Byzantium (q.v.), despite the geographical centrality of the Mediterranean (q.v.) and an enormous coastline, was never a maritime power. Indeed, fear of the sea was apparently common, judging from Byzantine literature. This may help to explain why the Byzantine navy was relatively small, even after Byzantine hegemony of the western Mediterranean was challenged by the Vandals (q.v.) in the fifth century. However, the Arab (q.v.) naval threat of the seventh century in the eastern Mediterranean produced dramatic changes. The naval theme of Kibyrrhaiotai (qq.v.) was created to help defend the eastern Mediterranean. Its warships (called dromones), driven by single or double banks of rowers, were equipped with rams, catapults, and Greek Fire (q.v.). Naval decline began in the 11th century, something clearly illustrated by the dependence of Alexios I (q.v.) on the Venetian fleet while fighting Robert Guiscard (q.v.) in 1081. Alexios I created the title megas doux (supreme naval commander), and his immediate successors attempted to create a Byzantine fleet. Nevertheless, the results were modest. After the reconquest of Constantinople (q.v.) in 1261, Michael VIII (q.v.) tried to restore the navy by creating a small fleet. Andronikos II (q.v.) reduced its size considerably, forcing him to depend on the Genoese for naval support when necessary. Andronikos III's (q.v.) small fleet was commanded by megas doux Alexios Apokaukos (q.v.). In 1349 the citizenry of Constantinople contributed funds to build nine warships and 100 other vessels to do battle with the Genoese (who won). John VI Kantakouzenos (q.v.) launched another small fleet that was again defeated. From then on Byzantium (q.v.) assembled ships as it could, sometimes making requests to the Venetians. For example, in 1410 Manuel II (q.v.) requested armed galleys from Venice (q.v.) to use against the Ottomans (q.v.), but Venice refused. When Musa (q.v.) besieged Constantinople in 1411 Manuel II managed to find enough ships to repulse him. However, Constantine XI (q.v.) could collect only about a few dozen (mostly Genoese and Venetian) ships to defend the Golden Horn (q.v.) at the beginning of the Ottoman siege of 1453. Of these only nine were proper warships, only three of which belonged to Constantine XI.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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