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Sowing the Dragons Teeth - Byzantine Warfare in the Tenth Century V33 (Anglais) Broché – 17 octobre 2008


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Byzantine Warfare in the Tenth Century



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22 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Were the Byzantines REALLY masters at war? 22 avril 1999
Par Tom Speight (tspeight@anselm.edu) - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This is an outstanding book of its' type. The translations are good and the transliterations very well done. It also provides a good background on not only the texts but also the events and institutions they discuss, making the book useful not only as a primary source, but also as a historical analysis in its own right. The commentary is also eminently readable and filled with information on not only the Byzantine army itself, but also those Asiatic enemies which it faced and bested. Honestly, I have yet to find a better text on this subject.
16 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Military Technology of the Later Roman Empire 26 juillet 2003
Par Michael Clarkson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
The successful resistance of the Later Roman Empire aka the Byzantine Empire to the powerful and relentless assault of nascent Islam is not only the foundation stone of Western civilisation but also a great mystery. Why should Rome, weakened as it was by the ravages of hordes of Northern and Eastern barbarians and a series of dreadful plagues, have survived the onslaught when the its great and ancient rival, the Persian Empire was so quickly overwhelmed? The financial and military rescources of the early Caliphs were vastly greater than those at the command of the Byzantine Emperor and the military enthusiasm of his subjects was intense - witness the constant attacks by the large number of volunteer Jihad warriors from all over Islam who based themselves in what is now Syria.
Part of the answer is to be found in this excellent book which affords the reader an insight into the detail of the military adaptations the Roman Empire made to cope with its dire problem. This scholarly, authentic account is an indispensible tool for those who wish to understand why it is that, to paraphrase Edward Gibbon, the inhabitants of medieval Oxford did not answer the Muezzin's call and worship Allah in the city of dreaming spires.
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Well Done 12 août 2002
Par John W. Shores III - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
The tanslation of the texts are well done, but that is not the best thing about this book. It is the commentary that follows the translations (about half the book). The author does an excellent job of describing, in modern language, the items detailed in the translations, providing examples from Byzantine warfare to illustrate. The reader finally gets a detailed impression of Byzantine warfare in the age of its greatest triumphs.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The Rolls Royce or the Ferrari of Byzantine Military History? 30 mai 2012
Par JPS - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
This book is unvaluable and I share Tom Speight's conclusion: "I have yet to find a better text on this subject." This is still true, some 13 years after he posted his review. There are, to be honest, two or perhaps even three books on the Byzantine armies of the tenth century, when the Empire embarked on its reconquest. However, these happen to be in German, and has not been translated, at least to my knowledge. In addition, as as the author notes, they mainly focus on changes in the organization of Byzantium's army:
- the splitting up of the top commanding officer into two, one for the East and another for the West
- the distinction between the smaller "Armenian" themes, more recent, largely comprised of reconquered regions and indeed largely populated by settlers of Armenian stock who also provided a good portion of the heavy infantry
- the shifting of at least part of the full-time professional cavalry regiments of the Tagmata, previously concentrated in and around Constantinople, to the borders
- the raising of the minimum worth of the plots allocated to soldiers and the conversion of at least part of the military services owned by the themata troops of the province to cash payments allowing for the recruitement of full-time professionals (largely "foreign" mercenaries, meaning from outside of the Empire's frontiers, in addition to being non-Greek);

While McGeer does mention these elements as part of the context that he provides, his purpose is rather to focus on the practicalities of the Byzantine armies of the Reconquest period. This he achieves wonderfully by proving us with what is essentially two books in one, both of which are excellent and complete each other. The first part of the book (roughtly the first half or so) translates two military treaties, one attributed to the first of the soldier-emperors - Nicephoros II Phokas (reigned 963-969) and the other attributed to Nicephoros Ouranos, one of the best generals of the third emperor-soldier (Basile II, who effectively reigned from 976 to 1025). Another of the elements that makes this book invaluable, at least for students and fans of the Byzantine Empire, is that this the first time these texts have been translated into English, therefore almost completing the series of Byzantine military treaties that are now available in English (well, not quite because Kekaumenos, which deals with the 11th century, is still only available in a very old Russian edition).

