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The Eastern Roman army refers to the army of the eastern section of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
, from the empire's definitive split in 395 AD to the army's reorganization by
themes Theme or themes may refer to: * Theme (arts), the unifying subject or idea of the type of visual work * Theme (Byzantine district), an administrative district in the Byzantine Empire governed by a Strategos * Theme (computing), a custom graphical a ...
after the permanent loss of
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
,
Palestine Palestine ( or ) most often refers to: * State of Palestine, a ''de jure'' sovereign state in the Middle East * Palestine (region), a geographical and historical region in the Middle East Palestine may also refer to: * Palestinian National Aut ...
and
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
to the
Arabs The Arabs (singular Arab ; singular ar, عَرَبِيٌّ, ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), norm or requirement for a repeatable technica ...

Arabs
in the 7th century during the Byzantine-Arab Wars. The ''East Roman army'' is the continuation of the
Late Roman army In modern scholarship, the "late" period of the Roman army begins with the accession of the Emperor Diocletian in AD 284, and ends in 476 with the deposition of Romulus Augustulus, being roughly coterminous with the Dominate. During the period ...
of the 4th century until the
Byzantine army The Byzantine army was the primary military body of the Byzantine The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity a ...
of the 7th century onwards. The East Roman army was a direct continuation of the eastern portion of the
late Roman army In modern scholarship, the "late" period of the Roman army begins with the accession of the Emperor Diocletian in AD 284, and ends in 476 with the deposition of Romulus Augustulus, being roughly coterminous with the Dominate. During the period ...
, from before the division of the empire. The East Roman army started with the same basic organization as the late Roman army and its West Roman counterpart, but between the 5th and 7th centuries, the
cavalry Historically, cavalry (from the French word ''cavalerie'', itself derived from "cheval" meaning "horse") are soldier A soldier is a person who is a member of a professional army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via O ...

cavalry
grew more important, the field armies took on more tasks, and the border armies were transformed into local militias. In the 6th century, Emperor
Justinian I Justinian I (; la, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus; grc-gre, Ἰουστινιανός ; 48214 November 565), also known as Justinian the Great, was the Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation o ...
, who reigned from 527 to 565, sent much of the East Roman army to try to reconquer the former
Western Roman Empire The Western Roman Empire comprises the western provinces of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican ...

Western Roman Empire
. In these wars, the
Eastern Roman Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn ...

Eastern Roman Empire
reconquered parts of
North Africa North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in th ...

North Africa
from the
Vandal Kingdom The Vandal Kingdom ( la, Regnum Vandalum) or Kingdom of the Vandals and Alans ( la, Regnum Vandalorum et Alanorum) was established by the Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of ...
and
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest ...

Italy
from the
Ostrogothic Kingdom The Ostrogothic Kingdom, officially the Kingdom of Italy (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communi ...

Ostrogothic Kingdom
, as well as parts of southern
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
. The power of the army diminished in his reign owing to the
Plague of Justinian The plague of Justinian or Justinianic plague (541–549 AD) was the first major outbreak In epidemiology, an outbreak is a sudden increase in occurrences of a disease in a particular time and place. It may affect a small and localized group o ...
. In the 7th century, Emperor
Heraclius Heraclius ( el, Ἡράκλειος, ''Hērakleios''; c. 575 – 11 February 641), sometimes called Heraclius I, was the Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople la, Constantinop ...
led the East Roman army against the
Sasanian Empire The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ''Ērānshahr The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its ...

Sasanian Empire
, temporarily regaining
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...
and
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...
, and then against the
Rashidun Caliphate The Rashidun Caliphate ( ar, اَلْخِلَافَةُ ٱلرَّاشِدَةُ, al-Khilāfah ar-Rāšidah) was the first of the four major caliphate A caliphate ( ar, خِلَافَة, ) is an Islamic state under the leadership of an ...
. His defeat at the
Battle of Yarmuk The Battle of the Yarmuk (also spelled Yarmouk) was a major battle between the army of the Byzantine Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire ...
would lead to the Islamic conquest of Syria and
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...
, and would force the reorganization of the East Roman army, leading to the thematic system of later Byzantine armies.


