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Thread: A Year's Education - Russia Megacampaign, pt. I

  1. #261
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    Wonderful update... especially the gorgeous illustrations. Where are you gathering them? They look fantastic...
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    Lovely update. I particularly like your alusion to the Frankish crusades and description of the mixing of ethnic groups styles in the melting pot that is the Monomach empire.
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  3. #263
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    A very interesting and believable insight into the military of the Empire. I am very interested to see how it will develop. And whether they will cope with the Mongols of course, which have the tendencies to end up as historic side notes (often) or becoming world conquering heroes (sometimes) in my games.

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    When the heathen and the rightful believers do meet on the battlefield, it is merely a shadow of the battle between God’s Angels and the forces of the Deceiver; our fight is a struggle of faith and spirit, not of steel alone. For that reason God’s believers shall prevail, on this Earth as in Heaven.

    Emperor Alexander II at the siege of Baalbek


    Feudal Byzantine Rus

    A Rurikovich Prince in Rus was once bound into a complicated succession system which temporarily placed him at the head of a city before moving him to more important posts later on in life; the cities were used to frequent changes of leadership, and had a good deal of self-government; sometimes the city’s people and boyars would rise up to expel a prince they did not like and invite another instead. The Rus Prince, therefore, had to rely on his druzhina, who were loyal to him alone and not to the city. This was not necessarily a disadvantage; a prince from a poor area, or a less prestigious city, dissatisified with his lot, could attract many warriors – Russian, or Scandinavian, or Nomad, and march upon his more favoured brothers and cousins, like both Mstislav and Rostislav of Tmutarakan had done; and even become grand Prince. Like Vladimir Red Sun or Yaroslav the Wise.
    This system collapsed towards the end of the reign of Izyaslav Yaroslavich as the Grand Prince of Kiev. Western Russia, traditionally the heartland, was subjected to intense pressure from multiple opponents from the West, and ultimately collapsed to the so-called Northern Crusades, with Norwegians, Swedes and Germans seizing Russia’s richest cities instead of traveling further south to fight the Seljuks as they originally promised. The other center of power, Chernigov, was extinguished as a separate entity when the Pecheneg-Polovets alliance crushed Sviatoslav Yaroslavich and then his descendants, and Pereyaslavl reabsorbed the lands into its domains. Rus became centered on Pereyaslavl, ruled then by Vsevolod Yaroslavich. He had several children, but had no intention of allowing the struggle for the throne to develop after his death; indeed he wanted his son Vladimir to become the sole ruler and new Grand Prince. A congress of all surviving Rus princes was called, where he proposed that each branch would hold the town they currently ruled in perpetuity, and pass it on to their descendants. The Prince was now tied to his land and not his druzhina, though both were at his disposal; not so different from a Byzantine dynatos. The druzhina, often rewarded with land grants, became equated with the boyar class, and the boyars in turn often made up the bulk of the Prince’s new druzhina. This was the state of affairs at the time Vladimir Vsevolodovich called the 1120 congress.

    One outcome of this congress was that wealthy Greek nobles who owned large tracts of land became equated with Rus princes. Although the average Rus prince was nowhere as wealthy as a Greek dynatos, it was the Greeks that ultimately benefited from the increase in status; likewise, pro-Russian Kipchak Khans and even Bulgarian dynatoi became Princes, hereditary governors of their domains. Their domains, however, were now to house smaller landowners – boyars - over whom the Prince held power due to his rank. The boyars answered to the Prince, the Prince to the Despot. At the same time, both the druzhinniks and the stratiots as a class suffered a decrease in status. Although those warriors and impoverished stratiots that supported Vladimir and his allies in his early years were rewarded with land and lifting into boyar or even princely class, all warriors that served a lord directly were now in a new class. We commonly term it the Gentry, but they were in fact continued to be called stratiots throughout the period. They usually owned the house they lived in, but depended upon their feudal lord for employment. Further, certain cities – at the death of Vladimir only Constantinople, Pereyaslavl and Vidin – were Imperial holdings, deemed too valuable to lose to any one Prince. They did, however, have their own feudal class. Boyars in the city did not own land or people, but were assigned districts which to tax, and equip themselves and the gentry that followed them from a set percentage of these gains. Although certainly this system seems open to abuse, living in an Imperial city seems to have been favourable to living under a feudal overlord. The population of both Vidin and Pereyaslavl swelled greatly at the expense of hinter regions, transforming them from simply strategically and symbolically important into truly major centers.
    In times of war, then, the Despot would summon all the fighting forces from the cities directly under his control, and then call upon his Princes, who would come along with their boyars and the gentry who served them, and bring along any infantry they could conscript or hire. After a short time training and organizing the forces, the army would march. For Vladimir’s time, this served well enough, but for his successor Heraklios this was unsatisfactory.
    The Heraklean Reforms

    Heraklios was Prince of Galatia during his youth, a frontier region with Seljuks and smaller Muslim states. It was a region of constant small-scale warfare, raiding and counter-raiding; a well-to-do region but not especially wealthy. However, to his credit, he defended it very successfully, studying the enemy’s tactics and either imitating them or coming up with ways to counter them. Drawing on his experience, he wrote a lengthy guideline on how the new Byzantine army was to be ordered, commanded and equipped.

