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Quote:Are there any references of Byzantine military activity in the Levant during the crusades? (Ie. were the Byzantines actively engaging saracen forces alongside the crusaders?) I cannot think of a reason why they would pass one of their most well-kept secrets along to the crusaders, so if greek fire handgrenades were used during the crusades, they would have been used by Byzantine soldiers.

Regards,

HHornblower

The article - I read only the abstract - is about an Arab shop for manufacturing grenades in Syria. Greek fire is not like Greek fire, it was a generic term for a multitude of incendiary weapons then.

AFAIK, the Arabs copied the Byzantine use of incendiary weapons. Or rather, when the Arabs came out of the desert and occupied old civilization centre such as Egypt and Syria, they found a Christian military tradition which they employed for their own ends. Obviously, the secret of Greek Fire par excellence remained restricted to the capital Constantinople, but other - probably less efficient - variants were known throughout the Near East.
I concur with your view of "ersatz" Arabic Greek fire. Certainly Nafta was a well-know incendary weapon which was incidently documented by Greek historians travelling with Alexander in the 4th century BC.
There are articles claiming that the Byzantines actually forgot the production method of Greek Fire. If this was the case, could the sack of Constantinople in 1204 be that turning point?

Regards,

HHornblower
[url=http://books.google.com/books?id=q0hMf5vu7kgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Byzantine+Style,+Religion,+and+Civilization&hl=es&sig=ACfU3U0FaQdeHd__BkPl7UdG_uUZt4Yllg#PPA324,M1]John Haldon,“‘Greek Fire’ Revisited: Recent and Current Researchâ€
Thanks Stefan. We know from Maurices's Strategikon and from memeory John Malalas mentions Belisarios using caltrops quite early in the piece. I think Anna Komnena mentions her fathers use of them to slow Frankish cavalry.

One of the middle byzantine manuals also says that on campaign 8 or 9 caltrops on a rope per man were carried. Each dekarkhia had a metal spike which was hammered into the ground in front of the ditch, and the caltrop ropes attached to it and flung outwards to deter cavalry from attacking encampments.

Egfroth demonstrates here:
[url:1vpfwnsw]http://nvg.org.au/gallery/albums/Byzantine-Defenceworks/LaTrobe_event_015.mov[/url]
Digenis Akritas impression
http://community.imaginefx.com/fxpose/c ... ginal.aspx
Kind regards
Hello to the list,
I've visited here many times but have not posted before.
I'm starting a small group to tackle byzantine living history, mostly a 11th C presentation, with some attention on 1453 as well… and perhaps as early as 6th C.
1453 is closer to my living history expertise, and lately I have been doing a Janissary impression, which I regard as an inheritor of Byzantine traditions, so this is nearly a direct step back in time for me.
I have 2 questions for the group.
1) The sash that you often see on military saints, usually on the 'natural waist' or even higher… does anybody know of any pictures that show this clearly from the back? Any doubt that this is some sort of "I'm an officer"-indicator?
1.b) At first I thought I was looking at some odd feature of the cloak… since usually it was the same color as the cloak. I don't think so….
2) The "Varangian Bra" a.k.a harness… I know there is no certain explanation but … any pet theories? My working theory at the moment is that it should be tight, and that it therefore helps distribute the weight of the armor, and perhaps by keeping the (flexible) armor snug in the area below the armpits makes it easier for the arms to more freely.
2.b) Has anyone seen pictures with the harness on an undoubted plate armor breast&back? Harness on soft clothing only (e.g. padded coat/Kavadion)?
Thanks
Rick

p.s. I'm also toying with the idea of greek fire artillery. It would be fully functional but pump water only though - I think it would be fun in demos to ask an audience member to stand under the nozzle with a bic lighter to ignite the stream… which might accidently spray some of the kids, hee hee hee.
Quote:Hello to the list,
I've visited here many times but have not posted before.
I'm starting a small group to tackle byzantine living history, mostly a 11th C presentation, with some attention on 1453 as well… and perhaps as early as 6th C.
1453 is closer to my living history expertise, and lately I have been doing a Janissary impression, which I regard as an inheritor of Byzantine traditions, so this is nearly a direct step back in time for me.
I have 2 questions for the group.
1) The sash that you often see on military saints, usually on the 'natural waist' or even higher… does anybody know of any pictures that show this clearly from the back? Any doubt that this is some sort of "I'm an officer"-indicator?
1.b) At first I thought I was looking at some odd feature of the cloak… since usually it was the same color as the cloak. I don't think so….
2) The "Varangian Bra" a.k.a harness… I know there is no certain explanation but … any pet theories? My working theory at the moment is that it should be tight, and that it therefore helps distribute the weight of the armor, and perhaps by keeping the (flexible) armor snug in the area below the armpits makes it easier for the arms to more freely.
2.b) Has anyone seen pictures with the harness on an undoubted plate armor breast&back? Harness on soft clothing only (e.g. padded coat/Kavadion)?
Thanks
Rick

p.s. I'm also toying with the idea of greek fire artillery. It would be fully functional but pump water only though - I think it would be fun in demos to ask an audience member to stand under the nozzle with a bic lighter to ignite the stream… which might accidently spray some of the kids, hee hee hee.



