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Although for wargamers, try Ian Heaths Armies of the middle ages Volume 2, published 1984 by Wargames Research Group.

I t has a quite large section on 14th/15th century Byzantine and Trapezuntine organisation, weapons and kit.
for the ultimate Byzantinomaniac
http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigi ... 9668&word=
Enjoy
Quote:
kuura:1h96l2vv Wrote:Although for wargamers, try Ian Heaths Armies of the middle ages Volume 2, published 1984 by Wargames Research Group.

I t has a quite large section on 14th/15th century Byzantine and Trapezuntine organisation, weapons and kit.

God bless you!....you dont know how many times that book have being in my hands, & I had hesitated to buy it :oops: ... I 've found one

Laudes mate!


Your welcome Big Grin

It's not a bad publication as long as you take some of the reconstructions with a pinch of salt as it were, ie the Pteruges that are still represented, should in my opinion be either the lower extremities of a Kabadion or the attached 'skirts' of a lamellar Klibanion.

The same applies to the depictions of Serbs and Bulgarians in pseudo-Byzantine kit.

I would be interested to know when the long 'triangular kite' shield came into being, the WRG publication puts them in a 14th century context but I'm not sure if they are correct in their reconstruction :?
This is one of the most fascinating threads I've ever been on.

If I may, I'd like to bring back the subject of the menavlion. Felix, early in the thread, stated that the Praecepta Militaria quoted the length of the shaft as 1 orguia (about 6 feet) long. I've just been looking through McGeer's translation of the Praecepta in Sowing the Dragon's Teeth and the passage gives the length of the shaft as from two to two and a half spithamai (about 47-58 centimeters - 18-24 inches!)

However, McGeer believes that the passage is corrupt, and that this is supposed to be the length of the head, not the shaft.

The Taktika of Nikephoros Phokas, in the same book quotes the length as one and a half and two ourguiai (2.7-3.6 meters or 9-12 feet., according to Schilbach's calculations of equivalents). I can't see any mention of a six-foot menavlion.

If this is the case, it can hardly be a polearm in the style of halberds and glaives, but is a long, hefty spear. And in fact in the Taktika mentions the thick-shafted menavlia as being needed because a cavalry charge would shatter the normal spears used by the kontarioi.

BTW I found on another forum a picture from the Great Palace in Constantinople of two spearmen fighting a tiger,, with what might be a forerunner of the menavlion, at http://www.flickr.com/photos/derianlebreton/699783090/

PS: Peter Raftos. This is your McGeer I've got. I'd completely forgotten you'd lent it to me :oops:
In Napoleonic times cavalry charges were held off with bayonets attached to muskets some 42 inches long. I don't undestand why a spear for fending off cavalry would need an especially thick and stout haft. As I said earlier such a spear would be under compressive forces and even a bamboo shaft should be eminently strong enough to stop a horseman when used to thrust. From a material science point of view a wide shaft is only markedly superior over a narrower shaft if lateral rather than compressive forces are envisaged.

Also the descriptions of how menavlatoi were described as operating tends to strike me as unsuited to men armed with an 'ordinary' spear. They seem to have been troops specifically differentiated from the standard spearmen. They were essentially assault troops used for close-order fighting. They seem to have been broken up into relatively small units which were used either to break into an enemy formation, or to make counter-attacks when their own line had been pierced by elements of the enemy. Doing this with a long, unusually heavy, unweildy thrusting spear just doesn't make sense to me in this context. Though a shorter cutting or even bludgeoning weapon does.
I'm not sure how relevant the Napoleonic reference is to the discussion. The row of bayonets was backed up with a row of muskets, which could deliver a withering missile fire long before the cavalry could get close enough to pose a threat. I don't know of any full-speed cavalry charge in Napoleonic times that was held off with bayonets alone, but I'm not an expert on Napoleonic warfare. Arrows cause casualties to cavalry, but not to anything like the extent of massed musketry. One thing I do think is relevant is that a 42 inch musket is far less slender and prone to shattering than a 9-15 foot spear.

A spear under compressive forces is certainly stronger than under shear forces, but it has its limits. Once it begins to bow, a transverse component is introduced into the force equation, and a slender spear is in grave danger of shattering. In fact both the Taktika and the Praecepta Militaria say the heavy spears of the menavlatoi are to defend against the enemy's heavily armoured kataphraktoi smashing the spears of the heavy infantry.

McGeer's Sowing the Dragon's Teeth quotes three major sources - the Sylloge Tacticorum (a collection of military treatises put together about 950 AD), the Praecepta Miltaria of Emperor Nikephoros Phokas (c. 965)and the Taktika of Nikephoros Ouranos (c. 1000). The only source that gives a clear indication of the length of the menavlion is the Taktika, of 1.5-2 ourguiai. That's 2.7-3.6 metres (9-12 feet).

