Warfare, State, and Society in the Byzantine World, 565-1204

By John Haldon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR

Organizing for war: the administration of military structures

From late Roman to “thematic” tactical structures

Tactics is a science which enables one to organise and manoeuvre a body of armed men in an orderly manner. Tactics may be divided into four parts: proper organisation of men for combat; distribution of weapons according to the needs of each man; movement of an armed body of troops in a manner appropriate to the occasion; the management of war, of personnel and materials,… 1

As this quotation illustrates, the concept of “tactics” for the East Romans encompassed all those aspects of warmaking associated with fighting in the field: order of battle, unit structure and organization, field discipline and manoeuvre, the realization of the different potential of various types of soldier (light and heavy, cavalry and infantry, missile weapons, shock weapons and so forth), as well as the psychology and morale of the soldiers, their officers and the enemy. It also included to a degree what Leo’s Tactica refers to as “logistics”, that is to say the structure and organization of the field army into divisions, brigades, units and sub-units. 2


The evolution of middle Byzantine military units

The tactical organization of the late Roman army presents a bewildering array of different types of unit, reflecting the complex development of the army up to that time. From before the third century, the older legions (which may have been kept up to the established strength of 6,000 men) and associated auxiliary units—cavalry alae, infantry cohortes (peditatae) and mixed units (cohortes equitatae), organized in units of 1,000 or 500—continued to function, although there is some question as to their numerical strength, which was probably much lower

-107-

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