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Medieval Armies

Beattie's Pechenegs
Bob Beattie's DBA Pechenegs

Pecheneg (850-1122 AD)
(DBA 109)

Known to the Byzantines as the Patzinaks and also occasionally referred to as "Scyths," the Pechenegs were a prominent Turkic horse tribe (possibly an offshoot of the Ghuzz). In his Armies of the Dark Ages (1st Edition), Ian Heath notes that the Pechenegs consisted of 8 hordes and 40 clans, and were the first Asiatic horse tribe to utilize their wagons tactically in battle.

The Pecheneg DBA list begins in the mid 9th century, at a time when the Khazars were slowly losing control over the central Asian steppes. The Pechenegs took advantage, moving west through Khazar territory to occupy the Russian steppes in an area stretching from the Crimea to the Caspian Sea. From this new homeland, the Pechenegs fought with their immediate neighbors, the Khazars and Ghuzz in the east and the Magyars and Bulgars to the west. They also took advantage of their position astride the Varangian trade route to Constantinople to raid both Russ and Byzantium. When not raiding, they were also known to hire themselves out to the Byzantines as mercenaries.

The end of the 9th century found the Pechenegs allied with Tsar Simeon of the Early Bulgars, who they assisted in driving the Magyars into modern day Hungary and forcing the Byzantine Empire to pay a humiliating annual tribute. The Pechenegs raided the Empire's Balkan territories in 1033, 1036, and almost continuously from 1048 to 1053. A joint Pecheneg-Hungarian raid was repulsed by Isaac I in 1059 AD. After the disaster at Manzikert in 1071 AD, the Byzantines recruited large numbers of Pecheneg cavalry into service as mercenaries, forming a standing regiment known as the "Skythikon." In 1091 AD, Emperor Alexios I Komnenos enlisted the aid of the Cumans to stop Pecheneg incursions. The Cumans pushed the Pechenegs across the Danube into Wallachia, and occupied their Crimean territory.

The list continues until 1122 AD, when the invading Pechenegs were decisively defeated by the Byzantines in Bulgaria at the battle of Eski Zagra. At Eski Zagra the Varangian Guard and mercenary knights led by John II Comnenus broke into the Pecheneg wagon-laager and committed wholesale slaughter on the Pechenegs and their dependants. They did not entirely disappear at that point; many captives were forceably resettled in military colonies in Thrace and Macedonia; Pecheneg mercenaries are recorded in Byzantine service as late as 1139 AD; and the remaining Pechenegs were apparently absorbed by the Cumans.

In the WRG 6th edition army lists (1982), Phil Barker notes that the Pechenegs were once asked by the Byzantine Emperor to attack the Seljuk Turks. The Pecheneg leader replied politely that since the the Turks were both numerous and fierce, they did not wish to do this, and furthermore, they hoped the Byzantine emperor would be so tactful as to never mention the matter again.

Composition

1 x 3Cavalry
8 x 2Light Horse
3 x 2Light Horse or
War Wagons or Psiloi

Enemies

The Pecheneg found themselves in conflict with the Early Bulgar (#87), Slav (#89), Khazar (#93), Ghuzz (#94), Thematic Byzantine (#99), Magyar (#107), Russ (#108), Nikephorian Byzantine (#117), Early Hungarian (#119), Cuman (#130), and Comnenan Byzantine (#133).

Tactics

Highly mobile but equipped with a powerful punch in the form of three optional War Wagons, the Pechenegs are one of the more versatile Light Horse armies. Since there is relatively little available to their foes that can hurt the Pecheneg War Wagons, your opponents will spend most of their time avoiding them. Unless you are creative in your use of the War Wagons, the burden necessarily falls on the Pecheneg Light Horse, which is hardly intimidating to armies that are similar composed such as the Ghuzz, Magyars, and Cumans, and especially not to the heavier Khazar and Byzantines with their cavalry and/or steady foot. Mastery of Light Horse tactics of movement, flanking, and overlaps is a must.

Camp

The typical Pecheneg camp would be a wagon laager or encampment of nomadic tents. The Pechenegs have the option, however, of forgoing a camp altogether by opting for at least two War Wagons. Pecheneg wagons had high wooden sides pierced to allow archery.

Painting Tips

Forthcoming

Figure Sources

Essex sells Pecheneg 15mm DBA army packs and miniatures. Essex builds the army using their generic Asiatic Hordes range (HSA13, HSA6, HSA5, HSA2, HSA4, HSA12, and HSA7). The Essex pack does not include War Wagons.

Irregular offers some generic Asiatic Light Horse and tented nomadic wagons in 15mm, as well as a Pecheneg army pack (AP36) of uncertain composition. In 6mm, they have generic "Turkic" horse archers and heavy cavalry, as well as Asiatic tent covered wagons.

