Roman army

Roman army

Overview

The Roman army is the generic term for the terrestrial armed forces deployed by the kingdom of Rome (to ca. 500 BC), the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 (500-31 BC), the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 (31 BC - AD 476) and its successor, the Byzantine empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 (476-1453). It is thus a term that spans approximately 2,000 years, during which the Roman armed forces underwent numerous permutations in composition, organization, equipment and tactics, while conserving a core of lasting traditions.

The development of the Roman army may be divided into the following 8 broad historical phases:

(1) The Early Roman army
Early Roman army
The Early Roman army refers to the army deployed by ancient Rome during its Regal Era and its early Republic, until ca. 300 BC, when the so-called "Polybian" or manipular legion was introduced....

of the Roman kingdom
Roman Kingdom
The Roman Kingdom was the period of the ancient Roman civilization characterized by a monarchical form of government of the city of Rome and its territories....

 and of the early Republic (to ca.
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The Roman army is the generic term for the terrestrial armed forces deployed by the kingdom of Rome (to ca. 500 BC), the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 (500-31 BC), the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 (31 BC - AD 476) and its successor, the Byzantine empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 (476-1453). It is thus a term that spans approximately 2,000 years, during which the Roman armed forces underwent numerous permutations in composition, organization, equipment and tactics, while conserving a core of lasting traditions.

Historical phases


The development of the Roman army may be divided into the following 8 broad historical phases:

(1) The Early Roman army
Early Roman army
The Early Roman army refers to the army deployed by ancient Rome during its Regal Era and its early Republic, until ca. 300 BC, when the so-called "Polybian" or manipular legion was introduced....

of the Roman kingdom
Roman Kingdom
The Roman Kingdom was the period of the ancient Roman civilization characterized by a monarchical form of government of the city of Rome and its territories....

 and of the early Republic (to ca. 300 BC). During this period, when warfare chiefly consisted of small-scale plundering-raids, it has been suggested that the Roman army followed Etruscan
Etruscan warfare
The Etruscans, like the contemporary cultures of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome had a persistent military tradition. In addition to marking the rank and power of certain individuals in Etruscan culture, warfare was a considerable economic boon to Etruscan civilization...

 or Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 models of organization and equipment. The early Roman army was based on an annual levy or conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 of citizens for a single campaigning-season, hence the term legion
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

 for the basic Roman military unit (derived from legere, "to levy").

(2) The Roman army of the mid-Republic
Roman army of the mid-Republic
The Roman army of the mid-Republic , refers to the armed forces deployed by the mid- Roman Republic The Roman army of the mid-Republic (also known as the manipular Roman army or the "Polybian army"), refers to the armed forces deployed by the mid- Roman Republic The Roman army of the mid-Republic...

(a.k.a. as the "manipular army" or the "Polybian army" after the Greek historian Polybius
Polybius
Polybius , Greek ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 220–146 BC in detail. The work describes in part the rise of the Roman Republic and its gradual domination over Greece...

, who provides the most detailed extant description of this phase) of the mid-Republican period (ca. 300-107 BC).

During this period, the Romans, while maintaining the levy system, adopted the Samnite
Samnium
Samnium is a Latin exonym for a region of south or south and central Italy in Roman times. The name survives in Italian today, but today's territory comprising it is only a small portion of what it once was. The populations of Samnium were called Samnites by the Romans...

 manipular
Maniple (military unit)
Maniple was a tactical unit of the Roman legion adopted from the Samnites during the Samnite Wars . It was also the name of the military insignia carried by such unit....

 organization for their legions and also bound all the other peninsular Italian states into a permanent military alliance (see Socii). The latter were required to supply (collectively) roughly the same number of troops to joint forces as the Romans to serve under Roman command. Legions in this phase were always accompanied on campaign by the same number of allied alae, units of roughly the same size as legions.

After the 2nd Punic War (218-201 BC), the Romans acquired an overseas empire, which necessitated standing forces to fight lengthy wars of conquest and garrison the newly gained provinces. Thus the army's character mutated from a temporary force based entirely on short-term conscription to a standing army in which the conscripts were complemented by a large number of volunteers who were willing to serve for much longer than the legal 6-year limit. These volunteers were mainly from the poorest social class, who did not have plots to tend at home and were attracted by the modest military pay and the prospect of a share of war-booty. The minimum property requirement for service in the legions, which had been suspended during the 2nd Punic War, was effectively ignored from 201 BC onwards in order to recruit sufficient volunteers. Also during this period, the manipular structure was gradually phased out, and the much larger cohort
Cohort (military unit)
A cohort was the basic tactical unit of a Roman legion following the reforms of Gaius Marius in 107 BC.-Legionary cohort:...

 became the main tactical unit. In addition, from the 2nd Punic War onwards, Roman armies were always accompanied by units of non-Italian mercenaries, Numidian light cavalry, Cretan
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 archers, and Balearic
Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.The four largest islands are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain with Palma as the capital...

 slingers, who provided specialist functions that Roman armies had previously lacked.

(3) The Roman army of the Late Republic (107–30 BC) marks the continued transition between the conscription-based citizen-levy of the mid-Republic and the mainly volunteer, professional standing forces of the imperial era. The main literary source for the army's organisation and tactics in this phase are the works of Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

, the most notable of a series of warlords who contested power in this period. As a result of the Social War (91-88 BC), all Italians were granted Roman citizenship, the old allied alae were abolished and their members integrated into the legions. Regular annual conscription remained in force and continued to provide the core of legionary recruitment, but an ever-increasing proportion of recruits were volunteers, who signed up for 16-year terms as opposed to the maximum 6 years for conscripts. The loss of ala cavalry reduced Roman/Italian cavalry by 75%, and legions became dependent on allied native horse for cavalry cover. This period saw the large-scale expansion of native forces employed to complement the legions, made up of numeri (units) recruited from tribes within Rome's overseas empire and neighbouring allied tribes. Large numbers of heavy infantry
Heavy infantry
Heavy infantry refers to heavily armed and armoured ground troops, as opposed to medium or light infantry, in which the warriors are relatively lightly armoured. As modern infantry troops usually define their subgroups differently , 'heavy infantry' almost always is used to describe pre-gunpowder...

 and cavalry were recruited in Spain, Gaul and Thrace, and archers in Thrace, Anatolia and Syria. However, these native units were not integrated with the legions, but retained their own traditional leadership, organisation, armour and weapons.

