Bandon (Byzantine Empire)

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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 (Magister militum   Domestic of the Schools   Grand Domestic   Stratopedarches   Protostrator)
Byzantine navy: Greek fire   Dromon   Admirals (Droungarios of the Fleet   Megas doux)
Campaign history
Lists of wars, revolts and civil wars, and battles
Strategy and tactics
Tactics   Siege warfare   Military manuals   Fortifications (Walls of Constantinople)

The bandon (Greek : βάνδον) was the basic military unit and administrative territorial entity of the middle Byzantine Empire. Its name, like the Latin bandus and bandum ("ensign, banner"), had a Germanic origin. [1] [2] It derived from the Gothic bandwō, [1] which is the witness of foreign influence in the army at the time this type of unit evolved. [3]

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

A territorial entity is an entity that covers a part of the surface of the Earth with specified borders.

Byzantine Empire Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire and Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe. Both the terms "Byzantine Empire" and "Eastern Roman Empire" are historiographical exonyms; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire, or Romania (Ῥωμανία), and to themselves as "Romans".



The term was used already in the 6th century, mentioned by Procopius, [1] as a term for a battle standard, and soon came to be applied to the unit bearing such a standard itself. [2] From the reign of Nikephoros I (802–811) it was the name for a subdistrict of the Byzantine thema . [1]

Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent late antique Byzantine Greek scholar from Palaestina Prima. Accompanying the Byzantine general Belisarius in Emperor Justinian's wars, Procopius became the principal Byzantine historian of the 6th century, writing the History of the Wars, the Buildings, and the Secret History. He is commonly classified as the last major historian of the ancient Western world.

Nikephoros I Roman emperor

Nikephoros I, or Nicephorus I, was Byzantine Emperor from 802 to 811, when he was killed in the Battle of Pliska. Prior to his accession, he had served as genikos logothetēs, whence he is sometimes surnamed "the Logothete" and "Genikos" or "Genicus".

Theme (Byzantine district) Byzantine district

The themes or themata were the main military/administrative divisions of the middle Byzantine Empire. They were established in the mid-7th century in the aftermath of the Slavic invasion of the Balkans and Muslim conquests of parts of Byzantine territory, and replaced the earlier provincial system established by Diocletian and Constantine the Great. In their origin, the first themes were created from the areas of encampment of the field armies of the East Roman army, and their names corresponded to the military units that had existed in those areas. The theme system reached its apogee in the 9th and 10th centuries, as older themes were split up and the conquest of territory resulted in the creation of new ones. The original theme system underwent significant changes in the 11th and 12th centuries, but the term remained in use as a provincial and financial circumscription until the very end of the Empire.


In the Byzantine army of the 8th–11th centuries, the bandon formed the basic unit, with five to seven banda forming a tourma , the major subdivision of a thema, a combined military-civilian province. [2] Each bandon was commanded by a komes ("count"), with infantry banda 200–400 strong and cavalry banda 50–100 strong. [2] [4] It is considered that the bandon in the Tactica (9th century) previously in the Strategikon (6th century) was alternatively written as tagma or arithmos. [3]

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. Later reforms reflected some Germanic and Asian influences – rival forces frequently became sources of mercenary units e.g.; Huns, Cumans, Alans and Turks, meeting the Empire's demand for light cavalry mercenaries. Since much of the Byzantine military focused on the strategy and skill of generals utilizing militia troops, heavy infantry were recruited from Frankish and later Varangian mercenaries.

<i>Tactica</i> of Emperor Leo VI the Wise

The Tactica is a military treatise written by or on behalf of Byzantine Emperor Leo VI the Wise in c. 895–908 and later edited by his son, Constantine VII. Drawing on earlier authors such as Aelian, Onasander and the Strategikon of emperor Maurice, it is one of the major works on Byzantine military tactics, written on the eve of Byzantium's "age of reconquest". The original Greek title is τῶν ἐν πολέμοις τακτικῶν σύντομος παράδοσις. The Tactica elaborates on a wide variety of issues, such as infantry and cavalry formations, drills, siege and naval warfare etc. It is written in a legislative form of language and comprises 20 Constitutions and an Epilogue and is concluded by 12 additional chapters, the latter mainly focusing on ancient tactics.

