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Κωνσταντινούπολη, Βασιλίς πόλεων

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Η παρούσα ανάρτηση αφορά τις εντυπωσιακές αναπαραστάσεις της Κωνσταντινούπολης, της ‘Βασιλίδος πόλεων’, από τον σημαντικό Γάλλο καλλιτέχνη  Antoine Helbert. Εντυπωσιάσθηκα ιδιαίτερα από τις διατομές του και τις απόψεις από αέρος. Οι ακόλουθες αναπαραστάσεις περιλαμβάνουν πέντε απόψεις της Πόλης από αέρος (οι οποίες απεικονίζουν μεταξύ πολλών άλλων κτισμάτων, τον Ιππόδρομο, την Αγία Σοφία κ.α.), δύο διατομές της Αγίας Σοφίας (από τις οποίες η μία είναι λεπτομέρεια της άλλης), διατομές του Βουκολέοντος ήτοι του παράκτιου αυτοκρατορικού παλατίου, και του Περιστυλίου του Μεγάλου Παλατίου, τα τείχη της Πόλης το 1204 όταν οι Σταυροφόροι είχαν στρατοπεδεύσει μπροστά τους, και τέλος τη σκληρή μάχη εναντίον των Οθωμανών στην πύλη του Αγίου Ρωμανού το 1453.

© Τα πνευματικά δικαιώματα των ακολούθων αναπαραστάσεων ανήκουν στον Antoine Helbert.

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Constantinople, Queen of cities: Architecture (part IΙ)

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© Credit/copyright of the following representations belongs to Antoine Helbert.

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Constantinople, Queen of cities: Architecture (part I)

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Today I’ m posting the impressive representations of Constantinople, the Byzantine ‘Queen of cities’, by Antoine Helbert, a French artist. I was impressed mostly by his cross-sections and aerial views. The following representations include five aerial views of Constantinople (depicting among many other features the Hippodrome, the cathedral of Aghia Sophia and many others), two cross-sections of Aghia Sophia (the one being a detail of the other), cross-sections of Boukoleon being the royal palace by the sea, and the Peristylion of the central grand palace and its hall, the walls of the city in 1204 when the Crusaders camped in front of them, and finally the battle at the gate of St. Romanos in 1453 when the city was besieged and captured by the Ottomans.

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© Credit/copyright of the following representations belongs to Antoine Helbert.

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MIDDLE BYZANTINE (EAST ROMAN) GENERIC TACTICS AND STRATEGY (Part II)

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Byzantine St-LucasByzantine fresco depicting Joshua (from the Hosios Loukas monastery, 12th century AD) bearing a lamellar ‘clibanion’  (‘klibanion’) cuirass, and armed with a “kontarion” (spear) and a “spathion” (sword). The figure is sometimes considered as a model of the appearance and equipment of the Byzantine “skoutatoi” heavy infantrymen.
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CONTINUED from PART I
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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In the order of battle in front of the front line, units of archers and some javeliners and slingers (and a few light horse-archers) were lined up. Those units were usually starting the imperial attack with their missiles against the enemy army in order to cause confusion on its ranks, in order for the attack of the armored cavalry of the first line to follow. The lightly armed Byzantines were usually engaged in skirmishes with their enemy counterparts before the main combat, but when threatened by heavy enemy units conducting a frontal assault on them, they were fleeing behind the line of their fellow horsemen.
Over the centuries, the native Byzantine archers and horse-archers were gradually replaced by Altaic and Alanic mercenary horse-archers (the so-called “Prokoursatores“, see below) who additionally used their favorite nomad tactics of “feigned retreat” at the start of the battle. According to those tactics, they were pretending to have been defeated in the initial skirmishes with the enemy forces so that they could lure them in their pursuit. The ultimate goal of this nomadic vanguard was to disband the ranks of the advancing enemies because of the speed of the ‘chase’, so that they would be unorganized enough when they would face the attack of the Byzantine frontline armored cavalry. In this case, the imperial horse-archers were galloping through the interstices of the front line to the safety of the rear, while the marching enemy who had considerably lost his compact order, confronted the “catapultic” attack of the Bucellarii, Kavallarii or Cataphract cavalry.

