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Tradition and Reality in the "Taktika" of Nikephoros Ouranos

Author(s): Eric McGeer


Source: Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 45 (1991), pp. 129-140
Published by: Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1291697
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Tradition and Reality in the Taktika
of Nikephoros Ouranos
ERIC MCGEER

reer, never dreamed of sullying his work with ob-


The theTaktika of Nikephoros
last of the taktika/strategika Ouranos
inspired by the stands as servations drawn from his own experience.4 In
revival of military science in tenth-century Byzan- Dain's view, the text and its compiler exemplified
tium and the last in the long tradition of Greek the barrenness of the Byzantine military treatises,
military writings dating from Antiquity.' It is a vast and his opinion has prevailed ever since.
compilation of classical and Byzantine tacticians in Although not wholly unjustified, Dain's judg-
178 chapters that has never been edited in full, al- ment is too sweeping. It has led scholars to over-
though various excerpts have been published.2 look within the Taktika a potentially valuable source
During the 1930s the French scholar Alphonse on Byzantine warfare in northern Syria at the be-
Dain laid the foundations for a complete edition ginning of the eleventh century written by Oura-
when he identified the text and compiler-unrec- nos during his tenure as governor of Antioch. It is
ognized up to that time-and provided a detailed the purpose of this paper to demonstrate that the
analysis of the contents, sources, and manu- Taktika does contain, in chapters 56-65, a section
scripts;3 but he never realized his announced am- treating contemporary field and siege tactics which
bition to publish the Taktika in its entirety. In the bears the distinct imprint of Ouranos' own military
fifty years since Dain's monograph appeared, the experience. The arguments in support of this con-
Taktika has attracted little further interest, and it tention will begin with a systematic review of Our-
remains among the least known of the texts in the anos' career, to be followed by an analysis of chap-
corpus of militaria. ters 56-65 of the Taktika, with particular emphasis
It is not simply the lack of an edition, however, on two technical terms used by the author in his
that has consigned the text to obscurity for so long. discussion of siege operations. In conclusion, Our-
As a philologist, Dain deemed the Taktika a com- anos' observations on the utility of the classical
pilation of considerable value for the reconstruc- handbooks on siege warfare will be discussed for
tion of the tradition of classical and Byzantine mil- the light they shed on the balance between theory
itary literature, but his pronouncement that the and practice in the Byzantine handbooks of the
Taktika had no original military historical worth has later tenth century.
surely played a part in limiting scholarly interest.
He regarded the work as a sterile Byzantine para- Nikephoros Ouranos played a prominent role in
phrase and Ouranos as a faultlessly Byzantine the reign of Basil II, first as a confidant of the
compiler who, despite his outstanding military ca- young emperor and an ally against Basil Leka-
penos, later as a successful military commander in
'For a survey of this literature, see A. Dain, "Les strat6gistes the west, and finally as a trustworthy governor of
byzantins," TM 2 (1967), 317-93, and H. Hunger, "Kriegswis- Antioch whose capable surveillance of the east left
senschaft," in Die hochsprachliche profane Literatur der Byzantiner
(Vienna, 1978), II, 321-40.
Basil a free hand against Bulgaria. He also enjoyed
2Works in which sections of the Taktika have been published a reputation as a man of letters and, apart from
are listed by Dain, "Les strat6gistes," 371; to this list should be
added Dain's edition of Taktika 54 and 119-23 in Naumachica
(Paris, 1943), 69-104, and de Foucault's edition of chapters 63- 4Cf. Dain, "Les strat6gistes," 318, and La Tactique, 144; these
74 (cited below, note 25). judgments are routinely repeated in other surveys of the mili-
3La Tactique de Niciphore Ouranos (Paris, 1937). tary treatises.

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130 ERIC McGEER

the Taktika, composed chosen, much against his will, to head an embassy
works of
phy, and epistolography.5 to Baghdad to conclude an agreement Hissecuring c
lined in several the return of Skleros. The sources record that
secondary be-
work
study has yet cause he attempted either all
collated to poisontheSkleros or ne-
m
ject, it would be gotiate secretly
useful with him, Ouranos
to arousedrevie suspi-
has appeared to cion anddate,
was incarcerated, to but behind whichis
seals of Ouranos will be added. misfortunes looms the hand of the parakoimome-
Ouranos is first mentioned in the sources as a
nos.1' He escaped or was released shortly after
Skleros was let go (late in 986), and returned to
participant in the negotiations conducted during
the early 980s between Basil II and the BuyidConstantinople
emir about 987-after the fall of his
nemesis Basil Lekapenos.
of Baghdad, Adud al-Dawla, over the extradition
of the rebel Bardas Skleros. Skylitzes states Following
that his return to the capital, he continued
Ouranos led an embassy to Baghdad whereboth bothto enjoy and to justify the emperor's favor.
The
he and Skleros fell under the emir's suspicion Diatyposis of Athanasios, dating between 987
and
were imprisoned.6 It has been shown, however,and 999, records that Ouranos was the first to be
that the Greek sources have condensed negotia- made lay guardian (icQtgonog) of the Great Lavra
tions of three to four years' duration into a on Mount Athos, and a chrysobull of Constantine
single
episode situated in the year 980,7 and testimony IX Monomachos, issued in 1052, recalls his ca-
from Arab sources indicates that Ouranos traveled pable fulfillment of this office."1 But his most cele-
to Baghdad at a later date. In response to a firstbrated exploit was the destruction of the Bulgar
Byzantine embassy dispatched (in 980) to seek the army under the tzar Samuel in 996/7, a victory that
return of Skleros, a Buyid ambassador, Ibn Shah- virtually eliminated the Bulgar threat to Greece."2
ram, journeyed to Constantinople in 982.When
He the invading Bulgars defeated and killed
the doux of Thessaloniki and then poured into cen-
wrote a report on his mission in which he referred
tral Greece, Basil appointed Ouranos Domestic of
to Ouranos as the kanikleios (6 0nti to oxavLxXFCov,,
or the keeper of the imperial inkstand),8 and
por-
the Schools of the West (ndogrl 63o0eg LQXWv)'3
and sent him in pursuit. Although there is no evi-
trayed him as an intimate of Basil II and, for
that
dence that Ouranos possessed any previous mili-
very reason, an enemy of the parakoimomenos
Basil
tary experience-in any case, demonstrated loy-
Lekapenos.9 Ouranos acted as an intermediary
be-
tween Ibn Shahram and the emperor, only toalty
be weighed more than actual military ability in
Basil's selection of commanders-he displayed
5Ouranos' known literary works include a parainetic poem,great skill and energy in overtaking the Bulgars at
ed. A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, Biatvtytd 'AvdhExta, BZ
(1899), 66-70, with later comments by E. Kurtz, "Das paraine- 0 It was Basil Lekapenos who had arranged for Ouranos to
tische Alphabet des Nikephoros Ouranos," BZ 25 (1925), 18; abe sent to Baghdad as a means of ousting a powerful rival vying
poem on the death of Symeon the Metaphrast, ed. S. G. Mer-for influence over Emperor Basil II; see W. G. Brokkaar, "Basil
cati, "Versi di Niceforo Uranos in morte de Simeone Meta- Lecapenus: Byzantium in the Tenth Century," Studia byzantina
fraste," AnalBoll 68 (1950), 126-34; two hagiographical works,et neohellenica neerlandica 8 (1972), 199-234, esp. 224-34.
one ed. F. Halkin, "Un opuscule inconnu de Nic6phore Oura- "See P. Lemerle et al., Actes de Lavra, I (Paris, 1970), 19-21
nos: La Vie de St. Theodore le conscrit," ibid., 80 (1962), 308-and 189-92.
24, the other, a vita of St. Symeon Stylites the Younger, in PG '2Skylitzes, pp. 341.23-342.51; Zonaras, pp. 558.12-559.10
86 (2), cols. 2987-3216 (a reprise of an earlier vita by Arkadios, '3A document from the Athonite monastery tou Vatopedio
bishop of Cyprus); and a corpus of 50 letters, ed. J. Darrouzes,dated 1001, recalls Ouranos' mediation in a quarrel betwee
Epistoliers byzantins du Xe sikcle (Paris, 1960), 217-48. this monastery and tou Philadelphou; since the text reads
6Ioannis Scylitzae Synopsis historiarum, ed. J. Thurn, CFHB 5
nCtlvE4TOg idyLgTQOg 6 X0Q NLXrl60og, T TLVLXa1XtOT ()
(Berlin, 1973), p. 327.30-44. 8OicoJrxOg T-v oXoX6ov, it must refer to the period betwe
7j. H. Forsyth, in his masterful dissertation The Byzantine-Arab996/7 and 999 when Ouranos was Domestic of the Schools. See
Chronicle (938-1034) of Yahya b. Said al-Antaki (University ofM. Goudas, Bitavttax? EyyQa4ca trig v "AOAo L6(g OVTg T
Michigan, 1977), 400-16, gives the most thorough account ofBaTo3uE&ov, 'ET.'ET.Buv.Xn. 3 (1926), 113-15. I. Jordano
these negotiations and the problematic chronology; see also M. has recently published two seals of a Nikephoros magistros a
Canard, "Deux documents arabes sur Bardas Skleros," Actes duDomestic of the Schools, whom he identified as Nikephor
Ve Congres d'tudes byzantines (SBN 5) (Rome, 1930), 55-69. Ouranos, but, as in the case of the seal published by Laure
8V. Laurent published a seal of a Nikephoros &vO16nacog(note 8 above), the absence of a family name on these seals ru
3tnacLxtOog xcat t zt xto atxhLEov, whom he identified as Nike- out a positive identification; see Jordanov, "Molybdobulles
phoros Ouranos, in Corpus des sceaux, II: L'administration centrale Domestiques des Scholes du dernier quart du Xe siecle trouv
(Paris, 1981), no. 219. This identification, tempting as it is, can-dans la Strategie de Preslav," Studies in Byzantine Sigillography
not be verified for lack of a family name on the seal. (1990), 210-11 (where the cursus honorum should be revised
9Ibn Shahram's report has been translated into English by light of the foregoing review). A similar specimen was pu
H. F. Amedroz and D. Margoliouth, The Eclipse of the Abbasidlished by G. Zacos, Byzantine Lead Seals, II (Berne, 1984), n
863.
Caliphate, VI (London, 1921), 23-35.

