World history has witnessed the rise and fall of a number of large, medium and small empires. Among those empires the researcher here opts for two of the very influential empires the Byzantine Empire and the Mongolian Empire for a comparative study.
On one hand, the Byzantine Empire which is also known as the Eastern Roman Empire was dominated by the Greek speaking population of the eastern part of the Roman Empire. This empire was dominant during the middle ages and the Late Antiquity (ArieÌ€s & Duby, 1987). This empire survived during the 5th century fragmentation and also the fall of the Western Roman Empire and it further continued to survive for almost another thousand years till it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 (Gibbon & Low, 1960). During the existence of this empire, it was generally extremely powerful and in every aspect including economic, cultural or military forces in Europe (Franzius, 1967).
On the other hand, the Mongolian Empire existed during the 13th and 14th centuries. This empire is considered to be largest contiguous land empire in the entire history. The empire extended from the steppes of Central Asia moved across the Central Europe till the Sea of Japan. It further extended across Siberia in the north, the Indian subcontinent, Iranian Plateau in the east and the south and towards the west it extended till Arabia.
Comparison between the Byzantine Empire and the Mongolian Empire
There are a number of strategies that both these empires undertook in order to create or expand their territories or to maintain or defend their rule. On a closer look it might be observed that there were a few categories under which the two empires namely the Byzantine Empire and the Mongolian Empire were similar.
The Creation of the two empires
The great civilization of the Byzantine Empire originated during 330 AD. During this time the Roman Emperor Constantine I decided to form a ‘new Rome’ on the site of the old Greek colony of Byzantium.
The term ‘Byzantine’ was derived from the word Byzantium which was a Greek colony that was founded by a person by the name Byzas. This place was located at the European side of Bosporus which was a strait that linked the Black sea with the Mediterranean. The position of the city of Byzantine was such that it served as the transit point for major continents o Europe and Asia Minor. During 330 A.D. Constantine I who was the Roman Empire at that point of time chose this place as the new capitol as named it as Constantinople (VasilÊ¹ev, 1952).
Taking a look at the Mongol Empire, it can be observed that the creation of the Empire was a slow and difficult process which began with the amalgamation of the Mongol and Turkic tribes that inhabited the Mongolian Steppes. In the area of Steppes, Temüjin emerged as a very magnetic leader and who gradually gained followers before he became a nökhör (companion or vassal) (Franke & Twitchett, 2008). Toghril who was the Khan of the Kereits, was another very dominant tribe in Central Mongolia. With regard to the services of Toghril, the talents of Temüjin allowed him to become one of the significant leaders of the Mongol tribes. Ultimately, the increase of power of Temüjin gave rise to jealously among the people and finally Temujin and Toghril took different parts and this lead to a battle. This fight became stronger during 1203 and eventually Temüjin emerged as a leader.
By 1206 Temüjin had unified the tribes of Mongolia and formed a single supra-tribe which is called the Khamag Mongol Ulus or the All Mongol State (Allsen, 1997). With the formation of the new state the social structure was reorganized and for that Temüjin dissolved the old tribal lines and regrouped them to form an army based on the decimal system. Additionally, Temüjin was also successful in instilling a strong sense of discipline into the army. By the end of 1204 Temüjin had defeated the main rivals but it was only after 1206 that the followers recognized Temujin as the only ruler and granted him the title of Chenggis Khan.
Hence with regard to the creation of the empires there existed a huge dissimilarity between the Byzantine Empire and the Mongolian empire. Nevertheless, there are few strategic similarities between the two empires.
The Defense of the two empires
When the military tactics of the two empires are followed thoroughly it can be observed that there were quite a few similarities between the two empires (ArieÌ€s & Duby, 1987).
With regard to the Byzantine Empire it can be observed that this empire always maintained a very high and sophisticated military army that survived from ancient times. This army relied on a number of things for success such as discipline, knowledge of strategies and a very well-organized support system (Franzius, 1967). The very essential part of the maintenance and spread of the experience of the military was the traditional histories along with the various treaties and manuals for practice (Gibbon & Low, 1960). This tradition in the military that began during this time was extended back to the Aeneas who was popularly known as the Tactician and the Xenophon. It further extended to the Eastern Roman military manuals which adapted the working of the ancient authors more specifically the works of Aelian and Onasander.
The Mongol military tactics and organization enabled the Mongol Empire to conquer nearly all of continental Asia, the Middle East and parts of Eastern Europe.
Looking at the Mongolian empire it can be observed that the original basis of the military system of the Mongolian Empire could be considered as the extension of their nomadic style of the Mongolians. There were a number of new elements that was invented by Chenggis Khan and his successors (Franke & Twitchett, 2008). New technologies were invented by the rulers to make even more useful attacks on the enemies. Attack fortifications were learnt by the generals and the armies from the different cultures and other foreign technical experts were well-versed with the command structures (Sermier, 2002).
During most of the part of the 13th century it was observed that in most of the battles they utilized these strategies and also won most of the battles that they fought using these strategies. They always turned the result of the battles in their favor. Also, it should be noted that in most of the battles that they won the opposite armies were quite large and powerful. Nonetheless, their first defeat took place during the year 1223 at the Battle of Samara Bend in the hands of the Volga Bulgars (Sermier, 2002). Their second defeat came during the Battle of Ain Jalut in the year 1260. This time however, the opposite army was tactically trained by them and they used their tactics against them.
The above facts show that both the Byzantine and the Mongolian armies were extremely disciplined and can be compared to the modern day warfare. Both the armies of the two empires understood how to conduct campaigns and avoid fighting individual battles till death. These empires initiated the art of operational techniques however, at that point of time they did not codify the techniques.
The Maintenance of the two empires
With regard to the maintenance of two empires one very significant similarity between the two empires is that the Byzantines and the Mongols were both great combat engineers. In fact the Romans are considered to be the best combat engineers that the world has ever seen.
Another strategic similarity between the two empires is the use of fear. Historians claim that in most cases the Mongolians tried to induce fear into the minds of their enemies. The success of the tactics that the Mongolians generally resorted to was the use of fear that tried to induce capitulation in the population in the enemy land (Allsen, 1997). The Byzantine empire strategies were also similar. However, the inducement of fear was a more natural phenomenon with the enemy states. Due to the fear of the armies of the Byzantine empire most of the enemies lost half their battles before the battle started.
Hence these three are the essential strategic similarities between the two great empires that existed in modern history.
After a brief study of the two empires that existed in history it can be concluded that one very common thing between the two empires other than the strategic similarities were that both the empires were extremely influential. Modern history has been greatly affected by the different techniques and strategies that these two empires have undertaken during their reigns. Nevertheless, if the powers of both the empires were calculated in the situation of a combat between the two empires the chances of the Mongols defeating the Romans were more. This is because the coordination and synchronization of forces among the Mongolians were far stronger as compared to the Roman of the Byzantine forces.
Allsen, T. (1997). Commodity and exchange in the Mongol Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
ArieÌ€s, P., & Duby, G. (1987). A history of private life. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Franke, H., & Twitchett, D. (2008). The Cambridge history of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Franzius, E. (1967). History of the Byzantine Empire. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
Gibbon, E., & Low, D. (1960). The decline and fall of the Roman Empire. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
Sermier, C. (2002). Mongolia. Hong Kong: Odyssey.
VasilÊ¹ev, A. (1952). History of the Byzantine Empire, 324-1453. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.