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By John Haldon

The dominant Mediterranean energy within the 5th and 6th centuries, by the point of its dying by the hands of the Ottomans in 1453 the Byzantine empire used to be a shadow of its former self constrained primarily to the town of Constantinople, sleek Istanbul. Surrounded via foes who posed a continuing danger to its very life, it survived as a result of its management, military and the power of its tradition, of which Orthodox Christianity used to be a key point. This historic atlas charts key elements of the political, social and fiscal heritage of a medieval empire which bridged the Christian and Islamic worlds from the overdue Roman interval into the overdue heart Ages.

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The Himyarite kings remained tributary to Axum, but under Justinian, a serious conflict for influence between the Sasanids and the Romans developed. But although the emperor attempted to bring the Himyarites into the conflict on the Roman side, they played for the most part a neutral game until, in the early 570s, a Persian force was invited in by some of the subordinate chiefs, the king was slain in battle, and Persia became the pre-eminent power in the region. Thereafter relations between the Jewish communities and the (monophysite) Christians in Himyar were stabilised until, in the 620s, Mohammed dispatched his initial call to the people of the region to embrace Islam, which quickly became the dominant belief system in the region.

A system of allied tribes or clans organised asfoederati, or federates, under a paramount group (the Tanukhids in the fourth century, the Salihids in the fifth, and the Ghassanids in the sixth and seventh centuries) served to defend Roman interests, and by the time of Justinian 26 THE PALGRAVE ATLAS OF BYZANTINE HISTORY the Ghassanid kings were thoroughly integrated into the east Roman system of precedence. The Arabian peninsula, and especially the organised states of Aden and the Yemen, were also a focus for Roman diplomatic activity, especially in view of their closeness to the Christian state of Ethiopia.

In their stead as active guards the Emperor Leo I (457^74) recruited the latter, a much smaller elite unit of a mere 300 men. Imperial naval forces were relatively limited - several small flotillas maintained along the Danube, a fleet was based at Ravenna, and a squadron at Constantinople. Imperial strategy was based on a first line of defence that consisted of a linear frontier screened by fortified posts, major fortresses and a connecting network of minor fortified positions. This was supported by a second line made up of a reserve of mobile field units scattered in garrison towns and fortresses across the provinces behind the frontier.

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