(4) The Imperial Roman army
Imperial Roman army
The Imperial Roman army refers to the armed forces deployed by the Roman Empire during the Principate era .Under the founder–emperor Augustus , the legions, which were formations numbering about 5,000 heavy infantry recruited from Roman citizens only, were transformed from a mixed conscript and...

(30 BC – AD 284), when the Republican system of citizen-conscription was replaced by a standing professional army of mainly volunteers serving standard 20-year terms (plus 5 as reservists), as established by the first Roman emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

, Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 (sole ruler 30 BC - AD 14). The legions, consisting almost entirely of heavy infantry, numbered 25 of ca. 5,000 men each (total 125,000) under Augustus, increasing to a peak of 33 of 5,500 (ca. 180,000 men) by AD 200 under Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

. Legions continued to recruit Roman citizens only i.e. mainly the inhabitants of Italy and Roman colonies until AD 212. Regular annual conscription of citizens was abandoned and only decreed in emergencies (e.g. during the Illyrian revolt AD 6-9). Legions were now flanked by the auxilia, a corps of regular troops recruited mainly from peregrini
Peregrinus (Roman)
Peregrinus was the term used during the early Roman empire, from 30 BC to 212 AD, to denote a free provincial subject of the Empire who was not a Roman citizen. Peregrini constituted the vast majority of the Empire's inhabitants in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD...

, imperial subjects who did not hold Roman citizenship (the great majority of the empire's inhabitants until 212, when all were granted citizenship). Auxiliaries, who served a minimum term of 25 years, were also mainly volunteers, but regular conscription of peregrini was employed for most of the 1st century AD. The auxilia consisted, under Augustus, of ca. 250 regiments of roughly cohort
Cohort (military unit)
A cohort was the basic tactical unit of a Roman legion following the reforms of Gaius Marius in 107 BC.-Legionary cohort:...

 size i.e. ca. 500 men (125,000 men, or 50% of total army effectives). The number of regiments increased to ca. 400 under Severus, of which ca. 13% were double-strength (ca. 250,000 men, or 60% of total army). Auxilia contained heavy infantry equipped similarly to legionaries; and almost all the army's cavalry (both armoured and light), and archers and slingers.

(5) The Late Roman army
Late Roman army
The Late Roman army is the term used to denote the military forces of the Roman Empire from the accession of Emperor Diocletian in 284 until the Empire's definitive division into Eastern and Western halves in 395. A few decades afterwards, the Western army disintegrated as the Western empire...

(284–476 and its continuation, in the surviving eastern half of the empire, as the East Roman army
East Roman army
The East Roman army refers to the army of the Eastern section of the Roman Empire, from the empire's definitive split in 395 AD to the army's reorganization by themes after the permanent loss of Syria, Palestine and Egypt to the Arabs in the 7th century...

 to 641). In this phase, crystallised by the reforms of the emperor Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

 (ruled 284-305), the Roman army returned to regular annual conscription of citizens, while admitting large numbers of non-citizen barbarian
Barbarian
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...

 volunteers. However, soldiers remained 25-year professionals and did not return to the short-term levies of the Republic. The old dual organisation of legions and auxilia was abandoned, with citizens and non-citizens now serving in the same units. The old legions were broken up into cohort or even smaller sizes. At the same time, a substantial proportion of the army's effectives were stationed in the interior of the empire, in the form of comitatus praesentales
Comitatenses
Comitatenses is the Latin plural of comitatensis, originally the adjective derived from comitatus , itself rooting in Comes .However, historically it became the accepted name for...

, armies that escorted the emperors.

(6) The Middle Byzantine army
Byzantine army
The Byzantine army was the primary military body of the Byzantine armed forces, serving alongside the Byzantine navy. A direct descendant of the Roman army, the Byzantine army maintained a similar level of discipline, strategic prowess and organization...

(641–1081), is the army of the Byzantine state in its classical form (i.e. after the permanent loss of its Near Eastern and North African territories to the Arab conquests after 641). This army was based on conscription of professional troops in the themes structure characteristic of this period, and from ca. 950 on the professional troops known as tagma
Tagma (military)
The tagma is a term for a military unit of battalion or regiment size. The best-known and most technical use of the term however refers to the elite regiments formed by Byzantine emperor Constantine V and comprising the central army of the Byzantine Empire in the 8th–11th centuries.-History and...

ta
.

(7) The Komnenian Byzantine army, named after the Komnenos
Komnenos
Komnenós or Comnenus was the name of a ruling family of the Eastern Roman Empire , who halted the political decline of the Empire from c.1081 to c.1185.-Origins:...

 dynasty, which ruled in 1081–1185. This was an army built virtually from scratch after the permanent loss of Byzantium's traditional main recruiting ground of Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 to the Turks
Turkish people
Turkish people, also known as the "Turks" , are an ethnic group primarily living in Turkey and in the former lands of the Ottoman Empire where Turkish minorities had been established in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Romania...

 following the Battle of Manzikert
Battle of Manzikert
The Battle of Manzikert , was fought between the Byzantine Empire and Seljuq Turks led by Alp Arslan on August 26, 1071 near Manzikert...

 in 1071, and the destruction of the last regiments of the old army in the wars against the Normans in the early 1080s. It survived until the fall of Constantinople to the Western crusaders in 1204. This army was characterised by a large number of mercenary
Mercenary
A mercenary, is a person who takes part in an armed conflict based on the promise of material compensation rather than having a direct interest in, or a legal obligation to, the conflict itself. A non-conscript professional member of a regular army is not considered to be a mercenary although he...

 regiments composed of troops of foreign origin such as the Varangian Guard
Varangian Guard
The Varangian Guard was an elite unit of the Byzantine Army in 10th to the 14th centuries, whose members served as personal bodyguards of the Byzantine Emperors....

