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Forum LockedThe Late Byzantine Military (1204-1461)

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http://www.byzantium1200.com
 
For those who haven't heard about, a great site prepared with the help of professors,with computer drawings and historical info of Byzantine monuments,palaces,walls etc. of Istanbul.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Digenis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2006 at 04:56
Originally posted by Byzantine Emperor Byzantine Emperor wrote:

Constantine XI, Digenis, and Kapikulu:
 
What do you think about the depictions of the armor in the Palaiologan icons?  Reality or classicizing?
 
 


During the palaiologian dynasty (and before of course) there was a tend to classicization.
This blurs much the image of military armor of the period.
But u can still see some elements of the real armor.
For example the frescos of the macedonian school are quiet reliable,although stylize and idealize much the images.
You must search in local artwork ,in wich the more impulse and naive artists depict armor more close to reality.

More reliable are  manuscripts like the Romance of Alexander,or some manuscripts in mount Athos.

I ll try to post some examples.
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Originally posted by Digenis Digenis wrote:

During the palaiologian dynasty (and before of course) there was a tend to classicization.
This blurs much the image of military armor of the period.
 
Do you mean there was a trend towards classicization in real Palaiologan armor, or in depictions in icons and manuscripts?
 
I guess in the end we have to accept what we see in the art.  Digenis, I assume that you live in Greece, are there any museums that have actual armor from the late period? 
 
As far as literature on late Byzantine archaeology, Anastasios Orlandos did some excavations in the Morea and southern Peloponnesos.  Also, Taxiarches Kolias has written about some weapons unearthed from the middle period; I am not sure if he mentions late period findings.
 
Originally posted by Digenis Digenis wrote:

More reliable are  manuscripts like the Romance of Alexander,or some manuscripts in mount Athos.

I ll try to post some examples.
 
I wanted to post some images from the Alexander Romances, but I couldn't find any online.  Do you have any?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Jun-2006 at 07:55
Tobodai, more the cataphract line goes from Ancient Persia to Seleucid to Rome to Sassanid... all quite owned cataphracts... there was somewhere quite nice a quote about them... but don't know where.
 
The Roman Empire had cataphracts as small units even in the times of Traianus if I am correct. (Which even happens from time to time).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Digenis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Jun-2006 at 11:05
Originally posted by Byzantine Emperor Byzantine Emperor wrote:

 
Do you mean there was a trend towards classicization in real Palaiologan armor, or in depictions in icons and manuscripts?

I am talking about Art.

Quote
I assume that you live in Greece, are there any museums that have actual armor from the late period? 


There is no much left..
There are some factors about this.

1.Because of the type of armor
2.Byzantine artifacts were negleted the past years in Greece in favor of the glorious ancient past.
Only the last 15 years some effort is made towards the Byzantine culture (for ex in Thessaloniki the Byzantine museum was founded just before 10 years! Just consider that Thessaloniki was for 1000 years the second city of the Empire,and has really many byz.monuments.)


Anyway.
From those i have seen:
1 helmet in Kozani's museum (Byzantine or early Ottoman)
1 helmet in Halkis ( " )
1 chainmail shirt in Byzantine museum -Athens
1 chainmail from Athos
several arrow heds and spear heads from thessaloniki's museum,and from Ouranoupolis museum in Halkidiki.


Quote
I wanted to post some images from the Alexander Romances, but I couldn't find any online.  Do you have any?
 

yes,but i ll have to find time to find them Smile
Take a look at a thread for cataphracts-i have posted 2-3.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Jun-2006 at 14:02
I would say that I think the cities varied but Thessalonica became important after the loss of Asia Minor. Although Nicaea remained in friendly hands and so did Chersonesus... it can be disputed over but also there was Adrianapolis which was quite important because it determined the access to Konstantinopolis.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Jun-2006 at 15:31
Originally posted by Byzantine Emperor Byzantine Emperor wrote:

 
 
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Also, the convex shield is authentically medieval. Later Roman soldiers, from what I have read, typically carried their sword on their right side. Yet the saint in the icon carries it on the left, perhaps a representation of contemporary practice and an indication of a departure from strict adherance to classical representation.
 
