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muck's comprehensive list of medieval-ish stereotypes debunked

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  • muck's comprehensive list of medieval-ish stereotypes debunked

    π–’π–šπ–ˆπ–'π–˜ π–ˆπ–”π–’π–•π–—π–Šπ–π–Šπ–“π–˜π–Žπ–›π–Š π–‘π–Žπ–˜π–™ 𝖔𝖋 π–’π–Šπ–‰π–Žπ–Šπ–›π–†π–‘-π–Žπ–˜π– π–˜π–™π–Šπ–—π–Šπ–”π–™π–žπ–•π–Šπ–˜ π–‰π–Šπ–‡π–šπ–“π–π–Šπ–‰

    Hi y'all, the discussion in druzhina's thread over in this very subforum gave me the idea to share a few bits of a pet project of mine with you people: A comprehensive list of medieval (and medieval-based fantasy) stereotypes debunked. I've studied the middle ages for a few years now and, just for funsies and personal development, actually began my first semester on medieval studies just a couple of days ago.

    N.B.: Coming from Central Europe, my viewpoint is a tad skewed accordingly. I invite anyone with a different background (particulary with regards to the British Isles and Russia) to expand this list or correct me if need be. By the way, by no means I claim to be an expert on the matter; I merely might be more of a bookworm than others and felt like sharing the information I came across. History is always open to interpretation, so don't take all I write for granted but make up your own mind.

    Anyway, maybe you'll think of this the next time you watch, I don't know, "Robin Hood" or something. I'm certainly going to expand this list whenever I find something funny enough to share.


    My primary sources:

    - 'The Middle Ages'; Cardini, Italy 2012
    - 'Knights, Monks, Peasants'; Breuers, Germany 1997
    - 'Historical Armaments', L. & F. Funcken, Germany 2014
    - 'The Early Modern Age'; Emich, Germany 2017
    - 'Historical European Martial Arts in its Context'; Marsden, USA 2017


    What middle ages (just so we're on the same page)?

    There's plenty of definitions floating about when the middle ages actually happened, which might be a surprise to some people.
    As a matter of fact there's no universally recognized date when the middle ages began and where they ended. The majority opinion holds that each region went through its own middle ages and that some places entered or left the period earlier or later than others, rendering all dates someone might want to come up with entirely arbitrary. The often-cited blanked definition AD 500 to AD 1500 is as often dismissed as too broad.
    My personal definition, which shall be used here, is not based on the emergence (e.g. feudalism) or downfall of specific medieval features but on the overall prominence of said medieval features. In my books, the medieval period lasted from Charlemagne's acension (800) to the imperial throne until the discovery of America in 1492.
    It's worth mentioning that people living in that period wouldn't have seen a difference no matter what innovations they encountered, and that features of "the" medieval world also existed before 800 and after 1492. For example, Scotland's James IV lost the Battle of Flodden against England in 1513 more or less because his mindset had still been that of a medieval ruler.


