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Forum LockedThe Early Byzantine Military (306-610)

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Post Options Post Options   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The Early Byzantine Military (306-610)
    Posted: 17-Aug-2006 at 05:35
In contrast to Byzantine Emperor's Late Military topic, I have created this. Seeing very much content of the Late Military belonging to other era's it seemed very appropriate to do so.
 
All military aspects of the Byzantine Empire are very interesting to discuss and inspect; let it be either the Battle of Adrianople or Manzikert. To first start the interesting discussion that should erupt here, I am asking a few questions that are now being discussed in the Late topic but should be here.
 
   1. The existence of such special military unit as 'Trapezuntine Archers' (I and Byzantine Emperor are trying to solve this out but we have had no luck).
 
   2. The home ports of the Byzantine Navy, during it's Golden Age.
 
   3. Which of the Emperors created the different tagmata and themata units?
 
 
 
 
Thanks for anyone participating,
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Aug-2006 at 15:10
Originally posted by rider

1. The existence of such special military unit as 'Trapezuntine Archers' (I and Byzantine Emperor are trying to solve this out but we have had no luck).
 
Thanks to rider for opening this new topic and for help bearing the flag of Byzantine history here at AE!  Big smile
 
Yes we are discussing this curious "Trapezuntine Archer" unit, as to whether or not it actually existed as a special unit in the army, or if it is a fictional creation of Medieval Total War.
 
Please weigh in with what you think, everyone.
 
Here is what our colleague Digenis said about it in the late Byzantine military thread:
 
Originally posted by Digenis

"Trebizond archers" are an invention of Medieval Total War.
(unfortunately they survive in MTW2)

(it is sad that not an existing unit was used,since -at least until 1204- the Byzantine army had a great variety of different units (incl.archers),in comparison with western armies:knights,sergeants,peasants)

There wasnt anything to specialize them as a unit.
The only mention them is a unit of some 400 of them to serve in Cilician Armenia's forces.
They were Byzantine archers from Trebizond-nothing special-nothing different from the other byzantine archers.
 
Here is what I posted on the subject:
 
Originally posted by Byzantine Emperor

There are so many other units they (MTW) could have chosen that are attested in the sources - Mourtatoi, Tourkopouloi, Tzangatores.  All of these are late Byzantine archery units of some kind that are mentioned in documentary and chronicle sources(...)Michael VIII and Andronikos II enlisted some of the Cilician and Caucasian highlanders, who were noted as proficient archers, not as archery units in the army, but as border defenders.  The emperors wanted them to guard the frontier against the Turks by staying in the area with their families and performing periodic raids.  These highlanders were even granted a small-scale pronoia at one point.
 
Now what about archers from the area of Trebizond in the early period of the empire?  Byzantium had control over the southern Black Sea littoral and it was a hotly contested area at some points.  Was it noted for producing talented archers in the earlier period?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Perseas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Aug-2006 at 15:33
Taken from "The Crusades" by David Nicolle

Infantry archers from the mountainous hinterland of Trabzon (Trebizond) were the most effective forces in the small Byzantine "Empire of Trebizon". They used composite bows and are likely to have been similar in other ways to the infantry archers of neighbouring Caucasus regions, both Christian and Muslim.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Perseas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Aug-2006 at 16:11
Originally posted by rider

   3. Which of the Emperors created the different tagmata and themata units?
 
Some infos about Themata units. During 6th century according to the Strategikon of Maurice, a thema unit had two divisions called "Meri" with highest number of troops 16.384.
 
The subvisions are:
- 'Phalangarchia' (sp?) 8,192 highest number of men
- 'Merarchia' 4,096 men
- 'Chiliarchia'
- 'Pentakosiarchia'
- 'Sintagma'
- 'Taksi'
- 'Tetrarchia'
- 'Dilochia'
- 'Lochos'
 
In 9th century according to the Arab writer Ibn Khurdadhbih, a Thema Unit had two divisions called "Turmae". The highest number of troops is now 10,000.
 
