The Defenders of Constantinople of 1453


By George E. Georgas

It is wrong to say that the Byzantine emperor and his noble warriors wear scale armors at the 15th century. The evidences that we have of the opposite are growth up day by day of what kind of weapons and armors they had. From their equipment we can understand the way that they fought. They had great influence from the Italian and German knights.

The drawing above is a drawing of Emperor Eastern Roman Empire John VIII Paleologos, King Sigissmund of Hungary and Danish king from 1424, made during the visit of Roman and Danish ruller to Buda. All wear plate armors. Now in Rotshild collection in Paris.

The above modern drawining did from the information that we have  from the historians  and from archaologists.  So starting  from the warrior with the number 1 we have:

-Giustiniani who is wearing a up to date Italian plate armor and a armet type helmet.In the background Italian crossbowman who carries the standard armor for archers and guards- corraca covered with fabric. He wears a italian salet type helmet for crossbowman.

– The central warrior in plate armor is the Emperor. Armor is from the drawing of his brother and predecessor John VIII(see the first image) . Drawing is from 1424, and is made during his visit to Buda (on the drawing are Hungarian Emperor Sigismund and Danish King). Armor is central European with a big “skirt” -tonlet, which makes it unsuitable for riding, so this protection to fight on foot.

-Roman noble escort of Emperor, who wears Italian armor (without a leg, which is needless when defending the ramparts) On his head he has a helmet- barbuta of Corinthian sub-type (because it resembles the ancient Greek helmets) .This figure is not typical for defenders because their majority is poorly trained and equipped, like a character in the background. Witness Leonard from Chios has left a description of the defenders:

“… they carried weapons used by their nature, not by a skill” .

They were armed with swords, spears and shields. A smaller number have bows, and there is some professional soldiers with crossbows. Leonard says most had helmets or leather armor. From the book The siege of Constantinople 1453 and miners from Novo Brdo.

The evedences doesnotstop on thedrawningsor fromthe descriptions  of the historians. The archaology  give us more prooves for the equipment of the Eastern Roman Empire warriros and their allies. In the photos above we have Venetian helmets and plate armor parts of the 14th-15th century, found in 1840 in a vaulted crypt fortress of Halkida. Same equipment had the Byzantines warriors of the same period, buying the equipment from Italians or Germans. Here we must emphasize that there has not saved Byzantine equipment because the Ottomans melts it and the metal used for the construction of other armors and weapons. Here we should note that the Venetians in the Greek territory had Greeks mercenaries who numbered over 10,000 men, which increased after the fall of Constantinople. The leaders of these men at arms had the same equipment. The photos are from the ‘NATIONAL HISTORICAL ΜUSEUM OF GREECE’. So when the German weapon master Martin Siber visit the lands of the empire of Greeks he contact with Greek weapon masters who wear these type of equipment and fought with this kind of weapons.

The photos are from Mr.Dimitrios Skourtelis historical researcher of the Academy of Historical European Martial Arts. The drawings and the comments are from Mr.Dušan Vasiljevic .

George GeorgasGeorge E. Georgas is the founder of the Hellenic Academy of Historical European Martial Arts ‘Leontes’. He is certificated fencing instructor of the Hellenic Fencing Federation and also national referee of the Hellenic Fencing Federation at the epee. He is instructor of Meyer Freifechter Guild with the rank of Fecther and he is the Guild Unterhauptman for Greece. He is also member of Learn Sword Fight (Gladiatores). He is in the Administration Council of the ‘Pammachon’. He is also instructor of weapon fighting of the Association of Historical studies ‘KORYVANTES’. He is studying the ancient Greek and Byzantine oplomachia, such as the use of rompaia, spathion and paramirion types of swords and other weapons such as the spear. He is also give stage fighting lessons to the theatrical team ‘The Blue Rose.’


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