Cavalry Talk-Belisarius' Medium Cavalry

JOHN THURSTON is back and eager to discuss Western Martial Arts, especially relating to its history.


Cavalry Talk-Belisarius' Medium Cavalry

Postby JOHN THURSTON » Tue Apr 24, 2007 9:48 pm

The most effective and versatile Horse Soldier ever to sit on saddle was probably one of Belisarius' medium cavalry.

The army, Justinian's, Emporer of the Byzantine Empire.

I will get a date range and post pictures, but I wished to start this thread and the policy of entitling each post with the Genaeral subject matter.

If one was to be searching for the consummate Martial Artist and Warrior, consider that Justinian's cavalryman was required to be proficient with and carried the following weapons and armor:

Simplified "Monteferrino" style helm
The 12' spear called the "Kontos" also carried by Byzantine infantry of the day
The "Spatha" sword measuring about 30' inches.
A a short composite double reflex bow.
The "Dart" called the 'plombata'--about 8 inches long, feathered and barbed, featuring a baseball like lead weight at the middle, from which which the weapon takes its name.

Chainmail corselet endind at the upper thigh so as not to impeded the mount, dismount and other manuevers required fleibility only matched in later times by the chain mail 'hauberk' of the Knights of the 11th century.

A round Shield some 3" plus the size of a the lid of a garbage can, of plywood type layered wood(s) with a metalled rim. (see the prior posts on "Precursor of Arthur's knights"

Whether the shield was still referred to as the "scutum" (from which we derive the word" escutcheon or coat of arms) I do not know.

All races in the Empire, and some outside, Isaurian, Byzant, Hun, Goth, Rus,Vandal and others were included among the rankers of this most elite of cavalry.

Briefly, Justinian reconquered Italy and Africa---but they could not be held in the longer run.

Novels covering the period include "The Bearkeeper's Daughter" which cover the period of the successor to Belisarius----Narses,

Narses was a eunuch, scribe. and chief record keeper-but gained the trust of the throne enough to lead Byzantine Military Expeditions into Northern Greece and the Balkans.

He was inherently, by some wild twist of fate, a military genius and not to be tangled with lightly as he consistently beat armies of 'barbarians' in the region mentioned.

Each time a tribe was beaten in the field Narses would thereupon try to recruit them.

It is difficult to explain that Byzantine and Allied citizens were perennially locked up in their ciities in these contested areas of Greece whenever a new wave of barbarians would seek to enter the warmer lands of the Empire.

FWIW, I think many invasions of the Western and Eartern Empire were climate driven and I maintain that this tendency dated back to the time of Gaius Marius, uncle of Gaius Juliuis Caesar who defeated the incursions of Germani/Teutonic tribes into the Republic.

At this time (and I relyy on precious little data) the area from which a wave of invaders came was roughly in the area of Jutland. At which time the Baltic Sea had allegedly frozen over.

More later.

"All Enlightenment Gratefully Accepted"
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Postby Hugh » Mon Jul 02, 2007 5:55 pm

If you read science-fiction, I can recommend the Belisarius Series by David Drake & Eric Flint. Drake supplies the gritty military descriptions and Flint supplies the great humor and the Byzantine history. The six books in the series are: An Oblique Approach, In the Heart of Darkness, Destiny's Shield, Fortune's Stroke, The Tide of Victory, and The Dance of Time. They describe an alternate past where contestants in a far future have sent a robotic artificial intelligence back to the 6th Century CE to aid a group out of Northern India, the Malwa, with the idea of destroying the freedom of thought that had created their opposition. The Malwa were expanding rapidly and the opposition sent a crystaline entity back to aid the greatest strategist of the time, Belisarius, in organizing resistance to the Malwa. The crystaline entity contains all the military history of human kind and puts it at Belisarius' disposal, including the use of gunpowder weaponry and other industrial era technologies. All in all, a rip-snorting series of books.
Trying to Walk in the Light, Hugh
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