By Bill Blake
It’s strange that we in the West have not hitherto paid greater attention to the study of the Byzantine world, the lineal descendant of Rome, and that Constantinople is often viewed as somehow disconnected from the Ancient Roman world when in no way was this true. Byzantium was the closest the medieval world came to fielding a super power, was unquestionably the cause of the Renaisance, and was a military force so preeminent that victories were routine, while defeats were studied and celebrated by that culture. There is so much to fascinate us there, and yet, we still have a long way to come in terms of appreciating it.
Between the Catholic world and the Islamic however, much has been done to throw sand over the legacy of the Romiosi; though we have the great fortune to live in an age where the religious and cultural reasons for suppressing the memory of Byzantium are now being swept aside in the interest of knowledge of the longest lived Empire mankind has ever produced.
Byzantine Swords represent a tradition of swords that is both familiar to the Western tradition and completely alien to it. The traditional and well trod Oakeshott Typology, as useful as it is in categorising the swords of the Catholic West, is at odds with the swords of the Byzantine World. However A. Bruhn Hoffmeyer established a typology for Byzantine Swords that is infinitely more relevant in 1966:
The image of the sword comes courtesy of Raffaele D’Amato and shows a find from Bulgaria. It was located at the site of a Byzantine battle and was the possession of a Varangian Guardsman. What is so exceptional about this specimen is that it clearly demonstrates the mixed nature of the panoply of the Varangian Guard, even down to individual items. This is a Viking Sword but with a distinctly Byzantine cross guard.
Below is another example of the mixed nature of Varangian Guardsmen’s gear. This sword (bottom right) is a Viking Sword but with a grip and pommel riveted on in the style of Steppe Swords. It has been identified as Byzantine by Professor Valeri Yotov.
A rare depiction of a Byzantine wielding a dagger. This weapon also bears the pommel style the Byzantines made their own – Type R, or the spherical.