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> Middle Eastern armies, 10th-12th century
Agarici
Posted: May 19, 2005 11:08 pm
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QUOTE (Alexandru H. @ May 16 2005, 12:23 PM)
Unfortunately, the real tragedy was not the battle of Mantzikert (Alp Arslan's terms were quite acceptable and moderate) but the fact that after Basilios II Bulgaroctonul, the Empire began to be ruled once again by the court aristocracy, while the old generals were left to rot. The outer garrisons were disbanded because of lack of funds (the Macedonians had left a sizeable treasury, eaten away by the subsequent emperors), the laws that freed the peasant or community lands from the yoke of the Church and the aristocracy were lifted, meaning that the soldier reserve in case of an attack would decrease dramatically, thus the need of foreign mercenaries. Isac Comnenus and Romanos Diogenes had tried to do something about it, but they had no real legitimacy, no great family name that could back up their plans. With an incompetent family as the Dukas, with Michael Psellos as their counsellor (brilliant man, but mediocre administrator), the Empire was doomed. When after Mantzikert, a son of Alp-Arslan, Suleiman Sah, decided to invade Anatolia, he found not a trace of resistence... the establishment of his capital at Niceea (right across Constantinople) was a dire thing to see for any byzantine.

But I agree, this subject would be another "would-be great movie if it wasn't for Hollywood and its own version of greatness". Like the First Crusade (I can only imagine a PC-free conquest of Jerusalem), the life of Alexios Comnenus, maybe something about the Magyar Invasions.... Oh, I could only drool....


After the death of Bazil II and up to the battle of Mazinkert the empire was affected mainly by weak emperors and by the absence of a clear line of succession (thus a series of usurpations of the throne) - a situation not uncommon in its past. The phenomena described by you occurred mainly after that battle, and only after the instauration of the Comnen dynasty and I would simply summarize them as being the process of feudalization of The Eastern Roman Empire. Because the Byzantine Empire was before anything an administrative apparatus it depended too much on the leader, and we know that this is a real problem for all the non-democratically burocracies (and for other hierarchical structures as well). The birocratic structure (inherited from the Romans and developed over the time) which on many times, until the half of the XI century, proved its efficiency but also failed to reach the goals set on quite numerous accounts (especially under incompetent monarchs) was gradually replaced by a quite typical feudal system. The aristocracy, gathered around the opulent imperial court (and thus easily controllable, tough very money-consuming and prone to plotting against weaker emperors) became from the XIIth century onwards a real land aristocracy. The reverse tendency will be later present to the absolutist-type monarchs’ courts in Western Europe, Louis the XIVth being the example for that.

But what have made this mid XIth century crisis (of a type encountered before) so costly on that particular time? Well, there were several factors and I’ll emphasize some of them:
- The Great Schism (1054), combined with the defeat at Mazinkert and the lost of Middle East (Anatolian region) for the empire questioned its status as a viable eastern branch of Christianity
- The Middle Eastern provinces were the main recruiting pool for the imperial army and of major economic importance; they also controlled the land trade with the Orient, and this was very important since the sea trade was difficult due to the Saracen pirates domination over the Mediterranean (which a weaken imperial fleet had to wrestle), and due to the fact that the Byzantines were challenged by the raising Italian maritime republics
- The lost of southern Italy (the last empire Western European possession) to the Normans combined with the strengthening of the Western European states proved to be a real challenge for the empire.

Now a few corrections: Isaac Comnenus became emperor before Romanus IV (being the first Comnen ruler of Byzantine empire), but the Comnens firmly became the ruling dynasty only with Alexios I, his nephew - so Isaac was less representative for this family and being arguably an “usurper” himself was confronted with the same legitimacy problem as Romanus. The evolutions you called as destructive for the empire took place under Comnen dynasty, which was mutually supported by the aristocratic faction, this being rather common knowledge I think. This does not mean that the Comnens did not have their good administrators as well (and the good think for this decadent period of the empire was the culture flourished :) ).

