The Anatolic Theme (Greek: Άνατολικόν [θέμα], Anatolikon [thema]), more properly known as the Theme of the Anatolics (Greek: θέμα Άνατολικῶν, thema Anatolikōn) was a Byzantine theme (a military-civilian province) in central Asia Minor (modern Turkey). From the break-up of the Opsikion in the mid-8th century on, it was the most important of all the themes of the Empire.
The exact date of the theme's establishment is unknown. Along with the other original themes, it was created sometime after the 640s as a military encampment area for the remnants of the old field armies of the East Roman army, which were withdrawn to Asia Minor in the face of the Muslim conquests. The Anatolic Theme was settled and took its name from the army of the East (Greek: Άνατολή, Anatolē). It is attested for the first time as a theme in 669, while the exercitus Orientalis is mentioned as late as 687.
Directly facing the forces of the Caliphate during its first centuries of existence, and benefitting from its support of the Isaurian emperors, the Anatolic Theme was the most powerful and most prestigious of the themes (see below). Its very power, however, also meant that it was a potential threat to the emperor: a first revolt is recorded in 681, and in 714 its commander, Leo the Isaurian, managed to establish himself as emperor (Leo III). Another stratēgos, Bardanes Tourkos, rebelled in 803. Conversely, in 742 Constantine V found refuge and support in the Anatolic theme against the usurper Artabasdos.
The last appearance of the Anatolic Theme in the historical sources is in 1077, when its stratēgos, Nikephoros Botaneiates, proclaimed himself emperor. Soon after, the region was overrun by the Seljuk Turks.
Geography and administration
In its "classical" extent during the 8th and 9th centuries, the theme stretched over the ancient regions of Lycaonia, Pisidia, Isauria, as well as most of Phrygia and parts of Galatia Salutaris. Initially, the Anatolic Theme included the western and southern shores of Asia Minor as well, but by ca. 720 they were split off to form the Thracesian and Cibyrrhaeot themes. Under Theophilos (r. 829–842), its eastern and south-eastern portions, facing the Arab frontier zone and including the forts that guarded the northern entrance to the Cilician Gates, were detached to form two new frontier districts (kleisourai), those of Cappadocia (originally a tourma of the Anatolics) and Seleucia. Emperor Leo VI the Wise ceded the region west of Lake Tuz (the banda of Eudokias, Hagios Agapetos and Aphrazeia) to Cappadocia.
The theme's capital was Amorium, at least until it was sacked by the Arabs in 838. After that, it was probably transferred to the nearby fortress of Polybotos. The late antique urban fabric suffered considerably from the Arab attacks and the decline of urbanization, but most of them in the interior of the theme, in Phrygia and Pisidia, survived in reduced form. The cities of eastern Cappadocia (the former province of Cappadocia Secunda), however, which bordered the Caliphate, were practically destroyed, as was Antioch in Pisidia.
According to the Arab geographers Qudama ibn Ja'far (wrote ca. 930) and Ibn al-Faqih (wrote ca. 903), the Anatolic Theme, "the largest of the provinces of the Romans", fielded 15,000 men in the 9th century, when it contained 34 fortresses. It and its governing stratēgos, first attested in 690, ranked first in precedence among the themes and their governors. The stratēgos of the Anatolics was one of the few posts from which eunuchs were specifically barred. The holders of the post received an annual salary of 40 pounds of gold, and are attested as holding the senior court ranks of patrikios, anthypatos, and prōtospatharios. In addition, they are the only ones to have been appointed to the post of monostrategos ("single-general"), overall commander of the Asian land themes.
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