The Strategy of Heraclius

The Strategy of Heraclius

By Walter Kaegi

Bilad al-Sham University Proceedings, Vol.1 (1985)

Introduction: The Muslim Conquest have received some quite valuable recent historical inquiry, yet the strategy of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, who reigned from 610 to 641, has recived much less. The primary sources in Greek are very poor, and it is difficult to extract reliable conclusions from the nonGreek Christian and Muslim ones. It is nevertheless possible to make some observations. Modem military thinkers may make a tripartite classification of topics of military thought into strategy, military operations, and tactics, but such categories were alien to the Byzantines, who knew of such ones as strategy, tactics, stratagems, poliorcetics or the art of besieging a city, and naval warfare. It is inappropriate here to discuss the substantial Graeco-Roman corpus of military treatises and concepts that the Byzantines inherited, copied and adapted for their own purposes. There was no Byzantine grand strategy. There were collections of axioms, stratagems, narratives of significant military case histories, warnings, and miscellaneous reflections on warfare and craft and other bits of practical advice, none of which was really rigorously organized and developed, although they formed a substantial and unique corpus of military experiences.

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We thank Professor Kaegi for his permission to republish this article

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