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THE TAKTIKA OF NIKEPHOROS OURANOS 131

the Spercheios River, searchinginto Armenia


out a incrossing,
1001-2 to forestall
and the Georgian
making an unexpected assault king
on Gurgen's
their advance
camp.into the
Sam-region of Tao and
uel and his son were wounded concluded
and a settlement
escaped with him,"7 but for the
death
only by hiding beneath the slain;
most partsohis great was took
military duties the on the character
slaughter that nearly twenty of local police
years later actions.
BasilIncould
1000-1001 he sup-
pressed
still be awed by the sight of the a revolt of
bones by two
theBedouin
Bulgartribes identified as
dead strewn over the field.14 the Noumeritai and Ataphitai in the Greek
The high point of Ouranos' career was his in-
sources,'8 and during the years 1005-7 he fought
stallation as governor of Antioch by Basil II in De-
a series of engagements against the rebel al-Asfar
cember 999 at the conclusion of the emperor's and his Bedouin allies.'9 After 1007 nothing more
is heard of Ouranos directly-the next known
three-month campaign against the Fatimids in
Syria and Palestine. In conducting this campaign itgovernor of Antioch was appointed in 1011-but
had been the emperor's intention to restore the the renown of his triumph over the Bulgars and
Byzantine position in northern Syria in the wakehis governorship of Antioch persisted well after his
of the defeat and death of the previous governorlifetime. Skylitzes recounts that when Emperor Mi-
of Antioch, Damianos Dalassenos, at the battle of chael VI Stratiotikos (1056-57) appointed his
Apamea in July 998, and to compel the Fatimids tonephew Michael governor of Antioch in 1056, "at
sign a peace treaty which would thus leave him the time of the nomination he gave him the name
free to concentrate on his wars in Bulgaria. WithOuranos as though he traced his lineage back to
the conclusion of a ten-year truce with Caliph al-the Ouranos of old, and bestowed upon him the
Hakim during the year 1001, Basil achieved his title magistros of Antioch, just as the other had
goal to reduce Byzantine military activities in thebeen." 20
east in order to embark on a full-scale offensive
against Bulgaria.'15 For reasons that will become clear below, the
The appointment of Nikephoros Ouranos dove- composition of the Taktika should be dated to the
tailed with Basil's aims to stabilize the eastern fron- years during Ouranos' stay at Antioch. To identify
tier. His career up to that point had shown him and to discuss the section of the Taktika reflecting his
be a court official and soldier of proven loyalty and military experiences in the east, we must begin
competence, well qualified on both counts to su- with Dain's analysis of the contents and sources of
pervise the now secondary front. Although the lit-
the text.21 He identified four main components in
erary sources call him simply the magistros or the
the text, of which the first two were based on Byz-
antine tactical works: chapters 1-55 were a para-
archon of Antioch, an unpublished seal of his (Fogg
Art Museum, no. 1576, edited and illustrated be-
low in the Appendix) proclaims him "master of the'7Forsyth, The Byzantine-Arab Chronicle, 557-59. Ouranos had
participated in Basil's expedition in 1000 to annex the lands of
East" (6 xQat(6v Tg 'AvatoXg), demonstrating
that Ouranos was in effect Basil's plenipotentiary the deceased Georgian sovereign David (who had pledged them
to the Byzantine emperor), as his letter to Leo, anthypatos patri-
in the east. Several episodes from his career at An-
kios and epi tis sakellis, records; see Darrouzes, Epistoliers byzan-
tioch are known,'6 although the exact chronology tins, 226 (no. 19).
is uncertain. He undertook one major expedition'8Skylitzes 345.34-43; W. Felix discusses this revolt in Byzanz
und die Islamische Welt im friiheren 11. Jahrhundert (Vienna, 1981),
51-53.
'4Skylitzes, p. 364.76-78. On the fame Ouranos won as a re- '9Felix, Byzanz, 53-54. A series of letters addressed to Oura-
sult of this victory, see the letter written to him by Leo of Syn- nos by Philetos Synadenos congratulating him on his victorious
ada, ed. M. P. Vinson, The Correspondence of Leo, Metropolitan of campaigns probably refers to these events; see I)arrouzbs, Epis-
Synada and Syncellus, CFHB 23 (Washington, D.C. 1985), 22-23, toliers byzantins, 254-59 (nos. 8-13).
with commentary on 102-3. 20Skylitzes, p. 483.5-7; cf. Zonaras, III, p. 654.10-11. Mi-
15 Forsyth, The Byzantine-Arab Chronicle, 501-15, surveys Basil's chael Psellos' phrase 1i oigQav6oXLog 'AvtL6XELa may be another
military and diplomatic activities in northern Syria between 998 indication that Ouranos' name was linked with the city of Anti-
and 1000 and the considerations behind Ouranos' appointment och well after his death; see the Historia Syntomos, ed. and trans.
as governor of Antioch. The Byzantine-Fatimid contest for W. J. Aerts, CFHB 30 (Berlin, 1990), p. 98.94 (with Aerts' com-
domination in northern Syria has lately been studied by W. ments on p. 165). On Michael "Ouranos," see Laurent, "La
Farag, "The Aleppo Question: A Byzantine-Fatimid Conflict of chronologie," 243. Authentic members of the Ouranos family
Interests in Northern Syria in the Later Tenth Century A.D.," recorded in the 10th-l th centuries are a 10th-century patrikios
BMGS 14 (1990), 44-60. Michael Ouranos, mentioned in the De cerimoniis (p. 668.14),
16The standard work on the governors of Antioch between and an lth-century kritis Symeon Ouranos, of whom an un-
969 and 1084 is by V. Laurent, "La chronologie des gouver- published metrical seal is preserved in the Dumbarton Oaks col-
neurs d'Antioche sous la seconde domination byzantine," MUSJ lection (DO 55.1.3897).
38/10 (1962), 219-54, esp. 235-36 on Ouranos. 21Dain, La Tactique, 39-91.