Sources

Much of our evidence for the East Roman army's deployments at the end of the 4th century is contained in a single document, the ''
Notitia Dignitatum The ''Notitia Dignitatum'' (Latin for "The List of Offices") is a document of the Late Antiquity, late Roman Empire that details the administrative organization of the Eastern and Western Empires. It is unique as one of very few surviving docume ...
'', compiled c. 395-420, a manual of all late Roman public offices, military and civil. The main deficiency with the ''Notitia'' is that it lacks any personnel figures so as to render estimates of army size impossible. However, the ''Notitia'' remains the central source on the late Army's structure due to the dearth of other evidence. The Strategikon of the Emperor Maurikios, from the end of the 6th century, describes the cavalry tactics, organization, and equipment of the East Roman army towards the end of this period.Elton, Hugh, "Army and Battle in the Age of Justinian," in Erdkamp, Paul, ''A Companion to the Roman Army'', p. 533. The ''
De re militari #REDIRECT De re militari#REDIRECT De re militari ''De re militari'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around ...
'' of
Vegetius Publius (or Flavius) Vegetius Renatus, known as Vegetius (), was a writer of the Later Roman Empire (late 4th century The 4th century (per the Julian calendar The Julian calendar, proposed by Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 Jul ...
, probably from the beginning of the 5th century, calls for reform of the West Roman army, which was similar to the east Roman army. However, the ''De re militari'' emphasizes the revival of earlier Roman practices, and does not provide a clear view of the tactics, organization, and practices of any branch of the
late Roman army In modern scholarship, the "late" period of the Roman army begins with the accession of the Emperor Diocletian in AD 284, and ends in 476 with the deposition of Romulus Augustulus, being roughly coterminous with the Dominate. During the period ...
. The histories of
Ammianus Marcellinus Ammianus Marcellinus (born , died 400) was a Roman soldier This is a list of Roman army units and bureaucrats. *''Accensus'' – Light infantry men in the armies of the early Roman Republic, made up of the poorest men of the army. *''Actuarius' ...
provide a glimpse of the late Roman army before the division of the
Roman empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman empire
. Those of
Procopius Procopius of Caesarea ( grc-gre, Προκόπιος ὁ Καισαρεύς ''Prokópios ho Kaisareús''; la, Procopius Caesariensis; – after 565) was a prominent late antique Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, fr ...
, especially his
Wars War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (new ...
and parts of his
Buildings A building, or edifice, is a structure A structure is an arrangement and organization of interrelated elements in a material object or system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a ...
, written while accompanying the
magister militum (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic ...
Belisarius Flavius Belisarius ( el, Φλάβιος Βελισάριος; c. 500The exact date of his birth is unknown. – 565) was a military commander of the Byzantine Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, o ...
during the emperor
Justinian Justinian I (; la, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus; grc-gre, Ἰουστινιανός ; 48214 November 565), also known as Justinian the Great, was the Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation o ...

Justinian
's wars against the
Sassanid Empire The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ''Ērānshahr The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its ...
and the
barbarian A barbarian is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Bioc ...
successor kingdoms, provide a view of the east Roman army in the period, and its campaigns. The histories of
Agathias Agathias or Agathias Scholasticus ( grc-gre, Ἀγαθίας σχολαστικός; Martindale, Jones & Morris (1992), pp. 23–25582/594), of Myrina (Mysia), an Aeolian city in western Asia Minor (now in Turkey), was a Greece, Greek poet and the ...
and
Menander Menander (; grc-gre, Μένανδρος ''Menandros''; c. 342/41 – c. 290 BC) was a Greek dramatist A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes play (theatre), plays. Etymology The word "play" is from Middle English pleye, from Old ...
continue those of Procopius. Another major source for the East Roman army includes the legal codes published in the East Roman empire in the 5th and 6th centuries: the
Theodosian code The ''Codex Theodosianus'' (Eng. Theodosian Code) was a compilation of the laws Law is a system A system is a group of interacting Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. ...
(438) and the ''
Corpus Iuris Civilis The ''Corpus Juris'' (or ''Iuris'') ''Civilis'' ("Body of Civil Law") is the modern name for a collection of fundamental works in jurisprudence, issued from 529 to 534 by order of Justinian I, Byzantine Emperors, Byzantine Emperor. It is als ...
'' (528-39). These compilations of Roman laws dating from the 4th century contain numerous imperial decrees relating to the regulation and administration of the late army.


Origins and History

In 395, the death of the last sole Roman emperor,
Theodosius I Theodosius I ( grc-gre, Θεοδόσιος ; 11 January 347 – 17 January 395), also called Theodosius the Great, was Roman emperor from 379 to 395. During his reign, he faced and overcame a war against the Goths and two civil wars, and ...

