Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

muck's comprehensive list of medieval-ish stereotypes debunked

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Originally posted by muck View Post
    You're welcome.

    1. I'm not aware of any museum piece, sorry.

    2. Caltrops existed as a passive weapon against cavalry; for years I've tried to find out how extensively they were used in battle. My personal suspicion is: not that much. Reports about the deployment of caltrops are sparse; sharpened wooden poles and ordinary ditches seemed to have been the way to go instead. Which seems surprising at a first glance: make no mistake, caltrops could be terribly effective against cavalry and footsoldiers alike. But they too put friendly troops at risk. Moreover, I suspect numbers sufficient to "mine" areas large enough to make a difference would've been quite a load to haul around. In contrast, wood was quite easy to come by and you hadn't had to carry it.
    The 'Frisian Horse' (cheval de frise) a.k.a. 'Spanish Horse', was a widely used and easy to construct defense against mounted troops/knights. It survived to modern times, the spikes exchanged with barbed wire, as an easy to handle barrier for checkpoints etc.

    Comment


    • Good point!

      Regarding the use of caltrops during the medieval era: To prevent the defenders from sallying out, the Burgundians used caltrops during the Siege of Neuss in 1477. I saw a bunch of them at the former fortress's museum. Iirc they weighed about 50 grams each and were rather small, less than an inch in width and height respectively. While I have no source to back this claim up I'd assume you needed thousands upon thousands of them to cover even small swaths of ground. Those sappers had their work cut out for them.

      Something I'd forgot to mention earlier: The ground itself needs to support the deployment of caltrops too. Battles were hardly ever fought on prepared sites but most often on soft farmland. A mushy underfloor could reduce the efficiency of caltrops by a great margin.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by muck View Post
        ..................
        While I have no source to back this claim up I'd assume you needed thousands upon thousands of them to cover even small swaths of ground
        ................
        You only need a few really. Once their presence becomes known it will slow down all movement for those not responsible for deploying them. Just like a modern day mine field it works by putting the threat in peoples minds, influencing actions untill proven cleared/absent.

        Comment


        • That's a good point, but it comes with a hook attached to it. I'd imagine by their ways of war that medieval troops would've discovered caltrops by charging straight into them. Would they've broken off the assault over the small number of casualties a small number of caltrops could've caused?

          JimHPTN

          Had the chance today to ask someone more knowledgable than I about wurfparten. He said a few finds exist that might be wurfparten, but we do not know for certain. There used to be a hunting weapon that, among other things, consisted of a similarly shaped part: a wolf's hook (wolfsangel). A wolf's hook is a roughly z-shaped hook connected (by rope or chain) with a fastening anchor that has (more or less) the same shape as a wurfparte: i.e. the shape of a crescent moon. You used that anchor to fasten the trap in a tree's boughs. The hook suspended this way was then outfitted with a bait. The wolf unfortunate enough to crave that bait swallowed the hook and kept dangling on it until it died. Some people erroneously believe the crescent-shaped anchor to be the actual wolf's hook, but it isn't. As there existed both large wolfsangeln and small wurfparten the only (somewhat) certain way to tell both implements apart is the lug's size. Being designed to catch a larger "prey", a wurfparte was fixed to a thick rope or strong chain.

          Comment


          • Originally posted by tercio67 View Post
            You only need a few really. Once their presence becomes known it will slow down all movement for those not responsible for deploying them. Just like a modern day mine field it works by putting the threat in peoples minds, influencing actions untill proven cleared/absent.
            Sort of unrelated, but apparently in the Bruneval Raid a helpful sentry walked a spy masquerading as a tourist/student "who just wanted to see the sea before returning the Paris" straight through the minefield, thus informing the British that the "Achtung Minen" signs were just for show.

            Comment


            • I may be beating a dead horse here, but i'm really having trouble warping my head around this. If you go back to Caesar's adventures in Gaul - how is it possible that any of the Gallic tribes that had either fought against Caesar, or as Roman auxiliaries, had never tried to adopt the Roman unit tactics to some degree, even a far more basic one? I've recently read about Caesar's civil war, when he fought against Roman legions for the first time, he fumbled because he was used to fighting Gauls that would end up getting exhausted eventually, while the Romans he fought against could hold on as long as his own legions and fight all day, due to unit tactics. That alone is a clear example at how superior the Roman tactics were. Did Rome's more 'tribal' enemies never try to copy from them to some degree?

              This along with learning that up until the late Middle Ages armies didn't have any form of line alternating is a very difficult concept for me to grasp, especially on the micro level of things, seeing as I'm often looking at things from my own experience as being a soldier and thus I try to visualize the actual practicalities of soldiers in these times.

              Comment


              • Economic weakness of Gallic tribes. To fight as I B.C. legion you need to equip your soldiers with four pieces of equipment: gladius, scutum, mail armour and pillum, not to mention to provide the whole logistic for masses of infantry and support staff. Not a single Gallic tribe could afford to make thousands pieces of such high-quality weapons. Roman Republic provided it to its soldiers, even before Marian reforms Romans provided their recruits with swords, shields and javelins.