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132 ERIC McGEER

phrase of the Taktika


re militari,28 a treatiseof
written Leo VI,
at least twenty-five
ters 56-74 by
years a paraphrase
after the Praecepta.29 Consequently Dain's hy-
militaria of Nikephoros II
pothesis that a missing section Phoka
of the Praecepta was
fourth groups
the basis(75-175, 176-
for chapters 63-74 of the Taktika must be
from rejected-the
collections of six chapters preserved in
classical the Mos-
milit
second component of Phokas'
cow codex do represent Ouranos'treatise in its en-
tirety-and so chapters
56-74, is of primary 56-74 in the Taktika
interest her need
It is necessaryto be reexamined.
first of all to co
taken supposition that
Of these nineteen the
chapters, the Pr
last nine (66-74)
formed the basis for
are not linked all
by common of
source chap
or subject with
the precedingidentified
Taktika. He rightly ten and should be grouped insteadth
prising the Praecepta
with chapters 75-175 based as the
on classical so
tacticians.
chapters 56-62;23 he 56-65
This leaves chapters then wen
and the question of
speculate that the succeeding
their sources, context, and purpose.30 ch
which he claimed to
The source have
of chapters found
56-62 has already been
must represent a paraphrase
accounted for. Nikephoros Phokas wrote theof Prae-
cepta militaria
of the Praecepta.24 It as wasa manual forinhis army's
this offensive
b
time colleaguecampaigns
J.-A. de
against Cilicia and Foucaul
northern Syria in
ters 63-74 of the the 960s.Taktika to
Ouranos' version of the text com
written forty
ters of the Praecepta preserved
years later shows differences in style, organization, i
in Moscow (State and minor Historical Mu
details, but for the most part closely ad-
and thus make available the "full" treatise of Ni- heres to its model's prescriptions on battle forma-
kephoros Phokas.25 tions and tactics. Ouranos, however, did record a
noteworthy adjustment in infantry tactics that
Although Dain's hypothesis won initial accept-
ance, the arguments that he advanced in its favor
must have been introduced after Phokas' time;"3
are weak and do not withstand close scrutiny.26
thisItchange bears witness to Ouranos' intention to
keep his text abreast of recent developments
can be shown, for instance, that chapters 66-74
where necessary. In turn, his adherence to his
are in fact largely derived from the classical tacti-
predecessor's
cian Onasander,27 thus making it unnecessary to other tactical precepts must mean
that
postulate a lost continuation of the Praecepta as thethey were still deemed effective and did not
source for these chapters. The telling proof require modification for the time being.
The succeeding chapters 63-65 take up a va-
against Dain's reconstruction, however, lies in Mi-
haescu's demonstration that part of chapter 64 riety
of of topics. Chapter 63 outlines the methods
forDe
the Taktika is closely based on chapter 20 of the conducting raids into enemy territory, the type
of warfare reminiscent of the guerilla tactics out-

22Ed. Ju. A. Kulakovsky, "Strategika imperatora Nikifora," 28H.in MihAescu, "Pour une nouvelle edition du trait6 Praecepta
militaria
Zapiski imperatorskoi akademii nauk 8, 9 (St. Petersburg, 1908), 1- du Xe siecle," RSBS 2 (1982), 318-21.
21. 29Ed. G. T. Dennis, Three Byzantine Military Treatises, CFHB 25
23Ibid., 47-49. (Washington, D.C., 1985), 241-335. The date of the treatise
24Ibid., 49-51. cannot be ascertained exactly, but references in the treatise
25J.-A. de Foucault, "Douze chapitres inedits de la Tactique(1.100,
de 161) to the tagma of the Athanatoi suggest a terminus
Nic6phore Ouranos," TM 5 (1973), 281-311; all referencespost to quem of 970 when this corps was founded by John Tzim-
the Greek text of chapters 63-65 of the Taktika are from this iskes: cf. N. Oikonomides, Les listes de prgsdance byzantines (Paris,
edition. 1972), 332-33. It was most likely composed during the 990s
26He assumed, for example, that the Praecepta ended ex when Basil II resumed the war against Bulgaria after with-
abrupto because of an accident to the manuscript, which in fact standing the rebellions of Bardas Skleros and Bardas Phokas
he had never seen; the manuscript is not damaged nor is there (986-989). Ouranos' use of chapter 20 of the treatise in the
any reason to suspect that the concluding passage of the Prae- Taktika 64.4-8 (see previous note) marks a terminus ante quem
cepta is mutilated in any way. Dain's studies of the classical and of 999-1007, the period to which Ouranos' composition of the
Byzantine tacticians continue to be invaluable contributions to Taktika should be assigned.
this field, but scholars should be attentive to the many un- So I have edited these chapters for publication with a new edi-
founded assumptions and errors in his work. To be fair, how- tion of the Praecepta militaria; for the time being it is necessary
ever, it should be noted that his survey of the military corpus to consult chapters 56-62 in Monacensis gr. 452 (14th century)
was left unrevised at his death. and 63-65 in de Foucault's edition (cited above, note 25). Note
27With the exception of Taktika 67, which is drawn from chap- that the titles of chapters 59 through 64 have not been pre-
ter 45.32 of the Sylloge tacticorum (ca. 950, ed. A. Dain [Paris, served.
1938]), chapters 66-74 derive (directly or indirectly) from On- 31Discussed in my article "Cavalry versus Infantry: The Byz-
asander's treatise on generalship (1st century A.D.). antine Response," REB 46 (1988), 144-45.

