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Middle Byzantine Fighting Tactics Against Muslim Armies

Middle Byzantine Fighting Tactics Against Muslim Armies

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Published by John Moiratas
It was not possible for the Byzantine imperial army, to react promptly to Arab raids or invasions. Additionally, the army was often busy fighting in European fronts. For these reasons, the repulsion of the invaders was undertaken mainly by the local Thematic Byzantine troops who almost “normally” lacked in figures against the enemy. The Muslims used to keep gathered their forces, thus maintaining the numerical advantage.
The Byzantine strategy against them, initially involved the removal of civilians from the areas which were in the route of the invasion. The cities were usually safe from the invaders because of their walls. The Byzantine cavalry watched the movements of the Arabs/Iranians while they were despoiled the countryside of Asia Minor, and often exterminated detached Muslim groups. At the same time, small Byzantine units were trying to lure parts of the Arab/Iranian army in ambush in order to reduce its numerical strength.
It was not possible for the Byzantine imperial army, to react promptly to Arab raids or invasions. Additionally, the army was often busy fighting in European fronts. For these reasons, the repulsion of the invaders was undertaken mainly by the local Thematic Byzantine troops who almost “normally” lacked in figures against the enemy. The Muslims used to keep gathered their forces, thus maintaining the numerical advantage.
The Byzantine strategy against them, initially involved the removal of civilians from the areas which were in the route of the invasion. The cities were usually safe from the invaders because of their walls. The Byzantine cavalry watched the movements of the Arabs/Iranians while they were despoiled the countryside of Asia Minor, and often exterminated detached Muslim groups. At the same time, small Byzantine units were trying to lure parts of the Arab/Iranian army in ambush in order to reduce its numerical strength.

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Published by: John Moiratas on Mar 29, 2013
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MIDDLE BYZANTINE FIGHTING TACTICS AGAINST MUSLIM ARMIES
14/09/2012
 Byzantine armor  Dumbarton Oaks
 – 
the arms and armour were constructed by the armourer  Dimitris Katsikis)
 The military action of theArabs,Iranians and other early Muslims against the MiddleByzantine Empire,was characterized mainly by rapid raids in Asia Minor, which were carried out in somecases by numerous troops. The scope of the invaders was widespread, reaching sometimesPropontis(Sea of Marmara). The Muslim attacks were ranging from simple raids of several hundred fighters, to massive invasions of tens of thousands. However, most attacks were aimedat looting. The reported large numbers (in some cases) of the invaders, their increased speedwhile advancing and their large radius of action, although these strategic elements seemincompatible from the strategic point of view, they were consistent without problems in the caseof theMuslims.This was due to their mostly light military equipment, to the presence of a large percentage of cavalry among them (usually the majority of their armies in this period) andto the use of numerous camels and horses.The camels carried supplies and people, and were particularly useful in long campaigns. TheArab horsemen were riding them in the process of a campaign, in order not to tire the horses.They rode the horses almost only in battles. They also used to bring together large numbers of horses, in order to change them and thus the animals would be rested. The camels had infiniteresistance to hunger and thirst on long marches. They could traverse long distances without
 
stopping frequently to rest and eat, thus providing a significant strategic advantage to theMuslim troops.
The Byzantine Empire (center) and the MuslimCaliphate.
 -It was not possible for the Byzantine imperial army, to react promptly to Arab raids or invasions. Additionally, the army was often busy fighting in European fronts. For these reasons,the repulsion of the invaders was undertaken mainly by the local Thematic Byzantine troopswho almost
“normally”
lacked in figures against the enemy. The Muslims used to keep gatheredtheir forces, thus maintaining the numerical advantage.The Byzantine strategy against them, initially involved the removal of civilians from the areaswhich were in the route of the invasion. The cities were usually safe from the invaders becauseof their walls. The Byzantine cavalry watched the movements of the Arabs/Iranians while theywere despoiled the countryside of Asia Minor, and often exterminated detached Muslim groups.At the same time, small Byzantine units were trying to lure parts of the Arab/Iranian army inambush in order to reduce its numerical strength. The Muslims entered the imperial territorythrough hilly or mountainous passes. During the course of their invasion they had to passthrough several such
„bottlenecks‟.
Along with the aforementioned Byzantine defensive actions, a part of the Thematic infantry occupied these
„bottlenecks‟
in the back of the Arabs/Iranians inorder to cut off their escape route.The appropriate circumstances to attack the invaders, were when they were leaving for their territory, carrying large amounts of booty and captives which delayed them, or when theydiscovered that the passages in their rear were occupied by Byzantine forces and thus theywere forced to stop and negotiate their passage through them. The Byzantines preferred to attack the Muslim invaders during the night or in bad weather days, especially during thunderstorms or intense cold. The Muslims, originating overwhelmingly from the Middle East and the ArabianPeninsula, were not accustomed to such weather and suffering. In other cases the Arab/Iranianinvaders attempted to cross these
„bottlenecks‟,
unaware that the Byzantine infantry had taken position on the nearby hills, or when they were in a desperate position. In such cases, theywere decimated by the arrows, spears and slingshots of the Byzantine skirmishers and then bythe swords and spears of the imperial soldiers who attacked and consummate the survivors (andcapturing many of them). Indeed, many of the Byzantine victories against the Muslims in AsiaMinor, were achieved by ambush in passes during the retreat of the invaders.

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