Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The role of Marshal de Saxe in the creation of New Byzantium

(Picture - de Saxe's original design for the New Byzantine Legion formation)

Between the ending of the War of the Polish Succession and the beginning of the War of Austrian Succession, the New Byzantine leadership solicited the advice of Maurice de Saxe (later to become Marshal of France) in the off-campaigning seasons to build their new army. Being a man of great talent but expensive habits, the Byzantine money came in very handy.

It was he who organised the fledgling army, and although his Reveries on the Art of War oddly fail to mention his time in Byzantium, the results are there for all to see - de Saxe took back with him what he had learned from his work in New Byzantium and later formed a Free Corps of light cavalry that looked almost the same as the Byzantine ones that had been formed under his guidance, to the extent of copying their classically inspired helmets and even their kontos lances.

De Saxe's views on the formation of the Legion are not theoretical, much of the organisation and practice was carried out in the Legions of New Byzantium, though the back 2 ranks of half pikes was found in practice*  to be less useful than extra firepower and the provision of helmets was felt to be too costly except for the heavy (and Guard) cavalry, wherefrom the classical helmet now used across Europe comes. His designs of flags for the legions were only adopted in small parts, use of classic Byzantine heraldtry being preffered, though the mainly muslim Gianitzaroi adopted his crescent moon design as their own. Also his "amusette" light gun that he "invented" was just picked up from the use of light Turkish pieces by the Legions of New Byzantium. 

Also, his ideas on heavy cavalry were based on his experience in transforming the original New Byzantine sipahi style heavy cavalry into a formidable Guard force, the Scholae. When he wrote in his Reveries that he could not see why cavalry should not be heavily armoured, carry lances and charge, and that he had invented a form of lamellar armour he was not joking - he had taken all these ideas from the Turko-Byzantine tradition and applied them to the Scholae - in fact he hadn't "invented" his armour, it was a straight copy of the eastern lamellar armour that the Scholae now use.

de Saxe came back in the winter of 1749-50 to oversee his work, and in fact re-wrote quite a bit of his Reveries while in New Byzantium. (Some say he wrote the book under the influence of opium - the Palace cannot comment, but notes that there are many opportunities to have a Good Time in New Byzantium and that)

* Except in the fantasy game of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, but that as we all know is an unreal Imagi-Nation and not the reality of New Byzantium :D


  1. A very subtle and enjoyable use of a perfectly 'historical' book (well, a kind of '18th C. Sci-Fi', actually)!
    Now, I guess 'French' troops cannot moonlight as Scholae as depicted?

    A blog is so handy to post illustrations...

    By the way, do you know of the 'Emperor vs Elector ' "collective / diplomatic" blog (actually a board for members of thus 'League of Lace Wars Imagi-Nations' to post 'flashnews' linked to their own blog): you will receive a warm welcome there.


  2. @ abdul...yes, it was Jeff who got me to blog - I have arranged to join it.

    The similarity between the Scholae armour and earlier Byzantine armour has been noticed by a number of observers ;-)

    Re Pictures - will be provided as reflagging / painting occurs. At the end of every month there is a changing of the Guard at the Palace, our correspondent is hoping to get some good daguerrotypes :-)