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THE TAKTIKA OF NIKEPHOROS OURANOS 133

lined by Phokas in the De velitatione.32 Now,


one major siege how-
while governor of Antioch,34 and
ever, the situation is completelyofthe opposite, for above, chapter 65 most
all the chapters surveyed
instead of defending their own territory against
clearly reveals the distillation of his own experi-
enemy raiders, the Byzantines areencemaking forays
and observations in his writings on contem-
to plunder and devastate Muslimporary
regions, presum-
warfare. This chapter is particularly fasci-
ably as preventive or punitive strikes
nating not against the
only for the siege tactics he prescribes
unruly neighboring populations butwhoalso continued
for the glimpsestohe offers into the conduct
harass the Byzantines after peace had
of both sidesbeen made
throughout the campaign. He pre-
dicts that the
with the Fatimids. Ouranos' protracted blockaded Muslims will broadcast
campaigns
against al-Asfar's Bedouin followers between
their plight 1005 in the mosques of their
to the faithful
and 1007 probably involved this towns
type of hit-and-
(xai 'rliVtOOVLVo ELg dl g adoylcta Q6bg toig
run warfare.
ta'raI3Pdbag) and appeal to their co-religionists in
Chapter 64 discusses two situations: first, howSyria for aid;35 he then issues a warning that the
the army should break camp and move out either local Christian population may be among the sup-
to engage a waiting enemy or to start on the day'spliers: "our people of low station and high, in their
march with the enemy in the vicinity, and second,love of profit, provide them not only with great
how it should fight its way through a defile occu-quantities of grain and flocks but also with all num-
pied by the enemy. The first situation is not dis- ber and manner of foodstuffs in their posses-
cussed in other manuals, and so the first part of sion." 36 The current political and demographic sit-
the chapter (64.1-4) represents Ouranos' own ac-uation is mirrored in his advice to threaten all
count of current tactical prescriptions for armies Magaritai, Armenians, and Syrians inside the be-
faced with this problem; the second part (64.5-8), sieged fortress with death unless they cross over to
as noted above, is taken directly from chapter 20 the Byzantines, a passage bearing witness to the
of the De re militari.33
varying allegiances of the peoples displaced or re-
located in the wake of the Byzantine conquests in
Chapter with
concerned 65, entitled 1IQ'tinxaoGQooXto.tov,
siege tactics Syria, and reviewsisCilicia and northern Syria.37 It is also apparent that
the necessary steps in a siege campaign from the the Byzantines continued their policy of devastat-
outset to the end. The commander must begin by ing and depopulating Muslim regions as a means
devastating the region surrounding the intended of eliminating the enemy's capacity and will to re-
objective, and ensuring that the routes into Syria sist their authority.
are tightly surveyed and blockaded to cut the de- Taken together, the tactics and procedures out-
fenders off from all supplies of food and other ne-lined in chapters 63-65 portray the type of local
cessities. Once arrived before the enemy fortress,warfare and conditions prevailing in the east at the
the army must prepare a siege camp; offers of outset of the eleventh century, at a time when the
mercy to the defenders should then be extended, Byzantines had committed their military strength
which, if refused, should be followed by threats ofto the subjugation of Bulgaria. I would argue that
reprisals against those deciding to hold out. Our- Ouranos appended these three chapters to his
anos goes on to outline the methods he deems bestslightly modified version of the Praecepta to form a
for launching an assault on the walls, and advises treatise akin to a Praecepta militaria continuata, so to
the commander, if the defenders' position is hope-speak, in which he sought to bring Phokas' treatise
on battle tactics up to date and to add sections
less, either to take the fortress by force or to grant
the defenders their lives in exchange for their ca-treating the local guerilla, campaign, and siege op-
pitulation, after which their persons and goodserations that the Byzantine armies conducted not
would be divided among the Byzantine besie-
gers-harsh terms meant to have an intimidating
effect in any subsequent campaigns against other 34During the revolt of al-Asfar; see Felix, Byzanz, 53.
5 Taktika 65.4-7; note Ouranos' use of aTa3dbag to refer to
Syrian strongholds. the Muslim faithful, obviously an Arabic term that he learned
Ouranos is known to have undertaken at least at Antioch. See de Foucault's comments in "Douze chapitres"
(above, note 25), 296, note 28.
36Taktika 65.7.
7 Taktika 65.13; on the movement of populations in the east
20On these tactics, see the edition and study of the treatise by in the later 10th century, see G. Dagron, "Minorites ethniques
G. Dagron, Le traiti sur la guerilla (De velitatione) de l'empereuret religieuses dans l'orient byzantin a la fin du Xe et au XIe si&-
Niciphore Phocas (963-969) (Paris, 1986). cle: L'immigration syrienne," TM 6 (1976), 177-216, esp. 177-
"33De re militari 20.86-141 (ed. Dennis). 86, where this passage from the Taktika is cited and discussed.

