World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Byzantine military manuals

Article Id: WHEBN0015752624
Reproduction Date:

Title: Byzantine military manuals  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Byzantine army, Byzantine flags and insignia, Hetaireia, List of Byzantine revolts and civil wars, List of Byzantine wars
Collection: Byzantine Military Manuals, Warfare of the Middle Ages
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Byzantine military manuals

This article is part of the series on the military of the Byzantine Empire, 330–1453 AD
Structural history
Byzantine army: East Roman army, Middle Byzantine army (themes • tagmata • Hetaireia), Komnenian-era army (pronoia), Palaiologan-era army (allagia) • Varangian Guard • Generals
Byzantine navy: Greek fire • Dromon • Admirals
Campaign history
Lists of wars, revolts and civil wars, and battles
Strategy and tactics
Tactics • Siege warfare • Military manuals • Fortifications (Walls of Constantinople)

This article lists and briefly discusses the most important of a large number of treatises on military science produced in the Byzantine Empire.


  • Background 1
  • List of works 2
  • References 3
  • Sources 4


The Eastern Roman or Xenophon and Aeneas the Tactician, and many Eastern Roman military manuals excerpt or adapt the works of ancient authors, especially Aelian[1] and Onasander.[2]

List of works

Byzantine hand-siphon for projecting Greek fire, llumination from the Poliorcetica of Hero of Byzantium

A large corpus of Byzantine military literature survives. Characteristically Byzantine manuals were first produced in the sixth century. They greatly proliferate in the tenth century, when the Byzantines embarked on their conquests in the East and the Balkans, but production abated after the early eleventh century. There is some evidence of similar works being written in the Palaiologan era, but with one exception, none survives.[3]

