Byzantine-Roman fleet

 The Eastern Roman Byzantine Empire is considered an extension of the Western Roman Empire, The Byzantine Empire began when Emperor Constantine the Great moved the capital of the empire from Rome on the Tiber River to the city of Byzantium on the banks of the Bosphorus.

 from Roman to Byzantine

In order to immortalize his name, Constantine called the city of Byzantium Constantinople, and in order to immortalize Byzantium, he called the entire empire Byzantine.

The actions that Constantine did constituted a change in the Roman Empire, this change was not only  limited to the name of the ancient empire, or geographical change, but also rather it extended to include religious change, The Roman Empire changed from paganism to Christianity when Constantine himself was baptized, and after that Emperor Theodosius declared Christianity the official religion of the empire, and the consequent interest in holy councils was an alternative to Roman temples.

As such Byzantine is used to seperate the historical periods between the Latin-speaking, pagan Roman empire centred at Rome during the Ancient years, from the Greek-speaking Christian Roman Empire during the Middle Ages, centred at its capital in Constantinople.

Thus, it developed its own unique culture and identity that in hindsight, appears to be Roman only in name.

The emergence and end of the Byzantine state constitutes a turning point in human history, as the emergence of the Byzantine Empire is the beginning of the history of the Middle Ages, and its end with the fall of its capital into the hands of the Ottoman Turks is the beginning of modern times.

the beginning

The fifth century witnessed the collapse of the Western Empire and the rise of the Germanic kingdoms, as a result, the following century witnessed serious attempts to restore the unity of the empire, recover its lost territories, uproot the Berber presence from it, and return the Mediterranean to a Roman lake as it was during the reign of Emperor Justinian, whose main interest was rebuilding the Roman Empire. Idealism in the West because he believed that he was a Roman emperor and not just a Byzantine.    

The Byzantine navy, like the Byzantine Empire itself, was a continuation of the earlier Roman Empire model. In 323 AD the Emperor Constantine defeated a fleet of 350 triremes of the Eastern Emperor Licinius with a fleet of 200 liburnians, smaller and lighter than Roman triremes, in the early period by its organizational structure and technology is similar to Roman Navy.While the Vandal kingdom of Carthage lasted (428-534), the eastern emperors were compelled to attend to their fleet. The new threat came from the Arabs who were desert people but eventually mastered naval warfare and conquered much of the large Mediterranean islands.

Its full interest in naval weapons reached its greatest extent since the era of Justinian - Justinius - in the middle of the sixth century, and the era of Heraclius before the middle of the seventh century and the emperors who came after him, in addition to the maritime aspect, a number of ships were used for transporting troops and supplies, and were controlled in the Mediterranean Sea:

 Constantinople, Egypt and Ceuta, which prevented any foreign trade from entering this sea without their approval, its entire world trade services for all.

 Strutcure of  Byzantine navy 

The Roman Republic and the Empire had to maintain a fleet not only to neutralize the threat arising from rival naval powers but also to deal with the piracy prevalent in the Mediterranean and the consequent protection of trade routes.

The supreme commander of the imperial naval forces was the Emperor.

The basic unit of Byzantine fleets was the Nautiki Moira (Naval Squadron) that was formed  by  3-5  heavy  war  ships  (dromons  or  chelandia)  and  6-10  light  war  ships (ousiai). 

The  commander  of  the  Byzantine  squadron  was  the  Drougarocomitas (Count) commanding a force of  1200-1800 oarsmen and soldiers. The commander of a warship was the Kentarchos (Captain).

The types of  Byzantne warships 


Dromon was a heavy warship which was equipped with a wooden tower on the front of  the  deck in  which various  battle equipments  and siege  engines  were  placed,  the length of a typical dromon was 30-40 meters, at the bow dromon  was equipped with the head of a beast (usually of a lion) through which a pipette was passing throwing Greek Fire against enemy ships or inland enemy targets, capable of  burning either on sea  or  on  land.  Greek  Fire  was  placed  inside  glass  balls.  Dromon  was  capable  of transporting  220  men,  160  oarsmen  and  60 soldiers.  

Factors superior to the Byzantine fleet 

The following factors played a critical role in the glorious and long lasting history of Byzantine Navy: 
  • The high  quality of  training of its officers which was  based on a plethora of very important  military  manuals  the  contents  of  which  was  being continuously, systematically and methodically updated and enriched. 
      • The shipbuilding skills  and  the  advanced  technological knowledge characterizing the maritime “themes” (regions) of Byzantine Empire.

      • The  production  of  innovative  and  highly  effective  weapon  systems  such  as  the “Greek Fire” and Crossbow.

      •  Acquisition  of  accurate  intelligence,  often  through  the  use  of  spies  posing  as merchants.  

      Greek fire
      Greek Fire

        The ancient Byzantine fleet was closely linked to Greek Fire (also known as Byzantine Fire) which  was the ancient precursor to the modern Napalm.

    Greek Firewas largely responsible for numerous Byzantine victories and was a large reason why the Eastern Roman Empire lasted as long as it did.

    Greek fire is a burning liquid that the Byzantines used as a weapon in their naval wars since 674 AD, when it was used to set fire to enemy ships.

    Greek fire consists of a combustible compound that is emitted by a flame-throwing weapon.

    it may have been made by combining pine resin, naphtha, quicklime, calcium phosphide, sulfur, or niter. Roman sailors would toss grenades loaded with Greek fire onto enemy ships or spray it from tubes. Its ability to burn on water made it an effective and destructive naval incendiary weapon,  and rival powers tried unsuccessfully to copy the material.

    But its exact composition is still a mystery.

    The Greeks used Greek fire for the first time in the naval battle of Silium when the Muslim Umayyads besieged Constantinople in a campaign sent by Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan in the year 53-60 AH / 674-678 AD, led by his son Yazid, to try to conquer Constantinople.

     Some historians believe that Greek fire would ignite upon contact with water, and it may have been based on naphtha and quicklime, The Byzantines used it extensively in naval battles, as Greek fire continues to burn while floating on water.

     The technological advantage it provided was responsible for several major Byzantine military victories, most notably breaking the siege of Constantinople from two Muslim sieges, thus ensuring the survival of the empire until Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in 1453 completed the conquest of Constantinople.

    Through the use of "Greek fire", the Byzantine navy's best-known and feared secret weapon, Constantinople was saved from several sieges and numerous naval engagements were won for the Byzantines.


    Essential to the success of the Byzantine Empire as one of the longest surviving in history, was due to its navy.

    So several historians have called a maritime empire.

    Throughout its history, the Empire had to defend a long coastline, often with little hinterland. In addition, shipping was always the quickest and cheapest way of transport, and the Empire's major urban and commercial centers, as well as its most fertile areas, lay close to the sea.

    The Roman Republic and the Empire had to maintain a fleet not only to neutralize the threat arising from rival naval powers but also to deal with the piracy prevalent in the Mediterranean and the consequent protection of trade routes.











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