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134 ERIC McGEER

to conquer new territories


TcodTTa is also found in an anonymous treatise on in t
trol those wonsiegeover
warfare known as thethe preced
De obsidione toleranda,
which dates from
writing chapters the first half of the tenth
56-65 of cen- the
merged tactical
tury.38 precepts
In this treatise the defendersdraw of a town
rary treatises with others
about to be besieged are advised to dig afrom
series of
into a handbook trenchesdetailing
before the walls, and then "in the
addition to c
and operationsthese of the
measures Byzantin
they should prepare tzipata outside
These ten chapters form
the trenches and a comp
keep their whereabouts clear to
themselves, and as such deserve to be included our men, but unknown to the enemy." 39The edi-
among the other military handbooks written by ac- tors of both treatises were perplexed by this
tive soldiers during the later tenth century, the De word-no less so after consulting Du Cange who
velitatione, the Praecepta militaria, and the De re mil- lists zT(iCa from the De obsidione and refers the
itari.
reader to the homophonic T?plta-and declared
that they were at a loss to explain the term since
Ouranos' pragmatic, firsthand approach makes none of the meanings proposed (membrana, vena,
chapter 65 of the Taktika an invaluable source for musculus, pelliculus, all conforming with the mod-
the study of siege tactics, a topic that has received ern Greek TO(cna, "membrane," "skin," "crust") sat-
little attention to date despite the considerable role isfied the context. But at a second glance it appears
siege operations played in the Byzantine cam- that they overlooked a reference that would have
paigns of conquest during the late tenth and early resolved the quandary, for besides these primary
eleventh centuries. In the east the Byzantines me- meanings Du Cange cites a gloss (from unspecified
thodically isolated and seized key centers during botanical manuscripts) suited perfectly to the con-
their advance into Mesopotamia, Cilicia, and text: xaxtL66vag, Tg Tzctag, that is, equating
northern Syria, a process culminating in the cap- TrtCa with "cactus barb."
ture of Antioch in 969; in the west Basil II effec- It is obvious, then, that in the De obsidione, tzipata
tively throttled the Bulgars' resistance by targeting must refer to sharp spikes planted in the ground
crucial strongholds (Vidin, Vodena, Skoplje) in his to pierce the feet of enemy soldiers or horses un-
yearly expeditions. A comprehensive survey of wary-and unfortunate-enough to tread upon
Byzantine siege tactics and weapons is not possible them. The phrase Tztoxtha [ tLEd T~1o3tyv in the
at the present time, however, since most of the Taktika, however, implies that these spikes were af-
Byzantine poliorcetic treatises still lack modern fixed to some sort of stand, and to determine ex-
editions, translations, and commentaries. As a re- actly what is meant, it is helpful to refer to the Tak-
sult, it seems more advisable here to concentrate tika of Leo VI.40 In book 11.26 Leo describes a
on two technical terms used by Ouranos which will weapon invented by his general Nikephoros Pho
show Byzantine siege operations at their most kas (the grandfather of Emperor Nikephoros I
practical. Phokas) during one of his campaigns in Bulgaria:
In the Taktika 65.11, Ouranos issues instructions
qv 8 &otoLov. xav6vta biio O 146LE Q X(V kapy ~thLV
on the defenses necessary for the siege camp. The ava TQLWv n ov o a0UTt 3LOa T' 6XCycp xktov hap8agaCa
army camped in a square, keeping the infantry ovYLLtE , TEQOV 6U Xav6vtLOv 6oOiCg, XOv cOTLOaitag
along the perimeter to defend the cavalry and bag- 7tVTE f' XI t E, TdvLY CiEVtc3XOU V T f O(TU[tLCEL TOt 68-

gage train within, and the encampment was to be XEXCOU 3tLOEeSg TQLOCXtLOV c'OlOYEV, rTd4LEvov
LtoXvQ(g L 6T g Tfl kt' a65XXi0v TOv OXEhXOV
protected by a trench, as well as other obstacles
placed outside the trench: ovyxQOTcrOeg. neL & T 6 aXQOV ToU olov t1 evLWXOU
L(dgQLtov [tya xat 68bQv vtEpaOkEV 3QOX37TOV TOU
'00(?ECLt 6U yvEGOMO XaLtt oE i000Ev TO W EV Oo6t, TQLOXEsXOU, 0 g E'i5lTa, LJTLOa4tadg 60 'o Lt XQ(
...ov. ...
xact i~E8v Tflg oo150g 3dktLV 'vIt CiETWVTat TQLf36tLa
xoi T o?axoxLa iETa T L7dlZ V, av &cQO Xatt f3OTdAf It went like this. Taking two wooden sticks of eq
arTd~ 6 Xa6g. length, roughly three spithamai [70 cm] or a li
more, he assembled a lambda-shaped frame (A), an
There must be a trench to the outside of the infantry-
men, and then on the outside of the trench, caltrops
S8Anonymus de obsidione toleranda, ed. H. van den Berg
and triskelia with tzipata must be thrown out, if the host den, 1947) (hereafter De obsid.).
happens to be carrying any. S9De obsid., p. 53.6-7.
40Ed. R. Vairi, Leonis imperatoris Tactica, two vols. (Budap
The entire phrase Ttox~thL petr TUtzdTWy is a 1917-22) (to 14.38). The only complete text is found in PG
cols. 671-1094.
hapax, occurring only in the Taktika, but the word

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THE TAKTIKA OF NIKEPHOROS OURANOS 135

by placing another stick, with You


a length of five
must issue instructions or army
to the entire six to pre-
pare theat
spithamai [1.2-1.4 m], like a spear implements used in siege warfare,
the junction of laisai
made either from
the two-legged frame he constructed a vine stalks or from
tripod, which branches of wil-
stood firm because of the legs low
being locked
or mulberry together.
trees. These must be woven together
and in great
To the end of the spear, as it were, number. They [the
he fastened laisai] should be like
a large,
a house in shape;
solid point portruding two spithamai, or the upper section,
slightly morethat is, the roof,
[47 cm + ], from the tripod, as described.
must be quite sharply... peaked. They should have two
doorways, and each laisa must have room enough for
fifteen to twenty
Leo goes on to say that Nikephoros usedmen. Hanging
to place over the opening in
front it should have a piece made from the same
these easily improvised and transportable weapons
branches acting as a screen to receive projectiles shot
around his encampments tofrom
provide a barricade
the wall and protect the men inside. .... The lai-
against enemy cavalry attacks, especially
sai must if there
not be heavy, impossible to lift, but should be
had not been sufficient time rather
to diglight, soamuch
trench.
so that it is The
possible to lift and
carry them up to the walls, then easily withdraw them
TQLtoxkta ET&E TZdTCrTv oncethat Ouranos
again.... Have the menrecom-
fix the laisai near the
mends be placed outside the camp trench will thus
wall at a distance of five to ten orguiai [roughly 10-20
have been like the tripods (TQLtoxkLa) described
m], and they should bombard the enemy,bysome with
Leo, with the longer stick, capped by
arrows, some withaslings;
long othersblade
using the catapults
must bombard both the walls and the enemy with
or point (called a ?LqdQLov by Leo, T7cna by Our-
stones,
anos), attached to an inverted while men with sledgehammers
V-shaped frame and atbattering
rams must break apart the walls.
an angle calculated to impale an oncoming at-
tacker or his horse. These weapons, asofwell
A clear picture asand
the design cal-
use of the laisai
trops and other traps, would emerges
have from been Ouranos' account.for
difficult They were
an enemy to see at night; steeply
duringpointed, the
hut-likeday
shelters they
which, since they
would have been effective in slowing
were put togetherdown
from vines attack-
and branches, could
ers who would have had to pick their
be hastily way
constructed through
in situ by the besiegers. Al-
these visible but dispersed obstacles.
though somewhatThe treatises
makeshift, these shelters offered
show that such sinister contraptions were
protection to men taking routinely
rest (and presumably the
set out around temporary wounded),
encampments orforce
since the besiegers' siege
was to be di-
camps to reinforce, or on occasion tounits
vided into three replace,
working in the
successive shifts
usual defenses consisting of a trench
to maintain and assault
an uninterrupted shield throughout
palisade, and that they werethepart
day. Andof the
as the standard
soldiers involved in the siege
Byzantine repertoire during kept the tenth
up a constant and
barrage elev-
against the enemy de-
enth centuries.
fenders on the parapet, men in the role of sappers
The second term, khaoa, appears in Ouranos'
sought out a suitable place to tunnel beneath the
discussion of the steps to be taken in preparing for foundations of the fortress wall and thereby col-
an assault on the enemy fortress (65.14-17): lapse an entire section.41 Ouranos does not say so,
but it seems likely that sappers could also have be-
'OECXELg & 8U&aTdar OMaOeaL OX(O T OTQaT( rTOO noloaL
gun their tunnels in the shelter of the laisai closest
T Q6;Jg xaoTQOn6X~tLOV [lXav1l?LaTa, ha(oag E'TE a t 6
to the walls.
xh?LtdTv a(7GEXCWOV, EATE an6 Pf3EQyC(V Wtaga, 7 51an
tvUQLX(ov. 6E(XkovotL yk d yevYoOat 7kEXEX xat 3nokkd. Ouranos' description of the laisai and their use
invites comparison with other known uses of the
Tb 6U oX~X a aTW iva sLoW NQOnELXCg otxOU. EaTU 6&
Tb 6 Mdvo iQog oLov z6 o tyog aeuTg xatt 68TEQov.term, since khaoa (or the homophonic Xkoa) is also
WXTraOav & 6b bnOo OUQC8ov, xat iva Xwg O lia Ex-
doTl haloa a n aV8QCGV ExatVTE f xa1t aLXO OLV. Va found in several texts and treatises on siege war-
fare from the tenth and eleventh centuries. The
&" X' xat Eidg T ETqmQooOEv oT6ita 5toXQExIditEVoV bX
origin of the word may be explained first. It ap-
TV al'Tv P3EQyOcV v (dg 3?hXov Qbg T6 6UoXEOaLt 6d Q'LT-
6Aievoa x "toU TEiXovg xat uidTetelv xat CoTig o- pears to have entered Byzantine Greek about the
oev. .... p~t yvow t 6&t at aCoatL (agEltaL 7Qbg bbeginning
6 of the tenth century, as implied by an
t 6?nvoo0oaLt 3aodSEoeat, X& X k Aa@Q6zegaLt 6oov anecdote
6' recorded in chapter 51 of the De admin-
aotLv v8EX6~iEvov Pokodrdo0tat auTtag xat ~gQEOaL
7EQ65 T;L TcsXfl xat 3TdXLv E1'?6Xw; 7EQ6 T;L i..o.. .... va
6& fgoOt xat Trag ha0oag 6g O&6 Qybulv 7cwve q xat 41 Taktika 65.19-21; the sappers burrowed beneath the foun-
&4xa ?yyig ToU TegCoug, xat ot CLpy bLdl togela;, o0 &6
dations and placed wooden supports under the stones to keep
6t&d oevof36Xoy tva xgoto3ot Toig tX0Qo1g, &aoL t 6 the wall from falling upon them; when they had finished dig-
68d TO"v Iiayyaytvx6v xat a& TElfl xat Toog BxOQog tiv ging under the foundations, they set dry wood in the cavity and
xQo0oWL CpedE L0oagcoYV, aXoL IET~& ~ 6xvY xat ignited it, thereby burning the support beams and collapsing
osLcTrWy tva oQUoooJL 1h Telyxl. the section of the wall.

