Byzantine Infantry, 11th C.

Stratēlatai Tagma & Varangian Gaurd Tagma, re-created military units

The Stratēlatai were a Tagma (Brigade) formed by Emperor John Tzimisces in the late 10th C, after the military saint Theodore Stratelata ... feast day June 8... divinely intervened to win a battle for him.

The Stratēlatai are members of a living history society set in a resplendent era of the longest enduring empire the human race has ever known the (Eastern) Roman Empire during the 10th to 12th Centuries, a period which was for many Europeans the "Dark Ages"

                                                                                                               Right: Saint Theodore Stratelata 

The new Stratēlatai Tagma  recreates this historic military unit.   It was a professional regular formation created in the 10th C. of a mix of subjects of the Empire (the less-civilized rougher subjects, mostly), and individuals from neighboring warlike groups such as the Rus and Bulgars, who serve for pay and citizenship.  Most of us portray Rus or other Slav individuals, or members of another Tagma, the Varangian Guard.  This allows us to explore some of the roots of the Janissaries, another impression several of us do. (Since the Turks adopted mostly Byzantine traditions for that unit of Slave soldiers.) 

Some of us work toward presenting an early Rus/Polish impression, and this is a better-documented route toward a poorly documented historical area.

This unit trains with the techniques and drill that created and sustained the empire across two thousand years, and which form the basis for all modern military training.  In addition to demonstrating drill, Tagma soldiers cross swords with other societies in battle enactments. We are based in VA/DC/MD USA.

Supporting these activities is (potentially) a wide variety of arts, crafts and activities cookery, metalwork, woodwork, textile and leather crafts, music, dance, and more. For more on the everyday life of Romania (as its people had called it for over a thousand years) visit

 A file of a foulhon (or phalanx), consists of an 8 man Dekarkhlon commanded by the corporal or Dekarklos.  Our company is a Kentarkhion commanded by the Kenterion. We hope to have a group with all the key elements of a 11th C eastern Roman military formation.  At least 2 heavy infantry hoplites, a light infantry pikeman, a archer, a peltstat (slinger and javelineer),  menavlatoi , and cavalryman.  These are described here.

For an exploratory event, Rick put together this Byzantine impression of an unarmored skutatos of about 1050-1110, at Roman Days, Fairfax VA Sept 2008

Rick1080ByzChargeS.JPG (71090 bytes)Rick1080ByzS.jpg (145095 bytes)rick1080Byzback.JPG (48330 bytes)


I had a buddy with me at RD....

Grinding.JPG (474394 bytes)alexbear.JPG (285884 bytes)

Although our gear was a work in progress, A few of us attended a mostly Viking event Apr 2009, two heavy infantry skutatoi backed by an archer.

StratGroupbow.JPG (57459 bytes)StratTag2.JPG (72858 bytes)

An archer, and/or a Varangian axe-man

stratJim.JPG (45078 bytes)StratRick3.JPG (162893 bytes)stratGavin7.JPG (42463 bytes)StratTagGavin2.JPG (159972 bytes)

Byzy1.JPG (51466 bytes)Byzy2.JPG (74285 bytes)Byzy3.JPG (68340 bytes)Byzy4.JPG (156543 bytes)

In 2010 We appeared at MTT and Roman Days

2011 MTT

2011 Roman Days

The skoutarion is a kite shield similar to those use by the Normans at the Battle of Hastings (1066) - (they possibly copied the style from the Byzantines, whom they encountered directly in Sicily and indirectly though the "vikings" and Rus).   It is used with the kontarion with tension from the shoulder strap, the elbow in the crook of the curved shield, and forearm in a strap.  Other straps allow the shield to be used as a targe with sword-work.

  Scutempairoutside.JPG (37401 bytes)scutumpairinside.JPG (43944 bytes)scan0004.jpg (1829460 bytes) TheoStrat.jpg (226754 bytes) This shield is carried by an 11th C. image of the military saint Theadore Stratēlatos, to whom this unit was dedicated.  It is possibly the Tagma's shield design (unit shields were uniform), although we can't know, this is at least as good a guess as any.  It features a chevron and a stylized plant design, which is possibly a thistle.  We adopted a variation of this theme,


 (11/08) We supporting our Byzantine Regiment friends in NYC, who were doing a "1453 eve of the fall" (of Constantinople) music video for Phoenix Reign, a metal band.  We were actually the Janissaries, seen in the background.

Byz1453a.JPG (85574 bytes)Byz1453B.JPG (84343 bytes) Imperial adjustments

FullKitS.jpg (510783 bytes)SabreBowMen1300S.jpg (430569 bytes) Byzantine Military Saints, 11-12thC

We are flexible, and may expand our presentation in the future to the Justinian (6th C.) period, and 1456. We are also game for presenting 11th C. Rus and Poles, which have similar kit, and many soldiers of the historic Tagma would certainly be Rus or other Slav anyway. 

For information or to inquire about joining our project, please contact

-Rick,  Arlington VA USA 703  528   5618 (email     SOM at KISMETA dot COM )

Byzantine and Rus Images


Byzantine Infantry Types

Other groups :