    Battles!1!!
    Pitched battles were the least common form of medieval warfare. Small-scale skirmishes to harass the enemy and especially sieges (of castles or of cities) were way more common. Most rulers sought to avoid the risky and expensive adventures that were medieval battles.
    Medieval battles were a giant merry-go-round of death with no clear frontlines and everyone paired off in duels all the time!
    Medieval captains and warlords knew quite a bit about formation and even the use of combined arms, and trained their men to stay in formation. The kind of senseless melee we see in the movies would only occur if one side was in the process of ripping the other a new one.
    Give me my Ride of the Rohirrim!
    Nine in ten armies of the middle ages were way smaller than the average armies of the ancient world. In the period of between 1000 and 1450, only the crusader armies drawing on the strength of many European kingdoms exceeded a size of 20000 men-at-arms. For said period, reports of Christian-European armies of more than 40000 men are *universally* dismissed as false and what the movies portray is false.
    Some of the reasons: The logistical and infrastructural situation of the day made it immensely difficult to move large bodies of military over distances. Most armies consisted of contingents which the ruler's vassals had to muster independently, and more often than not these lords defied their ruler and sent less men than requested (if any). Labourers were needed in the fields more urgently than in war; adding to that feudal structures, trading the peasant's obedience for the lord's protection, forbade the lord in most cases from forcing his subjects to serve in wars beyond his own borders. There was no conscription unless in some city states.
    The largest armies of the period were raised by the Ottomans, whose wealth, top-notch administration and extensive network of roads allowed them to raise armies of well above 40000 men. Not before the 1470s became Europe's lords able of mustering comparably-sized armies. The top contestant for the largest army ever raised by a Christian medieval lord is Moldavia’s Stephen the Great, who in the Battle of Vaslui in 1475 is believed to have commanded 51000 men.
    The crusades were the most bloody and inhumane wars of all time!
    They were as bloody or un-bloody as any other war of the period. Although the Church and (by some interpretations) knightly customs forbade attacking the civilian population, doing so was a tactic regularly employed to demoralize the enemy, to cut off his supplies, or to draw him into battle. Furthermore it is important to know that by contemporary thinking the lord owed protection to his subjects. By showing the people that their lord could not protect them, the enemy gave them a justification to renounce their lord. Having said all that, we do have a good hunch that the brutality of medieval wars (even though they undoubtedly were brutal) was exaggerated by the respective enemy as a means of propaganda; and we do know that protestant writers exaggerated the "darkness" of the middle ages so as to denounce the Catholic era.
    Folks murderized each other all day and night!
    The middle ages indeed saw a staggeringly high maternal- and child death rate, and woefully many people died from illnesses or injuries the likes of which don't frighten us anymore. However, church registers from all over the Holy Roman Empire show that in peace the murder rate in these territories wasn't significantly higher than today.
    Today, medieval men would be considered misogynic pedophiles!
    Medieval scientists considered children to be small, "incomplete" adults. The average legal age in central Europe in AD 1200 was 12 for girls and 12-14 for boys. At this age, they were not only considered to be marriagable, but could also obtain all the rights and had all the duties of adults of their class. For example, boys as young as twelve had to partake in manhunts for fugitive criminals or worked the coal mines. The understanding that children have a fragile psyche dependent on protection arose not before the 19th century. In other words, this assumption is kinda pointless ---- but few people know it's also kinda irrelevant. Only nobles and only out of sheer necessity were usually married at an age which we'd consider too low. Peasant women were often needed as labourers by their own families before they were let go; the average age of marriage among the lower classes was (in Germany and Bohemia in 1400) 17 for girls and 23 for men, which seems decent enough. The age of first motherhood among the peasantry was (depending on the period and region again) even almost as high as today. Only noble ladies regularly became "teen moms".
    Oh, and: There was no such thing as a "chastity belt".
    …"misogynic"…
    The Church held that women were sinful creatures and at constant risk of doing the devil's bidding. This concept, along with a pre-medieval Germano-Roman notion of the husband and father as the master of his family with an authority over life and death, meant that women were subjects of those men who wielded legal power over them (fathers, husbands, sometimes brothers and uncles). Burgher women weren't considered full citizens nor were women considered fit to bear arms. Still the historian Birgit Emich believes that women of the 15th century were better off and enjoyed a greater degree of freedom than e.g. women of the Victorian Age some 450 years later. Under some jurisdictions they could own and administrate possessions indepedently from their husband, as widows or with their husband's permission they could run businesses or pursue a profession; noblewomen could be rulers of their own right (albeit were urged to marry in that case). Prince-Abbesses of the Holy Roman Empire ruled with utter surety and independence. Unlike the stereotype, they were expected to fight if their castle or city was besieged, and regularly ruled over the family’s domains in their husband’s abscence. History is ripe with examples of (mostly higher-class) women who took up arms largely unhindered by men. Even the fantasy trope of a female knight isn't entirely made out of thin air: Ca. 1150 in the Kingdom of Aragon (modern-day Spain) there existed a knightly order called the Order of the Axe comprised of women honored so for their defense of the city of Tortosa against the Moors. Contemporary writers called them (roughly translated) woman-knights. Famous female warriors of the era include Joan of Flanders, Joan of Britanny dubbed 'The Lioness of Brittany', Caterina Sforza and Jadwiga of Poland.
    Speaking of women:
    Sorry, World of Warcraft fans: in reality all armor was uni-sex. And those female warriors we know of used not bows (in reality, war-bows were too much to handle even for many men) nor rapiers (which, in reality, were as heavy or even heavier than "thick" arming swords). They used spears or run-of-the-mill arming swords.
    Last edited by muck; 11-10-2017, 01:28 AM. Reason: Sp.

