At Saturday 18/3/2017 conducted to our fencing club Pammachon martial art lesson from the Headmaster Mr. Constantine Dervenis.
At the first part the scholars trained at unblocking tactics and kinesiology. At the second part of the lessons the scholars trained at close quarter combat tactics and kinesiology of unarmed and armed combat first with knife and second with long sword.
Το Σάββατο 18/3/2017 διεξήχθη στο σύλλογο μας μάθημα Παμμάχου από τον ιδρυτή του κ. Κωνσταντίνο Δερβένη.
Στο πρώτο μέρος, οι ασκούμενοι εκπαιδεύτηκαν σε τακτική και κινησιολογία απεμπλοκής, ενώ στο δεύτερο μέρος ακολούθησαν τακτική και κινησιολογία κοντινής μάχης τόσο σε άοπλη όσο και ένοπλη κοντινή μάχη με μαχαίρι αλλά και με μακρύ σπαθί.
The great Byzantine scholar and “dean” of the Pandidakterion of Constantinople, Leon, was known in his age as Leon the Philosopher or Mathematician. He was born somewhere in Thessaly around 790 AD. He received his basic education in Andros, where he spent his childhood. He then studied grammar and philosophy in Constantinople. But his great love was science. So he returned to Andros and, under the guidance of a wise teacher – monk, he began his search for rare manuals on math and astronomy.
A chronographer of the age mentions the following about Leon’s thirst for knowledge: “While many admired him for his wisdom and for the way he reached the highest point of all the sciences, it is said that he (Leon) told a friend of his that he learned grammar and poetry while living in Constantinople and rhetoric and (physic) philosophy and the knowledge of numbers he obtained when he came to Andros. Because there, after meeting a wise man and learned the basics from him, because the quantity of knowledge he found did not satisfy him, he began visiting the monasteries and looking through the books they had and tried to obtain them. He then climbed mountaintops and with great care, after he studied the books, he was raised to the height of knowledge. When he was satisfied with learning, he returned to Constantinople and started sowing the seeds of science in the minds of those who wished it.” From the above we can easily come to the conclusion that many monasteries, even those in remote areas away from the capital, guarded rare scientific books in their libraries, and so became centers of attraction and meeting points of various educated Greeks, both clergy and civilians.
After his return to Constantinople in 835 AD, Leon worked as a private tutor, «μαϊστωρ» of the natural sciences. He lived a very modest life until his meeting with the then emperor Theofilos (829-843 AD). Leon, even though he was famed in the circles of the scholars of Constantinople, became famous by accident. A student of his that followed a military career was captured in a skirmish with Arab soldiers, and led to the prison of Baghdad, the capital of the powerful Caliphate of (Αββασιδών). There he managed to be accepted by the Caliph Al-Mamoon (nephew to the famous Caliph Harun Al Rasid, protagonist in the tale of a thousand and one nights). The Caliph was impressed by the mathematical knowledge of the young Greek that surpassed the Arab mathematicians at his court. After liberating the young soldier and made him a professor in the university of Baghdad, he inquired about the scientific level of the Byzantines. The Greek, after assuring him that there were thousands of young people learning science in the empire (showing that knowledge in Byzantium was available to quite a large number of civilians that wished it, irregardless of their social or financial situation, something inconceivalbe in the West), talked to him about Leon. Then Al-Mamoon, impressed, sent a letter to Leon with the young mathematician, asking about various mathematical problems, which Leon solved without any difficulty. Excited, the Caliph sent two more letters, one to Leon, asking him to come to Baghdad to teach, and another to Theofilos, asking him to allow Leon to come to the Caliphate, promising 2000 gold pieces and eternal piece, and ending with the following: “If this happens, all the Saracenes will bow before you and you will have so much wealth that human eyes never saw its like before!”. Theofilos, though, declined.