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MIDDLE BYZANTINE (EAST ROMAN) GENERIC TACTICS AND STRATEGY (Part I)

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Skylitzes
A battle between Byzantine and Arab cavalry, from the Madrid Skylitzes manuscript (late 13th century, but representative enough of the late phase of the Middle Period). A bloody fighting is taking place with decapitations and troopers trampled by the horses. Byzantines and Muslims alike wear mostly scale armor
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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The Middle Byzantine Age (7th-12th c. AD) was decisive for the history of the Byzantine Empire. The loss of the Middle Eastern provinces and Egypt by the invading Arabs marks its beginnings, but the “hard core” of the Empire managed to halt the forces of the invaders at the eastern border of Asia Minor, and additionally the forces of the numerous Avaro-Slavic and Proto-Bulgarian (and other Later Hunnic nomad) raiders at the Balkan borders. The experienced Byzantine Army being after all the descedant of the Roman Imperial Army, went on dealing effectively with the pressure by the same enemies and also by the Lombards (Longobards) and the Franks in Italy and some new nomadic peoples on the borders of the Balkan peninsula (Byzantine Sicily and Northwest Africa (modern Maghreb) were finally conquered by the Arabs). Its strengthening during the reign of the emperor Nikephoros Phokas (963-969) led to a strong imperial counterattack on all fronts ending in major territorial recoveries of the “Byzantine Epic Era” (this term has been used by the modern historical research, to denote the period around 963-1025 AD).

However, the fatigue of the army because of the war effort, and especially its neglect due to a series of weak emperors and the civil strife during the fifty years which followed the brilliant reign of Basil II (976-1025) to the Battle of Manzikert (AD 1071) and after that, led to its rapid weakening. Finally, new dangerous enemies, the Seljuq Turks in Asia Minor and the Normans in Italy and the Balkan Peninsula, gave decisive blows to the Empire. The renowned Byzantine army never managed to recover from the disaster of Manzikert, despite the best efforts of some emperors and some temporary military successes. The parallel decline of the Thematic administrative and military organization of the state which declined after the battle of Manzikert and was eventually abolished, had an additional negative role in the weakening of the army. The imperial defense was further weakened, leading to the capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204.

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ON THE SASSANID ARMY – Part II

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

sassanian  cavalry

sassanian cavalry 2
A reconstruction of a Sassanian medium cavalryman by Ardeshir Radpour. He bears a mail cuirass, a helmet of composite structure with mail visor adopted by the Romans as well, forearm-guard plates, light lance, a composite bow of the Sacian type (heritage from the Parthian predecessors of the Sassanids) and a cavalry sword (Image by  Ardeshir  Radpour).

CONTINUED FROM PART I

The infantry (and partly cavalry) of the Qadisini and the ‘Immortals’ are also mentioned in the medieval sources (mainly Byzantine) as parts of the Sassanid army. The Qadisini were the Arabo-Aramaic people of Qadisiya (in Arabic), a Semitic region subject to the Persians in modern Western Iraq. The ‘Immortals’ (Varhranigan khvaday in Iranian) were the elite corps of the Persian army, the palace guard of the Great King, corresponding to the homonymous personal guard of the ancient Achaemenid kings of Persia. Xerxes’ ‘Immortals’ had fought against the Greeks in 480-479 BC without success. The Sassanian Empire, claiming steadily the whole Achaemenid heritage had reestablished this unit. Another unit under the direct orders of the Sassanid monarch was called ‘self-sacrificing heroes’. One of the commanders of this unit was of Byzantine origin. This possibly indicates that they were mercenaries or foreign fugitives sheltered by the Persians.

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ON THE SASSANID ARMY – Part I

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

sassanian
A reenactment of a Sassanian horseman by Ardeshir Radpour. Note the common elements of his helmet with the Roman helmets of the Persian group in my article ON THE HELMET TYPES OF THE LATE ROMAN CAVALRY, mainly the strong backing in the eyebrow area and the composite construction. The Romans added cheek-protectors to the original Persian type. Note also the  mail visor of this  helmet (Image by Ardeshir  Radpour).