    The boyars were to form the heavy cavalry arm; Heraklios wanted them numerous, well protected, and skilled in arms; in other words, a tall order. Even the requirements for the armour alone seem far too expensive for a boyar of his age: a mail coat, of knee-length, and a short coat of scale or splints or lamellar plate over that; a metal helm, with a face-mask or chain hangings protecting all but the eyes. A kite shield, Rus-style; splinted greaves protecting the boot, and finally, a skirt of leather or quilt, again with metal studs or full splints protecting the front of the horse. The boyar was to be armed with a lance and throwing spears or a bow at his left side, as well as a mace, hammer or axe for fighting other armoured opponents as a side weapon. Swords were omitted from specifications although it was preferred that the boyar carry one as well.

    The stratiots, in their new role, were to be a medium cavalry arm whose job was to harass small groups of the enemy and pursue fugitives. The demands on them seem even more steep; they were to have a long klavanion, with or without sleeves, a short mail coat with short sleeves over that, and a metal helm with neck protection but no face mask. Additional protection in the form of forearm guards was encouraged. They were to carry both a bow and throwing spears, and mace and a medium-length sword rounded out the armament. A lighter round shield, Turkish-style, was also required. Heraklios did not specify any light cavalry at all; rather, he was of the opinion that the prokoursatores were going to be the Despotate’s new secret weapon, able to skirmish almost as well as true light cavalry, but having the ability to crush any light horse or infantry facing them. His strategy also called for the stratiots to withdraw behind the boyars when a charge began, and then follow the heavier warriors into the fighting in successive waves, breaking the opponent by the sheer mass of armoured fighters. Moreover, light cavalry was available in some numbers from the Steppe regions of Rus, where the Kipchaks were the majority population, although it is clear that Heraklios wanted to weigh the Kipchak skirmishers down with armour as well in time.
    To help his boyars and stratiots achieve this level of equipment, Heraklios introduced substantial tax breaks to the Princes who could field a large amount of troops as close to the specifications as possible; for every additional fighter, the tax break would increase. Reviews were to be held twice yearly at the princes’ estates by the Despot’s men, where both equipment and martial skill were to be checked. It worked, to a point. As the economy recovered, princes everywhere, especially Greece, could afford more soldiers. The number of boyars was still low, but the medium cavalry increased in numbers greatly, though their skills were often lacking; equipment often remained of varying quality; the transition to the kite shield was particularly slow and was never completed, and Russian boyars often lacked protective gear for their horses. Nonetheless, Heraklios decided to try his new army against a relatively weak opponent – the Baltic tribes. His initial plan was full of precautions – for example he was still not confident in his boyars’ equipment and required them to maneuver in such a way that the shielded side would face the enemy at all times, to avoid casualties due to archery. This was hardly a necessity; the Balts proved a soft target, unable to stand up to the new army, which was better equipped and more numerous, and were often crushed into the ground by charges from the prokoursatores alone; however, they were adept at hit and run warfare, and they were extremely tenacious. The campaigns, which took the Emperor to the farthest North, took a long time; Constantinople was administered by his son Constantine, but it is no secret that no other Despot or Emperor dared be away from the capital for so long and so far away. Nonetheless, Heraklios had defined the proper place of the ruler to be at the forefront, with his troops, something all subsequent Emperors without exception adhered to.
    Constantine’s main strength was making money; this was a requirement for the expensive re-arming project his father had begun, and would have not succeeded without someone like Constantine at the head of the Chancellery. Further plans were made to create regular infantry as well instead of the ad-hoc system that was currently in place, and money was saved to that end – the same money which was wasted spectacularly in Constantine’s insane project of building the Regal suburb – with its own fortifications and all – on the landward side of Constantinople, outside the great walls. The army then remained largely the same throughout the reign of Theodore the Great as it was under Heraklios, although edging ever closer to Heraklios’ original design.
    The Heraklean Army in Action