From then began Leon’s grand career. Theofilos funded him and allowed him to teach in the temple of Forty Martyrs. His lectures were given for free. In 840 AD, Leon is made a Metropolitan of Thessaloniki. In 843, though, he is quickly dismissed, as an iconoclast after the final restoration of icons, and he returns to Constantinople. There, with the full support of the empress Saint Theodora (who dismissed him from his post in Thessaloniki), her son emperor Michael C (The Drunk) and Caesar (prime-minister) Vardas, he re-establishes the Pandidakterion and in 855 AD he is made into “High Philosopher”, a kind of dean. Thousands of students flock to observe the free lessons Leon is giving (mathematics – algebra and geometry – astronomy and music, the “tetractis” of the Byzantines and later the “quadrivium” of the West). Among his students were big names of the “Macedonian Renaissance” (867-1081), like Fotios the Great, Arethas of Patras, Cyrill and Methodius, and the astronomer Theodigeos, his successor as dean of the Pandidakterion.
Leon’s work as a mathematician, astronomer and engineer was valuable. He was the first in the world to introduce letters instead of numbers in theoretical arithmetics and algebra (for example in equations) and not the Arabs (who introduced as arithmetic signs the indian numbers we use today). He rescued the writings of great Greek scientists like Apollonios, Pergaios, Theonas, the great Euclid – with explanatory comments, used widely in the West – Archimedes and Ptolemaios, and he took care of the transport of many of them to the Caliph’s court. He also made astronomical tables and corrected an error of the astronomer Porphyrius about the movement of the planets. Sadly, from his great work as an author nothing remains apart from the comments on Euclid, due to time and mostly due to the religious fanaticism of some iconolaters, that after the triumph of Orthodoxy and the perseverance of the worship of icons, destroyed his works after his death.
He was even more famous, though, for perfecting the ancient telecomunications system, the optical telegraph. It is known that since the antiquity, people used frictorian towers to warn each other about imminent raids. The frictorian “chains” though were only some decades of kilometers in length. Leon created a chain of only seven frictorian tower-stations, measuring approximately two thousand kilometers (!) from Constantinople to Tarsus of Cilicia, which he built on the tallest mountaintops between the two cities, so their fires would be visible from hundreds of kilometers away. The system transmitted not one but twelve different messages (for example raid, victory or defeat, enemies retreating, fire, earthquake, flood etc). That was possible thanks to two perfectly synchronized mechanical clocks (the first in history!) placed at the two ends of the frictorian chain, that functioned based on a division of the day in hours with 12 corresponding messages. With that system, the imperial headquarters in Constantinople could be informed about what was happening in the critically important eastern front, within eleven hours at the most. That speed of relaying messages through great distances was overcome only in the 19th century with the invention of the telegraph. Sadly, the system only functioned for a few decades, since when the Arabs conquered Tarsus they destroyed the mechanical clock.
Finally, Leon, having extensive knowledge on Alexandrian technology, created various metal “automatons” for the Byzantine palace, using hydrostatic and aerostatic pressure. One of those was a gold-plated tree with golden birds that moved their wings and sang on its branches, while on its top a golden angel played the trumpet. Under the tree, golden automated wine-pourers offered wine to the emperor’s guests. On the marble base of the throne, whenever someone approached, bronze gold-plated lions would stand, open their mouths and roar. Similar machines were created by Heron the Alexandrian for Ptolemy, while other automatons were in the byzantine palace and the court of the Arab Caliph to impress visitors.
The most impressing feat of Leon in automation was, according to the “Περί βασιλείου τάξεως” work of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (912-949) the “mechanical sweeper”, a mechanical turtle that cleaned the streets of Constantinople, maybe useful even to today’s street cleaners! All these impressive machines, according to the sources were destroyed by the Byzantines in times of financial hardships, either being melted for golden coins or discarded because they could not be repaired.
· Ε. Λ. Μπουρδάκου : «Αρχαία ρομπότ», β΄ έκδοση, εκδόσεις «Ελεύθερη Σκέψις», Αθήνα, 2002.
· P. Lemerle : «Ο πρώτος βυζαντινός Ουμανισμός», εκδ. Μορφωτικό Ίδρυμα Εθνικής Τραπέζης, Αθήνα, 1981.
· Β. Σπανδάτου κ.λ.π. : «Οι θετικοί επιστήμονες της Βυζαντινής Εποχής», εκδ. «Αίθρα», Αθήνα, 1996.
* Ο Δημήτριος Ντούρτας είναι Δικηγόρος Αθηνών και κάτοχος μεταπτυχιακού διπλώματος στον Τομέα Ιστορίας, Φιλοσοφίας, Κοινωνιολογίας και Εκκλησιαστικού Δικαίου της Νομικής Σχολής του Πανεπιστημίου Αθηνών.
