The Emperor Heraclius once intercepted a message from the Persian King Chosroes which ordered the execution of one of his generals, Shahr-Baraz. Heraclius added the names of 400 other Persian officers to the list and diverted the message to Shahr-Baraz. Heraclius’ stratagem was deviously brilliant. Had the executions been carried out, the Persian military would have been decapitated. Instead, Shahr-Baraz and the other officers rose in rebellion against Chosroes and overthrew him, subsequently making peace with Byzantium.

In another episode, a hostile Venetian fleet wintered at the island of Chios, directly threatening Byzantine territory. The Venetians sent ambassadors to Constantinople to negotiate an agreement. The Emperor Manuel I Comnenus refused to see them. The ambassadors returned to Chios with a Byzantine official, who suggested another embassy. The Venetian Doge commanding the fleet agreed to do so. After the second embassy had departed, illness swept through the Venetian camp. More than 1,000 soldiers and sailors died within a few days. The second embassy returned without having met with the emperor.

Sick from the plague (rumours spread that the Byzantines had poisoned the water), the Venetians sent a third embassy to Constantinople. By now well-informed of conditions in the Venetian camp, Manuel realised he need make no concessions. He stretched out negotiations for so long that the Doge was obliged to withdraw the fleet or face a mutiny among his ailing sailors. As the fleet limped back to Venice, a Byzantine naval force attacked without warning and decimated the Venetians. Soon afterward, Manuel sent a message to the Doge which literally added insult to injury: ‘Your nation has for a long time behaved with great stupidity’.