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    Icon4 [Preview]The Roman Empire Part II-Tagmatic Units.

    State of Romans

    Nikephorean Army Reforms Part II- Tagmatic Units.


    If we had to give a title in our presentation of the Imperial (Tagmatic) Forces of the Medieval Roman Empire we had no other choice than this one. Nothing is certain. Alexander the Great felt that he had no Homer like historian with him to write down with details his victories and his achievements. Exactly the same “problem” had the Roman Emperors of the middle ages. The problem was/is that those that wrote those“stories” describing events of their times did not add details because a) they wrote to their modern, to them, readers and more details were unnecessary or, b) they were nothing more than “story” writers and they had no expertise in describing details that could allow readers to fully understand how the soldiers of the time we describe, looked like. What we have in reality is a large number of scripts that lack details. But sources for “reconstructing” those warriors do exist and they are nothing else than the military manuals that were written by military people, in the time we describe here in this mod. Such manuals are 1:Leonis Imperatoris Tactica by Emperor Leon VI the wise, 2: Stategicon by anonymous writer (Sylloge Tacticorum – anonymous), 3: Praecepta Militaria by Emperor Nikephoros Phokas, 4: Taktika by Nikephoros Ouranos. Those military manuals are nothing more than guides for field officers of how to deploy, train, judge, equip and use their armies under their commands! Thanks to those scripts we have enough details of how the armies fought against every kind of enemy (different tactics), how they trained their soldiers and their horses, how they used orders and most of all how they equip their soldiers. But…there is always a but in this matter…We have not scripts with accurate details of the colors or insignias each specific unit used but only some –written few centuries later- scripts that assume those details. An example: In the following preview you will notice in our unit of Excubitores two things. First that the color that defines their unit is the dark green when we had to chose colors we had to make our choices by the references given from earlier eras. Pictures from 5th to 8th centuries “show” palace units wearing dark green tunics and carrying shields with painted with dark green background. Of course we know for sure that in other eras Excubitores may use shields with other “insignias” painted on their shields. But we needed a color to follow what all military manuals are strict for….Each unit used a color that defined it. So we may be wrong about our color decisions for each unit but since the lack of accurate references we had to make our choices to be in the “spirit” of the whole presentation. The second thing you will notice is that Excubitores use a banner with a “draco”..According to Pseudo Codinos in hisDe Officiis script that described those units banners the Excubitores banner men were often called Dragonarii.. In other scripts Varangian Guard also used such a Draco banner –maybe because Varangians were also part of Vasilike or Megale Hetearea. For our game play reasons we chosen another banner for that generic unit (Vasilike Hetearea) because in it we had to put soldiers like Siphonatores that were not a separated unit but users of special or secret weapons.
    In general you need to know:
    Tagmatic units follow the generic rule of the late classic Imperial era, professional units and legions. They were full time soldiers that prepared for war all the time having in their disposal some of the finest equipment and training worldwide. So in the middle ages Roman Empire combined the citizen soldiers of classic republican era (Thematic Armies)with those of late Imperial ones (Tagmatic Armies). The difference now was that the professional middle age “legions” were not deployed near the borders but around or close to the new capital or near major urban centers! Another issue we had to deal with was the “nature” of each unit in the game. We must not forget that in reality those units were more or less stand alone divisions following –at least- the main deployment principal of kursores and defensores. As kursores we describe all missile equipped troops (archers or javelin men) and as defensores all spear/lance equipped ones. Such a unit development would require clone troops for each unit without a real necessity. For example Excubitores should also be cataphract horsemen and palace guards, Scholarii and Hikkanati should have both horse archers and lancers etc…
    Instead we have chosen to give a task for each one to fit in the game but still allowing our players to learn about the existence of those units.

