6 – Well Managed Internal Affairs
Throughout history, empires have fallen apart due to internal strife. The Byzantines were able to manage the affairs of a large empire extremely effectively due to a number of tactics. A clever innovation was the use of eunuchs as key players in religious and administrative positions. Eunuchs were in many ways, the ideal powerbrokers as they couldn’t produce heirs so there was no chance of them trying to create a family dynasty. While they were not allowed to become emperors, they did hold important roles such as generals and chief administrators.
In terms of how the empire was ruled, it was well ahead of its time. No other Medieval state had a centralized form of government until the 1200s. The emperor was obviously the leader and he had total control of everything; he had the first and last word on the army, finance, the justice system and the church (though as I mentioned earlier, he did not abuse this power when it came to the clergy). He appointed every bishop, minister and patriarch and titles were not allowed to be passed down to the next generation.
In fact, even the title of emperor wasn’t necessarily inherited as it was in other empires. In theory, a man from the street could become the supreme ruler. Justinian I is regarded as one of the greatest Byzantine emperors yet he began life as a Macedonian peasant. Basil I was another respected emperor and he too came from an underprivileged background.
There were also a number of ministers, known as Logothetes who managed a variety of different affairs within the empire. The Byzantines also used a host of advisors, public servants and Themes; these were groups responsible for administrative issues in a given province; they were also charged with protecting the region and hired new soldiers. Byzantine bureaucracy took up a lot of resources but for the most part, it was worth it and the empire was pretty well organized given its size and the constant strain it was under.