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Sebastian Goriesky




Location: Vinland
Joined: 17 Sep 2015

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PostPosted: Thu 28 Apr, 2016 11:39 am    Post subject: Anglo-Danish Huscarl/Varangian Guard Equipment         Reply with quote

Greetings! I am an avid Viking Reenactor looking to improve my combat kit. I fight in an organization called the Adrian Empire, where Rebated steel combat (ACL style, but larger time frame) is a tier of combat that I'm striving to get geared up for. My primary time period of focus is the Late Viking age (Knut The Great to Harold Godwinsson) Anglo-Danish Huscarls, with some interest in the Varangian Guard. But enough about me, let's get to the purpose of this post: Gear!

I've got a few questions for my senior reenactors regarding the gear of both of these groups of warriors:

First, I was wondering if, by the time of Halold Godwinsson, the spangenhelm had been predominantly phased out in favor of the single piece dome typified by representations of the Norman Invaders? In regards to the Varangians, would they have replaced their native helm styles with the "Phrygian Cap" style helms used by the Byzantines?

Another sticking point is leg/arm and hand protection. Armoured combat requires arm, hand and leg protection be used and I was wondering if there are any examples of such that I can mimic? I've pretty much just resigned myself to using splint style armor on my legs and arms, but is there anything period that I can use for hands? All I can find the Visby gauntlets, but that's a few centuries too late for my tastes.

Any help that you guys can render would be much appreciated.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Apr, 2016 12:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Anglo-Danish Huscarl/Varangian Guard Equipment         Reply with quote

Sebastian Goriesky wrote:
Greetings! I am an avid Viking Reenactor looking to improve my combat kit. I fight in an organization called the Adrian Empire, where Rebated steel combat (ACL style, but larger time frame) is a tier of combat that I'm striving to get geared up for. My primary time period of focus is the Late Viking age (Knut The Great to Harold Godwinsson) Anglo-Danish Huscarls, with some interest in the Varangian Guard. But enough about me, let's get to the purpose of this post: Gear!

I've got a few questions for my senior reenactors regarding the gear of both of these groups of warriors:

First, I was wondering if, by the time of Halold Godwinsson, the spangenhelm had been predominantly phased out in favor of the single piece dome typified by representations of the Norman Invaders? In regards to the Varangians, would they have replaced their native helm styles with the "Phrygian Cap" style helms used by the Byzantines?

Another sticking point is leg/arm and hand protection. Armoured combat requires arm, hand and leg protection be used and I was wondering if there are any examples of such that I can mimic? I've pretty much just resigned myself to using splint style armor on my legs and arms, but is there anything period that I can use for hands? All I can find the Visby gauntlets, but that's a few centuries too late for my tastes.

Any help that you guys can render would be much appreciated.


I can perhaps answer a little part of your question:
This illuminated manuscript from a work by John Skylitzes (11th century) shows Varangians armed and with helmets (according to wikipedia). The question is off course whether the manuscript depicts reality.


Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/03/Skylitzis_Chronicle_VARANGIAN_GUARD.jpg
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Fri 29 Apr, 2016 9:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

ok, time to tackle this one

http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chrisandpeter/...fences.htm this is a good source

as for gauntlets? the best bet you'd have is to just resign yourself to not having a historical thing to work with... and just accept theyre there for safety only...

there are some possibilities maybe, there is evidence of a late roman scale covered mitten of sorts , and some sort of wierd overlapping plate thing used by the sassanians... the other alternative is to make a simple design of leather plates overlapping over the knuckles with a thumb piece or under maille perhaps

you're best off just accepting that gauntlets are a compromise for safely and are not a representation of historical armour of the period...

in reality anyone prior to the 13th century has pretty much no options for hard material gauntlets but splints are a good idea for legs and arms, another option for the forarms is copious amounts of padding covered with maille possibly scales but i'm not sure if chiopsella were specified as being scaled or not
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

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PostPosted: Fri 29 Apr, 2016 10:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

to play it safe, i'd suggest essentially building up a kit as an anglo danish huskarl without any major imperial modifications except perhaps small additions to your personal jewelery or decorations on the weapons...


its easiest and most reliable to think of yourself who has been in the guard a short time only and probably has the armour he owned when he arrived in the capital...

one thing a varangian though would be able to change is being that the range of colours and fabric choices go way up due to the empires richness and the guards payroll , perhaps they wore a turban to keep wioth the byzantine fashions (conjecture on my part) and wore a ceremnial style cloak on courtly occasions

though seeing as how a person joining the guard needs a certain level of wealth (i think they need to pay a pound of gold to be allowed to join before being tested ) as such your level of clothing from back home is likely to be fairly good quality however as a varangian you might have a nice silk shirt and a cotton one instead of all linen and wool


as for more general gear, think of yourself as a anglo danish huskarl first, as such your clothing, armour and weapon would reflect that...

helm- as you said single piece nasel helm, (dont bother with the phrygian cap seeing as how its more of a 12th century deal, not to mention, as i noted above, if you're in the guard you have enough money to afford your own helmet so youd likely keep that instead)

sword- standard late viking sword, check the typology for what was available, but a type X with brazilnut pommel or tea cosy pommel are a safe bet...