The Sassanids or Sassanians were a Persian priestly dynasty of Fars (Pars, Persis, the cradle of the Persians) who in 224-226 AD overthrew the Arsacid  royal dynasty of the Parthians and occupied the whole Parthian Kingdom thus turning it into Sassanid Kingdom. The Sassanid Empire was stronger than the Parthian, relying on a strong and large army. In this way, the Sassanians successfully dealt with a number of powerful enemies at their borders, mainly the Kushans (Tokharians), the Romans/Byzantines and the Hunnish tribes, especially the dangerous Ephthalites. The empire was maintained until the early 7th century, when a suicidal war of King Khosroes II against the Byzantines brought its exhaustion. Thereby when the armies of Islam appeared on the western border of the Sassanid Kingdom, its exhausted and dwindling army was almost unable to repel the invaders. By 649 AD, the whole Sassanid territory except the small Daylami country, was conquered by the Arabs and the last Sassanid prince took refuge in China of the Tang Dynasty. There the renowned Persian dynasty faded away from home. Later the Daylami people became Muslim as well.
Like their predecessors the Parthians, the Sassanid Persians relied heavily on cavalry. However they did not commit the same error as the first who ‘annihilated’ the role of the infantry. Generally, their army was more aggressive and more effective comparing to the Parthian.

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THE BYZANTINE (EASTERN ROMAN) RHOMPHAIA

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 By  Periklis  Deligiannis

Byzantine Kosovo

Modern researchers of medieval military history often wonder what was the nature of the Byzantine weapon called ‘rhomphaia’? The rhomphaia (or rhomphaea) of Antiquity was a weapon of the Thracians, which consisted of a long straight or slightly curved sickle-shaped blade mounted on a long wooden shaft. If the rhomphaia was sickle-shaped, the cutting edge was located on the inner (concave) side of the blade. Specifically the curved rhomphaia belonged to the group of spears and swords with scythe blade which included the kopis, the machaira, the falcata, the falx and others which were used by various peoples of the ancient Mediterranean that is to say the Iberians, Celtiberians, Greeks, Thracians, Etruscans, Lycians, Carians, Lydians, Phrygians, Dacians and others. Their original source is unknown and sometimes the researchers try to locate it. Our opinion is that they are products of polygenesis.
The ancient Greeks and then the Romans were using units of Thracian rhomphaioforoi (rhomphaia-bearers) allies and mercenaries, but they themselves never adopted this weapon. But until the Byzantine period, the Thracians were ethnologically absorbed to the Roman and then to the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) ethnic environment by becoming Latin-speaking north of the Balkan Ridge and Greek-speaking south of it, loosing their own ethnic identity. Thus the rhomphaioforoi combatants were ethnically incorporated to the Romans and the Greeks through Latinization and Hellenization respectively. During the Byzantine Period, the word rhomphaia appears in the Byzantine military terminology posing the aforementioned question.

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Η ΒΥΖΑΝΤΙΝΗ ΡΟΜΦΑΙΑ

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Byzantine Kosovo

Ένα  ερώτημα  το  οποίο  απασχολεί  τους  σύγχρονους  ερευνητές  της  Βυζαντινής  και  Μεσαιωνικής  Δυτικοευρωπαϊκής  στρατιωτικής  Ιστορίας  είναι  το  τι  ήταν  η  Βυζαντινή  ρομφαία,  ποια  ήταν  η  φύση  του  συγκεκριμένου  όπλου;

