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INTELLIGENCE SERVICES DURING ANCIENT GREEK, ROMAN AND BYZANTINE TIMES

The collection and utilization of intelligence does not constitute a privilege of modern times. According to testimonies by various sources, the appearance of intelligence dates back to the first historic years, while during ancient times it constituted a key element of the “politeia” state apparatus, with a view to safeguard and protect the interests of each city-state.
The most characteristic example, is that of the Spartan “krypteia”[1], of the Spartan state and the main manifestation of the fear of Spartans against those considered as non-Spartans, namely the eilotes (i.e., slaves) and the perioikoi (i.e., inhabitants of the neighboring city-states). A significant role in intelligence collection was also played by the so-called “Consuls”[2],the diplomats in contemporary terms, representatives of each city-state, who created their own information networks in order to provide information to the authorities of the city-state which they represented.

During the Roman and Byzantine times, the institution of “secret friends”[3], was developed with the main responsibility to inform the Emperor about the activities and intentions of the barbarian groups or tribes as well as about the foes of the Empire.
A particularly good example is that of the activity of the ‘Secret Friends’ during the reign of Constantinos V Kopronimos (741-775) during the on-going struggle to counter the Bulgarian threat.


[1] For more on “Krypteia”, see Paul Carledge, Spartans, An Epic History, Athens 2004, p. 33.
[2] On the role of “Consuls”, see Andreas Gerolymatos, Espionage in Greece, Athens XX, p. 15-167.
[3] On “Secret Friends”, see I. Karayannopoulos, History of the Byzantine State II, Thessaloniki 1981, p. 145.

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