Good point, I did not know this! Big smile
 
 
Byzantine EMperor encouraged me to post here about this topic too, and now my little point of interest: Byzantines were clever as they can ever be (in the best possible sense) so wouldn't that keep them at advantages against enemies because their broader shields can defect the enemies shield and swords but the Greek can attack freely without any obstacle.'
 
What do you think of that?
As scheme:
 
S - Shield
B - Blade
 
European enemies:
S     B
B    S
 
European against Byzantine:
S     S
B     B
 
Europeans would be used to attack other shields being defended at the same time but this leaves them wounreable..

 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Jun-2006 at 20:54

Let's shift gears a bit and move on to a different topic.  If anyone finds something new on or would like to reply to the discussion on late Byzantine armor, please post on that.

New topic: Remuneration of Late Byzantine soldiers and the Pronoia Cavalry
 
It is a commonly-held misconception that the late Byzantine military was simply a hodge-podge of foreign mercenaries and some native troop elements.  This characterization implies that there was no organization on the level of the Thematic troops of the middle period or the disciplined legions of the early Byzantine/late Roman period. 
 
It is true that the later army was composed of a combination of foreign mercenaries (the Latinikon, Skythikon, and the imperial bodyguard) and native elements (Pronoia cavalry, smallholding soldiers, militias).  However these two components often worked in tandem and made up a surprisingly formidable force.  Exceptions to this, of course, are the chaotic times of the hiring of the Catalan Company and the civil wars of the mid 14th century.
 
Furthermore, the imperial system of administration was not entirely archaized and broken down.  One can see efficiency of the method for assigning pronoia to cavalry soldiers.  An imperial apographeus would compose an official praktika, which meticulously listed the sources of revenue, taxes, and peasant households from which the cavalryman received his remuneration. These imperial officials were definitely administrative experts.  A testament to this is the complexity of the sources of funding that were listed on praktika: sometimes stretching over several villages and multiple households.  John VI Kantakuzenos even had elements added to worthy soldiers' pronoia from wealthy monasteries' properties.  Later, these properties would be returned to the monasteries when the soldier died and his pronoia reverted back to the state.
 
For more background information, see Mark Bartusis, The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and Society, 1204-1453.
 
So, what do you think about this late Byzantine system?  Was it merely a desperate ploy of a dying empire that was trying to defend itself, or possibly a well thought-out plan to deal with its contemporary circumstances?
 
Was the Pronoia Cavalry in fact the new Klibanophoroi/Kataphraktoi of the late Byzantine army, i.e. heavy cavalry?
 
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This may not be late medieval question i apologize but did the byzantines continue to use Legionarres as infantry?
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Wasnt the Pronoia a fuedal system like the empire provided land in exchange for military service? Also I thought I read people would get out of it by paying money resulting in mercenaries. Might be way off but kind of confused with the Pronoia question
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Jun-2006 at 06:31
Pronoia cav should have been... just a medium cavalry, not light nor heavy I believe. I am ofcourse not sure.
 
But I have heard authors describing the Thema system as the only good and effecitve military system of ERE so I cannot describe the Pronoia system very well.
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Originally posted by BigL BigL wrote:

This may not be late medieval question i apologize but did the byzantines continue to use Legionarres as infantry?

 

I think it is safe to say that there was an incarnation of the Roman legionnaire in the late Roman/early Byzantine period (4th-5th c.).  That is, the infantry soldier wearing something resembling the segmented armor, etc. (see the picture on the first page).  However, by the time of Justinian to Anastasius there was an influx of barbarian foederati into the Byzantine army.  Even before that too, after the disaster of Adrianople.  I think it was during this time that the old legionnaire was phased out for good.

