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Pseudo-Byzantine army model for Renaissance tech level

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Aldarion, Jul 4, 2019.

  1. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

    Essentially, in my setting the Empire of Ardea is a mix of 10th century Roman (Byzantine) Empire and 15th century Kingdom of Hungary. Social system is Byzantine - there are nobles, but primary military strength is composed of small to medium landowners, who receive land grants (including tennants) from the central government in exchange for military service. These grants can be revoked at any time, and are given directly by the Emperor. That being said, there are large landowners, and these can raise and maintain private militias and thus challenge the Crown, but their holdings and military power are limited. Military technology however is 15th century, which means plate armour, but no firearms.

    This is a preliminary descripion, and does not include intelligence gathering (I am yet to write that) or some other details.

    Ardean military is primarily state-based one. It consists of the central army (palatini) and the provincial army (comitatenses). Central army is a standing army of fully professional soldiers, and is always ready for combat. Provincial army consists of a small core of paid standing troops in each province, with most of the army consisting of part-time soldiers supported by farmers, who only receive campaign pay and live off the land rest of the time. Not counted are the militia (insurrectio) which may be raised in directly-threatened areas when necessary. In extreme danger, militia is raised by carrying a bloody sword across the country. It is led by officers called levatori gentium or ductori; not answering the call is punishable by death.



    Border troops (Limitanei, Akritai)

    Limitanei is a general term for border troops, be it standing army or militia, consisting predominantly of light infantry and cavalry. They act as raiders, scouts and border guards, and are usually deployed in units no larger than cohorts. Generally they are recruited among local populace (like most of the army), particularly trackers and hunters familiar with local terrain. Among other tasks, limitanei perform regular deep incursions into enemy territory. They themselves profit from such raids, often taking cattle with them. They also destroy smaller enemy outposts, burn crops and villages, while avoiding direct conflict with enemy soldiers. At coasts, such troops often take small boats into raids against enemy trade ships.

    City watch (Vigili)

    Vigili are special units tasked with maintaining law and order within cities. In emergency, they may also be used to reinforce city garrison.

    Central army (Palatini, Tagmata)

    Central army consists of standing full-time soldiers, garrisoned in and around the capital city. It is structured to deal with revolt by any one of provincial armies, and possibly even two of them.

    Provincial army (Comitatenses, Themata)

    Provincial army consists of full-time paid soldiers and part-time soldiers supported by farmers. Provincial army operates under command of regional governors, which oversee the regular training and maintenance of soldiers under their command. They are given plots of land in exchange for military service, and during peacetime sustain themselves solely from land income. When campaigning, they are given campaign pay. Ideally, those troops would not be peasants themselves, so as not to be distracted from military service; though many in light infantry may be.


    Heavy infantry

    Heavy infantry is typically equipped with full plate armour open-faced sallet helmet combined with falling buffe. This allows easy head movement and good vision, while still providing good protection from missiles when necessary. Disadvantage of sallet helmet is that it sits freely on the head, which means that even strikes that do not penetrate the helmet may still disable the person.

    Light infantry

    Light infantry is typically equipped with open-faced helmet, gambeson, oval shield, sword and a spear. They may also be equipped with javelins, lead darts and/or throwing axes. Better-equipped light infantry (called "medium infantry") will also have a chain shirt.


    Infantry utilizes wrench-and-pulley crossbow, which allows for significant power, but at the expense of slow firing rate. Equipment is otherwise identical to light infantry.


    Archers are rarer than crossbowmen, owing to training. Infantry bow is capable of sending arrows over 330 meters, with killing range of 200 meters against unarmoured person. It can penetrate mail armour at 60 meters and Ardean lamellar armour at 20 meters. Plate armour cannot be penetrated.

    Heavy lance cavalry

    Heavy cavalry utilizes full plate armour, similar to that of infantry. Heavy cavalry armour weights some 35 – 40 kg, but since weight is distributed over entire body, it is possible for cavalryman to fight on foot. Due to need for assistance when putting on armour, each heavy cavalryman has two helpers – oftentimes light cavalry riders who are also tasked with missile support in battle.

