Thursday, October 5, 2023

Komnenian Byzantines

 Alexios I Komnenos (GreekἈλέξιος Κομνηνός, 1057 – 15 August 1118; Latinized Alexius I Comnenus) was Byzantine emperor from 1081 to 1118. Although he was not the first emperor of the Komnenian dynasty, it was during his reign that the Komnenos family came to full power and initiated a hereditary succession to the throne. Inheriting a collapsing empire and faced with constant warfare during his reign against both the Seljuq Turks in Asia Minor and the Normans in the western Balkans, Alexios was able to curb the Byzantine decline and begin the military, financial, and territorial recovery known as the Komnenian restoration. His appeals to Western Europe for help against the Turks was the catalyst that sparked the First Crusade

The Komnenian Dynasty gave the empire a new lease on life following the disaster at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071.

When Alexius ascended the throne in 1081 he was immediately faced with fighting the Italo-Normans, losing twice before driving them back only to have many resurface as mercenaries in his own army or during the 1st Crusade on their way to Jerusalem.

For the next hundred years or so the Komnenos family would hold the empire together fighting off enemies on all sides until the Venetians would sack Constantinople in 1204 during the 4th Crusade.

The army that was reconstructed after Manizekert has always interested me. It's one of those armies that was not what it once was, bit often good enough when well led by the Komnenus clan.

The figures below are my representation of the post Manzikert period. The bulk of the units are from the Ral Partha 1200 line that is still available via Iron Wind but at outrageous prices. Most of mine were eBay finds and so cost a little less, but not much.

Minifigs contributed three units to the mix and Hinchcliffe two.

They are organized for Lion Rampant 2 and total over 50 points.

The post Manzikert infantry of the Byzantines was still a mixture of spearmen and archers although archers came to dominate. Most were garrison troops called out to defend their theme or assist in sieges. This unit consists of Ral Partha figs and is a split unit for LR2, 1\2 archers and 1\2 spearmen. They are right infantry in LR2.

These archers are Minifigs from their Byzantine line. They are equipped with mail and function like massed archers in LR2.

The famous Varangian Guard which by 1081 consisted of refugee Anglo\Danes after Hastings as well as  Scandinavians. These are also Minifigs and fit into my preferences for vintage 25mm figures. There are Varangian figures, Anglo\Dane Huscarls and a few 1st Crusade types in the mix, all Minifigs.

The shields were a challenge since my painting skills fall short of the intricate designs and finding transfers for 25mm shields is impossible. The shields are 28mm (Deus Vult) and so a little out of scale but worth it to me because of the great designs with the red, black and blue themes.

These are also Minifigs. The Byzantines at times seem to have used old terminology for their troop types. These would be called Peltastoi reminding the reader of the Peltasts of earlier times.

These are Hinchliffe light archers, skirmishers in LR2 and an eBay find. Hinchliffe figures have a style of their own. They would classify as "large 25mm" compared to the Minifigs and Ral Partha figures.

Hinchliffe Pechenegs. Although Alexis had to fight the Pechenegs he also employed them in large numbers as mercenaries. Like the Minifigs, Hinchcliffe figures are vintage to me although still available from the UK (Lancashire Miniatures) and sometimes on eBay.

I'm also interested in the 1st Crusade and one amusing story from the 1st Crusade involves the Pechenegs. The Pechenegs were notorious fast-moving horse archers and as a whole land pirates who raided for slaves and wealth. After their defeat by Alexis he employed them in great numbers. When the 1st Crusade passed through Byzantine lands on their way to Jerusalem he employed the Pechenegs as a mounted police force to keep the Crusaders from stealing from the Emperor's subjects. I find that amusing since its like asking the fox to guard the hen house!

It is a matter of debate whether or not the famous Kataphractoi survived Manzikert or were re-raised. Certainly, Byzantine nobles still had access to armored horses and for LR2 purposes (a skirmish game for the most part) a small retinue of Kataphractoi is permissible. They are Ral Partha while the mounted officer is a Minifig.

As noted the Ral Partha 1200 line is available through Iron Wind in the US. They are very costly, way above average. It is however a classic vintage line.

Ral Partha Normans from the 1200 line. The Normans (sometimes called Franks by the Byzantines) were important enemies of the Byzantines as well as helpful mercenaries as the numbers of native Greek cavalry declined. 

Anna Kommenus, Alexis's daughter said the Normans could charge through the walls of Constantinople!

Ral Partha Byzantine light horse from the 1200 line. Although the Byzantines employed large numbers of steppe horse archers they still fielded skilled javelin cavalry.

Thematic Byzantine Cavalry. While much of the Tagma was destroyed at Manizert the theme system could still put heavy cavalry in the field. The Ral Partha figures featured here are a neat range. For LR2 they can function with bow or without. I like the look of the split unit.

My leader unit of Thematic cavalry.

A close up of Thematic Heavy Cavalry.

A final pic of the Varangians, probably the most famous unit within the Byzantine army. They would serve faithfully. There is some evidence that Varangians would soldier on within the Byzantine successor states after Constantinople would become the center of the short lived Latin Kingdom (1204-1261).

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