Complete Byzantine Unit Roster Project
The Great Conflicts 872-1071 mod

Nikephorean Army Reform [PART 1]
Armies from late 9th to 11th centuries (macedonian dynasty).

The Roman Empire [state of the romans] in 9th to 11th centuries

The Macedonian epoch (867-1081)
The history of the Macedonian dynasty falls into two periods, unequal in significance and duration. The first period extends from 867 to 1025, the year of the death of Emperor Basil II; the second, the brief period from 1025 to 1056, when Empress Theodora, the last member of this dynasty, died.
The first period was the most brilliant time of the political existence of the Empire. The struggle in the east and in the north with the Arabs, Bulgarians, and Russians, was crowned with brilliant success for Byzantine arms by the second half of the tenth and the beginning of the eleventh century. This was achieved in spite of some failures at the end of the ninth and in the early part of the tenth century. This was the moment of the highest strength and glory ever attained by the Empire. The intensive legislative work, expressed in the publication of a gigantic code, the Basilics, and a number of famous novels directed against the pernicious growth of large landownership, and the intellectual advance associated with the names of Patriarch Photius and Constantine Porphyrogenitus add further glory and significance to the first period of the Macedonian dynasty.

The main problem in the external policy of Basil I, the founder of the Macedonian dynasty, was the struggle with the Muslim world. Conditions were unusually favorable for great achievements in this struggle, because in his time the Empire maintained peaceful relations with Armenia in the east, with Russia and Bulgaria in the north, and in the west with Venice and the western emperor. Added to these advantages was the internal dissension within the eastern caliphate aroused by the increasing influence of the Turks at the Arabian court, the defection of Egypt, where the independent dynasty of the Tulunids arose in the year 868, the civil wars among the North African Arabs, and the difficult position of the Spanish Umayyads in the midst of the local Christian population.

The successful military campaign which opened at the beginning of the seventies in the eastern part of Asia Minor against the followers of the sect of the Paulicans resulted in the Emperor’s occupation of their main city of Tephrice. This conquest not only widened the extent of Byzantine territory, but also placed Basil face to face with the eastern Arabs.Victory was sometimes on the side of the Greeks and sometimes on the side of the Arabs, but in the end the Byzantine borderline in Asia Minor moved considerably to the east.

Painting of Basil II replicated from an 11th century manuscript.
Far more serious were Basil’s relations with the western Arabs, who at that time possessed the greater part of Sicily and occupied some important points in southern Italy. The troubled affairs of Italy caused the intervention of the western Emperor, Louis II, who occupied the important city of Bari. It was with this ruler that Basil I formed an alliance for a combined attempt to drive the western Arabs out of Italy and Sicily. But this alliance did not succeed and was soon dissolved.
In spite of the loss of Syracuse and the unsuccessful campaigns against the Arabs, Basil increased somewhat the extent of Byzantine possessions in Asia Minor, and restored the lost importance of Byzantine rule in southern Italy. “The aged Basil,” said a recent student of his period, “could die in peace. He had fulfilled, both in the east and in the west, a very great military task, which was at the same time a civilizing task.
The Empire left by Basil was stronger and more imposing than the one he had received. The peaceful relations maintained by Basil with all his neighbors, excepting the Arabs, were broken under his successor, Leo VI the Wise (886-912). A war broke out with the Bulgarians, which ended with their victory. It was during this war that the Magyars (Hungarians) appeared in Byzantine history for the first time.
The campaigns against the Arabs were generally ineffective in the time of Leo VI. In the military clashes on the eastern borders the Arabs were at times as victorious as the Greeks. Neither side gained much from these collisions.
The beginning of the tenth century was marked by active operations of the Muslim fleet. Even at the end of the ninth century Cretan pirates had repeatedly raided the coasts of the Peloponnesus and the islands of the Aegean Sea.
Thus the Byzantine struggle with the Arabs was highly unsuccessful in the time of Leo VI: in the west Sicily was definitely lost; in southern Italy Byzantine troops failed to accomplish anything after the recall of Nicephorus Phocas; on the eastern border the Arabs were slowly but persistently going forward; and on the sea the Byzantine fleet suffered several serious defeats.
In the long reign of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (913-59) and Romanus I Lecapenus (919-44) the Byzantine Empire could not struggle effectively with the Arabs until the end of the third decade of the tenth century, because all its forces were thrown into the Bulgarian war.
The epoch of Romanus Lecapenus was of very great importance for the Byzantine policy in the East. After three centuries of keeping to the defensive, the Empire under the guidance of Romanus and John Curcuas assumed the offensive and began to triumph. The frontier was in a very different condition from what it had been at the time of Romanus’ accession. The border provinces were comparatively free from Arab raids.
The last years of Constantine Porphyrogenitus were marked by desperate battles with Saif-ad-Daulah, and although the Greeks had been beaten in several of these collisions, the outcome of the struggle was the defeat of the Arabs in northern Mesopotamia and the crossing of the Euphrates by the Byzantine army.
The eastern conquests of John Curcuas and John Tzimisces, which extended the borders of the Empire beyond the Euphrates, inaugurated a brilliant period of Byzantine victories over the Muslims.
During the brief reign of Romanus II (959-63), his capable and energetic general, Nicephorus Phocas, the future emperor, occupied the island of Crete, thus destroying the nest of Arabian pirates who had terrorized the population of the islands and coasts of the Aegean Sea.
The achievements of the next three emperors — Nicephorus Phocas, John Tzimisces, and Basil II Bulgaroctonus — form the most brilliant pages of the military history of the Empire in its struggle with Islam. During his six years’ reign (963-69) Nicephorus Phocas concentrated his attention on the East, although occasionally he diverted it to the hostile acts of the Bulgarians, which became more serious due to the intervention of the Russian prince, Sviatoslav.
The occupation of Cilicia and Cyprus opened for Nicephorus the road to Syria, and he began to work toward the realization of his cherished dream: the conquest of Antioch, the heart of Syria.
In the West the policy of Nicephorus Phocas was a failure. In his time the last points in Sicily which still belonged to the Empire were conquered by the Muslims, so that Sicily was completely in their hands. The main problem of John Tzimisces (969-76), who succeeded Phocas, was to secure the conquests in Cilicia and Syria. During the first years of his reign he could not participate personally in the military activities on the eastern border, because the Russian and Bulgarian wars, and the insurrection of Bardas Phocas demanded his undivided attention. He was victorious in the northern wars, and he also succeeded in suppressing the rebellion of Bardas Phocas.