Having used 9 feet spears for years, and hefted 12 foot ones, I know they are extremely difficult if not impossible to use as polearms in the way, say, a halberd or glaive are. The balance is all wrong. A polearm has to be considerably shorter - or else it becomes unwieldy.

The Praecepta specifies the function of the menavlatoi as forming a full rank in front of the first rank of spearmen - not small semi-independent units - if the enemy kataphraktoi are attacking the infantry formation.

The other functions of the menavlatoi: if enemy infantry approach the infantry formation, the menavlatoi and the javelineers divide into two sections in a "C" shape in front of the formation and hit them from the flanks (like the "horns of the bull"), if the enemy approach the army in a square formation, a parallel line of menavlia is drawn up to face them.

It has to be acknowledged that the Sylloge describes their function very differently, as an independent force of a mere three hundred men who move out 30-40 ourguiai (60-80 yards) in front of the formation to meet an attack of the kataphraktoi with their menavlia, slashing up the horses and destroying the impetus of the cavalry charge. Apparently this was very effective when first introduced. However, by the time of the Praecepta, Emperor Nikephoros is stressing the very opposite - that the menavlatoi stick close to the main formation. McGeer posits that the surprise value of the tactics outlined in the Sylloge had been used up, and that the arabs had developed tactics to counter it - probably as easy as flanking them and wiping them out.

Rather than assault troops, my reading of their function according to the Praecepta and the Taktika is that they were a heavy defensive line capable of absorbing and standing strong against the force of a heavy cavalry attack.

On a completely different subject - though the ourguia's length is calculated as 6 feet, and seems to fit well, and McGeer's value of 23.4 cm (9.2 inches) (calculated by Schilbach) for a spithame (handspan) seems correct when used for the Sylloge, according to Dr Tim Dawson there are grave doubts about its use when applied to the Praecepta Miltaria and the Taktika. If used literally, it would mean the heavy infantry carried spears 19 to 23 feet long, and shields 4'6" in diameter. These are both ludicrous sizes (unless the shields are kites or ovals, but even then, contemporary Byzantine illustrations show kite and oval shields as quite a bit smaller than that). McGeer sort of acknowledges the problem but doesn't really deal with it.


The details are as follows:

The length of the kontarion (the spear of the heavy infantry) is 8-10 cubits according to the Sylloge. This is equivalent to 3.7-4.7 metres (12-15 feet). However, according to the Praecepta and the Taktika it's 25-30 spithamai. Using Schilbach's figures, that's 5.8-7 metres (19-23 feet) . Which is just ludicrous.

McGeer quotes the length of the head "according to the treatises" as 1.5 spithamai. Though he says that's 47cm (18 inches), he's got his arithmetic wrong - it should be 35.1cm (1 foot 2 inches). That's a possible length, but the source is not specified.

The length of a menavlion is not mentioned by the Sylloge. The value given by the Praecepta is apparently corrupt. As mentioned above, the only apparently reliable length is from the Taktika - 9-12 feet.

The length of javelins, by the way, is only mentioned in the Sylloge, for which Schilbach's value of the spithame seems to be correct. It's quoted both as one and a third ourguiai (8 feet) and 12 spithamai (9 feet).

The size of a heavy infantry shield in both the Taktika and the Praecepta is specified is no less than 6 spithamai, which according Schilbach, would make it 4 feet 6 inches in diameter (or perhaps 4 foot 6 long if it's a kite or an oval).

Tim Dawson proposes that the value of a handspan in the Taktika and the Praecepta should be considerably less - perhaps measured across a different part of the hand. Based upon the supposed equivalence for a kontarion's length of of 8-10 cubits (12-15 feet) in the Sylloge with 25-30 spithamai in both the Taktika and the Praecepta, a figure of 6 inches for the spithame would seem more appropriate to me. It would mean that the infantry spear would be 12-15 feet long, and the shield would be 36 inches - 3 feet - in diameter. Much more sensible IMHO.
The units of measure quoted seem to be open to variations in interpretation not to mention scribal error, therefore reliance on them seems moot.

In heavy rainfall muskets were rendered useless and sole reliance on the bayonet was unavoidable.

I cannot but consider how infantry dealt with very heavy cavalry in other periods. In the Ancient World I seem to remember cataphracts being destroyed by club-weilding infantry, I cannot recall the particulars, however. In the Hundred Years war French knights, once their formation had been broken, were killed off by English bowmen wielding lead mallets. At Pavia the French Gendarmes, the flower of European knightly cavalry, were hacked to pieces by Imperial Landskechts with their array of polearms, which is what happened to the Burgundian men-at-arms at the hands of the Swiss.

In all cases such very heavily armoured cavalry could be held off, or their formations broken, by either spear, pike or missile armed troops, but the majority were actually killed by infantry armed with cutting or bludgeoning weapons. I cannot imagine that the Byzantines found their tactical needs in such situations so very different.
Urselius wrote:-
Quote: In the Ancient World I seem to remember cataphracts being destroyed by club-weilding infantry, I cannot recall the particulars, however
....Battle of Emesa 272 AD - The Emperor Aurelian confronted Palmyrans.
A body of Palestinian clubmen, armed with heavy two-handed clubs was said to be particularly effective against Palmyran Clibanarii
Quote:The units of measure quoted seem to be open to variations in interpretation not to mention scribal error, therefore reliance on them seems moot.