    Heavy missile cavalry

    Heavy missile cavalry abandons heavy lance in favour of bow or crossbow. Otherwise equipment is the same as that of heavy lance cavalry. Cavalry bow is capable of shooting arrows over distance of 275 meters, with killing range of 170 meters.

    Light lance cavalry

    Light lance cavalry is equipped with sallet helmet with visor, a small shield, a sword and a lance. They may also carry either a mail shirt or a lamellar corselet over a padded surcoat, or else just a surcoat.

    Light missile cavalry

    Light missile cavalry uses bows and/or throwing axes. Bow is lighter than that of heavy cavalry, with maximum range of 135 m and killing range of 80 meters. Each cavalryman carries a quiver of 40 arrows. Armour is same as that of lance cavalry.

    Limitanei cavalry

    Limitanei cavalry is even lighter than normal light cavalry. They specialize in surprise attacks and raids, burning enemy villages and stealing cattle. Many such cavalry are irregular, living from what they can capture from the enemy. They often carry silk cravats, which are used as first aid for wounds. They have no armour, while weapons consist of a longsword or a sabre, as well as a polearm (axe, warhammer or mace) and a crossbow. Limitanei horses are small and hardy.


    Medicai are medics, people trained in medical arts.


    Deptutatii are rescuers, whose duty is to take wounded from the battle and bring them to medics in the rear. They carry flasks of water, and have two ladders attacked to the saddles of their horses on the left side for help in raising soldiers onto the saddle.
  2. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage


    Central army (Palatini, Tagmata)

    15% heavy armoured cavalry (cataphractii)

    61% heavy cavalry (lancers)

    24% light cavalry

    Provincial army (Comitatenses, Themata)

    30% cavalry (10% heavy cavalry, 20% light cavalry – half of each are missile troops)

    70% infantry (20% heavy infantry, 20% light infantry, 30% archers)

    Navy: 30% of army size


    During campaigns, soldiers receive pay from state, but outside of that they live off the land. Because of this, each soldier is given a plot of land to live from in exchange for military service. These troops are required to appear at yearly muster, and serve on a seasonal basis. Each provincial soldier is given a certain value of land: minimum is four (4) pounds of gold for light cavalryman, twelve (12) pounds of gold for a heavy cavalry soldier, and two (2) pounds of gold for a sailor or an infantryman. More usual values are five and three pounds, for light cavalryman and infantryman, and correspond to a small estate. One pound of gold is worth 20 solidi, and will purchase between 6 and 15 ha, or 60 000 – 150 000 m2 of land. One peasant may own 8 to 20 ha of land; as such, many light infantrymen are peasants.

    Price of a war horse is 20 solidi, draught horse is 10 solidi; mail armour is 100 solidi, full plate armour for cavalryman is 320 solidi (540 solidi with horse armour), and infantry plate half-armour is 140 solidi. Open-faced helmet is 4 solidi. A person owning land of two pounds of gold (40 solidi) has to have a helmet, a spear, and a gambeson. Military service itself is hereditary. Land passes from oldest son to oldest son, or else to closest (capable) male relative in case that soldier does not have a son or son is not capable of military service for one reason or another. In this way, land is not divided. People who do not have enough individually are to band together and provide equipment for one of them. Likewise, those individuals who possess more than minimum value are required to equip and provide additional soldier(s).

    Original minimum land requirements are as follows:

    • heavy cavalry: 12 pounds of gold – 1 200 000 m2 of land

    • light cavalry: 4 pounds of gold – 400 000 m2 of land (40 peasant families; 80 solidi)

    • infantryman: 2 pounds of gold – 200 000 m2 of land

    • sailor: 2 pounds of gold – 200 000 m2 of land
    However, armour technology had advanced from the time of original legislation, with plate armour supplementing other forms of armour, and largely replacing old lamellar armour. As such, following minimum requirements hold true (note: addition to land ½ the value of armour):

