Size and effectiveness of the Imperial Roman army on the eve of the Muslim conquests

The army of Heraclius’ empire after demobilization in 629 and 630 was almost certainly smaller than that of Justinian’s reign, which the contemporary historian Agathias had speculated in estimating its strength at 150,000. The question is how much smaller were the total disposable Byzantine forces at the beginning of the 630s than they had been late in the reign of Justinian. Perhaps they were smaller by as much as one-third, although it is difficult to conceive how they could have been much less than two-thirds of the late Justinianic armies’ size, because of the remaining vast dimensions of the empire. Continue reading “Size and effectiveness of the Imperial Roman army on the eve of the Muslim conquests”

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10 Things You Should Know About The Early Medieval (Eastern Roman) Byzantine Army (Part II)

5) The Payment and Rations

As we fleetingly mentioned before in the article, the Byzantine army was relatively well paid, especially when compared to the European realms of the contemporary time period. In terms of actual figures, a regular Thema soldier was possibly paid one (or one-and-a-half) gold coin, known as the nomismata, per month. Each nomismata weighed around 1/72th of a pound, which equates to 1/6 to 1/4th of a pound of gold for the individual soldier per year. This increased to 3 pounds of gold per year for a ‘fifth-class’ strategos and 40 pounds of gold per year for a ‘first-class’ strategos. It should also be noted that additionally, these farmer-soldiers held their grants of land, which theoretically were valued over 4 pounds of gold. Continue reading “10 Things You Should Know About The Early Medieval (Eastern Roman) Byzantine Army (Part II)”

10 Things You Should Know About The Early Medieval (Eastern Roman) Byzantine Army (Part I)

Popular notions tend to group the later Eastern Roman realm, or more specifically the Byzantine Empire, as a strictly medieval entity that encompassed Greece, the surrounding Balkans, and the Anatolian landmass. But if we take the impartial route that is ‘bereft’ of prejudiced medieval European politics and chronicling, the Byzantine Empire was the continuation (and even represented endurance) of the Roman legacy, so much so that most of its citizens called their realm Basileia tôn Rhōmaiōn – the Roman Empire. To that end, the very term ‘Byzantine’ in spite of its popularity, is a misleading word. So without further ado, let us equitably delve into the ten fascinating things you should know about the early medieval (Eastern Roman) Byzantine army. Continue reading “10 Things You Should Know About The Early Medieval (Eastern Roman) Byzantine Army (Part I)”

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