Medieval Warfare Vol II Issue 6: Frustrating the Fatimids: Basil II and the conquest of Syria

Medieval Warfare Vol II Issue 5: Turmoil  in northern Italy:  France and the Holy League at War

Medieval Warfare Vol II Issue 6: Frustrating the Fatimids: Basil II and the conquest of Syria

The main focus of this issue is on the clash between the Fatimids and the Byzantine emperor Basil II. The Fatimid Empire was born in north Africa, expanded east into Egypt and then spread into Syria, eventually gaining a border with the Byzantine empire. Basil II was one of the last great warrior emperors of Byzantium, most famous for defeating the Bulgars but also the victory of a series of campaigns against the Fatimids.

The first six articles are related to that main there. We begin with a biography of Basil and a history of Fatimid expansion, both providing an essential background to the topic. This is followed by an examination of the last in the long series of works of military theory that can be traced back into classical antiquity. This last work, the Taktika of Nikephoros Ouranos is interesting for two reasons - it was a rare example of a military work produced by an actual soldier, and it directly relates to the wars of Basil's reign. The next two look at military units, with the first comparing two groups of foreign soldiers - the Scandinavian Varangian guards and the Mamluk slave troops. The second looks at the heavily armoured cavalry of the Byzantine Empire, a rather more flexible force than the contemporary western Knight, if not perhaps quite as effective as shock troops. The theme finishes with a look at one of Basil's most impressive achievements - a forced march across Anatolia that ended a long Fatimid siege of Aleppo. Altogether these six articles give an interesting introduction to this period of history.

Away from the main theme the article on the Companions of the Green Tent, looking at rural revolts in Burgundy, and the biography of Eustace the Monk, a naval commander of the period of King John, are particularly strong. The article on the siege of Rouen reminds us how barbarous medieval warfare was, and the article on the long siege of Harlech is better for the earlier sieges and the castle itself.

The Rule of Basil II: The warrior emperor
The Fatimids: From Ifriqiya to the walls of Aleppo
The last in a long line: The Taktika of Nikephoros Ouranos
Varangian Guards and Mamluks: Elite foreign soldiers of Byzantium and the Fatimids
The Roman tank of the eleventh century: The armour and equipment of the Kataphrakoi
Forced march through Anatolia: Shock and awe against the Fatimids
They should have meat and drink: A medieval Christmas tale from the siege of Rouen
Men of Harlech - Surviving the longest siege in British history
The Companions of the Green Tent: The use of firearms in a rural revolt
Scourge of the Seas: Eustace the Monk


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