, and the introduction of the pronoia
Pronoia
Pronoia refers to a system of land grants in the Byzantine Empire.-The Early Pronoia System:...

system.

(8) The Palaiologan Byzantine army, named after the Palaiologos
Palaiologos
Palaiologos , often latinized as Palaeologus, was a Byzantine Greek noble family, which produced the last ruling dynasty of the Byzantine Empire. After the Fourth Crusade, members of the family fled to the neighboring Empire of Nicaea, where Michael VIII Palaiologos became co-emperor in 1259,...

 dynasty (1261–1453), which ruled Byzantium between the recovery of Constantinople from the Crusaders and its fall to the Turks in 1453. Initially, it continued some practices inherited from the Komnenian era and retained a strong native element until the late 13th century. During the last century of its existence however, the empire was little more than a city-state that hired foreign mercenary bands for its defence. Thus the Byzantine army finally lost any meaningful connection with the standing imperial Roman army.

This article contains the summaries of the detailed linked articles on the historical phases above, Readers seeking discussion of the Roman army by theme, rather than by chronological phase, should consult the following articles:

History
  • Campaign history of the Roman military
  • Structural history of the Roman military
    Structural history of the Roman military
    The structural history of the Roman military concerns the major transformations in the organization and constitution of ancient Rome's armed forces, "the most effective and long-lived military institution known to history." From its origins around 800 BC to its final dissolution in AD 476...



Corps
  • Praetorian Guard
    Praetorian Guard
    The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

  • Roman legion
    Roman legion
    A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

  • Roman auxiliaries
  • Roman cavalry
    Roman cavalry
    Roman cavalry refers to the horse mounted forces of the Roman army through the many centuries of its existence.- Early cavalry Roman cavalry (Latin: equites Romani) refers to the horse mounted forces of the Roman army through the many centuries of its existence.- Early cavalry Roman cavalry...



Strategy and tactics
  • Defence-in-depth (Roman military)
    Defence-in-depth (Roman military)
    Defence-in-depth is the term used by American political analyst Edward Luttwak to describe his theory of the defensive strategy employed by the Late Roman army in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD....

  • Roman infantry tactics
    Roman infantry tactics
    Roman infantry tactics refers to the theoretical and historical deployment, formation and maneuvers of the Roman infantry from the start of the Roman Republic to the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The article first presents a short overview of Roman training. Roman performance against different...


  • Equipment & other

  • Roman military equipment
  • Roman military decorations and punishments
    Roman military decorations and punishments
    As with most other military forces the Roman military adopted an extensive list of decorations for military gallantry and likewise a range of punishments for military transgressions.-Qualifications:...



Some of the Roman army's many tactics are still used in modern day armies today.

Early Roman army (to ca. 300 BC)


Until ca. 550 BC, there was probably no "national" Roman army, but a series of clan-based war-bands which only coalesced into a united force in periods of serious external threat. Around 550 BC, during the period conventionally known as the rule of king Servius Tullius
Servius Tullius
Servius Tullius was the legendary sixth king of ancient Rome, and the second of its Etruscan dynasty. He reigned 578-535 BC. Roman and Greek sources describe his servile origins and later marriage to a daughter of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, Rome's first Etruscan king, who was assassinated in 579 BC...

, it appears that a universal levy of eligible adult male citizens was instituted. This development apparently coincided with the introduction of heavy armour for most of the infantry. Although originally low in numbers the Roman infantry was extremely tactful and developed some of the most influential battle strategies to date.

The early Roman army was based on a compulsory levy from adult male citizens which was held at the start of each campaigning season, in those years that war was declared. There were probably no standing or professional forces. During the Regal Era
Roman Kingdom
The Roman Kingdom was the period of the ancient Roman civilization characterized by a monarchical form of government of the city of Rome and its territories....

 (to ca. 500 BC), the standard levy was probably of 9,000 men, consisting of 6,000 heavily armed infantry (probably Greek-style hoplites), plus 2,400 light-armed infantry (rorarii, later called velites
Velites
Velites were a class of infantry in the Polybian legions of the early Roman republic. Velites were light infantry and skirmishers who were armed with a number of light javelins, or hastae velitares, to fling at the enemy, and also carried short thrusting swords, or gladii for use in melee...

) and 600 light cavalry (equites celeres). When the kings were replaced by two annually elected praetor
Praetor
Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army, usually in the field, or the named commander before mustering the army; and an elected magistratus assigned varied duties...

es
in ca. 500 BC, the standard levy remained of the same size, but was now divided equally between the Praetors, each commanding one legion
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

 of 4,500 men.

It is likely that the hoplite element was deployed in a Greek-style phalanx
Phalanx formation
The phalanx is a rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, sarissas, or similar weapons...

 formation in large set-piece battles. However, these were relatively rare, with most fighting consisting of small-scale border-raids and skirmishing. In these, the Romans would fight in their basic tactical unit, the centuria
Centuria
Centuria is a Latin substantive from the stem centum , denoting units consisting of 100 men. It also denotes a Roman unit of land area: 1 centuria = 100 heredia...

of 100 men. In addition, separate clan-based forces remained in existence until ca. 450 BC at least, although they would operate under the Praetors' authority, at least nominally....

