The Byzantine ‘Hollow Square’ formation


By George E. Georgas

When the emperor of Eastern Roman Empire was the emperor Alexios Komnenos the first, at his battles against the Seljuk Turks to reclaim the lands that the empire lost from the invasion of the Seljuk, he orders his armies to use a type of the ‘square’ formation!

Emperor Alexios wants to secure the civilians from the Turks horsemen. So he ordered his commanders to form ‘squares’ and secure the civilians inside them. With this formation the Roman soldiers bring the civilians of Minor Asia to a secure place at the West coast.

This formation called ‘Hollow Square’. At the centre were the civilians and at the sides there were phalanxes of foot soldiers.
A similar type of ‘square’ formation can be found in the ‘Tactica’ of the emperor Leon the wise. Emperor Leon calls it ‘Various Formation’ but it was not exactly the same as the ‘Hollow Square’.

We have it also something like that at the manual of Ailinaos of 2nd century AD. Ailianos suggest in his manual that if the army attacked from every side, then the commander must use the ‘Four Phalanx’.
Many aeons after the Alexios ‘s ‘Square’ formation, the Spanish “Tercios” of the 16th century and also was used by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington at the battle of Waterloo to keep off the French cavalry.

But in first time in all history the Greek emperor Alexios the first used ‘Square’ formation to protect civilians from the enemies’ horsemen and the horse archers.


-‘Alexias’ of Anna Komnini

-Tactica of Emperor Leon the Wise

-Claudii Aeliani Epistulae et fragmenta

-Grant, Charles (1972), Royal Scots Greys (Men-at-Arms), Osprey, ISBN 0-85045-059-4

-Weller, J. (1992), Wellington at Waterloo, London: Greenhill Books, ISBN 1-85367-109-6

-Christon I. Archer, John R. Ferris, Holger H. Herwig, Timothy H. E. Travers – For a history of Spanish arms in the 16th and 17th centuries.


2 thoughts on “The Byzantine ‘Hollow Square’ formation

    • Wrong. Byzantines never exist. Roman was the official name of state. Romania the state. the title of the emperor was king of the Romans but all of them has Hellenic tradition, culture, language. They were the medieval Greeks.


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