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136 ERIC McGEER

istrando ready very old-for


imperio. During their sieges the Romans
the had
912), the built huts of vines and branches
Byzantine navy called vinea which
atte
force of Turks continued to be used in theHungaria
(i.e., medieval west44-but
vice) across the a widespread
river use of such (unnam
shelters in Byzantine
Danube) duringsiege warfareais first
campaign
attested in the tenth century. a
tzar Symeon That (893-927),
such plaited screens had come to only be called
blocked :42 laisai early in the tenth century is acknowledged in
a tenth-century poliorcetic treatise attributed to
OTog ovy 6 vXugoCEiv, 6 &0QXw
Hero of Byzantium.45 Although for the most part
TYV to0 3xCw~ltou LQe6g bT6 3toTa
a compilation of classical manuals on siege weap-
IXst b kL T6 Ciitov Toig Toi?xo
oat, ?3LnOflo(ev ons and Xotag,
tactics, the treatise i'ot Lnox
is interspersed with
oteeFRt(ovug, dort
current material.C Att one 86vaofatL
point the author refers to
n3EQav, 6t' fly"the"tnvotLav
recently devised laisai, wovenxat lxw
together and ex-
ngr6Tov 3neFQaOt. 'O o6v
tremely light" (xat TTv viYv EX thoxflg wvEU- noQ
BagQxadg t~ET xct &,Wv &6o th0
vot Td oXOUTdLta xa cnaecOa ao QgeOELGtov ~laIQdtWcv haoA ).46 Elsewhere he
OWmaXk OQ 6itaCltx 3X6q80ljOavT
recommends the laisai for their lightness and swift
Ttxopav T ag xassembly
oag, foT
(again, woven from xoL Toig
vines or freshly cut
Tbv n6pov Tolg ToiOgxoug.
branches), but points out that they should not be
Jenkins used if the approach
translated the to the enemy
text fortress as
is
Now this steeply
Symeon, inclined since
prince they cannot withstand
of heavy
Bulg
the navy had objects (presumably logs
arrived inand boulders
the rolledriv
down
was about to carry over
against them); instead, the
they were Tur
most effective on
structed mantlets or
level terrain wicker
and could be used to supply fencover
tough, so that the Turks might
when the besiegers attempted to fill in the trenches
over, and by this device the Tu
vented from blocking access to the fortifications.47
crossing. So the These afex-
kalas and two cerpts
other on the laisai are attached to thetook
sailors prescrip-
swords, and tions, standard in down
leaping classical poliorceticfrom
treatises, de-
brave and powerful rush,
tailing different types of "tortoises"cut
(XXS6vaL) dor
wicker fencing and
wooden opened
sheds (sometimes theas p
wheeled) constructed
The passage protection for soldiers
implies against enemy
that projectiles asi
lesa
Slavic derivation, they advancedand up to the walls.
in From fact
the context it t
medieval Bulgarianwould appear that the compiler
and saw the Byzantine
oth
in the meaning laisai, hut-like
of shelters "dam"
fashioned from vines oror wil-
cally that low and mulberry branches,from
fashioned as a simpler version of
in
branches, as the ancient "tortoises."
befits the They would have been em-
contex
able to assume that as a result of this and other ployed more commonly because they offered the
encounters the Byzantines emulated the technique advantages of simple, quick assembly from mate-
and applied the Slavic name to their own barri- rials readily available, and of affording sufficient
cades or defenses spliced together from vines and protection to the soldiers within while remaining
branches. The technique itself, however, waslight al- enough to be easily transported.
Other poliorcetic texts show that laisai might
42Constantine Porphyrogenitus de administrando imperio, ed. Gy.
Moravcsik, trans. R. J. H. Jenkins, CFHB 1 (Washington, D.C.
1967), pp. 250.112-252.120. It is not clear from the passage 44Cf. Ph. Contamine, La guerre au moyen age (Paris, 1980),
208-14. The 6th-century historian Agathias describes how Byz-
whether the Bulgars used the laisai as a dam to block traffic
antine
along the river or as a barricade along the shore to prevent the soldiers used transportable "wicker roofs" (a device he
Byzantines from crossing the river. Leo VI appears to refercalls
toa anCak(v) to shelter them as they approached the walls
the same episode in his Taktika (18.42) where he recalls anduring
ex- the siege of Archaeopolis in 552; see Agathiae Myrinaei
pedition against the Bulgars in which the Byzantine navyhistoriarum
fer- libri quinque, ed. R. Keydell, CFHB 2 (Berlin, 1967),
ried a force of Hungarians (TofQxot) along the Danube bk. 3.5.9-11, and J. D. Frendo's translation of the passage in
("IorQog), an event dated to the year 895. Agathias. The Histories, CFHB 2a (New York-Berlin, 1975), 73.
43M. A. Triandaphyllides, Die Lehnwiirter der mittelgriechischen45 Ed. C. Wescher, Poliorcdtique des grecs. Traitis thgoriques-ri~cits
historiques
Vulgairliteratur (Strassburg, 1909), 150. See the definitions of the (Paris, 1867), 197-279; on the poliorcetic text under
word in Slavic languages (with references) listed by M. Vasmer,the name Hero of Byzantium, see A. Dain, La tradition du texte
Russisches etymologisches Wibrterbuch, II (Heidelberg, 1953), d'Hdron
33- de Byzance (Paris, 1933).
46 Hero of Byzantium, ed. Wescher, p. 199.13-14.
34, the Bulgarski etimologichen rechnik, III (Sofia, 1986), s.v., and
the Slovar' russkogo iazyka XI-XVII vv (Moscow, 1981), VIII, 47Ibid.,
211. pp. 207.17-23 and 209.6.7.