  • #2
    What about witches and the inquisition?
    Although executions of supposed witches took places throughout all the middle ages, the practice didn't start to become really widespread until the 1600s and contrary to public belief the Catholic Church never formally sanctioned witch hunts at any point during the Middle Ages. When the so called 'Hammer of Witches' was first published in 1486, the Vatican itself dismissed it as superstitious nonsense. Likewise contrary to public belief, the inquisition's first and foremost task was to hunt apostates and heretics, not witches or demons. And this practice became only prevalent when in Spain in the 1480s Queen Isabella of Castile and her husband King Ferdinand of Aragon gave more powers to the inquisition so as to use its help to wipe out all Muslims and Jews from the Iberian Peninsula.
    By the way: trial files and contemporary reports show that *almost no one* was ever burnt alive at the stakes in medieval times. The delinquent needed but express remorse or withdraw a punishable statement to be either spared the ordeal entirely or be given a coup de grΓ’ce before the fires were lit.
    I love me some torture dungeons!
    In the middle ages torture was more often used as a form of punishment than to extract a confession from the victim --- the latter not being very common at all: Most jurisdictions stipulated that a person bound to be tortured for matters of investigation was to be given a tour of the torture dungeon first and be explained all tools in detail. Only if the person still refused to answer they'd be tortured. Clerics, nobles, pregnant women and children were (theoretically) always immune from torture.
    No matter how small the deed, the punishment was always draconic!
    If the respective lord willed it so, yes, the punishment was always draconic. However, the most common form of punishment throughout the entirety of the period was pretty lame: a money fine!
    Folks were a lot shorter than us, constantly malnourished and died woefully early!
    There's some truth to this depending on the region, year and of course the class --- but only so much. The average height of a 1400s German noble or burgher male was 1.65m (ca. 5ft 5in), peasants stood approx. two inches less tall. There's an abundance of reports about lords or "feared men" way taller than that though. Also in the 1400s the average male's life expectancy was 44 years for peasants and 53 for burghers and nobles; people lucky enough not to die in battle or be killed off by an illness often lived to become fairly old, though. Among the nobles, living to see one's 70th birthday was not uncommon.
    The whole world was bleak and no one ever washed themselves!
    As an actual fact even the poor could usually afford dyed clothing (if limited in hues) and all classes took pride in their appearance as best as they could, resulting in a riot of colors and splendor. We owe the stereotype that folks never washed themselves to the Black Death. Many doctors believed that the plague spread through dangerous fumes carried by bodies of water, so whenever some poor bastard died from the plague, all his environment immediately stopped seeing to personal hygiene.
    Medieval battles = bloodshed par excellence.
    In most medieval wars, more people died from illness than in battle. And more people died from wounds sustained in battle than actually fell in combat.
    This means that being wounded in battle was basically a death sentence, right?
    Medical documents from the Hussite Wars (1419-1436) tell us that with the best surgeons of the day approx. 30% of the amputees died from complications. As ambiguous as this number may seem: The unearthed remains from participants of the battles of Visby (1361) and Towton (1461) completely overturned an earlier majority opinion that one's chances of surviving battlefield injuries in the olden days were abysmal. Apparently they weren't. Among these remains scientists discovered the bodies of career soldiers who had earlier in their lives survived the most horrific injuries (e.g. numerous men survived the loss of parts of their skull (!)) yet remained able-bodied so to fight these their last battles regardless.
    Movies like 'Ironclad' in which twenty defend a castle from a thousand attackers are completely unrealistic, right?
    Surprisingly enough the movie industry got that right! Shocking, I know! In reality all castles were built so that their garrisons could be as small as possible yet still defend the site successfully. During the German Peasant's War the knight Goetz von Berlichingen, the first person known to have used the slur "Kiss my arse!", managed to repell numerous attacks by 600 men-at-arms with only eight servants and his laundy lady at his disposal.
    Swords were heavy, unwieldy blocks of iron and basically used only as sharpened batons.
    The most-commonly known one-handed, double-edged "knight's sword" (i.e. arming sword) weighed between 0.9 to 1.5 kilograms (1.9 to 3.3 lbs) on average. Extensive schools of martial arts for bladed weapons existed as early as in AD 1360 and most nobles would've learnt one form or another.
    Swords were crudely-made and dull.
    There were badly-made swords and there were well-made swords (especially so in the post 1450-period, but also way earlier in the shape of the Frankish-Viking 'Ulfberht swords'). Some well-preserved museum pieces were found in almost battle-ready condition with a sharp edge more than 600 years after having been stored away. We have no reason to believe the average European sword was of low quality or used without sharpening.
    Swords could only be carried by knights.
    Legislation enacted in France during a peasant's revolt in the late 1350's has created this idea that swords were strictly restricted to nobility. They weren't. A man who wanted a sword and had that kind of money (in 1400 approx. the average man's annual income) just went to a smith and bought one. If he couldn't afford buying one, he went to war instead in the hope of killing a man who could. Many self-governing cities and many territories, especially in Germany, actually required their citizens to arm themselves with swords. It is, however, true that burghers preferred not "knightly" arming swords but single-edged falchions or messers. A burgher with a knightly sword in a civil environment begged to be confronted by the next knight he met.
    The sword was the primary weapon of the day.
    No-ish. Swords ceased being the most common weapon of the era no later than in the 12th century. Polearms, axes, maces and ranged weapons were far more prominently used in war. Folks continued to use swords as a good compromise between portability and more specialized weaponry though. Swords were also status symbols and of course the weapon of choice for personal defense in a civil environment.
    The arrival of the pike a.k.a. the "infantry revolution" rendered mounted knights useless. / The arrival of the modern firearm rendered mounted knights useless.
    Mounted knights rode into war regularly well into the 1530s i.e. considerably *after* the arrival of both the pike and of gunpowder in Europe. They came out of fashion not due to changes in warfare but due to social changes; their lords thought it better to pay mercenaries than to rely on the uncertain services of their restive vassals.
    Armor is ridiculously heavy. A knight who fell over was entirely helpless.
    A full suit of plate armor weighed ~28 kilograms (ca. 61lbs), less than the gear of a modern-day infantry soldier; and a knight would've been trained to that kind of weight for many years. The wearer would've been able to sprint, jump, climb up ladders or mount their horses without anyone's assistance. Princes as young as nine or women like Joan of Arc wore their armor without a problem.
    A villain's armor + a hero's blade = Blood. Lots of it.
    Plate armor could not be penetrated with swords under any circumstances ever. Movies which show the hero killing the baddie by stabbing him in the armor are factually incorrect. Even a shirt of proper chainmail armor worn in conjunction with a gambeson (a thickly padded jacket worn underneath) could be penetrated only by 1) a stabbing thrust and 2) under favorable circumstances, i.e. with a blade tailored to just that purpose, and a bit of luck.
    Heavily armored opponents were defeated through bashing the hell out of them with a blunt force weapon or by stabbing one's blade into the gaps and joints between the individual parts of the armor.
    Archers shot their volleys at a steep angle like they do in the movies.
    They didn't. Contemporary illuminations and a report from the Battle of Agincourt (1415), which mentions that France's knights were worried whether or not their helmetβ€˜s visors could withstand the English longbow’s arrows, illustrate that bowmen indeed shot their arrows from a short distance straight at their opponents. An arrow wizzling through the air on a highly arched trajectory would have lost most of its speed before impact and glance off.
    Speaking of Agincourt: This famous battle was won by England’s longbowmen but not their weapon of choice. The number of French knights felled by arrows is believed to be rather low. Maybe Henry V would’ve lost the battle if his longbowmen hadn’t been as ferocious warriors in hand-to-hand combat as they were skilled archers.
    Only knights were entitled to be ransomed in a loss.
    This is true --- if it's not meant to denote only knights were ransomed. In reality, prisoners of war of all classes and even entire cities were regularly ransomed.
    Last edited by muck; 11-10-2017, 04:07 PM. Reason: Sp.

