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Fighting Tactics and Strategy of the Middle Byzantine Armies against Slavs & Eurasian Steppe Peoples – PART II

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aaaaaaByzantine  iron  mail  cuirass  (Byzantine  Museum,  Athens,  Photo copyright: Giovanni  Dall’ Orto).

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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Continued from PART  I

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The  best  time  of   the  year  to  unleash  a  campaign  against  the  steppe  peoples  was  February  or  March,  when  the    nomad  horses  were  not  in  a  good  physical  condition,  due  to  their  stress  from  the  winter  weather.
When  a  Byzantine  army  defended  the  imperial  territory  against  the  nomad  onslaught,  it  was  better  for  its  commander  to  cover  its  rear  which  could  be  rapidly  overtaken  by  galloping  enemy  horse-archers,  having  in  the  back  of  the  imperial  army  an  impassable  for  horses  geophysical  obstacle  (rugged  terrain,  river,  marshes  etc.).  During  the  battle,  the  Byzantine  frontline  should  be  consisted  of  infantry  spearmen (a  sort  of  pikemen),  who  pointed  their  spearheads  against  the  enemy  horses.  Usually  the  Byzantine  infantrymen  could  confront  the  steppe  warriors  more  effectively  than  the  imperial  cavalrymen,  so  the  Byzantine  infantry  and  cavalry  should  not  in  any  way,  be  severed  during  the  battle  against  them.  The  steppe  horse-archers  usually  feared  of  the  Middle  Byzantine  infantry  archers,  because  their  bows  had  usually  a  greater  range  of  bowshot  than  their  own  nomadic.  Both  of  them  (Byzantines  and  nomads)  used  types  of  composite  bows (mostly  of  Hunnic  design)  but  the  Middle  Byzantine  bows  were  more  effective.  The  tactics  of  the  combined  military  action  of  the  imperial  frontline  (infantry  spearmen)  with  the  archers of  the  middle  lines  of  the  Byzantine  order  of  battle  (who  hurled  bowshots  over  the  heads  of  their  fellow  spearmen),  were  almost  impossible  to  be  encountered  by  the  nomad  horse-archers.  Generally,  the  nomads  could  hardly  break  a  defensive  formation  of  this  type,  even  if  they  unleashed  against  it their  cataphracts/heavy  cavalry  (which  would  be  confronted  immediately  by  the  enemy  heavy  cavalry – Byzantine  or  any  other  imperial).
From  the  6th  century and on, the  Byzantine  Empire  had  to  deal  with  the  Slavic  invasion  of  its  territories.  The  Slavs  were  led  initially  by  Altaic (mostly  Turkic),  Sarmatian  and  other  steppe  tribes  which  had  been  imposed  to  them  as  suzerains  (sometimes  without  any  Slavic  reaction  as  it  seems,  due  to  the  military  benefits  for  the  Slavs  from  their  cooperation  in  raids  with  the  powerful  nomad  cavalry).  This  is the  reason  why  the  Byzantine  tactics  against  them,  are  dealt  in  this  essay  along  with  the  imperial  tactics  against  the  Eurasian  nomads.

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Fighting Tactics and Strategy of the Middle Byzantine Armies against Slavs & Eurasian Steppe Peoples – PART I

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A  cataphract  cavalryman  of  the  Sassanian  army.  The  Byzantine  army  and  most  of  its  enemy  nomad  armies  included  this  type  of  extra-heavy  cavalrymen,  “ancestors”  of  the  Late  Medieval  European  Knights (artwork & copyright:  V. Vuksic).

