between the fifth-century technique of accommodation and the fiscal accommodation of the seventh- through ninth- century field armies. Further, the context of hospitalitas requires a complete reassessment of the understanding of the granting of hereditary military lands (stratiotika ktemata) under Emperor Constantine VII in the tenth century.