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Thread: Use of Latin in byzantine army

  1. #1
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    Use of Latin in byzantine army

    Some time back I read the Eastern Roman Empire continued to be used Latin in the army after it's use was abandoned by the civil government. Toward the end of it's use it had become "fossilized" in phrases, commands and names of unit types, but after the 4th crusade this use was eliminated due backlash against anything western. That is what I remember and I'm interested in reading more about this but I can't seem to find much more. Can anyone here point me in the right direction?

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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    I read about these commands recently in Nicholas Ostler's Ad Infinitum. Emperor Maurice (582-602, whom Ostler calls Maurikios) wrote a field manual in Greek in which the commands were in Latin: a footnote on p.90 lists some including largiter ambula "open order, march", ad latus stringe "by the flank, close", and transforma "about-face". (I'm looking at it now on Google Books, which is giving me a surprisingly generous preview.) He doesn't mention how long these lasted, but says that Latin in administration was effectively abandoned in the early 600s after the Islamic conquest of the main non-Greek lands of the Byzantine Empire.

    Edit. I should mention he uses V for U in all early quotations, so if you're using the commands to find the page on Google Books, it's AMBVLA and LATVS. But the book is well worth owning.
    Last edited by entangledbank; 21st March 2013 at 2:26 PM. Reason: V for U

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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    Hi killerbee,

    Roughly since the reign of Heraclius (early 7th c.), Greek slowly replaces Latin as Rhōmania's (Gr. «Ῥωμανία», the Eastern Roman Empire) official language (despite being its lingua franca since the beginning), yet, the state's hierarchical organization (includng the hierarchy of the armed forces) is based on the Roman model, and on the language of "Old Rome"; thus in Constantine Porphyrogenitus' De cerimoniis aulæ Byzantinæ (mid 10th c.) we find 60 authorities (Gr. «ἀξίαι») of which, 26 belong to the armed forces (the rest are civic officials). The majority of the names is Latin (or corrupted Latin), e.g:
    Civic authorities
    «Ῥαίκτωρ» Rhǽktōr < Latin Rector provinciæ
    «Σύγκελλος» Sýngellos < hybrid word, Gr. «συν» + Lat. cella < late Lat. Syncellus
    «Σακελλάριος» Sakellários < Lat. Sacellarius (paymaster)
    «Σεκρέτης» Sekrétēs < the Emperor's private secretary, who kept the Sigillium Secretum (Gr. «Σιγίλλιον»), the Emperor's special seal for correspondence
    «Κουράτωρ» Kourátōr < Lat. Curator

    Army authorities
    «Τουρμάρχης» Tourmárxēs < leader of Turma < Roman cavalry squadron; in Byzantine nomenclature a military unit composed of 500 archers, 300 foot, and 100 spearmen
    «Δομέστικος» Doméstikos < a member of the Domestici, Roman elite guard unit; in Byzantine nomenclature the name of 6 superior officers in the army: «τῶν Σχολῶν» (of the Scholæ, i.e. the armies), the Empire's Commander-in-Chief (when the Emperor was in absentia); «τῶν Ἐξκουβίτων» (of the Excubitors, i.e. the imperial guard); «τῶν Ἱκανάτων» (of the Able Ones, i.e. the imperial guard stationed outside Constantinople); «τῶν Νουμέρων» (of the Regiments, i.e. the imperial infantry guard); «τῶν Ὀπτιμάτων» (of the Optimates, i.e. Gothic elite regiment); «τῶν Τειχέων» (of the Walls, i.e. the elite guard on the city's walls)
    «Δρουγγάριος» Droungários < leader of Drungus < late Roman battalion-sized unit; in Byzantine nomenclature the commander of a battalion-sized elite unit e.g. «Δρουγγάριος τῆς Βίγλας» (of the Vigilia, i.e. elite unit responsible for the Emperor's safety on expeditions)
    The commander of the Imperial Fleet was also a «Δρουγγάριος»: «Δρουγγάριος τοῦ Βασιλικοῦ Πλωίμου» (of the Royal Fleet)

    I'm not sure you're right on your assumption that
    after the 4th crusade this use was eliminated due backlash against anything western
    in the Palæologean period, the Roman nomenclature is still very much in use , in fact General Alexios Strategopoulos, the officer who recaptured Constantinople from the Latins for the Eastern Romans in 1261, held officialy the title of «Μέγας Δομέστικος» (Grand Domesticus).
    It should be noted here, that after the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans (1453), the Latin names of offices are passed on to the Church authorities (which demonstrates a continuous usage), since in the Ottoman system of Millet administration, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, is the leader of the Orthodox Christian confessional minority in the Empire, he becomes an Ethnarch.
    Thus, in present-day Church administrative hierarchy in the Orthodox East, the principal deputy of a Bishop is a «Πρωτοσύγκελλος» < «πρωτο-» + syncellus; the official who is sent by the Patriarch as his representative abroad, is a «Ρεφερενδάριος» < Lat. referendarius; the personal physician of the Patriarch is an «Ἀκτουάριος» < Lat. actuarius; the first secretary in the Patriarchate is a «Πριμικήριος» < Lat. primicerius (and numerous other offices, «νοτάριος» < Lat. notarius, «ὀστιάριος» < Lat. ostiarius, «ἀσηκρίτης» < Lat. a secretis etc)
    Last edited by apmoy70; 21st March 2013 at 4:19 PM.
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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    Much of military terminology remained latin till the end of Byzantium, although hellenized. Even in post-byzantin (otoman) period the Greeks still used some terms, like "flaburo" (flag, from flamula), "armatolos" (armed rural militia, from armatura), "armada" (army), "foussato" (army) etc. The investigation of latin military terms in post-byzantine era is complicated because of the intervention of the Venetian occupation in many parts of the Balkans.

