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Sources for colour plates in
Byzantine Imperial Guardsmen 925-1025: The Tághmata and Imperial Guard by Timothy Dawson, illustrated by Giuseppe Rava

Plate A. OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS PREPARING FOR THE BULGARIAN SIEGE, AUGUST 913

by Giuseppe Rava
A1: Katépanos of Vasilikoi Anthropoi
This senior officer of the ‘Imperials’ of the Guard is wearing a gilded thorax folidotos (scale corselet), covered by a crimson sagion (military cloak). Note the high pinkish-red boots (kampotouvia)
. The colours here are restored from the original pigments of a Joshua plaque now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


by Giuseppe Rava
A2: Primikérios Kandidatos of VIII Skhóla
The kandidatos, reconstructed from folio 215v of the Commentaries of St Gregorius Nazianzenus now in the Bibliothéque Nationale in Paris, wears the costly representative parade uniform (allaxima) of his unit. The white kandidatikion is furnished with a richly decorated collar (maniakion), and decorated with gold klavoi and orbiculi. The gold epikarpia on his wrists are copied from the Thessaloniki specimen. He is armed with a spear of Frankish type, with a 'winged' head (obscured here). The colours of his richly decorated skoutarion could be the semeion of either V or VIII Skhóla.



by Giuseppe Rava
A3: Kavallarios Kataphraktos of III Skhóla

This heavy cavalryman is reconstructed according to a description of the kataphraktoi in Leo VI's Tactiká and Sylloge Tacticorum. His neck armour is an old-style peritrachelion. Note his two swords (the baldric indicates the second, slung from his right shoulder) and mace. Leo's Tactiká (VI, 31) mentions the horse armour: 'They armoured the horses with side and front pieces, i.e. the horses' flanks, heads and necks, with plates or iron mail, or… with other material'. According to the Sylloge, the heads were protected by prometopidiai (brow-pieces) and the necks and breasts by small iron scales or plates.


by Giuseppe Rava
A4: Skoutatos of Noúmeroi
A typical heavy infantryman of the period, serving in one of the two regiments of the Constantinople garrison. The colours have been reconstructed from the Metropolitan Museum plaque. His coloured epanoklivanian/epilorikion, worn over his klivanion, as well as his padded nevrikon, were probably in the distinctive colours of his company (vándon).


Plate B. PALACE CEREMONY, 31 MAY 946

by Giuseppe Rava
B1: Guardsman of the Imperial Manglavion
Posed on steps in the Imperial palace, this figure is again reconstructed from the St Gregorius Nazianzenus manuscript, with the red skaramangion and trousers of the Imperial Maghlavítai which echoed the dress of the old Roman lictores. The long-shafted mace, and the golden whip in his belt, are symbolic of the duties and prerogatives of this unit; their 'police' role was not simply ceremonial, and they were empowered to inflict punishments up to and including death. Note his sword, furnished with a sleeve-like extension of the hilt down the blade below the crossguard.



by Giuseppe Rava
B2: Strator of the Vasilikoi Anthropoi
This Imperial squire, originally from a far-flung territory, is dressed in a long and splendid skaramangion ornamented with white lions (levkoleontai). The stratorikion (staff) is a symbol of his rank, probably derived from the officer’s staves of the Late Roman Empire.



by Giuseppe Rava
B3: Macedonian Guardsman of the Méghalhe Etaireía
The most loyal element of the Porphyrogenitus dynasty's 1,000-strong Vasilikê Etaireía were distinguished on special occasions by their precious silvered swords and gilded shields, and wore sashes of cloth of gold or silver. Note his highly decorated felt and leather armour, and, carried behind his shield, his single-bladed axe. The source for this Guardsman is the representation of St Merkourios from the Church of St George at Belisarama, Cappadocia.



by Giuseppe Rava
B4: Khazar warrior of the Mhese Etaireía

'At the bottom, on the last steps, stood the soldiers of the Middle and Great Etaireía - Pharganoi and Khazars - all of them wearing swords and holding shields' (De Cer., II, 576). This Khazar Guardsman is based on an archaeological reconstruction by Dr M.V. Gorelik, but part of his military equipment is from Byzantine arsenals. The origin of the skaramangion in the Euro-Asiatic horseman's kaftan is noticeable here. Note the band around his brow - this bears an inscription with the name of his unit commander. He parades with a drawn sabre; note that a bowcase slung from the left side of his belt would balance the quiver.


