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The Byzantine Army of Emperor Alexios 1

The Byzantine army (post the disastrous defeat by the Turks at Manzikert 1071) still retained some tagmatic cavalry units from Macedonia, Thrace and Thessaly and two guard units the Exkoubita and Vestiaritai. The infantry core was the Varangian Guard consisting mostly of Anglo-Saxons who left England after the Norman invasion. The bulk of the army were mercenaries including Turkish horse archers and Armenian foot together with levy foot spearmen, archers and slingers.

This was the army that fought against the Normans at Dyrrachion in 1081.

Despite the defeat at Dyrrachion this was a period of Byzantine revival. Pechenegs and Cumans raided south of the Danube, the Bulgars revolted and the Seljuks reached the Asiatic gates of Constantinople. Alexius skilfully made peace with the Seljuks enabling him concentrate on the Balkans. The campaign began badly with the Bulgarians allied with Pechenegs and Cumans defeating Alexius at Silistra in 1086. However, he recovered suppressing the Bulgar revolt and defeated the Pechenegs at Leburnion 1091.

Further reading:

Angold, M.                    

 The Byzantine Empire 1025-1204                                

 Longman 1984

Bartusis, Mark               

 The Late Byzantine Army                                             

 Pennsylvania 1997

Comnena, Anna   The Alexiad of Anna Comnena Penguin 1969

Fine, John                      

 Late Medieval Balkans                                                

 Michigan 1994

Heath, Ian                    

 Armies-Feudal Europe                                                  

 WRG 1978

Norwich, John Julius    

 Byzantium- The Decline and Fall                      

 Viking 1995

John W. Birkenmeier

The Development of the Komnenian Army: 1081-1180. Brill, 2002

The units. Most of the wargame figures are from the Gripping Beast range.

The Kontaratoi. The regular infantry with spears combined with a back row of bow.

Psiloi bows

Javelin armed skirmishers

Varangian Guard

Emperors Guards

Kavallarioi. Spear in front rank, bows in the second.


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Last modified: 01/23/12