In 493 BC, shortly after the establishment of the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

, Rome concluded a perpetual treaty of military alliance (the foedus Cassianum
Foedus Cassianum
According to Roman tradition, the Foedus Cassianum, or the Treaty of Cassius, was a treaty which formed an alliance between the Roman Republic and the Latin League in 493 BC after the Battle of Lake Regillus...

), with the combined other Latin
Latins (Italic tribe)
The Latins were a people of ancient Italy who included the inhabitants of the early City of Rome. From ca. 1000 BC, the Latins inhabited the small part of the peninsula known to the Romans as Old Latium , that is, the region between the river Tiber and the promontory of Monte Circeo The Latins (or...

 city-states. The treaty, probably motivated by the need for the Latins to deploy a united defence against incursions by neighbouring hill-tribes, provided for each party to provide an equal force for campaigns under unified command. It remained in force until 358 BC.

Roman army of the mid-Republic (ca. 300 – 107 BC)


The central feature of the Roman army of the mid-Republic
Roman army of the mid-Republic
The Roman army of the mid-Republic , refers to the armed forces deployed by the mid- Roman Republic The Roman army of the mid-Republic (also known as the manipular Roman army or the "Polybian army"), refers to the armed forces deployed by the mid- Roman Republic The Roman army of the mid-Republic...

, or the Polybian army, was the manipular organization of its battle-line. Instead a single, large mass (the phalanx
Phalanx formation
The phalanx is a rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, sarissas, or similar weapons...

) as in the Early Roman army
Early Roman army
The Early Roman army refers to the army deployed by ancient Rome during its Regal Era and its early Republic, until ca. 300 BC, when the so-called "Polybian" or manipular legion was introduced....

, the Romans now drew up in three lines consisting of small units (maniples) of 120 men, arrayed in chessboard fashion, giving much greater tactical strength and flexibility. This structure was probably introduced in ca. 300 BC during the Samnite Wars
Samnite Wars
The First, Second, and Third Samnite Wars, between the early Roman Republic and the tribes of Samnium, extended over half a century, involving almost all the states of Italy, and ended in Roman domination of the Samnites...

. Also probably dating from this period was the regular accompaniment of each legion by an non-citizen formation of roughly equal size, the ala, recruited from Rome's Italian allies, or socii. The latter were ca. 150 autonomous states which were bound by a treaty of perpetual military alliance with Rome. Their sole obligation was to supply to the Roman army, on demand, a number of fully equipped troops up to a specified maximum each year.

The Second Punic War
Second Punic War
The Second Punic War, also referred to as The Hannibalic War and The War Against Hannibal, lasted from 218 to 201 BC and involved combatants in the western and eastern Mediterranean. This was the second major war between Carthage and the Roman Republic, with the participation of the Berbers on...

 (218–201 BC) saw the addition of a third element to the existing dual Roman/Italian structure: non-Italian mercenaries with specialist skills lacking in the legions and alae: Numidian light cavalry
Numidian cavalry
Numidian cavalry was a type of light cavalry developed by the Numidians, most notably used by Hannibal during the Second Punic War. They were described by the Roman historian Livy as "by far the best horsemen in Africa."...

, Cretan archers, and slingers from the Balearic islands
Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.The four largest islands are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain with Palma as the capital...

. From this time, these units always accompanied Roman armies.

The Republican army of this period, like its earlier forebear, did not maintain standing or professional military forces, but levied them, by compulsory conscription, as required for each campaigning season and disbanded thereafter (although formations could be kept in being over winter during major wars). The standard levy was doubled during the Samnite Wars to 4 legions (2 per Consul), for a total of ca. 18,000 Roman troops and 4 allied alae of similar size. Service in the legions was limited to property-owning Roman citizens, normally those known as iuniores (age 16–46). The army's senior officers, including its commanders-in-chief, the Roman Consuls, were all elected annually at the People's Assembly. Only equites (members of the Roman knightly order) were eligible to serve as senior officers. Iuniores of the highest social classes (equites and the First Class of commoners) provided the legion's cavalry, the other classes the legionary infantry. The proletarii (those assessed at under 400 drachmae wealth) were ineligible for legionary service and were assigned to the fleets as oarsmen. Elders, vagrants, freedmen, slaves and convicts were excluded from the military levy, save in emergencies.

The legionary cavalry also changed, probably around 300 BC onwards from the light, unarmoured horse of the early army to a heavy force with metal armour (bronze cuirasses and, later, chain-mail shirts). Contrary to a long-held view, the cavalry of the mid-Republic was a highly effective force that generally prevailed against strong enemy cavalry forces (both Gallic and Greek) until it was decisively beaten by the Carthaginian general Hannibal's horsemen during the second Punic War. This was due to Hannibal's greater operational flexibility owing to his Numidian light cavalry.

The Polybian army's operations during its existence can be divided into 3 broad phases. (1) The struggle for hegemony over Italy, especially against the Samnite League (338–264 BC); (2) the struggle with Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 for hegemony in the western Mediterranean Sea (264–201 BC); and the struggle against the Hellenistic monarchies for control of the eastern Mediterranean (201–91 BC). During the earlier phase, the normal size of the levy (including allies) was in the region of 40,000 men (2 consular armies of ca. 20,000 men each).

During the latter phase, with lengthy wars of conquest followed by permanent military occupation of overseas provinces, the character of the army necessarily changed from a temporary force based entirely on short-term conscription to a standing army in which the conscripts, whose service was in this period limited by law to 6 consecutive years, were complemented by large numbers of volunteers who were willing to serve for much longer periods. Many of the volunteers were drawn from the poorest social class, which until the 2nd Punic War had been excluded from service in the legions by the minimum property requirement: during that war, extreme manpower needs had forced the army to ignore the requirement, and this practice continued thereafter. Maniples were gradually phased out as the main tactical unit, and replaced by the larger cohort
Cohort (military unit)
A cohort was the basic tactical unit of a Roman legion following the reforms of Gaius Marius in 107 BC.-Legionary cohort:...

s used in the allied alae, a process probably complete by the time the general Marius
Gaius Marius
Gaius Marius was a Roman general and statesman. He was elected consul an unprecedented seven times during his career. He was also noted for his dramatic reforms of Roman armies, authorizing recruitment of landless citizens, eliminating the manipular military formations, and reorganizing the...

 assumed command in 107 BC. (The so-called "Marian reforms" of the army hypothesised by outdated scholars are today seen as having evolved earlier and more gradually).

