|Theme of Lykandos
Λυκανδός, θέμα Λυκανδοῦ
|Theme of the Byzantine Empire|
|Historical era||Middle Ages|
|-||Arrival of Melias||903|
|-||Elevation to theme||ca. 915|
|-||Fall to the Seljuks||after 1071|
The fortress of Lykandos was located in the area of modern Elbistan in southeastern Turkey, on the Antitaurus Mountains. In 903, the Armenian Mleh (Melias in Greek sources) settled there, establishing a quasi-autonomous lordship. The area was of critical strategic importance, lying directly on the frontier zone between the Byzantines and the Muslim emirates of Syria and Mesopotamia, and commanding one of the principal routes through the mountains into Byzantine Anatolia. In 905, however, Melias was expelled from the Byzantine Empire (along with other Armenian nobles) in the aftermath of the failed rebellion of Andronikos Doukas against the Emperor Leo VI the Wise (r. 886–912). Recalled in 908, his lordship was formally sanctioned by Leo through his elevation to the status of kleisourarches of Lykandos. Melias was tasked with refortifying the castle, which lay in ruins, and with settling and garrisoning the district, which lay uninhabited. Melias was swiftly successful in his efforts: the region, able to provide for men and horses and "abundant in grazing lands" according to Constantine Porphyrogennetos, was settled with Armenians, and soon, Melias managed to expand his control over the neighbouring mountain districts of Tzamandos and Symposion.
Arab sources make clear that the new and expanding province posed a direct threat, particularly to the nearby emirate of Melitene. A fierce Arab assault was launched against Lykandos in 909 but it failed, achieving only to reclaim some outlying positions, while in 915, Melias's troops ravaged Arab territory as far as Germanikeia (modern Kahramanmaraş). The importance of Lykandos and the successes of its commander were duly recognized, and by 916, it had been elevated in status to a full thema. In 917, however, the troops of Lykandos participated in the disastrous campaign against Bulgaria that ended in the Battle of Acheloos.
The theme's forces would play a major role in the Byzantine–Arab wars of the early and middle 10th century, especially in the campaigns of John Kourkouas, which expanded the imperial frontier eastwards to the Euphrates and into Armenia and Syria, as well as in the civil wars of the later 10th century. Administratively, it was often run together with the neighbouring themata of Melitene and Tzamandos. It does not appear to have constituted a bishopric. The area was lost by the Byzantines after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, when it was overrun by the Seljuk Turks, but it nevertheless appears in the formal grant of territory by Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118) to Bohemond I of Antioch in 1108.
- Kazhdan, Alexander Petrovich, ed. (1991). Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York, New York and Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
- Pertusi, A. (1952). Constantino Porfirogenito: De Thematibus (in Italian). Rome, Italy: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.
- Treadgold, Warren (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2630-2.
- Whittow, Mark (1996). The Making of Byzantium, 600–1025. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-20496-4.