Byzantine army (Komnenian era)
The Byzantine army of the Komnenian era or Komnenian army was the force established by Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos during the late 11th/early 12th century, perfected by his successors John II Komnenos and Manuel I Komnenos during the 12th century. From necessity, following extensive territorial loss and a near disastrous defeat by the Normans of southern Italy at Dyrrachion in 1081, Alexios constructed a new army from the ground up; this new army was different from previous forms of the Byzantine army in the methods used for the recruitment and maintenance of soldiers. The army was characterised by an increased reliance on the military capabilities of the immediate imperial household, the relatives of the ruling dynasty and the provincial Byzantine aristocracy. Another distinctive element of the new army was an expansion of the employment of foreign mercenary troops and their organisation into more permanent units. However, continuity in equipment, unit organisation and strategy from earlier times is evident.
The Komnenian army was instrumental in creating the territorial integrity and stability that allowed the Komnenian restoration of the Byzantine Empire. It was deployed in the Balkans, Hungary, Anatolia, the Holy Land and Egypt. At the beginning of the Komnenian period in 1081, the Byzantine Empire had been reduced to the smallest territorial extent in its history. Surrounded by enemies, financially ruined by a long period of civil war, the empire's prospects had looked grim; the state lay defenceless before internal and external threats, as the Byzantine army had been reduced to a shadow of its former self. During the 11th century, decades of peace and neglect had reduced the old thematic forces, the military and political anarchy following the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 had destroyed the professional Imperial Tagmata, the core of the Byzantine army. At Manzikert, units tracing their lineage for centuries back to the Roman Empire were wiped out, the subsequent loss of Anatolia deprived the Empire of its main recruiting ground.
In the Balkans, at the same time, the Empire was exposed to invasions by the Norman Kingdom of Sicily, the expansionist activities of the principality of Dioclea and by Pecheneg raids across the Danube. The death knell of the traditional Byzantine army was at the Battle of Dyrrachion in 1081, where Alexios I was heavily defeated by the Normans of southern Italy; the nadir of the Byzantine army as a professional fighting force was reached in 1091, when Alexios managed to field only 500 soldiers from the Empire's regular soldiery. These formed the nucleus of the army, with the addition of the armed retainers of Alexios' relatives and the nobles enrolled in the army, plus the substantial aid of a large force of allied Cumans, which won the Battle of Levounion against the Pechenegs. Yet, through a combination of improved finances, skill and years of campaigning, Alexios and Manuel Komnenos managed to restore the power of the Byzantine Empire, constructing a new army in the process; these developments should not, however, at least in their earlier phases, be seen as a planned exercise in military restructuring.
In particular, Alexios I was reduced to reacting to events rather than controlling them. The new force had a core of units which were both disciplined, it contained guards units such as the Varangians, the vestiaritai, the vardariotai and the archontopouloi, foreign mercenary regiments, units of professional soldiers recruited from the provinces. These provincial troops included kataphraktoi cavalry from Macedonia and Thrace, plus various other provincial forces. Alongside troops raised and paid for directly by the state the Komnenian army included the armed followers of members of the wider imperial family, its extensive connections, the provincial aristocracy. In this can be seen the beginnings of the feudalisation of the Byzantine military; the Komnenian period, despite constant warfare, is notable for the lack of military treatise writing, which seems to have petered out during the 11th century. So, unlike in earlier periods, there are no detailed descriptions of Byzantine tactics and military equipment.
Information on military matters in the Komnenian era must be gleaned from passing comments in contemporary historical and biographical literature, court panegyrics and from pictorial evidence. There are no surviving reliable and detailed records to allow the accurate estimation of the overall size of the Byzantine army in this period, he noted that while Alexios I had difficulty raising sufficient troops to repel the Italo-Normans, John I could field armies as large as those of the Kingdom of Hungary and Manuel I assembled an army capable of defeating the large crusading force of Conrad III. Other historians have, made attempts to estimate overall army size. During the reign of Alexios I, the field army may have numbered around 20,000 men. By 1143, the entire Byzantine army has been estimated to have numbered about 50,000 men and continued to remain about this size until the end of Manuel's reign; the total number of mobile professional and mercenary forces that the emperor could assemble was about 25,000 soldiers while the static garrisons and militias spread around the empire made up the remainder.
