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The Past and Present Society

The Powerful and the Poor in Tenth-Century Byzantium: Law and Reality
Author(s): Rosemary Morris
Source: Past & Present, No. 73 (Nov., 1976), pp. 3-27
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Past and Present Society
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THE POWERFUL AND THE POOR IN
TENTH-CENTURY BYZANTIUM:
LAW AND REALITY *
AMONG THE WORKS OF THE ELEVENTH-CENTURY BYZANTINE SCHOLAR
Michael Attaleiatesmay be founda long treatiseentitled
Nomikon Ponnma
(Concerning Law). In thiswork,Attaleiates summed up the
legal achievements of Byzantium from the of
reign Justinianuntil
hisownday,makingparticular reference to a changehe had discerned
in legalpracticein thetenthcentury. For aftercommenting on the
series of laws promulgatedby the EmperorLeo VI (886-912), he
declaredthat: "Afterthis Leo, manyof the imperialrulersdid not
createlaws, but promulgated variousnovelsand chrysobulls as the
need arose".1
Most Byzantinists are agreedthatthe "necessity"thatbroughta
greatdeal of tenth-century legislationintobeingwas a confusedand
unstable state of affairsin the provincesof the empire. For
Ostrogorsky, the main elementin the so-called"land question"of
thetenthcentury wastheriseoftherichland-owners oftheprovinces
(the dunatoi)who,by buyingup the estatesof the poor (pt6choior
penates),reducedthe latterto penuryand servitude. Lemerlere-
gardedtheconflict as notso muchbased on economicdifferences as on
variationsin social status. The dunatoiwere,forhim,the "power-
ful", and thepen8tes, the "weak". But boththesescholars,though
theydifferedin theirtranslationsof the key wordspenis, pt6chos
and dunatos,were agreed that evidencepointingto a conflictof
interestsexisted,whateverinterpretation mightafterwards be placed
on its precise nature.2 The problemof the real nature of this
* A firstdraftof thispaperwas read at the Eighth
SpringSymposiumon
Byzantine Studies held at BirminghamUniversityin 1974. My thanks go to
its Director, Dr. A. A. M. Bryer,to Miss J. M. R. Custance, the Rev. J. L.
Morgan and, above all, to my Supervisor,Dr. J. D. Howard-Johnston,fortheir
perceptivecriticisms.
x Michael Attaleiates,"Ponema Nomikon",in Jus Graecoromanum, ed.
J. and P. Zepos, 8 vols. (Athens,I93I), vii, pp. 409-97,esp. p. 416 note3.
For the laws of Leo VI, see Les novellesde Lion VI le sage, ed. P. Noailles and
A. Dain (Paris,1944).
2 G. Ostrogorsky'sviews are summed up in his Historyof theByzantineState,
trans. J. Hussey, 2nd edn. (Oxford, 1968), pp. 269-87, and in "Agrarian
Conditions in the ByzantineEmpire in the Middle Ages", in CambridgeEcono-
inicHistoryof Europe, 2nd edn., i (Cambridge, 1971), pp. 205-22. An adjust-
ment to his interpretationcan be seen in his Quelques probldmesd'histoire
de la paysanneriebyzantine(Corpus Bruxellense historiaebyzantinae,Subsidia
II, Brussels, 1956). The ptachoiare here identifiedwith peasants owing their
(cont. on p. 4)

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4 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 73

"conflict"mustbe approachedagainstthe backgroundof the resur-


genceoftheByzantinestateafterthestruggle forsurvivalwhichhad
beenits mainconcernduringthe eighthand ninthcenturies.By dint
ofadministrative reforms suchas thereorganizationoftheold Roman
provinces into smaller territorial
units (themes)ruled by military
governorsand deliberatelypopulatedwith local defenceforcesof
soldier-peasants (strati3tai) and the evolutionofnew guerrillatactics
to combatthe Arab and Slav raiders,the Byzantineshad foughtoff
theirmostseriousexternalthreatsand werenowbeginning to counter-
attack. Their morale was high. It had been sustainedby that
self-confidence so typicalof the Byzantines,based as it was on the
unshakeableviewofthemselves bothas thepeopleprotectedof God
and as the trueheirsof the Romans.
But whilethe immediatedangerof conquestmighthave passed,
the tenthcenturyepitomizedforByzantiumthe problemsof peace.
As herterritory was firstpacifiedand thenexpanded,the difficulties
of administering it increased. The geographicaldiversityof the
empire- stretching at thistime fromsouthernItalyin the westto
the foothillsof the Caucasus and the headwatersof the Tigris and
the Euphratesin the east; fromBulgariain thenorthto Cyprusand
Syriain the south- meantthatin manyareastheemperorruledin
namealone.It is in thetenthcentury, whentheneedfora responseto
attackwas no longerthe primeconcernof eitheremperoror people,
that the weaknessesinherentin the imperialpower became more
noticeable. For the elaborate political theoriesevolved by the
Byzantinesto enhancethe positionof the emperorcould have no
practicalmeaningunlessfirmly rootedin politicalpower.3
The bases ofsuchpowerwerenumerous:personalability,whether
it lay in strategicexpertiseor the cultivationand carefuldisposition
of personalfriendships, playedan important partin the accessionof
men to the imperialpowerand theirmaintenanceat the summitof
politicalauthority, at leastin Constantinople.Butit wasin thework-
ings of the bureaucracy, in the movementof the armiesand, above
all, in the maintenance of imperialcontrolof the provinces,thatthe

(note 2 cont.)
loyaltiesto the state(demosiakoi paroikoi). For Paul Lemerle'sfundamental
workon thissubject,see his "Esquissepourune histoireagrairede Byzance",
Revue historique, ccxix (1958), pp. 32-74, 254-84; ccxx (1958), pp. 43-94.
The topicis also briefly dealtwithin M. Y. Syuzyumov, "Le villageet la ville
, la
i ByzanceauxIXe-Xesi'cles",Recherches internationales dumarxisme,
lumizre
no. 79 (1974),pp. 65-74. RobertBrowning, "Enlightenment and Repression
in Byzantiumin the Eleventhand TwelfthCenturies",Past and Present, no.
69 (Nov. 1975),PP. 3-23,givesmuchinteresting information on theeducation
andphilosophical outlookofthegovernment officials
whodealtwiththecrisis.
3 See F. Dvornik,Early Christianand ByzantinePolitical Philosophy:
Originsand Background, 2 vols. (DumbartonOaks Studies,ix, Washington,
1966),esp. vol. i, ch. 5, and vol. ii, ch. 8.

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POWERFUL AND POOR IN TENTH-CENTURY BYZANTIUM 5
theoreticalpowersoftheemperorweretranslated intoreality. Above
all otherconsiderations, then,the Byzantineemperorsof the tenth
centurystroveto strengthen the links, both fiscal and military,
betweenthe capital and the provinces. Their task was not easy;
the physicalremotenessof much of the empirecoupled with the
localisttendenciesof the ruralland-ownersand the emperor'sown
administrators meantthatthe imperialpowerwas at bestprecarious
and, at timesof crisis,almostnon-existent.
The fluctuationsin the crucialrelationshipbetweencentraland
local powerin thetenthcenturycan be tracedin a valuablecollection
of contemporary legal material. No scholarlyedition of these
documents yetexistsbut,untiloneappears,somepreliminary remarks
may perhapsbe venturedabout the natureof the evidence. This
studyis not primarilyconcernedwith its widerramifications, for
thesehave been studiedelsewhere. It is concernedto examinethe
wayin whichthestyleand languageofwhatmaybe referred to as the
"dossier" on the dunatoihas influencedthe interpretation of its
content.4
The term"dossier" is deliberately used. For it is probablethat
the documentsdealingwiththe land questionof the tenthcentury
weredeliberately preserved,in a group,withinthe recensionsof the
appendicesto the SynopsisBasilicorum Major, the chieflegal hand-
book of the day. N. G. Svoronos,in his fundamental studyofthese
appendices,commented on the "remarkable cohesion"whichcharac-
terizedthecollectionoftheselegaldocuments.5 Withinthe dossier,
too,thereare enoughcross-references to otherpiecesoflegislationto
indicatethattheimperialbureaucrats themselves lookedupon it as a
singlebody of material. A documentof 947, forexample,in des-
cribinga state of affairswhich had arisen "since the imperial
legislation",was makinga directreferenceto a measureof 934,6
and at theend ofthetenthcentury, theEmperorBasilII, in a measure
datedto 996, citedthe legislationof his great-grandfather,
Romanos

4 The documentswere first printedinj us Graecoromanum, ed. K. E. Zachariae


von Lingenthal, 7 vols. (Leipzig, 1857), iii, and reprintedin Zepos, op. cit., i,
Novellae et aureae bullae imperatorumpost Justinianum(hereafterZepos, i).
ProfessorN. G. Svoronos of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, is at
present editing these documents. All referencesare to the Zepos edition
though, as Zepos's use of the word "Novella" to describe each document is
misleading, they will simply be cited by document number.
5 Synopsis BasilicorumMajor, ed. Zepos, op. cit., v. For the appendices
added to this workin the tenthcentury,see N. G. Svoronos, La Synopsismajor
des Basiliques et ses appendices(Bibliotheque byzantine: etudes, iv, Paris, 1964),
pp. 143-55, 191. For a general survey of Byzantine law, see H. Scheltema,
"Byzantine Law", in Cambridge Medieval History, 2nd edn., iv pt. 2
(Cambridge, 1967), pp. 55-77.
6 Doc. no. VI, 947
(Zepos, i, pp. 214-17. Cf. p. 215, 1. IO); Doc. no. V, 934
(Zepos, i, pp. 205-14).

