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Military strategy at Kleidion

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Varangian View Drop Down
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Joined: 22-Nov-2014
Location: Midwestern USA
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  Quote Varangian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Military strategy at Kleidion
    Posted: 07-Apr-2019 at 12:15
Hi, I've been on here a long time ago and amazingly still have my login info. The question I want to throw out to members here for their help on I have been stewing over for some time. I am on my second historical novel in a trilogy set in the Byzantine Empire, so I am not a newbie on research and consulting primary sources, but on this I am coming up dry. I can find only the most basic of information regarding the famous battle of Kleidion. It is not a central part of my story, but because it is so famous, I want to get it right. I am sure there are threads regarding this topic, but my question is very specific. I know that the sources tells us Basil conducted a direct assault on the Bulgarians' palisade across the Strumica Valley. But there is no indication how this assault was made.

 I ruled out battering rams, as those do not seem to be effective against a barrier shored up behind with earthworks. I compared the range of weapons such as the helepolis or the mangonel or even the ballista with the common compound bow of the time and also considered the use of fire on something made of wood (also considering that the Bulgarians may have thought of this and used animal hides soaked in urine or vinegar to protect against flaming assaults). Mining also seems unlikely. I know that the Bulgarians were holed up in a narrow pass and so have the advantage, but it still doesn't answer questions on how Basil was at first so easily repulsed until he hit upon the idea of flanking them in teh style of the Persians at Thermopylae.  Why could he not have simply launched fire with the use of trebuchet aka helepolis at the Bulgarians and taken down their wooden palisade that way. Why were his losses so heavy? Would the Bulgarians have stayed behind their fortifications or would they have engaged in any hand to hand combat in front? 

There is so little information and I am trying to reconstruct the events as best I can with the knowledge I have of warfare at the time. I am frustrated because I feel there is something I am missing. I'm not even getting into the whole debate of how many soldiers Basil supposedly blinded. That is a separate issue.

In a nutshell, I just want the opinions of others who may have seen something I have not on the exact nature of Basil's initial assault on a palisade of this sort. He must have been confident at first he could take it down, because he was not a man to take risks and was a cagey cautious military leader.
A general should never have to say 'I did not expect it.' ~ Strategikon
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