The Strategikon or Strategicon is a manual of war traditionally regarded as written in the late 6th century and usually attributed to the Byzantine Emperor Maurice. It is moreover a practical manual, "a rather modest elementary handbook" in the words of its introduction, "for those devoting themselves to generalship". This book gives a general guide, handbook, of the Byzantine military's strategies. In his introduction to his 1984 translation of the text, George T. Dennis noted "The Strategikon is written in a very straightforward and generally uncomplicated Greek."

Infantry banda was formed by sixteen lochaghiai, each with sixteen man, commanded by an officer lochaghos (file leader), which was assisted by dekarchos (leader of ten), pentarchos (leader of five), tetrarchos (leader of four), and ouraghos (file closer). [3] Each four lochaghiai formed an allaghion (winglet), and around three-quarters of the men were spearmen skutaoi and one-quarter were archers. [3] At the time the Strategikon was written, the cavalry banda was subdivied into three hekatontarchia, each commaned by a hekatontarchos with a senior second-in-command illarches. [3]

Decanus means "chief of ten" in Late Latin. The term originated in the Roman army and became used thereafter for subaltern officials in the Byzantine Empire, as well as for various positions in the Church, whence derives the English title "dean".


The allagion was a Byzantine military term designating a military unit. It first appeared in the mid-to-late 10th century, and by the 13th century had become the most frequent term used for the Byzantine army's standing regiments, persisting until the late 14th century.

By the reign of Leo VI the Wise (886–912), the hekatontarchia disappeared and the bandon was divided into six allaghia (probably commanded by pentekontarchai), and each pair was still commanded by a hekatontarchos or kentarchos. [5] Each of six allaghia had fifty men, organized in five dekarchiai of ten men each. [5] All four officers (dekarchos, pentarchos, tetrarchos, ouraghos) were lancers. [5]

Leo VI the Wise Byzantine Emperor

Leo VI, called the Wise or the Philosopher, was Byzantine Emperor from 886 to 912. The second ruler of the Macedonian dynasty, he was very well-read, leading to his epithet. During his reign, the renaissance of letters, begun by his predecessor Basil I, continued; but the Empire also saw several military defeats in the Balkans against Bulgaria and against the Arabs in Sicily and the Aegean. His reign also witnessed the formal discontinuation of several ancient Roman institutions, such as the Roman consul and Senate, which continued to exist in name only and lost much of their original functions and powers.

Lancer type of cavalryman who fights with a lance

A lancer was a type of cavalryman who fought with a lance. Lances were used in mounted warfare by the Assyrians as early as 700 BC and subsequently by Greek, Persian, Gallic, Chinese, and Roman horsemen. The weapon was widely used in Asia and Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance by armoured cavalry, before being adopted by light cavalry, particularly in Eastern Europe. In a modern context, a lancer regiment usually denotes an armoured unit.

Late empire

At the beginning of the 10th century the infantry unit consisted of 256 men (16x16), and cavalry unit of 300 men (6x50), but the manuals indicate that the unit strength in fact varied between 200 and 400 men. [5] The work Praecepta Militaria by Nikephoros II Phokas (963–969) indicates that the cavalry bandon was only 50 strong. [5] Unlike other middle Byzantine administrative and military terms, the bandon survived well into the late Byzantine period, and remained the basic territorial unit of the Empire of Trebizond until its fall. [2]

The Praecepta Militaria is the Latin conventional title given to a Byzantine military treatise, written in ca. 965 by or on behalf of Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros Phokas. Its Greek title is Στρατηγικὴ ἔκθεσις καὶ σύνταξις Νικηφόρου δεσπότου Strategikè ékthesis kaì syntaxis Nikephórou despótatou.

