The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire

The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire

By Edward N. Luttwak

Harvard University Press, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-674-03519-5

In this book, the distinguished writer Edward Luttwak presents the grand strategy of the eastern Roman empire we know as Byzantine, which lasted more than twice as long as the more familiar western Roman empire, eight hundred years by the shortest definition. This extraordinary endurance is all the more remarkable because the Byzantine empire was favored neither by geography nor by military preponderance. Yet it was the western empire that dissolved during the fifth century. The Byzantine empire so greatly outlasted its western counterpart because its rulers were able to adapt strategically to diminished circumstances, by devising new ways of coping with successive enemies. It relied less on military strength and more on persuasion-to recruit allies, dissuade threatening neighbors, and manipulate potential enemies into attacking one another instead. Even when the Byzantines fought-which they often did with great skill-they were less inclined to destroy their enemies than to contain them, for they were aware that today’s enemies could be tomorrow’s allies. Born in the fifth century when the formidable threat of Attila’s Huns were deflected with a minimum of force, Byzantine strategy continued to be refined over the centuries, incidentally leaving for us several fascinating guidebooks to statecraft and war.


The Invention of Byzantine Strategy

1. Attila and the Crisis of Empire
2. The Emergence of the New Strategy

Byzantine Diplomacy: The Myth and the Methods

3. Envoys
4. Religion and Statecraft
5. The Uses of Imperial Prestige
6. Dynastic Marriages
7. The Geography of Power
8. Bulghars and Bulgarians
9.The Muslim Arabs and Turks


The Byzantine Art of War

10. The Classical Inheritance
11. The Strategikon of Maurikios
12. After the Strategikon
13. Leo VI and Naval Warfare
14. The Tenth-Century Military Renaissance
1. Strategic Maneuver: Herakleios Defeats Persia

Conclusion: Grand Strategy and the Byzantine “Operational Code”

Appendix: Was Strategy Feasible in Byzantine Times?

Click here to read an excerpt from the book

Click here to read our Interview with Edward N. Luttwak

Click here to read our article ‘Byzantine strategy goes under the spotlight in the past and present’

Click here to read a review of The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire


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