    The Tagmatic Forces:
    Despite the fact that Constantinople was the capital of the empire, and although the place was great strategic importance, the emperors were reluctant to allow the permanent stationing large numbers of soldiers in the city. The reasons were mainly political and economic. The presence of many military units in the city will overburden the supply of the emperors; also possibly feared that the existence of a major military power in Constantinople could prove a major threat during rebel movements. Thus, the military forces of Constantinople mostly limited to men of the Imperial Guard, and the security of the town was based mainly on the powerful land walls in existence to protect the fleet from the sea, and to involve citizens and neighboring military units in the defense case of siege.
    Military forces in Constantinople in the early medieval period.
    During the Early period Constantinople's imperial garrison consisted of the so-called scholae (scholae palatinae). The Guard was founded around 312 by Constantine I, who had just dispanded the famous Preatorian guard of Rome after its support to Maxentius,rival of the throne. The men of the scholae were originally horsemen and warriors recruited by the Germans, but gradually the fighting value decreased and the sixth century their presence was mostly a formality. The initial numerical strength of the garrison of the scholae is not known, but at the time of Justinian I (527-565) there were seven scholae, each of which had 500 men. As the number of 3,500 Scholarii was almost impossible to stay at the palace, it seems that the units that performed palace guard rotation were one or two each time, while the remaining were camped in cities of the provinces of Bithynia and Galatia.
    To cope with the reduced value of military schools, the Emperor Leo I (457-474) established a new elite bodyguard of 300 men, the Excubitores, whom he recruited from his native province of Isauria. Although their primary task was to be bodyguards of the emperor often asked to defend the Theodosian walls.
    Besides the men of the imperial guard, defending the walls in case of attack executed by the regular army units under the orders of two "majistri" (magistri militum praesentales), encamped in Thrace and Bithynia. For their task to defend the walls they were assisted by citizens, members of the guilds of the city and municipalities. Finally, under the command of the Eparchos of the city was a paramilitary unit with police duties, the pedatoura or kerketon.
    Military forces in Constantinople during the Middle period.
    From the early seventh century, the two magistri militum praesentales merged into a single central force under the form of opsikion (from latin obsequium = escort). Later opsikion, originally camped in bothThrace and Bithynia, moved entirely to the last, which defended the "Thema of Bithynia" . Furthermore, since the end of the century appear in to writen sources two new units in Constantinople, the Noumeroi and Teicheotae, in charge of guarding the gates and the walls of the Ieron Palation (Great Palace), which was fortified by the emperor Justinian II (685-695, 705-711).
    The most significant change in the status of military forces in Constantinople-which was to characterize the entire Middle period occurred around the mid-8th century on the initiative of Constantine V (741-775). Having just suppress the rebelion of Artavasdos, Come of Opsikion, the emperor proceeded in measures to prevent similar future occurrences. Initially weakened Opsikion forces and then proceeded to reorganize the Scholarii and Excubitores(as now called).

    Constantine V recruited new soldiers for the imperial guard, making sure that were faithful to his face and his iconoclastic policy. The new units- now named Tagmata- were the result of the reorganization of the old units and their duties were expanded: they were no longer exclusively imperial garrison or garrison of Constantinople but now would serve as a central military force that would take part in emperor's campaigns. The oldest Tagmata of Scholae and Excubitores remained and enforced and put under the command of a Domestikos each. Gradually the term Scholarii defined all soldiers of the Tagmatic units, while Domestikos ton Scholon was second in command after the Strategos tou Anatolikou and later (9th-10th centuries) a Domestikos ton Scholon could be in charge of an entire campaign on behalf of the Emperor. In many cases Tagmatic units like Excubitores continued to serve as Emperor's guards but now they shared that duty with soldiers of other Tagmata forming the Vasilike Hetaeria.
    Those Palace guards in time recieved many names like Anthropoi tou Vasileos ,Vasilikoi Anthropoi ,Maglavites etc.
    Irene of Athens (780-802) faced the opposition of Scholarii, when she tried to overthrow the iconoclastic policy of the previus Emperors. For that reason, she forced the soldiers of the Tagmata to retire and replaced them with new ones. At the same time,she created a third battalion, the Tagma tou Arithmou or Vigla, by men of the thematic army loyal to her.Later Tagma tou Arithmou and Noumeroi Tagma merged in a single unit. Shortly afterwards Nikephoros I (802-811) founded the Tagma of Hikanati. These four battalions remained the core of the garrison of Constantinople until the 11th century the same time that the remaining Excubitores were merged with the Vasilike Hetaeria and became part of it. John I Tzimisces (969-976) founded the Immortals (Athanatoi) as one of the last additions in native Tagmatic forces that seemed that remained until 1204AD.

    Basil II made the greatest evolution in the Imperial guard.
    He added the Varangian Drussina of the 6000 men in the Vasilike Hetaeria redusing the same time the number of native soldiers in it.
    Basil lived and survived many rebelions before he would become an Emperor and had a lot of personal reasons not to trust the "guards" that guarded him.

