The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire

Glen Bowersock writes:

A man of deep culture and reading in many languages, Edward Luttwak has at least three major personae – strategist, journalist and scholar. His practical experience of contemporary policy and defence is reinforced by an almost professional knowledge of military history, particularly in antiquity and the Middle Ages, and he expounds his views in lively prose that gives maximum exposure to the most eccentric of them . . . According to Luttwak, the Byzantines moved away from the old Roman strategy of protecting the entire frontier from Britain to Mesopotamia through a limes system that kept out both invaders and marauders. This, he claims, ‘was altogether too expensive to maintain for the Byzantine Empire with its greatly diminished resources’. He traces the evolution of a new strategy in the empire’s response to the Huns who arrived in the middle of the fifth century, and devotes considerable space to negotiations with Attila.

(LRB 11 February 2010)

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