‘I am the sword, deadly against all weapons. Neither spear, nor poleaxe, nor dagger can prevail against me. I can be used at long range or close range, or I can be held in the half sword grip and move to the Narrow Game. I can be used to take away the opponent’s sword, or move to grapple. My skill lies in breaking and binding. I am also skilled in covering and striking, with which I seek always to finish the fight. I will crush anyone who opposes me. I am of royal blood. I dispense justice, advance the cause of good and destroy evil. To those who learn my crossings I will grant great fame and renown in the art of armed fighting.’
Fiore Dei Liberi, Flos Duellatorum (1410)
ΕΡΓΑΣΤΗΡΙΟ ΙΣΤΟΡΙΚΗΣ ΞΙΦΑΣΚΙΑΣ
Θέμα: Εισαγωγή στη Ξιφομαχία με δίχειρο σπαθί από το Flos Duellatorum(1410) του Fiore Dei Liberi
Κυριακή 2 Απριλίου 2017
Ώρα : 11:00 π. μ στην Ι. Μ. Καισαριανής στο Άλσος Καισαριανής
Εισαγωγή στη ξιφομαχία κοντινής μάχης, τεχνικές αφοπλισμών, ελέγχου, υποταγής, πτώσεων.
By Nicholas Petrou Master in History at Goldsmiths University, member of the Academy of Historical European Martial Arts ‘Leontes’
Within the HEMA community, at various lengths explanations have been given about the absence of treatises to do with combat, more specific forms of Martial Arts, in the Roman World. For a vast Empire and a culture which endured for nearly 2000 years, there is little information in the way of showing how warriors individually fought. This is not to imply that an absence of evidence is an evidence of absence. We have a wide range of Strategic Treatises from the Imperial Period up to the Komenian Period in the 11th Century; these often highlight the changing circumstances the Empire experienced and the means in which it dealt with those circumstances militarily. However, in many ways this illustrates a premise that is taken for granted when it comes to the matters of the Romans, mainly a presupposition about combat; with the explanation that the Empire relied heavily on strategic combat for coherent units then any sophisticated techniques. This is largely something which will be revised in conjunction with the evidence that we have. The purpose of this article will be to assess the evidence that we have in showing that though there is an absence of treatises on Roman Martial Arts, individual forms of combat were very much evident in the Roman world. Section 1, Issues and Presumptions of Material, will illustrate the inconsistencies of how people have assumed Roman Martial Arts took place and how Roman sources, the ones which do survive, need to be cautiously interpreted. Section 2, The Nature of Duelling in the Roman/Eastern Roman World, will show that duelling took a judicial form during Gladiatorial Games however with the exception of this, was confined to a military role. Finally, Section 3, Roman Treatises, will attempt to explain the absence of such material and how it may have become absent, in comparison with Western Europe in the Medieval Period.
Issues and presumptions of material and wider context
It is often assumed that in the world the Romans (and later Eastern Romans) inhabited, there was a lack of context to the writing of any information when it came of combat. In a sense, this is correct both on a logistical and simply and socio-economic basis. For the majority of the Empire’s existence, there was a reliance on a large amount of manpower, being:
Conscription in the Republican to Late Republican Period,
A Professional Army after the Marian Reforms (with a main body of Auxiliary troops) during the Imperial Period.
A period of Professional Armies in the Late Roman Empire (for sons of serving veterans and soldiers), with aspects of conscription in periods of emergencies (and only expanded to include son of peasants, as opposed to town-dwellers). In the Eastern Roman case, this usually consisted of professional soldiers.
The Thematic System from the 7th Century, whereby men were recruited as semi-professional soldiers based on the reward of coin and land. This was also supported by a limited contingent of small-professional regiments called Tagmatas.
The Tagmatic army from the 9th Century onwards that consisted of professional regiments, with a small elements of once larger Themes.
The Komnenian period which relied solely on mercenary regiments and Tagmatas until the Sacking of Constantinople in 2014.
Post Latin Empire after 1261, which relied on mercenaries and city militias due to a lack of funding
The periods illustrate an immensely diverse set of periods too broad to cover in this article, however for the purpose of this article these are simply indications. What it indicates is an extended period of time in which a large amount of manpower in proportion to the population of the Empire (or Empires) was either trained or armed martially; which reached 442,000 during the 1st Century. With this in mind, it is understandable why a culture so heavily militarised such as Rome would take for granted a lack of documents recording any Martial Arts. To get a better perspective, one must make a comparison with Europe in the High/ Late Middle Ages.
