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Empire from the Ashes: Early Komnenan Byzantine

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 10 months ago

Early Komnenan Byzantine, AD 1071 - AD 1143


Draft list by Ulf Olsson


This list covers the Byzantine armies from the disaster at Manzikert and the ensuing civil war until the accession of Manuel Komnenos.

The period began with the empire in deep crisis with civil war and the Seljuq Turks overrunning most of Anatolia. The winner of the civil wars was Alexios Komnenos. In spite of several serious defeats Alexios somehow managed to rebuild the army, repel the various enemies and recover some of the economic strength of the empire. Alexios was a diplomat of great ability and managed to direct and profit from the unexpected 1st Crusade that suddenly appeared.


The new army differed radically from the old ‘classic’ Byzantine army, however. The old Tagmatic elite units had largely been destroyed at Manzikert and in the civil wars that followed. In addition, the old recruiting areas in Anatolia had been lost to the Turks and there was an acute shortage of high-quality recruits.


The new army that Alexios created did contain quite a few locally recruited units, but with few exceptions their quality was not very impressive. Elite units were largely mercenaries of various backgrounds.


The new army lacked the long tradition and sense of identity that had characterized the previous Byzantine army where some units literally traced their traditions back to Roman times. That was a heritage that could never be recovered.

The immediate successors of Alexios continued his policy of rebuilding and gradually reconquering lost areas.


For a list of sources used to compile this list, please see Byzantine Sources.



Army List


Terrain: Normal - Hilly


0-1 Imperial Tagmatic Division

1c Tagmatic Kavallarioi

0-1 Tagmatic Kavallarioi (May only be used AD 1081-1143)

0-2 Provincial Kavallarioi


If the Imperial Tagmatic Division is used, it must be commanded by the C-in-C.


1-2 Provincial Division

1c Provincial Kavallarioi

1-2 Provincial Kavallarioi


0-2 Byzantine Infantry Division

1c Kontaratoi or Toxotai

0-1 Kontaratoi

1-2 Toxotai


0-1 Latinkon Division

1c Latinkon

1-2 Latinkon


Must be classed as Ally AD 1071 – AD 1080. May be classed as Ally AD 1081 – AD 1143.


0-1 Varangian Division

1c Varangian Guard

1-2 Varangian Guard


1-2 Skythikon Division

1c Skythikon

0-2 Skythikon


May be classed as Ally AD 1071 – AD 1080.


0-1 Seljuq Turk Ally Division

1c Seljuq Ally Turks

0-2 Seljuq Ally Turkomen


Additional Units

0-2 Latinkon (Note 1)

2-4 Turkopouloi (Note 2)

0-4 Skythikon (Note 3)

0-2 Slav Heretics (Note 4)

0-20 Ditch and bank camp defences (Note 5)

0-2 Bolt Shooters and Stone Throwers (Note 6)


Additional Unit Notes

No Additional Units may be added to an Allied Division


  1. Latinkon may only be added to the Imperial Tagmatic Division or a Provincial Division.
  2. Turkopouloi may not be added to a Byzantine Infantry Division or a Skythikon Division.
  3. Skythikon may be added to any Division except a Byzantine Infantry Division.
  4. Slav heretics may only be added to a Byzantine Infantry Division.
  5. Ditch and bank camp defences may only be used if defending in a positional battle. At least 10 widths of camp fortifications must be used if any are. A fortified camp must completely enclose the area of the camp or abut the Byzantine rear table edge and/or a river or sea. The camp enclosure must be continous except for one or two gaps representing the camp gates. The gate gap(s) must be exactly one base width wide.
  6. Artillery may only be deployed inside a Byzantine camp and cannot be moved during the game.


Mounted Units


Tagmatic Kavallarioi

Heavy Cavalry - Initiative 6 (Elite)

3 Bases - 57 Pts

4 Bases - 72 Pts



Includes the few surviving units of the old Tagmata as well as newly created Tagmatic units based in Constantinople. This is the elite of the ethnically Byzantine parts of the army and consists of full-time regular cavalry soldiers. The Tagmata retained good quality in this period and were well equipped, but high losses and reduced resources made them less effective than their predecessors.


Kavallarioi of Provincial Kavallarioi

Heavy Cavalry - Initiative 6 (Brittle)

3 Bases - 42 Pts

4 Bases - 52 Pts



Represents the full-time professional cavalry of the provinces. They tend to lack cohesion and morale and are not always well equipped.



