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Cavalry units and the best infantry were issued uniforms and equipment from the Imperial Factories- elite cavalry units are described as wearing white uniforms on parade. Colours for other units included different shades of red, greyish white, light green and light blue. Late Roman Infantry carried draco standards, while the cavalry units had either draco or vexillatio standards. By the time of Maurice, the swallow-tailed bandae flags replaced the draco and vexillatio.

Like other pieces of equipment this was probably adopted from the Avars. The bandum was a simple square or a rectangular flag with two, three or four streamers, each measuring several meters in length. In the earliest of Byzantine Armies, the standard battle deployment was to form one or several battle lines- the troops in each line supporting the line in front of them. As in Late Roman armies, the infantry or dismounted cavalrymen occupied the centre while the cavalry were placed on the flanks. From the second part of the 6 th Century onwards, the Byzantines could field all-cavalry campaign armies with any infantry acting only as a rear guard.

Lo Schermo Diangelo Viggiani 1575

In such armies, the centre of the second battleline would be made up of the elite and best equipped heavy cavalry, such as the Optimates. A battle deployment several lines deep may have been used in historical battles, but in battle accounts, the armies seem to have been drawn up in a single line with only one or two units held back as an emergency reserve.

The infantry or dismounted cavalry centre was expected to hold the enemy charge, giving the cavalry on the flanks time to decimate the enemy ranks with bowfire before moving against their flanks. The Strategikon introduced cavalry maneuvers that called for heavy cavalry to be able to fight as both attacker and defender in close order formation. Whole units or even army wings would take on the role of attackers while their comrades acted as defenders. The attackers would break out of each unit from their positions on both wings, and then advance towards the enemy, either in close or open order formation.

The defenders in the centre of the unit remained in place in close order formation, providing the attackers with a safe rallying point. If the enemy was defeated, the defenders would advance with the attackers.

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Should both the attackers and defenders be swept away in an enemy charge, the troops in the second line would act as a rallying point and turn back the enemy. During the reign of Leo and that of his successor in the Syrian Dynasty, vast territories were lost By the Islamic and Bulgar conquests.

Anatolia, and later the Balkans and Greece, were divided into themes. The themata roughly meaning provinces was almost an entitiy in itself, with an army of soliders who received land grants as payment for their military service.

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During the reign of Constantine V AD , the Byzantine army was further strengthened by the introduction of the tagmata — an imperial force of professional soldiers based in and around Constantinople. The themata became the backbone of the Byzantine Military. Through the hard and attritional struggles with Bulgars and Islam, the Byzantines devised a new way of dealing with intruding enemies: shadowing warfare- essentially guerrilla tactics.

The most famous such border warriors were the Akritai cavalrymen, described in the heroic poem Digenes Akrites. In early themes, the strategos had the command in each theme. The theme was divided into turmai of up to 5, men, commanded by a Turmaches. Each turma was further sub-divided into druggoi of up to 1, men, commanded by Comites counts. From the mid th Century, theme armies became gradually smaller, and as a consequence, units decreased in size. In such smaller themes, a Doux , not a strategos held command.

Druggoi , commanded by Drungarios , were now usually up to men in size. Several in so called taxiarchia or chiliarchia of around men, which were commanded by a Taxiarches or Chiliarches. Two such units men were collectively called turma , commanded by Turmaches. In the mid- 10 Century, Emperor Nikephorus II phokas added a fiscal dimension to the theme system- basically meaning that individuals with enough money could avoid military duty.

As a result, each theme now had a small professional force in addition to its regular semi-professional units. The Imperial Tagmata armies were based around Constantinople. In case of larger enemy incursions, one or more tagmata armies, led by a Domestikos or the Emperor himself, could rapidly support a themata army.

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This was founded by Constantine V to limit the power of themata Armies. For example, troops from the large Obsikion theme had rebelled five times since the creation of the theme. The tagmata he created consisted of six tagma units , each with men. In a number of military treatises written in the 9 th and 10 th centuries, various emperors and generals emphasised the importance of thorough training and the issuing of good equipment.

The best deal with the different enemies the Byzantines faced, specialised troop types and formations appeared.


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The theme system was generally effective and ensured troop morale was high. As many generals moved on to become emperors, the army had high priority and it showed on the battlefield. The 10 th Century marked the pinnacle of Byzantine military sophistication. The expected standard of drill and discipline in the 10 th Century manuals were high; the importance of well-trained heavy infantry was repeatedly stressed. Unlike the 6 th Century, heavy infantry were now seen as an indispensible part of any campaign army. As in previous manuals, the main shock arm of the army was the heavy cavalry, but blocks of heavy infantry augmented by slingers, javalinen and archers were deemed essential as they provided the cavalry with an effective rearguard and a safe rallying point.

As in the Strategikon , it also described the enemies of the Byzantines, their tactics and how to counter them. In broad terms, the development during the Thematic period moved towards increasingly specialised and better equipped troops. Armies became more professional as the size of themata armies decreased. Heavy Cavalry- Throughout this period, heavy cavalry formed the backbone of the Byzantine army.

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Themata Kavallaroi were generally less well-equipped and trained than their tagmata counterparts, but in some themes, heavy cavalry participated in campaigns frequently, and had years of experience in cavalry warfare. Tagamta cavalry wore chain or lamellar armour, wooden or iron greaves, mail hoods and iron helmets. Themata heavy cavalry probably had more modest protection. From the rear ranks, archers equipped with comparatively short composite bows supported by their front rank comrades.

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Download Lo Schermo Diangelo Viggiani 1575

Like their predecessors, Byzantine Kavallarioi were trained to fight as Cursores and Defensores. Light Cavalry- Two types of light cavalry are described: hyperkerastai acting as outflankers on the right flank and as guards on the left flank and the prokousatores scouts or forerunners. The prokousatores forerunners had few archers than regular kavallarioi. The action is also explicitly described in the early 16th century messer text by Lebkommer: When you lie in the low guard and one would strike at you from above, then spring strongly with your right foot to his left side and so strike up at him from below, so that you cut his hand from him.

Or should he find you slow or should he strike to your right side from above, do the same, so that your blade sets aside his. If he is soft in the bind you may thrust to him, but if he is hard, then you should cut am schwert to his sword arm or face. Why the punta sopramano? The other major technical element is, of course, the perfect thrust. The punta sopramano also takes advantage of one of the likely responses against the rovescio parry, which is to fly out while covering the line against a thrust or cut from the outside.


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Why nothing else? Compared to the repertoire manuals of other Bolognese masters, such as Achille Marozzo, whose work Viggiani clearly knew well, the technical material of Lo Schermo is like a sloop compared to a frigate. But there are clear reasons for this. The first is to remember the goal of the book — just enough to learn in a single lesson, but complex enough to form a primer in the entire art. The second thing to remember is your Aristotle! An action occurs between two rests.

Likewise, every rest has the potential for action; thus, so to must every guard. Exploration of those potentials, as revealed in half and full actions, reveals the entire system of blade actions — defensive and offensive — in the system. The reader of Lo Schermo is given a solid grounding in the theory and mechanics of combat, in terms that would have been readily apparent to an educated gentleman of the 16th century.

Through comprehending tempo, he comes to comprehend mezzo tempo, and through an understanding of both of these actions and their relation to the blows of the sword, the purpose of each guard and how it interconnects with the others is revealed.