    It may be true that Theodore’s victories are indebted as much to a capable army as they are to his generalship, but he was the one who bloodied the new army against a succession of tough opponents and gave the new Empire confidence in its military strength. The first test came against the old Byzantine army of then-Emperor Theodoros Mouzakios, a capable general whose fortunes seemed on the rise; this proved to be a deadly illusion when Monomachs’ post-reform and mostly-Russian army collided with pre-reform and mostly-Greek Rhodian force. Attacking from the river, the Monomach was at a disadvantage despite his larger numbers, but the mercenary infantry held itself well enough until the cavalry could be assembled. Once the wings were spread out and climbed onto level ground on top of the bank, the prokoursatores went ahead into an exchange of bow-fire and throwing spears with their opposite number on the Rhodian side; but seeing how poorly equipped the opponent was, the prince of Rostov, in command of the medium cavalry, decided to edge closer and closer until a charge could be launched. The commands were mostly relayed in Russian and the Rhodians remained ignorant until the procoursatores were very close indeed. The Rostov cavalry charged in an open formation and without any special preparation, but was able to overwhelm the opponent who did not expect them to do so, causing confusion on the Rhodian side. The fleeing Greek light cavalry got tangled with the heavier stratiots on the Rhodian side. The Rostov men peppered both with arrows and spears, and withdrew. At the same time, the Monomach boyar cavalry, now arranged into one line with an additional line of prokoursatores behind them, divided into regional regiments but under overall command of Theodore himself, sounded charge. They rolled on like an implacable wave and swept away the old system forever.
    The next few years were a trial against every kind of opponent; the 1134 campaign saw the Venetians defeated in battles at the gates of all their Black Sea colonies. After the first few, they preferred to lock themselves inside the fortifications and wait for the inevitable, or surrender at once. The entire Venetian colonial empire was partitioned between Theodore and his Hungarian ally. 1136 saw the defeat of the Norwegians at Pskov. The Varangian heavy infantry, much prized as it was, proved to be unable to withstand the new army any more than the Italians had been. The Novgorodians drew the Norwegians out of Pskov by looting the villages in the area; when the Jarl moved to intercept them, the Imperial army moved between him and the city. The battle consisted of the Byzantines (This time at least half were Greek and all three of then-existing Imperial Tagmata - the Varangian, the Galatian and the Palatial - were also present) skirmishing with the Varangians for several hours. The center was intentionally weakened to induce the Norwegians to be more aggressive; several times the prokoursatores engaged the enemy at melee range and then withdrew quickly. The Norwegians, both eager to get back to Pskov, and not overly impressed with the cavalry, pushed forward as fast as they could while keeping formation. When they were exactly between the two highly-curved flanks, the now familiar boyar charge, followed by more medium cavalry to make up the numbers, was sounded. Once again it decided the battle. Victories followed in Italy and in Kiev, where the mostly-infantry German force refused to give battle and surrendered after the city’s populace opened the gates to Theodore.
    The next big test was against the Latins. In 1147 Theodore fought a war against an alliance of Poland and the Teutonic Order, whose knights had a fearsome reputation as all Latin cavalry did. The same tactic was used against Western Heavy cavalry as against Western infantry; a weaker center and both wings with Boyar cavalry in them; he also had sufficient numbers of the workhorse prokoursatores to be able to form the weak center, form the second (or third as the case may be) line behind the Boyars, and also to counteract Polish light cavalry trying to disrupt the flanks. Despite the Byzantine authors remaining thoroughly impressed by the Latin knights, the war was finished without a defeat on the Monomach side and resulted in the return of the Red Towns to the principality of Volodimir Volynsky. At the same time, it seems clear that Theodore was still unsure of the quality of his own heavy cavalry, and it appears that the city boyars – the ones involved in the pronoia system in Imperial territories – were of better quality than the Boyars who served the Princes; moreover, they were usually better-organised. He wanted more of such men, who were concerned with little beyond skill at arms instead of making their finances solid. Several new areas were made Imperial Domains, including Kiev, the biggest of Russian cities, and the Boyars in all new territories were to collect tax rather than tend to the land to gain money.
    The final test was against the strongest enemy possible – the Seljuk Sultanate; arguably, the Heraclean army failed. Although he correctly guessed that light Seljuk cavalry would always fold without a fight to the heavier Byzantine medium horse, the medium horse itself – much more numerous than the boyar katafractoi – was still very vulnerable to both concentrated fire and direct attacks. The boyars and the heavy Turkish (mostly Khorasani and Persian) cavalry were roughly evenly matched, with the boyars perhaps a little better in all-around maneuvers, but not enough to make up for the numerical disparity. The deciding factor was that the ad-hoc infantry the Empire fielded was of vastly varying quality and putting large concentrations of men supposed to hold a line for cavalry to regroup behind under the command of individual princes made for a very unreliable center, as the battles at Dwin showed. Where the Imperial cavalry was sufficient to carry the victory all by itself, they did well; as soon as Seljuk numbers forced a longer battle where an infantry line was important, the Byzantine army was inadequate. This was taken into account by future Emperors and corrected slowly, culminating in the vast and bold reforms under Emperor Alexander II…
    Last edited by RGB; 09-11-2007 at 20:27.
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  5. #265
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    And now for some replies:

    TM: Your question (about who influenced who) can be answered in two ways. the first one is, who wrote the textbook? I'd say some Russian scholar did. The other answer, which is perhaps more generally useful, is that initially the Empire fought like Russians because most of the fighters were in fact from there. After that, both developed together under influence from their neighbours.

    General_BT: The Illustrations: some are Osprey, some are Bilibin, some are from Russian military artists etc. I got mine mostly from here, here and here.

    JimboIX: The Franks initially scored a few important victories in the East, but as you know the Seljuks had them on the run by the time I intervened. The aren't as impressive, comparatively, in the 13th century.

    Lord Valentine: I hope it is believable. I copied a lot of it from actual historical papers.