Theodosius I
(r. 379-95), led to the final split of the empire into two political entities, the West (''Occidentale'') and the East (''Orientale''). The system of dual emperors (called ''Augusti'' after the founder of the empire,
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
) had been instituted a century earlier by the great reforming emperor
Diocletian Diocletian (; la, Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus; born Diocles; 22 December c. 244 – 3 December 311) was from 284 to 305. Born to a family of low status in , Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become a commander of ...
(r.284-305). But it had never been envisaged as a political separation, purely as an administrative and military convenience. Decrees issued by either emperor were valid in both halves and the successor of each ''Augustus'' required the recognition of the other. The empire was reunited under one emperor under
Constantine I Constantine I ( la, Flavius Valerius Constantinus; ; 27 February 22 May 337), also known as Constantine the Great, was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). Th ...

Constantine I
, after 324, under Constantius II, after 353, under Julian, after 361, and Theodosius himself, after 394. The division into two sections recognized a growing cultural divergence. The common language of the East had always been
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
, while that of the West was
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
. This was not ''per se'' a significant division, as the empire had long been a fusion of Greek and Roman cultures (
classical civilisation Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history History (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, ...
) and the Roman ruling class was entirely bilingual. But the rise of
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic-originated religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of ...

Christianity
strained that unity, as the cult was always much more widespread in the East than in the West, which was still largely pagan in 395. Constantine's massive reconstruction of the city of
Byzantium Byzantium () or Byzantion ( grc-gre, Βυζάντιον) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: (), Dark A ...

Byzantium
into
Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germa ...

Constantinople
, a second capital to rival Rome, led to the establishment of a separate eastern court and bureaucracy. Finally, the political split became complete with the collapse of the in the early 5th century and its replacement by a number of barbarian Germanic kingdoms. The Western army was dissolved and was incorporated into the barbarian kingdoms. The Eastern empire and army, on the other hand, continued with gradual changes until the Persian and later Arab invasions in the 7th century. These deprived the East Roman empire of its dominions in the Middle East and North Africa, especially Egypt.


The Army from Theodosius I to Zeno


The Army from Anastasius to Heraclius


Army Size

Warren Treadgold Warren T. Treadgold (born April 30, 1949, Oxford, England) is an American historian A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical na ...
estimates that the east Roman army had about 3,500 ''scolae'' or guards, 104,000 field army soldiers, with an uncertain number of sailors, and 195,500 border army soldiers, again with an uncertain number of sailors, in 395. Treadgold also estimates that the east Roman army had about 150,000 field army soldiers, with an uncertain number of sailors, in 559, late in the period of
Justinian Justinian I (; la, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus; grc-gre, Ἰουστινιανός ; 48214 November 565), also known as Justinian the Great, was the Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation o ...

Justinian
. Treadgold also estimates that the east Roman army had about 80,000 field army soldiers, with an uncertain number of sailors, in 641, after the Islamic conquest of Syria and Egypt.


Numbers

The size of the Eastern army in 395 is controversial because the size of individual regiments is not known with any certainty. Plausible estimates of the size of the whole 4th-century army (excluding fleets) range from c. 400,000 to c. 600,000.Jones (1964) 683 This would place the Eastern army in the rough range 200,000 to 300,000, since the army of each division of the empire was roughly equal. The higher end of the range is provided by the late 6th-century military historian
Agathias Agathias or Agathias Scholasticus ( grc-gre, Ἀγαθίας σχολαστικός; Martindale, Jones & Morris (1992), pp. 23–25582/594), of Myrina (Mysia), an Aeolian city in western Asia Minor (now in Turkey), was a Greece, Greek poet and the ...
, who gives a global total of 645,000 effectives for the army "in the old days", presumed to mean when the empire was united. This figure probably includes fleets, giving a total of c. 600,000 for the army alone. Agathias is supported by A.H.M. Jones' ''Later Roman Empire'' (1964), which contains the fundamental study of the late Roman army. Jones calculated a similar total of 600,000 (exc. fleets) by applying his own estimates of unit strength to the units listed in the ''Notitia Dignitatum''. Following Jones, Treadgold suggests 300,000 for the East in 395.Treadgold (1995) 45 But there are strong reasons to view 200,000 as more likely: # Jones' assumptions about unit strengths, based on
papyri Papyrus ( ) is a material similar to thick paper Paper is a thin sheet material produced by mechanically or chemically processing cellulose fibres derived from wood, Textile, rags, poaceae, grasses or other vegetable sources in water, dr ...

