Byzantine Imperial Guardsmen 925-1025: The Tághmata and Imperial Guard (Elite, Volume 187)
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The hundred-year period ending in 1025, from the reign of the Emperor Constantine VII to that of Basil II 'the Bulgar-Slayer', encompassed the last great era of Byzantine aggression and dominance in the Near East and Balkans. During that time, a succession of soldier-emperors challenged and defeated an array of opponents on land and at sea and reconquered vast swathes of territory. At the heart of the Emperors' forces were the professional, highly mobile Tagmata or Imperial Guard regiments, originally formed to guard the Emperor¹s person in the capital but invariably deployed as elite combat troops. Joining these heavy cavalry units, were a variety of exotic mercenary units recruited from foreigners, notably the legendary Varangians. Featuring specially commissioned full-colour artwork, this lively study sheds new light on the colourful regiments of the Byzantine Imperial Guard, the formidable warriors who provided the Byzantine emperors with an insurance policy in the capital, and the elite of their field armies when on campaign.
models, but is worn with a white quilted faceand neck-guard. The man on the right, wearing a folded and tied head-cloth, has a red beard – another indication that these are Varangians. (St Sophia Museum, Kiev; author’s photos, courtesy of the Museum) 39 © Osprey Publishing • www.ospreypublishing.com The allaximata (mutatoria) were precious garments for parade and ceremony that we might term ‘Palace dress’, as worn by the Guardsmen and Taghmatics on important occasions according to strict court
through four others. Recent studies have confirmed the dating to the time of Basil II’s wars, and traces of gold on some rings suggest that the armour was once completely gilded, which would support the belief that it belonged to a senior commander. (in situ, Iviron Monastery, Mt Athos) Outer and inner surfaces of two lamellae from a 10th-century iron klivanion corselet from Vielki Preslav, Bulgaria. Note the central embossed ridges, and the attachment holes; the plates are shown here with the
(32.25in/ 82cm) in diameter. The Sylloge prescribes for the kataphraktoi shields 4.5 spans high (41.5in/ 105.3cm); the Praecepta specifies that cavalry shields should be shorter than those of the heavy infantry, so 4 or 5 spans high (c.37 or 46in/ 93.6 or 117 centimetres). For court ceremonial and when in Constantinople the Guardsmen often carried round shields. The passage in De Cerimoniis describing the gear to be issued for a warship crew mentions 70 skoutaria raptá (sewn shields) and 30
convention of referring to this polity as the Byzantine Empire is necessarily followed in this text for the sake of clarity, but it should be remembered that the inhabitants of the Eastern empire called themselves ‘Rhomaioi’ or Romans. The Byzantine state derived directly and without interruption from the Eastern capital, administration and provinces of the Late Roman state, which had survived the barbarian invasions of the 4th and 5th centuries AD that destroyed the Western Empire.) The
confront the Byzantines. 15 December 1025 Death of Emperor Basil II Porphyrogenitus; he is succeeded by Constantine VIII. THE REGIMENTS – FORMATION & ORGANIZATION THE THÉMATA The Byzantine army of this period was the result of a development that had started in the 7th century. The then Emperor Heraclius (r.610–641) had begun to divide the Imperial territories in Anatolia into military provinces or Thémata, which corresponded with the provincial army corps from which the Thémata took their names: