The elite character of the Varangian Guard, providing the commander with the widest tactical possibilities, allowed to use it in battle in various variations - depending on the prevailing situation.
In 1081, at the Battle of Dyrrachia, Warangs were built on the 2 line, being at the forefront of the flank of the Byzantine army. Anna Komnina recalled how her father, Alexei I Komneny, moved the Vikings, headed by their commander Nambit, at a small distance ahead of the order of the advancing Byzantine units. This deployment is an example of an interesting tactical maneuver Alexei Comnenus. In the 1022 battle at Shegfe, the Varangians, also leading the attack, turned the Georgians to flight.
Very often, Varang was the basis of the army's combat order - implementing the basic function of heavy infantry. She performed this task in 1019 in the victorious battle of Cannes, in the battle of 1167 in Sirmium and many others.
Varanga was a reserve (often the last) in the hands of the commander. Thus, in the battle of Drastara, a reserve was formed from the Varangians, concentrated behind the heavy infantry of the Latin mercenaries. Thus, three “hares” were “killed” at once — the center of the battle formation intensified, the less reliable units of the Byzantine army were maintained and the wagon train was protected. This circumstance explains the fact that Bulgarian archaeologists found the remains of the Varangian weapons and armor.
An important task of the Varangian Guard was to protect the sovereign when he was in the army. This function was realized even in a hopeless situation - for example, during the battles of Manzikert and Miriokefale.
For protection and armament, the Varangian Guard was an excellent heavy infantry. The combat tactics of Varangi also correspond to this fact - for example, Anna Comnina noted her close formation in the battle of Dirrahii. The main fighting system of Varanga was the phalanx - the so-called. A “wall of shields” consisting of 5 and more rows. This system was particularly effective in defense. In the usual situation, the Wall of Shields could successfully withstand the attack of enemy cavalry — even a heavy one. In order to disorganize such a battle formation, the enemy brought down a hail of arrows and darts on the defending dense infantry formation. Shelling led light infantry of the enemy - as, for example, in the battle of Dirrahii.
The more close the line was, the more chances there were, both for the warrior and for the unit, to survive under the conditions of tactics and weapons used at that time. Sources portray the Vikings, who stood closely to each other - the shields of neighbors overlap by almost half (that is, there was no more than half a meter on the warrior). But such a dense system (its density was often such that it did not allow to fall killed) was kept only in the course of rapprochement with the enemy - taking a shield of darts and arrows on the shields. Having come close to the enemy, in order to wield axes and other weapons, the structure of the warangs became freer.
Fighters of the Varangian Guard since the appearance of their units have been accustomed to acting in a single system and strict discipline. This school of the Varanga was held under the leadership of the emperor-warrior - the stern Vasily II of Bulgaria. As the source noted, entering the battle, the emperor Basil, according to the rules of Byzantine tactics, squeezed the ranks of his army, as if enclosing it with a wall, closed the infantry with cavalry, light infantry with heavy ("hoplites"). Nobody was allowed to break the line. Even strong and remote warriors who won, but at the same time, contrary to orders, entered into battle with the enemy, were not honored with awards, but, on the contrary, were punished. The unbreakable military structure of Basil II considered the main guarantee of victory - he believed that only thanks to him was the Romanian army insurmountable. And when the warriors, dissatisfied with these strictness, grumbled and even sometimes insulted the basil, Basil calmly endured their mockery, reasonably and complacently replied: “You see, we would never end the war otherwise” [Psellos M. Decree. cit. C. 18].
Used dense system and the occupation of a circular defense. That is how Harald’s warriors lined up at the Battle of Stamford Bridge: “several rows in a long line - so that the flanks were touching”. Of course, Hardrada in the course of his combat career could use this construction in other conditions.
In carrying out the attack, Varangu was distinguished by a fierce first onslaught - in movement, the Varangian phalanx resembled a “steamroller”. Option phalanx, designed to attack - building a wedge or pig nose (svynfylking). There were two warriors in the 1 range of the wedge, three in the 2, five in the 3, and so on. The phalanx could line up in the form of a single wedge or several wedges (united by common rear rows). In the latter case, the first line of the wedge resembled the saw teeth. The construction made it possible to vary the area of application of maximum efforts and expose the best warriors to the point of impact.