    In the later period and mainly after the fall of Constantinople in 1204AD the Tagmatic units declined leaving only Vasilike Hetaeria.
    New mercenaries came in that unit but in the last centuries most of the soldiers came from England.
    New native
    professional units apeared in the last centuries of the Empire's life like Paramonae (middle 13th cent but stop mentioned after 1315AD ,Mourtatoi (infantry archers that were children of mixed roman and turkic fammilies) and Tzakones (Pelloponisian soldiers that served as Imperial Guards ,Pollice force and marine troops when the same time they were the main force of all types in Pelloponisos (including cavalry).
    After 1204 any imperial ( professional) unit -mainly cavalry ones-called Allagion and not Tagma.
    In Battle the total amount of Tagmata that participated in the Emperor's campaign was called Vasilike Systaxis (gr:
    Bασιλική σύνταξις
    There is a long dispute about the number of soldiers that served i each of these units.
    The number 512 appears very often and many historians insist in that number. John Haldon estimates the number of the soldiers in each unit to 1000-1500 while in the past Treadgold and others estimated the number of the soldier in in each unit to 4000. The number of 512 men appears again in 1203 in a conflict of an imperial unit called Loricati against 80 knights.
    The suporters of the number 512 place their estimation to the word Tagma.
    Tagma is synonymous to the words Vandon and in Thematic armies defined a unit of the size of a battalion 280-410 men. The number of 512 is closest to the standard number for battalions (400 men). Many believe that the number of 512 men had to do with cavalry's wedge formation that those units used.
    The suporters on larger numbers in those units base their estimations on rare descriptions that describe the Tagmata units to fight in complete army formations (two wings and a center) when they deployed in battle without the presence of other units. The description of Pseudo Codinos (middle 14th century) that each Tagma had two (2) flag bearers (vandophori) also makes things more complicated. Ussually bannermen were used to allow the leading officer of a army formation to know where his units where in the battlefield.
    Two bannermen may ment that each unit deployed two wings when in the center the leading officer used the empire's flag (labarum). The three parts of the formation simply do not make sence in the number of 512 men. Vandons used the dual fight system of Kursores and Defensores (same as thematic ones) separated the warriors in two main waves/style of fighting.
    The suporters of the greater number of troops also mention the huge size of Constantinople's total number of guarrison troops in certain times of need.
    We must not forget that Tagmata still were Emperor's most trusted troops (until Basil II) that would be used against Constantinople's entire armed forces in case of a rebelion from a throne rival.
    What seems odd is that the 7 units number 7 x 512 = 3584 is quite small for that task when in 1203 Constantinople had a gaurisson of more or less 50000 men in peace times.
    In the times of the 9th to 11th centuries that the empire was in constant wars against enemies that were in very close distance from the capital its is natural to believe that Constantinople's guarisson had similar size to man the large number of towers both on Theodosian walls and on sea walls also.
    An other point that needs to be invastigated is the descriptions that mention that in certain eras when food suplies and finansial incomes were smaller than expected Tagmata were forced to encampted in provinces that "force" to feed them and pay their sallaries.
    If Tagmatic units would be only 3584 men it would make no sense to sent them away to save food for the rest of 47000 men.
    Of course in 1203 there were almost no Tagmatic units but in the times of great and long wars, fighting in different war fronts the same time the number 3584 seems to small.
    It would be safer to assume that the number of troops would be determined by the needs of war in each era.

    Flags of units and Characters.

    Flags and Banners of the Vasilike Syntaxis

    Pseudo Codinos in his work (De Officiis) in 14th century described some military unit flags without more details of the units that used them.
    So the connection of some of them is clear hypothetical.

    Imperial Flag.

    Tagma ton Scholarion (Scholarii)

    Tagma ton Excubitoron (Excubitores)

    Tagma ton Hikkanaton (Hikkanati)

    Tagma Ton Teichon

    Tagma tou Arithmou

    Tagma ton Athanaton (Athanati)

    Labarum of Vasilike Hetearea (imaginary)




    The Tagmata Units:

    Scolae Palatinae/Scholae/Scholarii

    Of the four principal Tagmatic cavalry regiments, Scholae was the senior and probably the oldest. They were formed as an elite military guard unit, usually ascribed to the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great as a replacement for the equites singulares Augusti, the cavalry arm of the Praetorian Guard. Seven Scholae were attested in the Notitia Dignitatum in the 5th cent AD. The term "schola" was commonly used in the early 4th century to refer to organized corps of the imperial retinue, both civil and military, and derives from the fact that they occupied specific rooms or chambers in the palace.The scholae, along with the excubitores, continued to exist in the 7th and early 8th centuries, although diminished in size, as purely ceremonial units. However, in ca. 743, after putting down a major rebellion of thematic troops, Emperor Constantine V reformed the old guard units of Constantinople into the new tagmata regiments, which were meant to provide the emperor with a core of professional and loyal troops. Apart from being a campaigning force, like their Late Roman ancestors, they were an important stage in a military career for young aristocrats, which could lead to major field commands or state offices. The Scholae regiments included both heavy shock cavalry and missile cavalry fighting as heavy horse archers. Their overall weapons and armor varied and depended on their role, status and overall economical situation. Among them were also the clibanarii regiments who served as the peak of the Roman heavy cavalry in both arms and armor and tactics. Their and their horses extremely heavy armor made them an expensive to maintain force, thus restraining their numbers. The layers of armor were many times covered by a large gambeson called “Epliorikion” beautifully colored and decorated with Roman heraldry which indicated their regiment.The scholae were headed by the Domesticos tōn scholōn (δομέστικος τῶν σχολῶν), first attested in 767.He was considered as one of the senior-most generals, surpassed only by the Strategos of the Anatolicon Thema. By the 10th century, he had risen to be was the senior officer of the entire army, often called also as Megas Domesticos, effectively a commander-in-chief under the Emperor. In ca. 959, the post and the unit itself were divided into two separate commands, one for the East (domesticos [tōn scholōn tēs] anatolēs) and one for the West (domesticos [tōn scholōn tēs] dysēos).