A third key quality is that, unlike most other treaties, which are theoretical pieces written in fashionable court language by aristocrats, these two are eminently practical, written in common language, by professionals and for professionals. They are in fact manuals, not treaties, and they in fact compile the military experience gathered by seasoned commanders, starting by the considerable experience of Nicephoros Phokas for practical use on campaigns by both themselves and their officers.

Other components further add to the value of this book, as its second half describes and discusses the contents of both manuals and show the extent of sophistication achieved both in military thinking and in the organization, deployment and fighting capabilities of the army. Contrary to the previous period, where the division between militarized provinces (the themes) and the central army made of professionals was intended to defend against attacks and then counter-attack, these manuals show to what extent the emphasis had shifted to the offensive. The purpose of expeditionary forces now no longer to repel invaders or large scale raids, but to attack ennemy territory and destroy its armies in pitched battles. To this extent, Byzantine military thinking was systematic:
- the purpose of the manuals was to provide commanding officers with a range of empirical scenarios and their corresponding range of solutions, while also emphasizing innovation, adapting to the ennemy's circumstances and initiative because all cases could not be prepared for in advance
- a related purpose was to lay down the composition of what some Byzantine historians have deemed to be an "ideal" expeditionary force of some 24000, two-thirds infantry, one-third cavalry, with multiple types of specialised troops (respectively light, medium and heavy infantry and cavalry), which were trained to operate together (both the cavalry and infantry, and each of the troop types within each other
- finally, the treaties clearly emphasise two top priorities, to ensure that such a sophisticated war machine, that had no equivalent in Europe or in the Middle East at least till the 14th century, worked as efficiently as intended: training and harsh discipline, something for which all three of the soldier-emperors were known for during their lifetimes. This training and the enforcement of harsh discipline - such as prohibiting troops from breaking ranks to pillage - went a long way towards ensuring the Empire's victory.

Interestingly, when re-reading this excellent book once more, I couldn't help drawing parallels with the Roman Army of the first and second century. Both had a number on ingredients in common, starting with training and discipline, and ending with a systematic (one is almost tempted to say a scientific) approach to warfare. The triumphs reaped by both war machines were commensurate to their efforts, with everyting being done to stack the odds on their favor.

One last comment. For readers wanting more, or looking for a companion book that can provide them with more context, I can also recommend the two following books, both of which were published after this one:
- one of Mark Whittow's "The Making of Byzantium 600-1025"
- the other is "Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World 565-1204"

Both cover much more than just the tenth century. However, this is also their advantage to the extent that they provide the reader with more on an overview. This includes very interesting sections on the Empire's strategic context.
Very well researched 19 février 2013
Par Al - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This is an outstanding piece of scholarship, and is actually two books in one. The first "book" are the edited and translated works "Praecepta militaria" of Nikephoros II Phocas, and the "Taktika" (chapters 56 to 65) of Nikephoros Ouranos. The manuscript "Praecepta militaria" is very difficult to access for most scholars (its housed in Russia), and McGeer has done a great service for most byzantinists by editing and translating both manuscripts here. The make a good companion piece with "Three Byzantine Military Treatises" by George Dennis, and together offer a more detailed picture of the activities of Nikephoros II Phocas. The apparatus is extremely valuable, referencing other, older attempts at editing and research. McGeer also explains the paleographic difficulty in bringing these manuscripts to a wider audience, and the challenges of the orthographical irregularities throughout the texts. I find this work valuable for the fact that writings on Byzantine military art introduced a highly specialized vocabulary, which is challenging to translate. McGeer provides a glossary of terms transliterated into the Latin alphabet, along with the Greek index.

The second "book" is McGeer's historical commentary on the state of miltary art in the mid-tenth century. This is a fairly in depth examination of tactics and techniques used by the Byzantine army against the Muslims in Syria, and explains the success of Nikephoros II Phocas during his brief reign. McGeer also examines the armies of the Hamdanids and the Fatimids. Phocas reduced the Hamdanids to a client state, until the vacuum was filled by the Egyptian-based Fatimids. This historical analysis represents a significant advance in our understanding of the state of the Byzantine war machine in the mid-tenth century. The last comprehensive look at the reign of Nikephoros II Phocas was published almost a century ago, and the scholarship is dated.
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