Variations in interpretation, yes, in that the length of a spithame assumed in the Sylloge seems to be different from the one used in both the Taktika and the Praecepta. And certainly, how do you determine where you measure a hand span? It could very well be 9 inches measured at one point, and six inches at another. But scribal error, no. The length of a spithame is internally consistent in each document.

Equally, there is no uncertainty about the length of an ourguia, and that is the unit in which the length of the menavlion is quoted - one and a half to two ourguiai - which is 9-12 feet.
Quote:

In heavy rainfall muskets were rendered useless and sole reliance on the bayonet was unavoidable.

As I said, I'm not a Napoleonic expert, but did a cavalry charge ever get stopped by bayonets alone? How many battles were fought in heavy rain, where this kind of thing could happen? I think this is a paper tiger.
Quote:I cannot but consider how infantry dealt with very heavy cavalry in other periods. In the Ancient World I seem to remember cataphracts being destroyed by club-weilding infantry, I cannot recall the particulars, however. In the Hundred Years war French knights, once their formation had been broken, were killed off by English bowmen wielding lead mallets. At Pavia the French Gendarmes, the flower of European knightly cavalry, were hacked to pieces by Imperial Landskechts with their array of polearms, which is what happened to the Burgundian men-at-arms at the hands of the Swiss.

In all cases such very heavily armoured cavalry could be held off, or their formations broken, by either spear, pike or missile armed troops, but the majority were actually killed by infantry armed with cutting or bludgeoning weapons. I cannot imagine that the Byzantines found their tactical needs in such situations so very different.

There is no argument that polearms were very effective against cavalry. And when I first saw speculation about the menavlion being such a weapon, I was very interested. I would dearly love it to be a polearm, myself, but however much we might want it to be one, and whatever was used by other armies at other times, the evidence is against polearms being used by the Byzantine army in the 10th century.

Read carefully through the Taktika and the Praecepta and it becomes obvious that the major function of the menavlion was not so much to slaughter the enemy kataphraktoi (helpful though that might be) but to to hold them off from breaking the cohesion of the infantry square.

This whole idea that the menavlion might be a polearm seems to have originated in an incorrectly quoted or remembered length of 6 feet being introduced into the discussion very early in the piece. But it simply doesn't hold water on closer examination. The length given in the original sources is 9-12 feet, and that's what we've got to work with. The alternative is to toss the whole thing out and go with what feels right to us, but surely we're trying to find out what was used, not what we'd like to have been used.
Jools wrote:-
Quote:I would be interested to know when the long 'triangular kite' shield came into being,

....judging by artistic representations, it was likely a Byzantine invention, sometime in the first half of the 10th century AD.....and by mid-11th century was in widespread use, particularly by cavalry.....
Is this the kite with a rounded or a flat top? The large flat-top seems to come in about the 14th century; the round-top is considerably earlier.
Quote:Is this the kite with a rounded or a flat top? The large flat-top seems to come in about the 14th century; the round-top is considerably earlier.

...the original rounded top, that spread rapidly west, to be used by Normans and French.... the flat-topped variety had appeared perhaps as early as 1170-1180 , and is shown for example on a seal of Richard 1 of England....
Most people say this is a circus theme.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/derianlebreton/699783090/
The guys are not soldiers, but "Theriomachoi" The spears are hunting spears akin to the medieval "pig-stick".

Even war horses have a tendency to slow dow if they faced with mass of men that they see as a solid obstacle. Allow me an anachronism:
In 1821 the Turkish cavalry attacked the Greek rebels outside Tripoli. They were irregular guerillas armed with scimitars and long muskets without buyonets. The place was open but a priest inspired them to stand still. The horses slowed down -almost stopped infront of the rebels who stood their ground and the horsemen were shot to pieces or cut down by the scimitars. It was recorded by Cosomoulis, a historian, who fought in the engagement.

As I posted before I believe that the menavlio was a heavy javelin like the pilum.

Kind regards
There could have been an evolution in the nature of the menavlion over time. If the origin of the name is from the Latin venabulum then it may have originated as a type of javelin.

The length of the head is rather odd; if the weapon were both long and wide-shafted one might expect a small pike-like head in order to minimise weight at the end of the weapon. I can see no advantage in having a long blade on the end of a purely thrusting weapon.
Urselius wrote:-
Quote:I can see no advantage in having a long blade on the end of a purely thrusting weapon.
....well, the Zulus would disagree with you ! Smile
...their success came from turning a javelin-like assegai with a small head into a thrusting/stabbing weapon with a huge blade almost as big as the shaft! Confusedhock: ........
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