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    • #3
      This novel... / that movie... says the inquisition was some form of giant, awesome secret service. Totally correct, right?
      Totally not, unfortunately. You yourself may easily deduce the number of priests who worked as 'visitatores' (agents) for the inquisition in your country: Normally each bishopric had one, and more often than not he was a Dominican Friar. Granted, this man would've travelled about with a number of henchmen and an escort; but it's not that impressive, right? They *did* have a vast network of snitches though.
      Only monks were literate back then, right?
      This is true until about the mid-1100s, but more and more people learnt reading in the centuries that followed. The first somewhat-public schools (i.e. open for burghers) were built in Prague, Bohemia sometime after the Great Plague in the 1350s. A century later, many nobles, most burghers and even some peasants (namely the ones whose job it was to assist the former) were already literate. Ironically enough, the second half of the 15th century was a period in Germany when more peasants than knights knew how to read and write. The knights had become afraid for their status and decided the best way of asserting their cool-ness would be to demonstrate that they were bred for fighting only.
      Serfdom is Europe's equivalent of slavery, right?
      Counter-question: Why did Europeans of the day think of Norsemen and the Muslims as barbarians because of their slavery habits, but not themselves? Mind you, they weren't just being hypocritical; serfs *did* have more rights than slaves and their situation wasn't as destitute, at least not during the middle ages. Moreover, most serfs in that period became so voluntarily and could regain their freedom through numerous ways. A little known fact is that the word 'knight' actually denotes such a way: the English word 'knight' is derived from the German word 'knecht', denoting --- congratulations if you guessed it --- a serf! As a matter of fact, most knightly families in continental Europe had once been serfs themselves.
      By the way, serfdom had its heyday in Europe some time after the middle ages ended (in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries to be specific). Karl Marx got that wrong too.
      Last edited by muck; 11-10-2017, 01:41 AM. Reason: Sp.