 

Originally posted by Gundamor Gundamor wrote:

Wasnt the Pronoia a fuedal system like the empire provided land in exchange for military service? Also I thought I read people would get out of it by paying money resulting in mercenaries. Might be way off but kind of confused with the Pronoia question

 

The old military service tax of the stratiotes was commuted to a simple tac starting in the middle period.  That is, the military service obligation and the call to perform public corvees.  The soldiery was still organized in their respective themes, but were not really the "Thematic" soldiers of the 7th and 8th centuries.  They were called more by their collective ethnicity now than anything else - Amerniakon, Skythikon, Italikon, etc.

 

The late Byzantine period did see the development of certain feudal tendencies, although not to the same scale as in Western Europe.  In the West feudalism arose out of a power vacuum after the Roman Empire ended.  It was a system of personal relationships between a lord and his vassals, on the one hand socio-economic, and on the other military - to provide security to families and peasants in the absence of a central government. 

 

In Byzantium, however, still had a central government, obviously.  It was not as closely connected and networked as it had been in former times and resources were scarcer.  So the emperors created the pronoia system whereby they granted the revenues and the right to collect the taxes of certain peasants (paroikoi) living on state-owned land.  These grants were given to individual soldiers, groups of soldiers, and also to civil officials.  For the soldiers it was in return for military service.  The land and the peasants themselves were not granted to the Pronoiar.  The Byzantine peasants were free to alienate land, bequeath it, and move to other villages unlike western serfs who were tied to their lands.

 

The Pronoiar soldiers were therefore in a separate category than mercenaries, who were hired for a specific amount of time, were usually foreign, and were paid in cash.

 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gundamor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jul-2006 at 23:06
Yeah I understand that better now. I kind of thought that mercenaries played a heavier roll but apperantly not so. What was the timeframe of the Varangian Guard? And were they mercenaries or considred home forces. Also the Pronoia system was only used during the Komnenian Trio or was it used before then?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jul-2006 at 23:23
Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

Byzantine EMperor encouraged me to post here about this topic too, and now my little point of interest: Byzantines were clever as they can ever be (in the best possible sense) so wouldn't that keep them at advantages against enemies because their broader shields can defect the enemies shield and swords but the Greek can attack freely without any obstacle.'
 
What do you think of that?
As scheme:
 
S - Shield
B - Blade
 
European enemies:
S     B
B    S
 
European against Byzantine:
S     S
B     B
 
Europeans would be used to attack other shields being defended at the same time but this leaves them wounreable..
 
I think I should have been a little clearer in my original post. The Late Romans carried their scabbard on their right side, this is where the sword was when they were not using it. Other soldiers carried the scabbard on their left side, so that when they unsheathed the sword they drew it across the chest. The Romans still most likely used their right hands to hold their swords, but they simply unsheathed it out from a different side of the body.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jul-2006 at 23:45

Originally posted by Gundamor Gundamor wrote:

Yeah I understand that better now. I kind of thought that mercenaries played a heavier roll but apperantly not so.

Oh, but they did play a significant role!  I think it is unfortunate to say that unlike former times, when the Byzantines were at the forefront of medieval military science, writing their own Strategika in the tradition of their Roman predecessors, in the late period they were behind the times.  This was partly due to their extreme conservatism in relation to adopting new military ideas/technology, and also because of the shrinking territory, manpower, and resources.  So, in the end, the late emperors resorted to hiring mercenaries to supplement the native Byzantine army.  However, the mercenaries in the late army were not just a wild bunch of looters (sometimes they were, when they were not promptly paid).  They were organized by ethnicity and by the function which they served, which was often specialized - the later emperors knew where to find the talent.
 
Originally posted by Gundamor Gundamor wrote:

What was the timeframe of the Varangian Guard?
 
I believe they first started to appear after the battle of Hastings in 1066.  We see a Norman character present in the early Varangian Guard.  There were also some Rus.  They increased in number during the reign of Basil II and on into the Komnenian dynasty.  Later, and up until the fall of Constantinople in 1204, the Guard was composed mainly of Anglo-Saxons, who had steadily made their exit from England after the conquest.  I think Choniates mentions the ferocity of the Varangians in defending the ramparts against the Crusaders in 1204, lopping off their limbs with the double-bladed axes as they climbed up!
 