The sash does have a name which I can't remember at the moment. Not sure if it is a rank indicator or not.
I have a pic from the Bulgarian Tomichov manuscript which shows a charge of armoured horsemen. At least half of these guys have sashes and one is falling forwards off his horse showing the rear of the sash which is blue. it appears to be tied in a knot with no loose ends (tucked in perhaps?)

The Varangian bra is another wierd one. One explanation I have seen is that it was an adjustable harness to keep in check badly fitting lorica supplied by the arsenal to all and sundry, ie thin guy, large lorica.
As to the Varangian bra (great name, no?), I was fiddling around with a friend's hauberk (no innuendo there) and a modern reconstruction of the 'bra' and have come up with a solution that solves two problems: it was used to both redistribute weight and tighten loose fits.

I think Timothy Dawson and John Haldon have both came to this conclusion, as well through various means.
Also, I wonder if for cavalry a tight harness would prevent the problem of getting your chin whacked by your own armor when galloping&jumping, although I would not think this would be as serious with lamellar as with breastplates. (e.g. 16-18th C. curasses use "arming cords" on the shoulder and elsewhere to hold the armor down on the shoulder. ) If the harness is tight below the pects, it would keep the armor down.
One piece of evidence might be, are they to size and slid down over the shoulder, or are they put on and then snugged in with a fastener on the back? Sign of a big buckle or cords could be taken as an indication that its snugged in after putting it on.
-Rick

Quote:As to the Varangian bra (great name, no?), I was fiddling around with a friend's hauberk (no innuendo there) and a modern reconstruction of the 'bra' and have come up with a solution that solves two problems: it was used to both redistribute weight and tighten loose fits.

I think Timothy Dawson and John Haldon have both came to this conclusion, as well through various means.
Hi peeps.

Thought I would post a few pics of our group, Timothy Dawson's Palace Company at Rufford park Medieval event earlier this year.

All pics courtesy of Red Zebra photo.





[Image: Tank.jpg]

[Image: Aaron.jpg]

[Image: File.jpg]
More pics;


[Image: Julian.jpg]

Splendid looking chap Big Grin wink:


[Image: Rufford_07.jpg]

You would think Dr D could dress himself by now :lol:

[Image: Guard.jpg]

Pesky Normans again! (Connisbrough castle this time)
With regards to Orlirva's question about the 'Varangian bra', I have to agree with the other posters that it was a means to secure a perhaps ill-fitting cuirass. Such a harness was not only restricted to military use, as the same kind of strapping is found in civilian dress. Take a look at the diptych I posted some time ago in this thread. The baby's swaddling clothes are secured by such a harness.

Cheers
Oh, so with soft cloths, on a baby?
I was sure I had a picture of a naked soldier with the harness, which would have been darn curious. I could have sworn I could see his little buddy down there - but after I scaned in the picture (on a plate) and saw it magnified, I saw he had on the faint outline of a scale or mail coat.
Any odd protrayal of the harness might give that critical clue.
Thanks... yes the best theory, I agree, so far.

Quote:With regards to Orlirva's question about the 'Varangian bra', I have to agree with the other posters that it was a means to secure a perhaps ill-fitting cuirass. Such a harness was not only restricted to military use, as the same kind of strapping is found in civilian dress. Take a look at the diptych I posted some time ago in this thread. The baby's swaddling clothes are secured by such a harness.

Cheers
On page 2&3 of this thread the menavlion is discussed (and later 17-18). Great info there. I am at the point where the rubber hits the road and I will make myself one or two, so wanted to take this opportunity to review & ask advice.
I reviewed Phokas last night (Sowing the teeth of the Dragon) and went through the facts... that it was heavy – as thick as you can hold comfortably and securely (which to my medium large hands is 1.5 inch diameter) , with a long metal point in the 20-30inch range with another 5-7 foot shaft so possibly in the 7-10 foot range total… I think 8-9 feet total is good. One of the published articles seemed to argue for an ancient roman-style sword & (heavy) philium soldier, one seemed to suggest it was something along the lines of a polearm and perhaps something like a boar spear, as mentioned in one of the posts above
(Anastasiadis is quoted above, the other is McGreer, Infantry versus cavalry: the Byzantine response, REB 46 1988 pp 135-45 Menaulion-menaulatoi, Diptycha, 4, 1986-8 pp 53-57.)
Also, the shaft should be not from hewn lumber, but from a complete sapling… perhaps with the implication that it should still be somewhat green. This would certainly be springier than a shaft cut from a hewn oak tree, which may be critical if the planted spear is taking the weight of a moving dying warhorse. (However, I don't really buy the idea suggested by Dawson's illustration that it’s a bark-covered somewhat crooked tree branch. It might be in emergency field conditions, but I expect the normal item to be straight, tapered, and with bark stripped off.)

