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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.