Europe In The Middle Ages

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Middle Ages is a period in Western history, between the classical world and the emergence of the modern world, that opened with the disintegration of the Roman empire in the West and the contraction of that in the East, and closed with Europe having recovered its political stability, urban life, and local and long-distance trade, and being poised to begin its economic domination of much of the world.


Byzantine intelligence

After Rome's fall under the onslaught of barbarian invasions, the eastern Roman empire lived on. Its surviving remnant, the Byzantine Empire, spanned virtually the whole of the Middle Ages (395-1453). Some institutional continuity thus survived, as with the functioning of the cursus publicus, the public roads system, continuing until Justinian's reign (527-565). (Batterberry 2007) (Cantor 2003) (Cosgrave 2000)

The empire had a sort of secret police with the agentes in rebus, or agents of public affairs, serving as a military corps of messengers and informers, maintaining surveillance of the operations of the postal road system, watching for spies and spying in turn. Their leaders were commonly and then officially known as the curiosi (inquisitive people).

From the highest corps in the agentes, the principes were chosen to guard against conspiracy, arrest spies, and carry out missions at the request of the emperor or his top administrative aides, in effect, functioning as the empire's secret police. As for the physical safety of the emperor, there were the cubicularri, responsible for the imperial apartments. (Hanawalt 2008)

Along with these intelligence services and missions within the empire, there were always the questions of securing borderlands and infiltrating enemy territory. Surveillance abroad became the assignment of the very best soldiers, forming prodigiously mobile bands of special-guard corps, akritai, posted at the empire's frontiers.

These corps watched for trouble on the frontiers and borderlands, collecting intelligence for the emperor by raiding the frontier and capturing prisoners. They also guarded against foreign spies and developed a communication system of optical signals. Yet, in the face of repeated Arab invasions of its territory, the intelligence services of the Byzantine Empire in Asia Minor underwent reorganization, and a new communications system based on the use of fire signals and clocks was perfected during Theophilus's reign (829-842).

The Byzantines, like the Romans before them, also sent agents abroad to spy, while maintaining a military intelligence system that oversaw security for the garrisons of the provincial armies. At the tactical unit level, there were scouts and special corps, sometimes recruited from the local populace, who surveyed the terrain and reported intelligence to the army commander, the strategus. There was also a naval counterpart, who used warships to spy on the naval activity of foreign rivals. Captains in the Imperial Navy used an elaborate system of colored banners, or smoke and fire, as coded signals to communicate maneuvers. (Knight 2010)

There was also diplomatic intelligence on foreigners outside and within the capital of the empire, apparently delivered to the scriniium barbarorum, the Office ...
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