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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Already  from  the  Early  Byzantine  Period  and  during  the  Middle  Period, the  Byzantines  faced  several  nomadic  peoples  of  the  Eurasian  steppes,  Altaic  and  some  Northern  Iranian. In  the  European  imperial  borders  they  faced  the  Black  Huns,  some  Late  Sarmatian  tribes  (Proto-Serbians  and  Proto-Croats  who  were  not  Slavic  yet,  Alanic  groups  etc.),  the  Avars,  some  Late  Hunnic  tribes  (Proto-Bulgarians,  Kutrigours,  Outigurs,  Saragurs, Onogurs  and  others),  the  Pecheneges  (“Patzinakes”  according  to  the  Byzantines),  the  Uzes (Uzoi),  the  Cumans  (“Kipchak”  in  their  own  Turkic/Turkish  language, and  “Polovtsy”  in  the  Eastern  Slavic  language)  and  others.  In  the  same  period,  the  Byzantines  faced  in  Asia  Minor  the  Seljuks  and  other  Turcoman (Turkmen/Oguz)  tribes.  On  the  other  hand,  the  Byzantine  army  consisted  partly  of  many  mercenaries,  mainly  horse-archers  from  almost  all  the  above  mentioned  peoples  with  the  addition  of  the  Magyars (proto-Hungarians),  the  Kavars (proto-Hungarians  also),  the  Khazars  and  the  Alans.

The  battle  tactics  of  the  nomadic  peoples  were  very  difficult  to  treat  by  the  Byzantine  or  any  other  imperial  army  that  attempted  to  confront  them.  The  Romans,  Byzantines,  Persians,  Chinese,  Indians,  Chorasmians  (Central  Asian  Iranians)  and  other  peoples  with  mainly  agricultural  economy,  suffered  devastating  defeats  by  these  demonic  horsemen  of  the  steppes.  The  superiority  of  the  nomad  fighting  tactics,  was  due  to  the  use  of  a  compination  of  very  fast  horsemen  (who  were  additionally  keen  archers)  and  heavily  armored  cavalry (sometimes  protected  by  full  body  armor  including  their  horses)  equipped  with  a  long  lance (“kontos”).  The  nomads,  while  generally  few  in  number,  were  excellent  archers  and  horsemen,  frugal  and  indomitable,  with  blazing  maneuvering  and  masters  of  surprise.  During  the  clashes  and  battles,  the  nomadic  horse-archers  “hammered”  the  enemy  soldiers  with  a  barrage  of  bowshots,  while  maintaining  a  safe  distance.  They  attacked  frontally  with  a  sword  (or  an  alpeen)  only  if  they  ascertained  that  the  opposing  army  had  been  disorganized  by  their  arrows.  The  nomads  were  masters  of  the  ancient  battle  tactic  of  the  steppe  peoples,  called  the  “feigned retreat”  which  they  usually  used  when  they  faced  a  superior  enemy.  When  applying  the  “feigned  retreat”, they  pretended  that  they  were  defeated  and  started  to  retreat  disorderly,  thus  dragging  the  enemy  army  in  a  rapid  march,  which  led  to  the  disruption  of  its  ranks.  So  the  disorganized  enemy  became  “easy  prey”  for  the  nomadic  horsemen  (horse-archers  and  cataphracts),  who  abruptly  interrupted  their  retreat  following  the  relevant  orders (sign)  of  their  commander,  they  made  “about-face”  with  their  horses  and  counterattacked, crashing  the  surprised  enemy.  The  nomad  feigned  retreat  could  last  for  some  minutes  or  continue  for  several  days.

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ROMA INVICTA (Part II): THE BATTLE OF THE SABIS (57 BC)

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RomanWithout wasting any time, the legionaries of Legio X crossed again the river Sabis to help Caesar’s men against the Nervii. Reenactment of imperial era legionaries by the Polish Historical Association Legio XXI Rapax, photo by Cezary Wyszynski.