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6 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 73

Lekapenos.7 But it is mainlybecauseofthesimilarity in thesubject


matterof thesedocumentsthatit is possibleto considerthemas a
cohesivebodyofmaterial. Theirhomogeneity shouldnot,however,
be over-stressed.For withinthe dossierthereexistdocumentsof
greatlyvaryingdiplomatictypes,a reflection of the sophisticationof
the Byzantineadministrative machine. The Byzantine"novel",
forinstance,differed in bothstyleand objectivefromthelusisor the
chrysobull, all
though threeenactedlegislation. In the "novel",the
philosophicalreasoningwhich lay behind action, the theoretical
considerationof problemsand theirimplications, accompaniedprac-
tical dispensations. It was the functionof othertypesof document
to providea concisesummary of legislation,or the solutionto any
problems that might arise fromit.8
An appreciation ofsuchdiplomaticnuancesis especiallyimportant
whenconsidering thedossieron thedunatoifor,sincethesedocuments
were firstprinted,it has been customaryto referto them all as
"novels". This is misleading,becausethereare threemaintypesof
documentin the dossier. The firstis thatof the "novel" proper,
distinguishednot only by certaincharacteristic linguisticusages,
but also by the stylisticconventionof the rhetoricalprooimion,or
preface.9 The second consistsof imperiallegislativeacts written
in a more conciseform. Some of these may well be epitomesof
novelsor extractsfromthem,but are distinguishable fromthemby
the directnessof their style and content.10The final group of
documentsconsistsof responsesto inquiriesand legal difficulties

7 Doc. no. XXIX, 996 (Zepos, i, pp. 262-72). "We number among the
dunatoi all those who were included in the list of our great-grandfather, the
Emperor Romanos Lekapenos": ibid., p. 265, 11.21-2.
8 J. B. Bury, The ImperialAdministrative Systemin theNinth Century(British
Academy Supplemental Papers, i, London, 1911, repr. New York, 1963),
remainsthe best introduction. See also N. Oikonomid's, Les listesde prdsdance
byzantinesdes IXe et Xe sicles (Paris, 1972). For Byzantinediplomatic, see
F. D61ger and J. Karayannopulos, Byzantinische Urkundenlehre(Handbuch
der Altertumswissenschaft, xii, 3, I(i), Munich, 1968), esp. pp. 23-6, 47-8,
71-87. R. Guilland, Recherches sur les institutionsbyzantines (Berliner
byzantinistischeArbeiten, xxxv, Berlin and Amsterdam, 1967), has valuable
prosopographicalinformationon the holders of offices.
9 My categories are provisional and may well have to be modified when
N. G. Svoronos's edition is published. The novels proper, I believe, are Doc.
no. V (Zepos, i, pp. 205-14); Doc. no. VIII (Zepos, i, pp. 222-6); Doc. no. XIX
(Zepos, i, pp. 249-52); Doc. no. XX (Zepos, i, pp. 253-5) plus Doc. no. XXI
(Zepos, i, p. 255) which is probably part of it; Doc. no. XXIX (Zepos, i, pp.
262-72). See D61ger and Karayannopulos, op. cit., p. 75, for the diplomatic
characteristics of the novel. The form and function of the rhetorical
prooimionto officialdocuments has been examined by H. Hunger, Prooimion:
Elementeder byzantinischen Kaiseridee in den Arengender Urkunden(Wiener
byzantinistischeStudien, i, Vienna, 1964).
10 Doc. no. II (Zepos, i, pp. 198-204); Doc. no. XVI (Zepos, i, pp. 243-4);
Doc. no. XVIII (Zepos, i, pp. 247-8), cf. D61ger and Karayannopulos, op. cit.,
p. 83 note I; Doc. no. XXVI (Zepos, i, p. 259).

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POWERFUL AND POOR IN TENTH-CENTURY BYZANTIUM 7
arisingfromthepromulgation ofthenovels.'1 The existencein the
dossierofrhetorical as wellas factualmaterialthusmakespossiblean
appreciation ofthesituationon twolevels- thedossiercontainsnot
onlyaction, but also thought.
The establishment of the contextof these documentsinvolves
problemsof dating,but thesecan in mostcases be overcomeby the
use of otherevidence. It is clear,however,as Michael Attaleiates
remarked,that these legislativemeasureswere all responsesto
necessity. We are notheredealingwithlegislationconcernedeither
withfutureplanning,noryet the kindof more generalcodification
representedby such compilationsas the Basilica or the Ecloga.12
Allthesedocuments wereproducedas remedialmeasures;theproblem
is thusto evaluatethenatureofthe eventsthatproducedthem. The
last generalproblemis one of semantics. What,in tenth-century
Byzantinesources,was meant(or implied)by the use of the words
ptochos,penesand dunatos?13
The documentswere,then,responsesto seriousevents. They
are couchedin termswhich,thoughsometimes exaggerated,conveya
strongimpression ofupheavalanduncertainty in theprovinces.These
problemswere not confinedto specificareas of the empire. Most
of the documentswere addressed to all the strategoi(military
governors)of the themes.14 One document,the responseto an
inquiryconcerningthe interpretation of legislation,exists in two
manuscripts,addressed to the strategoiof the Anatolikonand
Thrakesionthemesrespectively.15 The legislationcan be seen in
force in areas as far removedas Mount Athos and, probably,
Armenia.16 Nor was it entirelyconcernedwith the countryside.
There is evidenceof imperialdisquiet about some aspects of the

11 Doc. no. VI (Zepos, i, pp. 214-17); Doc. no. XV (Zepos, i, pp. 240-2),
cf. D61ger and Karayannopulos, op. cit., pp. 84, lo9 and note 3; Doc. no.
XXII (Zepos, i, pp. 255-6).
12 For the
Ecloga, see Scheltema, op. cit., p. 63. For the Basilica and their
subsequent epitomes, see ibid., pp. 65 ff.
13 The
problems of identifying the subtle gradations of medieval
forpoverty
nomenclature areilluminated
in M. Mollat(ed.),Etudessurl'histoire
de la pauvretd, 2 vols. (Paris, 1974). See esp. J. Leclercq, "Aux origines
bibliquesdu vocabulairede la pauvret'",ibid.,i, pp. 35-43,and E. Patlagean,
"La pauvret6byzantineau VIe siecleau tempsde Justinien: aux originesd'un
module politique", ibid., pp. 59-81. The problem was by no means a new
one. Aristophanes's Plutus, 553, contains a neat definitionof the difference
betweentheptachosand thepenis:theformer
has nothing
ofhis ownwhilethe
latter, though he has to scrape and save for a living, will never be entirely
destitute. The play was well-knownin Byzantine times and may well have
strucka chord with those who draftedthe imperial legislation.
14 See, for example, Doc. no. VI (Zepos, i, p. 215, 1. Io) and Doc. no. XXIX

(Zepos, i, p. 264, 11.6-9).


15 Doc. no. VI (Zepos, i, pp. 214-17). Cf. P. 214 note I.
16 Doc. no. VIII
(Zepos,i, p. 247).

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8 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 73

socialstructureof theprovincialtowns.17 Whilethe legalmaterial


portrays lifein the provincesfromthe pointof viewof the imperial
bureaucratsin Constantinople, it providesmay,in
the information
manycases, be corroborated in contemporaryhagiographies (which
usuallyprovidea farmorerealisticpictureof lifeoutsidethe "hot-
house atmosphere"of the capital),18in chronicles,and in reportsof
actiontakenas a resultof the promulgation of law. Such a source
is the eleventh-century compilationof case-lawand legal exempla
knownas the Peira.19
The period coveredby the dossier,fromabout 927 to 996, is a
long one and the legislationwas the response not to a single
occurrence butto a seriesofeventsofpoliticaland socialsignificance.
Undertheinfluence ofchangingcircumstances, theinitiallegislation,
far fromremainingunalteredthroughoutthe period as previous
commentators have tended to suggest,was considerablymodified.
The changingpatternof the legislationcan be associatedwithfour
main periodsof crisisbetweenthe years927 and 996. The first
two werebroughtabout by naturaldisasters:the seriousfamineof
theyears927-8,and the abnormally longwinterusuallydatedto the
sameyearbutwhich,as theBelgianscholarVanderstuyf was thefirst
to suggest,mayhaveto be re-datedto theyears933-4.20 The third
was a period of upheaval followinga series of unusuallysevere
militarydefeats,beginning in 949 withthespectaculardisasterofthe
unsuccessful Byzantineinvasionof Crete;the last was the periodof
the establishment ofthe sole ruleof the EmperorBasil II, culminat-
ingin thedefeatoftherevoltsofBardasSklerosand BardasPhokas.21
The seriousfamineof 927-8 was frequentlymentionedin the
documentsof the dossier. In 947, for example, a prostaxis,or
"answerto inquiries",was drawnup by the patrikiosand koiaistor

17See p. 13 below.
18See F. Halkin, "L'hagiographie byzantineau service de l'histoire", Pro-
ceedingsof the XIIIth InternationalCongressof Byzantine Studies (Oxford,
1967), PP. 345-54.
19 On the chronicles of the period, see A. Toynbee, ConstantinePorphyro-
genitusand His World (London, 1973), Annex i, pp. 606-13; J. B. Bury, A
Historyof the Eastern Roman EmpirefromtheFall of Irene to theAccessionof
Basil I, A.D. 802-67 (London, 1912); and R. J. H. Jenkins,"The Chronological
Accuracyof the 'Logothete' fortheYears A.D.867-913", DumbartonOaks Papers,
xix (1965), pp. 89-112. The Peira (lit. "collection") is printed in Zepos,
op. cit., iv, pp. 11-260, under the volume heading Practica ex actis Eustathii
Romani,although it is virtuallycertainthat only part of it can be attributedto
the eleventh-century jurist Eustathios Romanos.
20 S.
Vanderstuyf,"Etude sur St. Luc le stylite(879-979)", Echos d'Orient,
xii (1909), pp. 138-44, 213-21, 271-81; xiii (191o), pp. 13-19, 140-8, 224-32.
I hope to devotea futurearticleto the problemofthe datingofthe "long winter".
21 See Ostrogorsky,History of the Byzantine State, pp.
298-300, 303-7.
G. Schlumberger,L'pople byzantinea la fin du dixiamesijcle, 2 vols. (Paris,
1896-19oo), remains a sound surveyof Basil's reign. For the Skleros revolts,
see ibid., i, pp. 326-445.