The earliest record we have for European swordplay is I.33 which is produced at some time around the 1320’s, the next manual which is Fiore’s treatise (The Flower of Battle) dates 1404. During this time there are various factors which contribute to the increasing literacy of Martial Arts. The increase of literacy in Europe in the Late Medieval Period coincided with a greater stride to distribute written literature. This may coincide with the economics caused by the Black Death, which is said to have wiped out an estimated 45-60% of the European population. The death toll, which in some places such as Italy amounted to 75-80%, meant a loss in a large portion of the population and therefore the necessary knowledge that comes with Martial Arts. For many, that also meant the preservation of certain Martial forms which were falling out of popularity or were no longer used. Mair (1517-1579) illustrates this in his treatises, stating the reconstruction of Martial Arts which no longer existed; therefore the creation of treatises come into play when orally passed information can no longer be taken for granted. From these prospects, one theme links in conjunction with all these factors being the commonality of passed down information, both due to illiteracy and because it was common knowledge to the people living at this time. Therefore, it was not necessary to note down information that was taken for granted. It is therefore understandable to a common skill for the illiterate.
In the Roman case, one would be tempted to draw a similar conclusion. For an Empire/Empires that were so militarised it makes sense that it would not a necessity to write down information that was simply taken for granted. However, this provides inconsistencies in various cases that would suggest otherwise. For example, surrounding Empires who were as educated as the Eastern Romans noted down their expertise. A surviving example we have is the military treatise of Munyatu’I-Guzat which covers cavalry techniques and another treatise archery, dated from the 13th Century. Even earlier, the Agni Purana covers Indian Martial Arts in its work, dating from the 8th Century. Not only would these cases be non-existent if the similar case was compared to the European one, it is inconsistent when seeing Western European cases being compared to the Roman ones. Indeed, the Romans even in the Dark Ages displayed a literate population; though small, was larger in proportion to other European Kingdoms and Empires until the 13th and 14th Centuries, especially with a constant time-frame of capable and well-educated officers, scholars, clergy and bureaucrats.
The comparatively high literacy and scholarship of the Roman World (both in Antiquity and the Medieval Period) also displays the obsession the Romans had with recording everything. For example, our knowledge of Classical educated Latin (and it’s pronunciation) survives in 18 volumes of works on practical usage of Latin, such as Comenius’ ‘Vestibulum’ and Orvis Picus, the main summaries for these can be found in works such as W.Sidney Allen’s Vox Latina and Bennet’s work The Latin Language: A Historical Outline of its Sounds, Inflections and Syntax. In all things, the Romans were obsessed with introspectively discussing and noting down their works and more importantly the methodology of those works, as a way of emulating the Hellenic fashion and displaying their definition of what encompassed Culture and civilisation. A similar case can be applied to Martial Arts as well.
The evidence we have is minimal for the Roman/Eastern Roman case, however there are indications that such Martial Arts existed and were documented. The Oxyrhynchus Papyrus is a fragmentary 2nd Century AD Greek Wrestling manual that existed at the time of Roman Rule in Egypt, well after the fall of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. This emphasises a lineage and tradition of wrestling that was adopted by Roman institutions and encouraged; something which would have continued well after the Justinian Period and may have even integrated with Ottoman Folk wrestling styles after the end of Roman influence in Anatolia. Other works are mentioned however are either lost or no longer exist. For example, Pliny the Elder states he wrote a manual on the use of the javelin and mentions that persons engaged in other contests of quoiting, running, leaping, wrestling and boxing. When quoting the javelin, he states “Those who use the javelin are well aware how the horse, by its exertions and the supple movements of its body, aids the rider in any difficulty he may have in throwing his weapon”. This indicates Pliny’s firm understanding of the biomechanics linked to the Javelin by connection between rider and horse; the issue is a lack of technical detail that exists in the Javalin manual that no longer exists. Others such as Julius Caesar are also said to have patrician families to train his best gladiators, which indicate certain families promoted their own style of Martial Arts that may have been well documented. These indicate a complex and diverse mix of Martial Arts that existed in Antiquity and most likely were inherited by the Eastern Romans after centuries of assimilation. This probably took the form of different styles that were amalgamated and, with the as over-reliance of the military, institutionalised.
Other works such as Vegetius, comment on the use of the Roman Legionary in combat. Vegetius states that legionnaries “were likewise taught not to cut but to thrust with their swords….. A stroke with the edges, though made with ever so much force, seldom kills, as the vital parts of the body are defended both by the bones and armour. On the contrary, a stab, though it penetrates but two inches, is general fatal.” However despite the technical detail given, Vegetius seems to be following a tradition that was commonplace throughout the scholarship in the Empire; a harkening back to classical warfare and the “triumphant” past of the Empire, something writers such as Tacitus frequently did with comments on the political role of the Senate. His descriptions are based on the Roman Military from the mid to late Republic and the Early Empire, a far distance from the Late 4th Century Vegetius lived in. Furthermore, Vegetius has neither military experience or ever seen any Roman soldiers in action and like many Roman sources, complies material from all ages, regardless of the statements made. According to his own statement, the sources used were Cato the Eldar, Cornelius Celsus, Frontinus, Paternus and the Imperial Constitutions of Augustus, Trajan and Hadrian. This conforms with a tradition that was evident also in the writing of Roman Military Manuals which, with exceptions of works such as the Strategikon of Maurice which provide a realistic insight into the Roman military due to codifying experience in the Balkans and Persia; manuals before and afterwards would follow the tradition of idealistically harkening back to a more classical form of warfare. For example, Tactica of Emperor Leo VI the Wise drew heavily on earlier Hellenic authors such as Onasander and Aelian, and therefore does not draw on realistic experiences the Eastern Roman Army faced in the 9th Century. This illustrates such limitations that come to the fray when discussing Roman sources.
With the information stated, in what form did the Roman Martial Arts take shape? And if there is a clearly recognisable way to see a Roman ‘tradition’, how did that take shape?
The nature of dueling in the Roman/Eastern Roman world
The context of duelling takes multiple dimension in the Roman and later Eastern Roman world. As will be discussed, this covers a wide period that is both vast and dynamic.
2.1 Judicial Duels
Judicial duels took a pseudo role in the Imperial era of the Roman Empire until the 5th Century, which took to form of Gladiatorial combat. After all, in many ways a Gladiator was bound entirely by their legal standing: in the words of gladiator’s oath as cited by Petronius “He vows to endure to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, and to be killed by the sword” (Satyricon 117). Furthermore, gladiators, whether voluntary or non-volunteer were legally enslaved because it involved their potentially lethal submission to a master. In Roman Law, anyone condemned to gladiatorial schools was considered to be under the sentence of death unless manumitted, which was seldom absolute. However, those who did achieve manumission were prohibited from performing as to do so would endanger their life. This displays how gladiator games took form until their demise. Though death was considered the proper outcome for combat in the earliest games, this came to halt in the Augustan period due to gladiators exceeding supply and the increase in popular demands for “natural justice”. This is also evident by Emperors such as Caligula and Claudius who refused to spare popular but defeated, which slumped their popularity. Nevertheless, a Gladiator could be spared if they fought well.. However, contrary to popular belief, it was rare for the crowd to decide whether or not a gladiator should be spared. Suetonius comments how in a Gladiator games by Nero, no one was killed “not even noxii (enemies of the state)”. By the 5th Century however, Gladiatorial games had declined compared to their popularity in the 1st Century AD, from a combination of both Christianity, which perceived such games to be murder and a product of pagan sacrificial rituals, and a decrease in popularity in favour of other events such as public hunts and chariot racing. In terms of a comparison with Judicial duels in Western Europe during the Late Medieval and Early Modern Period, this conforms to a mixture of both entertainment and an enactment of law which at times was done as a public spectacle.
