Add to Wishlist About this Product Regarded as the elite arm of the military during the Middle Byzantine period, the cavalry executed high speed reconnaissance, agile arrow barrages and crippling blows to enemy formations. Its ranks were filled primarily through direct recruitment or hereditary service by holders of military lands, but in times of crisis irregulars would be temporarily enlisted. Offering a thorough and detailed examination of their training, weaponry, dress and daily life, this book re-affirms the importance of cavalry troops in military victories of the period. Making use of original Greek source material, and featuring unpublished manuscript images, this follow-on volume to Warrior Byzantine Infantryman c. He has lectured for many years on Byzantine, Greek and Roman armies. He has also written extensively on this period.

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The state lay defenceless before internal and external threats, as the Byzantine army had been reduced to a shadow of its former self. During the 11th century, decades of peace and neglect had reduced the old thematic forces, and the military and political anarchy following the Battle of Manzikert in had destroyed the professional Imperial Tagmata , the core of the Byzantine army.

At Manzikert, units tracing their lineage for centuries back to the Roman Empire were wiped out, and the subsequent loss of Anatolia deprived the Empire of its main recruiting ground. These developments should not, however, at least in their earlier phases, be seen as a planned exercise in military restructuring. In particular, Alexios I was often reduced to reacting to events rather than controlling them; the changes he made to the Byzantine army were largely done out of immediate necessity and were pragmatic in nature.

It contained guards units such as the Varangians , the vestiaritai , the vardariotai and also the archontopouloi the latter recruited by Alexios from the sons of dead Byzantine officers , foreign mercenary regiments, and also units of professional soldiers recruited from the provinces.

These provincial troops included kataphraktoi cavalry from Macedonia , Thessaly and Thrace , plus various other provincial forces. Alongside troops raised and paid for directly by the state the Komnenian army included the armed followers of members of the wider imperial family, its extensive connections, and the provincial aristocracy dynatoi.

In this can be seen the beginnings of the feudalisation of the Byzantine military. So, unlike in earlier periods, there are no detailed descriptions of Byzantine tactics and military equipment.

Information on military matters in the Komnenian era must be gleaned from passing comments in contemporary historical and biographical literature, court panegyrics and from pictorial evidence. Mercurios in armour. Byzantine depictions of military saints give useful information concerning armour, however, some elements can be fanciful or anachronistic.

He merely noted that while Alexios I had difficulty raising sufficient troops to repel the Italo-Normans, John I could field armies as large as those of the Kingdom of Hungary and Manuel I assembled an army capable of defeating the large crusading force of Conrad III.

During the reign of Alexios I, the field army may have numbered around 20, men. This amounted to more than 12, cavalry for the entire Empire, not including those from allied contingents. In , Isaac II assembled knights and infantry from the Latin population of Constantinople, an equivalent number of Georgian and Turkish mercenaries, and about 1, Byzantine soldiers.

The rebel army which could not have numbered much more than 3,, men had been the field force sent against the Bulgarians. Expeditionary forces remained around the same size for the rest of Angeloi period.

In Isaac II campaigned with 2, cavalry in Bulgaria. After a period of financial instability, in — Alexios reformed the currency by introducing the high purity hyperpyron gold coin, created new high financial officials in the bureaucracy, and reformed the taxation system. There is almost no evidence of rates of pay for Komnenian soldiery, however, the same principles undoubtedly still operated, and a Frankish knightly heavy cavalryman was most probably paid considerably more than a Turkish horse archer.

The pronoia was essentially the grant of rights to receive revenue from a particular area of land, a form of tax farming, and it was held in return for military obligations. Pronoia holders, whether native or of foreign origin, lived locally in their holding and collected their income at source, eliminating the cost of an unnecessary level of bureaucracy, also the pronoia ensured an income for the soldier whether or not he was on active campaign or on garrison duty.

The local people who worked the land under a pronoiar also rendered labour services, making the system semi-feudal, though the pronoia was not strictly hereditary.

The detailing at the ankle may indicate that podopsella greaves are being depicted. Note the overtly straight-legged riding posture with the heel lower than the toes indicative of the adoption of Western-style lance techniques. Byzantine, 12th century Under the emperor, the commander-in-chief of the army was the megas domestikos Grand Domestic.

The commander of the navy was the megas doux Grand Duke , who was also the military commander for Crete, the Aegean Islands and the southern parts of mainland Greece. The commander of the Varangians had a unique title, akolouthos acolyte , indicative of his close personal attendance on the emperor.