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POWERFUL AND POOR IN TENTH-CENTURY BYZANTIUM 9
Theophilos.22 It dealt withcircumstances whichhad arisensince
the previousfirstindiction(September927 to August928) "that is,
fromthetimeofthefamine".23 Boththeexistenceand theseverity
of this particularfaminemaybe corroborated fromanothersource.
The LifeofSt. LuketheStylite, composed before986,tellsofa serious
faminenearLampe in theAnatolikon theme. It is possibleto place
this faminein the period925-8 and thus connect(if not positively
identify)it with the megaslimos("great famine")of 927-8. The
LifeofSt. Lukerelatesthatthesainthelpedto alleviatethesufferings
ofthecountrypeoplebydistributing amongthemthenotinconsider-
able quantityof 4,000 modioiof grain,as well as fodderfortheir
animals.24 If this kind of situationprevailedthroughout Anatolia,
the shortageswereprobablysevere.
The secondcrisis,the abnormally longwinter,is welldocumented
in the chroniclesof the period. The Chronicleof the Logothete
describestheevent:"In thesamemonth[December]on thetwenty-
fifthday,an appallingcold spell began,so severethatfora hundred
and twentydays, the earth was held in the grip of frosts".25

22
Doc. no. VI (Zepos, i, pp. 214-17). For the diplomaticcharacteristicsof
the prostaxis,see D61ger and Karayannopulos,op. cit.,p. 109 and note 3. The
use of the second person singularin referenceto the addressee in, forexample,
Doc. no. VI (Zepos, i, p. 217, 11.28-30) indicatesthatthis documentis the reply
to a specificinquiry. For the rank of patrikios,see Bury,ImperialAdministra-
tive System,p. 27, and Oikonomidbs,Les listesde prdsdance,pp. 294-5. For
the duties of the koiaistor,see Dolger and Karayannopulos,op. cit.,p. 63.
23 Doc. no. VI
(Zepos, i, p. 215, 1. 25 to p. 216, 1. I). See also Doc. no. V
(Zepos, i, p. 21o, 1.12), and Peira, titlosVIII. i (Zepos, iv, p. 32); titlosIX. i
(Zepos, iv, p. 38), where the date ofthe famineis also givenas the firstindiction.
24 Vita S. Lucae
Stylitae,ed. (i) A. Vogt, Analecta Bollandiana, xxviii(1909),
pp. 11-56; (ii) F. Vanderstuyf,Patrologia Orientalis,xi (I914), pp. 187-287;
(iii) H. Delehaye, Les saints stylites(Subsidia hagiographica,xiv, Brussels,
1923), pp. 195-237. All references are to Delehaye's edition. See ibid.,
p. 202, forthe famine. The problemsof establishingthe quantityof the modios
are examined by E. Schilbach, Byzantinische Metrologie (Handbuch der
Altertumswissenschaft, xii, 4, Munich, 1970), p. 97, and table on p. 270.
H. Antoniadis-Bibicou, "D6mographie, salaires et prix A Byzance au XIe
siecle", Annales. E.S.C., xxvii (1972), pp. 215-46, at p. 231 note 64 estimates
a modiosof corn at Io kilos. For the geographical location of Lampe, see
W. M. Ramsey, Cities and Bishopricsof Phrygia, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1895), i,
pp. 227-8, and Appendix, pp. 34 ff. He identifiesit with a village northof the
Acigol lake, thoughhe did not know of the Life of St. Luke. L. Robert, Les
villes d'Asie Mineur, 2nd edn. (Paris, 1967), pp. 357-61, comments on the
geographicalinformationcontained in the Life.
25
Chronicle of the Logothete,incorporated in Georgius Monachus, Vitae
imperatorum recentiorum, in Theophanes continuatus... (ed. I. Bekker,Corpus
scriptorumhistoriaeByzantinae [hereafterC.S.H.B.], Bonn, 1838, pp. 908-9).
The "long winter" is also apparentlymentionedin "Zhitie sv. Vasiliya Novago
(The Life of St. Basil the Younger)", ed. A. N. Veselovskii,Sbornikotdeleniya
russkagojazyka i slovesnostiImp. Akademii Nauk, xlvi no. 6 (St. Petersburg,
1889-90), Appendix, pp. 10-76, supplemented by S. G. Vilinskii, Zhitie sv.
VasiliyaNovago v russkoiliterature ("The Life of St. Basil theYounger in Russian
Literature"), 2 vols. (Odessa, 1911-13), ii, pp. 143-346, though these textsare
at presentinaccessible to me.

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IO0 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 73

Confirmation is againsuppliedby the Lifeof St. Lukeand it is this


sourcethatsuggeststhatwe shouldre-datethe long winterto the
sixthindiction,thatis to the year September933 to August 934.
For Vanderstuyf showedthatin the years932-5the saintwas living
on a pillaron his father'sestatein theAnatolikon themeand thathe
managed to survive a hard winter which,significantly,lasted a
hundredand twentydays.26 This is clearlythe same winteras that
describedby the Logothete.
The thirdand fourthcrisesare moredifficult to pinpoint,forthey
werenot precipitated by anysingleevent. But thereis littledoubt
that,in the yearsfollowing949, the armedforcesof the empire
suffered defeatsboth physicaland moralin markedcontrastto the
military successes ofthe firsthalfofthe century. The failureofthe
expeditionsentto reconquerCretefromthe Arabsin 949 strucka
severe blow to Byzantinemorale."7 Writingat the end of the
century,the biographerof St. Paul of Latrosrecordedin despairing
tonesthe refusalof the EmperorConstantinePorphyrogennetos to
heed the holy man's warningof impendingdoom in Crete. He
deliberately selectedan exampleof spiritualdisobediencewhichhad
had catastrophic results.28Affairson the easternfrontierwerenot
proceedingsmoothlyeither. The period 949-57 saw a series of
successfulcounter-attacks by Saif ad-Dauleh, the emirof Aleppo,
againstthehitherto successfulByzantineforces. The Arabonslaught
culminatedin the recaptureof the cityof Germanikea(present-day
Mara? in south-eastTurkey)fromthe Byzantinesin 949, a large-
scale foray across the Euphrates in 952, and the capture of
ConstantinePhokas,the son of the Byzantinecommander-in-chief
in the East, in 953.29

26
Vanderstuyf, "Etude sur St. Luc le stylite",pp. 217-21.
27
For the Cretan expedition,see Leo Diaconus, Historia,i. 3 (ed. C. B. Hase,
2 vols., C.S.H.B., Bonn, 1828, pp. 6-7); George Cedrenus, Compendium
historiarum(ed. I. Bekker,2 vols., C.S.H.B., Bonn, 1838-9, ii, p. 336); John
Zonaras, Epitomehistoriarum, xvi. 22 (ed. T. Biittner-Wobst,C.S.H.B., Bonn,
1897, p. 487). The imperial inventories for men and supplies for the
expedition are included in Constantine Porphyrogenitus,De cerimoniisaulae
Byzantinae, ii, 44-5 (ed. J. J. Reiske, 2 vols., C.S.H.B., Bonn, 1829-30, i,
pp. 662-78). They are discussed in detail in J. D. Howard-Johnston,"Studies
in the Organization of the Byzantine Army in the Tenth and Eleventh Cen-
turies" (Univ. of Oxford D.Phil. thesis, 1971), pp. xi-xviii, 104-14. See also
A. A. Vasiliev, Byzance et les Arabes, ed. and Fr. trans. M. Canard (Corpus
Bruxellense historiae byzantinae, Brussels, 1968), ii pt. I, pp. 311 ff., esp.
pp. 332, 340.
28 Vita S. Pauli iunioris,ed. H. Delehaye, Analecta Bollandiana, xi (1892),
PP. 5-74; cf. pp. 73-4. Delehaye establishedthat the workwas writtenc. 969:
ibid., p. II.
29 Ostrogorsky,History of the Byzantine State, p. 282; Vasiliev, op. cit.,

ii pt. I, p. 350.

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POWERFUL AND POOR IN TENTH-CENTURY BYZANTIUM II

A documentfromthe dossier,hithertoundated,but whichmight


well be placed in the yearsof military
failurein the mid-950s,gives
someindicationof theproblemswhichthedefeatedand demoralized
armiesbroughtwiththem. ConstantinePorphyrogennetos's novel
ConcerningMilitary Estates, describes a situation in which the rank
and fileof the armieshad been deprivedof theirusual rewardsof
plunderand glory. Their generals,abandoningtheirprofessional
codeinfavourofopportunism attheexpenseofboththeirownsoldiers
and the civiliansamongwhomtheywerestationed,createdhavocin
the provinces. "These men", the document declares, "were
negligent,unwarlike,viler than ants, more rapaciousthan wolves.
Unable to tax ourenemies[surelya reference to military
defeat]they
extractedmoneyfromour subjects".30 The miserythey caused
"broughtthe Roman State into extremedanger".31 It is against
thebackground ofrealanarchiain theprovinces, withmilitary
failure
at its root,thatthe legislationof theseyearsshouldbe seen.
The last period of crisiswas that of the struggleof the young
EmperorBasil II to asserttheimperialpoweragainstthosewho had
profitedfromhis own minorityand fromthe uncertainpolitical
climateof the reignsof his predecessorsRomanosII, Nikephoros
Phokasand JohnTzimiskes,and had consolidatedtheirown power.
The chroniclerMichael Psellos,whenrelatingthe historyof Basil's
reign,commentedthatthe emperornot only"purgedthe empireof
the barbarians"(a reference to the activitieswhichbroughthimthe
epithet of Boulgaroktonos- "the Bulgar-Slayer") but that he "dealt
withhis own subjectsand subjugatedthemtoo".32
The documentsof the dossierthus reflecta series of imperial
responsesto the changingpoliticaland economiccircumstances of
theseperiodsof crisis. In the period928-50,the statedaim of the
imperialgovernment was to preventtheencroachment intothevillage
communities of thosewho had profitedfromthe dual calamitiesof
prolongedbad weatherand famine. RomanosLekapenos'snovelof
934 describedthe situatiinin the provincesas a disasterfor the
penetes. To save themselvesfromstarvation, those worstaffected
by faminehad sold theirlandsto the dunatoi,sometimesformoney,
sometimessimplyin returnforfood.33 The novelbemoansthefact
thattheyhad to takewhateverpricetheywereoffered and thatthe
taxationsystemof the provinces,based as it was on the villageunit,

30 Doc. no. VIII (Zepos, i, p. 226, 11.5-7).


31
Ibid., 1. 9.
32 Michael Psellos, Chronographia,xxx
(ed. and Fr. trans. E. Renauld,
2 vols., Paris, 1926-8, i, pp. 18-19).
33Doc. no. V (Zepos, i, p. 210, 11.4-7).