In the period after the defeat of Carthage in 201 BC, the army was campaigning exclusively outside Italy, resulting in its men being away from their home plots of land for many years at a stretch. They were assuaged by the large amounts of booty that they shared after victories in the rich eastern theatre. But in Italy, the ever-increasing concentration of public lands in the hands of big landowners, and the consequent displacement of the soldiers' families, led to great unrest and demands for land redistribution. This was successfully achieved, but resulted in the disaffection of Rome's Italian allies, who as non-citizens were excluded from the redistribution. This led to the mass revolt of the socii and the Social War (91-88 BC). The result was the grant of Roman citizenship to all Italians and the end of the Polybian army's dual structure: the alae were abolished and the socii recruited into the legions.

Imperial Roman army (30 BC – AD 284)


Under the founder–emperor Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 (ruled 30 BC – 14 AD), the legions
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

, ca. 5,000-strong all- heavy infantry formations recruited from Roman citizens only, were transformed from a mixed conscript and volunteer corps serving an average of 10 years, to all-volunteer units of long-term professionals serving a standard 25-year term (conscription was only decreed in emergencies). In the later 1st century, the size of a legion's First Cohort was doubled, increasing legionary personnel to ca. 5,500.

Alongside the legions, Augustus established the auxilia, a regular corps of similar numbers to the legions, recruited from the peregrini
Peregrinus (Roman)
Peregrinus was the term used during the early Roman empire, from 30 BC to 212 AD, to denote a free provincial subject of the Empire who was not a Roman citizen. Peregrini constituted the vast majority of the Empire's inhabitants in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD...

(non-citizen inhabitants of the empire - about 90% of the empire's population in the 1st century). As well as comprising large numbers of extra heavy infantry equipped in a similar manner to legionaries, the auxilia provided virtually all the army's cavalry (heavy and light), light infantry, archers and other specialists. The auxilia were organised in ca. 500-strong units called cohortes (all-infantry), alae (all-cavalry) and cohortes equitatae (infantry with a cavalry contingent attached). Around AD 80, a minority of auxiliary regiments were doubled in size. Until about 68 AD, the auxilia were recruited by a mix of conscription and voluntary enlistment. After that time, the auxilia became largely a volunteer corps, with conscription resorted to only in emergencies. Auxiliaries were required to serve a minimum of 25 years, although many served for longer periods. On completion of their minimum term, auxiliaries were awarded Roman citizenship, which carried important legal, fiscal and social advantages. Alongside the regular forces, the army of the Principate employed allied native units (called numeri) from outside the empire on a mercenary basis. These were led by their own aristocrats and equipped in traditional fashion. Numbers fluctuated according to circumstances and are largely unknown.

As all-citizen formations, and symbolic garantors of the dominance of the Italian "master-nation", legions enjoyed greater social prestige than the auxilia. This was reflected in better pay and benefits. In addition, legionaries were equipped with more expensive and protective armour than auxiliaries, notably the lorica segmentata
Lorica segmentata
The lōrīca segmentāta was a type of segmented armour almost exclusively used in the Roman Empire, but the Latin name was first used in the 16th century...

, or laminated-strip armour. However, in 212, the emperor Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

 granted Roman citizenship to all the empire's inhabitants. At this point, the distinction between legions and auxilia became moot, the latter becoming all-citizen units also. The change was reflected in the disappearance, during the 3rd century, of legionaries' special equipment, and the progressive break-up of legions into cohort-sized units like the auxilia.

By the end of Augustus' reign, the imperial army numbered some 250,000 men, equally split between legionaries and auxiliaries 25 legions and ca. 250 auxiliary regiments). The numbers grew to a peak of about 450,000 by 211 (33 legions and ca. 400 auxiliary regiments). By then, auxiliaries outnumbered legionaries substantially. From the peak, numbers probably underwent a steep decline by 270 due to plague and losses during multiple major barbarian invasions. Numbers were restored to their early 2nd-century level of ca. 400,000 (but probably not to their 211 peak) under Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

 (r. 284-305). After the empire's borders became settled (on the Rhine-Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 line in Europe) by 68, virtually all military units (except the Praetorian Guard) were stationed on or near the borders, in roughly 17 of the 42 provinces
Roman province
In Ancient Rome, a province was the basic, and, until the Tetrarchy , largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's territorial possessions outside of Italy...

 of the empire in the reign of Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

 (r. 117-38).

The military chain of command was relatively flat. In each province, the deployed legions' legati (legion commanders, who also controlled the auxiliary regiments attached to their legion) reported to the legatus Augusti pro praetore
Legatus Augusti pro praetore
A legatus Augusti pro praetore was the official title of the governor of some imperial provinces of the Roman Empire during the Principate era, normally the larger ones or those where legions were based...

(provincial governor), who also headed the civil administration. The governor in turn reported direct to the emperor in Rome. There was no army general staff
German General Staff
The German General Staff was an institution whose rise and development gave the German armed forces a decided advantage over its adversaries. The Staff amounted to its best "weapon" for nearly a century and a half....

 in Rome, but the leading praefectus praetorio (commander of the Praetorian Guard) often acted as the emperor's de facto military chief-of-staff.

