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Scandinavians were frightening both in appearance and in equipment, they attacked with reckless rage and neither cared about losing blood nor their wounds.
— Byzantine chroniclers

The Varangian Guard were personal bodyguards of Byzantine Emperors for the majority of the Dark Ages. Mostly hailing from Anglo-Saxon England and Scandinavia, these mercenaries served as both bodyguards and occasional shock troops used by the Byzantines. Originally formed in 988 by Emperor Basil II, these troops were chosen to be his personal bodyguards because of their nearly unwavering loyalty to him.

It wasn't until after William the Conqueror's invasion of Anglo-Saxon England that the Varangians began recruiting from the men from those regions as well. The Varangians were very prominent in the defence of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, and were key in the Battle of Beroia for Byzantine victory. The last historical mention of these axe-wielding mercenaries was in 1400 in Constantinople. The primary role of the Varangians was as bodyguards, performing ceremonial duties and police work in affairs of treason and conspiracy. When utilized on the battlefield, however, their elite status, coupled with their expensive arms and quality armor, made them a fearsome foe to face. 

Battle vs. Praetorian Guard (by El Alamein)

Varangian Guard: Brown.pngBrown.pngBrown.pngBrown.pngBrown.png

Praetorian Guard: Purple.pngPurple.pngPurple.pngPurple.pngPurple.png

The sun shimmers beneath a lively fountain that bubbles in the gardens of the Emperor's palace in Rome. The Emperor himself walks, at ease, part of his toga draped over his arm, as he strolls with two of his Praetorian guardsmen. As the men converse in the palace grounds, three figures watch, crouched, hidden in the foliage that lines the neatly-paved walkway snaking through the garden. They carry large swords and axes, bulky and intimidating in their size, but well-situated to remain camouflaged until they choose the moment to strike. With bated breath and nervous, darting eyes, the Varangian guardsmen lying in preparation for ambush tightly grip their weapons and tense up, ready to strike viciously and decisively at a moment's notice. One of the Praetorian guards walking with the Emperor makes a second glance in their direction as he spots a rustle in the bushes and a glint of what appears to be reflected sunlight poking through - as if off a metal surface - but he dismisses it once the glimmer disappears.

Relations have soured between the Eastern and Western spheres of influence of the Roman Empire, as the Byzantine Emperor has slowly manipulated the benefit of geographic separation to grant greater autonomy to the Eastern half. The Roman Emperor is strained, facing threats from barbarians approaching from the north, and finds himself highly agitated by the difficulties presented by the Byzantine upstart. He has dispatched a small group of some of his most trusted Praetorian guardsmen to assassinate the Eastern Roman Emperor in an attempt to quell Byzantine spirits, confident in his men thanks to their training and elite status. Little does he know, however, that the Byzantine Emperor has done the same with a squad of Varangian guardsmen.

The Byzantine Emperor reclines comfortably in the safety of his room, one lone Varangian guard posted outside. One other Viking guard sits, idly scraping a rock along the tip of his spear, in the Emperor's room on a plush chair in the corner, partially concealed by a swath of curtains arcing elegantly over an open window, filtering the late-afternoon sunlight that streams in with a reddish purple hue. Out in the hall, the Varangian guard stands at watch with his sword sheathed and shield strapped to his elbow. He leans lazily, almost nodding off, but snaps at attention when he hears footsteps approaching from down the corridor. Three figures in full Roman battle gear boldly approach, the lead figure proudly holding the Roman standard to signify his position. "We seek audience with the Emperor," the Roman proclaims.

"The Emperor is retired for the day," the Varangian guardsmen warily responds, lowering his free arm toward his sword's hilt. "You may make your visit another time."

"You do not understand," the Roman insists, pressing closer. "We have a message from the Western Roman Empire."

"If it is so important, perhaps you could deliver the message to me, so that I may relay it to the Emperor," the Varangian says, stepping forward to intimidate the smaller Roman.

"Very well," the Praetorian guard answers as he drops the Roman standard, whipping out his gladius lightning-fast and burying the blade into the Varangian guard's chest. Brown.png The burly Viking splutters blood and crumples as the Praetorian guardsman savagely twists the blade before ripping it out. Turning, he nods at his two companions, who advance, spears extended, scutum shields up, and approach the door.