Coin of John Tzimisces
Under the successor of John Tzimisces, Basil II (976-1025), the general state of affairs was not favorable for an aggressive policy in the east. The menacing insurrections of Bardas Sclerus and Bardas Phocas in Asia Minor and the continuing Bulgarian war demanded Basil’s undivided attention. By his personal appearance in Syria, at times unexpected, Basil frequently succeeded in restoring Byzantine influence in this province, but failed to make any significant new conquests
The anarchy which set in after Basil’s death emboldened the Muslims to start a series of offensive movements, which were particularly successful in the districts of Aleppo. The situation was somewhat improved for the Empire by the young and gifted general, George Maniaces.
The Empire’s attempts to reconquer Sicily did not bring about any definite results, in spite of the fact that George Maniaces was victorious in several battles.
Thus, in the time of the Macedonian dynasty, in spite of the troubled period which followed the death of Basil II, the efforts of John Curcuas, Nicephorus Phocas, John Tzimisces, and Basil II widened the eastern borders of the Empire as far as the Euphrates, and Syria, with Antioch, once more formed part of Byzantine territory. This was the most brilliant period in the history of Byzantine relations with the eastern Muslims.

As early as 1025, after the death of Basil II Bulgaroctonus [MAP of the empire at Basill II death], the Empire entered upon a period of troubles, frequent changes of accidental rulers, and the beginning of a general decline.
This period, characterized externally by frequent changes on the throne, which was occupied for the most part by incapable emperors, was a very significant period in the history of the Byzantine Empire; for during these twenty-five years those conditions developed in the Empire which later called forth the crusade movements in the West.
During this period the external enemies of the Byzantine Empire exerted pressure on all sides: the Normans were active in the west, the Patzinaks and Uzes in the north, and the Seljuq Turks in the east. In the end the territory of the Byzantine Empire was considerably reduced.
Alexander A.Vasilief-History of Byzantine Empire
Organisation :

The medeival Roman armies of that period were organised in two main corps. The Thematical armies that were the units of the provinces and the Tagmatic ones that were the units that stationed in Constantinople.
A third part of armies were the mercenaries or allied forces that were available according the finansial abillity of the empire and the alliences between the empire and other warlords.
The Thematic armies
Thema (gr: Θέμα)
Before we describe the units of the “Thematic” army of what we call Byzantine Empire under the Nikephorean reforms, we should make a small briefing of what is a Thema. Thema is a wide spread province that is under a single military administrator known as Strategos (gr. Στρατηγός) or Domestikos tou Thematos (gr. Δομέστικος του Θέματος).
That province may or may not include other minor provinces in it with a number of urban centers (cities or villages) and fortifications. Each urban center had a political leader known as Protonotarios (Πρωτονοτάριος). Praetor (Πραίτωρ) was the judge of the city and Chartoularios (Χαρτουλάριος) helped him running the city's affairs. Chartoularios was responsible to keep the recruitment lists informed and take care for the city's weaponry, army's food supplies and soldiers wages.
If the Thema had some really large cities in it, then a military/political leader was established know usually as Dux (Δουξ / Δούκας) or Katepano (Κατεπανώ) or Exarch ('Εξαρχος) depending by the size of the province and the history of its capital. For example: Carthage, Rome, Alexandria and other cities named their leading officers with the title of Exarch.
Semi independent or autonomous provinces gave their leading officers the title of Katepano. All the rest had the title of Dux.
One exception: The officer/general/politician that was responsible for the city of Constantinople had the title of Eparchos.
The Dux/Exarch or the Katepano of the Thema's capital had the second title of the Strategos tou Thematos that we mentioned before.

The Thematic army.