The subdivisions changed to:
 
- 'Bandon'
- 'Pentarcchia'
- 'Pentikontarchia'
- 'Dekarchia'
 
During late 9th century and mid 11th century, a thema consists of 2-3 "turmae" or "Meri" and the highest number of troops reaches 18,000 men.
 
 
After 11th century the Themata units are abolished and  Byzantines instead started using mercenaries.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Aug-2006 at 21:06
Originally posted by Perseas

Taken from "The Crusades" by David Nicolle

Infantry archers from the mountainous hinterland of Trabzon (Trebizond) were the most effective forces in the small Byzantine "Empire of Trebizon". They used composite bows and are likely to have been similar in other ways to the infantry archers of neighbouring Caucasus regions, both Christian and Muslim.
 
Yeah, this is what I was alluding to when I talked about archers from Paphlagonia and from the mountainous region west of Trebizond.  The area was noted for its men skilled in archery.  But there was never a special unit designated for Trapezuntine archers in the Byzantine army (that I have come across).  So I guess MTW was correct in allowing you to make these archers when you own the province of Trebizond.
 
What was the timeframe in which Nicolle mentions these archers: before or during the period of the Crusades?
 
Originally posted by Perseas

After 11th century the Themata units are abolished and  Byzantines instead started using mercenaries.
 
Yes, the armies of the themes were eventually demobilized in the 10th-early 11th century (which was a bad idea), so the Alexios I Komnenos had to hire mercenaries to replace them.
 
The tagmata did not die out all together; although, like your chart indicates, the numbers contained within them became smaller.  it is used in the late period to designate small groups of infantry or cavalry.  In the 14th century campaign army there was a psilika tagmata, which contained light-armed infantry.  Overall the term is synonymous with the word allagion in Byzantine military terminology.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Aug-2006 at 12:21
Thanks Perseus. You have been of great help, unfortuanetly, you didn't mentioned who created the various themata units.
 
I have heard that Constantine I created the first of such that later transformed into themata units?
 
And Byzantine Emperor, as you have surely (not to anger you if you haven't) read the Alexeid, can you tell me how accurate the military descriptions and battle descriptions are?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Aug-2006 at 12:50
Originally posted by rider

And Byzantine Emperor, as you have surely (not to anger you if you haven't) read the Alexeid, can you tell me how accurate the military descriptions and battle descriptions are?
 
Yes, I have read the Alexiad.  Anna Komnenos had a classical education, like most Byzantines who could pay for it.  She does a fair amount of typically-Byzantine archaizing in her writing, i.e. copying wholesale battle descriptions from Thucydides et al., but in other parts she is quite accurate and writes with an observance to detail.  For example, her descriptions of the medical techniques used to treat her father Alexios I are very vivid.
 
Another example that shows her accuracy (in military matters) is her description of a crossbow:
 
 
Anna Komnenos, Alexiad, Book X
 
The warriors at once flocked to that spot, as they saw he was strongly armed for battle. But Marianus, speaking in their language, advised the Latins to have no fear, and not to fight against fellow-Christians. But one of the Latins hit his helmet with his crossbow. This cross-bow is a bow of the barbarians quite unknown to the Greeks; and it is not stretched by the right hand pulling the string whilst the left pulls the bow in a contrary direction, but he who stretches this warlike and very far-shooting weapon must lie, one might say, almost on his back and apply both feet strongly against the semi-circle of the bow and with his two hands pull the string with all his might in the contrary direction. In the middle of the string is a socket, a cylindrical kind of cup fitted to the string itself, and about as long as an arrow of considerable size which reaches from the string to the very middle of the bow; and through this arrows of many sorts are shot out. [256] The arrows used with this bow are very short in length, but very thick, fitted in front with a very heavy iron tip. And in discharging them the string shoots them out with enormous violence and force, and whatever these darts chance to hit, they do not fall back, but they pierce through a shield, then cut through a heavy iron corselet and wing their way through and out at the other side. So violent and ineluctable is the discharge of arrows of this kind. Such an arrow has been known to pierce a bronze statue, and if it hits the wall of a very large town, the point of the arrow either protrudes on the inner side or it buries itself in the middle of the wall and is lost. Such then is this monster of a crossbow, and verily a devilish invention. And the wretched man who is struck by it, dies without feeling anything, not even feeling the blow, however strong it be.
 
