Emperor Constantine VII proclaimed “as the head is come the body, for this reason is the military to the state”. That was indeed true for the oriental army, direct successor of the roman inn legions. As with the empire itself, the Byzantine military lasted because that over a millennia, from the era of late classical times all the method to the dawn of early on modernity.

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Imperial Ideology

The oriental Emperors asserted for themselves the function of protectors of the Christians. They additionally laid case on judgment the civilized world(Greek oikumene). Civilized world for the Byzantines to be the Roman people during the time of the high realm or, in its many ambitious form, the Christian world. This ideology have the right to be viewed in the effort by Justinian ns to reconquer the West or the Komnenian monarchs attempting to claim Antioch from the Crusaders. That can additionally be checked out in the wars waged versus Sassanid Persia in the surname of defending persecuted Christians. If this universal ideology did guide byzantine foreign (and for this reason military) policy, it was moderated by pragmatism and an expertise of the capabilities of the empire, so the the Byzantines would not overextend themselves.

Early Byzantine military (284 — 641)


Image Source: oriental cavalry. Chronicle of man Skylitzes. Wikimedia Commons. Publicly Domain.

Until the later 4th century, Roman militaries still consisted mostly of infantry, with cavalry having a secondarily role, largely used together scouts or deployed come the flank and rear guard. By the early on fifth century though, under the influence of barbaric nomads that employed cavalry tactics (such together the Huns), the prominence of (light) cavalry increased. The Byzantines additionally developed heavily armored cavalry to counter the Persian threat. In the 6th century, the balance that forces in between the 2 arms readjusted as the Byzantines recruited big numbers of mounties from amongst various barbarian and indigenous peoples.

During the moment of Diocletian ( 284 — 305), the department of the sacrae largitiones dispersed shirt, tunic, and also cloak come the soldiers while boots to be being listed by the local communities as tax in kind. The state owned and managed a system of imperial arms factories (fabricae). The workshops to be under the supervision of the understand of offices (magister officiorum). The employees were civilian however served under a army organization.

By the 5th century, soldiers to be being paid in cash and so they purchased themselves their armor. A typical price for a gear was around six solidi. This meant that a high level of energy in illustration must have been unlikely. A details style must have predominated though, also if color and details differed according to one’s taste and wealth. The early byzantine army likewise relied heavily on ‘barbarian’ mercenaries and as such there must have been cultural exchanges. In stimulate to identify units top top the field, shields and also helmet plumes were the the exact same color.

Byzantine infantryman wore metal body armor and helmet. Iron mail or bronze scale was the most common body armor. It must be provided though that not everyone purchased together uniforms; some wanted a big shield, because it could offer sufficient protection, as not everyone was willing to spend their pin money on purchase the armor.

Regarding byzantine cavalry, the horses were provided by provincials as a levy and were drafted right into the army. A smaller fraction was noted either by few of the horsemen us or by horses captured from the enemy. Many of the steeds were comes from huge stud farms, whereby they were breeding. As declared above, during Diocletian’s time, the state detailed armor from factory (fabricae). By the fifth century though, this system was replaced by the of soldiers buying us their tools from your allowances.

The an easy dress to be a loose-fitting long-sleeved tunic. Many tunics must have actually been do of undyed wool, linen or a mix of wool and linen. Soldiers that were wealthier purchase red dyed tunic as red was considered a military color. Less common colors were blue, yellow and also green. Together for legwear, it depended upon the environment. In cold climate, long trousers or breeches were being worn. Knee high socks tied up through laces were likewise used. In warmer climate, soldiers wore lower leg coverings there is no trousers or breeches. To store out wet and also cold, soldiers had actually a thick structure cloak (sagum).

The most simple equipment was a vast leather belt that permitted soldiers to affix a purse or knife. The long sword (spatha) to be worn ~ above the left side. Many cavalrymen likewise carried a spear (hasta); this to be the main offensive weapon. This was supplemented through javelins. Of an important importance to be the shield. As already stated, there was an attempt to impose power in shields in stimulate to allow the to know of fellow troops ~ above the field. Cavalrymen wore armor and also helmet too.

A special cite should it is in made come the cataphractarii and the clibanarii. While the above mentioned cavalrymen served the role of irradiate cavalry, those 2 units were greatly armored and acted as shock troops. Those 2 names are offered interchangeably in sources, for this reason this has actually rather brought about some confusion among modern writers v regards to your differences. Most most likely their difference has to perform with their beginnings rather than through their role. They were greatly armored and also fought with long lances quite than quick spears or javelin as the classic cavalry.

Last however not least, the Byzantines made much use of horse archers, specifically after the loss they suffered under Attila and Hunnic hordes.

Middle Byzantine army (641 — 1204)



Image Source: oriental army. History of john Skylitzes. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.


