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7TH-10TH CENTURY BYZANTINE TRAPEZITOS

An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath


16.      7TH-10TH CENTURY BYZANTINE TRAPEZITOS

Light cavalry were usually barbarian auxiliaries as described under 17. There were a few Byzantine horse-archers (non-existent by the end of this period), but most of the native light cavalry were of the sort called monozonai or trapezitae, whose trick riding gave us our modern circus term. Their equipment marks them as a close relation to, or more accurately a direct descendant of, the late Roman scutarii.

Except for a crested iron helmet and occasionally a hood of horn scales they usually wore no armour, though officers may have worn light mail corselets. Tunic would be red or blue, the standard Byzantine uniform colours during this era. They were armed with kontarion, sword and 2 or 3 javelins. Although one would have assumed the latter to be small and light Leo specifies that they should not exceed 9 feet in length! They must therefore have been relatively close-range missiles.

The shield could be either the circular 3-foot thureos or the oval infantry skuta. However it may have sometimes been much smaller, the 12-inch type apparently also being used while the Sylloge describes light cavalry shields of 27 inches diameter. Circular shields continued to predominate amongst Byzantine light cavalry even after the kite-shield was in widespread use.

This type of cavalryman does not appear in the Strategicon but does in Leo. However, it seems reasonable to assume that such troops were in use from the beginning of this period.



Next: 17. BYZANTINE AUXILIARY LIGHT CAVALRYMAN in Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 by Ian Heath