During this period, the European provinces in the Balkans were able to provide more than 6,000 cavalry in total while the Eastern provinces
Constantine V, denigrated by his enemies as Kopronymos or Copronymus, meaning the dung-named, was Byzantine emperor from 741 to 775. His reign saw a consolidation of Byzantine security from external threats; as an able military leader, Constantine took advantage of Muslim disunity to make limited offensives on the Arab frontier. With his eastern frontier secure, he undertook repeated campaigns against the Bulgars in the Balkans, his military activity, policy of settling Christian populations from the Arab frontier in Thrace, made Byzantium's hold on its Balkan territories more secure. His fervent support of Iconoclasm led to his vilification by Byzantine historians and writers. Constantine was born in the son and successor of Emperor Leo III and Maria. In August 720 he was associated on the throne by his father, appointed co-emperor. In 726 his father issued the Ecloga, a revised legal code, it was attributed to both Leo and Constantine jointly. Constantine married daughter of the Khazar khagan Bihar, an important Byzantine ally.
His new bride was baptized Irene in 732. Constantine V succeeded his father as sole emperor on 18 June 741. In June 742, while Constantine was crossing Asia Minor to campaign on the eastern frontier against the Umayyad Caliphate under Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, his brother-in-law Artabasdos, husband of his older sister, rebelled. Artabasdos was the stratēgos of the Armeniac theme. Having been defeated in battle, Constantine sought refuge in Amorion, where he was enthusiastically welcomed by the local soldiers, commanded by Leo III before he became emperor. Meanwhile, Artabasdos advanced on Constantinople and, with the support of Theophanes Monutes and Patriarch Anastasius, was accepted and crowned emperor. Constantine received the support of the Thracesian themes; the rival emperors bided their time making military preparations. Artabasdos was defeated. Three months Constantine defeated Artabasdos' son Niketas at Modrina and headed for Constantinople. In early November Constantine was admitted into the capital, following a siege, turned on his opponents, having them blinded or executed.
Patriarch Anastasius was paraded on the back of an ass around the hippodrome to the jeers of the Constantinopolitan mob, though he was subsequently allowed to stay in office. The usurpation of Artabasdos was connected with restoring the veneration of images, leading Constantine to become an more fervent iconoclast than his father. Constantine's avowed enemies over this bitterly contested religious issue, the iconodules, applied to him the derogatory epithet Kopronymos. Using this obscene name, they spread the rumour that as an infant he had defecated in his baptismal font, or on the imperial purple cloth with which he was swaddled. Constantine was assiduous in courting popularity with the populace of Constantinople, he consciously employed the circus factions and the hippodrome, scene of the ever-popular chariot races, to mobilise and influence the people. The hippodrome became the setting of rituals of humiliation for war captives and political enemies, in which the mob took active delight.
Constantine's sources of support were the people and the army, he used them against his iconodule opponents in the monasteries and in the bureaucracy of the capital. Iconoclasm was not purely an imperial heresy, it had considerable popular support, some of Constantine's actions against the iconodules may have been motivated by a desire to retain the approval of the people. Bureaucrats and monks were the writers of history, the triumph of the iconodule party ensured the vilification of Constantine V's memory. Constantine V carried forward the administrative and fiscal reforms instigated by his father Leo III; the military governors were powerful figures, whose access to the resources of their extensive provinces provided the means of rebellion. Constantine reduced the size of the theme situated nearest to the capital within Asia Minor, the Opsikion theme, dividing from it the Bucellarian and the Optimaton themes. Constantine was responsible for the creation of a small central army of professional soldiers, the imperial tagmata.
He achieved this by training for serious warfare what had been ornamental, palatine parade units and expanding their numbers. This force was designed to form the core of field armies and was composed of better drilled and equipped soldiers than were found in the provincial themata units, whose troops were part-time soldier-farmers. Being based at the capital, the tagmata were under the immediate control of the emperor and were free of the regional loyalties, behind so many military rebellions; the fiscal administration of Constantine V was competent. This drew from his enemies accusations of being a merciless and rapacious extractor of taxes and oppressor of the rural population. However, the empire was prosperous and Constantine left a full treasury for his successor; the area of cultivated land within the Empire was extended and food became cheaper, between 718 and c.800 the corn production of Thrace trebled. Constantine's court was opulent, with splendid buildings and he consciously promoted the patronage of secular art to replace the religious art that he removed.
