[A]nd close to them a select band of soldiery, all mail-clad, and the fiery gleam that shone from their weapons illuminated the air more than the rays of the sun.
— Anna Comnena, The Alexiad, Cap XV
Unique Byzantine medium infantry unit on par with Swordsmen, but available from the Dark Age onwards and costing metal in lieu of timber.
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Small defensive bonus versus missile infantry.
Arguably the best medium infantry unit of the Dark Age, Spathatoi are a force to be reckoned with, being a Swordsman unit that comes into the game one age earlier than usual. Their only drawback is that they cost metal instead of timber unlike other infantry units, and they also cannot be upgraded to Espadachines in the Imperial Era. But, given that you control so much punching power in such a weak unit at the start of the game, what more could you ask for? just keep them from enemy heavy cavalry, and these units, with their rather cheap cost, will easily overwhelm the foe.
- Hack is the New Black — Versatility is key to using Spathatoi — they do exceedingly well against archers and possibly siege machines, and will perform well in melee but only if they enjoy crushing superiority.
- Spathatoi are cheap and fast to create, so you can easily amass an army of them.
Although the Byzantine Empire continued to rely more on cavalry throughout its lifetime after the loss of Rome, it never really forgot its roots. Aside from claiming ownership of Rome from the "Holy Roman" German empire, the Byzantine Empire also continued to keep alive the tradition of Roman swordsmanship for its Skoutatoi or "shield bearers", who were divided into long spearmen (kontaratoi) and swordsmen (spathatoi). The spathatoi were envisioned as a more mobile and flexible infantry force, intended to protect the kontaratoi's flanks while being protected themselves by the long spears of the kontaratoi.