***

The Roman Emperor has entered a particularly shady area of the garden, which offers a refreshing cool from the heat of the day. The Varangians look on as their target approaches - but one of the Praetorians moves to stand between the assassins and their target as the men stop to talk. The Varangian captain nods at one of his subordinates, and the soldier creeps forward, pushing a frond aside as he wraps his arm around the mouth of the closest Praetorian soldier and slashes at his throat with his short sword, sending forth a fountain of blood that splatters the horrified Roman Emperor's face. Purple.png Throwing the body to the ground, the Varangian advances as his fellow assassins emerge from the garden's bushes, brandishing axes and spears with murder in their eyes. The Roman Emperor scrambles behind his bodyguard as the Praetorian soldier raises his scutum and rushes forward, slamming the shield fiercely into the Varangian, stunning the Viking. The Praetorian follows up with a downward hack from his gladius that nicks off the Varangian's chainmail but opens a painful laceration on his neck. Gasping in shock and pain, the Varangian drops his bloodied sword and falls to his knees, his hands plastered desperately across his wound. The Praetorian holds his shield up, deflecting a wild blow from one of the other Varangians, before he finishes off his injured foe with a stab directly to the face, slicing through the thickest portion of his nose and into the base of his brain. Brown.png The sword gets stuck, though, and as the dead Viking keels over backward he takes the gladius with him. The Praetorian takes a knee and absorbs another hit from the Varangian's dane axe as he reaches down to pick up his fallen ally's hasta spear.

***

Back in the Byzantine capital, the Byzantine Emperor looks up, startled, as three armed men burst into his room. "We bring a message from the West!" shouts the standard-bearer. "A message of - " He flies backward, cut off in mid sentence, with a massive spear embedded into his torso. He crashes into the wall, bringing down a portrait as he slides lifelessly to the floor, leaving a thin smear of red on the wall behind him. Purple.png On the other side of the room, near the window, stands the Varangian guard, who readies another spear. He hurls it ferociously, but the Roman assassins knock the projectile aside with their shields. The Byzantine Emperor scrambles to his open window and begins to climb out as the Varangian guard unsheaths his Spathi sword and confronts his Emperor's attackers. The lead Praetorian guardsman approaches with his Hasta, making an early jab at the Varangian that is easily dodged. The Varangian slashes with his sword at the tip of the spear, attempting to break it off, but the Roman swings the spear sideways, making a superficial cut on the Viking warrior's leg. Spurred on by a battle fury, the Varangian guardsman avoids a follow-up attack and makes a violent kick on the Roman's shield, sending him stumbling back into his companion. Taking advantage of the temporary break in fighting, the Varangian spins back to his chair by the window and picks up his round shield, spinning back to face his attackers and flinging the shield at the Romans. The Praetorian guardsman ducks and the shield bounces off the scutum and clatters to the floor by the Emperor's bed, but by the time the Roman has recovered the Varangian has already leaped on top of his shield in a battle fury, unleashing a dizzying barrage of fierce blows that send the Praetorian guardsman to his knees. The Roman offers weak resistance with a feeble poke around his shield with the gladius, but the Varangian knocks aside the sword. He turns to face the other Praetorian, who has by now maneuvered to the Viking's flank, and batters aside a thrust from the spear, splintering the wooden handle and breaking the tip. The disarmed Praetorian scrambles to his feet while the one with the spear pushes the blunted tip into the Varangian's stomach, ramming him into the wall.

***

The Varangian attackers in the Roman Emperor's garden have been pushed back as the lone Praetorian defender of the Emperor has held his own behind his scutum shield. The shield is in a bad state, though, and has been severely dented after receiving punishing blows from the Varangian attackers' Dane axes. Still, the Viking assassins have grown fatigued by the constant fighting, and have lowered their axes and unsheathed their swords as they circle the Praetorian soldier, attempting to find a way around his shield. Looking nervously back and forth, the Praetorian sees as one of the Varangians breaks left while the other charges head-on. Making a quick decision, the Roman meets the Viking's charge with an approach of his own, ensuring that the Varangian soldier runs right into his spearpoint - a forceful encounter that tears through the Varangian's chaimail and skewers him through the midsection. Brown.png He tries to slide the dead body off of the spear shaft, but it stays stuck. The Praetorian gives up and turns just in time to ram his final opponent with his scutum. The Varangian backs up and glowers at his foe, twirling his sword before making one final, bold charge. Placing a foot on the slanted surface of the battered scutum, the Viking leaps up and lands behind the Praetorian soldier.