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THE TAKTIKA OF NIKEPHOROS OURANOS 137

also be used by the garrison of a besieged


tips, fortress.
so that, whenever it is necessary to cast them
The De obsidione, for instance, down,
advises the
they will defend-
cause great slaughter and break apar
not only shields but also the laisai.
ers of a town awaiting attack "to gather vines and
willow or mulberry branches for the construction
An episode portraying the contest between at-
of laisai necessary to protect the men
tackers usingattending
laisai as covertofor their assault on t
the siege machines," that is to say, for
walls andthe construc-
defenders attempting to destroy the
tion of woven screens to shieldwith
men on and
stones thesharpened
parapetbeams is recorded b
from projectiles as they operated stone- or arrow-
the chronicler Skylitzes. About the year 1050
shooting weapons against the enemy.48 An anony-
Turkish force laid siege to Manzikert and kept t
mous compendium of instructions on how
town under to resist
constant attack for thirty days, usi
sieges, compiled during the tenth
"various types of likewise
century, siege machines and all kinds
recommends laisai as protection against
devices," only to beenemy
held off by the well-stocked
projectiles,49 and the eleventh-century
garrison underKekaume-
the capable leadership of the patr
nos directs the commander expecting a siege
kios Basil Apokapes. to
Despairing of success, th
"weave laisai" (nktXov ktoag), Turkish
presumably for
sultan was on the
the verge of abandonin
same purpose.50 the siege and going home when the commander
According to contemporary thetreatises, laisai, a man named Alkan,
Chorasmian contingent,
functioning as protective screens or huts fashioned
intervened:52
from vines or branches for attackers and defend-
... he requested that [the sultan] remain one day
ers alike, were standard devices in Byzantine siegemore and entrust the attack on the city to him. Pleased
warfare during the tenth and eleventh centuries. at the request, he delayed the return home. And so
At the same time, however, it is interesting to noteearly in the morning Alkan gathered his entire host
that defenders did have countermeasures against with him, and stationed the sultan as a spectator on a
besiegers employing laisai as shelters. The De obsi-hill by the eastern gate along with the most distin-
guished of the Turks. Taking the siege machines, he
dione gives these instructions:5' headed off toward the aforementioned gate, for at
'AoQo(ELty 6U xat nQoanxoTl(Ooat Lv TOLg ntQo[taXiLot that point the city walls appeared to be lower and
weaker, while the ground had a rise that was advan-
kXlo0vg tkavag, xact LLtx0oog xat PaLQEg, xat 68oxobgtageous in a siege, since it allowed those inside the wall
xat oTql[ovdQLta naxta xat nookkd 689 iva xat~ Tg
to be bombarded from above by those outside. Divid-
&xQag 6 Wa, iv' 6xn6tav xaTagQQLOf1lvat &81ELEV,,
ing his force into two parts, he placed one on the hill
(6vov EQydCwvTaLt Tkeloov, 6taqqryvf6'oVoLv 6U o
ii6vov Tdg &o~'l6ag, &XUk xat tg khaoag. and bade them maintain a steady barrage of arrows,
while he himself took tents woven together from
Gather and set out beforehand blackened stones
withes, covered on top with cowhides and with wheels
along the battlements, both small and heavy, as well as the bases of the supporting posts (they call
beneath
poles and many thick beams of oak sharpened at the
such devices lesai), and filled them with men carrying
pitchforks, shovels, and other agricultural tools. He
48De obsid., p. 50.5-7: &OQDOClELV 6 xat X taTCal6acg xct gf3Qya intended to push the tents forward little by little and
LTELVg ? VQQCVa7g LQ6g nlOCvlCLV XaLOCOV TCV 6ELXOVUCOV o xt-
join them to the walls, and thus calmly and confidently
nELv toIFg v ta[g lXavalg Ejo(rrnCag. A passage in the De re
militari (27.7:MJEtoQO61 L XOaL TE) likewise refers to woven
go about undermining the foundations, believing as
he did that no one would be able to raise his head
screens set around catapults and other siege weapons to protect
the operators. above the wall because of the mass of projectiles. He
49Ed. A. Dain, "Memorandum inedit sur la d6fense des imagined that in this way the city would be taken. As
places," REG 53 (1940), 124-27. Construction and use of laisai he beheld these activities from the wall, Apokapes
as a defense against enemy projectiles are recommended in the gave orders for the soldiers on the walls to remain still
sixth precept in the list of instructions, although Dain seems to and for no one to poke his head up, only to have fist-
have identified the term with the classical katooiLov: xat Xafoodg sized rocks at the ready as well as bows and other
lyvoEIvY OxTE XO)k1EY LT T& & Tv noXltCUOv Otkl, rendered "en missile-shooting weapons, to await the signal from
ayant pris la precaution de tendre des peaux pour arreter les
traits de l'adversaire." him (this was "Christ, give thy aid"), and to get to work
50Ed. G. G. Litavrin, Sovety i rasskazy Kekavmena (Moscow, once it had been given. He also had with him huge
1972), p. 178.15, with comments on p. 442 (note 468). He trans- beams, sharpened at one end. This was how he made
lates XtOaL by kanaty, "cables" or "ropes" suspended from the his preparations; Alkan, on the other hand, pushed
walls as a cushion against enemy battering rams, but Kekau- ahead a little at a time and set the lesai against the wall
menos was probably referring to plaited screens similar to those while the Turks on the outside launched forth a hail
mentioned in the De obsidione.
of arrows that seemingly eliminated the men inside
51De obsid., pp. 56.17-57.3; to explain the curious term k0ovug the wall. When the tents were already close by and
tACLavag, van den Berg refers the reader to a passage in Jose-
phus'Jewish War (5.6.3) which describes how the Romans black-
ened (tEXaCtVELy) the stones fired by their catapults to make it 52Skylitzes, pp. 462.64-464.8. This episode is unfortunately
harder for the enemy to see and avoid them. not depicted in the Madrid Skylitzes.

