Dismounting Byzantine Cavalry

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PaulByzan
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Dismounting Byzantine Cavalry

Post by PaulByzan » Sat Dec 24, 2011 5:39 am

There has been recent discussion on the lists about dismounting Westen Dark Age cavalry, but nothing on dismounting regular Byzantine Cavalry. Ilkka Syvanne's recent article "East Roman Cavalry Warfare and Tactics, C. 410 -641 Part 1, in the November 2011 issue of Slingshot makes it clear on pages 6 and 7 that "The cavalry troopers were also taught to fight as heavy or light infantrymen or in support of infantry." More details on this are available in his treatise on Byzanine Warfare "The Age of Hippotoxotai". Given the continuity of Byzantine military training, there is no reason to believe that the regular cavalry troopers of the Thematic and Nikephorian periods as well as the Justinianic and Maurikian lists should be able to dismount per the rules. This only requires an errata to the lists as has been done the lists.

Paul Georgian

ShrubMiK
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Post by ShrubMiK » Sat Jan 28, 2012 2:03 pm

Don't you need to provide more evidence than a single *secondary* source? Especially when you are extrapolating forward in time over several hundred years and across (I think) a major political and military culture change in the wake of the Arab conquests.

Not saying the conclusions are wrong - I don't have a time machine! - but I didn't find it a particularly compelling article.

PaulByzan
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Post by PaulByzan » Mon Jan 30, 2012 6:03 am

Once again the Byzantines are subjected to a higher standard, but so be it. First Syvanne is not solely a secondary source but an acknowledged expert in the field. You need to read his major work The Age of the Hippokonistai. The rules authors have acknowledged that they used that book as well. I can pull the primary sources, but he has already done so. Anyway, for an example Belisarius' Bukellari dismounted to support the infantry line after the Persians had broken the cavalry line at Callincum. From Procopios. 400 years John Tzimiskes dismounted his cavalry to assault a group of Arabs who had taken refuge on a hill. I'll have to see if that's from Leo the Deacon or Scylitzes.

Paul G
ShrubMiK wrote:Don't you need to provide more evidence than a single *secondary* source? Especially when you are extrapolating forward in time over several hundred years and across (I think) a major political and military culture change in the wake of the Arab conquests.

Not saying the conclusions are wrong - I don't have a time machine! - but I didn't find it a particularly compelling article.

ShrubMiK
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Post by ShrubMiK » Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:45 pm

Much like psychiatrists, there are plenty of recognised experts in the field of history, many of whom disagree with each other on many points :)

I had never heard of him before, not that that proves a lot...I'll look out for the book, but like I said the Slingshot article didn't really grab me which might put me off a bit if it doesn't project well from the blurb and a quick skim of the text.

But then I've already read plenty of books covering the period 600-1100 or so that left me very dissatisfied, so that shouldn't stop me reading another and hoping it will hit the spot better...I think it probably has to do with how little detail there is in sources for much of this period, so the books tend to be a) very dry, lacking in colour and anecdote; b) very specualtive in many areas.

Ironically the list authors also seem enamoured of the inverse idea that Saxons can mount infantry and have it be indistinguishable from "real" cavalry...to my mind that is the most striking example of allowing a very favourable interpretation in a list based purely on the fact that (so they state) there is no evidence to explicitly contradict it. You're right that when viewed in that light the Byzantine lists seem to hold to a different standard of proof!

However if there are only a handful of examples of dismounting over a 400 year period, then perhaps it should be allowed for specific date ranges/commanders? In theory, *any* cavalry of *any* nationally could dismount without difficuly and stand there wiggling a sword or spear. It's not unreasonable though that lists should try to ensure that completely unhistorical tactics (for particular armies at particular times) should not be used.

IanB3406
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Post by IanB3406 » Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:53 pm

PaulByzan wrote:Once again the Byzantines are subjected to a higher standard, but so be it. First Syvanne is not solely a secondary source but an acknowledged expert in the field. You need to read his major work The Age of the Hippokonistai. The rules authors have acknowledged that they used that book as well. I can pull the primary sources, but he has already done so. Anyway, for an example Belisarius' Bukellari dismounted to support the infantry line after the Persians had broken the cavalry line at Callincum. From Procopios. 400 years John Tzimiskes dismounted his cavalry to assault a group of Arabs who had taken refuge on a hill. I'll have to see if that's from Leo the Deacon or Scylitzes.

Paul G
ShrubMiK wrote:Don't you need to provide more evidence than a single *secondary* source? Especially when you are extrapolating forward in time over several hundred years and across (I think) a major political and military culture change in the wake of the Arab conquests.

Not saying the conclusions are wrong - I don't have a time machine! - but I didn't find it a particularly compelling article.

Belisariu's and narses battles in Italy seemed to involve mostly fixed positions and lots of arrows being shot at charging goths. I believe most early Byzantine armies should be able to dismount as bow.

ShrubMiK
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Post by ShrubMiK » Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:15 pm

A lot of Belisarius's larger battles in Italy were sieges though? So not really within the scope of the official army lists.

And I thought the cavalry that Narses dismounted to provide a centre of solid spearmen were not Romans (Lombards?). The archers on the flanks I don't recall being described as dismounted cavalry.

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