On campaign the allagia could be grouped together usually in threes into larger bodies called taxeis, syntaxeis, lochoi or tagmata. George shows the type of armour most often depicted as being worn by Byzantine heavy cavalrymen of the Komnenian period.

Many of the earlier guard units did not survive the reign of Alexios I; the scholai , Immortals athanatoi , and exkoubitoi are not mentioned in the reigns of his immediate successors.

The notable exceptions to this process being the Varangians and vestiaritai, and probably the archontopouloi. Although not an entirely formal regiment the "household" oikos would have been a formidable fighting force, however, it would have been available only when the emperor took the field in person. Alexios took young officers into his household, whom he trained personally. In the campaign against Bohemond I of Antioch in — the best of these officers commanded the blockading forces keeping the Norman army pent up on the Albanian coast.

The victorious outcome of this campaign probably resulted, in part, from the increased discipline the Byzantine forces showed due to the quality of their commanders. These regiments, whose soldiers could be characterized as "native mercenaries," became an integral part of the central army and many field armies of the Komnenian period, the tagmata of Macedonia, Thrace and Thessaly being particularly notable.

Though raised in particular provinces, these cavalry regiments had long ceased to have any local defence role. As regions were reconquered and brought under greater control provincial forces were re-established, though initially they often only served to provide local garrisons.

In the reign of Manuel I the historian Niketas Choniates mentions a division of a field army composed of "the eastern and western tagmata. The origins and organisation of the native infantry of the Byzantine army of this period are obscure. It is known that there was an official register of soldiers serving as infantry, but their geographical origins and unit names are not recorded. Early in the period, during the reign of Alexios I, the westerners in the central army were referred to as ton Frangikon tagmaton, "the Frankish regiment".

These troops would usually be placed under a Byzantine general as part of his command, to be brigaded with other troops of a similar fighting capability, or combined to create field forces of mixed type.

The Byzantines usually took care to mix ethnic groups within the formations making up a field army in order to minimize the risk of all the soldiers of a particular nationality changing sides or decamping to the rear during battle. This number was increased after Manuel I defeated the Serb rebellion in to 2, Serbs for European campaigns and Serbs for Anatolian campaigns.

It is notable that there was no major incident of mutiny or treachery involving foreign troops between and Some leading provincial families became very powerful; for example, the Gabras family of Trebizond achieved virtual independence of central authority at times during the 12th century.

Their quality, however, would tend to be inferior to the professional troops of the basilika allagia. In the Strategikon of Kekaumenos of c.

These guards would have resembled smaller versions of the imperial oikos. The sebastokrator Isaac , brother of John II, even maintained his own unit of vestiaritai guards.

Alongside the land transfer, control of the local soldiery also passed to the monastery. This suggests that these soldiers were effectively members of a class of petty, "personal pronoiars". A class that was not dependent on state-owned land for income, but upon the estates of a leading landowner, evidently the landowner could be either secular or ecclesiastical. Byzantium was open to military influences from the Muslim world and the Eurasian steppe, the latter being especially productive of military equipment innovation.

The effectiveness of Byzantine armour would not be exceeded in Western Europe before the 14th century. Demetrios Byzantine ivory icon, c.

The saint is shown wearing a lamellar klivanion with splint armour defences for the upper arms incorporating plate pauldrons, the splint kremasmata defences for the hips and thighs match the arm defences.

The bare legs are a classical convention Arms[ edit ] Close combat troops, infantry and cavalry, made use of a spear, of varying length, usually referred to as a kontarion. Specialist infantry called menavlatoi used a heavy-shafted weapon called the menavlion the precise nature of which is uncertain; they are mentioned in the earlier Sylloge Tacticorum but may still have been extant. The rhomphaia , a visually distinctive edged weapon, was carried by guardsmen in close attendance on the emperor.

It was carried on the shoulder, but the primary sources are inconsistent as to whether it was single- or double-edged. Byzantine maces were given a variety of names including: mantzoukion, apelatikion and siderorabdion, suggesting that the weapons themselves were of varied construction.

The earlier Byzantine bow was of Hunnic origin, but by the Komnenian period bows of Turkish form were in widespread use. Slings and staff-slings are also mentioned on occasion. Demetrios wearing a klivanion with splint defences for the arms and a splint kremasmata. The depiction of the kremasmata skirt shows that the splint elements were firmly attached to a textile foundation and are not separate pteruges.

Whatever their overall shape, all shields were strongly convex. A large pavise -like infantry shield may also have been used. Such a garment, called the kavadion, usually reaching to just above the knees with elbow or full-length sleeves, was often the sole body protection for lighter troops, both infantry and cavalry.