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      • #4
        Good posts Muck
        Some few complementary points

        For said period, reports of Christian-European armies of more than 40000 men are *universally* dismissed as false.
        True
        Even 10-20K are seen as unrealistic now. Often it's the result of one side giving the other side (the losing side more of it) an overwhelming numerical advantage in order to get a PR/propaganda upperhand. It was not new though. Caesar (Gallic wars) and Ramses (Kadesh battle) used the same approach in their reports
        It seems however that a few large armies existed in early Medieval times around large entites, especially the Frank Empire of Charlemagne. Historians seem to agree that He was able to bolster 20-30K at least due to having both a regular core + irregulars at least for two separate armies. But yes, it was pretty unusual and lost afterward with the clusterization and feodalisation of the states

        Medical documents from the Hussite Wars (1419-1436) tell us that with the best surgeons of the day approx. 30% of the amputees died from complications.
        funilly enough, not worse than what could have been seen later during Napoleon wars or USCW.

        Folks were a lot shorter than us, constantly malnourished and died woefully early!
        Two reasons about that : parade armors we can still see as static demos in a lot of castles and museum are, well, parade/static demo armors. Yet 19th and early 20th based their datas on those armor to evaluate height of medieval people. Forensic technics post 1950s are more precise and yes, medieval people were not so small
        On the food, however, diversity was scarce in peasantry and protein intake was pretty limited or irregular (mostly based on eggs, cheese and poaching. Otherwise meat (pork, beef) was reserved for great occasions). A regimen based mostly on cereals had still some consequences (bad dental health, limited amount of vitamins) and was vulnerable to weather variations : hence malnutrition was not so uncommon and famines happened
        Plus working the Earth was not without consequences on bone/joint/skelettal health with arthrosis and joints pathologies

        Armor is ridiculously heavy. A knight who fell over was entirely helpless.
        As said above this legend has its roots in the static demo armors that were not intended to be beared. Reenactement archeology shows that real armors used in real battles were lighter and had more flexible joints and that a knight could roll over and get up (even if uneasy with the heaviest late models or after a horse fall- more due to the shock of the impact however-)
        Last edited by Mordoror; 11-10-2017, 01:22 AM.