With the impetus of having fathered numerous offspring, Constantine codified the court titles
A regiment is a military unit. Their role and size varies markedly, depending on the arm of service. In Medieval Europe, the term "regiment" denoted any large body of front-line soldiers, recruited or conscripted in one geographical area, by a leader, also the feudal lord of the soldiers. By the end of the 17th century, regiments in most European armies were permanent units, numbering about 1,000 men and under the command of a colonel. During the modern era, the word "regiment" – much like "corps" – may have two somewhat divergent meanings, which refer to two distinct roles: a front-line military formation. In many armies, the first role has been assumed by independent battalions, task forces and other, similarly-sized operational units. However, these non-regimental units tend to be short-lived. A regiment may be a variety of sizes: smaller than a standard battalion, e.g. Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. S. Infantry Regiment and Royal Regiment of Scotland; the French term régiment is considered to have entered military usage in Europe at the end of the 16th century, when armies evolved from collections of retinues who followed knights, to formally organised, permanent military forces.
At that time, regiments were named after their commanding colonels, disbanded at the end of the campaign or war. It was customary to name the regiment by its precedence in the line of battle, to recruit from specific places, called cantons; the oldest regiments which still exist, their dates of establishment, include the Spanish 9th Infantry Regiment “Soria”, Swedish Life Guards, the British Honourable Artillery Company and the King's Own Immemorial Regiment of Spain, first established in 1248 during the conquest of Seville by King Ferdinand the Saint. In the 17th century, brigades were formed as units combining infantry and artillery that were more effective than the older, single-arms regiments. By the beginning of the 18th century, regiments in most European continental armies had evolved into permanent units with distinctive titles and uniforms, each under the command of a colonel; when at full strength, an infantry regiment comprised two field battalions of about 800 men each or 8–10 companies.
In some armies, an independent regiment with fewer companies was labelled a demi-regiment. A cavalry regiment numbered 600 to 900 troopers. On campaign, these numbers were soon reduced by casualties and detachments and it was sometimes necessary to amalgamate regiments or to withdraw them to a depot while recruits were obtained and trained. With the widespread adoption of conscription in European armies during the nineteenth century, the regimental system underwent modification. Prior to World War I, an infantry regiment in the French, German and other smaller armies would comprise four battalions, each with a full strength on mobilization of about 1,000 men; as far as possible, the separate battalions would be garrisoned in the same military district, so that the regiment could be mobilized and campaign as a 4,000 strong linked group of sub-units. A cavalry regiment by contrast made up a single entity of up to 1,000 troopers. A notable exception to this practice was the British line infantry system where the two regular battalions constituting a regiment alternated between "home" and "foreign" service and came together as a single unit.
In the regimental system, each regiment is responsible for recruiting and administration. The regiment is responsible for recruiting and administering all of a soldier's military career. Depending upon the country, regiments can be administrative units or both; this is contrasted to the "continental system" adopted by many armies. In the continental system, the division is the functional army unit, its commander is the administrator of every aspect of the formation: his staff train and administer the soldiers and commanders of the division's subordinate units. Divisions are garrisoned together and share the same installations: thus, in divisional administration, a battalion commanding officer is just another officer in a chain of command. Soldiers and officers are transferred out of divisions as required; some regiments recruited from specific geographical areas, incorporated the place name into the regimental name. In other cases, regiments would recruit from a given age group within a nation, an ethnic group, or foreigners.
In other cases, new regiments were raised for new functions within an army.
The Byzantine army or Eastern Roman army was the primary military body of the Byzantine armed forces, serving alongside the Byzantine navy. A direct continuation of the Roman army, the Eastern Roman army maintained a similar level of discipline, strategic prowess and organization, it was among the most effective armies of western Eurasia for much of the Middle Ages. Over time the cavalry arm became more prominent in the Byzantine army as the legion system disappeared in the early 7th century. Reforms reflected some Germanic and Asian influences – rival forces became sources of mercenary units e.g.. Since much of the Byzantine military focused on the strategy and skill of generals utilizing militia troops, heavy infantry were recruited from Frankish and Varangian mercenaries. From the seventh to the 12th centuries, the Byzantine army was among the most powerful and effective military forces in the world – neither Middle Ages Europe nor the fracturing Caliphate could match the strategies and the efficiency of the Byzantine army.