(also, dont worry about pattern welded blades, theyre more of something of earlier centuries, by the 11th monosteel blades had become just as good as a pattern welded one and not being nearly as expensive

armour- maille, for the sake of comfort padding can be a thin gambeson or several layers of wool clothing under the maille standalone thick gambesons pretty much have no evidence of existing in the region at that time so in terms of pure historical accuracy a gambeson is non existant but it makes fighting more comfy so most people wear one anyways
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Fri 29 Apr, 2016 3:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Anglo-Danish Huscarl/Varangian Guard Equipment         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
This illuminated manuscript from a work by John Skylitzes (11th century) shows Varangians armed and with helmets (according to wikipedia). The question is off course whether the manuscript depicts reality.

They are not Varangians. There is only one likely image of a Varangian and he is depicted barchested.



We don't have the faintest idea what armour Varangians wore but mail is more likely than anything else.

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 2:17 am    Post subject: Re: Anglo-Danish Huscarl/Varangian Guard Equipment         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
This illuminated manuscript from a work by John Skylitzes (11th century) shows Varangians armed and with helmets (according to wikipedia). The question is off course whether the manuscript depicts reality.

They are not Varangians. There is only one likely image of a Varangian and he is depicted barchested.



We don't have the faintest idea what armour Varangians wore but mail is more likely than anything else.


Thanks for the correction Dan.
A bare chested image is interesting. I suppose it is the 2-handed Dane Axe that makes for the identification (and perhaps the sword as well)?
The big question is next whether it is reality OR a Roman/Byzantine "artistic/literary type" of the archetypical barbarian warrior fighting bare chested.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 3:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Doesn't matter. If he isn't a Varangian then my point still stands about us not knowing what armour they wore.
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 6:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Don't we have any description of theie equipment at Alexiad? I remember dimly her mentions them wearing armor during a mass at Hagia Sophia
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Henrik Zoltan Toth




Location: Hungary
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 6:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First piture here in the bottom:

http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=11667&highlight=
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 1:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We don't know which battle that is depicting.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 1:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
Don't we have any description of theie equipment at Alexiad? I remember dimly her mentions them wearing armor during a mass at Hagia Sophia

I can't recall anything like this but it would really help if she does describe Varangian equipment.

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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 3:11 pm    Post subject: Re: Anglo-Danish Huscarl/Varangian Guard Equipment         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
This illuminated manuscript from a work by John Skylitzes (11th century) shows Varangians armed and with helmets (according to wikipedia). The question is off course whether the manuscript depicts reality.


It's worth noting the Biblioteca Nacional de España assigns the manuscript a 12th century dating, and origin in Sicily. The armor related images have been cropped and saved on Manuscript Miniatures.
http://manuscriptminiatures.com/search/?manuscript=4203

I suspect the attribution of these soldiers as "Varangians" is based solely on the fact they are equipped with "Danish" axes.
http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4203/9938/
But what of this fellow?
http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4203/13418/

If any of you can translate the Greek rubricated captions of the picture, it might provide some clues.



 Attachment: 15.7 KB
BNE -Ax caption1.jpg


 Attachment: 9.36 KB
BNE -Ax caption2.jpg


 Attachment: 9.62 KB
BNE -Ax caption3.jpg


ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 10:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Anglo-Danish Huscarl/Varangian Guard Equipment         Reply with quote

Mart Shearer wrote:

But what of this fellow?
http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4203/13418/


I'm pretty sure that is depicting some legendary Biblical act as I've stumbled into a large number of images portraying essentially the same thing. Being familiar with the idea of axe wielders as shock troops the first time I found one I thought to myself "Whoah! Dane axes were used in siege warfare to open castle gates?!" but then I found way too many similar scenes across too many centuries. Still an interesting reference point though and clearly culturally significant.
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Sun 01 May, 2016 3:18 am    Post subject: Re: Anglo-Danish Huscarl/Varangian Guard Equipment         Reply with quote

Mike Ruhala wrote:
Mart Shearer wrote:

But what of this fellow?
http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4203/13418/


I'm pretty sure that is depicting some legendary Biblical act as I've stumbled into a large number of images portraying essentially the same thing. Being familiar with the idea of axe wielders as shock troops the first time I found one I thought to myself "Whoah! Dane axes were used in siege warfare to open castle gates?!" but then I found way too many similar scenes across too many centuries. Still an interesting reference point though and clearly culturally significant.


while it is later, napoleonic era sappers used axes for the sake of breaking down doors so not impossible but also not too likely seeing as how a daneaxe isnt really designed for breaking through timbers.... and for anything larger than a simple house door i;d imagine the imperial engineers would make battering rams
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Sun 01 May, 2016 4:11 am    Post subject: Re: Anglo-Danish Huscarl/Varangian Guard Equipment         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
This illuminated manuscript from a work by John Skylitzes (11th century) shows Varangians armed and with helmets (according to wikipedia). The question is off course whether the manuscript depicts reality.