  • Urbicius (Οὐρβίκιος) wrote a military pamphlet addressed to Anastasius I (r. 491–518). In the manuscripts it is transmitted as two independent tracts. First, the Tacticon is an epitome of the first part (chs. 1–32) of Arrian’s Ars Tactica (AD 136/7), a conventional treatment of an idealised infantry phalanx.[4] Second, the Epitedeuma (Ἐπιτήδευμα) or 'Invention' is Urbicius’ own design for a type of portable cheval de frise.[5] The attribution to Urbicius of a third work, the so-called ‘Cynegeticus’, is spurious and results from confused scholarship in the 1930s. One manuscript (M) ascribes Maurice’s Strategikon to Urbicius, but this is demonstrably the copyist’s error.[6]
  • The "Sixth-Century Byzantine Anonymous" or Anonymus Byzantinus: see below under Syrianus Magister
  • The Strategikon[7] attributed to the Emperor Maurice (r. 582–602) was compiled in the late sixth century. It is a large twelve-book compendium treating all aspects of contemporary land warfare. The author is especially concerned to clarify procedures for the deployment and tactics of cavalry, particularly in response to Avar victories in the 580s-590s. He favours indirect forms of combat - ambushes, ruses, nocturnal raids and skirmishing on difficult terrain - and he also exhibits a good understanding of military psychology and morale. Book XI offers an innovative analysis of the fighting methods, customs and habitat of the Empire's most significant enemies, as well as recommendations for campaigning north of the Danube against the Slavs, another strategic concern of the 590s. The Strategikon exercised a profound influence upon the subsequent Byzantine genre.
  • The so-called De Militari Scientia or "Müller Fragment", an anonymous fragmentary tract, mostly comprising modified excerpts from Maurice's Strategikon.[8] Internal evidence, including the addition of "Saracens" to the list of enemies, suggests a date around the mid seventh century.[9]
  • Syrianus Magister (formerly the "Sixth-Century Byzantine Anonymous" or Anonymus Byzantinus) wrote a large, wide-ranging military compendium. Three substantial sections survive, which are transmitted independently in the manuscript tradition and have been edited in separate publications. Scholarship dating as far back as the seventeenth century has consistently recognised the textual unity of these three pieces, but errors in mid twentieth-century studies prolonged their separation.[10] The three components are: 1: a treatise on land warfare under the modern titles Περὶ Στρατηγικῆς or De Re Strategica, most recently published as "The Anonymous Byzantine Treatise on Strategy".[11] 2: a treatise on military oratory under the modern title Rhetorica Militaris, often ascribed to the same "Anonymous".[12] 3: the Naumachia (Ναυμαχίαι), a treatise on naval warfare, which in the unique manuscript bears an ascription to a Syrianus Magister (Ναυμαχίαι Συριανοῦ Μαγίστρου).[13] Recognition of the common authorship of all three sections necessarily assigns the entire compendium to this author. A new edition of the complete compendium is in preparation.[14] The constituent parts of the compendium were traditionally dated to the sixth century, but the evidence is weak and all recent studies have identified features more congruent with a date of composition in the ninth century.[15] This ninth-century dating has been widely accepted in recent scholarship on the genre.[16]
  • The Problemata of the Emperor Leo VI the Wise (r. 886–912),[17] compiled ca. 890s, comprise excerpts of Maurice's Strategikon arranged in a question-and-answer format.[18]
  • The Tactica of Leo VI[19] was written ca. 895-908. At its core is a re-edition of Maurice's Strategikon, often reproduced verbatim, and additional material drawn from Hellenistic military treatises, especially Onasander.[18][20] However, it also includes expansions and modifications to reflect contemporary practice, especially against the Arabs and the Hungarians, as well as chapters on naval warfare (peri naumachias).[21]
  • The Sylloge Tacticorum (συλλογὴ τακτικῶν), compiled in the early to mid 10th century, possibly during the reign of Constantine VII.[22] The text is divided into two major sections: the first (chapters 1 to 56) draws upon various earlier authors and provides advice on generalship, battle formations and tactics, and siege warfare. The second half (chapters 57 to 102) deals with stratagems employed by past generals, drawing chiefly from ancient authors.[22] Nevertheless, sections on contemporary warfare and comparison with earlier models (chapters 30-39 and 46-47) are also included, and were used as a basis for the later Praecepta Militaria.[22]
  • The De velitatione bellica (περὶ παραδρομῆς) attributed to Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (r. 963–969), but actually written on his orders, possibly by his brother Leo.[23] It is an essay on light infantry and skirmishing warfare, written ca. 975 based on Phokas' notes on the cross-border raids and skirmishes between Byzantines and Arabs during the first half of the 10th century.[24] Emphasis is given on reconnaissance, the use of the terrain and night, and instructions are provided on various scenarios, from countering raids or large-scale invasions to sieges.[24]
  • The Praecepta militaria (στρατηγικὴ ἔκθεσις καὶ σύνταξις Νικηφόρου δεσπότου) of Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas, six chapters written in c. 965, which presents the army of the latter 10th century during the "Byzantine Reconquest" in the East.[25] Various operational scenarios are discussed; for a pitched battle, Phokas describes the use of a strong infantry formation that anchors the battle line and the use of heavy cavalry, especially cataphracts, as the main striking force.[25] The text also includes information on the setting up of camps, reconnaissance and the use of spies, as well as the army's religious ceremonies. The chapters are included and partially amended to account for the early 11th-century situation in the later Tactica of Nikephoros Ouranos.[25]
  • The Parangelmata Poliorcetica, a manual on siege warfare, by the so-called Hero of Byzantium.
  • The Tactica of Nikephoros Ouranos, one of the best generals of Basil II, written ca. 1000. It draws upon the Praecepta, Leo VI's Tactica and other works, but also includes chapters from Ouranos' own experience on raiding and sieges.
  • The Strategikon of Kekaumenos, written ca. 1075–1078. Not strictly a military manual, it contains general advice in military, administrative and household affairs, often illustrated by examples from 11th century events.
  • Instructions and Prescriptions for a Lord who has wars to fight and government to exercise, written by Theodore Palaiologos, Marquess of Montferrat in Greek and then translated into Latin (in the 1320s) and French. It is however more influenced by Western models, rather than reflecting Byzantine tradition.[26][27]