But at close range the phalanx was vulnerable to shooters - especially from the flank and rear. It was difficult to fight against the cavalry.
The Battle of Dyrrachia, despite its result, serves as an illustration of the excellent tactical skills of the Warangas: when Emperor Alexey advanced archers to fire at the Normans of Guiscar, he ordered the Varangians to step back and forth and skip the shooters, and then close the ranks and start moving forward - after how the archers will go back through their line [Komnina A. Decree. cit. C. 150]. T. o. Varanga was capable of reconfiguration and tactical maneuvers of various levels of complexity.
As the elite infantry of Varang was used in large-scale battles, in special operations, local hostilities. The small units of the Varangian Guard, which were solving local tactical tasks, were used in Bulgaria, and since 1034 (arrival of Harald), its fighters effectively acted on the sea and carried out police functions in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the sea battle, the Varangians acted as follows. Lining up opposite each other, the ships grappled with each other, and the boarding battle began. But before you start melee combat, the enemy crumbled with a hail of arrows and darts. In order to avoid casualties at this stage of the battle, free warriors covered the rowers with shields. Before the collision with the warriors of the enemy, the Varyag shields were closed so tightly that there was “no crack” between the latter.
A senior army officer and veteran of the Sicilian campaign of Byzantium K. Kekavmen separated the infantry units consisting of the Rus and the Varangian detachments performing the tasks of the marines. The latter conducted amphibious operations, lightning raids, landed mobile groups in the bay and on the beaches.
Varangians and siege actions were effectively conducted. In this regard, the Harald fighters especially distinguished themselves in Sicily. Sources point out that in 1035 the Varangs took the Armenian fort of Berkri, and in 1068 they took the citadel of Hirapolis. The campaign of Emperor John II Comnenus in Asia Minor led to the taking of 30 fortresses and cities - and much of the credit for achieving this result belonged to the warrior sappers.
The traditional quality of the Varyags was mobility. Although they were not natural horsemen, they actively used captured horses. One of the features of the Varangian Guard was increased operational mobility - due to the use of trophy horse (For more details, see the articles on the battle route of Varangi.). But the Vikings used horses only for movement - and before the fight they dismounted. T. o. Varanga is a driving infantry, the prototype of the driving infantry of the New Time - dragoons. Indeed, under the dragoons initially just understood infantry, temporarily, to solve the relevant tasks, mounted on horses. Arriving at the battlefield on horseback, the dragoons initially dismounted for the fight. By the way, the name "dragoon" is derived from the term "dragon" - the already mentioned cavalry standard. An interesting analogy again arises. In some cases, the lizards also arrived at their destination on horseback — in order to give the enemy a decisive battle at the right moment. A vivid illustration is the 1000 campaign of the year.
The scheme of action of Varangi in a field battle was as follows.
In a defensive battle, the Varangian phalanx in the form of the “Wall of Shields” was the basis of the military construction of the Byzantine army. The “wall of shields” made it possible to resist the enemy’s rifle attack, as well as to act with a spear or sword. If necessary, such a system could take and all-round defense.
The image of the Varyag. Carving on ivory box. Shows the total length of the ax - equal to human growth.
In the offensive battle of the phalanx (under the cover of shield protection) metal spears to the enemy and (or) moved to the last - in order to engage in close combat. If a shield remained in the warrior’s hand, the varang acted with a sword or with a spear, or (which is much more effective) the shield was thrown backwards, and the fighter was wielding an ax. The system had the shape of a geometric shape (and during the rapid attack a wedge was most often used).
In field combat, Varang solved various tasks — was a private or general reserve (under Draster and Eski-Zagre), implemented a strike function (under Shegfe and Dyrrahii), and was the basis of battle order (under Sirmio and Cannes). It manifested itself during sieges, in the defense of fortresses and cities, acting as a marines.
Thus, the Byzantine Varang is a universal mobile heavy infantry, which, if necessary, could also solve special tasks.