Bruhn Hoffmeyer, Military Equipment in the Byzantine Manuscript of Skylitzes
Annotation author: Schoneveld, Katharina
Book author: Bruhn Hoffmeyer, Ada

Bruhn Hoffmeyer, Ada. Military Equipment in the Byzantine Manuscript of Skylitzes in Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, in: Gladius 5 (1966), 1-194.

Ada Bruhn Hoffmeyer (1910-1991) was a museum curator and archaeologist from Denmark. Her studies focused on ancient and medieval arms and armor, such as her doctoral thesis Medieval Double-Edged Sword (1954) and the survey Arms and Armour in Spain published in two volumes (1972 and 1981). Bruhn Hoffmeyer  and her husband were also the founders of a research center for studying ancient weapons in Denmark which moved to Spain in 1962, then known as the Instituto de Estudios sobre Armas Antiguas. This institute published the journal Gladius which focuses on military history, but especially the history and archaeology of military equipment.

The extensive article reviewed here was published in this journal and studies the military equipment visiblein the illustrations of the Madrid Skylitzes, a 12th century illustrated copy of the Synopsis Historion by the 11th-century historian John Skylitzes. The illustrations in this manuscript are considered to be a valuable image source for questions regarding military equipment. It offers one of the rare depictions of the hand siphon used to shoot Greek fire (Skylitzes Matritensis, fol. 34v; another depiction of this weapon can be found in the Parangelmata Poliorcetica, Vat. gr. 1605, fol. 36r), as well as rare depictions of Byzantine artillery.

The article first explains the context of the Skylitzes manuscript and then proceeds to give an overview on Byzantine warfare as it is portrayed in literature. Bruhn Hoffmeyer goes on the explain archaeological findings of Byzantine arms and armor and how the scarcity of material evidence .  makes paintings and illustrations an important source for such realia. The author then  analyzes several categories of military equipment and searches for examples in the illustrations of the Madrid Skylitzes. These are: armour of the heavy cavalry, equipment of the light cavalry, helmets, shields, Byzantine swords, hafted weapons, lances and javelins, artillery and pyrotechnics.

The author herself points out that she is a student of arms and armor and approaches the topic from this perspective instead of the perspective of a Byzantinist, philologist or historian. She doesn’t pretend that her survey is complete, but rather wishes it to serve as an outline for further research into Byzantine military equipment. As such it does really well.