    Why would a feudal Byzantium be better than thematic Byzantium? I tried explaining that in the last update, but most of all I imagine with all of Eastern Europe once again trading through Constantinople unmolested things are bound to look up economically.

    -----

    I apologise for the slight excessive length; the next update is the last before we move onto the Mongols. Anyway, enjoy the pictures.
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  6. #266
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    An interesting update concerning the military breakdown ! The state of Eastern warriors always seemed to elude modern trails of scholarship so it was an interesting insight !
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  7. #267
    General JimboIX's Avatar

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    I like how you're adding a tactical dimension to all these battles with the description of the army and its evolution, it provides some nice insight and plausibility.
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  8. #268

    Thumbs up w00т!

    I bet you the professor has some book that he read as a schoolboy that he’s reading in his head and presenting to us as history
    When i win the lottery, i would take that bet for a small sum. But not before since the odds are probably similar...

    but in her revenge, she lost support among the wavering Greek lords outside Thrace
    Drat and bebother those waverers! Tergiversation abounds, (un)fortunately, once the cookies start crumbling cuz heads start rolling.

    the revenues from the Danish sound were of more immediate worth than the gratitude of the Monomachs.
    Ah. Funding. See above re: wagers for the core of entirely too many reasons why people do things!

    He was proving to be an unworthy successor, but he was her son.
    And then there are those instances when people should write off a bad investment but don't...

    i would have gone with "the demographics of the Empire" but since i was too busy to pipe up, dagnabbit guess i missed my chance.
    Obviously a thorough census might need to wait if one hears the thundering hooves of the Golden Horde and and the il-Khanate approaching.

    Very sly sneaking in the the Cherkasov image from one of my favourite movies. Excellent selection of images. Very neat and flash .gif/map.
    The break hasn't diminished your wordsmithing. Like the characterization of Katyusha especially. Vanity, definitely my favourite sin.


    Oh, and good to see you have had the opportunity and inclination to continue. Though i should have gotten some sort of notification, eh?!

  9. #269
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    The Long Arms of Constantinople

    Basil IV (Vsevolod Yaroslavich) was the Emperor under whom the Heraklean army fully matured in both experience and numbers. The Emperor’s reign saw almost non-stop warfare which kept the troops highly battle-ready; at the same time Byzantine losses were almost always rather low, while the economy recovered rapidly. By the end of his reign the Empire and its vassal Tzardoms controlled completely the trade on the Baltic (from the Danish Sound to Novgorod), the vast Russian riverways, and the Black Sea. Switching the boyar income to tax rather than produce was a shrewed decision; they were now, as a class, quite wealthy and numerous and the number of boyar cavalry increased. On the other hand, the boyars serving older Princicpalities and still dependent on the land consistently fell behind; some petitioned the Emperor to allow them to collect taxes as well, but that usually went against the interests of their Princes and Long-Arms kept deferring his decision on that.
    Other reforms, however, he implemented enthusiastically. His greatest achievement was a solution – albeit partial – to the problem of unreliable feudal infantry that needed to be stiffened with expensive mercenaries. The Princes were no longer asked to equip and train their feudal infantry; instead, they were expected to send a certain number of able-bodied men each year to be trained into a standing force. The peasants often had no say about being sent to the army; Greek princes especially were allowed to keep serfs, and if anything serfdom only strengthened under Basil; his successor’s haphazard attempts to undermine serfdom were unproductive and soon abandoned. The “Tax in Men” was a good way for the landlords to get rid of trouble-makers, unskilled workers and everyone else not necessary for the smooth running of estates. However, gathered from all over the Empire, the numbers told. The question of how to feed them was solved also quite simply: that was the responsibility of the towns hosting them. The infantry was thus always on duty, often in frontier regions or newly-conquered territories where the local population could not be trusted; they quickly gained experience, or died.