To resume, the arrow from the crossbow struck the top of Marianus' helmet and pierced it in its flight without touching a hair of his head, for Providence warded it off. Then the man speedily discharged another arrow at the Count, and hit him in the arm; the arrow bored through the shield, passed through his cuirass of scale armour, and touched his side. A certain Latin priest who happened to be standing in the stem with twelve other fighting men, saw this, and let fly several arrows against Marianus. Not even then did Marianus surrender, but fought fiercely himself and encouraged his men to do the same, so that three times over the men with the priest had to be replaced, as they were wounded and sore pressed. The priest himself, however, although he had received many blows, and was streaming with his own blood, remained quite fearless. For the rules concerning priests are not the same among the Latins as they are with us ; For we are given the command by the canonical laws and the teaching of the Gospel, " Touch not, taste not, handle not! For thou art consecrated." Whereas the Latin barbarian will simultaneously handle divine things, and wear his shield on his left arm, and hold his spear in his right hand, and at one and the same time he communicates the body and blood of God, and looks murderously and becomes 'a man of blood,' as it says in the psalm of David. For this barbarian race is no less devoted to sacred things than it is to war. And so this man of violence rather than priest, wore his priestly garb at the same time that he handled the oar and had an eye equally to naval or land warfare, fighting simultaneously with the sea and with men. But [257] our rules, as I have just remarked, are derived from the . . . of Aaron and Moses and our first high-priest. After the battle had raged fiercely from the evening till next midday, the Latins surrendered to Marianus, much against their will, after asking and obtaining a promise of immunity.
 
As for battles themselves, like I said, she tends to plagiarize classical Greek historians.  To Byzantine writers, the greats such as Thucydides, Herodotus, and Homer were treasure troves of ready-made battle descriptions.  They thought "Why write it over again if it was written with such power and excitement by the greats?" LOL
 
This not to say that there is no truth to her accounts of battles.  Some historians think that she lifted accounts of battles from her husband Bryennios' short history (he was one of Alexios' generals).  Anna herself probably interviewed eyewitnesses, for she was very young at the time of the First Crusade and the Normans excursions into the Balkans.
 


Edited by Byzantine Emperor - 18-Aug-2006 at 12:53
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Digenis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Aug-2006 at 14:25
Originally posted by rider

 
  2. The home ports of the Byzantine Navy, during it's Golden Age.


A map of the Byzantine empire during 10th century.
From "History of the Greek nation" vol.H

Themata districts are designed by using as source mainly Const.Porfyrogennetus.

With blue ,i marked the mentioned Major Ports of the Navy.



From West to East:
Dyrrachium
Koroni
Patrai
Corinth
Monemvasia
Constantinople
Attaleia
Trebzon

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Post Options Post Options   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Aug-2006 at 15:03
Very good Digenis, thanks. This helps us too, alot. Can you say the dates of this map?
 
Were there any major ports on Cypros?
 
They thought "Why write it over again if it was written with such power and excitement by the greats?"
 
So, they copied the description of Marathon over to Manzikert; I hope not for it would be treason. Can you name any such cases?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Aug-2006 at 23:18
Originally posted by rider

So, they copied the description of Marathon over to Manzikert; I hope not for it would be treason. Can you name any such cases?
 
Oh come on!  They would only copy sections that portray the illustrious exploits of Greeks in battle.  In other words, things that aided in projecting the Byzantine ideology of the emperor (and empire - oikoumene) being at the head of the Christian kingdoms of the world. 
 