    • heavy cavalry: 18 pounds of gold / 1 800 000 m2 (4 pounds + 270 solidi / 13,5 pounds)

    • light cavalry: 4 pounds of gold / 400 000 m2

    • heavy infantry: 5,5 pounds of gold / 550 000 m2 (2 pounds + 70 solidi / 3,5 pounds)

    • medium infantry: 4,5 pounds of gold / 450 000 m2 (2 pounds + 50 solidi / 2,5 pounds)

    • light infantry: 2 pounds of gold / 200 000 m2

    • sailor: 2 pounds of gold / 200 000 m2
    With 15 million people, area under cultivation is 692 000 square kilometers [Calculation as follows: 12 acres per family of 5, 95% of people as farmers = 171 000 000 acres = 692 012 km2], which represents 54% of the area of the Empire. About one-quarter of all cultivable lands of the Empire are given for the military, for a total of 173 000 km2. Using percentages as numbers of troops, 2 heavy cavalrymen, 4 light cavalrymen, 6 heavy infantrymen, 2 medium infantryen, 4 light infantrymen, 4 archers, 1 marine and 6 sailors would require a total of 12 400 000 m2 of land, or 12,4 km2. This gives 14 000 batches, providing for a total force of 28 000 heavy cavalry, 56 000 light cavalry, 84 000 heavy infantry, 28 000 medium infantry, 56 000 light infantry, 56 000 archers, 14 000 marines and 84 000 sailors. Total is thus 406 000 troops, of which 308 000 ground troops and 98 000 naval troops.

    Large dromon has two banks of oars with a total of 100 oars with 100 oarsmen, middle-sized dromon with a single bank of oars has 50 oars with 50 oarsmen and small dromon (barca) has 20 oars and 20 oarsmen. In addition to rowers, large dromon also has a captain, a standard-bearer, two pilots, a bowman and five assistants; medium the same, and small dromon a commander and a helmsman. Crew is thus 210 for large dromon (two crews of oarsmen), 110 for medium dromon and 22 for small dromon. Number of soldiers is 70 for large dromon, 25 for medium dromon and no soldiers for small dromon. Thus total complement is 280 for large, 140 for medium and 22 for small dromon. Large dromon is 32 meters long, and so is middle-sized dromon. Small dromon or barca is 14 meters in length, 2 meters in width and 0,3 meters in draught, with total side height of 0,7 m.

    Horse transport is a large dromond for whom lower bank of oars had been removed, and hold converted for horses. Horses are transported triple-file, with 36 horses per large transport and 24 horses per small transport (a converted large dromond). Large transport has crew of 160 men and small transport of 130 men.

    With 14 000 marines and 84 000 sailors, fleet has 100 large dromons (7 000 marines, 21 000 sailors), 280 medium dromons (7 000 marines, 31 000 sailors), 500 small dromons (11 000 sailors) and 130 large transports (21 000 sailors). Transports can carry 4 680 horses.

    Empire maintains standing army of full-time soldiers. Large portion of this army is concentrated within and around the imperial capital. Each province also has a detachment of full-time soldiers, typically stationed within provincial capital as well as various fortresses. These standing, salaried troops form the core of provincial armies, which are then supplemented by the part-time militia. This standing army numbers a total of 46 200 ground troops, 2 100 marines and 12 600 sailors, with fleet of 30 large dromons and 40 large transports. It is supported from mlitary lands like provincial forces are, but also receives regular pay in addition to campaign pay. It is thus included in the totals already noted before.

    In extremis, military service may be required of all citizens of age 17. to 46. (iuniores); if necessary, citizens of ages 47. to 60. (seniores) will also be called up. These levies are generally lightly armed, usually having only a spear, a shield, and a simple open-faced helmet. In normal circumstances, teenagers over age 13 join as servants of older soldiers, and when they reach age of 19 they become fully-fledged soldiers. Usual proportion is one servant per soldier.