Legionary rankers were relatively well-paid, compared to contemporary common labourers. Compared with their subsistence-level peasant families, they enjoyed considerable disposable income, enhanced by periodical cash bonuses on special occasions such as the accession of a new emperor. In addition, on completion of their term of service, they were given a generous discharge bonus equivalent to 13 years' salary. Auxiliaries were paid much less in the early 1st century, but by AD 100, the differential had virtually disappeared. Similarly, in the earlier period, auxiliaries appear not to have received cash and discharge bonuses, but probably did so from Hadrian onwards. Junior officers (principales), the equivalent of NCO's in modern armies, could expect to earn up to twice basic pay. Legionary centurions, the equivalent of mid-level commissioned officers, were organised in an elaborate hierarchy. Usually risen from the ranks, they commanded the legion's tactical sub-units of centuriae (ca. 80 men) and cohort
Cohort (military unit)
A cohort was the basic tactical unit of a Roman legion following the reforms of Gaius Marius in 107 BC.-Legionary cohort:...

s (ca. 480 men). They were paid several multiples of basic pay. The most senior centurion, the primus pilus, was elevated to equestrian rank on completion of his single-year term of offioe. The senior officers of the army, the legati legionis (legion commanders), tribuni militum (legion staff officers) and the praefecti (commanders of auxiliary regiments) were all of at least equestrian rank. In the 1st and early 2nd centuries, they were mainly Italian aristocrats performing the military component of their cursus honorum
Cursus honorum
The cursus honorum was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in both the Roman Republic and the early Empire. It was designed for men of senatorial rank. The cursus honorum comprised a mixture of military and political administration posts. Each office had a minimum...

(coneventional career-path). Later, provincial career officers became predominant. Senior officers were paid enormous salaries, multiples of at least 50 times basic.

Soldiers spent only a fraction of their lives on campaign. Most of their time was spent on routine military duties such as training, patrolling, and maintenance of equipment etc. Soldiers also played an important role outside the military sphere. They performed the function of a provincial governor's police force. As a large, disciplined and skilled force of fit men, they played a crucial role in the construction of a province's Roman military and civil infrastructure: in addition to constructing forts and fortified defences such as Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall was a defensive fortification in Roman Britain. Begun in AD 122, during the rule of emperor Hadrian, it was the first of two fortifications built across Great Britain, the second being the Antonine Wall, lesser known of the two because its physical remains are less evident today.The...

, they built roads, bridges, ports, public buildings, entire new cities (Roman colonies) and also engaged in large-scale forest clearance and marsh drainage to expand the province's available arable land.

Soldiers, mostly drawn from polytheistic societies, enjoyed wide freedom of worship in the polytheistic Roman system. They revered both their own native deities, Roman deities and the local deities of the provinces in which they served. Only a few religions were banned by the Roman authorities, as being incompatible with the official Roman religion and/or politically subversive, notably Druidism and Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. The later Principate saw the rise in popularity among the military of Eastern mystery cults, generally centred on one deity, and involving secret rituals divulged only to initiates. By far the most popular in the army was Mithraism
Mithraism
The Mithraic Mysteries were a mystery religion practised in the Roman Empire from about the 1st to 4th centuries AD. The name of the Persian god Mithra, adapted into Greek as Mithras, was linked to a new and distinctive imagery...

, an apparently syncretist
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 religion which mainly originated in Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

.

Late Roman army/East Roman army (284–641)


The Late Roman army
Late Roman army
The Late Roman army is the term used to denote the military forces of the Roman Empire from the accession of Emperor Diocletian in 284 until the Empire's definitive division into Eastern and Western halves in 395. A few decades afterwards, the Western army disintegrated as the Western empire...

 is the term used to denote the military forces of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 from the accession of Emperor Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

 in 284 until the Empire's definitive division into Eastern and Western halves in 395. A few decades afterwards, the Western army disintegrated as the Western empire
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 collapsed. The East Roman army
East Roman army
The East Roman army refers to the army of the Eastern section of the Roman Empire, from the empire's definitive split in 395 AD to the army's reorganization by themes after the permanent loss of Syria, Palestine and Egypt to the Arabs in the 7th century...

, on the other hand, continued intact and essentially unchanged until its reorganization by themes
Theme (Byzantine administrative unit)
The themes or themata were the main administrative divisions of the middle Byzantine Empire. They were established in the mid-seventh century in the aftermath of the Muslim conquests of Byzantine territory and replaced the earlier provincial system established by emperors Diocletian and...

 and transformation into the Byzantine army
Byzantine army
The Byzantine army was the primary military body of the Byzantine armed forces, serving alongside the Byzantine navy. A direct descendant of the Roman army, the Byzantine army maintained a similar level of discipline, strategic prowess and organization...

 in the 7th century. The term "late Roman army" is often used to include the East Roman army.

The army of the Principate
Principate
The Principate is the first period of the Roman Empire, extending from the beginning of the reign of Caesar Augustus to the Crisis of the Third Century, after which it was replaced with the Dominate. The Principate is characterized by a concerted effort on the part of the Emperors to preserve the...

 underwent a significant transformation as a result of the chaotic 3rd century. Unlike the Principate army, the army of the 4th century was heavily dependent on conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 and its soldiers were more poorly remunerated than in the 2nd century. Barbarian
Barbarian
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...

s from outside the empire probably supplied a much larger proportion of the late army's recruits than in the army of the 1st and 2nd centuries.