    The youngest of the Tagmata cavalry regiments, was the Hikanati (Ικανάτοι, “The Able Ones”), established by emperor Nikephoros I in the early 9th cent. It appears to be a cadet force, and so much is confirmed by a passage in the Vita Ignatii by Niketas David Paphlagon where it is stated that the first commander (domestikos) of the force was Niketas, Emperor Nikephoros' nephew, who was later to become the Patriarch Ignatios. In the later eleventh century a similar force, known as the Archontopoula ("Sons of the Nobles") was created by Alexios I Komnenos. Hikanati were apparently modelled on the tagma of the Vigla, and headed by a domestikos (δομέστικος τῶν Ἱκανάτων, domestikos tōn Ikanatōn), usually with the court rank of prōtospatharios. These noble sons were forming a heavy cavalry regiment, impetuous and proud but lacking the experience of the other Tagmatic forces. Their elite character was also obviously shown in their appearance since they had access and could afford high quality and latest fashioned armor and equipment.

    Tagma ton Teichon/Teicheotae .


    More pictures

    Tagma ton Teichon(Walls) was one of the the two elite garrison troops of the Constantinople and propably founded by emperor Justinian II . They were similar in both the equipment and role with the Tagma tou Arithmou/Numeroi and regarded as one type of unit in many sources. As part of the elite garrison troops of the empire, they had access to the exquisite and fine imperial arms and armor hence they were composing a heavy infantry regiment. Initially they were responsible of guarding the Walls of the Great palace (Ieron Palation) under the orders of the Comes ton Teichon ("Count of Walls"). Later being part of Constantinople's defensive forces hard core, their duty expanded in guarding the Theodosian Walls. The Tagma ton Teichon was one of the units which deployed mainly infantry forces with both melee and range regiments.In TGC mod we chose to represent them as elite heavy archers.

    Vasilikoi Anthropoi:

    Vassilikoi Anthropoi or Imperial Men/Emperor’s men is a broad term that covers a number of Imperial guards and elite Imperial Tagmata which were comprising the closest to the emperor guard corps. A main part of this Tagma was the Guard officers of the Palace who provided the emperor’s personal escort and attendants in both the battlefield and at court. Among these elites were high ranked court and military officers of the Roman aristocracy: Spatharioi (sword bearers)divided between the ranks of Spatharokandidatoi and Protospatharioi , the Spatharokouvikoularioi which were divided in Eunuchs and Barbatus ones (Varvatoi/Βαρβάτοι in Greek “the bearded ones”), the handpicked elite Tagmatic Kandidatoi (candidates)of the Sacred Palace, the Mandatores(Imperial messengers ) and lastly the Stratores (Imperial squires)under the command of Protostrator who bore the Imperial flamoulon (flag) with the embroidered “Cross of Victory” .All these elites were under the command of another high ranked Imperial officer the Protospatharios of the Vassilikoi Anthropoi .As an elite Imperial bodyguard they had excellent training and morale but also a glorious appearance as they were dressed in luxurious fabrics and exquisite armour and they were riding Imperial Nisean steeds.

    The Immortals/Athanatoi:

    The Immortals (Greek: Ἀθάνατοι, Athanatoi) were one of the elite tagmata regiments, first raised during the late 10th century.They first appeared during the John Tzimiskes campaigns against Rhos/Rus and after a short demise have reappeared under Michael VII due to minister Nikephoritzes military reforms.The name implies a deliberate correlation to the ancient Persian unit, perhaps due to the revival of classicism during the era and an effort of maintaining a heroic almost supernatural status for these troops or simply a reference to their stable number and recruitment.They formed an extra heavy cavalry unit composed by young nobles covered by exquisite and ornamental armor of “gold and silver” as Leo the Deacon reports thus creating an impressive spectacle in the battlefield where they are recorded fighting as a vanguard, probably similar to "Clibanarii Scholarii". As an imperial tagma they were commanded by a Domestikos ton Athanaton (of the Immortals) and their numbers were also similar to other Tagmatic cavalry units.