    Widows of soldiers killed in service are given 5 pounds of gold for compensation. Military commanders receive regular pay, with generals (magister militum, strategos) receiving 12 pounds of gold per year. Pay of the cavalryman is 12 solidi (nomisma) per year, and of officers 1 to 3 lbs of gold per year.

    Problems with system

    Main problem with the system is that – especially in northern parts of the Empire or else on the periphery – formation of military clans (clans of military field army commanders) leads to extensive network of clientage and patronage. As such, some provincial armies may achieve private character. This in turn can lead to feudal-like conflicts between powerful families, using what are de iure state armies for their own personal interest.

    Even without that, soldiers themselves and their commanders are highly conscious of imperial affairs and the way in which the Empire is being governed. The result is that army will invariably rebel against a weak or incompetent ruler.
  3. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage


    Commanders are required to read miltary manuals, and they tend to be professional soldiers. They have to understand strategy, tactics, and exhibit both courage and caution. General must also understand logistics and morale. He has to be serious, sober and incorruptible, as well as excellent public speaker. He should be of exceptional piety, and have children so as to be motivated. Much like any other army, loss of a general means defeat and dispersal of the army.

    Most generals are from well-off families with tradition of military command, as they are better educated and are essentially raised for command from childhood. Even so, a commander has to be successful to keep his post. Initiative from below is limited – army must not be allowed to fall apart into groups, especially against highly mobile nomads. Stress on discipline and protocol means that initiative from below is undesirable. However, it also means that military is highly dependant on its commanders. Commanders have to hold discipline and authority, and if they fall, cohesion dissolves.


    Legion (legio)

    Each legion is assigned one province which supports it.

    Cohors (cohors)

    Cohors can be of two types: thousand-man cohorts and five hundred-man cohorts. Cavalry cohorts are called alae. Cohors equitatae are not cavalry cohorts, but rather mixed cohorts of ¾ infantry and ¼ cavalry.

    Centuria (centuria)

    Centuria has hundred men.

    Decuria (decuria)

    Decuria has ten men.


    Legate (legatus)

    Legate commands a legion.

    Tribune (tribunus)

    Tribune commands a cohort.

    Centurion (centurio)

    Commands a centuria.

    Decurion (decurio)

    Commands a decuria.

    Prefect of the camp (praefectus castrorum)

    Prefect commands permanent military camps and bases, irrespective of size.


    When on march, light infantry moves ahead, to sides and to rear of the army. They form scouts – outermost are scouting pairs, followed by larger groups of scouts. Lastly there are fast-reaction units of light infantry and cavalry. Light cavalry may form advance and rear guard in front and rear of the main force.

    Advance guard is in front of the main army. It consists of one infantry legion supported by cavalry, or else one infantry cohors supported by cavalry. After them follow ten men from eachy centuria tasked with making a camp, and after them follow engineers tasked with removing obstacles. They are followed by commanders' baggage train. Baggage train is followed by commander and his bodyguard (typically heavy cavalry), itself followed by heavy cavalry. Heavy cavalry is followed by siege train (mules carrying dissassembled siege equipment), and siege train is followed by high-ranking officers. After them come legions in six files, and after legions follow mercenaries. Rear guard is formed by heavy infantry and heavy cavalry.

    Normal marching rate is 20 – 25 kilometers per day (including setting up fortified camp), with 40 – 50 kilometers per day during forced march, which generally can only be maintained for a day or two. Normal march speed on even terrain is 4,8 kph, and on hilly terrain it is 4 kph. Division of 5 000 infantry has 20 minute gap between front and rear elements. With 15 mile army, it takes 9 hours to complete the march; a 22 mile army would take 12 hours (1 000 cavalry is 6 miles, 5 000 infantry is 5 kilometers or 3 miles). Each soldier with him carries food for three days, but most of baggage – tents, food, equipment – is carried by mules. If baggage train is drawn by oxen as opposed to mules, march rate falls to 16 kilometers per day. On a good road and with no baggage train, march rate can be up to 40 kilometers per day, but such a rate is exhausting and causes high attrition. Up to 50 kilometers per day can be achieved with an all-mounted force, but only for two days or so. Small units can move more rapidly – infantry could march up to 50 kilometers per day in forced march, and cavalry 65 – 80 kilometers per day. Army in enemy territory often has to forage, again reducing marching speed to 20 kilometers per day or less. These marching speeds are similar for other armies as well.