If you read the Alexiad, you can see how Anna peppers her writing on almost every page with classical allusions and anecdotes.  I would have to look for specific passages that were lifted wholesale.  If she leaves character names within the text, such as Achilles or Ajax, and blatant Homeric epithets, chances are she inserted something from the Iliad in there!
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Aug-2006 at 11:31
Oh, I am planning to read it very soon.

Also the other Byzantine authors: Procopius, Psellos and I can't name others for I don't remember them: how true are they?

Could you name the most of such Byzantine chronologies?

And did William of Tyre ever speak of the Byzantines?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Aug-2006 at 15:52
Originally posted by rider

Oh, I am planning to read it very soon.
 
Excellent.  Please share your observations with us when you do.

Originally posted by rider

Also the other Byzantine authors: Procopius, Psellos and I can't name others for I don't remember them: how true are they?
 
Both of them were imperial bureaucrats.  So you have to weigh what they say with their factional sympathies. 
 
Of course we know that Prokopios praised Justinian for his deeds and building programs in one set of writings, and totally tore him down in The Secret Histories.  We have to maintain a balance between these two views to get the truth, I think.
 
Psellos was a talented academic and philosopher.  He also made many enemies as the advisor to a series of emperors.  So naturally he builds some emperors up and criticizes others according to both their accoplishments and which side of the dynastic struggles they were on in the Macedonian period.

Originally posted by rider

And did William of Tyre ever speak of the Byzantines?
 
Yes I think he does, although briefly in the context of the Crusade. 
 
You should read the 10th century account of the Holy Roman imperial envoy Liutprand of Cremona.  He came to Constantinople to seek a Byzantine princess as a wife for Otto II.  He despised the Byzantines and was one of the perpetrators who spread the myths about "Greek effeminacy and perfidity" back in the West.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Aug-2006 at 16:35
Wasn't Psellos the secretary of seven or nine emperors? I read it somewhere.

Actually, my main question was if you could name other Byzantine chorniclers.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Nestorian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2006 at 10:08

Constantine V created the first Tagmatas, originally from Thematic units like the Opsikion who had developed a taste for domestic rebellion.

They later evolved into a full time professional force of the Empire.

By the time of Basil, the Tagmata consisted of Imperial and Provincial Tagmata. The provincial tagmata were full time soldiers who did the real duty of defending and fighting for the empire rather than the thematic soldiers who rarely saw much action and were subsequently deprived of pay, equipment and eventually their position in society.

At the moment, I'm trying to compile a list of Byzantine units as I'm drawing them one by one.
 
Anyone have comphrensive list?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2006 at 13:49
Originally posted by Nestorian

At the moment, I'm trying to compile a list of Byzantine units as I'm drawing them one by one.
 
Anyone have comphrensive list?
 
Sounds cool.  Any particular reason you are drawing them?  You should post an example in here when you finish.  We would love to see it!Smile
 
As far as a list, I would read the three main army books covering all the periods of Byzantine history by Treadgold, Haldon, and Bartusis.  These will give you the most detailed perspective.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Aug-2006 at 14:59
Drawing? I shall soon contact you with a PM then.. indeed, it might be useful to you and me... wait and see.
 
Now, a list should be found from BE's books (I just must abbreviate your name, sorry) that he mentioned. But we should shorten your work and help you out here, I believe that mentioning Skutatoi and Klibinarophoi and Kataphraktoi is pointless (with Menlaviatoi and Varangian Guard coming up too). A start still.
 
Could you post an example of one of your drawings?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Nestorian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2006 at 00:22
http://www.geocities.com/weirdguynextdoor/excubit.jpg
 
"save as"
 
You probably haven't heard of medieval:total realism have you? We're preparing our research so that when Medieval: Total War 2 comes out we can rectify the historical inaccuracies which plaque almost every CA release.
 
