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.