Restricted to a defensive role in the 7th to mid-9th centuries, the Byzantines developed the theme-system to counter the more powerful Caliphate. From the mid-9th century, they went on the offensive, culminating in the great conquests of the 10th century under a series of soldier-emperors such as Nikephoros II Phokas, John Tzimiskes and Basil II; the army they led was less reliant on the militia of the themes. With one of the most powerful economies in the world at the time, the Empire had the resources to put to the field a powerful host when needed, in order to reclaim its long-lost territories. After the collapse of the theme-system in the 11th century, the Byzantines grew reliant on professional Tagmata troops, including ever-increasing numbers of foreign mercenaries; the Komnenian emperors made great efforts to re-establish a native army, instituting the pronoia system of land grants in exchange for military service. Mercenaries remained a staple feature of late Byzantine armies since the loss of Asia Minor reduced the Empire's recruiting-ground, while the abuse of the pronoia grants led to a progressive feudalism in the Empire.
The Komnenian successes were undone by the subsequent Angeloi dynasty, leading to the dissolution of the Empire at the hands of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The Emperors of Nicaea managed to form a small but effective force using the same structure of light and armed troops, both natives and foreigners, it proved effective in defending what remained of Byzantine Anatolia and reclaiming much of the Balkans and Constantinople itself in 1261. Another period of neglect of the military followed in the reign of Andronikos II Palaiologos, which allowed Anatolia to fall prey to an emerging power, the Ottoman emirate. Successive civil wars in the 14th century further sapped the Empire's strength and destroyed any remaining chance of recovery, while the weakening of central authority and the devolution of power to provincial leaders meant that the Byzantine army was now composed of a collection of militias, personal entourages and mercenary detachments. Just as what we today label the Byzantine Empire was in reality and to contemporaries a continuation of the Roman Empire, so the Byzantine army was an outgrowth of the Late Roman structure, which survived until the mid-7th century.
The official language of the army for centuries continued to be Latin but this would give way to Greek as in the rest of the Empire, though Latin military terminology would still be used throughout its history. In the period after the Muslim conquests, which saw the loss of Syria and Egypt, the remainders of the provincial armies were withdrawn and settled in Asia Minor, initiating the thematic system. Despite this unprecedented disaster, the internal structures of the army remained much the same, there is a remarkable continuity in tactics and doctrine between the 6th and 11th centuries; the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 and the subsequent Seljuk invasions, together with the arrival of the Crusades and the incursions of the Normans, would weaken the Byzantine state and its military, which had to rely on foreign mercenaries. The Eastern Empire dates from the creation of the Tetrarchy by the Emperor Diocletian in 293, his plans for succession did not outlive his lifetime, but his reorganization of the army did by centuries.
Rather than maintain the traditional infantry-heavy legions, Diocletian reformed it into limitanei and comitatenses units. There was an expansion of the importance of the cavalry, though the infantry still remained the major component of the Roman armies, in contrast to common belief. In preparation for Justinian's African campaign of 533-534 AD, the army assembled amounted to 10,000 foot soldiers and 5,000 mounted archers and federate lancers; the limitanei and ripenses were to occupy the limes, the Roman border fortifications. The field units, by contrast, were to stay well behind the border and move where they were needed, whether for offensive or defensive roles, as well as forming an army against usurpers; the field units were held to high standards and took precedence over Limitanei in pay and provisions. Cavalry formed about one-third of the units, but as a result of smaller units, about one-quarter of the Roman armies consisted of cavalry. About half the cavalry consisted of heavy cavalry.
