DBA III/65 Nikephorean Byzantine

The Nikephorean Byzantine army covers the period from the ascension of Emperor Nikephorus II Phocus (aka the Pale Death of the Saracens) in 963, to the ascension of Constantine IX, who instituted a number of cost cutting measures, in 1041. After ascending the imperial throne, Nikephorus continued his successful military career in Cilicia, Mesopotamia, and the Levant. His successors John I and Basil II ‘the Bulgar Slayer’ were also successful, but later rulers in the period this list covers seem to have been more preoccupied with palace intrigue.

The army was formed around a professional core known as the Tagmata, which was supplemented by part time thematic troops who were levied in the provinces (Themes).

The army arrayed

The army arrayed

I painted the command element as a bit of a hybrid as I’m planning to use it for Nikephorean, Constantinian, and Comnenan armies. The red haired general on his dark bay horse is Alexius Comnena (of Comnenan Byzantine fame) but he is wearing the clothing that Basil the Bulgar Slayer was depicted in. The standard bearer carries a bandon. I’ve read that these flags had more tails the larger the unit, and that each had a unique combination of colours for its tails. All figures for the command element are from Outpost Wargames Services. I made the main part of the flag as a decal.

The Emperor

The Emperor

The main offensive force of this army is four 3Cv elements, representing Tagmatic or picked Thematic kavallarioi. These fought in a formation of horse archers protected by lancers, hence the mixture of figures on the bases. These figures are Essex Miniatures.

Kavallarioi

Kavallarioi

The most visually impressive element of the army is the 6Kn klibanophoroi. Klibanos was medieval Greek for sealed iron box but it’s modern Greek for oven. They were an elite unit of heavily armoured shock cavalry from the Tagmata. One possible role for them was to kill the enemy general, and they were often deployed opposite him with kavallarioi support. They wear quilted cloth over lamellar, as well as iron vambraces and greaves. Their horses have hardened leather armour with additional iron protection for their heads. I understand that klibanophoroi horses could also have some form of iron hoof protection. I used converted Essex klibanophoroi lancers for the front rank mace men. The maces were made by gluing tiny beads onto wire. The lancers in the rear rank are Tin Soldier (I managed to lose one of my Essex lancers in one of the many house moves I’ve done). The archers in the centre are Essex Miniatures kavallarioi figures as their klibanophoroi archers are in a shooting pose and would not fit onto the base. I’m not too upset about that as the archers were more lightly armoured. As it is fashionable at the moment I have given the figures ‘normal sized’ shields to replace the bucklers they were supplied with. These are Tin Soldier ones I think, and they’re very nice. I’ve used kite shields but the less elongated ‘almond’ shield might be more appropriate.

The wedge of klibanophoroi

The wedge of klibanophoroi

Rounding off the mounted elements is a 2LH element. Essex Miniatures gave light lancers in their DBA army pack, which would represent the lancers who protected light horse archers in the prokursatores units which formed an advance guard. In the DBA army the LH might also be flank guards or outflankers.

Prokoursatore lancers

Prokoursatore lancers

As you may have noticed from reading the descriptions of the mounted troops, the Byzantines were very big on protected archers. The infantry is no exception. There are up to four 8Bw elements in the army. These are double-based with a front rank of skoutatoi (shield bearers). These troops all have quilted cloth armour and felt helmets. Essex Miniatures supplied all archers in their army pack, so I had to replace the front rank with Outpost Wargames Services skoutatoi.

Skoutatoi and archers

Skoutatoi and archers

As an option, one of the 8Bw can be replaced by a 4Bd, representing menavlatoi. These were light infantry armed with the menavlion – a 2m spear as thick as a man’s arm with a large blade. They usually lurked around the front rank of the skutatoi and attacked enemy mounted troops. This element represents them as having been grouped together and detached to act as skirmishers. This works better in DBMM as they have a Bd(X) classification, which gives them the speed of auxilia, a factor of 4 against mounted, and a quick kill against Kn. Still, they are colourful. I have painted mine as if they come from each of the four skutatoi units.

Last and least is a lone 2Ps.

Menavlatoi and psiloi

Menavlatoi and psiloi

Almost all of the figures in this army have kite or almond shields. That makes them fairly advanced for the time as round shields were still in use, at least at the beginning of the period. The oval shields that the LH figures have might be a little old fashioned for this army, as they had generally been phased out.