papyri
evidence from Egypt, are probably too high. A rigorous reassessment of the evidence by R. Duncan-Jones concluded that Jones had overestimated unit sizes by 2-5 times.Duncan-Jones (1990) 105-17 # The evidence is that regiments were typically one-third understrength in the 4th century. Thus Agathias' 600,000 on paper (if it is based on official figures at all) may in reality have translated into only 400,000 actual troops on the ground. # Agathias gives a figure of 150,000 for the army in his own time (late 6th century) which is more likely to be accurate than his figures for the 4th century. If Agathias' 4th- and 6th-century figures are taken together, they would imply that Justinian's empire was defended by only half the troops that supposedly defended the earlier empire, despite having to cover even more territory (the reconquered provinces of Italy, Africa and S. Spain), which seems inherently unlikely. The discrepancy in army size estimates is mainly due to uncertainty about the size of ''limitanei'' regiments, as can be seen by the wide range of estimates in the table below. Jones suggests ''limitanei'' regiments had a similar size to Principate auxilia regiments, averaging 500 men each. More recent work, which includes new archaeological evidence, tends to the view that units were much smaller, perhaps averaging 250. There is less dispute about ''comitatus'' regiments, because of more evidence. Treadgold estimates the 5 ''comitatus'' armies of the East as containing c. 20,000 men each, for a total of c. 100,000, which constitutes either one-third or one-half of the total army. About one third of the army units in the ''Notitia'' are cavalry, but cavalry numbers were less than that proportion of the total because cavalry unit sizes were smaller.Elton (1996) 106 The available evidence suggests that the proportion of cavalry was about one-fifth of the total effectives: in 478, a ''comitatus'' of 38,000 men contained 8,000 cavalry (21%).


Higher Command

The later 4th-century army contained three types of army group: (1) Imperial escort armies (''comitatus praesentales''). These were ordinarily based near Constantinople, but often accompanied the emperors on campaign. (2) Regional armies (''comitatus''). These were based in strategic regions, on or near the frontiers. (3) Border armies (''exercitus limitanei''). These were based on the frontiers themselves. The command structure of the Eastern army, as recorded in the ''Notitia Dignitatum'', is represented diagrammatically in the organisation chart (above). By the end of the 4th century, there were 2 ''comitatus praesentales'' in the East. They wintered near Constantinople at Nicaea and Nicomedia. Each was commanded by a ''
magister militum (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic ...
'' ("master of soldiers", the highest military rank) Each ''magister'' was assisted by a deputy called a ''vicarius''.Jones (1964) 609 There were 3 major regional ''comitatus'', also with apparently settled winter bases: Oriens (based at
Antioch Antioch on the Orontes (; grc, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου, ''Antiókheia hē epì Oróntou''; also Syrian Antioch) grc-koi, Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Ὀρόντου; or Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Δάφνῃ ...
), Thraciae (
Marcianopolis Marcianopolis or Parthenopolis was an ancient Greek, then Roman capital city and archbishopric in Moesia Inferior Moesia (; Latin: ''Moesia''; el, Μοισία, Moisía) was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balk ...
), Illyricum (Sirmium) plus two smaller forces in Aegyptus (Alexandria) and
Isauria Isauria ( or ; grc, Ἰσαυρία), in ancient geography, is a rugged isolated district in the interior of Asia Minor Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula ...
. The large ''comitatus'' were commanded by ''magistri'', the smaller ones by ''comites''. All five reported direct to the eastern ''Augustus''. This structure remained essentially intact until the 6th century.


Army Organization

Units were classified according to whether they were attached to the guard (''
excubitores The Excubitors ( la, excubitores or , literally "those out of bed", i.e. "sentinels";In the Roman army, ''excubiae'' were guard posts and ''excubitores'' the guards stationed there. . transcribed into Greek language, Greek as ) were founded in a ...
'' and ''
scholae Scholae ( el, Σχολαί) is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through th ...
''), the field armies ('' palatini'' and ''
comitatenses The comitatenses and later the palatini were the units of the field armies of the late Roman Empire The Later Roman Empire spans the period from 284 AD to 641 in the history of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ...
'') or the border armies (''
limitanei The ''līmitāneī'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be ...

limitanei
''). The strength of these units is very uncertain and may have varied over the 5th and 6th centuries. Size may also have varied depending on the status of the regiment. The table below gives some recent estimates of unit strength, by unit type and grade: The overall picture is that ''comitatenses'' units were either c. 1,000 or c. 500 strong. ''Limitanei'' units would appear to average about 250 effectives. But much uncertainty remains, especially regarding the size of ''limitanei'' regiments, as can be seen by the wide ranges of the size estimates.