Nikephoros II Phokas Byzantine emperor

Nikephoros II Phokas was Byzantine Emperor from 963 to 969. His brilliant military exploits contributed to the resurgence of the Byzantine Empire during the 10th century. His reign, however, included controversy. In the west, he inflamed conflict with the Bulgarians and saw Sicily completely turn over to the Muslims, while he failed to make any serious gains in Italy following the incursions of Otto I. Meanwhile, in the east, he completed the conquest of Cilicia and even retook the island of Cyprus, thus opening the path for subsequent Byzantine incursions reaching as far as the Jazira and the Levant. His administrative policy was less successful, as in order to finance these wars he increased taxes both on the people and on the church, while maintaining unpopular theological positions and alienating many of his most powerful allies. These included his nephew John Tzimiskes, who would take the throne after killing Nikephoros in his sleep.

Empire of Trebizond Byzantine Greek state on Black Sea coast

The Empire of Trebizond or the Trapezuntine Empire was a monarchy and one of three successor rump states of the Byzantine Empire that flourished during the 13th through 15th centuries, consisting of the far northeastern corner of Anatolia and the southern Crimea. The empire was formed in 1204 after the Georgian expedition in Chaldia, commanded by Alexios Komnenos a few weeks before the sack of Constantinople. Alexios later declared himself Emperor and established himself in Trebizond. Alexios and David Komnenos, grandsons and last male descendants of deposed Emperor Andronikos I Komnenos, pressed their claims as "Roman Emperors" against Byzantine Emperor Alexios V Doukas. The later Byzantine emperors, as well as Byzantine authors, such as George Pachymeres, Nicephorus Gregoras and to some extent Trapezuntines such as John Lazaropoulos and Basilios Bessarion, regarded the emperors of Trebizond as the “princes of the Lazes”, while the possession of these "princes" was also called Lazica, in other words, their state was known as the Principality of the Lazes. Thus from the point of view of the Byzantine writers connected with the Laskaris and later with the Palaiologos dynasties, the rulers of Trebizond were not emperors.

Related Research Articles

<i>Tagma</i> (military) military unit

The tagma is a military unit of battalion or regiment size, especially the elite regiments formed by Byzantine emperor Constantine V and comprising the central army of the Byzantine Empire in the 8th–11th centuries.

A droungarios, also spelled drungarios and sometimes anglicized as Drungary, was a military rank of the late Roman and Byzantine empires, signifying the commander of a formation known as droungos.

Moira is a Greek term for a military formation. Etymologically, it is derived from the roots *μερ- and *μορ-, which mean "to part". Moira therefore means "a part, a division", and is cognate with the similar term meros. In the Byzantine period, it was used to denote brigade or division-sized commands, while in the modern Greek military, it is used by some branches to designate battalion-sized units.

Byzantine battle tactics

The Byzantine army evolved from that of the late Roman Empire. The language of the army was still Latin but it became considerably more sophisticated in terms of strategy, tactics and organization. Unlike the Roman legions, its strength was in its armoured cavalry Cataphracts, which evolved from the Clibanarii of the late empire. Infantry were still used but mainly in support roles and as a base of maneuver for the cavalry. Most of the foot-soldiers of the empire were the armoured infantry Skutatoi and later on, Kontarioi, with the remainder being the light infantry and archers of the Psiloi. The Byzantines valued intelligence and discipline in their soldiers far more than bravery or brawn. The "Ρωμαίοι στρατιώται" were a loyal force composed of citizens willing to fight to defend their homes and their state to the death, augmented by mercenaries. The training was very much like that of the legionaries, with the soldiers taught close quarters, melee techniques with their swords. But as in the late Empire, archery was extensively practiced.

Taxiarch, the anglicised form of taxiarchos or taxiarchēs is used in the Greek language to mean "brigadier". The term derives from táxis, "order", in military context "an ordered formation". In turn, the rank has given rise to the Greek term for brigade, taxiarchia. In Greek Orthodox Church usage, the term is also applied to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, as leaders of the heavenly host, and several locations in Greece are named after them.

Longobardia Byzantine district (theme)

Longobardia was a Byzantine term for the territories controlled by the Lombards in Italy. In the 9th-10th centuries, it was also the name of a Byzantine military-civilian province known as the Theme of Longobardia located in southeastern Italy.

