Byzantine Infantry Types, 11th C.

Stratēlatai Tagma, a re-created military unit, allied with representatives of the Varangian Guard and other troop types.

StratTag2.JPG (72858 bytes)

Our unit potentially included many different types of soldier, summarized here.  

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), a menavlite, and cavalryman.

Armored Hoplites or Skutatos

The first rank or two of the foulhon )or phalanx type formation) are usually hoplites in klivanion (lamellar plate) or lorikion (maile) armor.  These may be called skutatos (shieldman carrying the skoutarion).  The first is usually the Dekarklos.

StratRick3.JPG (162893 bytes) Strattagrick1.JPG (198318 bytes)Dekarklos- skutatos  - you can tell because my armor is complete and shield has a spike and the the 2nd ranker does not have a spike, for fairly obvious reasons.   Hey what's wrong with this picture? ( I am wearing the armor backwards.) 

SabreBowMen1300S.jpg (430569 bytes)  The icons of military saints usually portray officers with most of the elements of the armored Skutatos.

stratJim.JPG (45078 bytes)  2nd rank might have somewhat lighter armor.  Under the padded

The third armored hoplite is the last man or file closer, the kontouvernion , last man in the formation and 2nd in seniority in the file unit Dekarkhlon,

Unarmored Skutatos

The file closer and the one in the 3rd rank may be armored only with a heavy padded coat (kavadion)and felt cap wrapped in a turban. 

Rick1080ByzChargeS.JPG (71090 bytes)Rick1080ByzS.jpg (145095 bytes)rick1080Byzback.JPG (48330 bytes) unarmored skutatos of about 1050-1110.

He would likely be within the 3rd-7th rank of a foulhon, but may be front ranker is less well equipped units. This skutatos is also similarly attired to a peltistes (or lighter armed missile-throwing or archery soldier) while the first rank or two of the foulhon  might be hoplites in metal armor. With my shield I am well protected from the front, and the most likely danger to my side or rear - arrow strikes - are fairly well protected against by the padded coat.

I might also be called a  kontaratos for my kontarion (or makron) - 16 foot pike, which is wielded 2-handed or one handed. see also

Peltistes and Archers

StratGroupbow.JPG (57459 bytes)

The 4th and 7th ranks may contain an additional kontaratos, but often these positions and the 5th and 6th ranks are filled by peltistes ( lighter armed missle-throwing (javelin and slingers) or archery soldier) 

The javelin men also detached sometimes to act as skirmishers.


Finally, another type of soldier called the menavlatoi is used as a skirmisher but especially in an anti-cavalry role. He would join the file in front of the first rank in the event of an enemy cavalry charge, and would use his short boar-spear or polearm to gut enemy horses.

SanespearsS.jpg (782127 bytes)  2 possible types of menavlion head... the boar-spear type with cross guard is better documented and heavily used throughout Byzantium and the rest of 10-11th C. Europe.


stratGavin7.JPG (42463 bytes)

Axemen (e,g, member of Varangian guard) are not normally in 'regular' formations but their own special group (although they trained to integrate with spearmen in shieldwalls).  However, we also present Varangian guardsmen as well.

Weapons and kit

The skoutarion is a kite shield similar to those use by the Normans at the Battle of Hastings (1066) - (maybe they  copied the style from the Byzantines, who 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.

Steambox.JPG (25295 bytes)ShieldMold.JPG (92991 bytes)  Steambox and mold for forming the curve on the plywood blank. After you sit on the top of the mold with hot steamed wood, all you need to do is to apply clamps to keep it the mold in place overnight - 3 days is better.

Shieldback.JPG (54676 bytes)Shieldface.JPG (60572 bytes)ShieldFuzzy.JPG (44129 bytes) hussarscutumback.JPG (30293 bytes)hussarscutum3.JPG (29908 bytes) a 16th C. Skoutum

ShieldConcave0.JPG (35880 bytes)ShieldConcave.JPG (81258 bytes)ShieldConcaveFhase2.JPG (43374 bytes)ShieldFactory.JPG (37652 bytes)Scutum_helm.JPG (55812 bytes)ScutumInside.JPG (43762 bytes)

  Scutempairoutside.JPG (37401 bytes)scutumpairinside.JPG (43944 bytes)5shields.JPG (28580 bytes)Thistle.JPG (16731 bytes)  Skoutum in progress.   Its convex on the top, since I cut out a pie slice and stitched the pieces together.  These are bent plywood with linen or silk surface laminates. Silk is sweet, and coarse linen was too coarse, but medium linen worked fine.  I used hide glue for some of the layers and resin for others, experimenting. One is insufficiently dished.  The other is close, but the new ones have more dish. 

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 at least possibly the Tagmata'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.  I asked some folks at Smithsonian's herbarium for a guess, and they came up with no certain plant ID.  The first guess was the best: the flower looks like a thistle even if the leaves (buds?) seem wrong, and the thistle was a Byzantine symbol for Christ.  We adopted a variation of this theme,

I might be also armed with a tzikourion -axe

and paramerion - long straight or slightly curved saber

 Element of the body's kit include:

  HelmwFeathers.JPG (19597 bytes) Helmet or turban-wrapped felt cap.

Kavadion, heavily padded coat.  This is linen layers with several layers of felted cotton padding. It's over an inch thick and weighs up to 20 pounds. 

kavadon_coat.JPG (43901 bytes)

kampotouvia - leggings... still working on those
mouzakia - high boots.  They would likely be brown, of course, for a common soldier.  Or, slipper-like shoes tied about the ankle with straps, in a style still worn in the Balkans and the East.  

SpearsLaidout.jpg (631446 bytes)

feathersinside2.JPG (40272 bytes)feathersinside3.JPG (40319 bytes) inside view of feathers, made of leather and felt composite.

Byzantine Infantry Images


see also http://www.levantia /infantry. html  and T. Dawson's fine osprey book on Byzantine Infantry