Not much is mentioned about the Varangians post 1204.  There are some clues that they might have still been around in the late period fulfilling the role of parade units, where there is mention of palace guards with axes.
 
Originally posted by Gundamor Gundamor wrote:

And were they mercenaries or considred home forces.
 
I believe they were paid  a salary by the emperor, as palace guard units.  I will have to check the exact method in which they were paid.  I do recall that they were always awarded a donative at the accession of a new emperor and for good service.  Traditionally, after a coup the Varangians were permitted to ransack the palace and keep what they found.
 
Originally posted by Gundamor Gundamor wrote:

Also the Pronoia system was only used during the Komnenian Trio or was it used before then?
 
The idea supposedly came out of the land reforms of the 10th century, where the amount of land for mounted cavalry was increased in order to provide for heavier armor (kataphraktoi).  This combined with the fact that the former obligation of military service was commuted to a simple tax.
 
Real pronoia, like a described above, was not granted on a large scale until right before and after the accession of Michael VIII Palaiologos.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jul-2006 at 00:26
The first arrival of Norse warriors to be established as a standing force appears to have occured as early as under Emperor Theophilus in the mid 9th century, yet I would not regard these men as properly constituting the famouse Varangian guard itself. With the establishment of the Nordic Rus as rulers of much of the Slavic regions to the north of the Black Sea, Byzantine contact in war and trade with the new arrivals got underway at a surprising speed.
 
The Varangians as they are properly known, IMHO, came into being under Basil II when 6,000 Rus were sent to help him in his civil war by Vladimir of Kiev. Basil must have been impressed by the way the Varangians "cheerfully hacked to pieces" the rebels in Bythinia, he better than anyone understood after a precarious early reign of how useful a bunch of fierce foreigners would be to him, with no loyalties to any potential rival aristocrat.
 
The Varangians were at first largely Scandinavian, but over time their ethnicity altered thanks to combat defeats critically reducing their numbers (e.g. Manzikert) and sudden influxes of new recruits (such as the already mentioned Anglosaxons and Danes after 1066).
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Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

The Varangians as they are properly known, IMHO, came into being under Basil II when 6,000 Rus were sent to help him in his civil war by Vladimir of Kiev. Basil must have been impressed by the way the Varangians "cheerfully hacked to pieces" the rebels in Bythinia, he better than anyone understood after a precarious early reign of how useful a bunch of fierce foreigners would be to him, with no loyalties to any potential rival aristocrat.
 
I think it is in Psellos' chronicle where he describes the reaction of the Bulgarian dignitaries to the Varangian guardsmen when they came to Basil II's tent to sue for peace.  He describes their awe and fear at the site of these blonde giants in gleaming armor with axes slung over their shoulders, posted next to the soldier-emperor Basil.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Jul-2006 at 05:42
Hmmh, wasn't it even so that the Anglo-Saxons deemed it worthy and good to serve for a time in the Varangian Guard? It sems to me that I have heard of a few princes serving in the guard. Am I wrong?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Jul-2006 at 23:39
Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

Hmmh, wasn't it even so that the Anglo-Saxons deemed it worthy and good to serve for a time in the Varangian Guard? It sems to me that I have heard of a few princes serving in the guard. Am I wrong?
 
Oh yeah, service in the Varangian guard was quite lucrative!  When there was a palace coup, the Varangians had an expressed right to plunder the palace and keep whatever they found.  Also, they received periodic donatives from the emperor and a salary.  They received a salary as part of the palace personnel, unlike regular mercenaries.  Harald Hadradi served as a Varangian for a while.  He toured the Holy Land as an escort for Byzantine painters who were working on the churches.
 


Edited by Byzantine Emperor - 14-Jul-2006 at 23:49
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Jul-2006 at 02:48
But what replaced the Guard during the Late Empire then? Just some remains of the Scholae units or what? It couldn't have been a unit from the Proionoia system.
 
 
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