Excubitores

The Emperor
Leo ILeo I may refer to: People * Pope Leo I (400–461), also known as Pope Saint Leo the Great * Leo I (emperor), Roman emperor from 457 to 474 * Leo I, Prince of Armenia (d. 1140) * Leo I, King of Armenia (1150–1219), sometimes also referr ...
created the ''Excubitores'' as an elite bodyguard of about 300 soldiers. However, the intrigues and political ambitions of their commanders (The Counts of the Excubitors, rendered in Latin as ''comes excubitorum'') such as
Priscus Priscus of Panium (; el, Πρίσκος; 410s AD/420s AD-after 472 AD) was a 5th-century Eastern Roman Empire, Eastern Roman diplomat and Byzantine Greeks, Greek historian and rhetorician (or Sophist (dialogue), sophist)...: "For information a ...
during the reigns of the Emperors
MauriceMaurice may refer to: People *Saint Maurice (died 287), Roman legionary and Christian martyr *Maurice (emperor) or Flavius Mauricius Tiberius Augustus (539–602), Byzantine emperor *Maurice (bishop of London) (died 1107), Lord Chancellor and Lor ...
,
Phocas Phocas ( la, Focas; el, Φωκᾶς; 5475 October 610) was Byzantine emperor from 602 to 610. The early life of Phocas is largely unknown, but he rose to prominence in 602, as a leader in the revolt against Emperor Maurice (emperor), Maurice. ...

Phocas
and
Heraclius Heraclius ( el, Ἡράκλειος, ''Hērakleios''; c. 575 – 11 February 641), sometimes called Heraclius I, was the Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople la, Constantinop ...
and the Count Valentinus during the reign of Emperor
Constans II Constans II ( gr, Κώνστας, ''Kōnstas''; 7 November 630 – 15 July 668), nicknamed "the Bearded" (ὁ Πωγωνᾶτος; ''ho Pogonâtos''), was emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 641 to 668. He was the last attested emperor to serve ...
, doomed Leo I's formerly famed Isaurian unit to obscurity.


Scholae

The emperor
Constantine I Constantine I ( la, Flavius Valerius Constantinus; ; 27 February 22 May 337), also known as Constantine the Great, was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). Th ...

Constantine I
created the ''Scholae Palatinae'' as an elite guards unit of about 6,000 soldiers, and to replace the
Praetorian Guard The Praetorian Guard (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power o ...
of about 10,000 soldiers. 40 select troops from the ''scholae'', called ''candidati'' from their white uniforms, acted as the emperor's personal bodyguards. Apart from the ''
Agentes in Rebus The ''agentes in rebus'' ( grc, ἀγγελιαφόροι, angeliaphóroi, messengers, or , ''magistrianoí'', 'magister Magister is Latin for "master" or "teacher". It may refer to: Positions and titles * Magister degree, an academic degree * M ...
'', the ''Scholae'' were originally organized as cavalry units to accompany the emperors on campaign, although later, individual members of the ''Scholae'' could have non-military missions.Treadgold, Warren, ''Byzantium and its Army, 284-1081'', page 92. Eventually,
Justinian Justinian I (; la, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus; grc-gre, Ἰουστινιανός ; 48214 November 565), also known as Justinian the Great, was the Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation o ...

Justinian
auctioned off positions in what was still a prestigious ceremonial unit, but no longer a fighting force. They were outside the normal military chain of command as they did not belong to the ''comitatus praesentales'' and reported to the ''magister officiorum'', a civilian official. However, this was probably only for administrative purposes: on campaign, the tribunes commanding each ''schola'' probably reported direct to the emperor himself. The ''Notitia Dignitatum'' lists 7 scolae of cavalry and 1 of agents in the East Roman empire, as well as 5 of cavalry and 1 of agents in the West Roman empire.


Palatini and Comitatenses

''Comitatenses'' cavalry units were known as ''vexillationes'', infantry units as either ''legiones'' or ''auxilia''. About half the units in the ''comitatus'', both cavalry and infantry, were classified as ''palatini''. The palatini were the majority of the ''comitatus praesentales'' (80% of regiments) and constituted a minority of the regional ''comitatus'' (14%). The ''palatini'' were an elite group with higher status and probably pay. The majority of cavalry units in the ''comitatus'' were traditional melee formations (61%). These units were denoted ''scutarii'', ''stablesiani'' or ''promoti'', probably honorific titles rather than descriptions of function. 24% of regiments were light cavalry: ''equites
Dalmatae The Delmatae, alternatively Dalmatae during the Roman period, were a group of Illyrian tribes This is a list of ancient tribes in the ancient territory of Illyria ( grc-gre, Ἰλλυρία; la, Illyria). The name ''Illyrians The Illyrians ...
'', ''Mauri'' and ''sagittarii'' (mounted archers). 15% were heavily armoured shock charge cavalry: '' cataphracti'' and ''
clibanarii The Clibanarii or Klibanophoroi ( el, κλιβανοφόροι, meaning "camp oven-bearers" from the Greek word meaning "camp oven" or "metallic furnace"), in Persian Grivpanvar, were a Sasanian The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officia ...
''


