Byzantine military service and jobs.

Jan 2013
1,207
Anywhere
We all talk about the ERE and its military. But what roles did they specifically have. Like for instance we all know that Roman legionaires were military engineers, and some had medics, strategists and cooks. Did the Byzantines retain the same while creating and adopting others like masonry and the like.
 
Jan 2016
1,146
Victoria, Canada
I would suggest reading leo's "taktika" as it is extremely relevant to your question (here's a download: Library Genesis: Leo VI , George T. Dennis - The Taktika of Leo VI )

The byzantine empire continued the tradition of bringing many things along on campaigns. The byzantine army during the thematic period had a large number of mules to carry equipment and man the supply lines, military engineers to construct the forts that the army would camp in, there were medical units to care for wounded soldiers, I don't recall reading about strategists independent of the military bureaucracy being brought along (all the tactics were thought up by the general along with the numerous sub-commanders), cooks would most likely be included though I don't remember if they were mentioned or not, and merchants would travel with the armies and provide many types of goods to maintain morale. The byzantine army generally wasn't heavily involved in construction to my knowledge, but the nature of the theme system meant that the money that used to be spent constantly maintaining the army could be spent of professional workers instead. I've heard that basil the second gave each of his men a mule to ride, which made the byzantine army under basil one of the fastest travelling in the world.
 
Apr 2016
218
there
The Byzantine army, and its tactics, changed drastically during its dark hours after the loss of the eastern provinces. The struggle for survival was such that the military, in Anatolia, was largely in a defensive position. It was during this time that the themes, the Tagmata, etc were introduced. It wasn't until after certain Arab military offensives were crushed (mid-ninth century, I think) that the army tactics were essentially reinvented to allow for the great offensives that culminated in the control of areas as far as northern Syria.

Other changes...very large themes, such as Opsikion, were ultimately reduced in size, especially when Opsikion was implicated in several coups.

The military conditions, especially in Anatolia, contributed to the establishment of the Akritai, who were essentially frontier farmers who were also expected to defend the frontiers. Both financial and manpower resources were a big challenge at various times during the early middle ages. Later on, under Andronicus II, the defensive situation in Anatolia became especially dire because Andronicus decided to disband both the navy and the Akritai, as economy measures. The military situation, especially in Anatolia, led to the creation of a very wealthy land-owning military aristocracy, which not only produced at least one emperor (Nicephorus Phocus and possibly Romanus Diogenes), but likely also contributed to the growing grip of feudalism on Byzantine society). Basil II might have been the last emperor to try to check this process.

Understand that, at certain times, emperors considered it safer to rely on mercenaries than on a large, standing army with questionable loyalties.
 
Jan 2013
1,207
Anywhere
The Byzantine army, and its tactics, changed drastically during its dark hours after the loss of the eastern provinces. The struggle for survival was such that the military, in Anatolia, was largely in a defensive position. It was during this time that the themes, the Tagmata, etc were introduced. It wasn't until after certain Arab military offensives were crushed (mid-ninth century, I think) that the army tactics were essentially reinvented to allow for the great offensives that culminated in the control of areas as far as northern Syria.

Other changes...very large themes, such as Opsikion, were ultimately reduced in size, especially when Opsikion was implicated in several coups.

The military conditions, especially in Anatolia, contributed to the establishment of the Akritai, who were essentially frontier farmers who were also expected to defend the frontiers. Both financial and manpower resources were a big challenge at various times during the early middle ages. Later on, under Andronicus II, the defensive situation in Anatolia became especially dire because Andronicus decided to disband both the navy and the Akritai, as economy measures. The military situation, especially in Anatolia, led to the creation of a very wealthy land-owning military aristocracy, which not only produced at least one emperor (Nicephorus Phocus and possibly Romanus Diogenes), but likely also contributed to the growing grip of feudalism on Byzantine society). Basil II might have been the last emperor to try to check this process.