    More pictures.

    Excubitores: (Latin: excubitores or excubiti, literally "those out of bed", i.e. "sentinels", Greek: ἐξκουβίτορες or ἐξκούβιτοι) were a palace guard corps, organized by the Emperor Leo to counterbalance the influence of Germans in the imperial army. Their commanders soon acquired great influence and provided a series of emperors in the 6th century. The Excubitors fade from the record in the late 7th century, but in the mid-8th century, they were reformed into one of the elite tagmatic units, fighting as elite crack cavalry.Initially commanded by a Count of Excubitores (Comes Excubitorum), they were both a fighting and guarding unit throughout the 6th cent. Within the Tagmatic system their commander was the Domestikos ton Excubiton/Excubitoron and they became a standard campaigning unit and abolished their former guarding duties.They were one of the finest cavalry regiments the Empire could deploy in the battlefield and their ranks were filled with professional cavalrymen of the high society.Their discipline and training was superb and their arms and armor were reflecting the wealth of the empire, representing the emperor’s might on the battlefield. Among their ranks were the scribones presumably acting as medical orderlies for the thematic and tagmatic armies.
    Ιn the late 9th century to late 11th century Excubitores were part of the main Vasilike Hetaerea, the unit that was responsible of guarding the palace and the imperial family. Excubitores were at that point some of the highest in rank members of that force. The title of Excubitor, when given to an official, was signifying that the title bearer had the total trust of the emperor himself. All those fully trusted men within Vasilike Hetearea still had the tagmatic name Excubitores and often they were given tasks like field marshals, campaign leaders or local ruler’s inspectors. We kept the name Excubitores for these close to emperor men because Vasilike Hetearea included other smaller ceremonial native units as well as some mercenary units like the Varangian Guard that added later in it. The most famous Excubitor of that era was the General and Katepano Basill Voioannes that Emperor Basill II trusted for the Italian reqonquista campaign. As scholars of that time Basill Voioannes was wearing the ring of Excubitores!

    Tagma tou Arithmou/Numeroi/Numera:


    Tagma tou Arithmou/Numera/Numeroi:
    Tagma tou Arithmou or tis Viglas was originally formed by Empress Irene of Athens as counter force to other Tagmatic troops that she felt dangerous for her and her throne. Despite the word “aritmos” (number) means exactly the same with the latin word “numeron” the two Tagmatic units with the similar name for then seamed to co-existed for some time. We assume (by the Vasilike Syntaxis of Pseudo Codinos) that the two units may merged in to a single one in late 9th century or early 10th because there are not any clear evidences that Numeri (Noumeroi) were still a unit in that era. Pseudo Codinos is quite clear about the 6 tagmatic units in the Vasilike Syntaxis. We assume that since the names of both units have the same meaning in 10th century describe ONE and only one Tagmatic unit. Also Tagma tou Arithmou were one of the two units that were mainly infantry forces guarding the Theodosian Walls. Infantry men have a clear limitation of the total weight of the armor they can carry. That is why they do not look like the cataphract style other Tagmatic units that their horses carry the weight for them! This does not mean they were under armored at all. They had in their disposal the best made lamellar or scale cuirasses , steel made chain hauberks with less weight and better protection, steel or bone arm and leg greaves , chain mail coifs etc… In the end those infantry men were way better equipped than the average thematic ones! Their constant training was another factor that gave them a clear superiority in the battle comparing to other infantry units. That is why we have chosen to we present them as heavy Scutatoi infantry leaving the “archers” task for Tagma ton Teichon.

    Vasilike Hetearea (or Megale Hetearea):

    Siphonatores were not an actual unit in any sense. Siphonatores means “those that hundle heirosiphon” and as heirosiphon we mean the hand version of Greek/liquid fire siphon device that was used by the Roman ships. Thanks to the secret “nature” of the weapon its self we have no actual information of those warriors other than some recently found weapons and ONLY one picture of Scylitzes Chronicle of 11th century showing a warrior armed with such a device coming out of a siege tower and assault on the enemy walls. What we can assume for these warriors with much certainty is that they were part of the palace troops that that weapon was kept in to palace armory. Also those troops may have the full trustfulness of the emperors and they may be loyal to their cause because the secret of that weapon is still today the only one that has never revealed! Also those troops had to be well armored in order to have more chances to survive a close battle to be sure that the weapon would never fall to enemy hands! What we can imagine is that those troops were not meant to stay and fight for long but to spread panic to enemy lines and break the enemy warriors’ morale. Imagine a siege tower that approaches the city’s walls. The defenders are ready to counter those that come out of that siege tower ramp...But what they see is single soldier with a bizarre weapon in front of his battle mates that spreads a huge flame on the defenders faces!!! People start to burn like torches and the defenders line are in total confuse..The assault troops inside the siege tower charge to the panicked defenders leaving that warrior with the strange weapon inside the safety of the siege tower. That weapon was not only dangerous for the enemies but could be lethal for the warrior that used it or his friendly troops that may be close by if air direction would change suddenly. For such reasons the training with that weapon should be constant. Their armor equipment would be one of the best with some additions. Woolen and silk robes may cover the metal armors to delay flame accidents in case of anything would go wrong during the use of the weapon its self….