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By Periklis Deligiannis
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CONTINUED FROM PART I

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Caesar marched with his six oldest legions towards the river Sabis sending first a body of cavalry to find a safe location where he would establish his camp. The newly founded XIII and XIV Legions followed at a distance, protecting the Roman supply convoy.
The Roman cavalry corps had crossed the river Sabis to its right bank along with bodies of light infantry and skirmishers in order to oversee the Belgae. However, the Celts suddenly dashed from the forest, screaming war cries and brandishing their swords. Soon they repelled the terrified Caesarian cavalrymen and crossed the river swimming. When they reached its left bank they began ascending speedily the hillside, heading towards the top of the hill where the Roman soldiers were working on the construction of the camp. Caesar found himself in a very difficult situation since he had to act instantly to rescue his unorganized and unarmed legionaries. He had to give orders to sound the bucinae, to raise the red vexillia calling the legionaries to hurry for battle, to gather his men who were cutting trees, etc., all this ‘in just a moment’ as he characteristically writes in his memoirs.
Fortunately for the Romans, Caesar had ordered his officers not to leave their soldiers until the construction was completed; thereby they were able to quickly gather their legionaries. The Romans were additionally helped by the high level of their military training and discipline. When the more isolated legionaries realized the danger of the stormy attack of the Belgians, acted with characteristic collectedness. They did not search for their units; on the contrary they grabbed their arms and armour and ran to the nearest Roman vexillium (war standard) that was lifted up. Thus in an incredibly short time, a battle line was formed. It was a typical manifestation of the robust organization and discipline of the Roman army, one of the many features that made it an unconquerable (invictus) killing  machine.

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ROMA INVICTA (Part I): Preparations and primary Operations of Caesar’s First war on the Belgae

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Romans

Reenactment of Roman legionaries at English Heritage Festival in 2011 (photo by Lichfield Lore). The picture could very well represent legionaries ready for combat in the dense forest of Belgica, but the problem is that the depicted legionaries are of the Imperial era.
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By Periklis Deligiannis

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In 58 BC the campaign of Julius Caesar for the subjugation of Gaul was going on. That year he overwhelmingly defeated the Germanic Suebi (Swebi) who also intended to conquer Gaul under their king Ariovistus. In the next year, the Roman general turned against the threatening Belgae. Many Gauls felt relieved by the destruction of the Suebi who had been threatening their homeland. Others understood that Caesar intended to turn their country into a Roman province.
The Belgae were a large conglomerate of Celtisized peoples mainly of the Northwestern pre-Celtic ethno-linguistic group (pre-Teutonic Germani) as it seems, whom the Germans had expelled from their cradle (in the east of the Rhine), thereby they settled in northeastern Gaul, mostly between the rivers Seine, Marne and the Rhine. However the Belgae included some Celtic proper and Germanic tribes and clans.
After their settlement in Gaul they had almost completely adopted La Tene culture (typical Celtic). Caesar in his ‘De Bello Gallico’ describes them as the most warlike and brave among the Gauls. The Belgians were additionally strengthened due to their long wars against the Germans. The majority of them were fanatically anti-Roman and their leaders and nobles supposedly kept their morals intact without succumbing to the Roman bribe attempts. The Belgae tribes were united in a tribal confederation on the basis of their common origins and culture.
The Belgae realized that Caesar would campaign against them and thus their leaders started to exchange hostages in order to further strengthen the bonds of their union.

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ΤΟΥΡΚΙΚΕΣ ΕΚΛΟΓΕΣ της 7ης Ιουνίου 2015: ΟΙ «ΤΡΕΙΣ ΤΟΥΡΚΙΕΣ» ΟΡΙΟΘΕΤΟΥΝΤΑΙ

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2015 Turkish General Elections