The size of the 4th century army is controversial. More dated scholars (e.g. A.H.M. Jones, writing in the 1960s) estimated the late army as much larger than the Principate army, half the size again or even as much as twice the size. With the benefit of archaeological discoveries of recent decades, many contemporary historians view the late army as no larger than its predecessor: under Diocletian ca. 390,000 (the same as under Hadrian almost 2 centuries earlier) and under Constantine no greater, and probably somewhat smaller, than the Principate peak of ca. 440,000. The main change in structure was the establishment of large armies that accompanied the emperors (comitatus praesentales) and were generally based away from the frontiers. Their primary function was to deter usurpation
Usurper
Usurper is a derogatory term used to describe either an illegitimate or controversial claimant to the power; often, but not always in a monarchy, or a person who succeeds in establishing himself as a monarch without inheriting the throne, or any other person exercising authority unconstitutionally...

s. The legions
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

 were split up into smaller units comparable in size to the auxiliary regiments
Auxiliaries (Roman military)
Auxiliaries formed the standing non-citizen corps of the Roman army of the Principate , alongside the citizen legions...

 of the Principate. In parallel, legionary armour and equipment were abandoned in favour of auxiliary equipment. Infantry adopted the more protective equipment of the Principate cavalry.

The role of cavalry in the late army does not appear to have been enhanced as compared with the army of the Principate. The evidence is that cavalry was much the same proportion of overall army numbers as in the 2nd century and that its tactical role and prestige remained similar. Indeed, the cavalry acquired a reputation for incompetence and cowardice for their role in three major battles in mid-4th century. In contrast, the infantry retained its traditional reputation for excellence.

The 3rd and 4th centuries saw the upgrading of many existing border forts to make them more defensible, as well as the construction of new forts with much higher defensive specifications. The interpretation of this trend has fuelled an ongoing debate whether the army adopted a defence-in-depth
Defence-in-depth (Roman military)
Defence-in-depth is the term used by American political analyst Edward Luttwak to describe his theory of the defensive strategy employed by the Late Roman army in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD....

 strategy or continued the same posture of "forward defence" as in the early Principate. Many elements of the late army's defence posture were similar to those associated with forward defence, such as a loser forward location of forts, frequent cross-border operations, and external buffer-zones of allied barbarian tribes. Whatever the defence strategy, it was apparently less successful in preventing barbarian incursions than in the 1st and 2nd centuries. This may have been due to heavier barbarian pressure, and/or to the practice of keeping large armies of the best troops in the interior, depriving the border forces of sufficient support.

Komnenian Byzantine army (1081–1204)



The Komnenian period marked a rebirth of the Byzantine army. At the beginning of the Komnenian period in 1081, the Byzantine Empire had been reduced to the smallest territorial extent in its history. Surrounded by enemies, and financially ruined by a long period of civil war, the empire's prospects looked grim.

At the beginning of the Komnenian period, the Byzantine army was reduced to a shadow of its former self: during the 11th century, decades of peace and neglect had reduced the old thematic forces, and the Battle of Manzikert
Battle of Manzikert
The Battle of Manzikert , was fought between the Byzantine Empire and Seljuq Turks led by Alp Arslan on August 26, 1071 near Manzikert...

 in 1071 had destroyed the professional tagmata
Tagma (military)
The tagma is a term for a military unit of battalion or regiment size. The best-known and most technical use of the term however refers to the elite regiments formed by Byzantine emperor Constantine V and comprising the central army of the Byzantine Empire in the 8th–11th centuries.-History and...

, the core of the Byzantine army. At Manzikert and later at Dyrrhachium
Battle of Dyrrhachium (1081)
The Battle of Dyrrhachium took place on October 18, 1081 between the Byzantine Empire, led by the Emperor Alexius I Comnenus, and the Normans of southern Italy under Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia and Calabria...

, units tracing their lineage for centuries back to Late Roman army
Late Roman army
The Late Roman army is the term used to denote the military forces of the Roman Empire from the accession of Emperor Diocletian in 284 until the Empire's definitive division into Eastern and Western halves in 395. A few decades afterwards, the Western army disintegrated as the Western empire...

 were wiped out, and the subsequent loss of Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 deprived the Empire of its main recruiting ground. In the Balkans, at the same time, the Empire was exposed to invasions by the Norman
Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily
The Kingdom of Sicily was a state that existed in the south of Italy from its founding by Roger II in 1130 until 1816. It was a successor state of the County of Sicily, which had been founded in 1071 during the Norman conquest of southern Italy...

, and by Pecheneg raids across the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

.

The Byzantine army's nadir was reached in 1091, when Alexios I could manage to field only 500 soldiers from the Empire's professional forces. These formed the nucleus of the army, with the addition of the armed retainers of Alexios' relatives and the nobles enrolled in the army and the substantial aid of a large force of allied Cumans
Cumans
The Cumans were Turkic nomadic people comprising the western branch of the Cuman-Kipchak confederation. After Mongol invasion , they decided to seek asylum in Hungary, and subsequently to Bulgaria...

, which won the Battle of Levounion
Battle of Levounion
The Battle of Levounion was the first decisive Byzantine victory of the Komnenian restoration. On April 29, 1091, an invading force of Pechenegs was heavily defeated by the combined forces of the Byzantine Empire under Alexios I Komnenos and his Cuman allies....

 against the Pechenegs (Petcheneks or Patzinaks). Yet, through a combination of skill, determination and years of campaigning, Alexios, John and Manuel Komnenos managed to restore the power of the Byzantine Empire by constructing a new army from scratch. This process should not, however, at least in its earlier phases, be seen as a planned exercise in military restructuring. In particular, Alexios I was often reduced to reacting to events rather than controlling them; the changes he made to the Byzantine army were largely done out of immediate necessity and were pragmatic in nature.

The new force had a core of units which were both professional and disciplined. It contained formidable guards units such as the Varangians
Varangians
The Varangians or Varyags , sometimes referred to as Variagians, were people from the Baltic region, most often associated with Vikings, who from the 9th to 11th centuries ventured eastwards and southwards along the rivers of Eastern Europe, through what is now Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.According...

, the Athanatoi
Immortals (Byzantine)
The Immortals were one of the elite tagmata military units of the Byzantine Empire, first raised during the late 10th century. The name derives from a- + thanatos .-History:...