They are not Varangians. There is only one likely image of a Varangian and he is depicted barchested.



We don't have the faintest idea what armour Varangians wore but mail is more likely than anything else.


in the early century of the gaurd i'd imagine theyd be armoured with whatever they came with, those without any armour at all (unusual considering the requirement to pay a couple of pounds of gold to jjust get in at all.....) would probably be subjected to any military manuals of the period, and the manuals state that the kavadion is the absolute basic armour for heavy infantry... aka the long body gambeson with sleeves either to the wrist or elbow 'as thick as can be stitched' with openings to allow soldiers to fold the sleeve back and button to the shoulder to increase movement when not fighting...
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Sebastian Goriesky




Location: Vinland
Joined: 17 Sep 2015

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PostPosted: Mon 15 Aug, 2016 2:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you all for your fantastic advice! I always appreciate assistance in bringing more accuracy to my reenactment
Away from his arms in the open field
A man should fare not a foot;
For never he knows when the need for a spear
Shall arise on the distant road.
-Havamal, Stanza 38
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 15 Aug, 2016 5:03 pm    Post subject: Re: Anglo-Danish Huscarl/Varangian Guard Equipment         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
in the early century of the gaurd i'd imagine theyd be armoured with whatever they came with, those without any armour at all (unusual considering the requirement to pay a couple of pounds of gold to jjust get in at all.....) would probably be subjected to any military manuals of the period, and the manuals state that the kavadion is the absolute basic armour for heavy infantry... aka the long body gambeson with sleeves either to the wrist or elbow 'as thick as can be stitched' with openings to allow soldiers to fold the sleeve back and button to the shoulder to increase movement when not fighting...

This might apply for regular troops. We know that Byzantine officers and anyone else with the means wore mail, preferably Frankish mail. Varangians were paid well enough to afford any kind of armour they wanted. Why would they settle on inferior armour when they could have mail?

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David Lewis Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 16 Aug, 2016 5:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Following for updates, I am woefully ignorant on this subject
David L Smith
MSG (RET)
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Wed 17 Aug, 2016 1:05 am    Post subject: Re: Anglo-Danish Huscarl/Varangian Guard Equipment         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
William P wrote:
in the early century of the gaurd i'd imagine theyd be armoured with whatever they came with, those without any armour at all (unusual considering the requirement to pay a couple of pounds of gold to jjust get in at all.....) would probably be subjected to any military manuals of the period, and the manuals state that the kavadion is the absolute basic armour for heavy infantry... aka the long body gambeson with sleeves either to the wrist or elbow 'as thick as can be stitched' with openings to allow soldiers to fold the sleeve back and button to the shoulder to increase movement when not fighting...

This might apply for regular troops. We know that Byzantine officers and anyone else with the means wore mail, preferably Frankish mail. Varangians were paid well enough to afford any kind of armour they wanted. Why would they settle on inferior armour when they could have mail?


ive done some more research into this recently, from what i understand, the varangians were part of the hetaroi and any applicant for the hetaroi had to provide a bounty of either 7, 10 or 16 pounds of gold for entry into the little, middle and great, companions (respectively)
the varangian guard i believe was actually part of the biggest one, the great companions, that means a bounty of 16 pounds of gold to just get in..

(most of this is apparently contained in constantine VII's manual 'the book of ceremonies'

i dont know how much a shirt of mail cost but i suspect someone capable of scrounging together that much cash probably had enough to buy a shirt of mail and a helmet back home in addition to also having a decent level of quality for their weapons.

and as you point out mail was so ubiquitous even among the imperial forces itself that they wouldnt see any need to add extra armour. cosidering that mail was perfectly fine for medium strength byzantine native cavalry as well, for heavy infantry to have all mail was probably pretty good level of protection.

lastly. from what i am told, it was PREFERABLE to keep the varangians looking as foreign as possible

The purpose was 'to make the point that everyone in the Known World knew of and owed allegiance to the Emperor.'

kinda like how the chinese had their ideas of being the superior central guardians of the world and therefore liked to emphasise the idea that everyone else thought they were the best thing on the planet
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Sebastian Goriesky




Location: Vinland
Joined: 17 Sep 2015

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PostPosted: Wed 17 Aug, 2016 6:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

New question. Scrounging about the internet for maille rings ('cause a finished hauberk is beyond my price range) I've found both flat cross section rings and round cross section rings. As both are dome rivets, is there one type that is more historically accurate for the Viking Age, or is it simply a fabrication created by two different modern production techniques.
Away from his arms in the open field
A man should fare not a foot;
For never he knows when the need for a spear
Shall arise on the distant road.
-Havamal, Stanza 38
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