Gladiatorial games however seem to the be the only context in which judicial duels take place, the similar case of judicial duels in the Medieval/Early Modern period being quite alien to the Romans. Culturally, duelling outside the confines of what was socially acceptable was not the norm and certainly not valued in the Roman World. To do so, both in the Roman and Eastern Roman worlds was a symbol of the uncultured. Put simply, duelling solely for judicial reasons was seen as a product of the barbarian and what the Romans perceived to be as an uncivilised system. The Roman legal system provided a framework that clearly supplemented any means in which to settle disputes; in this case it was through the common law (and later civil law) that modelled itself on the Hellenic model of oratory skills, rhetoric and debate. According to Rosenstein the Romans: “believed that their system had developed over generations through the accumulating wisdom of their ancestors, not through a single act of legislation” and that provides a firm basis when the Roman political system is looked at. This is not to suggest violence in Roman society was absent, indeed there are countless amount of cases. However, there had always been a social/cultural standard in which a Roman would be expected to conduct themselves when dealing with legal matters.
Also, within the Roman world there emerged a clear divide between the civilian and military sphere during the Empire. Even beforehand when citizens were conscripted to serve the Republic, and later when the rural populace were conscripted in times of emergencies, there is always the distinction that combat did not take a legal dimension. This was ideally linked to the idea of the Politeia, the idea of a civic community where polity was the embodiment of the people’s will. In other words, it took the form of the “Republic” in the classical sense. An Emperor or King could be a “Republican Emperor/King” if they were ones to embody the living community, and as a result society would operate via a social contract. Cicero wrote similar ideals in his work Res Publica and emphasises the higher obligations of the person, in comparison with the community and the application of stoic thought by applying law to all people at all times. In many ways, the ideal behind civic and political identity was Roseau-like and indeed, Roseau was heavily inspired by this ideal that had been evident in Antiquity. In the 6th Century on the frontier with Persia, Roman troops mutiny in north-eastern Turkey. The priest of the city appealed to their faith in God but when not listened to, he asked them instead to appeal to their politeia and was successful in doing so. This illustrated a clear identity when it came to civic/political identity, one which differed to a military one. The political and civilian framework, supported by an inherited legal system, satiated the need for determining legal matters via duelling. What is clear is with the exception of duelling for entertainment in accordance to Roman law, judicial duels were alien and would not have been experienced by inhabitants of the Empire throughout its lifetime.
2.2 Non-judicial duels
From the previous section, it is clear that the Romans did not engage in duelling for judicial reasons, and such a context was seen to be out of the ordinary. However, that does not imply that duelling itself would not have been alien to a Roman, either as a social function or a military one. After all, like their Hellenic predecessors in events such as the Olympics, the Romans and Eastern Romans would have engaged in Martial Sports as a social function in conjunction with preparing for war. It is clear that these continued on, well into the existence of the Eastern Roman Empire who inherited these Martial Institutions. At the Battle of Dara in 530, one of the personal assistants of Bouzes, one of Justinian’s Generals, duelled two Persian champions and succeeded due to his practice in the wrestling school. According to Court Historians, Basil is said to have won a wrestling match against a boastful Bulgar in the 9th Century. There is a continuity of theme that illustrates duelling was seen as the norm in military conflicts in the Roman World, or at least on campaign where it was expected such Martial Arts would be used. Such use could serve practical functions. Skylitzes narrates that the Emperor John I Tzimiskes proposed to Sviatoslav I of Kiev to decide the outcome of their battle in single combat; arguing that the death of one man would settle their dispute. This demonstrated that, contrary to the West, dueling were not a part of a Chivalric culture and either aimed to undermine the morale of the opposing army or to save the lives of the soldiers on both sides.
After the Battle of Manzikert and the loss of a large pool of manpower resulting from civil wars and military setbacks, Emperors such as Manual I seems to have adopted Western customs such a duelling and jousting; even participating in jousting himself due to his enthusiasm. However, even in this sense, the Eastern Romans were reluctant to duel in a social context. Alexios by the time of the Crusades, was well aware of the attitudes of Western Knights and when challenged to single combat by one of them ‘seeking adventures’, was quick to avoid confrontation and not adopt their chivalric practices. Indeed, duels stayed in the confines of campaigns. For example, in 1139 in a battle between the Eastern Roman army and the Turkish Danishmedids around Neokaisareia, a Eastern Roman Emperor requesting his nephew John to hand his horse over to a distinguished Italian Knight. In this case, John did not like the order and instead challenged the Knight to single combat. Though judicial in nature, over possession of the horse, we do not know if this was chivalric in nature; though it does point to some Western influence in the Eastern Roman Army.