Both Heraclius and Constans II, confronted with Persian and then Arab onslaught, halved the military pay. In order because that the army to function, the state had actually to when again be the one to carry out arms and also equipment. The concern of the supply of the army has brought about much controversy due come the lack of evidence. It seems that there was a type of issuing based upon a device of warehouses (apotheke) spread out in the themes were being overseen by officials dubbed kommerkiarioi. Soldiers were issued eight or, after the mid-seventh century, farming produce from lands assigned come them. The key arsenal was at Constantinople and was overseen by an official dubbed archon.

By the 840s, cash payments resembled those of the sixth century and soldiers as soon as again purchased themselves their equipment. Requisition stayed though a part of the system for significant campaigns. In the tenth and also eleventh centuries, aside from their salaries, soldiers to be being noted with cash pin money for food and an individual equipment.

By the seventh century, top top the affect of the steppe nomads, the Byzantines embraced the lamellar armor the was crafted from leather, bone, or metal lamellae sewn together. Native the tenth century onwards, this became the most typically used form of armor in Byzantium. The Byzantines wore a variation of the ‘Pannonian’ hat that was a deep round-ended cylinder with closed finish on the head. Numerous infantry soldiers likewise wore thick felt cap and turban. They additionally used leggings padded v wool, noodle or (more rarely) silk floss. Because that footwear, thigh boots were taken into consideration ideal for the infantry. As throughout early byzantine times, shields were recommended to it is in painted the same shade in stimulate to distinguish the troops. The ax skoutarion was supplied for shields. Round shields can be domed or conical in section.

Archery tools was consisted of of a composite recurve bow, arrows, quiver and also darts. The byzantine bow to be 1m (3 ft) long when strung. Javelins were no much longer than 2.35 m (7ft 9 in). As much as spears were concerned, over there were three types. There were the small/peltast spears (kontarion mikron -2.5 m — 8ft ), the large/hoplite spear (4–5 m, 13ft — 16ft) and also the menavlion, another type of quick spear. Bladed weapons had a long, heavy single-edged knife, straight, double edged knife (spathion) and also slightly curved, solitary edged knife (paramerion). Foot soldiers likewise used axes.

With regards come the cavalry: the lightest fitted were the horse archers. They to be equipped through paramerion but the main armament to be the bow. They wore a padded coat do of cotton wadding (kavadion). Next were the koursores, wgc2010.org troops with flexible function in combat. They had actually armor in order to have protection however not so heavy that it would be cumbersome to their flexibility. Castle wore letter shirt or shirt of scales. They to be equipped through round shield and 2.9 m lance. Finally, there to be the kataphraktos, the heavily armored shock troops. They brought one spathion and also one paramerion. They were likewise armed through a kontarion lance.


In the seventh century, infantry ongoing to play vital role in warfare. The Arabs though made use of a highly mobile mounted infantry which gave them one edge over the Byzantines. In order to respond to this hazard from the Arab raiders, the oriental had to adjust their tactics and strategy. The contingents native the key field militaries of the second fifty percent of the seventh and also the eighth centuries were well-known as kaballarika themata (cavalry armies), which shows the focus the Byzantines now put on mobility.

Until the middle of the tenth century, the Byzantines gave focus on preventing pitched battles (in bespeak to maintain manpower) and also instead adopted a hit and also run warfare. Only as soon as the odds were in the Byzantines’ favor, would leaders attack. Armed forces manuals information how byzantine commanders would certainly make certain to get adequate water and also forage for the equines while ensuring the defense of the camp during the battle. Castle would also send scouts to make certain that opponent movements to be known. Light troops and also scouts would certainly be deployed ahead of the key body for reconnaissance and also finding out if over there were any kind of traps. Just then would the command order one attack.

From the tenth century on, the Byzantines placed a renewed focus on the infantry. While till then the infantry had a secondary duty compared come cavalry, there was currently a resurgence of disciplined, reliable line-of-battle infantry. There was also an advent of a corps that heavily-armoured lancers to act in conjunction with the infantry. Infantry and also cavalry pressures were expected to preserve the heat evenly and unbroken during their advance. The increased professionalization and specialization the the military during the second half of the tenth century and the eleventh century allowed the oriental to defeat countless times their adversaries on the battlefield and expand east and west.

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The oriental placed a an excellent emphasis ~ above order, discipline and coherence. Oriental units were organized right into subdivisions inserted under junior officers which made possible the coherent management of often very disparate forces. The Byzantines thought about this business superiority to it is in a an essential in their military prowess and contrasted it v the emphasis Westerners put on separation, personal, instance prowess. Anna Komnene made together a compare of the Byzantines and the Western militaries of the very first Crusade.