Understand that, at certain times, emperors considered it safer to rely on mercenaries than on a large, standing army with questionable loyalties.
And it was a bad choice for the Romans who had to rely on mercenaries. Don't get me wrong the Varangian Guard became loyal soldiers, and Latinikon was too controversial. But native soldiers like the Akritai (just like their Limitanei predecessor) sought to defend the frontier borders, and Skoutatoi (last and final remnant of the old legion) saw their end in the early 11th century A.D. and Cataphracts came and went. But all I can say that the Macedonian dynasty was the last great vestige of the classical Roman lineage until the Komnenian reformation (both political and military). The Macedonian dynasty was so great that during emperor basil II's reign that a combination of both native and mercenary forces were used together against the Bulgars, Normans, Germans, Lombards, Arabs and Turks. But after the dynasty the empire went downhill. Which was a big disappointment.
 
Jan 2016
1,146
Victoria, Canada
And it was a bad choice for the Romans who had to rely on mercenaries. Don't get me wrong the Varangian Guard became loyal soldiers, and Latinikon was too controversial. But native soldiers like the Akritai (just like their Limitanei predecessor) sought to defend the frontier borders, and Skoutatoi (last and final remnant of the old legion) saw their end in the early 11th century A.D. and Cataphracts came and went. But all I can say that the Macedonian dynasty was the last great vestige of the classical Roman lineage until the Komnenian reformation (both political and military). The Macedonian dynasty was so great that during emperor basil II's reign that a combination of both native and mercenary forces were used together against the Bulgars, Normans, Germans, Lombards, Arabs and Turks. But after the dynasty the empire went downhill. Which was a big disappointment.
Skoutatoi is just a combination of the word for shield (scutus) and an add on implying multiple people (oi), there were many of them right up to the fall of Constantinople. The theme system actually collapsed in the late 11th century with the battle of manzikert. Even with the collapse of the theme system, the pronoia (as well as the normal soldiers still paid in gold) were still professional soldiers, just paid in land instead of money. After 1204 it developed into a somewhat feudal title, but under the komnenians it was just a form of payment in kind by the government.

The byzantine army during john II's reign was once again the strongest in europe, and the administrative reforms enacted under alexius and john's reigns were quite successful, even if they did go against imperial beurocratic tradition somewhat.
 
Jan 2013
1,207
Anywhere
Skoutatoi is just a combination of the word for shield (scutus) and an add on implying multiple people (oi), there were many of them right up to the fall of Constantinople. The theme system actually collapsed in the late 11th century with the battle of manzikert. Even with the collapse of the theme system, the pronoia (as well as the normal soldiers still paid in gold) were still professional soldiers, just paid in land instead of money. After 1204 it developed into a somewhat feudal title, but under the komnenians it was just a form of payment in kind by the government. But during 1204 Pronoiars and Varangians that I only heard off were there in the walls. However the Akrites did manage to outlast them. Since they are border guards. :p

The byzantine army during john II's reign was once again the strongest in europe, and the administrative reforms enacted under alexius and john's reigns were quite successful, even if they did go against imperial beurocratic tradition somewhat.
Hmmm! I only have heard that they are last mentioned only by the 11th century. And of course Skoutatoi does mean shield-bearer but their origins are basically older Both the Theobaerum Scutata in Dacia and the Hispanorum Scutata in Iberia by the 2nd century A.D. were first mentioned as auxiliary soldiers under the Roman legion. By the arrival of the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D, new units emerged starting of the Mauri Scutarii, the Scola Scutariorum Prima and Secunda, the Primi Scutarii Orientales, and Scutarii Illyriciani. Well only that I know off. But as for the fall of Constantinople I only know that the Allagion and Pronoiars were there along with a mention of a cataphract. But as for the Skoutatoi themselves, only were gone earlier in the 11th century A.D.. But the Toxotai and Psilos (Psiloi) and Peltasts were often used more than the expensive heavy infantry and that emperors relied on mercenaries. However I do read that spearmen were used, and I don't if they were the skoutatoi or something else like the Athanatoi or just a type of Pronoiars that used spearmen. But I could be wrong as information changes.