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12 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 73

was nowbeingplaced at riskbythesechangesin ownership.34The


emperorforbadethe dunatoito buy up the lands of thepenatesand
reinforcedthis prohibitionby declaringthat the protim~sis (pre-
emption)rightsofthepenis,hisfamilyand hisneighbours, in boththe
geographical andthefiscalsense,shouldremaininviolateat all costs.35
Any land obtained by thedunatoishouldbe immediately returnedto
its previousowners,withoutcompensation."3
In theperiodfrom949 onwards,the documentsrevealtwomain
imperialpreoccupations - first,the conditionof the estatesheld by
thesoldiersofthelocal thematicarmiesand, secondly,thegrowthof
the land-holdings of religioushouses. The problemof the aliena-
tionofcivilianestatesseemsto haveeased. For in documents ofthis
period a more flexible
attitude
on the part ofthedemosion (theimperial
tax-bureau)maybe discerned. Compensation was permitted dunatoi
requiredby law to returnlands,and arrangements forthe returnof
thepurchasepricecould be set up. In a lusisdatedto betweenthe
years956 and 963, the koiaistorTheodoreDekapolites,in answerto
the queriesof a thematicjudge,actuallygave examplesof methods
by whichthe debtsoutstanding betweena dunatosand a pen~smight
be paid off.37 But the yearsof militarydemoralization beginning
about949 precludedsuchamiablearrangements beingsetup between
thedunatoiandthepenates ofthearmy.The novelConcerning Military
Estatesspokeof "a completeconvulsionofsociety"and thetreatment
of thelessermilitary land-owners"like slaves".38 In this confused
situation, ofthearmystoodtogaina greatdeal. For
thehigherofficials
theynotonlyappropriated desertedmilitary holdings,butalsoobtained
controloftheirruinedowners. Constantine'snovelstipulatespun-
ishments forthosewhousedstratiotai fortheirownprivate"works".39
The dangerwasclearlythatofthegrowthofprivatearmies.

34 Ibid., p. 214, 11.5-6. But see ibid., p. 213, 11.31-2, where the emperor
maintainsthathe is nottakingaction in orderto benefitthe demosion(the central
tax bureau) ". .. For how could we, who are hasteningto put an end to insatiable
self-aggrandizement, turnthis situation,withouta blush, to our own advantage?
". There was clearlyconcernover diminishingtax returnsbut to over-stress
this would have undermined the appearance of disinterestedconcern which
the emperorwished to present.
35 For the list of priorityin pre-emption,see Doc. no. V (Zepos, i, p. 202,
11.4-9). The rightof protimesishad to be claimed and a just price paid within
thirtydays of the announcementof the sale, or withinfourmonthsif therewere
difficultiesconcerningownershipor disputed boundaries.
36 Doc. no. V (Zepos, i, p. 203, 1. 40 to p. 204, 1.
I). The offendingdunatos
was also liable to a state fine equal to the value of the property.
37 A penis who had illegally sold to a dunatoslands which
had since been
returnedto him as the law demanded, might make an arrangementto refund
the purchase price by making payments in kind from subsequent harvests.
A third party would supervise the gatheringof the crops: cf. Doc. no. VI
(Zepos, i, p. 216, 11.36-43).
38 Doc. no. VIII (Zepos, i, p. 225, 11.32-6).
19Ibid., p. 226, 11.29-30.

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POWERFUL AND POOR IN TENTH-CENTURY BYZANTIUM 13
The landedpowerofthemonasteries andotherreligious institutions
had also increasedin the confusion. Many,like the "volatileand
unreliable" Armenian soldiers whom the Emperor Nikephoros
Phokasattemptedto control,turnedto the monasteries as a symbol
of securityin troubledtimesand manifested theirtrustin a higher
tutelarypowerthan that of the emperorby makinggiftsto these
establishments of the imperialestates they had been granted.40
Nikephorosattemptedto put an end to this practice,but the
traditionof land donationto the churchwas too deeplyengrainedin
the Byzantinereligioustraditionforanysuchmoveto be successful.
His measuresweresoon abrogated.41
In the last periodof crisis,the wheelhad come fullcircle. The
last documentin the dossier,the EmperorBasil II's novel of 996,
is of major importancenot only because it reveals a change in
the imperialattitudeto the dunatoi,but also because its provisions
remainedin forcethroughout the eleventhcentury.42Once again
the prohibitions on the alienationof the lands of thepenetesto the
dunatoi were promulgatedin their full force. The period of
compromiseand mutualagreementwas abruptlyended. Basil was
even preparedto subvertone of the strongestsupportsof the
Byzantineimperialtheory,that of the permanency, strengthand,
above all, legalityof imperialwrits,by declaringthat if such
documentshad been acquired to confirmillegal land transactions,
theythemselvesshouldbe considerednull and void.43 The dunatoi
shouldno longerbe allowedto makeaccusationsagainstthepenates
withoutproducingwritten evidence.44They shouldnot(and herewe
have a rare referenceto the activitiesof the dunatoiin towns)be
allowed to coerce merchantsinto moving the sites of their
panegyreis(religiousfairs).45
But althoughthe documentsof the dossier should always be
consideredagainsta periodof generalstressbothinsideand outside
the Byzantinestate,theyare,ofcourse,primarily concernedwiththe

40 For the "unreliable Armenians", see Doc. no. VIII (Zepos, i, p. 247)
which is particularlyconcernedwith donations to the monasteryof "Lagape".
For the possible location of this monastery,see H. Gregoire, "Le lieu de
naissance de Romain Lecaphne et de Digenis Acritas", Byzantion,viii (1933),
pp. 572-4, repr. in H. Gregoire, Autour de l'epopefebyzantine(London, 1975).
41 Doc. no. XIX (Zepos, i, pp. 249-52): Eng. trans. in P. Charanis, "The
Monastic Propertiesand the State in the ByzantineEmpire", DumbartonOaks
Papers, iv (1948), pp. 56-8. The measure was abrogated either by John
Tzimiskes or by Basil II. For argumentsfavouringTzimiskes, see Svoronos,
Synopsismajor des Basiliques, p. I55.
42 See the case-law in Peira, titlosIX (Zepos, iv, pp. 38-40).

43 Doc. no. XXIX (Zepos, i, p. 267, 11.1-14).


44Ibid., p. 266, 11. 3-6. See Peira, titlosXXIII. iii (Zepos, iv, pp. 85-6),
where this law is cited in a case concerningland.
46 Doc. no. XXIX (Zepos, i, p. 27I), and Peira, titlosLVII (Zepos, iv, p. 228).

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14 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 73

relationshipsof the dunatoi and the pen&tes.However, the


relativelysimpleidentification ofthemas the "rich"and the "poor",
or eventhe "powerful"and the"weak",is notborneout eitherby a
close studyof the documentsof the dossier,or by examiningthe
othersourcesof information available.
In the dossierthe dunatoiare describedin termsof rank. The
classicdefinitionis containedin RomanosLekapenos'snovelof 934,
a modelformuchlaterlegislation. In prohibiting thealienationof
landto thedunatoi, theemperoridentified themas thoseholdingrank
of patrikiosand magistros and all the membersof the militaryand
bureaucratichierarchies. His list also included the holders of
senatorialrankand,in theecclesiastical hierarchy, themetropolitans,
archbishops, bishops,hegoumenoi (abbots), ecclesiastical and
officials
the comptrollersof charitableinstitutions.46At the end of the
centurythe delineationof the dunatoiwas virtually identical. Basil
II's novelof 996 declaredthat: "Amongthe dunatoiare enumerated
all those mentionedin the diataxis[list] of our great-grandfather
RomanostheElder [RomanosLekapenos]and writtendownin order
in that document".47 The conceptof the dunatoidid not, then,
changethroughout theperiodcoveredbythedossierand itwasalways
acceptedtoo thatrepresentatives of thesemen shouldbe treatedin
the same way as theiremployersand thatthe lattermightwellbe
institutionsratherthan individuals."4But the identification given
to thedunatoiin thelegaldocumentswas alwaysbasedon theirofficial
rankor position. Onlya consideration oftheiractionscan establish
whytheycould be describedas "powerful".
The dignitiesdescribedin the documentof 934 weregrantedto
the militaryand civilian 1liteof the empire:the higherofficials of
thearmy,thebureaucracy and thechurch. The dunatoithusderived
much of their influencefromtheir professionalstatus. But the
importanceof thispowerwas thatit was not onlylocallybased for,
while the strategos of a themeor the metropolitan of a province
wieldedadministrative poweron a local level ex officio, he had also
an important to
part play in thepolitical lifeofthe empireas a whole.
werewellawareoftheneedto maintaintheirinfluence
Such officials
in Constantinople, the politicalcentreof Byzantium,just as the
emperoracknowledged thenecessity of involvingthemin the affairs

4" For Romanos's list of the dunatoi,see Doc. no. V (Zepos, i, p. 209, 11.1-5).
41 Doc. no. XXIX (Zepos, i, p. 265, 11.20-3). Svoronos has shown that the
addition of the ranks of scholariosand kentarchosto the original list is a later
scholiumto the originaldraftof this document: N. Svoronos, "Remarques sur
la traditiondu textede la nouvelle de Basile II", ZbornikRadova Vizantolokog
Instituta,viii (1964), PP. 427-34.
48 See Doc. no. VI (Zepos, i, p. 216, 1. 15); ". . . if a buyeris a dunatosor one
associated (proskeimenos) with him . . ."