Plate C PALACE CEREMONY, 31 MAY 946

C1: Rus warrior of Pezetairoi, fourth Etaireía
C2: Protospathários
C3: Kandidatos, with Imperial gold skeptron
C4: Protokarávos of the Vasilikodhrómonion
C5: Imperial Spathários

The descriptions given in the original source (De Ceremoniis, II, 576-579) are as follows:
     'On both the sides of the terrace were lined up the Imperial Protospathárioi, wearing skaramangia of various colours, green and pink, and their swords (2). And beside them in the next rank stood the Spathárokandidatoi, who, girded with their swords, wore multicoloured skaramangia and their own uniforms (spathárokandidatikia); next were the Spathárioi, also with multicoloured skaramangia and their swords, and carrying single-bladed axes (5).'
     'At the door through which you enter the throneroom the Kandidatoi were standing (3), with here and there the officers of the Víghla, wearing their skaramangia, shields and swords… After them were standing… on either side the Archontogennhematoi, the Saponistai of the Vestiarion and the Ousíai of the Sacred Dining Hall, wearing, the first, their skaramangia and swords; the Saponistai, dark tunics; and the personnel of the Dining Hall, light purple garments having short sleeves'.
     And finally: 'In the Throneroom of the Kandidatoi, behind the bronze doors, in opposed lines, were standing the crews of the Dhroungários of the Fleet and of the Prefect of the Pámphylioi, holding leather shields (dorkai) and wearing their swords' [(4) is a deputy commander of one of the warships of the Imperial flotilla] … standing here and there were other marines… and the baptized Rus (1), who marched on parade with standards, shields and swords of their own land'.

Plate D IMPERIAL ELEVATION OF NIKÊPHÓROS PHOKÁS, AUGUST 963

The scene, set in the Hebdomon camp, is based upon the description in the Liber de Ceremoniis (I, 96, 433ff).
D1: Emperor Nikêphóros Phokás
The victorious general, known as 'the White Death of the Saracens', wears a skaramangion kastorion (i.e. in purple beaver fur), Imperial purple boots (kokkina podhemata), and has a single-edged dagger (akinakis) at his belt.

D2: Kataphraktos of the Eskoubitores
This heavy cavalryman of the Tághmata is reconstructed from a steatite plaque representing St Demetrios, today in the Louvre, Paris. He wears a klivanion with small scales or folides, completely gilded, and reinforced on the left arm by a zava formed by lamellae. It is worn over a thick, long-sleeved tunic (chiton) with embroidered cuffs. His cloak (chlamys) is fastened at the right shoulder. From his belt he wears a straight spathion with a trilobate pommel, and a kite-shaped shield hangs from his left shoulder.


D3 & 4: Kataphraktoi of Imperial Tághmata
Copied from an enamel kept in the St Mark treasury in Venezia, these kataphraktoi follow the description in the Praecepta Militaria of Nikêphóros Phokás (III, 4, 26-31): 'Each warrior must wear a klivanion [which] should have manikia down to the elbows. Down from the elbows they should wear manikelia [arm-guards]… Both these and the skirts (kremasmata) hanging from the klivania have zavai [protective elements of fabric, sometimes faced with scales or mail] and are made of coarse silk (koukoulion) or cotton (vamvakion), as thick as can be stitched together'. Note the coloured shoulder tufts, and the rich decoration of the padded over-garment (epilorikion) with slit sleeves thrown back (3).

Plate E IMPERIAL LION-HUNT, SYRIA, c. 975

Lion-hunting was a favourite sport of the young sons of the Anatolian aristocracy, and a good preparation for war.
E1: Emperor Iohannes Dzimiskés
The emperor – who in 969 replaced Nikêphóros Phokás in the affections of the dowager Empress Theophanó, and on the throne – is reconstructed here after Leo the Diacon’s description of his gilded armour, and his portrait in the Cappadocian church of Cavusin. Note the alternating lacquered iron and gilt bronze lamellae, and the gilded splint-armour manikelia on his forearms. His horse harness is based on the emperor’s horse shown on the Troyes casket.


E2: Macedonian kavallarios of the Great Etaireía
This Macedonian cavalryman of the elite ‘Imperials’ is also based on the Troyes casket. The use of horn plates for some klivania is attested by the written sources, and by archaeological finds in Bulgaria. The dimensions of these petala and the red-lacquered finish are from 11th-century miniatures. The sword is from the Serçe Limani specimen. Note his powerful composite bow.


E3: Cavalryman of the Athanatoi
This member of the èlite Taghmatic regiment, ‘the Immortals’, is from the Menologion of Basil II. The gilded klivanion is of typical banded lamellar construction with central rivets, and the kremasmata lappets of the lower border are silvered. The white command-rank sash (loros) is probably of silk. The light blue chlamys has a splendid ornamented tablion in gold thread (see also 2). The richly decorated dark red trousers (anaxyrida) show a pattern of gold circlets between gold vertical stripes, and are tucked inside white and cerulean kampotouvia. The spear has a silvered head and a globular terminal. The light blue shield (cheiroskoutarion) has a gilded rim and is decorated with white dots, in imitation of pearls. The spathion is carried in a black scabbard with light blue fittings.