What does become evident, is how duelling becomes aware in the Eastern Roman Army. This becomes an trend which shows a mixture of admiration and an integration of customs from the mercenary Tagmatas that served the Emperor. The case of John shows a hurting of John’s pride. Nevertheless John’s case is a unique one that may have had more to do with rivalry that illustrated tension between the Eastern Romans and Crusaders. In other cases, duelling is both non-personal on the battlefield and is confined to Western Mercenaries. According to the Niketas Choniates chronicles, the Eastern Roman Army was besieging the Cicilian fortress of Baka. Constantine, an Armenian nobleman who was inside the stronghold, insulted John’s wife with obscenities. Moreover he challenged any Eastern Roman troops to a duel. After hearing this abuse, John ordered his generals to find an opponent for Constantine among his soldiers. After a duel with swords, Constantine was slain with no real change in the siege. This also demonstrated the use of duelling that was still limited to a military environment and despite the custom of social duelling in Cilicia (as a result of the First Crusade), in this case a soldier was chosen to duel who was presented with gifts afterwards, rather than John fighting himself. It implies that whereas Western practices had certainly impressed the Eastern Romans, duelling in the Western sense was not adopted and this suggest interaction between the Eastern Romans and Western Mercenaries was limited. For the majority of Eastern Romans, duelling was a matter entirely settled on the battlefield.
Duelling was expected to be commonplace in some circumstances, contrary to the belief that the Romans did not partake in single combat. However, this does provide the dilemma of availability, particularly in the realm of usage. A large number of Roman manual on strategic matters exist, which go into careful detail, however a minuscule amount provides some idea of how a Roman soldier may have technically fought at any one time. Put simply, why are there treatises for strategic but not individual combat? For this, other examples would need to be looked at which provide a basic theme towards the end of the Roman Empire in antiquity.
Marcus Tullius Cicero was the epitome of what embodied the ideal Roman politician. In his life (from 106 B.C to 43 B.C) he was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order and is of the greatest orators and prose stylists in Roman history. With this in mind, it is surprising to find that a large number of his works exist, both on letter writing and philosophy. For many scholars in the Early Middle Ages, his works was considered the master of Latin prose as well as the epitome of articulating oneself in writing. Augustine of Hippo credited Cicero’s lost Hortenius for his eventual conversion to Christianity in his work Confession and was greatly admired by Early Church theologians, especially on natural law and innate rights. His works, and thus information on the Late Republican Period, have been preserved is alsdo due to the use of his work in letter writing, which was used as a framework to correspond in the Medieval Period and later was manifested further in the Renaissance with the re-emergence of Classical works. It is for this reason that after the fall of the Roman Empire, Cicero’s works were deemed “rightful pagan” and therefore could correspond to Christian theology and doctrine. For the clergy, stateman and aristocracy, Cicero works found a practical use which provides the basis for letter writing today.
In a similar case, the status of Roman military manuals were preserved due to their usefulness for those who needed military guidance or to emulate tactics in the art of war. Vegetius’ De Re Militari became a popular manual on warfare in the Middle Ages despite some information becoming unsuitable for later time periods. For example, the work became important in the late Carolingian period through Hrabanus Marurs (856 AD), who used the text for his own manual De Procincta Romaniae Militae. Similarly, the work was preserved through the Medieval period as a way of practically applying military tactics on the battlefield. With this in mind, it is applicable to see military manuals as of a higher importance than ones which deal with technical combat. For a general or nobility who sought to utilise works on combat, having information on how to applying tactics on a strategic level, logistics, engineering, siege works etc, was far more valuable when going on campaign. Treatises which deal with individual combat in this context would bear little application on the use in state affairs. Specific techniques may not conform to the same equipment and weapons of the time period, meaning for warriors going to war there would be large inconsistencies. This also would have discrepancies in a feudal environment, which did not fit into the same structures as those of the Roman Empire. It would not be until the 11th Century when the Empire, out of necessity, adopted pseudo-feudal practices as a means of survival.