Question: What was really a thematic army?
Answer: The thematic armies were first created because of the need of creating new tactics against a new warfare that the early Arabic/Islamic armies introduced during their 1st expansion.
The old border forces of the Roman Empire could not defend against the totally mobile Arabic forces, neither the Arabs fought with heavy units like the Sassanids.
The thematic army based on the old Roman tradition of the roman armies of the democratic era, the same time that the Tagmatic armies based on the roman tradition of the imperial era.
Medieval Romans combined those two era kind of unit recruitment and created the famous “Byzantine” armies.
The soldiers of the thematic armies were citizens of the empire. Their economical or social status was the primary factor that decided in what kind of unit they would join in to.
Workers of land (paroikoi, gr. πάροικοι) or poor citizens with no, or almost no private property joined in the “light” forces as javelin throwers, (Αcontistae, gr. Ακοντισταί) or as archers, (Toxotae, gr. Τοξόται) or as slingers (Sphendonitae, gr. Σφενδονήται).
Citizens with minor or larger property joined the infantry units as (shield bearers) Scutati (gr. Σκουτάτοι).
There were many exceptions though.
All craftsmen were excluded from the recruitment because they were needed elsewhere as weapon or armor makers.
Carpenters joined the artillery forces of the Thema as engineers (artillery and engineers were the same force) to manufacture the artillery machines known as Manganica or the siege equipment or the build bridges and docks for the army’s advance.Those soldiers were known as manganatores.
Each citizen had the obligation of the possession of his basic weapons like a sword or an axe and his basic armor like a helmet. Shields, javelins, bows and arrows and spears were part of the city’s/Thema’s weaponry. That ment, that every year when the leading military officer of city received his annual fees, those concluded the expenses of the possession or keeping in good shape the city’s armory and the weapons that were in it.
An other factor in which unit a citizen of the Thema would join in was his age.
The age factor was a remain of the ancient Greek heritage of the medieval Roman Empire’s forces.
The teenagers over the age of 13 that were known also as Palikaria or Epheboi (Παλληκάρια / Έφηβοι) joint as servants of the older soldiers. In large Themas with huge population, each soldier (especially cavalryman) had one such servant but the most common number was one servant for every four infantrymen or for every two cavalrymen.
When those teenagers became 19 years old they joined the “regular” forces as fully obligated warriors.
Those “regular” forces remind us the modern national armies of citizen soldiers but a Thema had a variety of professional forces too.
Those forces were the Thema’s official army and they were cavalrymen in their majority.
The economical burden of the possession of a war horse plus the possession of at least basic equipment from a warrior was heavy. Also the thema’s professional warriors had to have enough time to exercise themselves and their horses to be ready for war.
For this task every Thema had a number of farms that belonged to the state known as economiae and later as mikrae pronoiae.
There were two kind of professional warriors that had such a land farm in their possession.
Those that they lived in them (the farmlands) or at least they were part of the army in the same Thema their farm was.
The second kind was the soldiers that they were part of a Thema’s army and their farmlands were elsewhere in the Empire. In fact the majority of the military land owners never saw their possessions in their lives.
The 1st kind of the warriors was known as Acritae (Ακρίται). Their name means actually border guards. Acritae - in the east- were often rich warriors that in past of time created families with long tradition in warfare matters.
They often could suport small armed groups that were payed both by them and the state.
Usually their task was the constant patrol on the thema’s borders preventing raids from the enemies or raid to enemy lands.
The generic name Acritae mostly used in the east borders while in the west ones were known with other names such as Peltastoi (Πελταστοί) or Trapezitae (Τραπεζίται). Another task of the Acritae forces was the guard of fortified mountain roads and paths (known as Kleisourae, gr. Κλεισούραι).
Acritae in both west and east borders had to provide the needed time to civilians to find refuge in fortified places or cities. They accomplished that task by counter attack the enemy raiding or invading forces.
In the meanwhile the rest of the thematic army called to arms to form it’s units with the assistance of 2nd kind of professional warriors that were almost all cavalrymen known as Cavallarii (horsemen) (gr. Καβαλλάριοι) often known as Stratiotae (Στρατιώται).
Those soldiers were the hard core of the Thema’s army. They often settled in fortified camps and barracks inside or near major cities. Their total number with the number of Acritae forces were the official number of soldiers of the Thema. For example .If a Thema announced an army of 15000 men then this number was only for the Acritae and Stratiotae/Cavallarii.
These professional soldiers were paid not only by their land’s income that we mentioned above but also with fees based on their participation in campaigns or raids and those fees of theirs were part of the commander’s annual salary.
The last factor that was crucial in what unit one citizen could join was his nobility or his huge income based in trade or land one.
These rich and powerful people formed small and heavily equipped cavalry units known in many cases as Cataphracti or Loricati or Clivanarii (the name was based on the roman clibanarii) describing their heavy armor.
These noblemen known in different eras as Aristocrats or Dynati or Archontes protected as guards the city’s general or the main Strategos tou Thematos, participated the war council of the general as his staff and very often they received medium and high ranks as unit officers despite the fact that there was an official officer academy in the Empire’s capital known as the Scholae tagmatic unit.

Obligations of a Stategos tou Thematos.

When an officer of the Empire’s army or a local aristocrat of a province was about to receive the title of the Strategos tou Thematos (the title was personally given by the Emperor himself with a papyrus) he had a small timeframe in the capital of the Empire to find and recruit some high or medium and even low rank officers (Centarches/Centurions) from the ranks of the Tagmatic units (mostly the Scholae one) if he didn’t already chosen them from the province he was before.
Then he received a large amount of money and he was escorted to his new base (Capital of the Thema).
The new thema’s marshals called all the generals and the praetors for a council and give them gifts in the form of extra money for them and their territories.
He assigned new heading officers in the major large units of the Thema or assigned new administrators (generals and praetors) to the cities of it.
Among his obligations was the inspection of the Thema’s armories to add if needed more weapons in them.
An armory that had to be considered in good condition had to have:
1: Shields, swords, helmets and spears for every infantryman.
2: A large amount of “soft” bows with plenty of arrows.
The existence of those bows did not mean that the city had expedient bowmen.
The task was that citizens with no real training could create a rain of arrows helping the rest of the soldiers in the cities defense. The “bowmen” had not the obligation to be good just to shout at the enemy’s side over the city’s walls.
3: It is strange to us but the obtention of the Thema’s war horse-mostly via trade-was not an obligation of the horsemen themselves but it was in the obligations of the Strategos tou Thematos.
4: The preparation of the manganica (artillery).
5: Council with other Strategos tou Thematos from other near Themata.
As Strategos tou Thematos he could refuse to sent help (part of his forces) to another Thema unless he had specific orders from the Majistrus or the Domestikos of his area(Domestikos tis dyseos for the west Themas or Domestikos tis anatoles for the eastern ones).
6: The preparation of an Aplicton.
The Aplicton (plural Aplicta) was a large fortified camp that could host for a long time huge number of warriors. Those camps were used for army gathering and campaign preparations.
7: Preparation of fortified places (cities or forts) with large amount of food to host civilians in case of enemy raid or invasion.
8: Annual gathering and exercising of the army of the Thema (part of it or whole of it).
9: Requiting mercenaries at his domain.
For that he could ask more funds from the Emperor but usually he paid them with his salary.
10: To have a part of his professional soldiers ready to participate in a campaign if and when the Emperor would ask for.
Units and ranks of the Roman army:
According to the military regulations of the Empire’s army a Strategos tou Thematos had to follow some instructions when it was about to form his armies.
The basic line of the units was the same for both Thematic and Tagmatic armies.

