Dukes of eastern

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GEOFFREY GREATREXIn an influential paper published in 1977, Wolf Liebeschuetz offered a measured assessment of the strength of Roman defences in the East in late antiquity. While marshalling the epigraphic evidence to demonstrate the lack of building activity by the emperor and his officials and the apparent absence of Roman forces in Syria, he also noted the relative infrequency of invasions and the continued prosperity of northern Syria.' Other scholars since then have been more downbeat, emphasising the impact of the invasions and the deportations which accompanied them, as well as the deterioration of Roman defences;*yet further work in the Limestone Massif of northern Syria continues to point to enduring prosperity, at least until the mid-sixth century.3 The aim of this paper is to contribute to this debate by focussing on administrative changes along the eastern frontier in the fifth and sixth centuries - in particular the proliferation of duces ('dukes'), a development that has so far received little attention." Even if the geographical scope of the power of such officials was eroded through being centred on one particular base, as will be shown, this does not necessarily imply a reduction in their military effectiveness. Too often, it will be argued, scholars have been inclined to draw unduly negative conclusions from a lack of evidence. The eastern frontier in thefifth century At the time of the Notitiu Dignitaturn, i.e. the early fifth century," there were seven duces along the eastern frontier, stationed in Phoenice, Syria (which included Euphratesia), Palestine, Osrhoene, Mesopotamia, Arabia and Armenia (see Figure 9.1): The Notitiu offers a useful listI

Liebeschuetz 1977.

z E.g. Trombley 1997; Trombley and Watt 2000, xliv-xlvii; Kaegi 1992,47-51.3 See Tate 1989, 1992, 1996; Foss 1995,220-22(reviewingTate 1992), 1997,esp. 202; also Ball 2000, 207-36.4 A brief paragraph in Whitby 1986,728.Cf. Ravegnani 1988,74; Mazal2001.327. On fourth-century developments, see van Berchem 1952, ch. I . Seeck 1905 is still useful.

s Zuckerman 1998a, though still controversial: see Brennan 1998, 35, and Kulikowski 2000,360.6 Not.

Dign. or. 32-38, pp. 67-83 (Dodgeon and Lieu 1991,340-48;Brennan 1998,38-40).The maps used here were kindly prepared by Maurice Clayton. They are based on those to be found in Greatrex 1998, but take into account not only the relevant parts of the Tubinger Atlas des Vorderen Orient (B V 13, 1992, B VI 4, 1984, B VI 5 , 1988). but also Talbert 2000 and Hewsen 2001. In the case of the bases in Tzanica, we have preferred the locations indicated in Talbert 2000, which differ somewhat from the Tubinger Atlas and Hewsen 2001. For the provincial boundaries, Jones 1964 and Hewsen 1992 were used.87








Figure 9.1. Dukes of the eastern frontier, c. 400



of the forts within the province (or provinces) under the control of each dux, as well as of the units based there. It unfortunately does not make clear, however, where the dux himself was based. It is usually assumed that he would reside in the metropolis of the province to which he was assigned, e.g. at Edessa in the case of O~rhoene. ~ this may not always have been Yet the case: as Wolf Liebeschuetz noted already in 1972, the Martyrdom o Sergius and Bacchus f clearly places the seat of the dux of Syria and Euphratesia at Barbalissus rather than Hierapolis.xSimilar is the case of Mesopotamia, where the seat ofthe governor will have been at Amida, the metropolis, while the dux was stationed at Constantia (and later at Dara)." The peace that prevailed along the eastern frontier for much of the fifth century means that evidence concerning the evolution of the command structure is sparse. We hear of a dux in his praetorium at Constantia around the year 450."'Some twenty years later a law of Leo concerning enrolments in government service offers a list of ducates along the eastern frontier: it mentions duces of Palestine, Mesopotamia, the 'new limes' of Phoenice, Osrhoene, Syria, Euphratesia, Arabia, of both Armenias and of both provinces of Pontus. ' I Clearly there had been significant changes since the time of the Notiria. The new command in Pontus is important, since it prefigures the further additions made by Justinian in the sixth century. It may be supposed that the seat of this new dux lay at Trapezus, hitherto the residence of the prefect of the first Pontic legion.'* To the south, measures were taken probably in response to the withdrawal of Roman posts along the Strata Diocletiana. The area south of the Euphrates, sometimes referred to as the barbaricum, lay increasingly exposed to sudden raids by nomads." No doubt in order to check these incursions, separate ducates were created for Euphratesia - centred probably on Barbalissus - and for Syria. The dux of the 'new limes' of Phoenice was based at Emesa until the reign of J~stinian. '~7

Cf. Dillemann 1962, 107; Segal 1970, 117.


