Early Byzantine

Early Byzantine

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Historical Overview Section

After the split of the Roman empire into East and West, Justinian I assumed the Eastern throne in 527 and oversaw a period of Byzantine expansion into former Roman territories. In 532, attempting to secure his eastern frontier, Justinian signed a peace treaty with the Sassanid Persian Emperoro Khosrau I of Persia agreeing to pay a large annual tribute to the Sassanid Persians. In the same year, Justinian survived a revolt in Constantinople (the Nika riots) which ended with the death of (allegedly) thirty thousand rioters - although whether anyone could afford to even buy the figures for 30,000 Mob, never mind fit them on a 6x4 table in 15mm is questionable. This victory solidified Justinian's power. Pope Agapetus I was sent to Constantinople by the Italian Ostrogothic king Theodahad, but failed in his mission to sign a peace with Justinian. However, he succeeded in having the Monophysite Patriarch Anthimus I of Constantinople denounced, despite Empress Theodora's support.

The western conquests began in 533, as Justinian sent his general "They Call Me The Count" Belisarius to reclaim the former province of North Africa from the African Vandals with a small army of about 15,000 men. Success came with surprising ease given how ropey this list can be, but it was not until 548 that the major local independent tribes were subdued. In Ostrogothic Italy, the deaths of Theodoric the Great, his nephew and heir Athalaric, and his daughter Amalasuntha had left her murderer Theodahad on the throne despite his weakened authority and severe case of piles. In 535, a small Byzantine expedition sent to Sicily on a holiday met with easy success, but the Italian Ostrogothic armies soon stiffened their resistance, and victory did not come until 540, when Belisarius captured Ravenna after successful sieges of Naples and Rome.

Nevertheless, the Ostrogoths were soon reunited under the command of Totila and captured Rome on 17 December 546; Belisarius was eventually recalled by Justinian in early 549. The arrival of the Armenian eunuch Narses in Italy (late 551) with an army of some 35,000 men (but obviously without his own old fella) marked another shift in Gothic fortunes. Totila was defeated and died at the Battle of Busta Gallorum (literally "Bust a gut" in medieval Latin). His successor, Teias, was likewise defeated at the Battle of Mons Lactarius in 552 (no schoolboy humour please). Despite continuing resistance from a few Goth garrisons who enjoyed the benefits of adequate supplies of pale makeup and the entire back catalogue of the Fields of the Nephililm on vinyl to keep them going, and two subsequent invasions by the Franks and Alamanni, the war for the Italian peninsula was at an end. In 551, a noble of Later Visigothic Hispania, Athanagild, sought Justinian's help in a rebellion against the king, and the emperor dispatched a force under Liberius, who, although elderly, proved himself a successful military commander. The Byzantine empire held on to a small slice of the Spania coast until the reign of Heraclius.

In the east, Roman-Sassanid Persian Wars continued until 561 when Justinian's and Khusro's envoys agreed on a 50-year peace. By the mid-550s, Justinian had won victories in most theatres of operation with the notable exception of the Balkans, which were subjected to repeated incursions from the Slavs. In 559, the Empire faced a great invasion of Kutrigurs and Sclaveni (tribes who fought as part of Attilla's Western Hunnic armies but then went on to form the basis for the Early Bulgars. Justinian called Belisarius out of retirement to deal with this new threat, but once the immediate danger was over, the emperor took charge himself and claimed the glory.

The Byzantine Armies in order

  • Early Byzantine : 493 - 550 The Eastern Roman Empire & Belisarius on the offensive - Mixed & Bw/Sw Cv units and "legionaries" - D&F
  • Maurikian Byzantine : 550 - 650 Loss of Africa, The Strategikon, War with Persia & The Arabs - Good quality Ln & Bw/Sw Cv, Mixed Skoutatoi but no LH - D&F
  • Thematic Byzantine : 650 - 963 The Thematic System, Tagmatic units fighting the Caliphates - Mixed units & Bw/Sw Cv, Average & Poor units, Cataphracts - D&F
  • Nikephorian Byzantine : 963 - 1071 Basil bashes the Bulgars, Normans conquer Italy, Manzikert loss to the Turks - Bw* or Ln Cavalry, Varangians, lots of mixed spearmen & some Normans - D&F
  • Komnenan Byzantine : 1071 - 1204 Manzikert to Fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders - Lancer Cv, some KN, Varangians - S&S
  • Post Latin Conquest Byzantine : 1204 - 1261 Nikaia, Epiros, Trebizond vs the Latin Kingdoms - Frankish Kn, lots of archers, - S&S
  • Late Byzantine : 1261 - 1461 Byzantium, Epirus, Morea & Trebizond until their fall to the Turks - Cv Lancers, 4 Kn, lots of archers - EE

Tips on using the army

  • put your troop selection and usage advice here

User-contributed links about this army:

Allied Contingents

  • Arab, Early . Date restrictions: None Book: Rise of Rome Page: 60 - Well, it has no minima, so you can choose between uninspiring LH and Cv, Poor Bw armed camelry, and some very average Lt Sp/Sw MF. Hoorah!

Painting and Modelling advice

  • References, colour schemes, whatever you like really

15mm Manufacturers supplying figures for this army

You can see some of the figures in the Ancients Photo Gallery also on this site
Many manufacturers produce just one "Byzantine" range, not specifying which era they are for (but most are Maurikian era I suspect). All generic "Byzantine" ranges have been listed here, together with any specifically noted for particular eras. For Latin or other allied troops, use Crusader or other knights of a similar timeframe. 700AD - in the Thematic list - is as good a date as any for round shields to start to change over to kite shields.

Image Image Image Image Image

Army Lists

Sample army lists for this army
800 AP

  • 2 * 6xHF Pro,ave + 3 sup LF
  • 2 * 4LH Unp, sup, undrilled bow/swd
  • 1 * 4LH Unp, ave, undrilled Jav/Lt spr
  • 1 * 8LF unp, ave, undrilled, jav/lt spr
  • 1 * 8LF unp, ave, drilled, bow
  • 2 * 4CV arm, ave, drilled, bow/swd
  • 2 * 6CV 1/2 - arm sup, drilled, lance/swd 1/2 arm sup, drilled bow/swd


  • 3 * 4CV arm sup, drilled, lance/swd
  • IC + 2 * TC

- Idea being to use drilled status to move, +4 initiative to get terrain and hope the HF hang-on till one of the cav BGs can work a flank.

Alternative Lists & Historical Interpretations

Alternative Early Byzantine

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