Komnenan Byzantine

Historical Overview Section


The Seljuk Turks made their first forays into Byzantine Armenia in 1065 and in 1067. The emergency lent weight to the military aristocracy in Anatolia who, in 1068, secured the election of one of their own, Romanos Diogenes, as emperor. In the summer of 1071, Romanos undertook a massive eastern campaign to draw the Seljuks into a general engagement with the Byzantine army but at Manzikert Romanos not only suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of Sultan Alp Arslan, but was also captured. Alp Arslan treated him with respect, and imposed no harsh terms on the Byzantines. But his friends were not so gracious - in Constantinople a coup took place in favor of Michael Doukas, ushering in the Komnenan period.

After Manzikert, a partial recovery (referred to as the Komnenian restoration) was made possible by the efforts of the Komnenian dynasty. The first emperor of this dynasty was Isaac I (1057–1059) and the second Alexios I. At the very outset of his reign, Alexios faced a formidable attack by the Normans under Robert Guiscard and his son Bohemund of Taranto, who captured Dyrrhachium and Corfu, and laid siege to Larissa in Thessaly. Robert Guiscard's death in 1085 temporarily eased the Norman problem. The following year the Seljuq sultan died, and the sultanate was split by internal rivalries. By his own efforts, Alexios defeated the Pechenegs; they were caught by surprise and annihilated at the Battle of Levounion on 28 April 1091. He still however did not have enough manpower to recover the lost territories in Asia Minor and to advance against the Seljuks, and in what turned out to be a bit of a daft move, appealled to the Pope for Western aid. THis led to a huge undisciplined army of Early Crusaders roaming around Byzantine and Middle Eastern territory for several years, capturing part of the Holy Land and also - on occasion- going to war with Byzantium.

Alexios' son John II Komnenos succeeded him in 1118, and was to rule until 1143. In the course of his twenty-five year reign, John made alliances with the Holy Roman Empire in the west, decisively defeated the Pechenegs at the Battle of Beroia and personally led numerous campaigns against the Turks in Asia Minor. John's campaigns fundamentally changed the balance of power in the east, forcing the Turks onto the defensive. In the later part of his reign John focused his activities on the East. He defeated the Danishmend emirate of Melitene, and reconquered all of Cilician Armenian territory, while forcing Raymond of Poitiers, Prince of Antioch, to recognize Byzantine suzerainty.

John's chosen heir was his fourth son, Manuel I Komnenos, who campaigned aggressively against his neighbours both in the west and in the east. In Palestine, he allied himself with the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and sent a large fleet to participate in a combined invasion of Fatimid Egyptian lands. Manuel reinforced his position as overlord of the Later Crusader states, and sent an expedition to Italy in 1155, but disputes within the coalition led to the eventual failure of the campaign. Despite this military setback, Manuel's armies successfully invaded the Kingdom of Hungary in 1167, defeating the Early Hungarians at the Battle of Sirmium. By 1168 nearly the whole of the eastern Adriatic coast lay in Manuel's hands., He also made several alliances with the Pope and Western Christian kingdoms, and successfully handled the passage of the Second Crusade through his empire.

In the east, however, Manuel suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Myriokephalon, in 1176, against the Turks, although the losses were quickly made good, and in the following year Manuel's forces inflicted a defeat upon a force of "picked Turks". The Byzantine commander John Vatatzes, who destroyed the Turkish invaders at the Battle of Hyelion and Leimocheir not only brought troops from the capital but also was able to gather an (allied) army along the way; a sign that the Byzantine army remained strong and that the defensive program of western Asia Minor was still successful.

Manuel's death on 24 September 1180 left his 11-year-old son Alexios II Komnenos on the throne - an unpopular monarch who ws a virtual puppet of his mother and her faction. Eventually Andronikos I Komnenos, a grandson of Alexios I, launched a revolt against his younger relative and managed to overthrow him in a violent coup d'état. Despite his military background, Andronikos failed to deal with Béla III who reincorporated Croatian territories into Hungary, and Stephen Nemanja of Serbia who declared his independence from Byzantium. Yet none of these troubles would compare to William II of Sicily's invasion force of 300 ships and 80,000 men, arriving in 1185. He was finally overthrown when Isaac Angelos, surviving an imperial assassination attempt, seized power with the aid of the people and had Andronikos killed. The reign of Isaac II, and, still more, that of his brother Alexios III, saw the collapse of what remained of the centralized machinery of Byzantine government and defense. Although, the Normans were driven out of Greece, in 1186 the Vlachs and Early Bulgarian?s began a rebellion that was to lead to the formation of the Second Bulgarian Empire.

The end came with the 4th Crusade - an ill-starred affair which had already seen the virtual sack of Venice and things were not going to go well when this mod arrived at Byzantium. The crusaders arrived at the city in the summer of 1203, and Alexios III fled from the capital. The crusaders took the city on 13 April 1204. Constantinople was subjected by the rank and file to pillage and massacre for three days. When order had been restored, the crusaders and the Venetians parcelled out the assets of the city and empre - Baldwin of Flanders was elected emperor and the Venetian Thomas Morosini chosen patriarch. The lands parcelled out among the leaders did not include all the former Byzantine possessions, however Byzantine rule continued only in Nicaea, Trebizond, and Epirus

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Army Lists

Sample army lists for this army

184 Komnenan Byzantine Beltway
1 Latinikon Medium Knight impact Elite 13 13
3 Latinikon Medium Knight impact Ordinary 11 33
1 Tourkopouloi, Alans & Bulgars Light cavalry bow Elite 7 7
1 Archers Light infantry bow Ordinary 4 4
2 Skythikon Light cavalry bow Ordinary 6 12
Ordinary Included
2 Kavallarioi Medium Knight impact Ordinary 11 22
1 Archers Light infantry bow Ordinary 4 4
1 Skythikon Light cavalry bow Ordinary 6 6
2 Latinikon Medium Knight impact Elite 13 26
1 Kavallarioi Medium Knight impact Ordinary 11 11
2 Varangian guardsmen Heavy swordsmen armor 2HW Elite 13 26
2 Javelinmen Light infantry javelin Ordinary 4 8
1 Archers Bowmen Ordinary 7 7
2 Skythicon Light cavalry bow Ordinary 6 12

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