Pussio Antiquior SS.Sergii ef Bucchi (ed. van den Gheyn 1895), 385, cited by Liebeschuetz 1972, 115 n. 9.

9 See Dillemann

1962, 107; Lauffray 1983,31. This despite the fact that the Notitiu, whose geography is somewhat erratic here, actually places Constantia in Osrhoene, as does Hierocles, Synekdemos (ed. and comm. Honigmann 1939), 714.2. For a full discussion of the province to which Constantia belonged see Burgess 1999,280-82. For 'Constantia' not 'Constantina' see Greatrex 1998, 101 n. 82; Burgess 1999,277-78. On Fig. 9.1 Emesa is indicated as the site of the dux of Phoenice, but it is possible that he was stationed at Palmyra.10 Segal 1970, 103. Cf. Flemming 1917,82.25/83.36,on the dux Florus, with PLRE 2, Florus 1. The relevant section of the Acts of the Council of Ephesus of 449 is translated also in Honigmann 1944.

I I CJ 12.59(60).5,undated. See Jones 1964,224,609.Trombley and Watt 2000.50 n. 244 suggest a date of c. 470. Cf. Garsoyan 1998, 249. The Pussio of Eustratius, Auxentius, Eugenius, Mardarius and Orestes, PC 1 16,470, ch. 2-3, dated by Zuckerman 1998b, 124 n. 53, to the fifth century, places a dux named Lysias in Satala and refers to his command over the limitunei; no other source, however, refers to a dux at Satala.1 2Not.

Dign. or. 38.16, p. 84.

1 3 Greatrex and Lieu 2002,238; Key Fowden 1999,65-66. Cf. however, Konrad 1999,408-10, for a greater Roman military presence, at least close to the Euphrates.14 On Barbalissus see above n. 8. The location of the headquarters of the dux of Syria is difficult to determine. The quarters of units listed in the Notitiu lie well to the east of the major cities of Syria. In



The eastern frontier in the early sixth centuryThe war that broke out in 502 offers a glimpse of the state of the Roman military hierarchy at this time (see Figure 9.2). By far our best source is the account attributed to Joshua the Stylite which frequently makes mention of duces. Specifically, it refers to Olympius, dux of Tella (i.e. Constantia) ($51), Eugenius, dux of Melitene ($51), Timostratus,dux of Callinicum ($$64,69), as well as (briefly) to Gainas, dux of Arabia ($75)and to a dux Romanus ($92).15 The first commanders mentioned must be the duces of Mesopotamia, of both Armenias, and of Osrhoene respectively. We may note in passing that all three duces acquitted themselves well, which implies that they were able to draw on adequate forces. Among these will have been units of comitatenses, which, by a law of Anastasius of 492, were placed under the command of the dux in whose province they were stationed.16But Pseudo-Joshuas evidence may be pressed further. His tendency to refer to a dux as of a city, rather than of a province, is significant. Given the high level of accuracy of his account and his frequent use of official terms, it may well reflect practice at the time. It is likely therefore that already by 500 the post of dux was beginning to detach itself from a particular province and to associate itself rather with a particular base, where, presumably, ducal forces were concentrated.

The eastern frontier under JustinianWe come now to the situation during the reign of Justinian. Our prime source concerning the command structure is Procopius De aedificiis, supplemented by the emperors laws on Armenia and a few notices in Malalas and elsewhere. The increasing importance of the northern sector of the frontier is immediately apparent. In 528 the emperor not only created a new high command for this sector, henceforth under the control of the magister militum per Armeniam et Pontum Polemuniacum et gentes, but placed under him several new duces. He was also careful to recruit new soldiers for the magister militum, as well as transferring to him seasoned units from other armies.18 In the former Armenian satrapies, now abolished, duces were stationed at Martyropolis and CitharizBn, both important strongpointsguarding potential invasion routes. In the De aedificiis, Procopius indicates that both duces received substantial garrison forces. Another dux was positioned at Artaleson, to the north; he too was endowed

the sixth century, Chalcis appears to have been a major base; it may have already taken on this role by the late fifth century, cf. n. 29 below. On Emesa see Stein 1949,289.I 5 See Trombley and Watt 2000, ad loc. for detailed commentary; also Luther 1997. Whether Callinicum was the normal base of the dux of Osrhoene may be doubted; Timostratus may have been sent there by the magister militum Ambindus,who had himself chosen Edessa as his headquarters (contra Greatrex 1998.3 1 and n. 96). On Melitene as the base of the dux of Armenia see Garsoran 1998,248.

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