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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    Quote Originally Posted by sotos View Post
    The investigation of latin military terms in post-byzantine era is complicated because of the intervention of the Venetian occupation in many parts of the Balkans.
    I can imagine, but one would think that there would be stark differences morphologically between Venetian & Latin loans in Greek. Thought Venice always had close, if not always positive, relations with Constantinople.

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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    During the Crusades, the Venetians took part in the siege of Constantinople and temporarily controlled parts of the Balkans.

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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    Quote Originally Posted by Wolverine9 View Post
    During the Crusades, the Venetians took part in the siege of Constantinople and temporarily controlled parts of the Balkans.
    Yes and also after Constantinople fell to the Turks, the Venetians controlled several areas of Greece. In fact this is why the Parthenon is in ruin; It was accidently blown up during fighting between the Turks and Venetians, didn't help that it was being used to store gun powder at the time.

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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    I read somewhere that the army language of Roman Empire was some kind of cryptic ~ cipher language. Is that true?

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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    No, why would that be true? The language in the West was Latin; the language in the East was originally Latin, then later Greek.

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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    There might have been a cryptic army language, as there are cryptic languages for various professions (e.g. builders)surviving till the 20th century, but I'm not aware of any literature about it.
    Other latin army words used in Byzantium were: βάνδο (flag, compare to bandera), καβαλλάριος (horse-man, cavallier), κόρτη (coortus, army unit), possibly χελάνδιον (a kind of ship), of course σπάθη (spade, sword). Indirect relation to the army have the terms cuvicularios and signoforos (bearing the in-signia), dragonarios (a flag-bearer officer), labaron (labarum, a kind of flag), kampidictorion (not soure what this is. Possibly a sign of the camp).

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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    Quote Originally Posted by killerbee256 View Post
    I can imagine, but one would think that there would be stark differences morphologically between Venetian & Latin loans in Greek.
    Why stark differences? Venetian is after all a Romance language, and we're talking about the Middle Ages...
    Deuparth gwaith yw ei ddechrau.

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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    Quote Originally Posted by Outsider View Post
    Why stark differences? Venetian is after all a Romance language, and we're talking about the Middle Ages...
    What I meant was that Latin words taken into Greek would be under different pressures and would evolve differently then their cognates in Venetian, so that it would be easy to see the source of the word. Maybe I'm wrong.

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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    I can believe that the pressures on classical and early medieval Latin borrowings into Greek were different than those on later medieval borrowings from Romance languages, but I'm not so sure it would be easy to tell the two groups of loanwords apart based only on their morphology. After all, the source material would have been quite close.
    Deuparth gwaith yw ei ddechrau.

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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    Quote Originally Posted by killerbee256 View Post
    What I meant was that Latin words taken into Greek would be under different pressures and would evolve differently then their cognates in Venetian, so that it would be easy to see the source of the word. Maybe I'm wrong.
    Actually you are not; in fact a large chunk of Byzantine (and Modern) Greek nautical terminology & jack speak, consists of Venetian (and rarely Genoese) words (besides ancient & Byzantine Gr. of course). The 200 years of co-existing with the two naval superpowers of early & high middle ages, have left their mark.
    E.g:
    «Μπούσουλας» ['busulas] (masc.) < Ven. bussola --> compass (in reality it's a re-loan, Gr. «πυξίς» puksís > late Lat. buxola > Ven. bussola)
    «Αγαντάρω» [aɣan'daro] (verb) < Ven. agguantare --> to catch, grab
    «Ρεγουλάρω» [reɣu'laro] (verb) < Ven. regulare --> to regulate, adjust
    «Σκουλάρω» [sku'laro] (verb) < Ven. sculare --> to drain (sea water)

    As a practical guide, 99 out of 100 Byzantine/Modern Gr. nautical words of Romance origin, are either Venetian or Genoese (and not Latin/Late Latin).
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    Re: Use of Latin in byzantine army

    Quote Originally Posted by apmoy70 View Post
    in reality it's a re-loan
    That's interesting, I know that much of classical Latin's nautical terminology was from Greek, so it follows that many of these Latinate loan words would be re-loans. That is if those Greek originated Latin nautical words survived into Venetian or Genoese.

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