, a unit of heavy cavalry stationed in Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, the Vardariotai
Vardariotai
The Vardariotai , sometimes Anglicized as Vardariots, were an ethnic and territorial group in the later Byzantine Empire, which provided a palace guard regiment during the 12th and 13th centuries.-History:...

and the Archontopouloi
Archontopouloi
The archontopouloi were an elite military formation of the Byzantine army during the Komnenian era, in the 11th-12th centuries. They were founded by Emperor Alexios I Komnenos The archontopouloi were an elite military formation of the Byzantine army during the Komnenian era, in the 11th-12th...

, recruited by Alexios from the sons of dead Byzantine officers, foreign mercenary regiments, and also units of professional soldiers recruited from the provinces. These provincial troops included kataphraktoi
Cataphract
A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry utilised in ancient warfare by a number of peoples in Western Eurasia and the Eurasian Steppe....

 cavalry from Macedonia, Thessaly and Thrace, and various other provincial forces such as Trebizond
Empire of Trebizond
The Empire of Trebizond, founded in April 1204, was one of three Byzantine successor states of the Byzantine Empire. However, the creation of the Empire of Trebizond was not directly related to the capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, rather it had broken away from the Byzantine Empire...

 Archers
Archery
Archery is the art, practice, or skill of propelling arrows with the use of a bow, from Latin arcus. Archery has historically been used for hunting and combat; in modern times, however, its main use is that of a recreational activity...

 from the Black Sea coast of Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

. Alongside troops raised and paid for directly by the state the Komnenian army included the armed followers of members of the wider imperial family and its extensive connections. In this can be seen the beginnings of the feudalisation of the Byzantine military. The granting of pronoia
Pronoia
Pronoia refers to a system of land grants in the Byzantine Empire.-The Early Pronoia System:...

holdings, where land, or more accurately rights to revenue from land, was held in return for military obligations, was beginning to become a notable element in the military infrastructure towards the end of the Komnenian period, though it became much more important subsequently.

In 1097, the Byzantine army numbered around 70,000 men altogether. By 1180 and the death of Manuel Komnenos, whose frequent campaigns had been on a grand scale, the army was probably considerably larger. During the reign of Alexios I, the field army numbered around 20,000 men which was increased to about 30,000 men in John II's reign. By the end of Manuel I's reign the Byzantine field army had risen to 40,000 men.

Palaiologan Byzantine army (1261–1453)


The Palaiologan army refers to the military forces of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 from the late 13th century to its final collapse in the mid 15th century, under the House of the Palaiologoi
Palaiologos
Palaiologos , often latinized as Palaeologus, was a Byzantine Greek noble family, which produced the last ruling dynasty of the Byzantine Empire. After the Fourth Crusade, members of the family fled to the neighboring Empire of Nicaea, where Michael VIII Palaiologos became co-emperor in 1259,...

. The army was a direct continuation of the forces of the Nicaean army, which itself was a fractured component of the formidable Komnenian army
Komnenian army
The Komnenian Byzantine army or Komnenian army was the force established by Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos during the late 11th/early 12th century, and perfected by his successors John II Komnenos and Manuel I Komnenos during the 12th century. Alexios constructed a new army from the ground...

. Under the first Palaiologan emperor, Michael VIII, the army's role took an increasingly offensive role whilst the naval forces of the Empire, weakened since the days of Andronikos I Komnenos, were boosted to include thousands of skilled sailors and some 80 ships. Due to the lack of land to support the army, the Empire required the use of large numbers of mercenaries.

After Andronikos II took to the throne, the army fell apart and the Byzantines suffered regular defeats at the hands of their eastern opponents, although they would continue to enjoy success against the crusader territories in Greece. By c. 1350, following a destructive civil war
Byzantine civil war of 1341–1347
The Byzantine civil war of 1341–1347 was a conflict between supporters of designated regent John VI Kantakouzenos and guardians acting for John V Palaiologos, Emperor Andronikos III's nine-year-old son, in the persons of the Empress-dowager Anna of Savoy, the Patriarch of Constantinople John XIV...

 and the outbreak of the Black Death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

, the Empire was no longer capable of raising troops and the supplies to maintain them. The Empire came to rely upon troops provided by Serbs, Bulgarians, Venetians, Latins, Genoans and Ottoman Turks to fight the civil wars that lasted for the greater part of the 14th century, with the latter foe being the most successful in establishing a foothold in Thrace. The Ottomans swiftly expanded through the Balkans and cut off Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, from the surrounding land. The last decisive battle was fought by the Palaiologan army in 1453, when Constantinople was besieged and fell
Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

 on 29 May. The last isolated remnants of the Byzantine state were conquered by 1461.

See also


  • Military of ancient Rome
    Military of ancient Rome
    The Roman military was intertwined with the Roman state much more closely than in a modern European nation. Josephus describes the Roman people being as if they were "born ready armed." and the Romans were for long periods prepared to engage in almost continuous warfare, absorbing massive losses...

  • Roman legion
    Roman legion
    A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

  • Roman auxiliaries
  • Equestrian order
  • List of Roman legions
  • List of Roman auxiliary regiments
  • Late Roman army
    Late Roman army
    The Late Roman army is the term used to denote the military forces of the Roman Empire from the accession of Emperor Diocletian in 284 until the Empire's definitive division into Eastern and Western halves in 395. A few decades afterwards, the Western army disintegrated as the Western empire...

  • Byzantine army
    Byzantine army
    The Byzantine army was the primary military body of the Byzantine armed forces, serving alongside the Byzantine navy. A direct descendant of the Roman army, the Byzantine army maintained a similar level of discipline, strategic prowess and organization...

  • East Roman army
    East Roman army
    The East Roman army refers to the army of the Eastern section of the Roman Empire, from the empire's definitive split in 395 AD to the army's reorganization by themes after the permanent loss of Syria, Palestine and Egypt to the Arabs in the 7th century...