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"Review: Byzantine Army / Esercito Bizantino AD 395-1453" Topic

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JAFD2603 Feb 2020 3:59 a.m. PST

Salutations, gentlepeople !

This is a review of

Byzantine Army / Esercito Bizantino AD 395-1453
Paper and Wargame Soldiers Series # 4
ISBN 978-88-93275125
Luca S. Cristini, series editor
Soldiershop Publishing –

My unpainted lead shelf has a heavy box labeled 'Byzantines', and a friend who's a historical costume reenactor also likes that era, so I ordered this sight unseen from On Military Matters, which is importing it from Italy and selling it for $34.00 USD.

The book is 250 mm high, 205 mm wide – a bit taller and notably wider than Ospreys. There are 45 pages of plates, 5 pages of intro material. The first 29 pages of plates are from "the famous collection of Dr. Viskuezzen, a Dutch doctor with a passion for military uniforms… This collection today belongs to the New York Public Library". Oneovdezedaze shall try to get over to Bryant Park, say hello to Patience and Fortitude, and check out the original. The rest "are for the most part the work of our artists."

There are about a hundred images, many of which are of more than one person. Many of the images are printed multiple times on a page – the Empress Theodora is an attractive lady, but why four identical copies of her picture ?

There's almost no text – some of the images have labels on the 'fold-back tabs' at the bottom, some don't; some labels are in English and some in Italian or Latin.

It's hard to tell the purpose of this. With a color copier you could make one-sided 'paper dolls'. As a painting or costume-making guide, you need to tell who these pictures are of, and their dates.

For example, who are Abou Tiras, Theodoros Lalakon, and Anemas El Kotorbi – they're in on picture, side by side on horseback, and then Anemas El Kotorbi is pictured by himself, four times, same pose and costume, carrying battle ax, which looks as if it came from fantasy graphic novel, over shoulder.

Going by this book, Byzantium had a remarkably high percentage of redheads, from the Emperor Nikephoras on down…

And if there were ever any real-life examples of the horny helmets worn by the Varangians on p 37 and back cover…

In conclusion, it's expensive, at least in the US, for what you're getting. If you're really into the period, I'd suggest looking it over before purchase.

dragon6 Supporting Member of TMP03 Feb 2020 7:13 a.m. PST

Thank you for the tip.

williamb04 Feb 2020 5:26 a.m. PST

The book is like the Paperboy series from Helion. It is intended to provide an army of paper soldiers to play with and should not be considered a guide for painting or composition of a Byzantine army. there are others from Osprey, Wargames Research Group, etc that are intended as serious guides to the Byzantine army. I do agree that there is no need for four images of Theodora or multiple images of Anemas. The high proportion of red hair may be due to fading or discoloration of the original images used for the artwork.

Theodoros Lalakon is probably Theodoros Laskaris. Anemas was the name of an aristocratic Byzantine family, four brothers of which were arrested for plotting to kill the emperor. El Kotorbi may be an Arabic designation for General Michael Anemas the most famous of the plotters whose prison came to be named after him or more likely the first Anemas. He joined the Byzantine imperial guard and later commanded an army against the Rus. He may actually have carried an axe. The family was known from 9th to the 15th centuries. I have no idea about Abou Tiras other than it may be an Arabic variation on the name of a Byzantine general.

Amazon has this book for $24 USDUS.

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