They were armed with spear or lance and sword and armored
The Excubitors were founded in c. 460 as the imperial guards of the early Byzantine emperors. Their commanders soon provided a series of emperors in the 6th century; the Excubitors fade from the record in the late 7th century, but in the mid-8th century, they were reformed into one of the elite tagmatic units, the professional core of the middle Byzantine army. The Excubitors are last attested in the Battle of Dyrrhachium in 1081; the Excubitors were founded by Emperor Leo I in c. 460 and numbered 300 men recruited from among the sturdy and warlike Isaurians, as part of Leo's effort to counterbalance the influence of the magister militum Aspar and the large Germanic element in the East Roman army. Unlike the older palace regiments of the Scholae Palatinae, which were under the control of the magister officiorum and degenerated to parade-ground formations, the Excubitors long remained a crack fighting force. In addition, while the Scholae were garrisoned throughout Thrace and Bithynia, the Excubitors were billeted in the imperial palace itself and formed the only garrison of Constantinople in the 6th century.
Their high status is further illustrated by the fact that both officers and ordinary Excubitors were sent for special missions by the emperors, including diplomatic assignments. The unit was headed by the Count of the Excubitors, who, by virtue of his proximity to the emperor, became an official of great importance in the 6th and 7th centuries; this post, which can be traced up to c. 680, was held by close members of the imperial family virtual heirs apparent. Thus it was the support of his men that secured Justin I, who held the post at the time of the death of Anastasius I, his elevation to the throne. Justin II relied on the support of the Excubitors for his unchallenged accession. Tiberius was to be the Emperor's right-hand man throughout his reign succeeding him as Tiberius II, he too would be succeeded by his own comes excubitorum, Maurice. Under Maurice, the post was held by his brother-in-law Philippicus, under Phocas by Priscus. Another powerful occupant was Valentinus, who secured it during the power struggles that accompanied the regency of Empress-dowager Martina in 641, before deposing her and her son Heraklonas and installing Constans II as emperor.
Valentinus dominated the new regime, but his attempt to become emperor in 644 ended in his being lynched by the mob. The power that went with the position, the intrigues of men like Priscus and the would-be usurper Valentinus, doomed the post to emasculation and eventual eclipse during the latter half of the 7th century. After a lapse towards the end of the 7th century and the first half of the 8th century, the Excubitors reappear in historical sources, under a new commander, the Domestic of the Excubitors and in a new capacity, as one of the imperial tagmata, the elite professional central army established by Constantine V; as one of the tagmata, the Excubitors were no longer a palace guard, but a unit engaged in military campaigns. At the same time, the tagmata represented a counterbalance to the thematic armies of the provinces and constituted a powerful tool in implementing the iconoclastic policies pursued by Constantine V. Nevertheless, the first commander of the tagma, Strategios Podopagouros, was among the leaders of a failed plot against Constantine V's life in 765, was executed after its discovery.
By the 780s, following years of imperial favour and military victories under Constantine V and his son Leo IV the Khazar, the tagmata had become firm adherents to the iconoclast cause. Within less than two months of Leo V's death in 780, Empress-regent Irene of Athens had to foil an attempt spearheaded by the Domestic of the Excubitors to place Constantine V's exiled second son Nikephoros on the throne, in 786 Irene forcibly disarmed them and exiled some 1,500 tagmatic soldiers due to their resistance to the restoration of the icons; the Excubitors participated in the disastrous Pliska campaign in 811, when the Byzantine army was routed by Tsar Krum of Bulgaria. The most prominent Domestic of the Excubitors of the period was Michael II the Amorian, whose supporters overthrew Emperor Leo V the Armenian and raised him to the throne; the regiment fought at the battles of Boulgarophygon in 896 and Acheloos in 917, both heavy defeats against the Bulgarians. In the expedition against the Emirate of Crete in 949, the regiment participated with over 700 men.
In 958, the Excubitors participated in the repulsion of a Magyar raid. The Excubitors took part in the failed Azaz campaign of 1030, where they were ambushed and dispersed by the Mirdasids, while their commander, the patrikios Leo Choirosphaktes, was taken captive; as with most of the tagmata, the regiment of the Excubitors did not survive the great upheavals of the 11th century, when foreign invasion and constant civil wars destroyed much of the Byzantine army. The last mention of the Excubitors occurs in Anna Komnene's Alexiad, where they are recorded as participating at the Battle of Dyrrhachium against the Italo-Normans in 1081, un
The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization. Ruled by emperors, it had large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus. From the constitutional reforms of Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, the Empire was a principate ruled from the city of Rome; the Roman Empire was ruled by multiple emperors and divided in a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and Ravenna, an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus after capturing Ravenna and the Roman Senate sent the imperial regalia to Constantinople; the fall of the Western Roman Empire to barbarian kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages. The previous Republic, which had replaced Rome's monarchy in the 6th century BC, became destabilized in a series of civil wars and political conflict.