    Varangian Guard:
    Viking Druzzina as they will emerge in the 988AD event.

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    Varangian Guard as they will be available to the player right after the 988AD event.

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    Var means “word of commitment” or oath for serve. Rus from Holmgard (Novgorod) and Kiev were known to Romans since late 9th century when they started to make small raiding expeditions in north Asia minor coasts and in to Cherson (modern Crimea) peninsula.Since that time Rus were known to Romans as "The unknown people". The Great Khan of Khazars had them as vassals (as Roman chronicles point out) and warned the Roman Empire for the new danger they present because he could not have them under full control. In 901 and 907AD major raids to Constantinople its self ,allowed “Swedish” Rus to make agreements with the Empire. Those agreements gave Rus warriors the right to participate as mercenaries in to Roman campaigns and the right to trade with the Empire. Rus used the decline of the great Khazar empire as a trigger for their expansion to the local Slavic populations plus the opportunity to expand further to south, east and west. Viking “raiders” (vikingar) were used in several campaigns in Italy and other fronts but they were noticed in the Nikephorus Phocas campaign against the Emirate of Crete/Chandax. Those warriors made a lot of impression to Romans when Emperor Ioannes Tzimiskes called Rus to invade Danube Bulgarian lands inorder to help him against Bulgarians. Instead Rus when they defeated Bulgarians started a full scale war with the Empire. With the Roman counter attack, roman infantry and cavalry found great difficulties to brake the Rus shield wall formations making battles won on a “sword’s edge”! The solution was an even more heavily version of cataphract style unit (Athanati) made By Emperor Ioannes Tzimiskes but all battles against Rus continued to be totally undetermined! That “fear” re-emerged when Vladimir I of Kiev captured Cherson city in 987AD blackmailing the Emperor Basil II to set the province free with a royal marriage in return! Basil II knew that a 4th warfront was too much for his troops to handle and gave his sister Anna as bride. Vladimir kept his word and returned Cherson region to the empire. Basil “saw” another benefit with that relationship with Vladimir. Basil II had already one civil war against a throne rival and saw since his youth emperors to be murdered in the palace despite the existence of “loyal” guards! Vladimir responded that Basil’s request by sending him a 6000 warriors druzzina that Basil immediately used as his new personal guard! Those warriors were not only axe bearers –as the history myth wants us to know- but they were also heavy spearmen and other kind of infantry men. Of course the long –two handed axes and the long two handed swords- those warriors used frequently game them an exotic appearance to Roman eyes. Those warriors kept many armor elements of theirs but when time and battles forced them to change armors the Imperial armory was in their full access! Finest steel chain hauberks, finest steel greaves and breast armors were combined with Viking helmets, shields etc… In this era the Varangians are still only Swedish Rus from Kiev. Anglo Saxon Huscarls, Danish Hird and other Scandinavians will serve the unit later, especially after the conquest of England in 1066AD when Saxon elite will be forced to exile! Those warriors proved the most loyal imperial guards the empire ever was about to have in its entire history as Anna Komnene will write much later for them :
    "They have great loyalty to the Emperors. Protection of them is kind of family tradition, a kind of a secret deal and heritage passing from father to son.
    This loyalty remains the same with no sign of treason"...

    "Anna Komnene-Description of the Varangian Guards"