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POWERFUL AND POOR IN TENTH-CENTURY BYZANTIUM 15
ofthecentralgovernment and assuringtheirloyalty toit byfrequently
summoningthem to the capital. The great ceremonialfeasts
describedin the ninth-century Kleterologion of the court official
Philotheos,for whichthe officials in
gathered the Great Palace at
Constantinople, wereopportunities not onlyfora physicallinkto be
forgedbetweenthe capitaland the provincesand forgovernmental
businessto be transacted, but also providedthe settingin whichthe
theoreticalbonds associatingthe emperorand his administrators
could be emphasized. All the levels of dunatoienumeratedin the
dossierwere representedat the week-longChristmascelebrations
describedin the Kleterologion."High Table" on ChristmasDay
itselfconsistedof the emperorand, among others,two magistroi,
six stratgoi and two officialsholdingthe post of logothetes of the
strati8tikon of
(the Byzantine"Ministry Defence").49
Amongthedunatoi, then,weretheclosestpoliticalassociatesofthe
emperor,but theirinfluenceon societywas notmerelyderivedfrom
theirprofessional positionsand thesocialadvancement to whichthese
mightlead. For althoughthe questionof the purchasingpower
ofmoneyin the Byzantineempireat this timeis a vexedone,there
is no doubtthat,byanystandards, thedunatoiwereextremely welloff.
Theirsalarieswerepaid in theformofbullionor coin,thusproviding
themwithliquid assetswhichcould be used forall kindsof invest-
mentand especiallyspeculation in land.51 The tenth-century bishop,
of
Liudprand Cremona, while on an embassyfromOtto I to the
Byzantinecourtin 950 was presentat one such distribution.The
rectorpalatii,the domesticofthescholai(one oftheregiments ofthe
imperialbodyguard)and the drungarios (admiral)of the fleetwere
each givensacksofgold and foursilkrobes. Theyhad to be helped
to dragofftheirgifts.51The wealthofthe ecclesiasticaldunatoilay
in the corporations theyrepresented as well as in personalfortunes.
Whenthe PatriarchAlexiosof Constantinople died in 1043 he was
reportedto have left the princelysum of 2,500 lbs. of gold
(18o,ooonomismata) in his privatetreasury.52The influence of the

49 Philotheos, Kleterologion,in N. Oikonomides, Les listes de prisjance,


pp. 65-235. For the rank of magistros,see ibid., p. 294; for the stratigoi,
pp. 345-6; for the logothetisof the strati6tikon,p. 314.
50 See A. Andr'ades, "De la monnaie et de la puissance d'achat des mntaux

pr6cieux dans 1'empire byzantin", Byzantion, i (1924), pp. 75-115;


J. Karayannopulos, Das Finanzwesen des frahbyzantinischenStaates (Stid-
osteuropiischeArbeiten,lii, Munich, 1958). For the salariesof the administra-
tive officials,see P. Lemerle, " 'Roga' et rented'etat aux Xe-XIe siecles", Rev.
des 6tudes byzantines,xxv (1967), PP. 77-loo, and H. Antoniadis-Bibicou,
"Demographie, salaires et prix a Byzance".
51 Liudprand of Cremona, Antapodosis,vi. Io (ed. E. Dilmmler, Monumenta
Germaniae Historica, Scriptores, iii, 2nd edn., Hanover, 1877, p. 123).
5" George Cedrenus, Compendium (ed. Bekker,ii, p. 550).
historiarum

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I6 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 73

ecclesiasticaldunatoiwas, however,not entirelybased on financial


strength. For the relationshipbetween the more celebrated
churchmen, usuallythe abbots,and theirspiritual"sons" - such
as thatbetweenSt. Athanasiosand theEmperorNikephorosPhokas,
and between St. Paul of Latros and the Emperor Constantine
Porphyrogennetos - was a particularly important one. For it not
onlyrequiredthe spiritual"father"to providemoralguidanceto his
"son", but forthelatterto showhis gratitudenot onlyby his piety,
but in the moremundanetermsof land, bricksand mortar.53
The dunatoiwerethus thosewho enjoyedthe privilegesof rank,
wealthand influenceand theirclass is well illustrated by the group
formedby theMaleinosand Phokasfamilies. This familygrouping
is specificallymentionedin a scholiumto Basil II's novel of 996,
whichaimedat controlling theinfluence ofthedunatoiby abolishing
the time-limits previouslyset on appeals againsttheirillegal land
acquisitions.54The Maleinos-Phokas group,unitedby themarriage
ofa sisterofManuel(laterSt. Michael)Maleinosto theCaesarBardas
Phokas (the fatherof the futureEmperorNikephorosPhokas),
produceda seriesof influential figures.55It is no coincidencethat
theanonymousmilitary treatiseknownas De Velitatione Bellica(On
GuerrillaWarfare)mentions,as thethreemostoutstanding generals
of the tenthcentury,the names of the Caesar Bardas Phokas,the
patrikiosConstantineMaleinos and, above all, the EmperorNike-
phorosPhokas,sinceit was composedduringhis reignand maywell
have been intendedto glorify the military exploitsof the family.56
But the Phokades and the Maleinoi were not only warriors.
EustathiosMaleinos,in additionto leadingthe armyon the eastern
frontierin the reignof Basil II, was also a prosperousfarmer- so
prosperous,in fact,thathe was said to have been able to provide

63 The role of the "spiritualfather"in Byzantinesocietyhas yetto be afforded


the major studyit deserves. The foundationof the Great Lavra on Mt. Athos
and the subsequent imperial patronage of the monasterywas the direct result
of such a relationship between the Emperor Nikephoros Phokas and St.
Athanasios. For the two main lives of Athanasios (known as A and B), see
Vita Athanasii (A), ed. I. Pomyalovsky, in Zhitie prepodobnagoAfanszya
Afonskago(St. Petersburg,1895), and Vita Athanasii (B), ed. L. Petit,Analecta
Bollandiana, xxv (1906), pp. 5-89. P. Meyer, Die Haupturkundenfi~r die
Geschichteder Athosklister(Leipzig, 1894), containsa valuable series of docu-
mentsillustratingthe earlyhistoryof the monasterieson Mt. Athos.
54 Doc. no. XXIX (Zepos, i, pp. 262-73). See Svoronos, "Remarques sur
la traditiondu texte", p. 433-
"* See Vie de Saint Michel Maldinos, ed. L. Petit, Rev. de l'Orient chritien,
vii (1902), pp. 543-94, at pp. 585-7, for a familytree of the Maleinos-Phokas
clan and a discussion of theirinfluence.
56 De VelitationeBellica (Patrologiae cursus completus, ed. J.-P. Migne,
Series graeca posterior,cxvii, Paris, 1864, cols. 925-oo1008,esp. cols. 929-30,
C-D). A. Dain, "Les strategistesbyzantins", Travaux et Mdmoires[Centre
de recherched'histoire et civilisationbyzantines,Paris], ii (1967), pp. 317-92,
examines the whole corpusof Byzantinetactical works.

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POWERFUL AND POOR IN TENTH-CENTURY BYZANTIUM 17

suppliesforthe entireimperialarmyas it returnedfromcampaign


in the East.57 The influenceof the familyin ecclesiasticalaffairs
was also considerable. It was St. Michael Maleinos who, after
establishinghis own flourishing communityon Mount Kyminain
Bithynia,firstintroducedthe youngSt. Athanasiosto his nephew,
the futureEmperorNikephorosPhokas. One of the resultsof the
friendshipof the two men was imperialpatronageof Athanasios's
newfoundation on MountAthos,the GreatLavra.58 But theexist-
ence of such familiesas the Maleinoiand the Phokadeswas no new
phenomenon in thetenthcentury. Whatthe dossierwas concerned
withwas the wayin whichtheirpowerwas beingused,in particular
againstthepenetes.
The meaningof the wordspenes and pt6chosand the nuances
expressedbytheirusageis muchmoredifficult to elucidatethanthose
surroundingthe word dunatos. The problemis that of deciding
whethertheiruse in the dossiershouldbe associatedwiththe legal
or the ecclesiasticaltradition. Leclercq has brieflyattemptedto
definethe nuancesin the biblical usage of the wordspt6chosand
penes. He believesthatthetermpenisis appliedto one "who must
workforhis living",and pt6chosto "one who has need of someone
else to helphimto survive";the idea ofbeggaryis impliedhere. A
thirdword,tapeinos,is also widelyused in the Septuagintand, in
Leclercq's view, is used to describeone "who is in a state of
afflictionand bowed down under the cares of life".59 These
distinctions, however,becomeblurredin the patristictradition, but
it is clearthatwhentheFathersof theChurchwroteofthept6chos or
penestheywerereferring to someonewhowas economically deprived.
In the RegulaeBreviusTractatae,St. Basil of Caesarea provided
definitionsof pt6cheiaand penia which were followedby later
ecclesiasticalwriters. He applied the epithetpt6chosto one who
"fromricheshas falleninto penury",and thatofpenesto one who
"fromthe beginninghas been in need".60 Basil was referring to

57Svoronos has argued in "Remarques sur la traditiondu texte", p. 433,


that the campaign from which the army was returningwas that against the
Caucasian kingdomof Iberia in IooI but, as Cedrenus, Compendium historiarum
(ed. Bekker,ii, p. 448), followshis account of the incidentwith informationon
Basil II's pronouncementsagainst the dunatoi,possibly the major legislationof
996, the campaign may well have to be dated to this earlierperiod.
58 See Vie de Saint Michel Maldinos(ed. Petit,p. 552), forthe foundationson
Mt. Kymina. See Actes de Lavra. Premiere partie, Des origines 12zo4,ed.
P. Lemerle, A. Guillou, N. Svoronos and D. Papachryssanthou(Archives de
l'Athos, v, Paris, 1970), Introduction,pp. 13-56, for the period leading up to
the foundationof the Lavra.
56 Leclercq, "Aux originesbibliques du vocabulairede la pauvret6",pp. 37-8.
60 Basil of Caesarea, Regulae Brevius Tractatae, Interrogatio cclxii (Pat-
rologiae cursus completus, ed. J.-P. Migne, Series graeca, xxxi, Paris, 1857,
col. 1260).