  1. ^ A. Dain, L’Histoire du texte d’Élien le Tacticien des origines à la Fin du Moyen Âge (Paris 1946)
  2. ^ A. Dain, Les manuscrits d’Onésandros (Paris 1930) 145–157
  3. ^ Bartusis (1997), p. 10
  4. ^ R. Förster (1877), ‘Studien zu den griechischen Taktikern’, Hermes 12:426–71 at 467–71
  5. ^ G. Greatrex, H. Elton and R. Burgess (2005), ‘Urbicius’ Epitedeuma: an edition, translation and commentary’, Byzantinische Zeitschrift 98:35–74
  6. ^ P. Rance, and the "Fragment of Urbicius"Etymologicum MagnumThe , Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 47 (2007) 193–224
  7. ^ G.T. Dennis (ed.), Das Strategikon des Maurikios, Ger. trans. E. Gamillscheg (CFHB 17] Vienna 1981); G.T. Dennis (Eng. trans.), Maurice’s Strategikon: Handbook of Byzantine Military Strategy (Philadelphia 1984)
  8. ^ K. K. Müller 'Ein griechisches Fragment über Kriegswesen', Festschrift für Ludwig Urlichs (Würzburg 1880) 106–38
  9. ^ P. Rance, 'The De Militari Scientia or Müller Fragment as a philological resource. Latin in the East Roman army and two new loanwords in Greek: palmarium and *recala', Glotta. Zeitschrift für griechische und lateinische Sprache 86 (2010) 63-92
  10. ^ See most recently F. Lammert, 'Die älteste erhaltene Schrift über Seetaktik und ihre Beziehung zum Anonymus Byzantinus des 6. Jahrhunderts, zu Vegetius und zu Aineias’ Strategika, Klio 33 (1940) 271–788; C. Zuckerman, 'The Compendium of Syrianus Magister', Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik 40 (1990) 209–224; S. Cosentino, "Syrianos’ Strategikon– a 9th-Century Source?", Bizantinistica 2 (2000) 243–80; P. Rance, The Date of the Military Compendium of Syrianus Magister (formerly the Sixth-Century Anonymus Byzantinus), Byzantinische Zeitschrift 100.2 (2007) 701-737
  11. ^ G.T. Dennis (ed.), Three Byzantine Military Treatises (CFHB Series Washingtoniensis 25] Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., 1985) 10–135
  12. ^ Ed. with Italian trans. by I. Eramo, Siriano. Discorsi di guerra. Testo, traduzione e commento (Bari 2010).
  13. ^ Ed. with Eng. trans. by Pryor and Jeffreys (2006) 455–481
  14. ^ C. Zuckerman, 'The Compendium of Syrianus Magister', Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik 40 (1990) 209–224
  15. ^ B. Baldwin, 'On the Date of the Anonymous ΠΕΡΙ ΣΤΡΑΤΗΓΙΚΗΣ', Byzantinische Zeitschrift 81 (1988) 290–3; A.D. Lee and J. Shepard, 'A Double Life: Placing the Peri Presbeon', Byzantinoslavica 52 (1991) 15–39 esp. 25–30; S. Cosentino, 'Syrianos’ Strategikon– a 9th-Century Source?', Bizantinistica 2 (2000) 243-80; P. Rance, 'The Date of the Military Compendium of Syrianus Magister (formerly the Sixth-Century Anonymus Byzantinus)', Byzantinische Zeitschrift 100.2 (2007) 701-737; L. Mecella, 'Die Überlieferung der Kestoi des Julius Africanus in den byzantinischen Textsammlungen zur Militärtechnik' in M. Wallraff and L. Mecella (edd.), Die Kestoi des Julius Africanus und ihre Überlieferung ([Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 165] Berlin/New York 2009) 85-144 at 96-8.
  16. ^ Pryor and Jeffreys (2006) 180; McGeer (2008) 910; Sullivan (2010) 151-2.
  17. ^ A. Dain (ed.), Leonis VI Sapientis Problemata (Paris 1935)
  18. ^ a b
  19. ^ G.T. Dennis (ed.), The Taktika of Leo VI. Text, Translation and Commentary ([CFHB 49] Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. 2010).
  20. ^ Haldon (1999), pp. 109–110
  21. ^ Kazhdan (1991), p. 2008
  22. ^ a b c Kazhdan (1991), p. 1980
  23. ^ Dennis (1985), pp. 139–140
  24. ^ a b Kazhdan (1991), p. 615
  25. ^ a b c Kazhdan (1991), p. 1709
  26. ^ Bartusis (1997), pp. 10–11
  27. ^ Haldon (1999), pp. 5–6


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.