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A favourite legend in the Byzantine world concerned the hero Digenis Akritas, whose exploits are recounted in an epic and in numerous songs from all parts of the Empire. A guardian of the frontiers, slayer of bears, lions and dragons, comforter of ladies in distress, Digenis appears frequently on pottery of the 12th century; his portrait may perhaps be recognized on the plate above, with the ‘blond curly hair and large, black-browed eyes’ attributed to him, in the epic.
Referenced on p.16 MAA-89 Byzantine Armies 886-1118 by Ian Heath & Angus McBride:
This is taken from a Byzantine bowl of the 12th century, probably depicting the folk hero Diogenes Akritas. It is the only contemporary, or near contemporary, picture which appears to exist of the shoulder tufts mentioned in Leo VI's Tactica. It seems fairly certain that they would not normally stand upright like this, probably a result of artistic licence.
Referenced as figure 120 in Arms and armour of the crusading era, 1050-1350 by Nicolle, David. 1988 edition
120 “Digenes Akritas” (?), ceramic fragment from Athens Agora, Byzantine, 12 Cent. (?) (Byzantine Museum, Athens, Greece)
Later Byzantine ceramics were often very crudely decorated. The strange warrior on this fragment, with his uncharacteristically long hair, may date from considerably later than the twelfth century, perhaps even the fourteenth. He carries a mace and a small kite-shaped shield. He may also wear a conical helmet and have a splinted gorget around his neck. He could even be wearing a long-sleeved mail hauberk and mail chausses. Such features, if real, would suggest a late thirteenth- or even fourteenth-century date for this fragment. The strange tuft-like objects on the man’s shoulders have been interpreted as unit identification pteruges but this seems very unlikely. They are more likely to have been a local artist’s version of the shoulder tufts worn by some early fourteenth-century European knights (Figs. 1237 and 1256).