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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Macedonian epoch (867-1081)

External affairs of the Macedonian emperors 


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Byzantine relations with the Arabs and Armenia. The main problem in the external policy of Basil I, the founder of the Macedonian dynasty, was the struggle with the Muslim world. Conditions were unusually favorable for great achievements in this struggle, because in his time the Empire maintained peaceful relations with Armenia in the east, with Russia and Bulgaria in the north, and in the west with Venice and the western emperor. Added to these advantages was the internal dissension within the eastern caliphate aroused by the increasing influence of the Turks at the Arabian court, the defection of Egypt, where the independent dynasty of the Tulunids arose in the year 868, the civil wars among the North African Arabs, and the difficult position of the Spanish Umayyads in the midst of the local Christian population. Basil's position then was very advantageous for a successful struggle with the eastern and western Arabs. But although the Empire fought against the Arabs almost without interruption throughout the reign of Basil I, it did not take full advantage of the favorable external conditions. The successful military campaign which opened at the beginning of the seventies in the eastern part of Asia Minor against the followers of the sect of the Paulicans resulted in the Emperor's occupation of their main city of Tephrice. This conquest not only widened the extent of Byzantine territory, but also placed Basil face to face with the eastern Arabs. After several vigorously contested battles, the clashes between the two sides assumed the form of regular annual collisions which were not of very great consequence. Victory was sometimes on the side of the Greeks and sometimes on the side of the Arabs, but in the end the Byzantine borderline in Asia Minor moved considerably to the east.

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