After the fall of the Roman Empire in A.D. 436, the Byzantine Empire was the last remnant of Roman Imperialism. As the two Empires were once one, much of Rome's culture and tradition was imprinted on the Byzantines. One of these traditions was the formation of armies and Roman Legionnaires. The Byzantines retained these Legionnaires, and they became known as Byzantine Infantry.

The Byzantine army was, more or less, a large mass of mercenaries and foreign conscripts. The Byzantines did not have the same xenophobic attitude towards foreigners, and were almost overly eagre to conscript them rather than ask their own people. This lead to a very large, very disloyal army, as most only had loyalty to Byzantium's purse, or no loyalty at all. The Byzantine Infantry, however, were only ever recruited from Byzantine citizens (a Byzantine citizen was basically from any of the Macedonian, Bulgarian or Asian lands close to Constantinople, or from within Constantionple itself) and had direct loyalty to Byzantium itself.

The Byzantine Infantry were highly trained and highly disciplined (but not to the extent of the Varangian Guard or the Kataphraktoi), and initially they practiced the same formations as the Romans had(such as the infamous turtle shell formation). As time progressed, however, tactics and formations became more Greek than Roman. In the Dark Ages the Byzantine Infantry retained the same splint mail that the Roman Legionnaires used, and similarly used the same short sword and shield. As time progressed, and technology progressed, so did the Byzantine Infantry - at least for a little while. By A.D. 900 the Byzantines had updated all their technology into what became known as post-Roman technology. Even at the beginning of the medieval period in A.D. 1000, this was incredibly advanced, but they ceased to update after this. The Byzantine Infantry were issued with a curved long sword (like a very long scimitar), a kite shield and wore chain mail, the commanders (nobles) wore half plate.

In the early medieval period, the Byzantine Infantry were both one of the most elite fighting forces, and one of the most technologically advanced. By the high medieval period, their technology was more or less on par with the rest of the world, but by the late medieval period, it was superceded. The other problem was that the Byzantines really did not put this resource to good use. Their numbers were small and by far outnumbered by the mercenaries and conscripts. Thus, a Byzantine army would not work as a disciplined, unified force as an army of Roman Legionnaires had, and their effect was severely dulled.

Byzantine Infantry were organised into chiliarchies (regiments), which consisted of the following:

  • 400 Hoplitai (sword and shield bearers)
  • 300 Toxotai (long bowman or crossbowman)
  • 200 Javelineers (may include some slingers and archers), on the flanks
  • 100 Menavlion (heavy spear or javelin) bearers as a roving unit

For an entire unit, there were two formations:

12 Chiliarchy formation

  • 4,800 Hoplitai
  • 3,600 Toxotai
  • 2,400 Javilineers
  • 1,200 Menavlion bearers

12,000 men

16 Chiliarchy formation

  • 6,400 Hoplitai
  • 4,800 Toxotai
  • 3,200 Javelineers
  • 1,600 Menavlion bearers

16,000 men

The smaller formation was used more in the early years of the Empire, whereas the larger formation was used more in the later years. Both formations were used in various situations however, and both had the same unit placements, which looked like this:


{--FLANK--}    //-------T-------//-------T-------//-------T-------//    {--FLANK--}
-----J-----    //-------T-------//-------T-------//-------T-------//    -----J-----  
-----J-----                                                             -----J-----
-----J-----    //-------M-------//-------M-------//-------M-------//    -----J-----
-----J-----                                                             -----J-----
-----J-----                                                             -----J-----

Key: H = Hoplitai, T = Toxotai, J = Javilineers, M = Menavlion bearers

12 Chilarchy formation: 1,200 per front rank; 480 per flank rank
16 Chilarchy formation: 1,600 per front rank; 640 per flank rank