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18 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 73

the starvingsupportedby episcopalfooddoles,the sick,and the old


and disabled who could not affordfees for doctorsand who were
accommodatedin the Byzantinephilanthropic institutions.61It is
not only in theoreticaltractsthat we glimpsesuch people. The
cities always attractedthe starvingand the unemployed. The
ChronicleoftheLogothete tellsofthepoorcrowdingunderthearcades
in Constantinople duringthe "greatwinter"and thefoodwhichthe
Emperor Romanos Lekapenos provided for them there.62 The
existenceoftheruralwandering pooris confirmed by suchtextsas the
Life of St. Luke. The saint became a swineherdin the Opsikion
themeand gave awayall the moneythathe earnedto "the needy"
whomheencountered wandering alongoneofthegreatmilitary roads.63
The "real" poor - the homelessbeggarsand those who fellon
hardtimesand wereforcedto seekthe charityof the institutions -
are thus not difficultto identify. But althoughthe termspt6chos
andpenesin hagiographical textsusuallyreferto thedestitute,
further
nuancesofmeaningmaybe foundevenin theseworks. St. Michael
Maleinos,whilewanderingon Mount Kymina,is reportedto have
been givensomepearsby "a certainpenes"- literally, "poor man"
- fromamongthe neighbouring agroikoi(peasantfarmers). The
man mayindeedhave been pennilessbut the associationofthe word
peneswiththatof agroikoi(whichimpliessome kind of holdingin
land) suggeststhat,in this case, it is simplya periphrasisforthat
perennialinstitution,the "simplecountryfolk".64
A similar problem, but on a larger scale, arises with the
consideration of thecareerof St. Philaretos. His biography begins,
somewhatunusuallyfora hagiography, witha preciseenumeration of
the saint'swealthand estates:
He was veryrich [thehagiographer tellsus, and sincehe was the saint's
grandsonhewas in a positiontoknow],he ownedlargeherdsofanimals:six
hundred head of cattle, one hundred teams of oxen, eight hundred mares,
eightymules and packhorsesand twelvethousand sheep. He was the owner
of enormous estates. All, with theirboundaries preciselymarked out, were
flourishingand of immense value.65

61 D. J. Constantelos, Byzantine Philanthropyand Social Welfare (New


Brunswick, N.J., 1968), is a useful introductionto the subject. See also
P. Koukoulks, "L'assistance aux indigents dans l'empire byzantin", in
MdmorialLouis Petit: Mdlangesd'histoireet d'archdologie byzantines(Archivesde
l'Orient chretien,i, Bucharest, 1948), pp. 254-71, and Patlagean, "La pauvret6
byzantine".
62 Chronicle of the Logothete,in Georgius Monachus, Vitae imperatorum

recentiorum, in Theophanes continuatus... (ed. Bekker,pp. 908-9).


63 Vita S. Lucae Stylitae (ed. Delehaye, p. 204, 11.5-11).
64
Vie de Saint Michel Maldinos, i9 (ed. Petit, p. 563).
65 La vie de S. Philarate, ed. and Fr. trans.M-H. Fourmy and M. Leroy,
Byzantion, ix (1934), pp. 85-170. Cf. p. 113, 11.6-11. J. W. Nesbitt, "The
Life of St. Philaretos(702-792) and its SignificanceforByzantineAgriculture",
Greek Orthodox TheologicalReview, xiv (I969), pp. I5o-8, comments on the
Life.

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POWERFUL AND POOR IN TENTH-CENTURY BYZANTIUM 19
Philaretoswas put to the test by losing his estates as a result
of devastationby Arab raiders,his own misplacedgenerosity, and
what his hagiographerrefersto as "many other reasons".66 In
consequencehe was reducedto "thebitterness ofpoverty"(penia).67
But as the hagiographergoes on to he
reveal, stillownedone pair of
oxen,one horse,one ass, one cow and its calf,one servant(doulos),
one maidservant, twohundredand fifty bees,and theancestralhome
on the one estatethat was leftto him.68 He had not even been
forcedto sell thosebelongingsless necessaryforsurvival. For in a
laterepisode,we hear moreof the Philaretosmenage. The house
was "antique,largeand magnificent".Even some visitingimperial
commissioners were impressedwith the spacious triklinos (dining
room)withits diningtablethatcould seatthirty-six.69 Thoughthe
hagiographer was eagerto pointout the parallelof his grandfather's
misfortunes withthoseofJob,it is clearfromthesedescriptions that
he had by no means "falleninto penury". Philaretos'sbiographer
could, however,referto him as a penesbecause he had suffered
economicreversalswhich,whilenotreducinghimto starvation level,
had had an even worseeffect. For his statusand influencein the
countrysidehad been undermined. In Philaretos's case, his
neighboursenteredhis lands "tyrannically".He could no longer
affordmen to maintainthe boundariesof which he had been so
proud.70
Though the wordspenia or pt8cheiamightexpressa varietyof
shades of meaning,it seems clear that,in manytypesof material,
the termswereused to denotea changein economiccircumstances.
Loss or lack of moneyis alwaysimplied. At firstglanceit might
seem thatit is withthiskind of deprivation thatthe tenth-century
legal materialis concerned. Here, however,one musttakenote of
the other,legalistictraditionof the two words. EvelynePatlagean,
in studyingthe use of these words in the Justinianiccorpus,has
concludedthattheydo not distinguish two economiclevelsbut two
socialroles. The penis is thepoormansubjectto thelaw,thehumble
citizenwhois stillliableto fulfilhis civilduties. The pt'chosis little
morethanan objectofpityto thecompassionate and charitable. The
legaldefinitionhereis farmoreconcernedwiththefactthatsuchmen
cannotfulfiltheirfiscaldutiesthanwiththeactualeconomiclevelof
their poverty.71In the dossier,however,a curious amalgamof
meaningsemerges. The documentsare obviouslyof a legal nature,

66 Vie de S. Philarkte(ed. Fourmy and Leroy, p. 115, 11.30-2).


67
Ibid., p. 115, 1. 33.
68Ibid., p. 115, 11.33-5, and p. 127, 11.29-30.
69Ibid., p. 135, 1. 33, and p. 137, 1. 30.
70 Ibid., p. 117, 11.1-5.
71 Patlagean, "La pauvret6 byzantine", p. 63.

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20 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 73

but the usage of the wordspt6chosand penis owes farmoreto the


ecclesiastical
tradition.
Withinthedossier,therearenumerouscross-referencesto Romanos
Lekapenos's novel of 934.72 For it is in this document that the first
statementof the identitiesof the dunatoiis made and a similar
examinationof the termsin whichit describesthepenetesrevealsa
greatdeal aboutthepurposeofthelegislation. The quotationfrom
the Psalms containedin its prooimion providesthe keyto its inter-
pretation and that of its successors. The prooimion beginswitha
shortexcursuson the necessityof man to act justlyor face the
consequencesin thelifehereafter.But thenthe "text"ofthe novel
is stated:
For theoppressionofthepoor(penites)
For thegroaning oftheneedy(ptdchoi)
Now willI arise,saiththeLord.73
(Psalmsxii. 5)
The themeof the novel was not that of the acceptanceand even
glorificationof misfortunepreachedin the New Testamenttext
"Blessed are the meek,fortheyshallinheritthe earth"(Matt. v. 5)
so wellillustrated
in theLifeofSt. Philaretos. Nor didit containthe
emphasis,so belovedof the Fathersof the Church,on the spiritual
benefitswhichmightaccrue to those who helped the poor. This
documentand itssuccessorsportrayed theinterventionist,aggressive
forcesof Old Testamentkingship. The imperialtheoristswere
concernedto maintaintheemperor'sdutyand,moreimportantly, his
in
ability, mimesis of God, to come to the aid of his subjects.74
"The peniteshave no one but the emperorto look to for help",
the novel declares, "The emperorwill insist on the universal
applicationof the law".75 The novel warnsthose who have been
risingabove themselvesand "takingpride in theirworldlystature
and reputation"76 thattheirdays are numbered.77The use of the
wordspengsandptochosin thiscontextand theinsistent repetitionof
themthroughout the novel was a deliberateattempton the partof
theauthorsofthedocumentsto drawa parallelbetweentheavenging
God of the Old Testament,who arose to smitethe oppressorsof
"the poor", and the emperor,similarly attackingthe enemiesof his
people. But can thisdocumentand thosethatfollowedit in similar
veinsimplybe seenas examplesoftheestablishedconceptofimperial
philanthropia,or as expressing,with all the tricksof evocative
rhetoricand imagery,a farnarrowerpoliticalpurpose?