The menavlatoi story seems extraordinary and well worth telling in a living history setting. The role of the menavlatoi is that of elite light infantry, armed with the short spear and a slightly smaller shield. The roles include (in the early 10th C. ) running out many yards in front of the infantry to attack heavy cavalry, especially by gutting the horses and then killing the riders as they fell. (A contemporary source was quoted who assured us that it looked lunatic but worked marvelously. ) It sure would be courageous. Possibly, it worked best as a surprise tactic, such as if the cavalry was approaching to fire missiles rather than to charge home, thinking it was out of range of any danger save for the odd arrow, and the menavlatoi changed the agenda with a spirited shock attack. (Presumably the heavy infantry would start advancing to cover the menavlatoi and drive back the enemy who would otherwise cut down the menavlatoi as they tried to disengage)

Later the role was to reinforce – at the last moment- the line of heavy infantry but not from the rear, but as the front rank. Presumably, the longer spears of the heavy infantry would partially cover the menavlatoi.
Another role was to plug any normal gaps between formations and stop incursions of cavalry, and also to plug potentially catastrophic gaps forced by the enemy; another was skirmishing.
All roles for only the best most independent self-possessed, self-motivated, fit and mobile, highly trained professionals. All NCO material, at least.

Having reviewed the evidence, I personally feel the menavlion is a sort of polearm, (not to be thrown). When I was reading the requirements I envisioned something like a hunting spear, with a long blade and a smaller set of flanges that perhaps hooked back, so that a missed thrust might still serve to hook and dismount a rider. I thought that partisans, glaives, voguls and ranseurs and others might be along the right path. As I researched the various shapes, I noted that several seemed to originate from around 1000CE, and primarily as an infantryman’s anti-cavalry tool. Thus these seem entirely in the spirit of the menavlion. However, I think that if the menavlion was something like an axe on a stick that would have been mentioned. So if I think of it as something like a partisan, it would be a very simple partisan that is mostly just a slightly wide spear blade with some small wings. (Question…Do we know of a collection of ca 1000ce roman polearms?) I looked at the iconography and found some interesting items.

Also see picture of the ponty narrow heads... a possible take that can't be ruled out, but I think unlikely.

First, a couple of fellows sitting around on a plate holding what seem to be heavy 7foot long spears with an interesting blade that looks a bit like a stylized skinny Christmas tree…. Mostly a thrusting blade but would be nasty if swung at or raked across an unprotected target, like a human face or equine nose. They are wearing sandals and have bare legs, so probably they are infantry… infantry with smallish shields. I am curious about the helmet the figure on the right has on… any opinion? Any other period pictures of guys hanging around with short spears? This is my candidate pictured menavlion - but I expect variety in actual use over time.

Since the hunting spear is a possible model, I attached an interesting set of hunting spear illustrations. One (with tiger) seems to have a fairly simple spearhead that is fairly long – 12 inches at least on a modestly heavy pole that may be 1.5 inches diameter.

The bas-relief one seems to show a perhaps 2 inch diameter pole with a simple triangular head.

The mosaic with boar is most interesting. It shows a venabulum as a stout 6-7 foot pole that seems to taper from very thick in the back ( 2.5 inches?) to 2 to about 1.5 inches in the handling area. The blade is a wide triangle that narrows, and is followed by a curved hook back blade that will also serve to keep the animal from running up the shaft.

I illustrated this venabulum point, and a speculative menavlion war variant that is longer, say 20-26 inches as called for in the documentation, and also pointier, as would be appropriate against a potentially leather or mail armored warhorse or warrior instead of an unarmored boar. for war use.. given the larger size and reach of the target, I think the overall length would be a bit longer than the 6-7 foot used for boar hunting… but not by much so I'm still thinking in the 8 or at most 9 foot length. (since this does not seem to be a close formation unit, the length may be customized to the man's height)

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Been covered previously;

http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/viewtopic. ... c340b9475f

starting 7 posts up from bottom of page.
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