    News carried by courier travel at rate of about 100 kilometers per day.


    Camp must be secured at any stop during the march. Even night camp is always to be fortified with a dug trench and pallisade of shields (pavises). Companies of soldiers detailed the task of foraging were guarded by additional companies. Officers would patrol outside the pallisade, especially at night, to ensure the guards were doing their duty.

    LOGISTICS – The Byzantine Art of War, 93

    Logistical apparatus is overseen by praetorian prefect. Where possible, goods are procured locally, but in friendly territory there are necessary limits to army's self-sustinence. Thus well-maintained roads – via millitaria – are of vital importance. These are eight meters wide. By law, minor public roads have to be 16 feet (4,8 meters) wide.

    For a two-week march, a 15 000 men force requires 288 400 kg of grain for soldiers' rations; horses and mules significantly increase this.

    Each troop detachment, depending on size, should have a person or group trained in medical treatment of wounds. A small body of men are detailed during the battle to take care of the wounded as well as to convey water to the front lines.
  4. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage


    Enemy army should be undermined if it can be. An army strong in cavalry should be deprived of forage. A large army should be harrassed by raids and cut off from resupply. An army consisting of diverse peoples should be turned on itself. Enemy relying on archery should be engaged in close quarters. A reckless enemy should be drawn out for battle and then denied it until he becomes careless. Feigned retreat should be used to provide opportunity for a surprise attack – up to and including seemingly abandoning the camp and leaving it for the enemy to plunder.

    Before open battle, enemy should first be defeated in three small engagements, especially if a city is being beseiged. Enemy within the city can be demoralized by heads of their fallen comrades being launched over the walls. A charge by shock cavalry can be extremely effective, especially if targeted at the enemy commander; but it has to be properly timed and supported, lest cavalry be surrounded and overcome by the enemy. They also have to charge at measured pace, to prevent disorganization.

    Against nomads – open field

    Nomads usually utilize a combination of light, fast-moving missile cavalry and heavy armoured cavalry (usually cataphracts utilizing scale or lamellar armour) utilizing long lance. They are excellent archers and horsemen, and masters of tactic of feigned retreat, waiting for a pursuing army to get disorganized before counterattacking. Retreating horse archers may utilize "Carpain shot", shooting at the enemy while retreating. They are almost impossible to corner and force to battle, raiding and destroying unprotected areas instead.

    During the battle, army should be positioned with backs towards an impassable obstacle, or else in a square formation. Frontline consists of men with pavises protecting lines of pikemen. Behind them are archers or crossbowmen, whose bows have much longer range than those of nomadic horse archers. Enemy cataphracts would be countered by Ardean counterparts. Infantry would be deployed in two lines, allowing first line to retreat behind second line if it is defeated or else tired. Second line would, if army was in open terrain, also guard against enemy attacks from the rear. General's position is at the center of the second line, allowing him to be protected while observing the battle.

    In open terrain, army would form into a hollow square formation, with heavy infantry on the outside, including pavises and pikemen. Behind them, protected by heavy infantry, are crossbowmen and/or longbowmen who keep enemy cavalry at bay. Cavalry is protected by infantry, and it rides out through gaps in the lines for quick attacks, retreating back to protection of infantry formation if the enemy goes too far away or situation becomes dangerous. Some infantry is held in reserve, ready to close the gaps as required. Infantry formation is double-ribbed, with two lines of heavy infantry on the outside, three of crossbowmen in the middle and two of heavy infantry on the inside. Within the square would be baggage and other supplies, and cavalry could retreat there if necessary.

    Against nomads and other horse-heavy enemies, poisonous arrows should be used. Warriors from cultures that heavily rely on cavalry will often rather retreat than to risk their horses in such a manner. Heavy cavalry should engage without exchanging preliminary arrow fire, but main counter to nomadic cavalry are foot archers.