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        • #5
          No matter how small the deed, the punishment was always draconic!
          If the respective lord willed it so, yes, the punishment was always draconic. However, the most common form of punishment throughout the entirety of the period was pretty lame: a money fine!
          On that part particularly, early medieval era was fine heavy (system deriving from the blood fine or whergeld commonly used in the migrating people at the end of the Western Roman Empire)
          This was so ingrained that written rules were put black on white under Clovis (Salic law) with a huge pinch of roman issued laws
          Example of punishments : touching a woman hand (without her consent) : 15 coins
          touching a woman breast : 35 coins
          Cutting a man hand, foot or eye : 100 coins
          Snatching a bee hive : 45 coins
          Killing a noble frank : 600 coins, a frank 200 coins, a gallo-roman : 100 coins
          insulting somebody (like calling him a rabbit ) : 3 coins

          etc etc

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          • #6
            I wonder if the ability of not being able to stand up also could have due to the appalling muddy condition of a battlefield. Churn that mud up with thousands of men and horse hooves and it's not going to be easy.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Mordoror View Post
              Good posts Muck
              Glad you like it. Feel free to expand the list how you see fit.

              Originally posted by Mordoror View Post
              clusterization
              Good point, and very true. If you ruled as a petty prince over, maybe, 50000 people there was only so much you could do if called upon to rally your levies!

              Comment


              • #8
                Overall, these are very good posts. However, I'd like to add a few things:



                Originally posted by muck View Post
                Medieval battles were a giant merry-go-round of death with no clear frontlines and everyone paired off in duels all the time![/I]
                Medieval captains and warlords knew quite a bit about formation and even the use of combined arms, and trained their men to stay in formation. The kind of senseless melee we see in the movies would only occur if one side was in the process of ripping the other a new one.
                It depends. When compared to battle tactics utilized centuries later during the Early Modern Period (i.e. tercio), combat formations of the Middle Ages were rather primitive and mostly relied on dividing all available forces amongst centre and left/right flanks (with permutations which allowed for assymmetry b/w flanks). However, as you pointed out, chaotic and disordered melee without coherent formations is largely a myth.


                Originally posted by muck View Post
                Give me my Ride of the Rohirrim![INDENT]Nine in ten armies of the middle ages were way smaller than the average armies of the ancient world. In the period of between 1000 and 1450, only the crusader armies drawing on the strength of many European kingdoms exceeded a size of 20000 men-at-arms. For said period, reports of Christian-European armies of more than 40000 men are *universally* dismissed as false.
                Some of the reasons: The logistical and infrastructural situation of the day made it immensely difficult to move large bodies of military over distances. Most armies consisted of contingents which the ruler's vassals had to muster independently, and more often than not these lords defied their ruler and sent less men than requested (if any). Labourers were needed in the fields more urgently than in war; adding to that feudal structures, trading the peasant's obedience for the lord's protection, forbade the lord in most cases from forcing his subjects to serve in wars beyond his own borders. There was no conscription unless in some city states.
                Well said. Whenever exact battlefield locations have been determined, it was shown that cramming 50+k into said battlefield is simply unfeasible. Then, of course, there are the logistical arguments. I think that the largest forces in Europe during the Middle Ages was the invasion of the Mongols. Most realistic estimates based on logistical arguments and not on wildly varying (and often propagandistic) historical accounts show that the invading armies numbered at ~30k-40k (many times the feudal armies of their rivals), which partially explains the rapid speed of Mongol conquest.

                Originally posted by muck View Post
                A villain's armor + a hero's blade = Blood. Lots of it.
                A shirt of proper mail armor in conjunction with a gambeson (a thickly padded jacket worn underneath) could be penetrated only by 1) stabbing and 2) under favorable circumstances, i.e. with a blade tailored to just that purpose, and a bit of luck. Plate armor could not be penetrated by swords, under any circumstances ever. Heavily armored opponents were defeated through bashing the hell out of them with a blunt weapon or by stabbing one's blade into the gaps between the individual parts of the armor.
                As shown by ThegnThrand, even stabbing through riveted mail with a spear was no easy task:


                Interestingly enough, in Kievan Rus (and Eastern Europe + Steppes of Khazaria, Cumania, etc...) mail was quickly overshadowed in popularity by Pantsyr, which itself was a derivative of conventional mail. Pantsyr was made of interlocked rings with a flat cross-section, which made the armor much more resistant to piercing and made it lighter.