In the mid-1st century BC Julius Caesar was appointed as perpetual dictator and assassinated in 44 BC. Civil wars and proscriptions continued, culminating in the victory of Octavian, Caesar's adopted son, over Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC; the following year Octavian conquered Ptolemaic Egypt, ending the Hellenistic period that had begun with the conquests of Alexander the Great of Macedon in the 4th century BC. Octavian's power was unassailable and in 27 BC the Roman Senate formally granted him overarching power and the new title Augustus making him the first emperor; the first two centuries of the Empire were a period of unprecedented stability and prosperity known as the Pax Romana. It reached its greatest territorial expanse during the reign of Trajan. A period of increasing trouble and decline began with the reign of Commodus. In the 3rd century, the Empire underwent a crisis that threatened its existence, but was reunified under Aurelian. In an effort to stabilize the Empire, Diocletian set up two different imperial courts in the Greek East and Latin West.
Christians rose to power in the 4th century following the Edict of Milan in 313 and the Edict of Thessalonica in 380. Shortly after, the Migration Period involving large invasions by Germanic peoples and the Huns of Attila led to the decline of the Western Roman Empire. With the fall of Ravenna to the Germanic Herulians and the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in 476 AD by Odoacer, the Western Roman Empire collapsed and it was formally abolished by emperor Zeno in 480 AD; the Eastern Roman Empire, known in the post-Roman West as the Byzantine Empire, collapsed when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks of Mehmed II in 1453. Due to the Roman Empire's vast extent and long endurance, the institutions and culture of Rome had a profound and lasting influence on the development of language, architecture, philosophy and forms of government in the territory it governed Europe; the Latin language of the Romans evolved into the Romance languages of the medieval and modern world, while Medieval Greek became the language of the Eastern Roman Empire.
Its adoption of Christianity led to the formation of Christendom during the Middle Ages. Greek and Roman art had a profound impact on the late medieval Italian Renaissance, while Rome's republican institutions influenced the political development of republics such as the United States and France; the corpus of Roman law has its descendants in many legal systems of the world today, such as the Napoleonic Code. Rome's architectural tradition served as the basis for Neoclassical architecture. Rome had begun expanding shortly after the founding of the republic in the 6th century BC, though it did not expand outside the Italian peninsula until the 3rd century BC, it was an "empire" long before it had an emperor. The Roman Republic was not a nation-state in the modern sense, but a network of towns left to rule themselves and provinces administered by military commanders, it was ruled, not by annually elected magistrates in conjunction with the senate. For various reasons, the 1st century BC was a time of political and military upheaval, which led to rule by emperors.
The consuls' military power rested in the Roman legal concept of imperium, which means "command". Successful consuls were given the honorary title imperator, this is the origin of the word emperor since this title was always bestowed to the early emperors upon their accession. Rome suffered a long series of internal conflicts and civil wars from the late second century BC onward, while extending its power beyond Italy; this was the period of the Crisis of the Roman Republic. Towards the end of this era, in 44 BC, Julius Caesar was perpetual dictator before being assassinated; the faction of his assassins was driven from Rome and defeated at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC by an army led by Mark Antony and Caesar's adopted son Octavian. Antony and Octavian's division of the Roman world between themselves did not last and Octavian's forces defeated those of Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, ending the Final War of the Roman Republic. In 27 BC the Senate and People of Rome made Octavian princeps ("first citi
Byzantine army (Palaiologan era)
The Palaiologan army refers to the military forces of the Byzantine Empire under the rule of the Palaiologos dynasty, from the late 13th century to its final collapse in the mid-15th century. The army was a direct continuation of the forces of the Empire of Nicaea, which itself was a fractured component of the formidable Komnenian army of the 12th century. Under the first Palaiologan emperor, Michael VIII, the army's role took an offensive role whilst the naval forces of the empire, weakened since the days of Andronikos I Komnenos, were boosted to include thousands of skilled sailors and some 80 ships. Due to the lack of land to support the army, the empire required the use of large numbers of mercenaries. After Andronikos II took to the throne in 1282, the army fell apart and the Byzantines suffered regular defeats at the hands of their eastern opponents, although they would continue to enjoy success against the Latin territories in Greece. By c. 1350 the Empire's inefficient fiscal organization and incompetent central government made raising troops and the supplies to maintain them a near-impossible task, the Empire came to rely upon troops provided by Serbs, Venetians, Latins and Turks to fight the civil wars that lasted for the greater part of the 14th century, with the latter foe being the most successful in establishing a foothold in Thrace.