***

The Praetorian with the broken spear struggles to keep his opponent pinned while his comrade drops the scutum and makes for the window to follow the Byzantine Emperor. As the Roman disappears out the open window, the Varangian gives one final effort and pushes his Praetorian attacker back, pulling the broken spear out of his hands in the process. As the Praetorian guardsman stoops to get a firm grip on his sword, the Varangian swings the broken hasta and cracks his attacker on the head, knocking his helmet off. The Praetorian guardsman falls to the ground, blood trickling from his hairline down his forehead. The Varangian guardsman raises the hasta with two hands over his head and brings the broken weapon down onto the Praetorian's back, splitting his spine in two with the force of the blow and cracking the spear shaft further. Purple.png He gives the fallen Roman one final kick to the skull before scooping his spathi up and diving out the window, scrambling onto the tiled roof and spotting the last Praetorian attacker cornering the Emperor by an empty guard tower. Roaring to the skies, the Varangian bypasses the ladder and leaps the fifteen feet to the ground, rolling on the landing without breaking stride, and jumping to his feet directly into a sprint as the terrified Praetorian looks from the Emperor to the Varangian rapidly approaching. Before he can so much as turn back to kill the Byzantine Emperor, the Praetorian assassin is tackled to the ground by the Varangian guardsman, who shakes the Roman by his neck and throws him up against the wall. The would-be assassin weakly reaches for his sword on the ground, but the Varangian stomps down on his hand as it clamps down on the gladius' handle. Looking up, squinting through the dying sunlight, the Praetorian guardsman only sees the hulking silhouette of the Viking before the blade of the Spathi sword chops down through his neck and severs his head. Purple.png Filled with battle fury, the Varangian guardsman picks up the head and hurls it over the wall. 

***

Back in the Roman garden, the Praetorian guardsman throws his scutum down and turns to run from the Varangian assassin, the Roman Emperor a few feet ahead. Catching up, the Praetorian guardsman grabs his Emperor and turns, forcefully keeping his hostage in place, and nods nervously at the Varangian. 

"You want the Emperor? Here - here. Take him. T-take him!" 

The Varangian plunges his sword into the Emperor's midsection - straight through and into the Praetorian traitor behind him. The two Romans gasp, trembling in pain and fear moments before they both collapse, the Roman Emperor sliding one way and the Praetorian the other. Purple.png The Varangian soldier pulls his sword out of his victim's bodies and wipes the flat of the blade on the Emperor's white tunic, staining it red. Looking around, he watches as the sun dips below the horizon and the day reaches its end. And from within the shadowy garden, among the bloodied and broken corpses, emerges a battle cry of victory that shakes the very trees themselves.

***

The Byzantine Emperor shakily composes himself and gives a grateful nod to his bodyguard. The last rays of sunlight dance teasingly, painting fleeting stripes of orange and pink that vanish into a periwinkle dusk. As he stands to return to his room, the Varangian guard places a firm hand on his shoulder.

"You're safe now, sir."

Expert's Opinion 

The Praetorian Guard may have had slightly better weapons, with the greater surface area of the scutum shield and the longer shaft of the hasta, but it was ultimately the greater physicality of the Varangian Guards (thanks to their Viking ancestry) and their harder-hitting weapons that were better suited to small-scale combat, that sealed their victory.

To see the original battle, weapons, and votes, click here.

Battle vs. Mongol Warrior (by MovieStuff65)

May 23, 1432

And with a scream, another Byzantine legionnaire fell.

Two days earlier, the Mongol war machine crossed almost five thousand kilometers xto the gates of Constantinople- the very center of Western civilization at the time. The catapults did their fair share of damage to the walls, but the proud city stood strong and tall. That was why, despite the risk, it seemed they'd need men on the inside.

Five Mongolian scouts sprinted towards the palace, weapons in hand. The main Mongol attack force- let in by an opened trade tunnel- had already begun to engage the bulk of the Byzantine defense forces. The scouts, worth proven, now advanced on the palace, where local reports said the emperor himself hid during the siege.

As the Mongols approached the palace, one wielding a glaive launched backwards. He landed with a thud, an arrow in his leg, and a thrown boar spear in his chest. Red.png The rest looked to see five Varangians- highly trained Viking mercenaries reassigned to bodyguarding the emperor. According to intelligence, they performed their jobs with a deadly efficiency.