                Originally posted by muck View Post
                Medieval battles = bloodshed par excellence.
                In most medieval wars, more people died from illness than in battle. And more people died from wounds sustained in battle than actually fell in combat.
                Yep. The fighting nobility of the time (knights, druzhina, boyars, etc) much preferred to capture and ransom each other. Also, from the accounts of battles conducted in Kievan Rus + surrounding steppes, it seems that most combat actions mostly involved mounted combatants (boyars and their druzhina) and infantry was very rarely used in pitched battles (mostly used during sieges). This explains the historical account of very rapid marching of armies across vast distances in Kievan Rus.

                Additionally, there was not much hatred based on ethnic nationalism back in those days. In fact, Kievan princes constantly utilized Cumans/Poles/Scandinavians/Khazars/etc... during their struggles for the domination of Kiev (and constantly intermarried with these cultures).

                Originally posted by muck View Post
                The arrival of the pike a.k.a. the "infantry revolution" rendered mounted knights useless. / The arrival of the modern firearm rendered mounted knights useless.
                Mounted knights saw action regularly well into the 1530s i.e. considerably after the arrival of both the pike and of gunpowder in Europe. They came out of fashion not due to changes in warfare but due to social changes; their lords began to rather pay mercenaries than rely on the uncertain service of their restive vassals.
                Very true. The arrival of firearms did not automatically render heavy cavalry obsolete. In fact, the armoursmiths simply started making heavier armour in response (I remember reading about ~0.5cm thick breastplates used by some Ritters). The real problems for plate armour started to crop up with the advent of heavier firearms such as muskets (cf. earlier firearms such as arquebus). Additionally, the transition away from feudalism, easier access to and cheaper costs of steel, which allowed to arm and upkeep much more sizeable armies of commoners, made mounted nobility further redundant.
                Last edited by Aradan; 11-10-2017, 01:49 AM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Kilgor View Post
                  I wonder if the ability of not being able to stand up also could have due to the appalling muddy condition of a battlefield. Churn that mud up with thousands of men and horse hooves and it's not going to be easy.
                  There is probably a pinch of truth in that and yes, muddy/swampy conditions would have not helped. However, armor were also intended to be used on foot (dismounted knights were not rare and obviously they didn't have a dedicated armor for that). So again, knights's armor were not so rigid as previously thought.
                  It's probable that knights unable to stand up after a fall during a charge was more linked to the shock/impact of the fall.
                  Falling down from an half ton horse launched at 20-30 km/h with sometimes the said horse rolling over you may not help

                  That said, it's another point to precise
                  Knight horses were not Arab stallions

                  Hollywood is the main culprit about that. And also lack of availability of older horse races. But knight horses were certainly not the skinny horses we see all the time in movies (incidentaly, this means that the armors used in movies and weight of riders were lightened by using for example rubber/composite/aluminium for the plates rather than full metal)
                  They were more akin to this kind of horses :
                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percheron

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boulonnais_horse

                  The same used by cuirassiers and grenadiers Γ  cheval under Napoleon

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                  • #10
                    Yep. The fighting nobility of the time (knights, druzhina, boyars, etc) much preferred to capture and ransom each other.
                    Good point. Nobility was more on a ransom hunt (except specific cases like the slaughter of french knights after Azincourt, that sparked an outrage among Enlgish knights)
                    However, commoners were killed or dispatched en masse (not money worth)

                    Very true. The arrival of firearms did not automatically render heavy cavalry obsolete. In fact, the armoursmiths simply started making heavier armour in response (I remember reading about ~0.5cm thick breastplates used by some Ritters). The real problems for plate armour started to crop up with the advent of heavier firearms such as muskets (cf. earlier firearms such as arquebus). Additionally, the transition away from feudalism, easier access to and cheaper costs of steel, which allowed to arm and upkeep much more sizeable armies of commoners, made mounted nobility further redundant.
                    Not only that but firearms made access to warfare more easy. Knights had to train all their lifes. A musketter needed in comparison a way shorter training time
                    Time/cost wise, knights were an evolutionary dead end with industrialisation of weapon factories (sometimes centralized up to the State like artillery factories) and mass armies

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                    • #11
                      Great posts, but you forgot to mention one most important, widespreaded myth: ,,Middle ages were backwared and primitive times, when Europe experience total stagnation".