    Wagons can be equipped to serve in combat. If so, they should be positioned either on flanks of the infantry – that is between infantry and cavalry – if army is in line formation, or else surrounding the square formation.

    Against Guzz Sultanate

    Guzz Sultanate depends heavily on flank attacks and cavalry maneuvre, as it does not have technology to produce heavy plate armour. Infantry is the pivot – the anvil – while the cavalry serves as the hammer. Because of this, frontal cavalry charge that feudal armies are so fond of does not work at all. Outcome of cavalry charge at the center of Guzz army is that cavalry becomes bogged down, outflanked and destroyed, after which infantry is slaughtered. Rather, army should be deployed in a single line, with heavy infantry at centre, heavy cavalry at flanks, and light infantry and cavalry behind heavy infantry and cavalry. Heavy infantry should engage enemy infantry while heavy cavalry destroys Guzz cavalry at the flanks. Once Guzz cavalry is destroyed, Ardean cavalry should attack Guzz infantry from rear. Light cavalry, positioned behind heavy cavalry, should ride behind it until the clash, upon which it should move away and outflank the enemy.

    Guzz light cavalry is often deployed on its own, as raiders. If encountered, Ardean light cavalry should engage it and then fall back, baiting it towards heavy cavalry in reserve that will destroy Guzz cavalry. Vanquished enemy should be pursued only by a portion of the army, and only by cavalry – light missile cavalry followed by light lance cavalry and heavy cavalry. Enemy armies should be followed closely by light cavalry – even if too weak for direct engagement, presence of cavalry will force them to contain their foraging.

    STRATEGY – The Byzantine Art of War, 128

    The Empire always attempts to avoid a war – when two are fighting, third one is laughing, and effort is to be made that the Empire is the one laughing instead of expending strength in war. Diplomatic contacts are maintained with neighbours and important faraway countries at all times, even those that are at war with the Empire. Poorer neighbours are bought off with gifts. Alliances are made with states and tribes that lay beyond those threatening the Empire at any given time.

    But war cannot always be avoided. When fighting a war, strategy is primarily defensive. Fortified places (forts, cities) serve both defensive and offensive purpose: to slow down the enemy advance, threaten his supply lines, and provide a place of retreat should a field army be defeated. Army should stage preventive assaults to cut supply lines, take strongholds and gain control of garrison routes. Enemy army should be exhausted through small attacks and ambushes at night.

    Borders of the Empire are defined largely by mountain ranges. While West of the Empire is relatively flat, the south-eastern portion is defined by forbidding mountain ranges backed by a rather rough hilly terrain. It is there that Guzz advance had been finally slowed down and stopped. The entire region is an expanse of mountain fortresses, hideouts and underground cities carved in rock. Even beyond there, villages are usually situated under earth, while cities are heavily fortified. Night attacks, ambushes, assaults on encampments and surprise movements should be used to surprise the enemy. Enemy forces should be shadowed, and attacked when they turn back towards their own territory loaded with booty.

    This necessarily results in the defense in depth and espionage. Enemy attacks are met with counterattacks: a maritime attack is met by overland incursion, and land attack by maritime incursion.



    Most common warship type is the dromon.


    See Army.


    While most of Ardean military utilizes Ardean language (Latin), Navy utilizes Ardean as an official language, but much of terminology and everday usage is in Elisi language (Greek).
  5. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    That is a lot of information! :)
    I've would like to ask a couple of questions, if I may.
    Is this for a story or an RPG? I love world building but there has to be a purpose for it.
    If you are using Renaissance age technology, then where are the Cannon, Trebuchet and the like? I always think of the [Italian] Renaissance as when the use of cannon [and other firearms] began to be understood and effective.
  6. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

    It is for story. As for technology, I am basing it largely on armies of John and Matthias Hunyadi, and from what I have found out so far, former used crossbowmen, and only latter introduced infantry firearms. I am still on the fence wrt introducing gunpowder weapons at all.

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