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138 ERIC McGEER

their selves by
withdrawal Chorasmian allies of the Turks
appeared imposswho had
Apokapes' signal,
surely seenthe men
these devices deplo
in campaigns against the
hurled the beams down upon the t
Byzantines along the eastern frontiers.
let fly with bows and stones. Ther
ing Alkan, pierced through the ro
was knocked over by their weig
overturned. When The primary
it aim was of this paper has been to estab-
overturn
lish chapters
came exposed and were 56-65 of the Taktika of Nikephoros
bombarde
Ouranos as an important
by stones and archery, with source forno Byzantine
on
off. All the others
warfare in the fell
east, writtendead on
by a commander th
active
conspicuous because of the bright
in that region during the first decade of the elev-
was taken prisoner. Two virtuous
enth century. Since the discussion has centered on
ward from the city gates, and seiz
the issue of the conflict between tradition and re-
dragged him inside the citadel. Ba
ality in
off his head and the tactical treatises, it would
displayed itbe apton
to con- a
whereupon the clude
sultan, stricken
by citing Ouranos' remarks on the utility of w
the siege and went home....
the methods he recommends, as opposed to those
outlined this
In many details in the classicalepisode
treatises on siege opera-cl
tions (Taktika
to the directions 65.22, 25):
issued in the t
the use of the laisai and the m
The men of old, in their pursuit of siege warfare, con-
them. The ill-fated Alkan pro
structed many devices such as battering rams, wooden
wheeled laisai towers,
to approach an
scaling ladders with various features, tortoises,
walls in a manner consistent
and all kinds of other things which our generation can w
by Ouranos, while Apokapes
hardly imagine. It has, however, tried all these devices a
and found that out of all of them, the most effective
ered stones and heavy, sharpen
way, one the enemy cannot match, is undermining the
them once they had
foundations, been
all the more pushe
so if one does this with care-
Here it is worth recalling that
ful scrutiny and method, and has the accompanying i
nos advised fixing
and extremely the laisai
helpful protection 10-
of the laisai....
and then Many and variedsappers
sending are the means which the men of old
out
foundations. In contrived
light for conductingofsiege warfare,
the but I have
forset
down only the methods that our generation currently
seems to have been a precaution
employs. The more extraordinary devices of the an-
the laisai out of
cients I have passed over, and of
range stone
let those eager to learn
down from the them parapet,
study the taktika and find out all for
about them. it
ans' advancing their laisai to the
Ouranos'
the belief that thewords echo comments in a similar vein
defenders
made by the authors of the De velitatione
that enabled Apokapes' men and De re
t
devastatingly. militari,
Ouranos who restrict their own discussions of siege
appears
possible ploy byoperationstheto the practicable
defenders methods currently in
use and likewise refer the interested reader to the
setting down his instructions f
more recondite
sieges, a sign that ancient treatises his
from on siege equip-
exp
miliar with the antidote which the defenders of ament and tactics.53 These remarks do not mean
that
fortress were likely to employ against these shel- Ouranos and his fellow soldier-authors con-
ters. sidered the ancient treatises valueless-indeed,
Beyond confirming and elucidating the precepts these texts were evidently read as potentially use-
ful sources of information and ideas well worth
on siege warfare in the treatises, however, Sky-
knowing as part of a good soldier's background-
litzes' narrative is interesting testimony to the con-
stant emulation and refinement of enemy weapons but instead that when they came to the discussion
and tactics so characteristic of the Byzantines and of siege operations, or other types of warfare in
their foes. In this case plaited laisai, first used their
by own day, these Byzantine tacticians chose to
the Bulgarians as barricades against the Byzan- instruct the reader not by what they had read, but
tines, were subsequently adopted by the Byzan- by what they had used or seen themselves.
tines for use as protective screens and huts by at-
tackers and defenders alike in sieges, and as such "5Cf. De velitatione 21.12-17 (ed. Dennis in Three Byzantine
ended up being used against the Byzantines them- Military Treatises, 137-239) and De re militari, 27.3-13.

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THE TAKTIKA OF NIKEPHOROS OURANOS 139

APPENDIX

The seal proclaiming Nikephoros Ouranos


"master of the East" is one of two unpublished
seals bearing his name in the Dumbarton Oaks col-
lection. Both are edited here; the illustrations are
enlarged at a scale of 1.5 to 1.

(1) Fogg 1576-Diameter: 28 mm. Weight: 9.70 g.


Cracked along the channel (obverse) and corroded
along the circumference. Effaced on the top line
and along the left side of the reverse.
Obverse: Bust of the Virgin, flanked by the
inscription: MP-..: M(Ai'q)Q [0(eo)e]. The re-
mains of a circular inscription, beginning at seven
o'clock, are visible in the lower left and upper right
quarters: +eKSe.....Tt...... Border of dots.
Reverse: An inscription of six lines and a decora-
tion below. Border of dots.

.....I.P,MAfrICI.,TUKPAI..NTITHCI..ATOAHCI
.00UVNUI-m-

0(eor6)xe p[oJ0esL] 'c' [ax0 botky NLx 06]Q(p,)


iayoi[(]Q(a) (v xa[@o9]vTL Tqg ['Av]aroXg [T]C
O,6(Qa)vC9

b IL

~TL~I I ,.

4 ""
? 1 r po

It is worth notin
normally shorten
whereas in this c
the name Ourano
ov-og (for otQav
termination in the dative case.

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140 ERIC McGEER

(2) Fogg 1509-Diameter: 31 mm


Weight: 13.60 g.
Corroded on the obverse and cra
left quarter on the reverse.
Obverse: Bust of the Virgin oran
Christ before her. On either
tion: MFP--v: M(rMl)Q O(Eo)i,. Bo
Reverse: An inscription of six lin

+eI6"eRolHe6ITU ICU4OVAUI1
TUOVPAI-NU-

O(Eot6)XE I30oeAL T oP bo 0
Okpavq

'...

.-. ,
ii
5.'
t;?-t I.q. ~
'.. ."~~j~;? .F
,,.

The absence of a title rules out certain identifica- name (who would have to be a grandfather or
tion, but it is very probable that this is a personal
grandson, in keeping with the Byzantine custom)
seal issued by our Nikephoros Ouranos sometime
could have issued the seal. It is possible that the
seal could be that of a contemporary Nikephoros
in the last decade of the tenth century or the first
decade of the eleventh. Such a dating is secure onOuranos who belonged to a collateral branch of
grounds of epigraphy, supported by the close re-the family, but the rare mentions of the name Our-
semblance in lettering between this specimen and anos in seals and documents of the tenth and
a seal of Patriarch Sergios II struck between 1001eleventh centuries do not suggest that such a
branch existed.
and 1019 (N. Oikonomides, A Collection of Dated
Byzantine Lead Seals [Washington, D.C., 1986], no.
74). This dating is also consistent with Ouranos' Universit6 de Montr6al
estimated lifetime (ca. 950-1010), making it un- and Dumbarton Oaks
likely that an ancestor or descendant of the same

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