The Byzantine Empire had one of the most formidable armies throughout most of the medieval period.
Many factors such as a highly organized structure and a sizable treasury contributed to this. Weaponry also played a significant role in ensuring the supremacy of Byzantine soldiers against most of their opponents.
Byzantine warriors were divided into multiple units, each specializing in a certain set of weapons.
As a result, a Byzantine army usually had a huge variety of weapons included in the armory of its soldiers on the battlefield.
Spears and axes were commonly wielded by the Byzantine soldiers in close combat while swords were also used as a secondary weapon.
The use of axes in the Byzantine army was popularly associated with the famed Varangian Guard. The Guard served directly under the Emperor and usually accompanied him on the battlefield.
The troops included in the Guard usually carried heavy double-handed Danish Axe. Although slow to wield, the Normans and Anglo Saxons in the Guard were excellent users of the Axe and used it with lethal efficacy in close combat.
Set with a very sharp and heavy blade, the Axe was effective as a slashing and cutting weapon which could cut through the best of armor.
Drawing on its Roman legacy, the Byzantine military relied heavily on the use of spears in warfare. Spears were used by both the infantry and cavalry units in the Byzantine army.
Lighter types of spears were used as javelins in the preliminaries to the actual combat on the battlefield. Heavier types of spears, called Kontarion, were designed for close combat.
Byzantine soldiers practiced extensively fighting with a spear at close quarters so that the spear proved a highly effective weapon in their hands. The Kontarion was specifically designed to penetrate through the best of armor.
Swords in the Byzantine army were considered a secondary weapon that was used when primary weapons such as spears had been spent or were no longer useful.
The Spathion was similar to the knightly sword popular in contemporary Western Europe. The other type of sword was the Paramerion which was single-edged with a thin and curving blade.
This type of sword was influenced more by the attackers that the Byzantine Empire faced in the East. Both swords were carried by the heavy cavalry units of the Byzantine army.
The Byzantine army’s light infantry units usually carried a wide range of missile weapons. These weapons were used for preliminary skirmishes with the enemy army or to harass enemy front lines and force them into disruption.
Byzantine infantry troops typically used missile weapons such as javelins as well as composite bows. The composite bow was especially effective in wrecking significant damage on enemy lines.
Being inspired by the Turkish bow, the composite bow enabled the user to shoot across a longer distance and with greater lethality.
Well-designed javelins could also pierce even through the solid armor of the enemy warriors.