Limitanei

The limitanei garrisoned fortifications along the borders of the Roman Empire. They were lower-status and lower-paid than the comitatenses and palatini.Treadgold 1995, pp. 149-157. The nature of the limitanei changed considerably between their introduction in the 3rd or 4th century and their disappearance in the 6th or 7th century. In the 4th century, the limitanei were professional soldiers,Treadgold 1995, p. 161.Strobel 2011, p. 268. and included both infantry and cavalry as well as river flotillas,The ''Notitia Dignitatum''.Treadgold 1995, pp. 44-59. but after the 5th century they were part-time soldiers, and after the 6th century they were unpaid militia. The role of the limitanei appears to have included garrisoning frontier fortifications, operating as border guards and customs police, and preventing small-scale raids.Treadgold1995, p. 93.Elton 1996, pp. 204-206.


Recruitment

Although the East Roman army sometimes turned to conscription it usually relied on volunteer soldiers.Elton, Hugh, "Army and Battle in the Age of Justinian," in Erdkamp, Paul, ''A Companion to the Roman Army'', p. 535. Shortages of money, rather than of manpower, usually limited recruitment. In 395, the army used Latin as its operating language. This continued to be the case into the late 6th century, despite the fact that Greek was the common language of the Eastern empire. This was not simply due to tradition, but also to the fact that about half the Eastern army continued to be recruited in the Latin-speaking Danubian regions of the Eastern empire. An analysis of known origins of ''comitatenses'' in the period 350-476 shows that in the Eastern army, the Danubian regions provided 54% of the total sample, despite constituting just 2 of the 7 eastern
dioceses In church governance, a diocese or bishopric is the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrust ...
(administrative divisions): Dacia and Thracia. These regions continued to be the prime recruiting grounds for the East Roman army e.g. the emperor
Justin I Justin I ( la, Flavius Iustinus; grc-gre, Ἰουστῖνος, ''Ioustînos''; 2 February 450 – 1 August 527) was the Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople la, Constantinopol ...
(r. 518-27), uncle of Justinian I, was a Latin-speaking peasant who never learnt to speak more than rudimentary Greek. The Romanized
Thracian The Thracians (; grc, Θρᾷκες ''Thrāikes''; la, Thraci) were an Indo-European speaking people, who inhabited large parts of Eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current Chinese airline based in S ...
(Thraco-Roman) and Illyrians, Illyrian inhabitants of those regions, who came to be known as Vlachs by foreigners in the Middle Ages, retained the Roman name (Romanians) and the Latin tongue.


Tactics


Heavy infantry

The East Roman heavy infantry relied on their spears and shields in close combat.Stephenson, I.P., ''Romano-Byzantine Infantry Equipment'', p. 79. These weapons were most effective when the soldiers fought in formation.


Maurikios' Strategikon

The Strategikon is the earliest surviving Roman/Byzantine cavalry manual, and directly influenced later Byzantine military manuals. The Strategikon describes the organization, equipment, and tactics of the east Roman army at the end of this period.


Equipment

The east Roman army included both light and heavy infantry, as well as light and heavy cavalry. The equipment of the East Roman army changed considerably between the 4th and 7th Centuries. By the end of the period, the cavalry had armor and horse armor, with both bows and lances as weapons. The heavy infantry still had armor, with large shields, spears, and swords. The light infantry had bows. M.C. Bishop and J.C.M. Coulston, in a major work on Roman military equipment, do not distinguish the equipment of the various branches of the Roman military. It is doubtful whether there were any universal differences between the equipment of the palatini, comitatenses, and limitanei. The late Roman empire had centralized fabricae, introduced by Diocletian, to provide arms and armor for the army.Bishop & Coulston 2006, pp. 233-240. The introduction of the centralized fabricae, where earlier armies had relied on legionary workshops, may reflect the needs of the field armies. The basic equipment of a 4th-century foot soldier was essentially the same as in the 2nd century: metal armour cuirass, metal helmet, shield and sword. Some evolution took place during the 3rd century. Trends included the adoption of warmer clothing; the disappearance of distinctive legionary armour and weapons; the adoption by the infantry of equipment used by the cavalry in the earlier period; and the greater use of heavily armoured cavalry called cataphracts.