Shield patterns and clothing were supposed to be uniform, but because there was no mass production it would actually vary a fair bit. Thematic troops supplied their own equipment so would have been less uniform. I haven’t gone to a lot of trouble to achieve variation (eg you could use more than one manufacturers’ figures on the same base) but I did use a few different reds, blues, and so on.

For the uniform colours I have used a mixture of the dull colours with decorative borders that Nikephorus envisaged in his military manual, and the bright colours that are shown on Byzantine manuscripts from that time.

Advertisements

12 responses to “DBA III/65 Nikephorean Byzantine

  1. These look awesome! I like the 6Kn Klibanophoroi; the turquoise looks very effective. The Outpost figures look good, which is encouraging, as I’m just starting to paint mine.

  2. I am starting a NIKEPHORIAN BYZANTINE fleet for DBNavalibus. Need color references so I can accurately paint these galleys. Know any? Help is appreciated.

    Thanks

    • Sorry about the delay in reading this.
      The short answer is ‘no’.
      The longer one is:
      Based on the work my father had to do keeping his cruising yachts looking trim with modern paint, I doubt that medieval paint would have stood up to all that salt water very well, so a mostly wooden look would be the go.
      after a quick google search I found this picture showing wood with red (red ochre?) and yellow (yellow ochre?) decorations at stem and stern:

      this one might give you some idea of a good wood colour to aim for:

      Another possibility – some Byzantine illustrations (again found on Google) of Arab ships show black hulls – perhaps waterproofing tar?.
      For the sails you *might* be able to get away with something more colourful – Vegetius reported that the Roman Saxon Shore Fleet used blue sails and ropes as camouflage on some ships, and the Bayeux tapestry shows nice stripy sails.

    • Thanks. I’m glad that 8Bw seem to have been given a sympathetic treatment in DBA 3.0 as it stands at the moment. I won’t miss trying to use my 6Kn but I should be able to make a mini wedge of four of them and they will be much handier on the battlefield. Now the Menavlatoi are converted from Tin Soldier Skutatoi – just squash their very thick spears and carve them to shape. They were something of a workaround as I realised that the 4Bd in III/64 were not the Varangian Guardsmen that came with the Essex army pack. The Tin Soldier figures are probably intended for an earlier list as they come with oval shields rather than the round, almond, or kite shields from later lists so they have all had replacement shields bought for them. I had a large supply as Essex only provided archers for the 8Bw elements with the army pack so I had to buy a bunch of them. Khurasan do a perfectly competent if rather pricey Menavlatoi set.

  3. Thanks for the info. Sadly I couldn’t find a decent close up image of the Tin Soldier Byzantines. “Blowing up” the image I found (what appears to be an old advert, possibly from one of the wargaming magazines?) didn’t help and just made it fuzzy. Still, you did a decent conversion job. Well done.

    Geoff.

  4. Thanks again Stephen.

    Must admit, I’m also intrigued by the Nikephorian navy too.
    Brian – did you manage to find any info? And what models are you planning using?

    Cheers,

    Geoff.

  5. Whilst I’m off at a tangent – I managed to find this naval info via the power that is Google…
    http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/pdfs/christides.pdf
    The author suggests that lighter “scout ships” had sails, ropes and hulls coloured blue (venetus). Dunno if we can draw any conclusions about larger vessels though.

    Navwar make some 1:1200th vessels –
    AGS17 Small Byzantine dromon (2 for £1.25), and
    AGS18 Large Byzantine dromon (2 for £1.25).

    Cheers,

    Geoff.

    • Yes I think I referred to that earlier. The blue camouflage seems pretty specific to the Saxon Shore fleet. Colouring the ropes blue seems a bit excessive, and I wonder if this is not a ‘perfect world’ style comment like those in the military manuals suggesting that Byzantine cavalry have dull coloured cloaks etc.

    • Thanks. Mostly these are Essex Miniatures figures, except don’t get the army pack as the 8Bw are just that, with no front rank skutatoi.If I was to start again I might look at Khurasan Miniatures though. I enjoyed painting a few of them for the Komnenan army I morphed out of these.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s