After Manzikert, the civil war broke out, while the generals revolted against the new emperor (Michael the VIIth, a member of Ducas family). The former Romanus Norman mercenaries at Mazinkert, (now led by Robert Guiscard and Bohemond de Tancred), seeing the disaster of the imperial army and the dire situation of the empire invaded the Byzantine provinces heading to Constantinople. Confronted with a war on two fronts and losing several battles with the Normans, the Byzantines made an alliance with the Seljuks, obtaining their support and/or hiring them as mercenaries in exchange for the lands they already invaded, and that’s how they occupied a large part of the empire’s eastern provinces without resistance. And after the alliance was concluded, many Seljuk garrisons of the Byzantine eastern cities used the pretext of changing sides between different pretenders of the Constantinople throne to add new lands to the Turkish empire…

So maybe the Byzantine historians had their reasons for calling the day of the battle “that dreadful day”…

This post has been edited by Agarici on July 19, 2005 11:21 am
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Victor
Posted: May 21, 2005 03:27 pm
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QUOTE (rcristi @ May 16 2005, 03:50 AM)
In Agarici's defence here's a pic taken from Osprey's Man at arms serie - Byzantine Armies 886-1118. They look pretty heavy to me.

Best regards
Chris

[img=http://img144.echo.cx/img144/4267/byzantine24kl.th.jpg]

Those are klibanophori as far as I know, but I may be wrong.
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johnny_bi
Posted: July 01, 2005 08:39 pm
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I still wonder how could resist the Crusaiders' states for 200 years, taking in consideration that beyond advantages and disadvantages the crusaiders had, the biggest disadvantage was the number - the Crusaiders' states always faced a problem of human ressources...

This post has been edited by johnny_bi on July 01, 2005 08:42 pm
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Victor
Posted: July 19, 2005 07:34 am
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Found an interesting article regarding the Byzantine/Eastern Roman army

QUOTE
The medium cavalryman, the Kataphractos, was usually attired and armored in the following manner. He wore a linen tunic in summer and a woolen one in winter. Over his tunic the soldier wore a corselet of mail and on top of this a corselet of lamelle. Rounding out his protection were grieves, vambraces, gauntlets and a mail hood attached to the helmet. The helmet was typically the same model as the infantry soldier wore. On top of this was a waterproof, brownish felt cloak. The horse of the medium cavalry soldier was unarmored. The medium cavalry soldier was equipped officially with a small 12" shield though most drawings depict a 24" shield for those using the lance and the 12" shield for the archers .


and

QUOTE
The heavy cavalry soldier, Klibanophoros, was equipped like the Kataphractos except that they wore additional protective equipment. This equipment was a
padded armor coat over the lamelle, a two or three layered mail hood that left a slit to view out of, splint-armor vambraces, grieves, gauntlets and iron overshoes. These cavalrymen were literally armored from head to toe . This level of armored protection was also prevalent with their mounts. The horses were covered in a lamelle blanket of hardened oxhide that covered the body to the knees, the head and neck . The heavy cavalryman appears to have used the same shield types as were common with the Kataphractos.


Regarding the cavalry charge:
QUOTE
When the Byzantines elected to launch a full-blown cavalry charge the troops were drawn up into a type of wedge formation. Up until Manzikert the first
wave of the three-wave attack would be made up of the heavy cavalry, Klibanphoroi. The second and third waves would be made up of Kataphractoi and their mixture of bows and lances . The ten men Dekarchiai was formed
up in to files of five side by side. The first two ranks and the last rank would typically be using lances and the middle four soldiers would use their bows.
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Agarici
Posted: July 19, 2005 09:39 am
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Apparently there is a contradiction between sources, regarding the name of the heavy cavalry: kataphractoi or klibanophoroi. I used a translated (and published) version of a Byzantine military manual, written in the Xth century by a Byzantine successful general (who became emperor), Nichephoros Phocas. This source is also confirmed by several others. You used a internet compilation which, in my opinion, contains several flaws: the statement that the infantry was a secondary force in the Byzantine army, the detail that the Byzantine infantrymen were armed with pikes (which by the way appeared towards the end of the XIVth century) and a too static approach of the 11 centuries of Byzantine military history - among others.

However, my point was another one, and is confirmed even by this source: that the Byzantines used heavy cavalry in large number (and the Byzantines armored cavalrymen were heavier than the contemporary Western knights) and that they used the heavy cavalry shock charge, instead of rather harassing the enemy with light cavalry armed with bows as you said. This “Western heavy armor warriors ws. Eastern light harassing/ambushing forces” was the perception of the common sense I was going to contradict; and I think I did that.

This post has been edited by Agarici on July 19, 2005 08:17 pm
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Victor
Posted: July 19, 2005 02:19 pm
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It is not an "internet compilation", it's an article which mentions a bibliography at the end. As to what I was trying to say, my exact words were:
QUOTE
The Kataphraktoi were medium cavalry armed with bows, which could harass and outrun any enemy they could not charge down.