The only difference was the number of soldiers in every unit.
In the Tagmatic units of all sizes the number of warriors in each of them was standard.
The orders for the Thematic units were clear…No unit of the same size had to have the same soldiers in it! The point of this order was that the enemy spies should not be able to have the exact number of the Thema’s soldiers simply counting the different units of it!
The units were (starting from the lowest to the highest).
1: Pentarchea (5 men). Each officer had the rank of Pentarces.
2: Decarchea (10 men). Each officer had the rank of Decarches.
There was also the lesser lesser rank of Tetrarches but he was usually the last soldier of the line of the men of a pentarchea.
3:Countouvernion (half of a centarchea see below). Each officer had often the rank of Lochagos.
4: Centarchea (the name means a number of 100 men but it had a variety of 70 to 110 men).
The officer of such a unit was named Centarches (from the Roman latin, centurion).
The medieval Roman Empire continued the tradition of producing real professional low and middle rank officers via his military schools like the tagmatic units.
The majority of those centurions were ex soldiers of the Capital’s armies that received their new ranks and transferred to their new units.
5: Tagma or Vandum (that mean flag) or Arithmos.
Each Vandum had 3 centarcheas and a total of 210 to 400 men maximum.
Vandum’s officer had the rank of Comes or Cometas.
6: Drougos or Hilliarcea (that means 1000men) for the infantry and Taxis for the cavalry units.
A unit of this size had 3 Vandums and a total of men between 630 to 1200 men.
The leading officer of such a unit could have the title of Drougarios or Hilliarches or Taxiarches (that title has a large number of Orthodox military Saints).
7: Three Drougas or Taxis formed a Tourma or Meros.
The Modern Greek Merarchea (division) comes from the 2nd title.
Those “divisions” had a total number of 1800 to 3000 men and they were the lowest size of units with fully equipped artillery in their ranks.
The officer that was on the lead of such a unit was known as Tourmarches or Merarches.
8: Stratia or Stratos: Actually the total number of Tourmas a Thema could form and the name means army.That “army” was under the direct orders of the Strategos [tou Thematos].


The thematic armies changed during the time or mostly by the change of the warfare in their geographical place.
The west thematical armies (in Europe and Italy) were not exactly the same or used the same tactics with the Thematical armies of the east.
The heavy mountain terrain in the Balkans and Italy forced the generals to focus on heavily fortified outposts and the form of a larger number of infantry units capable to defend them and defend and hold ground.
West thematic infantry were more heavily armored and with a preference to javelins for their range units the same time that the bow was crucial in the east.
Eastern themas that were richer than the west ones formed a large number of cavalry units to cover the huge lands quickly and as a counter measure against the huge numbers of mounted opponents like the Arabs and Armenians .The best counter measure against a cavalryman is another cavalryman.
During the late 9th century and under the political changes in the west Europe dangers reappeared in new more developed versions.
The Islamic Emirate of Sicily reformed its cavalry thanks not only of Romans but mainly to defend against the old fashion but very powerful Lombard cataphracts and the new comming Normans.
Those mounted opponents with the equally heavily armored horsemen of the east forced the thematic armies to reform also.
Tactics changed, new weapons added infantry’s role changed and all these created thematic armies that were much different from the thematic ones of the past.
We will focus on the changes talking and describing the thematic army units below.