    The basic infantryman was not a great warrior nor was his equipment exceptional. The guidelines describe a turban over a thick felt cap and a very thick kavadion made of coarse silk quilted with cotton wadding. To avoid the encumbrance to movement, the arms were to pass out through openings in the armpits and the sleeves buttoned back to the shoulders. These troops were to be armed with long spears, a sword for personal defense, and either a mace or an axe. The shields varied in size and shape, although longer shields, square or kite, were more common. The training consisted mostly of marching and maneuvers; the role of the spearmen on the battlefield was to provide a wall for cavalry to regroup behind, and all they needed to know was how to be where needed in time. For ease of command and communication, Greek was to be the language used by officers of all Imperial and allied troops; how often this was followed in practice is difficult to say. The final major innovation was the crossbow, which slowly spread throughout the Empire, becoming the primary infantry missile weapon. The crossbowman wore a shorter version of the quilted coat, had a large shield to hide behind, and was armed with a crossbow and a sword or an axe.
    The Byzantines also paid great attention to the horses; Arabian and Persian breeds were imported or captured, and bred into new lines specifically designed to do one of the two things: carry a cataphract, or carry a skirmisher. Boyar horse breeds were in the end very large animals with excellent strength and endurance, while strength and size were less important for skirmisher horses, who instead emphasized speed and stamina necessary for the prokoursatores to perform the varied tasks assigned them. There are three major breeds of warhorse from the period: the Bulgarian, a fast and well-behaved medium-sized stratiot horse; the smaller and still faster Circassian, used by the skirmishers of the Eastern principalities; and the heavy Anatolian breed, usually grain-fed for at least part of the year to maintain the bulk, which formed the basis for heavy cavalry everywhere in the Empire and then gave rise to the Russian charger in the 15th century. The army was no doubt now the strongest in Europe. It defeated both Muslim and Latin rivals in Italy and Sicily, eliminated the Teutonic Order’s Baltic holdings and forced its relocation to southern Poland, intervened successfully in the Croatian civil war, and delivered devastating defeats to both the Hungarians and the Germans. The German Emperor himself faced young Caesar Alexander in 1166. Otto von Franken, a grizzled veteran of a thousand feudal disputes scoffed at the idea that a mere boy – a mere Greek boy – a mere Greek boy with that reputation – could have defeated him. As history tells us, the Byzantine army, substantially smaller and weeks from home, dealt with the Germans swiftly and confidently without having Alexander resort to any particularly clever strategy. In a fairly straightforward clash between lines of knights, the East prevailed over the West, and the German Emperor had to sign a humiliating treaty with a smug 16-year old who insisted on being treated as if he was Cosmokrator already.
    The Favoured Sons of the Empire

    The Byzantine vassals were a troublesome group of nobles; Long-Arms could never have motivated them to mobilize completely for him; in fact, if the new army had a weakness it was the fact that it could never completely count on the vassals. However, there were ways to make up for that. The new Imperial Tagmata, which began simply as the Palace and Varangian guard detachments under Vladimir Monomach, gained in numbers and authority dramatically under Basil IV. They were allocated districts within Constantinople itself which would be taxed by the tagma’s Strategos. Equipment and salaries were drawn from that money. By Alexander’s time, the six tagmata consisted of over 16,000 heavy and medium horsemen. The Galatian Tagma was added by Heraklios, when Galatia became an ecclesiastical principality and its boyars followed their Prince to the capital; the Latin tagma by Basil IV, originally recruited from Italians, Croatians, Bohemians, Hungarians and Germans. Alexander added the Scythian and Parthian tagmata. The former was drawn from Circassians, Kipchaks and Alans, and the latter from Syrians, Armenians, Georgians and Turks. There were no substantial difference in how these formations were employed, but they differed in the style of arms they bore, and they differed from regular boyars and stratiots in that there were no real restrictions as to the religion or customs of individual members. Although the Emperors maintained all six at rough parity in strength, at certain times one tagma or another may have risen to greater prominence or fallen into disfavour. Basil IV’s disastrous attack on the Berenguer Rurikoviches of Meschera ruined the reputation of the Galatians who accompanied him on that particular adventure, while Alexander favoured the Parthians, and their Strategos and the Emperor’s favourite, Salah Mansoor, was often put in charge of the entire Army of the Emperor’s Presence. The Emperor Nikephoros was heavily backed by the Scythian and Varangian Tagmata upon his ascension and increased the income of both. Later he seems to have ridden to battle with the Scythians and put one of his own favourites, Itlar Dimitrievich, as the Strategos of the tagma; as the jest went, Nikephoros liked his knights honey-dark, and Alexander liked them doe-eyed. All in all the tagmata were very reliable politically and served as a safeguard against ambitions of regional princes. Their loyalty was mostly to the ruling Emperor, regardless of the opinions of the rest of the population. All six supported the Petzikopouloi when the Civil war started, although a good part of the Scythians, Parthians and Palatines defected to Ekaterine after the Elegemitoi usurped the crown.
    The Rise and Fall of the Alexandrian Army