    What allowed Romans be on the top of the edge in the military technology and warfare tactics , was their ability to adopt and modify everything they learned on the battlefield by their enemies. They inherited that habit from the Greeks that were “masters” of adopting “alien” to them military features. Romans developed that habit beyond measure from their early Republican Era to their last time in 15th century! In the timeframe we examine here –late 9th to late 11th centuries- Romans seams that had a turn to their own sense of classicism. By that term we mean the re-appearance of armor pieces that looked quite same with those of times of the past. We can see those “signs” in the officers helmets with classic era crests, the full metal muscular breast armors etc... The return to “classicism” is more obvious in the Leonis Imperatoris Tactica written by Emperor Leon VI the wise. The emperor not only describes early (republican) army formations and unit names but he expands even more to the Hellenistic age describing army formations, soldier equipment, unit names etc… Romans have the reputation of a conservative society that refused to change and that is why they –supposed- fallen in the end. That is not entirely true however. In the entire medieval life of the Roman Empire we see a constant change via adoption, in army’s equipment and tactics and the same time a never ending of development of new and original ones that kept the Roman armies on the top of the art in the warfare. Starting from the Gothic military features, expanding to Sassanid, Avaric, Arabic and finally Norman/western European military features, the Roman Army always found a way to be affective. In the era we focus on , except the classic Roman equipment , Roman soldiers adopted many eastern features concerning to their armors and tactics. Their main influences were from the Avars of the past and the Arabic and Khazar armies of the present. An obvious example is the existence of those conical helmets that almost replaced the simple made classic roman cassis ones.
    The armory provided the Tagmatic unit troops with the best quality weapons. The Empire made steel imports from Arabic Spain to make sure that its weapons will be nothing more than the best. In the same hired the best weapon makers around the world for the same reason. The infantry men equipment was not different from that of the Thematic troops one. Swords like the short version of spathion and a straight blade version (early version) of parapoirion sword were common. Many people insist that infantry troops used also maces or war hammers but in that point we must make a definition. Clubs/bats and cudgels, in the middle Ages, Hellenic language shares the names of ravdion and korene. The problem is that the same two words describe war clubs (wooden of metal) known as maces. The Clubs/bats and cudgels were common equipment of the “police” or law enforcing troops against public demonstrations but in no cases we have any kind of clue that infantry soldiers used maces of any kind. Mace and war hammer require an acceleration provided by the different level of height a cavalry man has against any infantry one. Infantry men though did used axes or war hammers like horsemen did too... Those were known as tzikourion (axe) and apelatikion or spheera (war hammer). Maces in the other hand were known with names such korene, matzoukion, kephalothraustes (the one that smashes the head) or in earlier times Vardoukion that in our age may describe the General’s marshal staff (also known as skeeptron) instead of a real weapon. Roman cavalrymen used maces, axes and war hammers extensively side by side with the long Spatha kind swords known as Spathion –the one, modern historians call the “Byzantine Long sword”. War hammers are a direct eastern influence by steppe warriors like the Avars or the Khazars or the Sassanids in the past. Too few are known how Romans adopted maces though. One is sure in this, Romans used maces long before any western knight appear in history. Those maces came in a large number of versions with different shape of heads (spiked, bladed), with wooden or metal shafts. Spathion was a direct ancestor of the Roman cavalry Spatha sword of earlier times. Tagmatic units used a variety of spears for their infantrymen just like the Thematic ones but kontarion makron is not mentioned in the scripts. The logic behind the lack of such long pike kind spear has to do that Tagmatic infantrymen did not need such weapon. The reasons may found in the wall fights those troops had to deal defending the Capital’s walls or in the rare cases of fighting in open field, their training and high morale made that spear unnecessary. So the 3m classic Kontarion would be enough for them.
    A very crucial part of the soldiers’ armor was the shield. Again, just like the thematic troops ones, shields came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Oval shields dominated to the elite troops until middle of the 10th century but even from the late 9th ones, the majority of shields were round shaped. The cycle shape considered as one of the perfect in geometry and so the large round shields were known as Scutaria Teleia (perfect shields). Kite/leaf shape shields seams that appeared right after the invasions of Avars but we can assume almost with certainty that Khazars re-introduced those shields to the Roman armory! That kind of shields appear more and more from the early 10th century to almost completely dominate until the end of the 11th one. In all cases the Roman kite/leaf shape shields were more or less smaller than those that Normans had when they invaded Italy after 1010ad! Palace guards should continue to use large round shields adding more prestige to their appearance. We can assume that by the majority of large round shields used by Varangians right after they replaced their original wooden shields of theirs. Horsemen of the Tagmatic units used all kind of shields. For many the most famous one is the small (actually almost tiny) round shield that “cataphracts” carry in most of the pictures made by modern artists the last decades. Such shields used by Roman cavalry men in past eras as well. Their use remains quite a mystery. The mystery exists because those shields were too small in size to protect from arrows or infantry spears. In fact, cataphracts had enough protection against arrows volleyed from long distances thanks to their three layers armor. So the question remained: What was that shield’s actual use? Let us see the facts.
    The shield originally carried on the upper arm near the soldier’s shoulder and neck. In the mod’s timeframe the shield was placed on the lower arm of the soldier.
    The shield’s size allows the warrior to instantly direct the shield in the exact direction of the threat! In that point we need to see those “threats”…