Η  ρομφαία  της  Αρχαιότητας  ήταν  ένα  θρακικό  όπλο,  επινόηση  των  Θρακών,  το  οποίο  αποτελείτο  από  μία  επιμήκη  ευθεία  ή  ελαφρά  κυρτή  (δρεπανοειδή)  λεπίδα  προσαρμοσμένη  σε  επίσης  επίμηκες  ξύλινο  στέλεχος.  Αν  η  ρομφαία  ήταν  δρεπανοειδής,  η  κόψη  της  βρισκόταν  στην  κοίλη  πλευρά  της  λεπίδας.  Ειδικά  η  κυρτή  ρομφαία  ανήκε    στην  ομάδα    των    λογχοειδών  και  ξιφοειδών  όπλων  δρεπανοειδούς  λεπίδας  (κοπίδες,  φαλκάτες,  falx    κ.α.)  τα    οποία    χρησιμοποιούσαν    διάφοροι    λαοί    της    Μεσογείου  (Ίβηρες,    Κελτίβηρες,    Έλληνες,    Θράκες,    Ετρούσκοι,    Λύκιοι,    Κάρες,    Λυδοί,    Φρύγες,    Δάκες    και    άλλοι).  Η  αρχική  προέλευση  τους  είναι  άγνωστη  και  αναζητείται  ενίοτε  από  τους  μελετητές.  Αποψη  μου  είναι  ότι  πρόκειται  για  προϊόντα  πολυγένεσης.

Οι  αρχαίοι  Ελληνες  και  στη  συνέχεια  οι  Ρωμαίοι  χρησιμοποίησαν  σώματα  Θρακών  ρομφαιοφόρων,  συμμάχων  ή  μισθοφόρων,  αλλά  οι  ίδιοι  δεν  υιοθέτησαν  ποτέ  το  συγκεκριμένο  όπλο.  Όμως  έως  την  Πρωτοβυζαντινή  περίοδο,  οι  Θράκες  αφομοιώθηκαν  σταδιακά  εθνολογικώς  στο  ρωμαϊκό  και  έπειτα  στο  βυζαντινό  περιβάλλον,  καθιστάμενοι  λατινόφωνοι  βορείως  του  Αίμου  και  ελληνόφωνοι  νοτίως  της  ίδιας  οροσειράς.  Ετσι  οι  ρομφαιοφόροι  μάχιμοι  ενσωματώθηκαν  εθνολογικά  στους  Ρωμαίους  και  στους  Ελληνες  μέσω  του  εκλατινισμού  και  του  εξελληνισμού  τους  αντίστοιχα.  Κατά  τη  Βυζαντινή  Περίοδο,  ο  όρος  «ρομφαία»  εμφανίζεται  στη  βυζαντινή  στρατιωτική  ορολογία  θέτοντας  το  προαναφερόμενο  ερώτημα.

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GREEK FIRE: THE SECRET WEAPON OF THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE

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A  Byzantine  depiction  of  Greek  fire  in  a  miniature  from  the  manuscript  of  Skylitzes.
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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The  “Greek  fire”  or  “sea  fire”  or  “liquid  fire”  (as  it  was  usually  called  by  the  Byzantines  themselves)  or  “Median  fire”  was  one  of  the  strongest  and  most  mysterious  weapons  of  the  Byzantine  Empire  (considering  their  composition).  The  Arabs  used to call  “naphtha”  (‘naft’)  their  own  corresponding  incendiary  substance  for  military  purposes,  a  term  which  usually  means  the  natural  unrefined  oil  or  the  refined  products  of  its  distillation.  The  use  of  flammable  substances  in  military  operations  on  land  and  sea,  was  known  to  the  Greeks  as  early  as  the  Classical  Period,  who  developed  it  especially  during  the  Hellenistic  Period.  The  term  “Median/Medic  fire”  which  was  synonymous  to  the  “Greek  fire”  in  the  Byzantine  written  sources,  indicates  that  the  Southern  Iranians  (Medes  and  Persians)  used  an  early  form  of  it  (already  from  the  pre-Achamenid  Median  period  according  to  literary  evidence).  The  Chinese  of  the  same  period  also  used  their  own  corresponding  incendiary  substances.  Moreover,  the  burning  of  the  enemy  fortifications,  troops,  ships and others,  was  one  of  the  main  military  pursuits  already  from  the  high  antiquity.  Concerning  the  Iranian  peoples,  the  development  of  inflammatory  substances  as  weapons  of  war,  was  aided  by  the  presence  of  abundant  reserves  of  crude  oil  in  Iran,  Mesopotamia  and  the  North  Arabian  Peninsula,  areas  which  were  under  the  control  or  the  political  influence  of  the  Medes  and  the  Persians.

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