You are ofcourse right when you say that the Eastern armies also used heavy cavalry, but not like the Western Europeans. Maybe I should have said "armed also with bows" to make things clear. I did not say that they would just harass the enemy. They could also charge down the enemy, but after wearing him down with arrows. At least this is what I understood from the reading I have done on the subject. The Kataphraktoi would fire volleys of arrows upon the enemy to wear it down before the charge and would continue to do so while charging behind the heavier Klibanophoroi, armed with spears and maces. This way the enemy was kept with his head down until the heavier horsemen would make contact. Unlike its Western counterparts, the Eastern Roman heavy cavalry was deployed in a more complex formation with medium cavalry archers supporting it. The heavy cavalry charge was the death blow applied to an enemy already worn down by arrow fire. These kind of tactics were I believe also used by Parthians against Crassus at Carrhae and then against Marc Antony. The Western knights chose on many occasions the straigthforward approach of a direct cavalry charge. The Kataphraktoi were a much more flexible fighting force than the knights, which was the point I was trying to make.

As for the Byzantine infantry being armed with pikes, I have found this: http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chrisandpet...chiliarchy.html It's an article commenting McGreer's translations of Byzantine military manuals, which you already quoted, and it also uses the term pike. Even the website you initially quoted (http://byzantium.seashell.net.nz/articlema...id=fbook_mcgeer) contains the following fragment:

QUOTE
The Praecepta's army is carefully constructed from disparate elements, each contributing to survival and eventual victory of the army as a whole: The heavy infantry, backed up by archers and slingers, form a hollow square bristling with long spears and pikes. The square is a mobile fortress, within which the army's striking force - the cavalry - may be marshalled for attack.


The last sentence also emphasizes the cavalry's importance and relegates the infantry the role of supporting the cavalry.
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Agarici
Posted: July 19, 2005 04:02 pm
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QUOTE (Victor @ Jul 19 2005, 02:19 PM)
You are ofcourse right when you say that the Eastern armies also used heavy cavalry, but not like the Western Europeans. Maybe I should have said "armed also with bows" to make things clear. I did not say that they would just harass the enemy. They could also charge down the enemy, but after wearing him down with arrows.  At least this is what I understood from the reading I have done on the subject. The Kataphraktoi would fire volleys of arrows upon the enemy to wear it down before the charge and would continue to do so while charging behind the heavier Klibanophoroi, armed with spears and maces. This way the enemy was kept with his head down until the heavier horsemen would make contact. Unlike its Western counterparts, the Eastern Roman heavy cavalry was deployed in a more complex formation with medium cavalry archers supporting it. The heavy cavalry charge was the death blow applied to an enemy already worn down by arrow fire. These kind of tactics were I believe also used by Parthians against Crassus at Carrhae and then against Marc Antony. The Western knights chose on many occasions the straigthforward approach of a direct cavalry charge. The Kataphraktoi were a much more flexible fighting force than the knights, which was the point I was trying to make.



I entirely agree with that. About the heavy cavalry, apparently there was a misperception:
- I never denied the role of mounted archers/medium/light cavalry in the Eastern armies. The conclusion, as you said, is that they used more complex (and from this point of view more efficient) tactics then the western heavy cavalrymen. For the later, the absence of a force of mounted archers represented a shortcoming on many times. However, by the time of the crusades (and using the Eastern armies model), the Western armies started using the medium cavalry (the mounted sergeants) in support of the knights detachments.
- As I understood, in the beginning you contested the very existence (as a part of the Byzantine army) of a heavy cavalry corps capable of charging down the opponents (even with the support of arrow troops) - either because of the absence of an armor heavy enough, or because their small number. If you do not deny their existence anymore (be they kataphracts or klibanophors) and the fact that they were heavily armored and there were enough of them in the Byzantine army, or you didn’t mean to say that in your first intervention, our disputes has remained without its main subject :); tough, I would rather opt for Phocas' manual and for the kataphracts as heavy cavalry.

I didn't mean anything derogatory by the term "compilation", and the one you have quoted certainly has many good parts. I was only trying to say that using multiple sources gives the author more freedom in interpreting them and “make place” for his own opinions and preferences, which might not be all the time strictly (textually) backed by those sources as quoting a clearly delimited source is.