Τα αποτελέσματα των τουρκικών γενικών εκλογών της 7ης Ιουνίου 2015. Με πορτοκαλί χρώμα σημειώνεται το ΑΚΡ των «Μεσανατολιτών Τούρκων» του Ερντογάν, με κόκκινο το Ρεπουμπλικανικό Λαϊκό Κόμμα των κοσμικών «Ευρωτουρκων», με μωβ το HDP (φιλοκουρδικό) και με γαλαζιο το Κόμμα Εθνικιστικής Δράσης, η πολιτική έκφραση των «Γκρίζων Λύκων» (πηγή: Ηurriyet daily news). Είναι εμφανές πως οριοθετούνται οι “τρεις Τουρκίες” : οι ευρωπαϊστές στις ανεπτυγμένες δυτικές ακτές, οι ανήσυχοι Κούρδοι στο αντίθετο γεωγραφικό άκρο (Κουρδιστάν) και οι “Μεσανατολίτες” στη μέση. 
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MapTurkeyProvinces
Οι επαρχίες της Τουρκίας.
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Οι τακτικοί αναγνώστες του ιστολογιου θα θυμούνται το άρθρο Ο ΕΘΝΟΛΟΓΙΚΟΣ ΠΑΡΑΓΩΝ ΩΣ ΑΙΤΙΟ ΤΩΝ ΠΡΟΣΦΑΤΩΝ ΤΑΡΑΧΩΝ ΣΤΗΝ ΤΟΥΡΚΙΑ. Οι εκλογές της 7ης Ιουνίου 2015 στην Τουρκία μου δίνουν την ευκαιρία να παρουσιάσω και χαρτογραφημένες τις «δύο Τουρκίες» στις οποίες αναφέρομαι στο συγκεκριμένο άρθρο αλλά και την «τρίτη Τουρκία» την οποία αναφέρω στο τέλος του ίδιου άρθρου η οποία επιτέλους αναδύθηκε σε αυτές τις εκλογές. Η τελευταία δεν είναι άλλη από το φιλοκουρδικό κόμμα το οποίο υπερέβη το όριο του 10% εισόδου στη Βουλή και κατέκτησε 82 έδρες, σχεδόν όσες και το MHP των Γκρίζων Λύκων (του οποίου οι έδρες κυμαίνονται σε 81-82 ενώ συνεχίζεται η καταμέτρηση των ψήφων).
Οι κοσμικοί κεμαλικοί «Ευρωτουρκοι» επικράτησαν στα παλαιά προπύργια τους, δηλαδή στις επαρχίες Μούγλων, Αϋδινίου, Σμύρνης και Τσανακκαλε όπως και στις επαρχίες της Ανατολικής Θράκης εκτός από την Κωνσταντινούπολη, δηλαδή ακριβώς στις παράκτιες περιοχές όπου επικρατεί ο τύπος του «Λευκού Τούρκου» (Beyaz Turk) όπως ονομάζεται από τους ομοεθνείς του της Ανατολιακής ενδοχώρας επειδή είναι κυρίως μεσογειακού και τουρανικού ανθρωπολογικού τύπου. Οι «Λευκοί Τούρκοι» έχουν χάσει εδώ και πολύ καιρό την πληθυσμιακή υπεροχή στην Κωνσταντινούπολη η οποία έχει κατακλυσθεί από εποίκους του τύπου του «Μεσανατολίτη Τούρκου» αλλά και πολυάριθμους Κούρδους. Ετσι, παρότι η Κωνσταντινούπολη ανήκε μάλλον έως πρόσφατα στη «ζωτική περιοχή» των Λευκών Τούρκων, εκεί πλέον το ΑΚΡ του Ερντογάν επικρατεί σταθερά. Ωστόσο στην ουσιαστική μητρόπολη της χώρας, οι κεμαλικοί «Ευρωτουρκοι» παραμένουν αρκετοί αριθμητικά τόσο ώστε να προκαλούν εξεγέρσεις και αιματηρές ταραχές όπως εκείνη πριν από ακριβώς δύο έτη (Ιούνιος 2013).