Medieval Roman armies had a large variety of weapons in their disposal, other by their own research and evolution and others by adopting them from other “nations” and they thought that could fit in their warfare philosophy.
The most famous of them were:
There were two main kind of swords and they were developed for the cavalry but soon enough shorter versions of them or the same swords were adopted by infantrymen soon enough.
The 1st one was the famous Paramoirion. Its name means “the sword that hangs at the side of the warrior’s leg”. Paramoirion was a heavy, one edged sword with straight blade (at least at its early versions). Paramoirion was used with the same way an axe was. The warrior was simply tried to “cut” a piece of his opponent’s body. It needed no real exercise to use this kind of sword as soon as you were powerful enough to hit someone with it!!!
The 2nd sword took the title of the “Byzantine Long sword” but in real it’s early versions were in use centuries ago before the Macedonian dynasty.
This sword was the famous Spathion and it was a late version of the late roman Spatha.
The sword had a two edged blade and a length of about 1.1m (the blade).
The sword was almost a standard weapon of elite horsemen of all classes and sometimes for lesser soldiers too.
The basic axe used by medieval Roman soldiers was known as Tzikourion (the Greek word of axe). In real the design was a roman version of the Frankish axe (Frantziska).
Its shape is fully described by all the medieval roman military manuals:
“The axe must have two edges…one wide and sharp and one in the opposite side like a spearhead.
Tzikourion never considered as low class weapon. In fact it was one of the favorite weapons of the elite cavalrymen side by side with their maces of all kind.
As a weapon that did not require much of training tzikourion was the basic melee weapon of light infantry units (psiloi) like acontistae of toxotae.
Its second edge (like a spearhead) was extremely effective against heavily armored warriors especially when the axe’s user aimed his opponent head!
Ancient Greek and early Roman heritage made javelins of all kind the favorite range weapons of medieval Romans!
Their names and shapes changed (like all “Byzantine” weapons) through time more than once.
Actually there were a lot of different sizes of javelins with a large variety of spearheads.
All javelins had the generic name of Riptaria.
The most common size of javelins in this era was between 0.9 to 1.2 m.
Javelins in the shape of arrows like the old fashioned Martiovarbulus that were ballista arrows in real still used but with unknown names.
Another heavy javelin with unknown new name was the ex known as Menaulion because that name in this era described a spear and not a javelin.
Javelins required less training than bows of all kind, they had powerful penetration ability and those advantages made them the favorite weapon of many professional warriors!
Maces were a weapon for cavalry ONLY. It has been proved that descriptions that referred to such shape weapons for infantrymen, describe axes instead of maces.
Maces were knows as Ravdion, Coreene or Matzoukion and all these names describe clubs.
They existed in many forms (with nails on a wooden shaft, with 4-5 blades around wooden or metal stick etc).As expensive weapon available only for cavalry only the richest soldiers could have them, like the local aristocracy.
Spears were the most common weapon of the roman army but there was over one type of them.
After the Emperor Maurice army reform the main line infantry changed its basic spear of 2m length known as “lance” with a new one of 3m long know from that point as Kontarion.
Despite the fact that several types of spears that have been used by mercenaries were also in use the “Kontarion” continued to have the classic leaf shape spearhead.
Kontarion was a good compromise between the right length to keep cavalrymen in a distance and good mobility. Kontarion was in the part of soldiers’ equipment that a Strategos tou Thematos had to be able to provide and keep to the city’s armory.
During the warfare changes in the late 9th century and the new kind of opponents the need for new spear versions became crucial.
Enemies as we said above came back with plenty of heavily armored horsemen.
The new spears had to have two improvements.
The right length because the enemies turned their horsemen from light/range and to heavy/shock ones and advanced spearheads for better penetration ability. Strangely the solution came with not one but two different spears.
The first one was a weapon that would be used for the front lines of the infantrymen and was known as Kontarion Makron. The name means long spear and it was long. It was 4.5m long and sometimes descriptions mention a length of 5m.
This “new” spear was a direct addition by the Nikephorus Phokas when he was still the army’s Marshal, right before he becomes an Emperor.
“Kontarati” became part of Scutati infantrymen just like Promachi a century before.
The last kind of spear that was meant to kill horsemen was Menaulion.
The name menaulion refers to a heavy javelin of the 7th-8th centuries but in this era a menaulion is a short and thick spear.
While Kontarion Makron was meant to arm front line soldiers that have open space in front of them, menaulion was meant to be used by soldiers that would move inside the infantry’s lines and kill the enemy horsemen that would be unfortunate enough to be there, using the lack of space in their advantage.
Menaulion descriptions mention a “Slavic” or “Germanic” spearhead for it.
Those kinds of spearheads were not unknown to Romans thanks to many Germanic tribes that used it for centuries.
But after the arrival of the Slavic tribes in the Balkans in 6th century the combination of spear and its spearhead received also the title of “Slavic”.
Menaulion was a real deadly weapon against heavily armored opponents because of it's ability to easily penetrate the armor.
Medieval Romans (Byzantines) felt that ability of that spearhead on their horsemen and adopted it for the same cause.
There were three basic shapes of shields in use in this particular era.
- Oval
- Round
- Leaf/kite shields
Oval shields known as scutaria (plural) were decedents of the 5th-7th ones but usually without curved surface.
In this era oval shields seam that became simpler and of course cheaper in production.
Pieces of woods covered by several layers of leather where the way they were made.
Round shields known as “scutaria teleia “-(meaning perfect shields) came to a variety of sizes with two basic kind of surface.
The 1st one looked almost like the ancient Greek “hoplon” but in this case the large amount of the leather layers were kept together with metal fragments ending to the front side to a boss.
The most common shape of round shield looked from aside like a pyramid. This kind of round shields was easier to produce and they offered very good protection against arrows.
Leaf/kite shields.
Avars were the 1st that introduced that kind of shields in Europe since 7th century but Romans (Byzantines) did not adopted them in full scale still using shield types they were familiar to.
That seams that changed in early 10th century as we can see in church frescos. Romans used kite shields in large scale after Nikephorus Phokas army reform in the middle of 10th century.
Just like in round shields, Romans adopted kite shields in two main sizes that both of them remained smaller than those we know as Norman kite shields.
A leaf/kite shield fits perfectly to a cavalryman, but soon enough, warriors of 9th-10th centuries all over Europe realized that the low edge of a kite shield left more space free for the warriors feet and permit them to move faster than with large round or oval ones.

Shield insignias.

In the military manual of “Taktika” by the Emperor Leon VI the wise (son of Emperor Basil I founder of the “Macedonian dynasty), each tourma (look above to army divisions) had to have a unique pattern or insignia painted on the warriors shields.
Each Vandum of that Tourma had to use different colour combination for that specific pattern.[p]
That way a general could know where in the battlefield each of his battalions were and he could organize his battle plan better.


Body armor was one of the things each soldier had to provide himself without the financial help of
any senior officer.
There were a large variety of body armors in different qualities.
The lighter of them all both in weight and protection ability was a padded suit known as cavadion or epilorikion (when it was over the chain hauberks).
The primary materials were cotton or wool. This kind of body armor was also used to cover horses’ bodies as well… This armor was quite affective against arrows that were shot from long distances and also protected quite well against swords in some occasions.
Another “cheap” kind of armor was the leather vests or breast plates that were classic even from the late imperial Roman era.
The most common body armor was the long or short chain hauberk known as lorikion (plural loricia).
The chain hauberks came in two different sizes but also in two different qualities.
The majority of lorikia were made with iron and for that they had a black or “coal” colour and that is why they looked kind of dark. Iron chain hauberks were heavier and gave less protection but they were far cheaper than the steel ones. In the “Golden Age” of the empire rich in taxes Themas provided those iron chain mails with their expenses.
In any case the majority of thematical warriors could afford iron or steel chain hauberks to buy.
Stratiotae (cavalarii horsemen) could afford steel made chain hauberks by their larger incomes via the oiconomiae military lands.
A factor that determined the length of a chain mail was the position of the infantry man in the formation. First line soldiers wore longer chain mails in order to provide better protection in larger body areas, since the time that those warriors were known as “promachi” (those who fight first).
The long chain hauberks were also known as “zavae”.
Scale cuirasses were in use for many centuries and they were roman soldiers’ favorite ones especially the high ranked.
There were two kinds of scale cuirasses.
The 1st one was based on a thick cotton tunic that the scales were nailed on. That kind of cuirass was lighter and more flexible to soldiers’ moves.
The 2nd was based on a hard leather breast plate with the classic “thorax” shape.
That cuirass was heavier, less flexible but more effective against any kind of arrows or other weapons.
Lamellar cuirasses followed the same kind of production as the scale ones.
This kind of armor was an eastern influence to Romans straight from their steppe opponents.
In the early time usage of lamellar cuirasses those armors were meant to be used from cavalrymen only. That happened cause of the direction the scales were put on a lamellar cuirass that prevented the armor’s penetration from a spear from a lower level (an infantryman against a horseman).
Lamellar cuirasses were so effective that were adopted from infantry warriors soon enough.
Horse men could use them over cavadion padded armor or even over loricia chain hauberks.
In such occasion the weight of the armor was a negative factor to infantry men and their mobility.
But in the “Macedonian” dynasty’s era infantry was quite static and the weight of their armor was a secondary factor.
Scales of both scale and lamellar cuirasses could be metal or hard leather ones.
In every case but especially those with the metal scale they were known as clivania.
In the case of the Thematical soldiers the two main kinds of helmets shared a common name:
Helmets were basically made with bronze in earlier eras but they were the 1st part of armor that was made with steel. The basic factor for that choice despite the cost was the smaller weight that made the helmet comfortable to warrior.
Half of the helmets in this era had somehow a pointy end as influence of steppe warriors also.
No matter how rich or poor a warrior was kedouklon was a must.
Kedouklon was a very long woolen robe with coif.
That cloth had several purposes.
1st protected the warrior from the cold.
2nd protected the armor from wet.
3rd prevented the early detection of the warriors cause of the shine of the metal parts of the warrior’s armors. In fact kavadion was compulsory part of a warrior’s equipment for the last reason, but in our mod’s case all units would look the same and they would look like shepherds!

