ELITE WARRIORS OF THE DARK AGES: BUCELLARII OF BELISARIUS


The Deadliest Blogger: Military History Page

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From the 5th century on, Roman and Byzantine (Eastern Roman) armies increasingly came to rely upon cavalry as the elite strike force of any field army. Heralding the coming age of cavalry dominance, the wars of Justinian to reclaim the lost western provinces of Italy and North Africa in the 6th century were largely conducted by elite bodies of cavalry; supported by relatively poor quality infantry. Extraordinarily, the core of the Byzantine army of this Reconquista was the private military household of Justinian’s principal general, Belisarius; and later, that of his successor, the eunuch Narses.

The Roman army of the 6th century was a far cry from that of Augustus Caesar, or even Constantine the Great. The old legions of sword-and-javelin armed infantry were long gone; or remained in name only, as poorly trained garrison troops stationed along the frontiers. Now Romans depended upon regiments of armored cavalry; armed either with bow…

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