The Byzantine Empire Civilization Suggestion

The game is most likely way past the development stage of designing civ units, yet I’d like to share with you some unit concepts for the Byzantine army that I at least am more aware of than of other medieval cultures.

And hopefully the dev team has also done a thorough historical research to take ideas and create interesting and appealing units for every civilization.

Maybe if Byzantines don’t make it to the base game, this post could still offer ideas and inspiration for future DLCs.

So, I have often seen people mentioning that Byzantines should have a rich roster of mercenary units as they were often making use and depending on them for their military needs.

However, besides making use of mercenaries, Byzantines as an economic and military powerhouse that they were, maintained of course a rich repertoire of their own professional military units for the needs of the imperial army.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that under capable leadership they constituted one of the most fearsome armies of the Medieval world.

Skoutatos 10th-11th A.D
(shield bearing heavy infantry unit of the first line. One could say that they were the bread and butter of the Byzantine infrantry.)

Skoutatos with spear

(Imperial Guard Unit ~9th century)

High Ranked Officer (I could see him being used as a hero unit due to the characterisric red cape and the shiny armor)

Early 6th century officer

Byzantine Taxiarch or Droungarios
(high ranked officer of a military unit known as Droungos)

Cheirosiphones during 9th-11th centuries
(holders of portable projectors of Greek fire)

Byzantine spearman
(during the late middle ages, 14th-15th centuries)

The Varangos, unit of the renown Varangian guard
(That’s a mercenary elite bodyguard unit, usually constituted by Rus, Scandinavians and Anglosaxons after the Norman conquest of England. I decided to mention them as well because of their popularity despite being mercenaries)

Another version of the Varangian Guard

A third version of an early Varangian Rus axeman

Dismounted Bandophoros (banner holder) Kataphraktos
(an elite Cataphract unit during the early Byzantine army, probably in Justinian’s era)

Dismounted Thorakophoros 12th-13th centuries
(armored cavalryman with sword)

Dismounted Thorakophoros 12th-13th centuries
(armored cavalryman with spear)

Dismounted cavalryman 13th-15th centuries
(late era horseman of the Palaeologean dynasty)

Noble Klibanophoros or Kataphraktos (Cataphract)
(armored heavy cavalryman, escorted by a Skoutatos unit here)

Skoutatos 13th century

A typical Kataphraktos 10th-11th centuries
(elite heavily armored cavalrymen wielding a lance as their main weapon. Primarily used for charges to break through the enemy formations.)

Heavy armored dismounted Cataphract of the Imperial Scholae, during the period of 9th-11th centuries
(The coloured horsehair denoted the tagma he belogned to. The ornamented leather belt around his cheast and shoulders, as well as the cloth he wears on his waist were insignia of his military rank)

Horseman of the imperial Tagmata
(Tagmatic cavalry was part of the core of the imperial army during campaigns. It was a specific military unit constituted exclusively by heavy but mobile cavalry and used as a central reserve)

Another dismounted Byzantine horseman in a 12th century armor.
(the triangular type of shield with the naturalistic adornments is characteristic of the byzantine army of this period and something that the Normans systematically copied during the 11th century after their first encounter)

A Byzantine cavalry archer of the earlier period, ~6th century

(Byzantine archer man)


(Byzantine Crossbowman militia)

Byzantine Cretan crossbowman of 15th century
(Cretan Ballistophoros, with apparent Italian influences in his armor. As centuries were passing by, the Byzantine army was gradually switching to plate armors.)

On siege engines, besides catapults, trebuchets, battering rams, ballistas and scales they were making use of;

The Helepolis siege tower

The Oxybolos

Specially designed version of Ballista throwing Greek fire


Trypana (drills)
(An engine operated by two, designed to drill holes into the enemy walls)

Dromonas or Dromon
(the main heavy warship of the Byzantines, often equipped with tubular projectors (siphons) to throw Greek fire)

Another, artistic version of the Dromon

A historical manuscript depicting the operation of Greek fire from a ship

Presumed usage of the Greek fire

Another illustration of the Greek fire, being used against the Arab fleet during the Siege of Constantinople

Other types of Byzantine warships included the Galley, which comes from the medieval Greek word Galea and was a smaller version of Dromon, as well as the Chelandion that was again a variation of Dromon, that could be used as a cargo or transport ship as well for horses.

Both of them were 2-mast ships, unlike the Dromon that usually used 3 masts as a larger ship.




A real life demonstration of a Byzantine infantryman, most likely a Skoutatos.

This one could be a prince or emperor in his semi-casual royal garments, or a high-class noble aristocrat. (I could see this one being used as a campaign character or a hero unit)


Are you sure will Byzantines be added? There will be 10 civs only. It is likely, but not 100%.

I don’t see how they wouldn’t. It’s one of the very few empires which existed for the entire duration of the middle-ages and it was extremely relevant in the history of Europe and western Asia. I would say they are much more relevant then other short lived empires, like the Mongols, which are already confirmed to be in.


I also suspect that they’ll be in the base game due to their profound historical impact throughout this period.

Of course, on one hand the dev team is not waiting for the community’s posts to do their historical research to design units, buildings and everything else.

One the other hand though, if there’s a slight chance that they’re looking into these forums for ideas or inspiration, this post is likely a couple of years late. But who knows… DLCs and expansions could still be on the table.