Oh of course that Alexius and Ioannes II's reign were the strongest during the reformation. As they needed to change.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2016
1,146
Victoria, Canada
Hmmm! I only have heard that they are last mentioned only by the 11th century. And of course Skoutatoi does mean shield-bearer but their origins are basically older Both the Theobaerum Scutata in Dacia and the Hispanorum Scutata in Iberia by the 2nd century A.D. were first mentioned as auxiliary soldiers under the Roman legion. By the arrival of the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D, new units emerged starting of the Mauri Scutarii, the Scola Scutariorum Prima and Secunda, the Primi Scutarii Orientales, and Scutarii Illyriciani. Well only that I know off. But as for the fall of Constantinople I only know that the Allagion and Pronoiars were there along with a mention of a cataphract. But as for the Skoutatoi themselves, only were gone earlier in the 11th century A.D.. But the Toxotai and Psilos (Psiloi) and Peltasts were often used more than the expensive heavy infantry and that emperors relied on mercenaries. However I do read that spearmen were used, and I don't if they were the skoutatoi or something else like the Athanatoi or just a type of Pronoiars that used spearmen. But I could be wrong as information changes.

Oh of course that Alexius and Ioannes II's reign were the strongest during the reformation. As they needed to change.
My point wasn't that they continued as a unit up until the fall of constantinople, but that they were never a specific unit in the first place. A skoutatoi was a specific type of soldier, a designation akin to " javelin throwers" or "skirmish cavalry". They were equipped with a shield, spear, helmet, varying armour, and a sidearm unless the empire was in dire straights. Skoutatoi were the main infantry type of the byzantine empire from the 7th to the early 13th centuries. Though they were recruited using a different method, many pronoia soldiers still fell under the designation of "skoutatoi" because of their equipment.

Not speaking greek myself, I don't know if the term was still in use during the late period, but while it was used it didn't refer to any specific unit.
 
Jan 2013
1,207
Anywhere
My point wasn't that they continued as a unit up until the fall of constantinople, but that they were never a specific unit in the first place. A skoutatoi was a specific type of soldier, a designation akin to " javelin throwers" or "skirmish cavalry". They were equipped with a shield, spear, helmet, varying armour, and a sidearm unless the empire was in dire straights. Skoutatoi were the main infantry type of the byzantine empire from the 7th to the early 13th centuries. Though they were recruited using a different method, many pronoia soldiers still fell under the designation of "skoutatoi" because of their equipment.

Not speaking greek myself, I don't know if the term was still in use during the late period, but while it was used it didn't refer to any specific unit.
Oh okay I see. True who knows. I don't even know only what I read. Like this I found. " In the Macedonian period a heavy infantryman was described as a skoutatos (shieldbearer). These terms are not mentioned in 12th-century sources; Choniates used the terms kontophoros and lonchephoros (spearbearer/spearman). Choniates' usage was, however, literary and may not accurately represent contemporary technical terminology. Byzantine heavy infantry were armed with a long spear (kontos or kontarion) but it is possible that a minority may have been armed with the menavlion polearm ". Of course who knows.

Anyhow do you think that all professional soldiers stay at a fort or base?
 
Jan 2016
1,146
Victoria, Canada
I would guess the reason the word stopped being used is mostly because it was coined some 300 years ago by the komnenian period.

Anyway, the forts I refer to were meant to be constructed every night for protection, a roman tradition that continued until the end of the Macedonian dynasty. There were also many permanent forts similar to castles, but these were only manned in times of war.
 
Jan 2013
1,207
Anywhere
I would guess the reason the word stopped being used is mostly because it was coined some 300 years ago by the komnenian period.

Anyway, the forts I refer to were meant to be constructed every night for protection, a roman tradition that continued until the end of the Macedonian dynasty. There were also many permanent forts similar to castles, but these were only manned in times of war.
After times of war who oversees the forts. I know there should be soldiers of one point.what I'm also interested are the engineers. Did they help maintain the remaining Roman roads plus the aqueducts, and bases themselves.