E4: Archontogennematos
The blue uniform of this aristocratic young officer shows his family’s strong connections with the ‘Blues’ – one of the four socio-political factions associated with the Circus in Constantinople. The style of decoration of his allaxima, with clavi et orbiculi, is still identical to that of the Late Roman Empire.



Plate F BOUKLEON HARBOUR, 10th-11th CENTURIES

F1: Proreos of Imperial Ploimoi
This officer commands the armoured boarding party among the crew of one of the warships of the Imperial flotilla. The best examples of ringmail corselets (lorikia psilà), with bronze, gilded or silvered rings, were reserved for officers and soldiers with special duties. The Liber de Ceremoniis mentions a restricted number being available to dhrómon crews in addition to the 'common' lorikia koinà (De Cer., II, 669-670). Note also the masked helmet (kassidion avtoprosopon), and the leather shield (dorka), based respectively upon the Great Palace finds and the Menologion of Basil II.

F2: Kentyrion of Pedatoura
The old-fashioned ‘muscled’ armour of this officer of the Constantinople ‘urban police’ or City Guard can be explained by his traditional position in the command hierarchy of the city Éparkhos. Some officers’ helmets were covered with oriental ornamentation, and perhaps by a hood of woven silk and costly damask. David Nicolle has observed the clear derivation of that type of headgear (kamelaukion) from Alan-Caucasian prototypes.



Plate G GUARDSMEN IN ACTION, 995

G1: Proximos of Imperial Skhólai
This important staff officer of the senior Tághma is based upon a portrait dated to 1007, of Iohannes, a Proximos with the court rank of Protospathários, who served under the Dhoux Theodorakan in the Théma of Armenia. Note his gilded klivanion, and the cross standard.


G2: Imperial Kataphraktos with armoured horse
The texts also refer to the heavy armoured cavalryman of the Tághmata as a kavallarios or klibanophoros, but they are unanimous in their lists of the protective elements that he needed to wear on his upper body (see commentary to Plate D). Nikêphóros Ouranós (60, 4, 39-40) differs from the Praecepta Militaria only in calling the forearm protection cheiropsella. Note the use of the war-hammer (akouphion) as an alternative 'shock weapon' to the mace for the ranks given the task of breaking into enemy formations.

G3 & 4: Egyptian Fatimid warriors
Based upon a plate now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and the Louvre plaque in Paris. According to Byzantine sources, some Fatimid infantry wore pink fabric 'soft armour', probably quilted.


Plate H. THE GEORGIAN CAMPAIGN, 1020

by Giuseppe Rava
H1: Emperor Basil II in full armour
This reconstruction of the ‘Bulgar-Slayer’, the most victorious emperor of the Macedonian dynasty, is taken from the Skilitzès miniatures (folio 195b), although reconstructed with archaeological artefacts of 11th-century date. Note the crown (stemma); the long klivanion made from large lamellae of gilded horn; the gilded scale arm defences – probably also made from some material lighter than iron; the splinted leg armour of gilded iron; and the shield with a gilded rim, decorated all over with precious stones. Behind him are arrayed a Varangian company, identifiable by their long-shafted battleaxes.



by Giuseppe Rava
H2: Standard-bearer of Imperial Tághmata
This standard-bearer of one of the Imperial cavalry regiments is armoured and accoutered according to the tactical manuals of the period; note the ringmail face protection, which was triple layered. He is carrying a typical vándon banner, of squared shape with pointed streamers at the ‘fly’. The cross or other Christian symbols were the normal charges of such standards.



H3: Early Varangian Archon
This Russo-Scandinavian officer is based on recently cleaned frescoes from St Sophia in Kiev. Over a quilted defence for the neck he wears a helmet clearly descended from Late Roman models. His typical Byzantine armour incorporates scales and padded leather or fabric, and a white sash of rank can just be seen knotted characteristically high on the torso. Note his white kampotouvia boots, decorated with a typical motif – a feature apparently peculiar to the Varangians. In the foreground is a Georgian cross-standard, virtually indistinguishable from the East Roman type.



by Giuseppe Rava
H4: Abasgian armoured cavalryman
This messenger from the Georgian prince’s army is taken from the Mravaldzali and Parakheti icons of the late 10th and early 11th centuries, and is essentially identical to his Byzantine counterparts. Yovhannes Draskhanakertc describes the host of Western Georgia (the Abkhazian or ‘Abasgian’ kingdom) in the 10th century as ‘A numerous army, with steeds prancing in the air, the warriors wearing iron armour, formidable helmets, cuirasses with nail-studded iron plates [i.e. riveted lamellae] and sturdy shields, adornments, spears and swords’.


Source: Byzantine Imperial Guardsmen 925-1025: The Tághmata and Imperial Guard by Timothy Dawson

Illustrations referenced by Byzantine Imperial Guardsmen 925-1025: The Tághmata and Imperial Guard by Timothy Dawson



Byzantine Illustrations of Costume and Soldiers
11th Century Illustrations of Costume and Soldiers