Clothing

According to the ''Strategikon'', the cavalry soldiers should have long "Avar" tunics reaching past the knees, and large cloaks with sleeves. According to the ''Strategikon'', the infantry soldiers should have long "Gothic" tunics reaching the knees, or short ones with split sides, as well as "Gothic" shoes with thick hobnailed soles, and "Bulgarian" cloaks. In the 1st and 2nd centuries, a Roman soldier's clothes consisted of a single-piece, short-sleeved tunic whose hem reached the knees and special hobnailed sandals (''caligae''). This attire, which left the arms and legs bare, had evolved in a Mediterranean climate and was not suitable for northern Europe in cold weather. In northern Europe, long-sleeved tunics, trousers (''bracae''), socks (worn inside the ''caligae'') and laced boots were commonly worn in winter from the 1st century. During the 3rd century, these items of clothing became much more widespread, apparently common in Mediterranean provinces also. However, it is likely that in warmer weather, trousers were dispensed with and ''caligae'' worn instead of socks and boots. Late Roman clothing was often highly decorated, with woven or embroidered strips, ''clavi,'' and circular roundels, ''orbiculi,'' added to tunics and cloaks. These decorative elements usually consisted of geometrical patterns and stylised plant motifs, but could include human or animal figures. A distinctive part of a soldier's costume, though it seems to have also been worn by non-military bureaucrats, was a type of round, brimless hat known as the pannonian cap (''pileus pannonicus'').


Armour

In the 3rd century, troops are depicted wearing mail armor, mail or scale armour. The artistic record shows that most late soldiers wore metal armour, despite Vegetius' statement to the contrary. For example, illustrations in the ''Notitia'' show that the army's ''fabricae'' (arms factories) were producing mail armour at the end of the 4th century. Actual examples of both scale armour and quite large sections of mail have been recovered, at Trier and Weiler-La-Tour respectively, within 4th-century contexts. Officers generally seem to have worn bronze or iron cuirasses, as in the days of the Principate, together with traditional ''pteruges''. The cataphract and ''clibanarii'' cavalry, from limited pictorial evidence and especially from the description of these troops by Ammianus, seem to have worn specialist forms of armour. In particular their limbs were protected by laminated defences, made up of curved and overlapping metal segments: ''"Laminarum circuli tenues apti corporis flexibus ambiebant per omnia membra diducti"'' (Thin circles of iron plates, fitted to the curves of their bodies, completely covered their limbs).


Helmets

In general, Roman cavalry helmets had enhanced protection, in the form of wider cheek-guards and deeper neck-guards, for the sides and back of the head than infantry helmets. Infantry were less vulnerable in those parts due to their tighter formation when fighting. During the 3rd century, infantry helmets tended to adopt the more protective features of cavalry helmets of the Principate. Cheek-guards could often be fastened together over the chin to protect the face, and covered the ears save for a slit to permit hearing e.g. the "Auxiliary E" type or its Niederbieber variant. Cavalry helmets became even more enclosed e.g. the "Heddernheim" type, which is close to the medieval great helm, but at the cost much reduced vision and hearing. In contrast, some infantry helmets in the 4th century reverted to the more open features of the main Principate type, the "Imperial helmet, Imperial Gallic". The "Intercisa" design left the face unobstructed and had ear-holes in the join between cheek-guards and bowl to allow good hearing. In a radical change from the earlier single-bowl design, the Intercisa bowl was made of two separate pieces joined by a riveted ridge in the middle (hence the term "Late Roman ridge helmet, ridge helmet"). It was simpler and cheaper to manufacture, and therefore probably by far the most common type, but structurally weaker and therefore offered less effective protection. The "Berkasovo" type was a more sturdy and protective ridge helmet. This type of helmet usually has 4 to 6 skull elements (and the characteristic median ridge), a nasal (nose-guard), a deep brow piece riveted inside the skull elements and large cheekpieces. This was probably the cavalry version, as the cheekpieces lack ear-holes. Unusually the helmet discovered at Burgh Castle, in England, is of the Berkasovo method of construction, but has cheekpieces with earholes. Face-guards of mail or in the form of metal 'anthropomorphic masks,' with eye-holes, were often added to the helmets of the heaviest forms of cavalry, especially ''cataphracti''. Despite the apparent cheapness of manufacture of their basic components, many surviving examples of Late Roman helmets, including the Intercisa type, show evidence of expensive decoration in the form of silver or silver-gilt sheathing. A possible explanation is that most of the surviving exemplars may have belonged to officers and that silver- or gold-plating denoted rank; and, in the case of mounted gemstones, high rank e.g. the ornate Deurne helmet, Deurne helmet, believed by some historians to have belonged to a senior officer.Goldsworthy (2003) 202 Other academics, in contrast, consider that silver-sheathed helmets may have been widely worn by ''comitatus'' soldiers, given as a form of pay or reward. Some East Roman soldiers wore mail or scale hoods for head protection; these could be part of mail coats or could be separate coifs. Similar armoured hoods appear in an illustration in the Vergilius Vaticanus.