I am really looking forward to see what the devs have actually done and hoping to see something as fascinating, appealing and not historically absurd, as these drawings, which are actually all based on historical research from available manuscripts, byzantine frescoes or other findings.


They are very popular in AoE2 so why not?
Noting is guaranteed of course (besides English and Mongoles).

There will be people crying that their favourite civilisations isn’t in but the totally unimportant inset civilisations here is in the game instead.
But I feel like the Byzantines, like the Chinese or the arabs are must have!


Did anything like this actually exist historically? This looks like something from Warhammer.

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Yes, they did exist. They were introduced somewhere between late 9th early 10th century. However, the deployment of Greek fire in portable projectors is indeed not as well documented as it is with siege engines or ships.
It is presumed that although they did exist at some point, their usage was likely limited for a number of reasons, including of how dangerous it may have been for the holders to operate these things. If you’ve seen a modern flamethrower you’ll get the idea.

There’s a Byzantine manuscript of the same period 10th-11th centuries about the Byzantine siege warfare depicting a Cheirosiphon in action;
It is not extremely detailed but gives a good idea of how it was deployed.

And there’s another illustration from a different artist this time. Both of them were likely based on the manuscript above to draw a version of the engine if not on other sources as well. The armor on the other hand is just a typical Skoutatos infantry armor.


It did. Because they managed to retain much of Rome’s centralized system and academic institutions, the Byzantine Empire was a lot more advanced than every other people, throught a huge chunk of the period.

It is still debated if it could sustain fire for a few minutes, or just sent out one big cone of fire and was then discarded.

What we do know, is that Infantry version did not have much of an impressive range, so it was more like a Medieval Shotgun, than a Flamethrower.

Blow out the flames once, at the enemy battle lines, and charge in while their shields are on fire.

" Hand-held projectors[edit]

Detail of a cheirosiphōn

The portable cheirosiphōn (“hand-siphōn”), the earliest analogue to a modern flamethrower, is extensively attested in the military documents of the 10th century, and recommended for use in both sea and land. They first appear in the Tactica of emperor Leo VI the Wise, who claims to have invented them.[41] Subsequent authors continued to refer to the cheirosiphōnes, especially for use against siege towers, although Nikephoros II Phokas also advises their use in field armies, with the aim of disrupting the enemy formation.[73] Although both Leo VI and Nikephoros Phokas claim that the substance used in the cheirosiphōnes was the same as in the static devices used on ships, Haldon and Byrne consider that the former were manifestly different from their larger cousins, and theorize that the device was fundamentally different, “a simple syringe [that] squirted both liquid fire (presumably unignited) and noxious juices to repel enemy troops.” The illustrations of Hero’s Poliorcetica show the cheirosiphōn also throwing the ignited substance.[88][89]"


Amazing! Thanks to you both.


Nice artwork, hope the byzantines will look like this!

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Majestic but can you put the sources for the images?

I tried to keep the artist’s signature in most of them while I was cropping them, that is Christos Giannopoulos.
Basically all the soldiers that you see of the same art style come from this artist and they were created for the needs of this book;

That you can find here.

The paintings of the ships on the other hand come from Antonis Milanos and are exhibited in a Maritime Museum in Greece.

In my opinion, that’s already an overkill for a video game. You can’t really do more “historically accurate” than that, then comes the primary sources like manuscripts, frescoes and archaeological findings, which are often crude and undetailed.
The illustrators are often making reasonable assumptions to fill in gaps that could be missing by primary sources.

I definitely do not want a game with crazy obvious inaccuracies like in AoE2, but at the same time I do not wish for an educational simulator.

I hope and I think they should sacrifice some historical accuracy whenever possible to give a beautiful and appealing outcome in units, buildings, maps, for every civ.


Thank you for this. I hope there’s also artwork with this style for other civilizations.

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It would be interesting to see the most common formations. For the unfamiliar, the Byzantine war machine was largely a continuation of the Hellenistic one making use of pike formations with 7 meter spears and more regular squads of soldiers with much longer shields to fight like a classical Greek phalanx.


Excellent post, hopefully we will see these units when they add the Byzantines.


Hello folks,

I was thinking that it would be cool to see the Byzantines as a playable civilization in AoE4 which would allow you to take two different paths one where it’s more of a Roman way of life, with their beliefs, etc in the Western part of the Roman Empire while also introducing the Eastern part of the Roman Empire aka the Greek side of the Byzantines.

Each path introducing unique playable tactics, units, and other strategies to make them different enough, which allows you for certain playstyles depending on which one you want to play as in the game. For example, on the Greek side, you could introduce abilities such as the “Greek fire”. (Used to set fire to enemy ships, it consisted of a combustible compound emitted by a flame-throwing weapon)

This would also give the developers a chance to introduce the history of the Byzantines which is important, as it has both Roman & Greek influences in the two different parts of the Roman Empire while also coming up with unique strategies for each part for us to explore around with.

I’m sorry if this has already been discussed but couldn’t find a topic that is talking specifically about this. Take care!


I also hope that we will have this civilization.


My top 3 fav civs in AOE2 were: Huns, Byzantines and Koreans
Would be cool to see one of my most fav civs in bad quality aoe4 graphics and new awesome gameplay mechanics


yeah the byzantines with a greek path or a roman path would be really interesting (for example for what path is more effective in the greek path could be more focused on sea control ,defence and variety while rome would be more aggresive with infantry formations and gold heavy units (which will be more quality than quantity)