An Illustration Of The Armenian Infantry Of The Byzantine Period

Historian Ian Heath (born June 7, 1952) in his “Byzantine Armies, 886–1118” brings up one interesting thing – an illustration of the Armenian infantry on an ivory box. In the figure, the infantry is greeting its commander.

Pay attention to the greeting gesture which is used in modern armies as well. At one time, the majority of the military aristocracy of the Byzantine Empire were Armenians. In the 9th-10th centuries, Armenians accounted for about 25% of the military forces of the Empire.

An interesting excerpt from the famous work of Edward Gibbon (8 May 1737 – 16 January 1794) “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” reads:

“The select cavalry and infantry units guarding the emperor were under the direct command of the two palace guard counts. They consisted of three thousand five hundred people divided into seven schools, or detachments, five hundred people each. And in the East, this honorable service was almost exclusively appropriated by the Armenians.

When lined up in the courtyard and in the porticoes of the palace during public ceremonies, their tall stature, discipline, and magnificent armament of silver and gold made for a gorgeous sight worthy of Roman greatness.

Out of seven schools, two detachments of cavalry and infantry would be selected – the so-called protectors or guards whose advantageous position was the goal and award for the most honored soldiers. They performed their duties in the inner apartments and were sometimes sent to the provinces to execute the orders of their overlord with speed and energy.

The palace guard counts replaced the praetorian prefects and, like them, sought to move from the palace service to the command of the armies.”

Grigor Narinyan

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