Gladiator (15mm) has Cuman (FE16) and Lithuanian (FE14) Light Horse that could be pressed into service for variety. If 25mm is your scale, Old Glory offers Pechenegs and Wagon Laager Defenders as well as other Asiatic horsemen and Slavs in its Dark Ages range.

Although not listed in their on-line catalog, Museum Miniatures apparently offers a 15mm horse-drawn Pecheneg War Wagon (WG18) with spoked wheels and wooden sides slotted for arrow fire. These are the wagons shown in the picture above and in this shot by Bob Beattie of the unassembled kit.

Drop me a note if there are other Pecheneg or suitable Asiatic horse figures you can recommend, and particularly if you can suggest a suitable War Wagon model for the Pechenegs.

Other Resources

I could find nothing on-line or currently in print featuring Pechenegs and their history in any detail and welcome your suggestions. There is a brief description in Ian Health's Armies of the Dark Ages (WRG). Even briefer Pecheneg references can usually be found on pages featuring Byzantine or Bulgarian/Hungarian history.

From the De Bellis Bookstore, you'll find a few references in Attila and the Nomad Hordes : Warfare on the Eurasian Steppes 4th-12th Centuries (Elite Series 30), by David Nicolle. (Osprey, Sept. 1998). 64 pages, softcover.

For a good general history of the Asiatic horse tribes, you might also check out The Empire of the Steppes : A History of Central Asia, by Rene Grousset (Rutgers, Jan. 1988).

Check out Bob Beattie's Pecheneg army.

Other Input

David Kuijt: I've got a mix of Essex HSA5 (Pechenegs) and Gladiator AN (Asian Nomad) and FE codes. The AN command figs include a fur-capped guy holding a horsetail banner that is perfect for any of the pagan Turks (Pechenegs, Cumans) and probably for many of the other steppe dudes too (Volga Bulgars, Khazars, Alans?). For the LH, I've got a mix of Essex HSA5 and Gladiator horsebow (AN and FE ranges) -- pictures of the painted figs are on my website)

For the Pecheneg nobles, I use a mix of the regular LH figs and some armoured dudes; AN2 or AN3 from Gladiator. The Cuman Jav/Shield FE16 fig would be good too in that role. Then the horsetail banner from AN1/AN4.

The only problem with the Essex HSA5 figs is that they are all firing sideways; this makes fitting them three to a base problematic unless you are depicting a mass murder/suicide by your whole army (shades of "Life of Brian"). It looks like Essex HSA6 would be a nice Pecheneg noble figure. HSA13 (Essex Cmd set for Asiatic Horse Nomads) looks good for CV, too. Scans or pics of almost all the Essex HSA codes are on my website.

The best fig I've found for the Pecheneg WWg is Irregular AS29, and it is really excellent. An image is on my 15mm review website (in the links section of the club). Note that the base looks a little odd because I hadn't put the horses on yet. I bought another wagon from Gladiator (EQ9) which had a truly excellent pair of horses, so I got some more and put them on the Irregular wagon as well. Since the horses were Gladiator, I took the picture of AS29 "before" adding the horses. Here is the same warwagon with the Gladiator horses.

If you want a look at the Gladiator EQ9 wagon, it is also on my website. Note that the wheels on the EQ9 picture are NOT the ones that came with EQ9; they are Irregular AS29 wheels. I swapped the EQ9 wheels with another Irregular wagon to get the maximum variation between the three wagons. The EQ9 wagon will not fit on a 40mm deep base; I used 60mm deep bases for all three wagons (although I probably could have gotten the AS29's on a 40mm deep base).

Kevin Donovan: Ian Heath describes them as "stocky, olive skinned and ugly, with long black hair that in battle was often worn in a pigtail stuffed under their caps or helmets" (Armies of Feudal Europe, 1066-1300, p 124).

He also describes them as wearing "boots, trousers, a long under-tunic split at the front for riding, a kaftan, a short over-tunic and a cloak. Materials used were cheifly wool, brocade, fur, lnen, silk and leather, of which the colours embroidery and trim (often fur) depnded on the wealth and social status of the wearer. The cloak was generally of fur in winter, otherwise of thick wool. Fur trimmed felt or woolen caps ... were also worn." Armor included "scale, mail, lamellar, leather and quilted fabrics." "Shields were generally small and circular, of wood leather or osiers." They used whips tied around their wrist instead of spurs. (AFE, p. 127 & 129).

A Pecheneg is illustrated in a studded leather kaftan although trimmed in fur around the wrists and brocade along the waist. He has a bow and spear, no shield, a helmet with mail evential with a piece of metal for nose protection. Another Pecheneg helmet is more rounded and consists of solid metal protection from th cheeks up (with eye wholes) and mail protection for the lower face. A related Cuman helmet is pointy and solid above the ears, up with a solid metal face mask, and mail protecting the ears and neck. (AFE, p. 127)


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Last Updated: Jan. 8, 2001

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