72 Cf. notes 6 and 7 above.


7 Doc. no. V (Zepos, i, p. 207, 11.30-2).
7" Dvornik, Early Christianand ByzantinePolitical Philosophy,ii, ch. 8.
"5 Doc. no. V (Zepos, i, p. 208, 11.25-6).
76 Ibid., p. 2II, 11.9-II.
77 Ibid.,p. 213.

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POWERFUL AND POOR IN TENTH-CENTURY BYZANTIUM 21
The conceptof the imperialphilanthropia is certainlya familiar
one in thesecularliterature oftheperiod. It was especiallycommon
in panegyrics. The Funeral Orationsupposedlydeliveredby the
EmperorLeo VI (886-912) on the death of his father(or putative
father)Basil I78 included"concernforthe poor" (penetes)amonga
somewhatstereotyped list of the late emperor'svirtues:
Whobuthe couldhavehad so muchconcernforthepoor? So muchso that,
fora littlewhile,theydid notevenfeeltheirfate,sincethedifficulties
which
arosefromit had been sweptaside by thetideof his generosity."9
As well as practisingthevirtueof personalcharityforthe benefitof
his own soul and as an example to his subjects,however,the
emperoralso presidedat the distributionsof statecharitydescribed
in the De Cerimoniisof ConstantinePorphyrogennetos.so The
ceremonialdistribution of alms was an expressionof the emperor's
abilityto supporthis people. The protectionof the koinon(the
"commonweal")as a wholewas represented by the symbolicfeeding
of the few. But RomanosLekapenos'sprimeconcernin 934 was
notto continuethistraditionofimperialcharity. Thereis no doubt
thathe was awareofthedistresscausedbythe"longwinter"and the
famine,81and that the composers of the novel were eager to illustrate
the workingsof imperialphilanthropia.However,the insistencein
thisdocumenton the vitalnecessityof imperialintervention forthe
salvationof the people and a forceful
and suspiciouslyclear-cutdes-
criptionof the natureof the crisistogetherhintat a deeperpurpose
thana reiteration of long-heldtraditionsof imperialgenerosity.
Great emphasisis laid in this documenton the protection of the
penatesagainstthedunatoibut,unlikethelatter,no elucidationofthe
word penis is attemptedin the dossier. Any descriptionof the
in termsof rankor officewas obviouslyimpossible,but the
penates
factthat only one of these legal documentsmakesany attemptto
identifypovertyin economic terms is significant.The dossier
containsonly one referenceto the financialposition(and thus the
legal tradition)of a "poor man" and, even here, the word aporos
(ratherthanptochosor penes)is used. The prostaxisissued by the
patrikiosTheophilosin 947, in makingprovisionsforthe returnof

7I
C. Mango,"EudociaIngerina,
theNormansandtheMacedonianDynasty"'
ZbornikRadova, xiv-xv (1973), pp. 17-27, examines the problems surrounding
Leo's parentage.
L'oraison funabrede Basile I par sonfils VI le sage, ed. and Fr. trans.
A. Vogtand T. Hausherr(Rome,1932),p. Ldon
9
6o.
80 See Constantine Porphyrogenitus,De cerimoniisaulae Byzantinae (ed.
Reiske,i, p. 360), fora description
of the imperialdistribution
of sphragida
(tokensexchangeable forfoodor money)to thepoor. For thesphragida, see
G. Schlumberger, "Monumentsnumismatiques et sphragistiquesdu moyen
ige81byzantin", Revue archdologique,
new ser., xl (i88o), pp. 194-212.
See note62 above.

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22 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 73

illegallypurchasedor appropriated land,declaredthattheregulations


wereto be adjustedaccordingto the financialstateof the man who
had partedwithhis land to a dunatos. He thendefineda "poor"
man as one whose wealthdid not exceed fiftynomismata.82This
definitionwas based on what seems to have been the only con-
temporarylegal statementof the economicstatus of the pen&tes,
thatcontainedin thelegalhandbookknownas theProcheiros Nomos,
whichstatedthat"a poor man [and herethe wordpenisis used] is
one who does nothavepossessionsto thevalueoffifty nomismata".83
This dictum,as Lemerlewas the firstto pointout, was itselfbased
on a passagein Justinian'sDigest,whichin turncan be tracedbackto
the fourth-century jurist,Hermogenianos.84The legal definitionof
povertyin the documentof 947 was thusextremely anachronistic.85
Its inaccuracyis all the more surprisingsince othercontemporary
fiscaldocumentswereprecisein theirdescriptions ofeconomicstatus
byreference to thetypesoftaxforwhichindividualland-owners were
liable. The earliestsectionof the ThebanCadaster,whichhas been
dated by ProfessorSvoronosto the end of the tenthcenturyand
whichreflects tenurialconditionsin thenorthofGreece,givesprecise
descriptions of typesof land,theareasheld by particularindividuals
(telestai)and the taxes due fromthem. The documentmentionsa
certainNicholas,a ptochos,withthe detailsof the totaltax (telos)
of 5/48 nomismathat he was requiredto pay on this property.86
A similarconcernfortenurialdescription is shownin thehandbook
used by officialswhosetaskit was to establishtheownershipofaban-
doned lands, and usually knownas the Fiscal Treatise.87Since
all theso-called"poor" in thedossierhad ownedland at one timeor
another,there would appear to have been no lack of acceptable
terminology availableto those who draftedthe imperiallegislation
by which they could describe,in accurateand up-to-dateterms,
preciselywho theymeantby the "poor".

82Doc. no. VI (Zepos, i, p. 216, 1. 17).


83"Procheiros Nomos", in Zepos, op. cit., ii. Cf. p. 181, art. xii.
84Justinian,Digesta, xlviii. 2. x (ed. T. Mommsen, 2 vols., Berlin, 1868-70,
ii, p. 798). See Lemerle, "Esquisse pour une histoireagraire", p. 255.
85 I do not agree with Mme. Antoniadis-Bibicou,"Demographie, salaires et
prix a Byzance", p. 227, who considersthatthis level represents"the economic
and social realitiesof the state" (my translation)in the tenth century,mainly
on the grounds thatit is reiteratedin Peira, titlosXXX (Zepos, iv, p. 126). If
this were the case, one would expect to findthis definitionfrequentlymentioned
in the documents.
88 N. G. Svoronos, "Recherches sur le cadastre byzantin et la fiscalit6
aux XIe et XIIe siecles: le cadastre de Thbbes", Bulletin de correspondance
hellinique,lxxxiii(1959), PP. 1-145. For the ptachosNicholas, see ibid.,pp. 18
(B66), 51, 142-3.
87 Ed. with commentaryby F. DOlger, Beitriigezur Geschichte der byzan-
tinischenFinanzverwaltungbesondersdes ro. und ri. Jahrhunderts
(Byzantinisches
Archiv,ix, Leipzig and Berlin, 1927; 2nd edn., Darmstadt, 1961), pp. 113-23.

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POWERFUL AND POOR IN TENTH-CENTURY BYZANTIUM 23

The reasonwhysuccessiveemperorsdid not employany of these


termswas probablybecause theywerenotprimarily concernedwith
the plightof thepenatesat all. The primetargetof theirlegislation
was the activitiesof such "over mightysubjects"as the Phokades
and the Maleinoi. Their anxietymay have been increasedby the
effectsuch growinginfluencemighthave on the balanceof political
and fiscalpowerwithinthe state,but it was in no waypromptedby
anykindofbeneficent "social policy"on behalfof theless influential
countrydwellers. The targetforattackwas the dunatoi. The task
of isolatingsuch menfromtherestof thecommunity, of paintinga
clear if biased pictureof the oppressionof the multitudeby the
activitiesof the few,and of proclaimingthe necessityof the inter-
ventionof the imperialpowerto defendthe koinonfromanarchy,
wascarriedoutintheearlierdocuments ofthedossierbytheinsistence
that"all" the emperor'ssubjectswere suffering fromthe activities
of thiscarefully delineatedgroup. Too precisea definition of their
supposed"victims"was thuscarefully avoided. So it is probablyas
a result of a deliberatepropagandaaim that these documents
interpret the eventstheyportrayin termsof a conflictbetweentwo
polarizedgroups.
The legislatorsthemselveslatertacitlyadmittedthat the "black
and white"pictureof the earlierdocumentshad over-simplified the
situation. By 947 the firstrhetorical fervourof Romanos'snovelof
934 had been considerably mitigated. The prostaxisof Theophilos,
a business-likedocumentconcernedwith a real ratherthan an
imaginedstateof affairs, recognizedthatit was no longerpossible
to thinkof the dunatoiand thepenatesas two distinctgroups. For
it admittedthe existenceof threeborderlinecases, which did not
easilyfitinto eithercategory:the poorermonasteries, the officials
of the centraladministrative bureaux in Constantinople, and the
thematicsoldiers. It decreedthattheyshouldnot be treatedwith
the same severityas thatmetedout to the restof the dunatoi.88
AlthoughRomanos's list of the dunatoiincluded all heads of
monasteries, this was in recognitionof theirpotentialratherthan
theiractualpower,fornotall religioushouseswereprospering at this
period. The Lifeof St. SymeontheNew Theologian, writtenby his
discipleNiketasStethatosabout the year 1054, describesthe sorry
state of affairsinto which the once flourishingmonasteryof
St. Mamas had fallenwhen Symeonbecameits abbot in 980:
The monasterywas completely decayed and was no longer a refuge or a
shelter for monks but a rendezvous for the worldly ... Few inhabitants
remained and, as theywere lackingin learning,were starved of the Word of
God in thisdesert... The monastery
was in greatneedofrepairandall the