    Alexander and his brother Nikephoros were both brought up in Trebizond, in the eastern reaches of the Empire. Their rule saw a very heavy orientalisation of the Heraklean army, although it seems to have been done for solid reasons rather than just personal preference. The noted disparity between old provincial Boyars and the new Boyars or Imperial heavy cavalry was exploited by Alexander, who formed two classes out of them. The first rank cataphracts were made even heavier, with mail protecting the horse as completely as possible, and a new lance, with a long tempered head, cross-shaped in section, designed to punch through armour was introduced; the second rank was made lighter and would replace the prokoursatores as the second line of the Byzantine charge, although the medium cavalry could still be added in successive waves to an established breach in enemy formations. After the enemy’s heavy knights were neutralized, the charging line was to return to camp to get new spears, with broader heads, designed for fighting unarmoured opponents and infantry. Wounds from the second-charge spears were usually wide and impossible to heal.
    The stratiots were instead made lighter, more like the Kipchaks and less like the Bulgarians. Alexander was very concerned about the lesser riding ability of his own medium horse compared to the excellent horsemanship of his Eastern opponents, and also about them being too slow to control the battlefield effectively. Throwing spears were replaced for a smaller, thinner model, weighted inside with a metal split and designed to fly really fast; one of the reasons given was that heavier spears, flying slower, could be caught by the Seljuk cavalrymen, and launched back; how often this feat of horsemanship occurred is hard to say, but the new spears proved very popular. They came in sets of three, rather than two, and were placed in a quiver. Together the three spears and the quivers are known as the “djid”, an extremely popular secondary weapon all the way until the 16th century. A competitive co-evolution began between the Seljuks and the Byzantines, and continued right through their great war: the Byzantines were trying to make their medium horse as light as possible while remaining heavy enough to crush the Seljuks should the two collide, while the Seljuks tried to protect their own skirmishers as best they could without slowing them down so much that the Byzantines could catch them. Under Alexander the infantry underwent a further enlargement due to an increased Tax in Men, and at the same time a reduction in quality; the new padded coat was of a simpler, quicker design, and shorter. Sleeves were replaced with leather braces. Crossbowmen were not expected to be given armour at all. The Seljuk spies were well aware that Alexander was planning a move against them, because nobody else would have required such extensive preparation; they prepared as well, but internal strife and the shaky control of the Sultan over his subjects slowed reform and preparation. The Alexandrian army, still mid-reform, crushed the Fatimids and conquered the Holy Land exceptionally rapidly. The Seljuks lost their nerve first, and decided to strike pre-emptively. The best army in Europe went head to head with the powerhouse of the East.
    It must be said that Alexander was right in that he suspected the Seljuks to be the most serious opponent the Empire could have faced; at the same time, even he underestimated them, saying nothing about his other commanders, who were not used to losing battles let alone wars. Overconfidence plagued the new Byzantine army, and they paid dearly for it. The Seljuks were numerous, well-lead, and proficient in desert warfare. They studied the Byzantines with great interest over the last two generations, and in the end they knew more about Alexander’s army than Alexander did about theirs. Clashes between the Seljuk and Imperial heavy cavalry often ended up in a mess, because both used subsequent waves to hammer the successes home, and entire lines of horsemen would get tangled uselessly with each other when that occurred. Battles were often decided through sheer personal skill at close-quarter fighting, where the Byzantines usually prevailed, but not without taking serious losses. A good commander like Alexander, Salah or Nikephoros could have predicted when the next wave was about to close in, and stagger his own attacks accordingly, but most couldn’t. Notably, the Princes of Tmutarakan, arriving with one of the best-trained and best-equipped contingents of the entire war ended up wasting most of their men because they didn’t understand how the Seljuks operated. In the end, Alexander’s pride didn’t allow him to cut his losses and preserve the Empire’s strength, built up by his predecessors and of course himself so painstakingly over such a long period. It wasn’t until Alexander managed to crush the greatest part of the Seljuk army at Baalbek – with the very last strength of the Empire – that the Seljuks admitted defeat.
    Syria proved to be a great boon to rebuilding; its numerous craftsmen were rounded up and re-settled in the European parts of the Empire. Its lands were given to new boyars and Princes. However, the manpower loss was severe. For example, during Nikephoros’ aborted campaign to aid Georgia in 1214, the tagmata numbered a little over 6,000 troops all together, and the backbone of the Byzantine army – its medium cavalry – was much reduced. Nikephoros’ largely peaceful but short reign did what it could to restore the strength, only to see it wasted utterly in the Civil War. The seven-year conflict decimated the boyar class to such an extent that numerous stratiot families found themselves made boyars in their stead and saddled with responsibilities and costs they could not bear. The Tax in Men was of course utterly disrupted, and infantry once more consisted of ad-hoc levies and mercenaries. All in all, the army that the newly-reunited Empire possessed in the mid-1200s was a ragged affair compared to the glory days of Theodore, Basil and Alexander. It is therefore all the more of a formidable achievement that it got into confrontations with the Seljuks, Ilkhans and Batukhanids under the Emperors Andrew, Boris, Heraklios and Ioannes and still managed to preserve their country.
    Last edited by RGB; 09-11-2007 at 22:26.
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  10. #270
    Heartbreaker canonized's Avatar
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    A very interesting look at the comparative battle tactics and equipment both throughout the cosmopolitan empire as well as without it . The comparisons with the Seljuks and the way battles turned out was especially apt and heartwarming to know that at least in the end , the perfidious muslims were held at bay with the "last strength of the empire" . The graphics were also great !
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  11. #271
    Tzar of all the Soviets RGB's Avatar
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    canonized: thank you for the comments! Yes, I don't think anyone ever did a proper in-depth treatment of what Eastern Cavalry was like in an AAR. As for the Seljuks - it really was the very last strength of the Empire. Apt, maybe, but true nonetheless.

    Jimbo: plausibility was a big goal for me, and insight was another. Glad to see them both mentioned in the same sentence.

    Tskb:

    1. Glad to see you back!
    2. I thought the film picture was rather apt and you know, the armour ain't half-bad. Plus this is a Rurikovich AAR after all.
    2. I will do demographics at the very end of the story. The Mongols are next.

