Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/byzantine-military.asp?pg=2

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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Walter Emil Kaegi, Jr.

Some Thoughts on Byzantine Military Strategy

© Hellenic College Press, Brookline, Massachusetts, 1983


 
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Page 2

That proclivity to caution prevailed among established kingdoms, republics, and empires until the Napoleonic Wars at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries. This does not mean that there were no hotheads, but sophisticated treatises on war and sophisticated commanders usually displayed a reluctance to gamble everything in the pitched battle. In fact, they often received explicit instructions to that effect from their governments; the decisive battle held too many pitfalls, political and economic as well as military. There was a prudent preference in avoiding resort to the maximum possible level of ferocity of violence within the existing levels of military technology, weaponry, and tactical skills and methodologies.

It was repeatedly within the capabilities of victorious powers to exterminate the population of a defeated one, but the actual cases of adoption of such a policy are very limited -- it tended not to be in the victorious power's interest. Political and military leaders were usually mindful of the difficulty of replacing losses among relatively expensive and difficult to recruit and difficult to train soldier-specialists in those eras of relatively small armies. The comparatively modern doctrine of the maximum concentration of force had not yet become universal and dominant strategic wisdom. The absence of modern means of surveillance and rapid communications contributed much to the fog of war in the centuries that preceded the twentieth. But even in the slow-moving warfare of earlier centuries, it was often future expectations about war that determined efforts to limit the scope of and arrange the termination of war.

Politics usually placed strong contraints on the choice and implementation of specific military operations in a war already in progress, even though matters did not always tum out as those who were establishing the contraints expected. Seldom did sophisticated powers wage wars of annihilation. There was no renunciation of the possible resort to armed force, but there was a reluctance to commit all of one's forces, especially in the initial engagements, until one had a feel for the resources, capabilities, and limitations of the opponent.

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Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/byzantine-military.asp?pg=2