Decline of the Byzantine Empire
The mark of Byzantine Empire fall is a subject of great scholarly debate. Enlightenment writers like Edward Gibbon view the 10 century duration of the empire as sad codicil to Antiquity of Roman Empire. Historians of the 20th and 21st century have emphasized on the ability of the empire to adapt to change and its remarkable resiliency.
During the time it existed, the Empire was referred to as Roman people while the people were described as Romans. Just like Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire also faced outside enemies. While this is the case, the empire was eventually destroyed as a result of internal decay. By 1000A.D the economic as well as political stability of the empire led to 2 development lines which were combined triggering interlocking cycles that eventually destroyed the empire.
For starters, there was the peasantry that the government relied upon to acquire recruits and taxes. At the time when the empire was under steady attack, land was also poorly invested in. During the 8th century when stability begun returning, majority of the nobles begun looking on the farmlands under the control of free peasantry greedily.
The enserf peasants and nobles got entangled in a constant battle as each made the attempt to take control of the lands. The government viewed the peasantry as the backbone of defense and the economy as such it did everything it possible could in order to defend it. Basil II especially fought hard for the purposes of defending the peasants however he did not manage to break power held by the nobles.
Secondly, it was unfortunate for peasants but all emperors weren’t strong or concerned with coming to the defense of peasants. Upon the death of Basil II in 1025, the peasants lost all defense yet this was a time when it was at the height of success and there was no need for a strong military presence. Consequently, Basil II was succeeded by weak rulers who had little to no military experience. During the difficult times, nobles took the opportunity to dispossess peasants leading to decline of the army and free peasantry forcing the state to shift reliance on costly mercenaries. This fact further heightened the burden of the peasants in the form of taxes. Consequently, more of the peasants lost their lands leading to additional mercenaries’ reliance.
It is this cruel cycle that further weakened the tax base and economy to a point where Byzantines couldn’t afford to even maintain a navy. As a result, they asked rising states like Genoa and Venice to fight in their naval battles.
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