    Thanks everyone. The next update will not come as soon as the last few did, mostly because I will be busier. But I think I'm leaving you with enough to read in the meanwhiles.

    Cheers.
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  12. #272
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    Hours later, and I've finally caught up. RGB you have a peerless AAR here, it will be very interesting to follow from here on in.
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  13. #273
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    Two lengthy updates to digest... I'm happy to say that they went down extremely well ( ). The history of the military reforms was interesting and the graphics excellent. On the latter, and I'm fairly sure that I've asked this before, how did you go about animating those excellent maps?
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  14. #274
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    Fascinating look at the tech and tactics used by the Ruso-Byzantine army.
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  15. #275
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    interesting updates and wonderful pictures. It looks like the imperial army might be in tatters for a while. I had almost forgotten how destructive the war with the Seljuk's was and the civil war couldn't have helped at all.
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  16. #276
    Did i mention the chapter titles and opening quotations are top-notch?

    Glad to see yet another eminently readable installment too!

  17. #277
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    And now for some replies to replies.

    Estonainzulu: to be honest I'm rather giddily overjoyed to see you here. Welcome, welcome. I hope the rest of it will be to your liking too.

    ComradeOm: maps - I make them in Paint, then collate them into an animated .gif with Ulead GIF 5

    VILenin: well, I've just read about your too-expensive-to-use army and that brought a smile to my face. It was largely the case here too, but because I managed to balance the books I assumed the nobles helped out some.

    TCMT: It was utterly foolish of Alexander to press for a total victory at the expense of an army that took three generations to build, on one hand, on the other hand this entire dynasty and its hangers-on have been expansionist, aggressive and optimistic. I was trying to keep it in character: glory or death and all that.

    Tskb: which quotations? The ones in these last updates were lifted from my fake primary sources from "Voices from the Past" chapters.

    But I'm very glad you have an appreciation for them. Most of them I'm pretty happy with but some could be better, in retrospect.

    -------

    So - I apologize for the very long installments and the walls of text; it was that or splitting it into more chapters, and despite the army being a fascinating beast I wanted to move on.

    The next update is coming up, more regular-length and map-oriented like usual; but I hope you have the time to read through these last few anyway.
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  18. #278
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    Still no update?
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  19. #279
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    A Parting of Ways

    The Heirs of Temujin

    I


    The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.
    – attributed to Temujin Chingis Khan
    How long will we keep wasting good men and good horses?
    - attributed to Jochi Khan after the massacre at Urgench
    We have come to the part of the course where I get to talk about the Mongols. Undoubtedly, their arrival was at least as important to European history as the Crusades or the Barbarian Empire; perhaps more. Their legacy is one of bloodshed and destruction, accompanied by massive migrations and displacements. Whatever country they occupied, they set back a hundred years. However, Russian , and by extension all Eastern European historiography, is conflicted about their legacy. On one hand they were suitably impressed by the destruction the Mogols wrought upon their enemies; on the other hand, the Mongols were allies of the Russians and the Greeks as often as they were enemies, and of course the Russian Empire was, and still is, as much the heir of Chingis Khan as it is of Constantine in the minds of the Russians, even if the true heirs of Constantine and Chingis may disagree. My most satisfying illustration of the point is that trim, aggressive-looking Russian cruiser called Temujin, which is sitting in the harbour right now, visiting a country in the middle of elections; with the best intentions, no doubt.
    The rise of the Mongols was not an unexpected thing, of course. Let me correct myself – the rise of a Nomad Empire in the steppes of Central Asia was hardly a surprising occurrence; but the Mongols were a wholly unremarkable set of nomads, and if it wasn’t for Temujin they would have probably been a component of a Merkit or Kara-Khatay invading force instead. The story of the future Chingis Khan is a fascinating romance, likely as false as any of the ones about Alexander or Cyrus; most of it is contained in The Secret History of the Mongols, a 13th-century hagiography by some court historian. The young man, clearly destined for greatness overcomes the loss of his father, poverty, countless betrayals and endless foes to become the ruler of the greatest Empire the world has ever known. Romantic, heady stuff.
    So to cut that particular story short, after having gotten rid of all possible domestic rivals and former allies, Temujin got himself acclaimed Great Khan of the Mongols, and went on a tremendous spree of conquests and raids that never stopped until he died. By 1206 he controlled all of the lands of the Merkits, Keraits, Mongols, Tatars, Uighurs and the Tangut Xia; 1216 saw the first successful campaign against the Jurchen Jin Empire, and the beginning of the end for the previously powerful Khitan Liao state. The successes allowed him to build a truly formidable machine of war and destruction out of his Empire. The nomad nations he conquered were pressed into service, stripped of their tribal identity where possible and ruled now not by their old laws but by the Mongol Yassa. The Mongol hordes, when they first encountered the first of the civilizations we had in focus up until now – the Kimiaks and the Seljuks – were a mixed bunch, speaking many tongues and worshipping in a myriad fashions. Most Mongols proper were either shamanists or Nestorian Christians, but many of their subjects were Buddhist or Muslim. The Mongols of the first few generations tended to ignore the question of faith among their own, but later on it became of supreme importance. However, in the early days, Chingis, having arisen from a small clan, shrewedly promoted capable and loyal generals regardless of their rank or origin, allowing them great independence in decisions and action when on campaign; the rest of the warriors were subjugated through a strict hierarchy. Centralised command was one of the great military innovations the Mongols, which, combined with the natural proficiency of any Mongol in the saddle with a bow made them very difficult to pin down and defeat even if they were facing superior numbers of foes; they would simply wait until the enemy was less well-prepared and finish the job later. While like all armies they certainly suffered setbacks, they won by far the most of their battles and wars.