Shields

Shields were both protective equipment for the soldiers and insignia for their units. Both Vegetius, in De re Militari, and Mauricius, in the Strategikon, emphasize that each unit should have distinctive shields. Lance-armed cavalry carried shields, although bow-armed cavalry generally did not. All troops adopted the auxiliary oval (or sometimes round) shield (''clipeus''). Shields, from examples found at Dura and Nydam, were of vertical plank construction, the planks glued, and faced inside and out with painted leather. The edges of the shield were bound with stitched rawhide, which shrank as it dried improving structural cohesion. It was also lighter than the edging of copper alloy used in earlier Roman shields.


Hand-to-hand weapons

The East Roman heavy infantry relied on the spear in close combat. No late Roman or East Roman spear shafts survive, but I.P. Stephenson suggests that East Roman spears may have been as long as northern European spears discovered in the bog deposits at Illerup and Nydam, between 2.23 meters and 3.54 meters long. The infantry adopted the ''spatha'', a longer (median length: 760 mm/30 in) sword that during the earlier centuries was used by the cavalry only.Goldsworthy (2003) 205 In addition, Vegetius mentions the use of a shorter-bladed sword termed a ''semispatha.'' At the same time, infantry acquired a heavy thrusting-spear (''hasta (spear), hasta'') which became the main close order combat weapon to replace the ''gladius'', as the ''spatha'' was too long to be swung comfortably in tight formation (although it could be used to stab). These trends imply a greater emphasis on fighting the enemy "at arm's length". Short, single-edged knives were also used, although probably as tools rather than weapons. These appear in 4th-century graves with military belt fittings, and similar tools appear in 4th through 7th-century contexts.


Missile weapons

In addition to his thrusting-spear, a late foot soldier might also carry a throwing-spear (''verutum'') or a ''spiculum'', a kind of heavy, long ''pilum'', similar to an angon. Alternatively, a couple of short javelins (''lanceae''). Late infantrymen often carried half a dozen lead-weighted throwing-darts called ''plumbatae'' (from ''plumbum'' = "lead"), with an effective range of c. , well beyond that of a javelin. The darts were carried clipped to the back of the shield. The late foot soldier thus had greater missile capability than his Principate predecessor, who was usually limited to just two ''pila''.Goldsworthy (2000) 168 Late Roman archers continued to use the recurved composite bow as their principal weapon. This was a sophisticated, compact and powerful weapon, suitable for mounted and foot archers alike (the cavalry version being more compact than the infantry's). A small number of archers may have been armed with crossbows (''manuballistae'').Elton (1996) 108


Campaigns

In the 6th century, the emperor
Justinian I Justinian I (; la, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus; grc-gre, Ἰουστινιανός ; 48214 November 565), also known as Justinian the Great, was the Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation o ...
, who reigned from 527 to 565, sent much of the East Roman army to try to reconquer the former Western Roman Empire, West Roman empire. In these wars, the East Roman empire reconquered parts of North Africa from the Vandal kingdom and Italy from the Ostrogothic kingdom, as well as parts of southern
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
. In the 7th century, the emperor
Heraclius Heraclius ( el, Ἡράκλειος, ''Hērakleios''; c. 575 – 11 February 641), sometimes called Heraclius I, was the Byzantine emperor This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople la, Constantinop ...
led the east Roman army against the
Sassanid Empire The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ''Ērānshahr The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its ...
, temporarily regaining
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
and
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...

Syria
, and then against the
Rashidun Caliphate The Rashidun Caliphate ( ar, اَلْخِلَافَةُ ٱلرَّاشِدَةُ, al-Khilāfah ar-Rāšidah) was the first of the four major caliphate A caliphate ( ar, خِلَافَة, ) is an Islamic state under the leadership of an ...
. His defeat at the
Battle of Yarmuk The Battle of the Yarmuk (also spelled Yarmouk) was a major battle between the army of the Byzantine Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire ...
would lead to the Islamic conquest of Syria and Egypt, and would force the reorganization of the East Roman army, leading to the Theme (Byzantine district), thematic system of later Byzantine armies.


Citations


References

* * * * * * * * * * *


See also

*
Late Roman army In modern scholarship, the "late" period of the Roman army begins with the accession of the Emperor Diocletian in AD 284, and ends in 476 with the deposition of Romulus Augustulus, being roughly coterminous with the Dominate. During the period ...
*Roman army *
Byzantine army The Byzantine army was the primary military body of the Byzantine The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity a ...
{{DEFAULTSORT:East Roman Army Military history of ancient Rome Byzantine army Late Roman military