About my other two points:
- according to some authors (among them Ovidiu Drimba, in “Istoria culturii si civilizatiei”) there were periods in the Byzantine Empire history when the infantry played the primary role, especially in the first centuries of the empire.
- in what I have said about the pike, I think we are dealing with a so-called “false friend” in the English language. If we translate it as “halebard” (as I was referring to) it was invented in the end of the XIVth century. If we mean by it some hybrid form of an improved spear (with a hook attached, perhaps) it could have appeared earlier. What I mean is that the term pike is often used as an equivalent for halebard. If one chooses to use this term in a translation, because he/she did not find a better equivalent for the word used by the author, this is rather excusable (as was the case with the translation from “Praecepta militaria”). The fact is less excusable, in my oppinion, in an “interpretation” or “compilation” of several sources, when one (the author) should be more responsible/prudent with the terms he/she uses (those being his/her own terms of chioce and not the translated words of one author), especially when those could be controversial.

This post has been edited by Agarici on July 19, 2005 08:32 pm
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Agarici
Posted: July 19, 2005 08:42 pm
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QUOTE (johnny_bi @ Jul 1 2005, 08:39 PM)
I still wonder how could resist the Crusaiders' states for 200 years, taking in consideration that beyond advantages and disadvantages the crusaiders had, the biggest disadvantage was the number - the Crusaiders' states always faced a problem of human ressources...


I will try to list some advantages, which made the difference although the crusaders were in numerical inferiority. Sorry I'm so late:
- the military organization of the crusaders: the existence of the monastical-military orders, dedicated to defend the Crusader states and the communication routes, and the existence of the chivalry as an institution (and its military value)
- the network of defensive constructions, the fortresses (kracks, as called in a mixture of Arab and French), some of them masterpieces of military architecture and considered inexpugnable even by the Saracens and situated at a day travel distance one from another
- the continuous excitement the crusades were producing in Europe, among nobles and commoners - a permanent source for the needed knights, squires and other “volunteers”
- the centuries-long conflicts in the area between the two factions of the Muslim world, the (raising) Sunni Seldjuks and the Shiite Fatimids from Syria and Egypt
- the ambivalent attitude of the Byzantine Empire, which sometimes ran against, but sometimes favored the crusaders position, by threatening/weakening their Muslim adversaries.

This post has been edited by Agarici on July 19, 2005 09:10 pm
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Kosmo
Posted: December 19, 2005 10:16 am
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The evolution of the amy of the Roman Empire should be seen as an ever changhing process with many local variations.
Roughly from Heraclius it was based on persian style heavy horsearchers that used a variety of weapons including lances (St. George in icons). Most of their opponents at that time used light and medium horsearchers. The roman soldiers were small landowners in Asia. There were several armies of "thema".
After Menzinkert they used western style heavy cavalry and many foreign mercenaries with their national weapons. There was a central gov. army.
Not many things are really known about the army, numers, tactics and weapons. Not even the authors of those strategy guides are certain.
But... we can see a lot of speculations.
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Imperialist
Posted: December 19, 2005 11:36 am
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QUOTE (Victor @ Jul 19 2005, 02:19 PM)
They could also charge down the enemy, but after wearing him down with arrows. At least this is what I understood from the reading I have done on the subject. The Kataphraktoi would fire volleys of arrows upon the enemy to wear it down before the charge and would continue to do so while charging behind the heavier Klibanophoroi, armed with spears and maces. This way the enemy was kept with his head down until the heavier horsemen would make contact. Unlike its Western counterparts, the Eastern Roman heavy cavalry was deployed in a more complex formation with medium cavalry archers supporting it. The heavy cavalry charge was the death blow applied to an enemy already worn down by arrow fire.

The Kataphraktoi and Klibanophoroi are in fact the same thing.
The enemy was not worn out by arrow fire before the K/K charge, but the charge occurred first and broke the enemy's formation, leaving the archers, rest of cavalry and infantry to exploit the flanks.

take care
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Cristu
Posted: February 12, 2011 08:15 am
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QUOTE (Imperialist @ May 15, 2005 05:58 pm)
QUOTE (Indrid @ May 15 2005, 05:08 PM)


about historical accuracy: again appaled. the black crusader was the killer.  :D  what the f**k???!!??? oh, and how about the Viking ( yes, for those who know history it wil be a shock) that also joins the damn crusade....hahahahhaa

I dont know why you're laughing.
There were vikings in the East too.
The Byzantine Imperial Guard was dominated by vikings and northerners up to 1204!!!
And the Ingvar Saga depicts viking expeditions against the Saracens...
So I think its historically possible.

i think they were called "Varangians"...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varangians
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