88 Doc. no. VI (Zepos, i, p. 216, 11.28-34).

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24 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 73

partswhichhad been destroyedor had fallendown,Symeonhad removed


sincetheywereuselessand he reconstructedthemonastery."
It was notonlyin thecitiesthatfamousand once flourishing houses
had fallenon evil times. NikephorosPhokas'snovel of 964, while
castigatingthe greatmonasteries fortheiracquisitionof "thousands
of acresof land, superbbuildings,innumerable horses,oxen,camels
and other animals", also declared that "there are, among the
existingmonasteries, manyin decay,withhardlya partof themleft
standing".90The prostaxisof947 was thuscomposedby a manwho
realizedthatnot all hegoumenoiwerein a positionto makeexactions
fromtheirneighbours but,on the contrary,mightwellstandin need
of financialassistancethemselves.
The documentalso recognizedthe existenceof a group of lay
officialswho, thoughholdingranksincludedin the "dangerlist",
mightin realityproveless of a threatthanthe provincialadminis-
trators. These were the men who, in the wordsof the patrikios,
"were of the rankof spathariosor belowand who wereemployedin
the God-guardedCity"91- thehordeof lesserofficials who worked
forthe imperialbureauxin Constantinople.Since thesemen were
alwaysbased in thecapital,theydid notenjoythesameopportunities
for extensiveland speculationas did theircontemporaries in the
provinces. Legislation which had forbidden them to buy either
movableorimmovable propertyin Constantinoplehadbeenabrogated
by the EmperorLeo VI who declaredthat it no longerseemed
necessary.92But whilethe officialsof the centralbureauxdo not
seemto have constituted anykindof threatto theimperialpowerin
the tenthcentury,it is perhapsworthsuggestingthat it was this
group,unfettered by theimperialrestrictions therestofthe
affecting
dunatoi,thatincreasedits powerin the course of the centuryand
formedthe basis of the politikoi- one of the two "parties"in the
Byzantinestatereferred to by Michael Psellos.93
The thirdgroup of borderlinecases comprisedthe strati8tai-
therankand fileofthethematicarmieswho,byvirtueoftheirduties,
had been grantedholdingsin the provinces. It has alwaysproved
to establishthe precisepositionof thesemen on the social
difficult
and economicscale and the criteriathatthe legislativedocuments
use - the inclusionin the listsof rank- are of littlehelp,forthe

89 La vie de Symdonle Nouveau Theologienpar Nicetas Stethatos,ed. and


trans. I. Hausherr and G. Horn, Orientalia Christiana,xii (1928), pp. 2-228.
Cf. esp. p. 46.
90 Doc.
no. XIX (Zepos, i, p. 249, 11.19-20, and p. 251, 1. Io).
91 Doc.
no. VI (Zepos, i, p. 216, 1. 29).
91 Noailles and Dain, Novelles de Ldon VI, pp. 283-5.
s A theme taken
up by Ostrogorsky,History of the Byzantine State,
pp. 320 ff. See also J. M. Hussey,"Michael Psellos", Speculum, x (1935),
pp. 81-90.

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POWERFUL AND POOR IN TENTH-CENTURY BYZANTIUM 25
strati8taionly appear in the Kleterologion of Philotheos.94Their
designation as dunatoimightseemto be borneout by a reportin the
chronicleof Theophanes continuatusof commissionsof inquiry
sentout by Constantine Porphyrogennetos to deal withthe troubles
caused by the dunatoi,forthe writerincludedthe stratitai among
them.95 Butwe shouldnotplacetoomuchcredenceonthisevidence,
forit may well have been no morethana reflection of the familiar
complaintof the civilianagainstthe brutaland licentioussoldiery,
and thesoldiersthemselves wereprobablyactingunderorders. The
impression thatthe legaldocuments giveofthestatusofthestratitai
is confused. On theone hand,theprostaxisof947 regardedthemas
being "among the more outstandingmembers of the local
community"96 but, on the other,measuressuch as Constantine
Porphyrogennetos's novel ConcerningMilitary Estates show a
concernfortheirprotection againsttheravagesoftheirseniorofficers
that should place them among the weakermembersof the rural
community.97But the real questionis whetheror nottheywerein
thekindof economicpositionwhichwouldallowthemto indulgein
the sort of financialdealingsassociatedwith the dunatoi. Again
the evidenceis contradictory.In the Life of St. Philaretoswe have
the example of the poor soldier Mousoulios, whose horse died
justbeforehe was due to presenthimselfat thethematiclevyand who
washelpedbythegiftof anotheronefromthesaint. He is described
as being"extremely poor"(pt6chos panu)."8 However,wealso possess
a letterfroma tenth-century collectionrequestingintercessionwith
theimperialtax-officials for a widowwhoseson has been summoned
to do his militaryservice,but who possessed"no horse,no quiver
and no helmet",99 thusimplying thattheabilityto providetheseitems
of equipmentwas expectedof a stratiot~s.100 In one sourceat least,
however,the equation of strati8taiwith pengtesdoes seem clear.
In a letterfromthe magistros Symeonto the Metropolitan of Patras
in the Peloponnese,the writerassuresthe Metropolitan thathe does

94 Philotheos, Kleterologion,in Oikonomides, Les listesde presdance,p. 161.


See also H. Glykatzi-Ahrweiler, "Recherches sur 1'administrationde 1'empire
byzantin aux IXe-XIe siecles", Bulletin de correspondancehellinique, lxxxiv
(I960), pp. I-III, esp. pp. 8-Io.
9" Theophanes continuatus,Chronographia(ed. I. Bekker, C.S.H.B., Bonn,
1838, p. 443).
96 Doc. no. VI (Zepos, i, p. 217, 11.7-8).

97 See p. II above.
98 Vie de S. Philarate (ed. Fourmy and Leroy, p. 127, 11.3 if.).
99Epistoliersbyzantinsdu Xe sikcle,ed. J. Darrouz's (Archives de l'Orient
chretien,vi, Paris, I960), sect. ii, no. 50, pp. 130-1.
100 The wealthof a strati6teswas usually calculatedat 4 lbs. of gold per annum,
though the level was adjusted from time to time. See Lemerle, "Esquisse
pour une histoireagraire", p. 67.

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26 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 73

not believerumourscirculatingabout the latter'scomplicityin the


encroachment of churchofficials
ontomilitaryestates:
For we are quiteawarethat,becauseofyourgoodnessand becauseyoulive
in thefearofGod, youwouldnotallowthekindofinjusticethatwouldarise
fromthe upheavaland ruination of thesepenitesto bringthe Churchinto
o101
disrepute.
The consideration of the threeborderlinecases indicatesthatthe
starkdistinction made in the earlierdocumentsbetweenthe dunatoi
and thepenhtes was soon seen to be an artificial
one,forbetweenthe
two extremeslay a remarkablyfluid intermediate"class" whose
fortunesvaried throughoutthe period dealt with by the dossier.
It is, perhaps,in observingthesevariationsin politicaland economic
influencethatthe mostimportant reappraisalof the dossiercan be
made. For theattitudeofsuccessiveemperors to theproblemofthe
smallland-owners of the countryside was neitherconstantnor,as it
emerged,particularly helpful. Protestationsof imperialprotection,
closelyfollowedby the denialof the rightof freealienationof land
werehardlythemeasuresneededwhentheavailability of readycash
to buyfoodwas offarmoreimmediateimportance thanthefossiliza-
tion of the existingpatternsof ownership. Equally, denial of the
rightto make donationsto religioushouses and other charitable
institutionsposeda threatto thefoundations ofpopularreligion.
It was not, then,with the welfareor the preoccupationsof the
majorityof the rural populationthat the dossierwas concerned.
The mysteriouspenetes,the "sufferers"of untold miseryand
privationwerenotevenclearlyidentified. The imperialdeclarations
of alarmand concernwere the outwardmanifestations of the real
preoccupation - the defensiveentrenchment of the imperialpower
againstthe onslaughtsof the ruralaristocracy.But the weaponsat
the disposalof theimperialauthority werelimitedbytheverynature
ofthe Byzantinepoliticalsystem,fortheveryclassthattheysought
to curb,thegreatland-owners oftheprovinces, was also thesourceof
the governmental elite. A furtherironywas suppliedby the fact
that this same aristocracyfrequently providedcandidatesfor the
imperialthroneitself. BothNikephorosPhokasand JohnTzimiskes
werescionsof such powerfulfamilies. One answerwas to promote
the fortunesof the professional bureaucrats,but the efforts of such
men to underminethe powerof the local grandeesweremetwitha
resistancewhich used everyweapon,includingthat of corruption
to maintainsupremacy.
The varyingtone of the documents,especiallythose that were
concernedwith practice ratherthan theory,can be seen as a
barometerregisteringthe varyingdegree of success which the

101
Darrouzes, op. cit., sect. ii, no. 5, p. 102.

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POWERFUL AND POOR IN TENTH-CENTURY BYZANTIUM 27

imperialgovernment felthad been achievedagainstthepowerof the


dunatoi. At everyperiodof ruralcrisisthe need to tightenup the
legislationbecameapparent,but it is significantthatthe reassertion
of the fullforceof the law againstthe dunatoiwas made by Basil II
not as a resultof anyclimaticdisasteror military
defeat,butbecause
of the threatposed by the Phokadesand the Skleroi.
In such situations,one of the emperor'sstrongestweaponswas
thatofthe law. The loyaltyof his immediatecoterieofbureaucrats
could, in mostcases, be reliedupon and theirrhetoricalskillswere
deployedin a deliberatelyevocativepropagandacampaignagainst
the dunatoi. This is whythe documentsof the dossiertell us so
littleabout the real situationof the smallland-ownersand nothing
whatsoeverabout the real poor. The "conflict" between the
dunatoiand the peneteswas an artificialcreationof the emperor's
closestadvisers. The real conflictwas beingplayedout on a much
higherplane. The primeimportance ofthedossieris thatit reflects
the skirmishes in the tenthcenturyin the long-running battlefor
supremacybetweenthe centralimperialpowerand the dangerously
separatisttendenciesof the ruralaristocracy.
UniversityofManchester Rosemary Morris

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