The Thematic units

Talking about basic units inside a M2TW mod we must admit that the units/warriors separations were made to fit in the game. For example: Infantry battalions had a variety of different warriors in them...Let’s see how an infantry battalion was in the Nikephorean army.
It had Scutati and Kontarati as the main line infantrymen. It also had some Menaulati plus some archers and acontistae (javelinears).
The game’s engine does not allow us to provide such units and that is why we will present them each kind alone.



[Gr: Αριστοκράται] means the nobles. They had the names Archontae with the same meaning and later Dynati, which means “the powerful ones”. In the eastern borders were also known as Acritae.
The majority of Aristocratae was land owners especially those that lived away from major urban centers. Aristocratae could also be rich merchants or ship owners in coastal provinces (Themas). In case of coastal provinces, Aristocratae usually became ship commanders. In the inland Aristocratae formed the close to Strategos tou Thematos council and often received the command of major units of the thematic armies like Vandums, Turmas etc.
Their last task was to personal guard the Strategos because their financial or military interests were bound to him.
Their financial status gave them access to the best equipment each province could provide and they used armored horses.
As guards of the Strategos, they did not follow the rule of one shield color or pattern but they used the main pattern of their homeland (minor province or city) or their family.
Aristocratae through time formed military families with long tradition in military matter. Families like Phokas, Ducas and others. Emperors -in odrder to maintain political ballances- trusted members of those military families with administration of provinces or commanding of large armies or campaigns. On the other hand such families gathered alot political financial and military influence and were the primary source of rebelions against the legitimate emperors. Some of the members of those families became emperos themselvs.
The racial origin of the troops or Aristocratae had no consequence.
Armenians had a huge tradition in the empire’s military affairs and Ioannes Tzimeskes/Qurqua was one of them.



Cavalarii, [Gr: Καβαλάριοι] means horsemen.
The name describes the majority of the medium cavalry battalions that formed the main army of each Thema. Those warriors were fully professionals and war was their only occupation. In order, Cavalarii to afford better equipment and the cost of a warhorse or more Roman emperors gave them larger military lands known as Mikrae Pronoiae. A difference Cavalarii had with Acritae/Trapezitae was that the units they joined in usually were not at the same province the lived before they join the empire’s forces.
Many chronicles describe the fact that the majority of Cavalarii never saw their military lands their income supported them.
Another name Cavalarii had was “Stratiotae” that in Medieval and Modern Greek language means soldiers.
Cavalarii formed vandums as well like infantry troops but their larger units named Taxis the same time infantry units called Hiliarcheae or Drougas.
The officers of such units called Taxiarchae and the majority of the Orthodox military
Saints have that title. That shows the importance those troops had for the empire.
Cavalarii total number was the same time the official number of troops for each Thema.
Each battalion of Cavalarii/Stratiotae had two parts.
Kursores and Defensores:
Kursores had also the name “Proclastes” that mean “those who strike first or the attackers” and Defensores had the name “Ecdiki” that mean “those who defend or those who revenge their companions death”.
Cavalarii task separation was inside the same unit (battalion) and they did not form different units separated by task.
Cavalarii ought to exercise them selves to both the use of the lance and bow except the use of swords. Their abilities in lance or bow determined the part of the unit they would be. Kursores were the first wave of attack using their bows to destruct the enemy’s lines and they were always ready to retreat or to pretend a retreat in order to make the enemy cavalry forces to follow or chase them.
When the enemy cavalry force was near to the rest of Cavalarii force, Defensores counter attacked and the same time Kursores changed their weapon from bow to lance and counter attacked too. We can see that Romans copied the fake retreat maneuver from their steppe origin opponents.



Cavalarii ,[Gr: Καβαλάριοι] means horsemen.
The name describes the majority of the medium cavalry battalions that formed the main army of each Thema. Those warriors were fully professionals and war was their only occupation. In order, Cavalarii to afford better equipment and the cost of a warhorse or more Roman emperors gave them larger military lands known as Mikrae Pronoiae. A difference Cavalarii had with Acritae/Trapezitae was that the units they joined in usually were not at the same province the lived before they join the empire’s forces.
Many chronicles describe the fact that the majority of Cavalarii never saw their military lands their income supported them.
Another name Cavalarii had was “Stratiotae” that in Medieval and Modern Greek language means soldiers.
Cavalarii formed vandums as well like infantry troops but their larger units named Taxis the same time infantry units called Hiliarcheae or Drougas.
The officers of such units called Taxiarchae and the majority of the Orthodox military
Saints have that title. That shows the importance those troops had for the empire.
Cavalarii total number was the same time the official number of troops for each Thema.
Each battalion of Cavalarii/Stratiotae had two parts.
Kursores and Defensores:
Kursores had also the name “Proclastes” that mean “those who strike first or the attackers” and Defensores had the name “Ecdiki” that mean “those who defend or those who revenge their companions death”.
Cavalarii task separation was inside the same unit (battalion) and they did not form different units separated by task.
Cavalarii ought to exercise them selves to both the use of the lance and bow except the use of swords. Their abilities in lance or bow determined the part of the unit they would be. Kursores were the first wave of attack using their bows to destruct the enemy’s lines and they were always ready to retreat or to pretend a retreat in order to make the enemy cavalry forces to follow or chase them.
When the enemy cavalry force was near to the rest of Cavalarii force, Defensores counter attacked and the same time Kursores changed their weapon from bow to lance and counter attacked too. We can see that Romans copied the fake retreat maneuver from their steppe origin opponents.


