Komnenian army

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The Komnenian army was the force established by Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos during the late eleventh/early twelfth century, and perfected by his successors John II Komnenos and Manuel I Komnenos during the twelfth century. Alexios constructed a new army from the ground up, completely replacing previous forms of the Byzantine army. The Komnenian army was instrumental in the Komnenian restoration of the Byzantine empire during the period of its existence, and was deployed in the Balkans, Italy, Hungary, Asia Minor, the Holy Land and Egypt.

Emperor John II Komnenos, the most successful commander of the Komnenian army


[edit] Introduction

At the beginning of the Komnenian period in 1081, the Byzantine Empire had been reduced to the smallest territorial extent in its history. Surrounded by enemies, and financially ruined by a long period of civil war, the empire's prospects had looked grim. Yet, through a combination of skill, determination and years of campaigning, Alexios, John and Manuel Komnenos managed to restore the power of the Byzantine Empire by constructing a new army from the ground up. The new force was both professional and disciplined. It contained formidable guards units such as the Varangian Guard and the 'Immortals' (a unit of heavy cavalry) stationed in Constantinople, and also levies from the provinces. These levies included Kataphraktoi cavalry from Macedonia, Thessaly and Thrace, and various other provincial forces such as Trebizond Archers from the Black Sea coast of Asia Minor.

[edit] Development

Under John II, a Macedonian division was maintained, and new native Byzantine troops were recruited from the provinces. As Byzantine Asia Minor began to prosper under John and Manuel, more soldiers were raised from the Asiatic provinces of Neokastra, Paphlagonia and even Seleucia (in the south east). Soldiers were also drawn from defeated peoples, such as the Pechenegs (cavalry archers), and the Serbs, who were used as settlers stationed at Nicomedia. Native troops were organised into regular units and stationed in both the Asian and European provinces. Komnenian armies were also often reinforced by allied contingents from Antioch, Serbia and Hungary, yet even so they generally consisted of about two-thirds Byzantine troops to one-third foreigners. Units of archers, infantry and cavalry were grouped together so as to provide combined arms support to each other.
The Byzantine empire c.1180, at the end of the Komnenian period

[edit] Evolution

When the Komnenian dynasty came to an end in 1185, the Komnenian army did not immediately disappear. However, under the Angeloi, the Byzantine empire declined rapidly, and the result was a dimunition of the fighting power of the army. When Constantinople fell to the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the Byzantine successor states established at Epirus, Trebizond and especially Nicaea based their military systems on the Komnenian army. The success of the empire of Nicaea in particular in reconquering former Byzantine territories (including Constantinople) after 1204 may be seen as evidence of the strengths of the Komnenian army model. However, properly speaking the Komnenian army belongs to the period of the Komnenian emperors, and for this reason the Byzantine army after the recovery of Constantinople in 1261 is no longer termed 'Komnenian'.

[edit] Bibliography

  • J. Birkenmeier - The development of the Komnenian army, 1081-1180
  • John Haldon - The Byzantine warsit:Esercito dei Comneni

Komnenian army

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