Hey /his/, I've recently developed a pretty strong interest in the late Roman and Byzantine Empires.
My question is at what point did the Byzantine Empire start to cease to be noticeably 'Roman'. I understand that it would have been a process of gradual change, and my haphazard understanding is that Justinian was the last truly Roman Emperor of them. I'm just curious as to how things like the Eastern Roman military evolved from a professional force into the irregular feudal style levies it employed in the Medieval period (if that is in fact correct), how their classical sculptures changed into weirdly proportioned medieval ones, and so on (I also noticed this happened in the late Western Empire, did the artistic skillset just die out?)
I'd say after the Arab invasions. They lost a huge chunk of their territories (Italy and the Balkans had been slipping from their grasp even before), the emperor formally changed the administrative language to Greek, and the legion system essentially disappeared.
I agree with this, the reign of Heraclius is the most obvious turning point.
Though the "feudalization" of the army, in the form of the pronoiai and increasing Western influence on arms and tactics, is a much later Komnenid development and was the result of losing much of their traditional recruitment territory in Anatolia to the Turks.
>Was the eastern empires army professional or was it dependent on a lot of mercenaries and auxillaries like the west?
Both at various time periods, and sometimes at the same time.
>do you mind expanding a bit as to how the loss of those territories would undermine a professional army
They lost a huge portion of their professioanl oldiers, ten pissed away the rest in a civil war, and lost the heartlands of the empire that were supplying their semi-professional infantry and foot archers, as well as a lot of their "light" (they could and likely would still have armor) cavalry and even some of the kataphracts.
They literally lost half of the population to the muslims.
HALF. This makes paying a fully professional force really, really fucking hard, especially when your empire is basically all frontiers, and all of these frontiers are exceedingly dangerous.
Before THAT, the plauge of justinian fucking crushed the western world. 30-%50%+ casualty rates. 50% losses causes a unit to be taken off the board in strategic planning.
The empire, by the time it implemented the themes, simply didn't have the population it used to. And it never would again.
After the initial post-Islam collapse, the Empire settled the remnants of the field army in the newly formed themes, where they basically served as a local militia that farmed land leased to them by the Empire. They were complemented by the professional tagmata based out of Constantinople. When the Empire finally regained the initiative against its various enemies in the 9th and 10th centuries, the themes were increasingly neglected and hollowed out. After Manzikert and the decade of civil war that followed it both institutions were devastated, and the Komnenoi basically had to build a new army from scratch (which was supplemented by various mercenaries).
Thanks for the answers re: the military guys. But what the evolution of Byzantine society? When/why did the elite stop maintaining all the trappings and titles of Rome, especially since trying to copy Rome would become popular in Europe. And their culture?
For example, I mentioned sculpture in my original post. I vaguely recall reading something a while ago about late Roman art, and the author contended that it was an aesthetic choice for more abstract representations to move away from the realism of classical art (see e.g. the pic with this post), although I'm still inclined to think things like the arts were already on the decline in the Empire, and not just the result of an ancient avante-garde movement.
Mainly because their language changed to Greek. Various traditions persisted including the title of Caesar but they had become memes and held no real power.