Plus, its also for personal gratification as I like the Byzantines.
 
I have a list of Byzantine units, but since my Greek is non-existent, I have only been able to put down English names only.
 
I'm having fun drawing the Varangian Guards especially those who have been in Byzantine service for a long time as they would have significant Byzantine influence on their equipment. Clap
 
We have dedicated historians for other factions, but none for Byzantium. I decided to not take over the whole research as I don't have the time, but I was hoping people from these forums would be interested in forming a Byzantine research team with me.
 
My team's work was published in a PC magazine before (and a widely circulated one as well), so if we're successful this time, we might attract attention as a fan modification.


Edited by Nestorian - 21-Aug-2006 at 01:05
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2006 at 01:29
Originally posted by Nestorian

http://www.geocities.com/weirdguynextdoor/excubit.jpg
 
"save as"
 
Very nice! Clap
 
You even have the splint vambraces and the almond-shaped shield.  Good observations. 
 
Originally posted by Nestorian

We have dedicated historians for other factions, but none for Byzantium. I decided to not take over the whole research as I don't have the time, but I was hoping people from these forums would be interested in forming a Byzantine research team with me.
 
My team's work was published in a PC magazine before (and a widely circulated one as well), so if we're successful this time, we might attract attention as a fan modification.
 
I have seen the work they have been doing at Romaiki Aftokratoria, a mod for Rome Total War.  Were you involved with this project?
 
You will find a treasure trove of information in my Late Byzantine Military thread.  We discussed everything from Varangians, to Pronoiar Cavalry, to Trapezuntine soldiers.  Rider was very helpful in encouraging people to contribute.  It is still going too; I encourage you to join in on the discussions.
 
I will be glad to help here at AE with your research on Byzantium.  It will be limited at times, unfortunately, because of my school work.  But I definitely encourage you to bookmark this thread and my late-era army thread and check back often.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2006 at 02:59
If my understanding is correct, the proper tagmata units as we know them (a mobile and professional field army of the middle Byzantine period) were instituted by Constantine V after he defeated his rival Artavasdus. He broke up the troublesome Opsikian theme into smaller and more managable pieces, from which he then proceeded to establish his professional tagmata units. These would, of course, have been an evolution of previous professional units, but ones whose economic basis for existence would have been in Western Anatolia.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Nestorian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Aug-2006 at 03:51

The Tagmatas were an evolution in my opinion.

The original Tagmatii were composed of both imperial regiments like the Scholae and the Excubitores and also from the Opsikion regiments whose name Obseqieum suggests origins from an elite unit before. They were based in the capital and as u mentioned Constantine XI around Western Anatolia.
 
Later, as the thematic troops declined in quality, the Tagmata expanded to include any full time professional soldier, native and mercenary whereas the Themata were not full tiime professionals in the first place. These Tagmata were the "provincial Tagmata", professional soldiers recruited to expand and defend the empire's borders.  
 
I've tried to represent the Imperial Tagmata, provincial Tagmata and the Themata in my unit lists so far.
 
At the moment, I'm just researching various fields of Byzantine history.
 
I think I have a heavy cavalry problem, I just can't seem to stop drawing them!!
 
I have heard of the aforementioned mod, but as the leader of the project said. It is dead due to lack of skinners and modellers.
 
Unfortunately, both me and the leader of the mod are on different modding teams for MTW2. He is a member of Medieval Auctoriso and I'm in Medieval: Total Realism: Age of Ambition of which I am currently leading until I hand those duties off to the real leader. So far we have 24 members in the team.
 
It would much be appreciated if someone listed the native military units of Byzantium in the middle period, lets, say 1000 - 1081. And in Greek names too.
 
FOr example what is the Greek name for the Imperial Tagmatic Cavalry units?
 
Is it Basilikon Tagmata Kavallarioi ? or something else?
 


Edited by Nestorian - 21-Aug-2006 at 04:00
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