The Byzantine frontier in the Balkans appears on modern maps as a line of demarcation.1 The linear frontier in the textbook joins the furthest points where, at a given time, the emperor could exercise his political will, and where his right to do so was recognised. It represents an attempt by modern scholars to measure the extent of the Byzantine empire at a given point in time, and to represent this in a manner intelligible to a modern audience. The spatial and political qualities of the linear frontier are familiar to both scholars and their audience, and therefore certain ideas can be transmitted with the minimum disruption to the historical narrative. The linear frontier can advance or retreat according to the prevailing political circumstances, graphically underlining the twists and turn of fate that are outlined by the sources. Moreover, scholars may legitimately believe that they are recreating the situation as it was perceived by the subjects of their narratives. Sources often refer to peace treaties, and, although not in the case of the lower Danube, the texts of treaties have survived which refer to areas of political influence and, very often, to a negotiated, linear division between them. Therefore, much scholarship has proceeded from the justifiable, although rarely explicitly justified, premise, that linear frontiers are common to medieval and modern societies, and that consequently ‘the frontier element [in any situation can] speak for itself’.
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