Byzantine army (Komnenian era)

{{Infobox War Faction |name= Byzantine army of the Komnenian period |war= the Byzantine-Seljuk wars, the Byzantine-Bulgarian Wars, the Byzantine-Norman Wars, the Crusades and other conflicts |image= |caption= Emperor John II Komnenos, the most successful commander of the Komnenian army. |active= 1081–1204 AD |leaders= Byzantine Emperor |headquarters=Constantinople |area= Anatolia, Southern Italy, Balkans, Hungary, Galicia, Crimea, [[Syria {region)|Syria]], Egypt. |strength=50,000 (1143-1180) |partof= Byzantine Empire |previous= |next= Nicaean/Palaiologan army |allies= Venice, Genoa, Danishmends, Georgia, Galicia, Vladimir-Suzdal, Kiev, Ancona, Hungary, Jerusalem, Tripoli, Antioch, Mosul. |opponents= Venice, Hungary, Danishmends, Bulgaria, Seljuks, Antioch, Sicily, Armenian Cilicia, Fatimids, Ayyubids, Pechenegs, Cumans. |battles= Dyrrhachium, Levounion, Nicaea Philomelion, Beroia, Haram, Shaizar, Sirmium, Myriokephalon, Hyelion and Leimocheir, Constantinople (1203), Constantinople (1204) }}

Immortals (Byzantine Empire)

The Immortals were one of the elite tagmata military units of the Byzantine Empire, first raised during the late 10th century. The name derives from a- ("without") + thanatos ("death").

Byzantine military manuals treatises on military science produced in the Byzantine Empire

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

East Roman army

The East Roman army refers to the army of the Eastern section of the Roman Empire, from the empire's definitive split in 395 AD to the army's reorganization by themes after the permanent loss of Syria, Palestine and Egypt to the Arabs in the 7th century during the Byzantine-Arab Wars. The East Roman army is the continuation of the Late Roman army of the 4th century until the Byzantine army of the 7th century onwards.

A turma was a cavalry unit in the Roman army of the Republic and Empire. In the Byzantine Empire, it became applied to the larger, regiment-sized military-administrative divisions of a thema. The word is often translated as "squadron" but so is the term ala, a unit that was made up of several turmae.

Nikephoros Phokas, usually surnamed the Elder to distinguish him from his grandson, Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas, was one of the most prominent Byzantine generals of the late 9th century, and the first important member of the Phokas family. As a youth he was taken into the personal retinue of Emperor Basil I the Macedonian, rising quickly to the posts of protostrator and then governor of Charsianon, whence he fought with success against the Arabs. In ca. 886 he led a major expedition in southern Italy, where his victories laid the foundation for the Byzantine resurgence in the peninsula. After his return, he was raised to the post of Domestic of the Schools, in effect commander-in-chief of the army, which he led with success against the Arabs in the east and the Bulgarians of Tsar Simeon in the Balkans. He died either in 895/6 or, less likely, sometime ca. 900. Contemporaries and later historians lauded him for his military ability and character. Both of his sons later succeeded him as Domestics of the Schools. His grandsons Nikephoros and Leo were likewise distinguished generals, while the former became emperor in 963–969, spearheading the recovery of several lost provinces from the Arabs.

Optimatoi Byzantine administrative unit (theme)

The Optimatoi were initially formed as an elite Byzantine military unit. In the mid-8th century, however, they were downgraded to a supply and logistics corps and assigned a province (thema) in north-western Asia Minor, which was named after them. As an administrative unit, the Theme of the Optimatoi survived until the Ottoman conquest in the first decades of the 14th century.

Droungos or drungus is a late Roman and Byzantine term for a battalion-sized military unit, and later for a local command guarding mountain districts. Its commander was a "droungarios" or "drungarius" (δρουγγάριος), anglicized as "Drungary".

Bucellarian Theme Theme of the Byzantine empire

The Bucellarian Theme, more properly known as the Theme of the Bucellarians was a Byzantine theme in northern Asia Minor. It was created around the middle of the 8th century, comprising most of the ancient region of Paphlagonia and parts of Galatia and Phrygia.

The merarchēs, sometimes Anglicized as Merarch, was a Byzantine military rank roughly equivalent to a divisional general.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Bali 2013, p. 462.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Kazhdan 1991, p. 250.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Heath 1979, p. 4.
  4. Heath 1995, p. 13.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Heath 1979, p. 5.


Further reading