In parallel with Western Europe, it would be simple to conclude that there was a greater emphasis on the importance of strategic manuals, rather than technical ones. In various cases, similarities can be observed in parallel with the Eastern Roman Empire despite the differences mentioned. The growth of Christianity resulted in the burning of many pieces of valuable literature, such as the remnants of the Library of Alexandria at the end of the 4th Century. Furthermore, numerous works were probably destroyed as a result of war and the sacking of Constantinople in 1204 in which the Library was Constantinople was destroyed. In that time period, there existed a greater literacy in the Empire compared to Western Europe until the High Middle Ages as well as a multitude of works which are no longer available to us. For the argument that there was a lack of technical works on combat, this falls flat due to the tradition of Roman writings which continued in fashion until 1453. Therefore, one cannot conclude that the absence of such writings give way to a more generalistic or simplistic way of fighting. For example I.33 shares many similarities in its stances and biomechanics as the depictions on the ‘Byzantine’ Ivory, of stances and warriors engaged in combat. By the tenth Century, the Holy Roman Empire came to be one of the Eastern Roman Empire’s enthusiastic clients; especially when Roman noblewoman Theophano became the wife of Otto II in 873 and military contact became more extensive, especially with the use of mercenary troops by both Empires. To the Historian, this gives way to an institutional structure of Martial Arts that was both sophisticated and practiced when not on the battlefield.
In the atmosphere of lacked treatises and the evidence we have, it is easy for one to conclude that this implies a simplistic Martial Art; applied only to the battlefield. However, the Romans amalgamated and adopted a means in which to duel and engage in individual combat. The difference to Western Europe is a matter of context. Though duelling in Western Europe (depending on the location) was used as a legal and social mechanism to solve disputes, such mechanisms was alien to the Romans. Though Gladiatorial fighting can be seen as a means of judicial duelling based on the framework of Roman common law, in other contexts duelling was seen as acceptable practice only in the form of both sporting (as with Basil I and wrestling) or more importantly as a military application. To do so was to serve a function of both undermining the enemy’s morale and also as a way of preventing bloodshed. Even with the influence of Western Europe during the 11th Century and the Crusades, duelling still stayed as an entirely military affair. Outside of the battlefield, Roman law satiated any disputes through the Hellenistic tradition of rhetoric and types of laws; which also was linked to the Greco-Roman political and civilian idea of the politeia which created a firm divide between civilian and military affairs. Nevertheless, Martial Arts and duelling served a function in the Roman world that was both dynamic and sophisticated, as well as institutional, and any knowledge of how this played out is unavailable due to a lack primary source material existing anymore. As a result, it will be the work of experimental archaeologist who will attempt to reconstruct Roman Martial Arts based on the evidence we have.
Constantine Paparrigopoulos, History of the Greek Nation, Db, 121
Delphi Complete Works of Pliny the Eldar, (Delphi Classics: UK, 2015), Chapter 65
John Skylitzes, John Skylitzes: A Synopsis of Byzantine History, 811-1057: Translation and Notes, Ed John Wortley (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010)
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Procopius, History of the Wars, Ed Lillington-Martin , 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2013 Book 1, Chapter 13
Source: Book 1 “Not to cut, but to thrust with the sword”, De Re Militari: The Classic Treatise on Warfare at the Pinnacle of the Roman Empire’s Power (LEONAUR: UK, 2012).
B. Poliakoff, Michael, “Wrestling, Freestyle” from Encyclopedia of World Sport: From Ancient Times to the Present, eds. David Levinson and Karen Christensen (Santa Barbara Inc, 1996)
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 Andrew Lintott, Cicero as Evidence: A Historian’s Companion (New York: Oxford university Press, 2008), p. 233.
 Anthony Kaldellis, The Byzantine Republic: People and Power in New Rome (Harvard University Press: Harvard, 2015).
 Procopius, History of the Wars, Ed Lillington-Martin , 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2013 Book 1, Chapter 13.
 Michael B. Poliakoff, “Wrestling, Freestyle” from Encyclopedia of World Sport: From Ancient Times to the Present, eds. David Levinson and Karen Christensen (Santa Barbara Inc, 1996), Vol. 3, p. 1193.
 John Skylitzes, John Skylitzes: A Synopsis of Byzantine History, 811-1057: Translation and Notes, Ed John Wortley (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010) pp. 307-308.
 Constantine Paparrigopoulos, History of the Greek Nation, Db, 121
 Alex Rodriguez Suarez, The Western presence in the Eastern Roman Empire during the reigns of Alexios I and John II Komnenos (1081-1143), (King’s College: London, 2014) p. 233.