                      In fact it was a time of great technological and social advancement. Renaissance was a natural repercussion of progress made by European societies during middle ages.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by hastati View Post
                        Great posts, but you forgot to mention one most important, widespreaded myth: ,,Middle ages were backwared and primitive times, when Europe experience total stagnation".

                        In fact it was a time of great technological and social advancement. Renaissance was a natural repercussion of progress made by European societies during middle ages.

                        Such as?

                        For example?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Morlach View Post


                          Such as?

                          For example?
                          Introduction of gunpowder
                          Improvements in agriculture (plough and multicropping)
                          General construction
                          Stirrup
                          saddle
                          Horseshoes
                          The Astrolabium
                          Glasses
                          Improved watermills (mining and smithing etc)
                          Improvements in casting technologies (Bell making)
                          Developments in shipping (sail configurations and hull design)
                          Printing press

                          just a few things...not always outright inventions but rather innovations or imported ideas, still it was the right political-economic period to have these things take root and allow for the later rapid expansion, development and conquest by Europe.
                          Last edited by tercio67; 11-10-2017, 04:35 AM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by hastati View Post
                            Great posts, but you forgot to mention one most important, widespreaded myth: ,,Middle ages were backwared and primitive times, when Europe experience total stagnation".

                            In fact it was a time of great technological and social advancement. Renaissance was a natural repercussion of progress made by European societies during middle ages.
                            Issue is a bit more complicated than that
                            Medieval Age is pretty large (476 AD to 1492 AD) and there were periods of stagnation and even knowledge loss (especially early Middle Age just following up the split of the Western Roman Empire and the social disorder that scourged Europe back then)
                            Same with period of massive epidemics (Black Plague and up to 1/3 of the population killed) or upsurge of religion (especially millenarist sects)
                            But indeed there were periods of improvments too
                            Thing is that Middle Age is often compared to Antiquity through the prism of neo classicism i.e people (artists, painters, writters, philosophers and politicians) sold Antiquity as the epitome of enlightement and knowledge in regard to the barbarous "Dark Age"
                            Without improvment there wouldn't have been a demographic increase (especially in urban areas) during the 1000-1400 period (population almost doubled then)

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by tercio67 View Post

                              Introduction of gunpowder
                              Improvements in agriculture (plough and multicropping)
                              General construction
                              Stirrup
                              saddle
                              Horseshoes
                              The Astrolabium
                              Glasses
                              Improved watermills (mining and smithing etc)
                              Improvements in casting technologies (Bell making)
                              Developments in shipping (sail configurations and hull design)
                              Printing press

                              just a few things...not always outright inventions but rather innovations or imported ideas, still it was the right political-economic period to have these things take root and allow for the later rapid expansion, development and conquest by Europe.

                              The key here is that those things happened DESPITE and IN SPITE OF of prevailing medieval mentality and customs. Almost everything you mentioned was present and used in Europe in antiquity (glasses are a good catch, movable type printing press is not medieval), almost always better and to a higher degree. I originally started writing a comprehensive post on each point you raised, but realised it detracted from the discussion at hand.

                              Gunpowder was initially regarded as magic and Devil's work. Hellenistic and Roman architecture and engineering were better; towns and cities of medieval Europe were small squalid slums compared to Metropolis of Antiquity; their mathematicians, natural philosophers and astronomers were significantly ahead as well. The only impressive structures built in medieval period are Gothic Cathedrals, deliberately so.

                              The period until Renaissance is the classical Middle Ages. From there until the great geographical discoveries it was an increasingly less agrarian economy and feudal society (in the sense of almost feudal anarchy level of Germany and France during High Middle Ages).

                              The key here is Eastern Roman Empire, which never underwent a cultural and technological Dark and Medieval period, and whose sacking and looting opened up a way for long forgotten ideas and knowledge to spread to rest of Europe, kickstaring the Renaissance actually.

                              Assuming a western Europe-centric point of view and then applying to whole of European continet produces wrong conclusions. Eastern Europe and Mediterranian area had completely different socioeconomic and political situtation during the same timeline.
                              Last edited by Morlach; 11-10-2017, 05:04 AM.

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