Alternatively the kavadion could provide the base garment like an arming doublet worn under metallic armour by more heavily protected troops. The lamellar klivanion was a rather different type of garment.

Byzantine lamellar, from pictorial evidence, possessed some unique features. It was made up of round-topped metal lamellae riveted, edge to edge, to horizontal leather backing bands; these bands were then laced together, overlapping vertically, by laces passing through holes in the lamellae. Modern reconstructions have shown this armour to be remarkably resistant to piercing and cutting weapons. Because of the expense of its manufacture, in particular the lamellae surrounding the arm and neck apertures had to be individually shaped, this form of armour was probably largely confined to heavy cavalry and elite units.

A good view of the construction of the lamellar klivanion. The image also shows the tubular nature of the upper arm defences of the raised arm, that is the defences are not made up of separate strips.

Unusually, the Biblical figure Joshua is shown wearing headgear; the helmet and its attached neck and throat defences appear to be cloth-covered. It is possible that the figure depicts mail manikellia guards for the forearm the forearms are not shown in the same green as the hem of the tunic and there is no appearance of folds as would be used to indicate cloth.

Because lamellar armour was inherently less flexible than other types of protection the klivanion was restricted to a cuirass covering the torso only. The klivanion was usually worn with other armour elements which extended the area of the body given protection. The klivanion could be worn over a mail shirt, as shown on some contemporary icons depicting military saints. In illustrated manuscripts, such as the Madrid Skylitzes , these defences are shown decorated with gold leaf in an identical manner to the klivanion thus indicating that they are also constructed of metal.

This was a skirt, perhaps quilted or of pleated fabric, usually reinforced with metal splints similar to those found in the arm defences. Although the splinted construction is that most often shown in pictorial sources, there are indications that the kremasmata could also be constructed of mail, scale or inverted lamellar over a textile base.

This garment protected the hips and thighs of the wearer. Most images show knee-high boots krepides, hypodemata as the only form of defence for the lower leg though a few images of military saints show tubular greaves with no detailing indicative of a composite construction. These would presumably be termed podopsella or chalkotouba. Greaves of a splint construction also occur, very sporadically, in illustrated manuscripts and church murals.

The decoration of this helmet, with its religious iconography, is of direct Byzantine inspiration. Icons of soldier-saints, often showing very detailed illustrations of body armour, usually depict their subjects bare-headed for devotional reasons and therefore give no information on helmets and other head protection.

Illustrations in manuscripts tend to be relatively small and give a limited amount of detail. However, some description of the helmets in use by the Byzantines can be given. This was a tall, pointed spangenhelm where the segments of the composite skull were riveted directly to one another and not to a frame.

Illustrations also indicate conical helmets, and the related type with a forward deflected apex the Phrygian cap style , of a single-piece skull construction, often with an added brow-band.


Byzantine Cavalryman C.900-1204 (Osprey Warrior)

Start your review of Byzantine Cavalryman c. As the title indicates, this concentrates on the cavalry arm of the Byzantine army. The main shortcoming of the previous volume was that it was highly theoretical and based largely on the 10th century military manuals with very little information on what actually happened as opposed to the theoretical version of events proposed in the military manuals. To be fair, most Byzantine chroniclers were more interested in campaigns than battles and thus the literature on military life is poor, but there are snippets available. This volume corrects that, and Dawson looks at a much wider range of literature, in part because more information is available on the cavalry, and in part because it seems that Dr. Dawson has become better acquainted with the material.


Byzantine army (Komnenian era)

China[ edit ] An Eastern Han glazed ceramic statue of a horse with bridle and halter headgear, from Sichuan , late 2nd century to early 3rd century AD Further east, the military history of China , specifically northern China , held a long tradition of intense military exchange between Han Chinese infantry forces of the settled dynastic empires and the mounted nomads or "barbarians" of the north. The naval history of China was centered more to the south, where mountains, rivers, and large lakes necessitated the employment of a large and well-kept navy. The Chinese recognized early on during the Han Dynasty BC — AD that they were at a disadvantage in lacking the number of horses the northern nomadic peoples mustered in their armies. Emperor Wu of Han r —87 BC went to war with the Dayuan for this reason, since the Dayuan were hoarding a massive amount of tall, strong, Central Asian bred horses in the Hellenized — Greek region of Fergana established slightly earlier by Alexander the Great. Cavalry tactics in China were enhanced by the invention of the saddle-attached stirrup by at least the 4th century, as the oldest reliable depiction of a rider with paired stirrups was found in a Jin Dynasty tomb of the year AD. Since at least the 3rd century BC, there was influence of northern nomadic peoples and Yemaek peoples on Korean warfare.

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