[Gr: Τραπέζιται] name comes from the word trapezion which mean table in Greek language.
The meaning behind their name is that they shear their lord’s table/food.
That reveal us that Trapezitae were not always lightly equipped like they were in 9th to 11th century but they were actually descendants of the famous Vucelarii.
Vucelarii also took their name from the word vucela that means bread in Latin.
Those who shear their lord’s bread shear also his table.
Trapezitae forced to transform from multi role heavy cavalry to multi role light one thanks to the new kind of warfare Arabs introduced by their early expansions.
Like Peltastae, Trapezitae were part of the Acritae border guard forces and they were paid by the same military land system of economeae.
In the eastern provinces (Themas) both Trapezitae and Peltastae called Acritae.
There were some differences between east Trapezitae and west ones.
In the west provinces, Trapezitae seamed to prefer Javelins like Peltastae, the same time that in the east the composite bow was their favorite weapon.
Except those range weapons Trapezitae/Acritae used often the classic-7th century-9ft (3m) long kontarion as lance.
A long sword, often a paramoirion was their secondary weapon.
Trapezitae/Acritae in 9th-10th centuries could join the forces without any body armor at all but after few years’ savings,
spoils of war or “gifts” by the Thema’s Strategos could advance to medium level armors like short or long chain mails.
Even if they had, the funds to buy armors more advanced than those they had, their tasks on the borders and the battlefield would not allow them to.
Their primary tasks were:
Patrol the borders and provide early warning to the rest of the Thema.
In case of enemy raid, they counter attacked or set up ambushes to the enemy forces to give the rest of Thema’s army time to gather.
Raid enemy territories, even in peacetime. That was very common in the eastern borders of the empire but not in western ones.
While in west most of Trapezitae or Peltastae had Greek origin in the east, mixed blooded warriors were the majority.
Most of those border guards were Greek /Arabs or Greek/Armenians or Arab/Armenians. In fact, their families could be separated in both sides of the borders.




[Gr: Κονταράτοι] means those who carry spears.
The name came from the Greek medieval word “Contarion” that meant spear.
In previous eras, Contarati were light armored civil guards but after the Nikephorus Phokas army reform, they meant a part of the Scutati units.
Despite the fact that Scutati were equipped with a 3m long kontarion, they were still vulnerable to heavy cavalry attacks.
Nikephorus Phokas soon realized that the empire’s opponents could field large numbers of heavily armored shock cavalrymen that could penetrate in the infantry’s formations.
Nikephorus Phokas ordered all Strategos tou Thematos to select the most expedient of each infantry battalion troops
and equip them with a new 12-14ft long version of the classic Contarion known as “Contarion Makron”.
Contarati were equipped with a variety of body armors and with the leaf/kite shields that their low edge allowed Contarati, more free leg movement.
Contarati formed each infantry battalion’s first two or three ranks and presented a spear wall that any horse would fear to reach.


[Gr: Μεναυλάτοι] took their name from Menaulion.
Menaulion still is one of the most unknown of the medieval Roman weapons.
In the late 6th century to early 8th Menaulion refers to a heavy javelin that was a version of a hunting one. The name reappears in the middle 10th century when in Nikephorus Phokas, infantry units composition points to a new thick but short spear with a “Germanic” or “Slavic” spearhead capable to penetrate in any kind of armor.
Menaulati formed small groups inside the Scutati units that had a free role inside the gaps the companies left free between each other.
Their task was simple. The enemy cavalry should lead inside the companies gaps and there without enough space to maneuver they would be easy victims of Menaulati.
In various military manuals, Menaulati described capable to set up wooden stakes in front of infantry’s formation before the battle begins.
Those wooden stakes were another addition against cavalry charges but only if the infantry formation was about to stay still.
Menaulati often were very well armored because the distance they had to march was not a negative factor for them. Menaulati like the Contarati were part of the main Scutati units.




[Gr: Σκουτάτοι] mean the scuta shield bearers.
The main form of their description name follows the ancient Greek rule of warriors’ description by their kind of shields.
Ex: Oplitae [hoplites] took their name by their Hoplon shield.
Scutati in 9th-10th centuries are not more than militias that call to arms to fight when is necessary.
The name Scutati did not always meant the auxiliary infantrymen but also described the heavy armored line infantry soldiers.
That change in the name appeared again later in 11th to 14th centuries.
Scutati as every one else, are citizens of the empire and call to their military duty when they will become 19 years old.
The state-in this case each Thema-provides them with a standard equipment that includes a shield that may be an oval scuta known as scutarion
or a large round shield known as thyreos or most commonly as scutarion teleion and later(mainly after Nikephorus Phokas reform) a wide but short leaf shape shield also known as scutarion.
Scutati equipment supplements with a sword, a steel helmet and the standard 3m kontarion that replaced the 2m short spear known as lance after emperor’s Maurice reforms
Here is the original order:
'Οπλίσεις μέν ούν τόν πεζόν σκουτάτον,τόν πάλαι καλούμενον οπλίτη, ώστε έχειν σπάθη,κοντάριον, σκουτάριον ότε μέν χρεία καλεί,
επιμήκες, μέγα, ο καλείται θυρεός πάντως δε στρόγγυλον τέλειον. Τα δε σκουτάρια ομόχροα πάντων ή κατά αριθμόν ή κατα τάγμα.
"Equipe your infantry scutatos, the one that called in the past Hoplite,with a sword, a spear and a shield oval or circular-known as thyreos. The shields must have the same color for each battalion".

