Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία
Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Πέμπτη, 18 Ιουνίου 2015

Byzantine family Skliros : The roots of our family (1)

The Skleros (Σκληρός; Σκληροί), Latinized Sclerus, feminine form Skleraina (Σκλήραινα), Latinized Scleraena: A noble Byzantine family greek descent particularly active in the 9th–11th centuries as members of the military aristocracy, the Imperial Courts of Byzantium and royal courts of Europe. They served in high civic office over a recorded period of at least 500 years. An abundance of records, from a wide range of sources, provide a fascinating insight into their life and times during this exciting and tumultuous period. Not only did the Skleroi shape the course of Byzantine history, they were also indirectly responsible for the Christianisation of Russia: As part of an elaborate quid pro quo concerning Emperor Basil II's problems with Bardas Skliros in 987, Vladimir the Rus (at the time a pagan of note with some 800 concubines, numerous wives and a more than passing interest in human sacrifice) agreed to adopt the Christian faith. A year later, Holy Great Prince Saint Vladimir Equal of the Apostles as he had become known, despite having been described by Thietmar of Merseburg as a fornicator immensus et crudelis, decreed that all Kievans must be baptised, proclaiming "Whoever does not go into the river tomorrow, be they rich, poor, beggar or slave, shall be my enemy." Considering that Vlad's enemies soon became acquainted with the afterlife, it's perhaps not surprising that everyone turned up. Thus began the spiritual journey of the Russian Orthodox Church. Apart from their adventures in Byzantium and Asia Minor, the Skleroi's influence on the daily lives of Europeans during the early middle ages cannot be underestimated. An example is the Skleroi's profound contribution to royal table manners: During her reign as Empress Regent of the Holy Roman Empire, Queen of Germany, Theophanu Skleros is credited with introducing the (cutlery) fork to Western Europe. Records recall the astonishment she caused when she "used a golden double prong to bring food to her mouth" instead of using her hands as was the norm at the time. Theophanu employed a particularly extravagant and splendid mode of dress, something she was sometimes criticized for by the ever envious hoi polloi. She presided over elaborate and lengthy ceremonies that were magnified to match the pomp and grandeur of the Byzantium court. Ottonian goldsmiths furnished Theophanu with all manner of fabulous jewellery - from imperial regalia to intricate brooches, pendants and rings. Rumour has it that in some unkind circles, Theophanu was referred to as Zee Qveen of Bling.
In more modern times, Skliros luminaries have immortalised themselves through literature, music, poetry and skateboarding. Today, you will find Skliroi / Skleroi established on every continent except perhaps Antarctica. The Skleroi first appeared in the record of the Byzantine political scene at the beginning of the 9th century. Already firmly established amongst the aristocracy by then, it is clear that their story started much earlier and hopefully, more records will emerge.  Around that time, mountainus parts of Thessaly and Greece were under control of the Slavs who wreaked considerable destruction, especially in the Peloponnese where they had raid the Hellenic villages and ciries from all but the eastern portions.  The first recorded Skliros was appointed as strategos (governor general) of the Peloponnese in 805. Because of the Slavs' presence, no Byzantine official had presided in the Peloponnese for more than two hundred years, so this was an important and particularly challenging post. We can safely assume that he paved the way for his successor's military triumph. Towards the end of 811, the Emperor appointed another Skleroi, Leo (Leon) Skleros (780-824), “a man from Lesser Armenia”, who was obviously related to his predecessor, to the same high office. The Chronicle of Monemvasia details how, soon after taking office, Leo Skleros attacked the Slavs and “conquered them and destroyed them completely”. When informed of this great victory, Emperor Nicephorus was ecstatic and immediately committed resources to re-establish the areas devastated by the Slavs and enable the Greeks to recover their land and property. A lead seal which is almost certainly that of Leo Skleros has survived the centuries. Lesser Armenia (Μικρά Αρμενια), also known as Armenia Minor and Armenia Inferior, refers to the Greek-Roman and hellenized Armenian populated regions, primarily to the west and northwest of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia ( Kingdom of Greater Armenia). The region was later reorganized into the Armeniac Theme under the Byzantine Empire. Armenia was disputed kingdom between Rome and Parthia during the Roman-Persian Wars from 66 BC to the 2nd century AD. Roman influence was first established with Pompey's campaign of 66/65 BC, and again in 59 AD in the Roman–Parthian War campaign of Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo; which resulted in the deposition of Tiridates I. All of Armenia became a Roman province in AD 114 under Roman emperor Trajan, but Roman Armenia was soon after abandoned by the legions in 118 AD and became a vassal kingdom. Romans lost Armenia again to Vologases IV of Parthia in AD 161. In 163, a Roman counter-attack under Statius Priscus once again installed a favoured candidate on the throne of Armenia, and Roman influence in Armenia remained until the Roman temporary defeat at the Battle of Barbalissos in 253. But a few years later, at the end of the 3rd century, Rome was again in control of Armenia and successively promoted the Christianization of all Armenia. The Armeniac Theme was one of the four original themes, established sometime in the mid-7th century out of the territory of Lesser Armenia ( "Armenia Minor"). Although the mention of a "George, tourmarchēs of the Armeniacs" in 629, during the Persian campaigns of Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641), may suggest the existence of the theme at such an early date, the first unambiguous reference to it in literary sources occurs during the revolt of its general, Saborios, in 667/668.  It is next mentioned on a seal of 717/718. Together with the other themes, it was created from the remnants of one of the field armies of the old East Roman army following the disastrous defeats suffered during the first wave of the Muslim conquests, a process probably complete by the late 640s. Thus, the army of the magister militum per Armeniae (the "Armeniacs") was withdrawn and settled in the areas of Pontus, Paphlagonia and Cappadocia, giving its name to the region. The Byzantine themes of Asia Minor in circa 842, showing the fragmentation of the large original themes into smaller circumscriptions. The theme's capital was at Amaseia, and it was governed by a stratēgos, who ranked, together with the stratēgoi of the Anatolic and Thracesian themes, in the first tier of stratēgoi, drawing an annual salary of 40 gold pounds.In the 9th century, it fielded some 9,000 men and encompassed 17 fortresses. Its size and strategic importance on the Byzantine Empire's north-eastern frontier with the Muslims made its governor a powerful figure, and the theme's forces participated in several revolts in the 8th century. Consequently, in the 9th century it was broken up: the smaller provinces of Charsianon and Cappadocia were formed, first as kleisourai and later as full themes, along the border in the south and east, while in circa 819, the coastal themes of Paphlagonia and Chaldia were split off, followed later by the area of Koloneia (first under a doux, by 863 under a full strategos), leaving a rump Armeniac theme encompassing.

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