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Mismodeling Indo-European Origin and Expansion: Bouckaert, Atkinson, Wade and the Assault on Historical Linguistics

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Atkinson-I-E-Expansion-Animated-Mapby Martin W. Lewis

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As GeoCurrents passed through its August slowdown, plans were made for a series on the Summer Olympics. Thanks to the efforts of Chris Kremer, we have gathered statistics—and made maps—relating Olympic medal count by country to population and GDP, both overall and in regard to specific categories of competition. The series, however, has been put on hold by the recent publication of two heralded articles on the history and geography of the Indo-European language family. On August 24, a short piece in Science—“Mapping the Origins and Expansion of the Indo-European Language Family”—made extravagant claims, purporting to overturn the most influential historical-linguistic account of the world’s most widespread language family. On the same day, Nicholas Wade, noted New York Times science reporter, wrote a half-page spread in the news section of the Times on the Science report, entitled “Family Tree of Languages Has Roots in Anatolia, Biologists Say.” Over the next few days, the story was picked up—and often twisted in the process—by assorted journalists. Within a few days, headlines appeared as preposterous as “English Language Originated in Turkey.”

As Wade’s title indicates, the Science article, written by Remco Bouckaert and eight others (most notably Quentin D. Atkinson), seeks to overturn the thesis that the Indo-European (I-E) family originated north of the Black and Caspian seas. It instead locates the I-E heartland in what is now Turkey, supporting the “Anatolian” thesis advanced a generation ago by archeologist Colin Renfrew. The Science team bases its claims on mathematical grounds, using techniques derived from evolutionary biology and epidemiology to draw linguistic family trees and model the geographical spread of language groups. According to Wade, the authors claim that their study does nothing less than “solve” a “long-standing problem in archaeology: the origin of the Indo-European family of languages.” (Strictly speaking, however, the problem is not an archaeological one, as excavations by themselves tell us nothing about the languages of non-literate peoples; it is rather a linguistic problem with major bearing on prehistory more generally.)

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HOPLITE PHALANX: WHERE IT WAS INVENTED?

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Hoplitikon

A  hoplite  clash,  one  of  the  most  murderous  encounters  of  ancient  warfare (Australian  Historical  Association  Ancienthoplitikon  of  Melbourne).

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The  conception  of  hoplite  warfare  (and  tactics)  is  one  of  the  greatest  “revolutions”  in  world  military  history.  Most  scholars  regard  it  as  important  as  the  invention  of  the  saddle  with  stirrups,  which  made  the  heavy  armoured  cavalry  ascendant  in  the  battlefields,  or  the  invention  of  firearms  which  changed  forever  the  nature  of  war.

The  abandonment  of  the  organization  of  the  tribe-state  by  the  southern  Greeks  and  the  progress  of  the  institution  of  the  Greek  city-state  and  the  socio-economic  changes  that  followed  this  fundamental  change  had  progressed  significantly  in  the  late  Geometric  period.  The  new  conditions  that  followed,  led  to  the  invention  of  hoplite  warfare  and  the  corresponding  new  kind  of  warrior,  the  hoplite.  There  is  a  great  controversy  among  scholars,  about  which  was  the  southern  Greek  territory  where  the  new  battle  system  first  appeared.  The  Argives,  the  Thebans,  the  Spartans  or  the  Mantineians  are  denominated  or  implied  by  various  ancient  writers  as  the  inventors  of  hoplite  warfare.  The  strongest  opinion  among  scholars  is  claiming  that  the  hoplite  phalanx  first  appeared  in  a  state  –  or  in  a  group  of  neighboring  states  –  of  eastern  and/or  southern  Peloponnese,  in  Doric  or  Arcadian  territory.  Corinth,  Sicyon  and  the  small  city-states  of  Argolis  should  be  excluded  from  the  potential  inventors  of  the  hoplite  phalanx,  because  their  citizen-warriors  have  adopted  it  under  the  influence  of  the  Argives  of  the  tyrant  Pheidon.  Athens  and  the  rest  of  Attica  should  be  excluded  also,  for  similar  reasons. Continue reading