a Byzantine General’s military genius is considered on par with Napolean and Hannibal?

Marcos Hernandez The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan

The Byzantine General Belisarius was Emperor Justinian’s best military mind. He lived from 500-565 A.D. Early in his career, as a Roman soldier, he served close to Emperor Justin I (Justinian’s uncle) where he impressed both the current and future Emperors. His pride and joy was his unit of heavy cavalry, men armed with a lance, a sword, and a bow.

Justinian, a Byzantine Emperor, is known in modern times for his attempted restoration and unification of the Roman Empire. Belisarius contributed to Justinian’s vision with successful military campaigns which recaptured lost segments of the former empire in the west (the seat of power was Constantinople). Some of his accomplishments include suppressing a rebellion in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, in Turkey), the defeat of the Vandals in North Africa, the defeat of the Goths in Italy (twice), and the defense of Syria against an army of Persians.

In Belisarius’s last military campaign he defeated an army of Bulgars who threatened Justinian in the capital of Constantinople. The opposing force was 2,000 strong and Belisarius defeated them with only 300 men.

Belisarius and Justinian died within months of each other in the year 565.

the Varangian Guard were the personal bodyguards of Byzantine Emperors?

Marcos Hernandez The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan

The Varangian Guard were the best, most loyal members of the Byzantine Army. The unit was first employed by Emperor Basil II in the year 988. The first iteration of the group was made up of Rus’ people (an early group of vikings who ultimately gave their name to Russia and Belarus) afer Basil lost trust in native guardsmen. Over time other groups of people such as Norsemen and Anglo-Saxons became associated with this elite fighting force.

They were deployed at strategic times in war when the tide needed to be shifted or fighting was particularly heavy. Their weapon of choice was a heavy axe with which they would pummel the opposing force. There are records of members of the guard entering a trance and becoming berserkers, a state when they no longer cared about their wounds or their lives. The reputation of the guard, promoted by Byzantine authors, instilled fear in the hearts of the enemy, no doubt an attempt to weaken the will of opposing forces.

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