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The development and decline of Romano-Byzantine archery from the fourth to the eleventh centuries

The development and decline of Romano-Byzantine archery from the fourth to the eleventh centuries

By Paul William Westermeyer

Master’s Thesis, Ohio State University, 1996

Abstract: An examination of the gradual adoption of the mounted archer as a primary weapon system by the Romano-Byzantine armies shows that a combination of social and military factors are responsible for both its rise and abandonment. This adoption occurred not as a revolution but rather as an evolution tracing the development of the basic Roman, and then Byzantine military organizations from the reforms of Diocletion to the collapse of Byzantine military power at Manzikert. The composite bow is a very complex weapon system in both its construction and employment, the creation of the bow requires trained craftsmen and is an art quite distinct from the more traditional arms production methods of the early Roman military. The bow’s effective use in battle requires training from youth, especially when fired mounted. The Romano-Byzantine adoption of this weapon is the only case, at least in the West, where a society without a tradition of mounted archery has successfully created an army of native mounted archers. To a large degree the success of the Empire from the Fifth century on depended upon the success of its mounted archers.

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