The Mongols charged, with one standing behind to cover their advance. He aimed his composite bow, launching arrow after arrow as a Varangian attempted to return fire. Before he could land a successful hit, the Mongol archer finished him. Blue.png With the Varangian dispatched, he looked at the skirmish at hand.

One Mongol swung his mace, keeping two guards at bay. He swung horizontally, and happened to smash into one's shield. Letting out a primal grunt, the Varangian sagged backwards to avoid further damage. His companion, seeking vengeance, shield bashed the Mongol. He then whipped his short sword forward, precisely stabbing into his throat. Red.png

The Varangian looked at his fellow guard, and winced in disgust as he watched an arrow finish him off. Blue.png He then continued on to find another target. Two more guards were viciously engaging two more Mongols, axes and steel shortsworsds fighting sabres and maces. One took a mighty chop, missing only by inches.

The Mongol swiftly covered the space, and decapitated the guard before he could say a word- as well as before he could react to the other guard thrusting his sword into his spine. Red.png Blue.png The Varangian turned to swing around, but a mace blow to crumple him at the knee. With a final roar of agony, the Mongol finished with a devastating smash to his skull. Blue.png

The Mongol and final Guard stood face to face, and started a vicious fight. The Mongol continued to swing his mace- the momentum and weight preventing the guard from closing the distance.

Distracted, the Varangian never noticed as the Mongol archer snuck up behind him. All he did notice was the tight sensation as the lasso closed around his throat. Dropping his sword, the Varangian gripped in vain as the Mongol choked the life out of him. His vision darkened, his breathing became strained, and grip on the lasso weakened.

And then, his vision went black...and the breathing stopped. Blue.png

Expert's Opinion

The Mongols' experience and training let them take this battle. While the Varangian Guards were disciplined and skilled combatants, their weapons and training weren't enough to protect the empereror from the Mongol war machine.

To see the original battle, weapons and votes, click here.

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Battles here were deemed to be unfair or otherwise not in accordance with wiki standards, and have been removed from the statuses of the warriors and displayed below.

Battle vs. Celtic Warrior (by MilenHD)

The Battle begins somewhere in the Byzantine Empire,as normal day the Varangian was scouting for thugs,who can harm the emperor.Not that far away a Celtic Chieftain has been lost,and he was hungry,confused where is he?After a few steps he sees a garden with grapes,being happy that he is finally going to eat,the chieftain climbed over the wall and he jumped on the grass,hearing the that someone entered the garden the guard rush to see what happens and he saw a tall,red haired man wearing chainmail and weapons.Thinking this is a thief the Varangian aim his bow at the chieftain,he fired the arrow at him,but he missed.Seeing the guard the celtic chieftain grab his own bow and fired at the varangian but he blocked with his shield,then the barbarians charge at each other,the chieftain throw his 1st lancea but he missed the Varangian,then the guard swung his axe at the chief,only managed to hit the shield and the axe got stuck in the shield,after he tried to pulled it out the Celt stab the Varangian with his lancea in the leg,the guard roared in pain and he dropped the axe.The he pulls out his spatha and his shield and with the first strike he cut the 2nd lancea shaft and the chief grab his dagger and longsword and both began to dual,with his first strike the Celt to slash at the Varangian,but the guard block with his shiel and slashed at the Celt's leg.Then the Celtic Chieftain tried to retreat but the Varangian followed him,then the Chietain jumped over the garden fence,but the Varangian still followed him,then the Celti turned and slashed with his sword at the Varangian face making a scar on his left cheek,then the Varangian got angry and he slamed his shield at the chiefs head,knock him down,and tried to stab the Celtic chief but he missed the head and the spatha got stuck and the chief tried to slash at the Varangian and the sword got stuck in the shield,but the Celt then slash with his dagger at the Varangian's neck and falled down,not dead than the Chief slit the guard's throat and killed him seeing the guard is dead,the Celtic chieftain raised his fist and roared in victory.

Expert's Opinion

Celtic Chieftain won,because he dominate in the 3 most important categories and he was more experianced and brutal than the Varangian who was better trained. To see the original battle, weapons, and votes, click here.

Reason

The battle was declared invalid because the Celts had been given a lancea, a weapon they never used.

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