The Decline of the Opsikian Domesticates and the Rise of the Domesticate of the Scholae

The Decline of the Opsikian Domesticates and the Rise of the Domesticate of the Scholae



Introduction: In this brief note I intend to put forward the hypothesis that the fate during the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ ot the Opsikian army – ‘guarded by God’ – divided impressions in the mind of subsequent generations, but also initiated a number of crucial changes that were to regenerate Byzantine military institutions as early as the second half of the eighth century.

At some stage not very long after the crushing of the Opsikian supported
orthodox emperor Artavasdos and, more evidently, immediately following the mutiny of 766 described in confused and horrified tones by Theophanes the Confessor, Opsikian military power began to decline rapidly. Emperor Constantine V (741-775) ‘appointed generals of like mind with him, worthy executors of his evil intentions’: Michael Melissenos, as commander of the iconoclastic theme of the Anatolics, Michael Lachanodracon, as commander of the equally iconoclastic theme of the Thracesians, and a third general with the ominous name of Manes, who was appointed to the command of the newly founded cavalry theme of the Bucellarii.

This new cavalry unit curtailed substantially the area controlled till then by the military forces of the rebel and ostensibly orthodox Opsikian theme, which had to be not only humiliated after successive defeats in civil struggles, but also to be outranked. These initial changes took place in the fifth indiction, that is, the year 767.

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