4 – Diplomacy
Historians suggest that countries in the modern era could learn a lot from the diplomacy of the Byzantines. Despite the fact that its own military force apparently never exceeded 140,000 soldiers, the Byzantine Empire managed to expand (at least in the first couple of centuries) and keep possible enemies such as the Goths, Persians, Huns, Bulgars, Slavs, Arabs and Normans at bay. Although they fought many battles and wars, they were also to avoid a substantial amount of bloodshed thanks to their diplomatic abilities.
The Byzantines used different tools gathered from other parts of the empire. Their practice of diplomatic marriages came from Egypt, their divide and conquer tactics came from Rome while their rhetoric came from Greece. Before any diplomatic mission to a foreign country, ambassadors were thoroughly briefed so they fully understood the culture and customs of the place they were visiting. They not only knew the empire’s goal, they were also aware of any developments in the court of the nation they were visiting.
The Byzantines’ so-called ‘Bureau of Barbarians‘ gathered information from nearby states. This data included files on influential people, details of those who could be bribed, the roots of the nation, the things they would be impressed by etc. Thanks to this knowledge, the Byzantines had details of an enemy’s weaknesses and the strengths of their allies.
Their use of grand ceremonies to welcome foreign dignitaries was also a well-known tactic. These individuals would arrive at the imperial palace in Constantinople and be showered with gifts and attention. These visitors would witness the incredible defenses of the city, its remarkable wealth and be completely blown away. Then the Emperor would greet them and make promises of support and wealth if the tribe pledged its support. Very few tribes turned them down. Finally, the Byzantines were not above bribing potential enemies; a suitable amount of gold could prevent a foreign power from declaring war. While the sums involved were enormous, they often stopped conflict so these bribes were actually cost-effective.