Light Chevaliers – Initiative 6 (Audacious)

2 Bases - 60 Pts, 56 Pts if Ally

3 Bases - 78 Pts, 72 Pts if Ally


Must be classed as Ally AD 1071 – AD 1080. May be classed as Ally AD 1081 – AD 1143.



Latinkon are Norman and other Western mercenaries in Byzantine service. They are true medieval knights and very effective. In the early part of the period, especially during the civil wars, the western mercenaries were less than loyal to the Empire.



Light Horse Archers - Initiative 6 (Wave)

2 Bases - 36 Pts, 32 Pts if Allied

4 Bases - 60 Pts, 52 Pts if Allied


May be classed as Ally AD 1071 – AD 1080.



These units depict Pecheneg and Cuman mercenaries in Byzantine service. They were effective troops, but were not always loyal during the civil wars.



Light Horse Archers - Initiative 6 (Wave, Expert)

2 Bases - 38 Pts

4 Bases - 64 Pts



These units depict Christianised Turk mercenaries and their descendants. They were very effective troops.


Seljuq Ally Turks

Medium Horse Archers - Initiative 7 (Ally, Wave)

2 Bases - 38 Pts

4 Bases - 64 Pts



Surprisingly enough, the Byzantines often allied with Seljuq Turk factions, especially during the civil wars at start of the period. The Seljuq 'Turks' are the professional troops of Turk potentates and very effective and reliable soldiers. Their loyalty is to their chief and not to the Empire, however.


Seljuq Ally Turkomen

Light Horse Archers - Initiative 7 (Ally, Wave, Audacious)

2 Bases - 34 Pts

4 Bases - 56 Pts



The Turkomen are the tribal warriors of the Seljuq armies and make up the bulk of their forces. They tend to be rather unreliable, but they are also very skilled horse archers. See above.


Foot Units


Varangian Guard

Heavy Shock - Initiative 7 (Deep Line)

4 Bases - 42 Pts

6 Bases - 57 Pts

8 Bases - 72 Pts



The Varangians in Byzantine were the elite of the infantry and had a great reputation for combat effectiveness, as well as a remarkable reputation for political reliability. Whether they always lived up to their reputation is less than certain, though. During this period the original Russians and Scandinavians were joined by increasing numbers of English exiles.

See: Varangians- Depiction from the Skylitzes Madrid MS




Medium Shieldsmen - Initiative 6 (Brittle)

6 Bases - 26 Pts

8 Bases - 32 Pts



These units represent the heavy infantry component of the main Byzantine infantry force of the period. The heavy infantry were supposed to be well drilled and disciplined, but their performance indicates that this was not the case.



Medium or Light Archers – Initiative 6 (Brittle) or Initiative 5

6 Bases - 32 Pts if I6, 31 Pts if I5

8 Bases - 40 Pts if I6, 38 Pts if I5


All Toxotai must be I5 in AD 1071 - AD 1080. At least 1/2 of all Toxotai used must be Initiative 5 in AD 1081 - AD 1143. All Toxotai units in a Byzantine Infantry Division must have the same Initiative.



Lightly equipped infantry archers were recruited in the Themes and made up the bulk of the native Byzantine infantry of the period. At the start of the period they were of very doubtful quality, but improved somewhat toward the later parts of the period as the empire´s fortunes and finances improved.


Slav Heretics

Medium or Light Irregulars – Initiative 6

4 Bases - 20 Pts

6 Bases - 26 Pts



Lightly equipped infantry javelinmen recruited from Slav heretic communities in the border areas. They were considered good, if undisciplined, fighters.


Bolt Shooters and Stone Throwers


1 Base 20 Pts


Artillery can only be used if defending in a positional battle. It must be deployed inside a Fortified Camp.



The Byzantine army had a range of sophisticated artillery pieces of various sizes and types. Most were used in sieges, but the lighter types were also used for defending the army’s marching camps.


Fortified Camp

Medium Fortification

1 Width 8 Pt


The Fortified Camp may only be used if defending in a positional battle.



According to regulations, the Byzantine army was always supposed to erect Roman-style marching camps in enemy territory. This was not always done, however. In addition, some battles took place a considerable distance away from fortified camps, so the fortified camp is not compulsory.

Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 11:06 am on Sep 17, 2006

I'm a bit worried that the archer quality is inflated. With all Toxotai being Initiative 6, they're comparable to 'good' Latin crossbowmen or Welsh longbowmen.

The quality of the Byzantine army in this period wasn't all that impressive (I thought). Even Alexius Komnenos suffered a string of defeats.

I wonder if having the archers as a mix of I6 and I5 types would be more representative.

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