    Enemies that would come close enough to the cataphracts would use the following weapons: swords, axes, hammers and maces. Sword blades could easily be confronted by the warriors’ wooden, bone or metal greaves known as cheiropsela or manicelia. The real problem was the maces and war hammers. Maces create a blunt hit that creates a wave of shock beneath the armor. In that case the greaves on the warriors arms would not break but the arm itself would be smashed under that hit!! So the warriors needed a surface big enough to absorb the energy from the blunt hit and save the arm bones! A similar problem was the existence of war hammers. In conclusion that small shield allowed its user to accurately point a defense against precise and accurate melee weapons of their opponents!
    The troops used a variety of helmets based on the simple made classic roman cassis or copies and modifications of eastern ones. The conical shaped helmets were a direct or indirect influence from the east. Romans used also masked helmets since the 1st century AD but in this era the masked helmets have much more simple –in details- masks. In fact those masks indicate another eastern influence in to the Roman armory! As we mentioned above, crested helmets re appear in Roman service due the “return” to the Roman classicism and in to the empire’s Hellenistic heritage. The Roman/Hellenistic influences are clearer in the muscular breast armors and also to Heracles’ knot. The last one is the silk sash around the chess or the waist that appears in many Church frescos when Military Saints are the frescos theme. That sash was an indication of military rank the allow officers to distinguish from the rest of the troops. Returning to helmets issue we must point out the first appearance of helmets with visor mainly after the middle of the 10th century that dominated eastern influenced ones in the late 11th century! When it comes to the body armor the definition word for those troops (cataphracti) says it all. The word describes warriors armed from head to feet. Of course the term is quite generic but in Tagmatic troops’ case is very accurate. Starting from the head the warriors used steel helmets of all kinds over a double or even triple layer chain coif over a padded one that was used to absorb the hits energy and keep head warm. Body armor depended of what kind of unit those warriors served in. Troops on foot could not carry as much weight as horsemen that horses did the job for them! Even in infantry case, scale cuirasses or lamellar ones based –in shape- on the muscular armors of the past- used over hard leather armors –with pteryges extensions or over chain mails known as loricia. Those breast armors were known as clivania and their scales could be made by metal or bone! In the Tagmatic units case those clivania may had scales of steel that was harder and lighter than iron..Bronze was a metal that was easy to work with but the armor makers that worked in the Imperial Armory should not have any kind of trouble to work with harder metals like steel. Horsemen clivania and loricia were longer than those made for infantry ones in order to protect their legs. In few cases chain gloves or leather ones were used. Despite the longer versions of clivania and loricia , horsemen very often used a third layer of armor that was made with wool (padded) and wore under (kavadion) or above the rest of the armor layers(epilorikion). The last ones used to have luxury decorations due the status of the unit the warriors served in or due the financial status of each warrior that used one.
    Just like Thematic troops, Tagmatic ones may used kedouklon as well. But that robe’s task should be only to protect metal parts of the armor from wet. The element of surprise was not in its tasks for kedouklon for those troops. In fact Romans used those units to terrify their enemies by demonstrating their shiny armors and weapons as sign of military might. We mentioned earlier arm greaves known as cheiropsela or manicelia. The troops completed their armor sets with leg greaves as well made also with metal or wood or bone and known as podopsela or chalkotuva.

    Leif Erikson (99% of the textures)
    Absinthia (model parts, weapons, textures)
    Koultouras (model parts, 3d banners, textures, 3d heads, varangian animation modification).
    Socal_Infidel (model parts).
    Slash-5 (conikal helmet)
    S-te-fan (model parts).
    Lord_Calidor (weapons)
    tone (his exelent scale texture)
    CounterPoint391 (sword models and textures)
    DisgruntledGoat (1066 model parts like arrow quivers , belts etc).
    LuBu (3d belts, shoulder and knee armor parts )
    Tzar (banner textures)
    Strelac (3d belts and primary varangian animation and advices).
    Rusichi TW/MARKA team (primary source of models, textures and horses).
    Dome (horse body textures)
    Alkimachos (helmet clasic roman crests).
    AnthoniusII (model parts extensive modifications), Gravity/Realism mod.
    Preview Scripts:
    Special Thanks to the primary CBUR researching team :
    Manuel Komnenos
    Agis Tournas

    Leonis Imperatoris Tactika
    Praecepta Militaria
    Stategicon by anonymous
    Papageorgiou Angeliki, "Organization of defensive system and army units in Constantinople" , Foundation of the Hellenic world.

    Protostator : Imperial Byzantine Flags.
    Visual refences:
    Special Thanks to:

    Mr D.Katsikes that so kindly allowed us to use the pictures of his creations (armors of 10th century) as basis for our textures.

    Mr G.Rava for the inspiration we had ,reading the books that he was so wonderfully illustrated.

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