By the time the civil war had ended, the Turks had cut off Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, from the surrounding land and in 1453 the last decisive battle was fought by the Palaiologan army when the capital was stormed and sacked, falling on 29 May. The Byzantine army continued to use the same military terms with regards to numbers of troops and officers as did the Komnenian army. However, there were fewer territories to raise troops from. In Anatolia, the local support for the Ottoman conquerors grew daily, whilst in Greece the ravaging by the Crusader states, by Serbia, by Bulgaria, earlier on by the Angevin Empire ended the region's prominence as a source of Byzantine levies. After 1204, no single Byzantine field army numbered more than 5,000 men. Around 1261, the central army consisted of 6,000 men, while the number of total field troops never exceeded 10,000 men; the total number of troops under Michael VIII was about 20,000 men. However, under Andronicus II the more professional elements of the army was demobilized in favor of poorly trained and cheaper militia soldiers.
The Emperor decreased the entire army's strength to 4,000 men by 1320, a year the Empire's standing army dropped to only 3,000 cavalry. Though the Empire had shrunk by the time of Andronicus III's reign, he succeeded in assembling an army of 4,000 men for his campaign against the Ottomans. By 1453, the Byzantine army had fallen to a regular garrison of 1,500 men in Constantinople. With a supreme effort, Constantine XI succeeded in assembling a garrison of 7,000 men to defend the city against the Ottoman army. Byzantine troops continued to consist of cavalry and archers. Since Trebizond had broken away and Turks were used for cavalry and missile units. In the Palaiologan era, the main term for a standing regiment was the allagion. Palace and imperial guard units included the Varangian Guard, the obscure Paramonai and the Vardariotai. After Constantinople was retaken, Michael VIII army's continuous campaigning in Greece ensured that the Nicaean army, an offshoot of the expensive but effective Komnenian army remained in play.
Under Andronicus II however, the army was reduced to destructively low numbers – mercenary troops were disbanded to save money and to lower taxes upon the disgruntled population. Instead the use of poorly equipped and ill-disciplined militia soldiers saw the replacement of the vitally important expert soldiers; the results were obvious. In 1302 the center of military expenditure shifted back again towards mercenaries, notably the Catalan Company, but after their leader was murdered the company returned to Thrace and Greece where they overthrew the Crusader Duchy of Athens and undermined Greek rule so that on both sides of the Bosporus the Empire suffered. So, mercenaries continued to be used after Andronicus II's reign. Andronicus' successor's policy of using many foreign fighters worsened Byzantium's fortunes in the same way that Andronicus had done so with their disbandment; the use of Serbs and Turks of Aydin and of the Ottomans opened Byzantium up to more foreign incursions. The deployment of up to 20,000 Turkish soldiers from the Ottoman realm to assist her nominal Greek ally only eased future conquests of the area.
Since Byzantium became incapable in raising a "loyal" Greek army, foreigners such as the Knights of Rhodes, Venetians and Italians were added to Byzantium's fighting forces. Since the Imperial treasury was bankrupt after c 1350, these foreign fighters fought only for political reasons and in civil wars, rather than to strengthen Byzantium's position; the Byzantine Empire's main strategy aimed to make maximum use of an outnumbered army. The key behind this approach was the use of border fortifications that would impede an invading force long enough for the main Imperial army to march in to its relief. One example of this occurred on May 1281 when Tarchaneiotes was sent by Michael VIII to relieve the fort town of Berat, succeeded in driving Charles of the House of the Angevins away. Nonetheless, this strategy was not in touch with the military situation of the day – forts and castles became less useful for defense and more so as a residence. In particular were Crusader