Their body protection depends on a variety of factors.
The first is their financial status.
The second is the wealth of both the Thema and its ruling Strategos.
The third is their fees according to the number of campaigns they participated.
Scutati are the majority of the empire’s infantry and in many cases especially after the Nikephorus Phokas reforms, they can be heavily equipped.
The last factor that determents how heavily armed Scutati would be was the Thema they joined in.
West provinces and Italy deployed much more heavily armored Scutati the same time in the east the high temperatures and the long distances the soldiers had to march lighter armors were most common.
Once or twice, a year civilians that formed the infantry units-Scutati, Contarati and Menaulati called to war exercise with the professional forces.



[Gr: Πελταστaί]
Peltas called the small wooden or metal shields by the same ancient Greek name for all small shields.
The soldiers that carried such small shields called Peltastae. Their name was an influence of the clasic or hellenistic Greek soldiers via the neoclasicism era of the Macedonian Dynasty.
In fact, those soldiers were part of the "Acritae" border guard forces and the Peltastae name used rarely
in the east borders the same time that it was very common in the west ones.
Peltastae primary task was the guard of fortified road passages and border forts that placed in stradegic points of the province and called "Kleisourae".
For that task they lived very close to the Thema’s borders using military farms incomes for their payment. Those farms called economeae.
Their main difference with Stratiotae was that Peltastae lived in the Themas they came from. In simple words, they were native troops.
They usually bought their equipment via their land incomes. Their favorite weapon-like almost all Romans- was the heavy javelin.
They often carried 2-4 of those javelins among their rest equipment. As professional soldiers, they were better trained than the “regular” citizen origin soldiers were and there for they were able to use affectively a variety of melee weapons such axes but most of all swords.
Those soldiers are the closest Middle Ages Roman Empire , has to the clasic Legionaires, but at this time they are among the "light" troops instead of being heavy line infantry.
They could equip them selves with a variety of armors, to padded suits, leather vests or breastplates to light iron chain mails.
In an open field battle formation, Peltastae usually called to guard the flanks of the main infantry formation and escort when it was necessary the flank cavalry advance.


The word “toxotae” [gr: Τοξόται] simply means archers. Romans were never famous for their archery skills.
Never the less after the middle of 9th century the existence of large numbers of “soft” bows in every city’s armoury was a standing order.
We read in Emperor’s Leo VI “Tactika” military manual:
«Πάντας δέ τούς νεωτέρους Ρωμαίους άχρι τεσσαράκοντα ετών αναγκάζεσθαι,
είτε κατά λόγον οίδασι τοξεύεσαι, είτε καί μετρίως, τού πάντως τοξοφάρετρα φορείν.
Τής γάρ τοξείας παντελώς αμεληθείσης καί διαπεσούσης εν τοις Ρωμαίοις τα πολλά νυν είωθε σφάλματα γίνεσθαι.
Κάν γαρ ούκ οίδασι τοξεύειν, τώ χρόνω επιτδεύουσι μαθείν, ‘οπερ των αναγκαίων».
The translation’s meaning is:
“Every Roman from the youngest to those that are 40 years old must have bows and quivers full of arrows no mater if they are good in archery or not.
Moreover…if they do not know how use their bows they must train to do so, because it is something necessary.
Because Romans suffered a lot of the lack of archery skills.

Toxotae usually were city inhabitants used to man city’s walls and create a “rain” of arrows against the enemy without the need for accurate volleys.
Bows had to be easy to handle without much effort and that is why they called them "soft".
In late 9th century toxotae were unarmed except their helmets and small shields.
Later in the middle of 10th century, Nikephorus Phokas re-equipped them with light armors to increase their chances of survival in the batllefield.
Their basic equipment was a composite bow and a quiver with 40 arrows.
Their secondary weapon was the classic roman axe known as Tzikourion.
A small wooden shield and a bronze helmet completed their equipment.
Each infantry battalion (Vandum) used a small number of toxotae to support its advance or defense.

[Gr: Ακοντισταί]. Their name means javelin men.
They were citizens of the Empire but they belonged to the lowest social classes of it.
Acontistae were primary countrymen and usually land workers known as Paroikoi.
This name meant “those who leave near the lord house” meaning that they were land servants.
Paroikoi and their villages belonged to the lands military or not those they were part of.
As land, workers and hunters were tough men that could use in a very efficient way axes and javelins.
When they were called to arms, they were equipped from the Thema’s armories with helmets, small bucklers, javelins and axes (the famous Tzicourion).
They were always unarmored because they could not afford any kind of protection.
Their lack of protection was not always a disadvantage though.
They were very maneuverable and they were perfect for ambushes cause of their deep knowledge of the lands they lived on.
In the army formations, they usually were part of “prokursatores” forces.
That means that with other light armored and range units started army is the assault being the first wave of troops.
Their usage strongly reminds the way ancient Greek “psiloi” and classic Roman “velites” were also used in their times
The moddeling team
Leif Erikson
Lord Calidor
=NF=Basileios the 2nd
Agis Tournas
The researching team:
Spesial Thanks to :
[for his wonderfull textures and his Byzantine shield texture pack].
Master Zuma
[for his help with the animation combilation].
[for his wonderfull "cataphract" model].
Rusichi Team
[for their kind permision for ussing their material that became the basis of the new project].
[for his wonderfull kontarati animation and skeleton adjustment and for his many advices that helped us a lot].
[for his wonderfull animation pack]
[for his wonderfull horse skins and other help]
tone, mihaiv and RSII team.
[for their permisions to use their wonderfull skins and other material]
[for his animations of the Roman Multi Arrow Balista]
[for his model and texture parts]
[for his texture parts]
Πεtr Φροποβ
[for his wonderfull shield paterns and designs]
Spesial Thanks
Mr G.Rava
[for the inspiration we had, reading the books that he was so wonderfully illustrated.]