By John Haldon

This publication lines the 800-year background of Byzantium. From the early doubtful years of the Empire, to the triumphal interval while its wealth attracted Viking and Asian warriors to affix its armies, and eventually to the loss of life of Byzantium's final emperor in 1453, the Empire's army background is laid naked.

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The older legions and auxiliary forces continued to exist through the 3rd and 4th centuries, divided into alae of cavalry and cohortes of infantry, nominally of 500 and 1,000 men respectively; although under Constantine I (324-37), new infantry units called auxilia often replaced these cohortes. Newer legions, numbering 1,000-1,500, had also been created during the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and this number seems also to have applied to the original legions by the 4th century. Apart from these were units called vexillationes, originally detachments from various units formed for a particular reason during the period c.

Dennis. Three Byzantine Military Treaties, p. 335, fig 10B) ABOVE Section of ditch and embankment, as described in 10th-century military handbook (From G. Dennis, Three Byzantine Military Treaties, p. 335. fig 10F) 58 Essential Histories • Byzantium at War Military manuals stressed that excess personal baggage and servants should not be taken by the officers or wealthier men, since it caused problems in respect of food and transport; and while many commanders clearly enforced such regulations, there is evidence that many did not and that discipline in this area was slack - with all the consequences that brought with it.

Wars were costly, and for a state whose basic income derived from agricultural production, and which remained relatively stable as well as being vulnerable to both natural and man-made disasters, they were to be avoided if at all possible. Another, closely related, factor in imperial strategic thinking was manpower: from a Byzantine perspective, they were always outnumbered, and strategy as well as diplomacy needed lo take this factor into account in dealing with enemies. One way of evening the balance was to reduce enemy numbers: delay the enemy forces until they could no longer stay in the field, destroying or removing any possible sources of provisions and supplies, for example, misleading them with false information about Byzantine intentions, these are all methods which the military treatises recommend.

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