An extract from
Valeri Yotov Byzantine Weaponry and Military Equipment in the Homilies of St Gregory of Nazianzus (Paris, Gr. 510)
Translated by Alexander Minchev

Fig. 1. Homilies Paris, Gr. 510: a – healing of the centurion’s servant (170r); b – scene from the life of Samson (347v); c – scene from the life of Julian the Apostate (374v); d – fall of Jericho (424v); e – scene of the lives of Constantine and Helena (440r).

Fig. 2. Homilies Paris, Gr. 510: a – crossing of the Red Sea (264v); b – scene from the life of Julian the Apostate (409v).

The shields are depicted in seven miniatures (170r; 264v; 347v; 374v; 424v; 409v; 440r: Figs 1-2). They are usually round or oval. Basically, they are painted in red and much more rarely in blue. They are outlined by a golden or blue stripe. Their decoration is difficult to determine, but in some cases it is possible to discern geometric forms, simple wavy lines or vine branches. Shields of infantry soldiers (Fig. 1) are larger, with a diameter of about 1.00 m, while these of cavalry (Fig. 2) are smaller - about 0.50 m.

Fig. 3. Sword found in Grave 55, 2nd half of the 9th c. Late Avar necropolis in Garabonc, Hungary. Fig. 4. Other „Garabonc Type” swords: a – near Kharkov, Ukraine; b – near Vinitsa, Ukraine; c – near Cherkassy, Ukraine; d – Iran. Fig. 5. Find places of Byzantine swords of „Garabonc Type” (2nd half of the 9th c.).

Swords of "Garabonc Type" and their analogies in the Homilies
One of already established types of Byzantine swords, named by me "Garabonc Type"6, is based on a very well dated sword (Fig. 3), found in Grave 55 in the Late Avar necropolis in Garabonc in Hungary. The excavator B. M. Szőke dated the necropolis to the second half of 9th century and stated that the sword was a Byzantine one7. I enlarged the group and proposed a typology by adding four other similar swords (Fig. 4-5), which are also well dated: three of them were discovered in Ukraine (unknown sites near Kharkov, Vinitsa and Cherkassy)8 and one from Iran (a find from an unknown site, dated to the Samanid Dynasty period, i. e., 8th-9th centuries). This sword has been recently published in an exhibition catalogue9. All five swords of "Garabonc Type" have analogies in examples depicted in the Homilies. Swords which are similar to the "Garabonc Type" are shown in four folios:
o 137r (Fig. 6): in the scene of "Massacre of the innocents"10;
o 215v (Fig. 7): in the scene of "Solomon's judgement"11;
o 226v (Fig. 8): in the scene of "Joshua (= Jesús Navín) meets the angel"12;
o 332v (Fig. 9): in the scene of "Life of Cyprian"13.
In two scenes (Fig. 6-7) of the miniatures there was depicted a sword-guard identical to the one discovered in Cherkassy (Ukraine). Swords in another two scenes (Fig. 8-9) are generally similar to "Garabonc Type" swords. In some cases, there is even a perfect match between the swords from the miniatures and the discussed type. It is also important to note that this manuscript is dated to ca. 880, which is approximately the date of the Grave 55 with the sword inside from the Garabonc necropolis. There is no doubt that this sword type may definitely be determined as Byzantine. This has also been proved by some other works of art, although dated to a later period (9th-10th centuries). These are: the "Menologion" of Basil II (979-989) and some wall paintings of this period.

Fig. 6. Homilies Paris, Gr. 510: 137r – scene of „Massacre of the innocents”. Fig. 7. Homilies Paris, Gr. 510: 215v – scene of „Solomon’s judgement”. Fig. 8. Homilies Paris, Gr. 510: 226v – scene of „Joshua (=Jesús Navín) meets the angel”. Fig. 9. Homilies Paris, Gr. 510: 332v - scene of „Life of Cyprian”.

Fig. 10. Homilies Paris, Gr. 510: 239r – Gregory and Emperor Theodosios. Fig. 11. Homilies Paris, Gr. 510: 440r – scene of the lives of Constantine and Helena.

Other swords in the Homilies
Some other types of swords are also depicted in the Homilies of Gregory of Nazianzus. For example, they can be seen in: folio 239r (Fig. 10), in the scene of "Gregory and Emperor Theodosios"14 and in folio 440r (Fig. 11) in one of the scenes from the "Lives of Constantine and Helena"15. For the time being, I have no answer to the question whether painters of these scenes had in view contemporary (9th century) original swords, or they followed prototypes depicted in earlier manuscripts, sculpture, etc.

6 Yotov 2011, 116-117.
7 Szőke 1992, 92-96, Tab. 18; 20: 63; Szőke 1994, 251-317; Catalogue 2010, 293.
8 Baranov 2015, 87-105; Baranov 2017, 171-177.
9 Catalogue 2008, 37, cat. No. 8.
10 Brubaker 1999, 62.
11 Brubaker 1999, 356.
12 Brubaker 1999, 194.
13 Brubaker 1999, 141.
14 Brubaker 1999, 132-134.
15 Brubaker 1999, 163-169.


See also Commentaries (Homilies) of Gregory of Nazianzus, Byzantine, 879-883AD, Bibliothčque nationale de France, MS. Grec 510
Byzantine Fresco of Saint George, Sümbüllü kilise, Hasan Dagi, Cappadocia, Turkey, 10th–11th century
Other Illustrations of Byzantine Costume & Soldiers
Index of Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers