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The Betrayal, Balleq Kilise, Cappadocia, Byzantine, 11th Century.

Fig. 5. The Betrayal, Balleq Kilise, Cappadocia, detail,
second half of the 11th c., ex Jerphanion

Fig. 4. The Betrayal, Balleq Kilise, Cappadocia, detail,
second half of the 11th c., ex Jerphanion

    The civil police duties in Vyzantion was a task performed also by the Guard. They were particularly disliked as alien “enforcers” of the imperial policies or commands. Their ultimate loyalty to the Emperor also made them especially useful in performing risky and delicate tasks such as arresting or imprisoning people of high religious or aristocratic rank, who could instead work on sympathies existing in native troops.19 For this reason they were also deputed to the surveillance of some people in jail, especially in the Nóumera, the prison attached to the Great Palace, having received for this reason a terrible reputation.20 There is an interesting link between the iconography and the written sources about this point, noted by Peter Beatson.21 The Varangians are often illustrated in paintings or mosaics representing the Betrayal. Why would Varangians make good models for this rather disreputable detachment? The role of Varangian guardsmen (outside of the theatre of war) became that of enforcers and prison guards. So, Michael Glykas wrote this poem (from personal experience) in the 12th c:

Hades I call the Numera, and even worse than Hades,
For in its horror it surpasses even Hades.
In this murky and most deep dungeon
There is no light to the eyes, nor any conversation,
For the constant smoke, and the thickness of the darkness
Suffer us not to see or recognise each other.
But bonds and tortures, and guards and towers
And the shouting Varangoi; and terror keeps you awake...

    This element can supply an interesting linking between the iconography and the written sources, and help us identify the physical aspect and the military gear of the Varangians. Again, in the representation of the Betrayal in the Balleq Kilissé, in Kappadokia (the second half of the 11th c.), we have other “Varangians” at Gethsemane: imperial guardsmen dressed in rich Skaramangia and holding the fearsome Danish axes in their hands or leaned on their shoulders (Figs. 4–5).

pp72-74, Raffaele d'Amato The Betrayal: Military Iconography and Archaeology In The Byzantine Paintings Of The 11th-15th C. AD Representing The Arrest Of Our Lord

See also Varangian Guard(?) in The Betrayal, Panaghia Chrysafitissa, Laconia, Greece, Byzantine, 1289AD
Other Byzantine Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
11th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers

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