    The greatest weakness of the Mongol Empire, then, was weakness from within. Chingis achieved near-divine status within his lifetime, and his line was held sacred in all matters of authority and succession, and among all those, his sons by his principal wife Borte held pre-eminence. But within the family, the cracks startes showing early; one major division was between Jochi, the eldest, and his brothers Ogedei and Chaghatai. Jochi’s parentage was in doubt due to Borte’s captivity by Chingis’ rival around nine months before the birth of Jochi. His legitimacy was acknowledged by Chingis Khan himself, but he was removed from succession nonetheless and Ogedei was set as the next Great Khan. Perhaps it is also for other reasons that Chingis did so. Jochi, of all the sons of Chingis, was the most pragmatic and greedy, preferring to negotiate a city’s surrender rather than storm it if he was to be the overlord later. Pro-Jochi sources (Tatar and Russian and to some extent Muslim) often point to a conflict between Chingis and Jochi, the latter imploring the former to spare this capable man or that, or perhaps complaining about slaughtering people that could prove later to be useful. Likely untrue, but that’s the image that we get. In any case, Mongols relied as much on reputation as military might, and slaughtering most of the population of any resisting city was a good way of making sure the reputation spreads. Jochi, perhaps, wasn’t fit to be the Great Khan if he let greed get in the way of grand strategy.
    However, there could have been another reason; the youngest, Tolui, as was custom, would inherit the most of the original Mongol troops – 100,000 as opposed to 4,000 each for his three brothers, his uncles and his mother. Jochi’s ulus was vast and Europe lay West of it. He certainly didn’t want to kill people who would be qualified to serve in his army, not if he wanted to take Europe. The fact that so few original Mongols came with Jochi and his successors was to prove of extreme historical importance in their later transformation into the Tatar nation. Jochi was very slighted by the loss of his status to Ogedei, and there was talk of open war between Jochi and Chingis or at least Jochi and Ogedei. However, Jochi died in 1227 and within the same year his father followed. The war was narrowly avoided, because Jochi’s sons didn’t want to fight all of their uncles. Instead they, Batu and Shayban in particular, cultivated the relationship with Tolui’s sons, another important reason for events transpiring later the way they did.

    So back to conquests. Having finished off the Khitan by 1214, the Mongols moved on to subduing the rest of Central Asia, from the Kygyz and weaker neighbouring tribes, to the Mustafid sultans who had established a large state around the Aral Sea some decades previously. By 1218 only the Bashkir tributaries of the Volga Kimiaks remained untouched. The Mongols defeated and incorporated them in 1220, and carried out a devastating raid on the Kimiak region, mostly for intimidation and reconnaissance. The subsequent attempt to conquer them came in 1227, under Batu and Mongke, which allied the two branches closer, especially because the attempt was a partial success. Kimiak victories against forward detachments and the remoteness are one often cited as reasons why the Mongols let the Volga state survive, but most likely it was dynastic worries again. Batu – now allied with Mongke – pressured his uncle Chaghatai to cede the lands bordering the Seljuks to his brother Shayban. Chaghatai would have none of it, but was persuaded at last by a large force under Subodei crossing into his borders, as well as the tacit support of Tolui’s children. The unity of the Empire was now in words only. Ogedei, pragmatic as ever, did not object, and Chaghatai found himself isolated. Shayban’s horde migrated to their new lands in 1231. This was Batu’s first success in the political scene.
    Almost immediately – in 1234 – both Shayban and Batu attacked the Seljuks, who up to then were gathering in strength. Indeed, there’s good grounds to say that if the Kimiaks and the Seljuks weren’t both at their strongest, the Mongols could have torn through them quickly and confronted the Byzantine Empire in the middle of that senseless civil war, and then history would have been vastly different. However, the Seljuks proved quite resilient, and despite large territorial losses they retained a significant army and a will to fight. Batu withdrew his support in 1237 to finish off the Kimiaks, and Shayban found himself pushed back. He asked help from his cousin Mongke who came, together with his brother Hulegu and a vast army of Mongol soldiers at his back. In the early 1240s the Mongols would resume their war against the Seljuks, this time under Hulegu, while the Empire would come into first direct conflict when forces under Batu’s brother Berke would invade the Knýtling Alan Tsardom; but of course, that is for the next time we meet.
    Last edited by RGB; 28-11-2007 at 20:31.
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  20. #280
    Sergeant rob nikada!'s Avatar

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    impressive update!
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