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The archontopouloi (Greek: Ἀρχοντόπουλοι) were an elite military formation of the Byzantine army during the Komnenian era, in the 11th-12th centuries. They were founded by Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118) as part of his military reforms and were recruited among the orphans of Byzantine officers who were killed in battle.


During the Seljuq invasion of Byzantine Asia Minor after the Battle of Manzikert (1071), there were increased numbers of orphans that led Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118) to initiate rescue efforts.[1] Some of these, recruited among the orphans of the Byzantine officers that died in battle, were recruited, armed and trained to form an elite 2,000-strong cavalry unit, known as the archontopouloi, the "sons of the archons (leaders)".[1][2][3] The archontopouloi are considered to be the only Byzantine orphan care institution directly influenced by ancient Greek policies. Although Alexios's daughter and biographer, Anna Komnene, compared her father's archontopouloi to a Spartan institution, the better documented Athenian tradition to aid the children of deceased warriors was the probable inspiration for Alexios.[1]

The archontopouloi as a regiment disappear from Byzantine sources after the death of Alexios in 1118.[4] However, people termed archontopouloi continue to be recorded later in Byzantine history. The later archontopouloi appear to have belonged to two perhaps related groups. The first group consists of young aristocrats attached to the Byzantine imperial court who may have had a military function, and the second group consists of a type of provincial "pronoiar", an elite soldier who held an imperial land-grant in return for military service. The latter group were possibly recruited from the former, following their training at the imperial court.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Miller 2003, pp. 20, 30.
  2. ^ Heath & McBride 1979, p. 29.
  3. ^ a b Bartusis 1997, p. 206.
  4. ^ Birkenmeier 2002, pp. 159, 232.