                Apart from equipment: Gallic tactics varied, depending on which tribes Romans were fighting. Some fought as unorganised mob, others used formations like shieldwall, but neither tribe reached level of centralisation and wealth which could allow its leaders to adopt military reforms. Roman tactic was a result of slow, centuries long, centralised evolution, parallel to economic advancement of the whole state. This allowed Romans to build recrutation system and provide supplies for its soldiers. You can't do that without a well-organised administration.
                Last edited by hastati; 31-05-2018, 11:26 PM.

                Comment


                • Originally posted by hastati View Post
                  Economic weakness of Gallic tribes. To fight as I B.C. legion you need to equip your soldiers with four pieces of equipment: gladius, scutum, mail armour and pillum, not to mention to provide the whole logistic for masses of infantry and support staff. Not a single Gallic tribe could afford to make thousands pieces of such high-quality weapons. Roman Republic provided it to its soldiers, even before Marian reforms Romans provided their recruits with swords, shields and javelins.

                  Apart from equipment: Gallic tactics varied, depending on which tribes Romans were fighting. Some fought as unorganised mob, others used formations like shieldwall, but neither tribe reached level of centralisation and wealth which could allow its leaders to adopt military reforms. Roman tactic was a result of slow, centuries long, centralised evolution, parallel to economic advancement of the whole state. This allowed Romans to build recrutation system and provide supplies for its soldiers. You can't do that without a well-organised administration.
                  Old style view of Celtic/Gallic civilisation.....
                  Shortcoming was not equipment. Celts were better in forgery, metal working, jewelry and overally celtic weapons were of better quality than roman ones
                  Commercial inputs and exchanges were good and econoy was more than correct : almost all gallic cities were able to print their own coins.
                  Roman republic soldiers equipment was on the other hand yet not standardized and even if a part was funded by the Senate (or the Senator), there were subpar pieces of material or shortage of stuff
                  Craftsmen were not lacking. Most if not all cities had industrial areas and yes, there were a lot of city on the contrary to the usualy depicted picture of Gallic men only living in mud hutts villages

                  The short coming of gallic/celtic armies were :
                  not unified group : division helped the invader a lot, especially when you had various leaders for the same army (in Alesia, there were no less than 4 generals with the same rank and leading position for the Gallic army)
                  religious aspect of waging war : individual bravery was put above mass unit efficiency and this had the roots in the druidic/celtic religion
                  long term campaign : gallic way of doing war was short campaigns/raids: i.e they lacked the logistic train for sustained operations. Even if Vercingetorix (teached seemingly by the romans) managed to develop it around the end, it was too few too late
                  Not professional army : only a small part of Gallic men were permanent soldiers (the noble retinue or ambacts). The rest was irregular levee. Even if each grown man was a warrior in time of war it was only a part time activity

                  FIY : mail armor, cheeks and neck protected helmets were from celtic origin and long swords had nothing to be shy when compared with gladius. The quality or quantity of weapons are not in question here. It's how they were used that led to the defeat (and yet, it was a defeat on the edge, Alesia could have very well turned into a Roman disaster as they were very close to be overwhelmed)

                  Comment


                  • You get me wrong - i don not underestimate acheivments of Celtic civilisation, i'm fully aware of its qualities. My point was, that lack of centralisation and divisions between tribes was main obstacle in creating powerful army and supply system. I don't deny that Celts knew how to craft high quality weapon, but please tell me which tribe could afford to arm equivalent of a legion with swords, mail armours and high-quality shields and javelins and teach this people a new tactic? Average Gallic warrior was poorly armed in comparing to Roman legionary (excluding nobility and men armed directly by them), Gallic army wasn't mustered in methodical way as was Roman in times of Citizen Army, not to mention professional army from I BC, Gallic armies were not organised military units as Roman cohort/legion/army.

                    Original question was why Gauls didn't adopt Roman fighting tactic and my answer was: lack of funds and non-existing, effective, centralised administration which could perform military reforms.
                    Last edited by hastati; 01-06-2018, 02:54 AM.

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by hastati View Post
                      You get me wrong - i don not underestimate acheivments of Celtic civilisation, i'm fully aware of its qualities. My point was, that lack of centralisation and divisions between tribes was main obstacle in creating powerful army and supply system. I don't deny that Celts knew how to craft high quality weapon, but please tell me which tribe could afford to arm equivalent of a legion with sword, mail armour and high-quality shields and javelins? Average Gallic warrior was poorly armed in comparing to Roman legionary (excluding nobility and men armed directly by them), Gallic army wasn't mustered in methodical way as was Roman in times of Citizen Army, not to mention professional army from I BC, Gallic armies were not organised military units as Roman cohort/legion/army.
                      Major tribes could afford legion like amount of equipment. They had the "industrial " power to do so. Just that,as you said, most of their men were part time soldiers so didn't needed the equipment of a full time army.
                      At Alesia depending of the sources, the gauls were between 200 K and 400 K of warriors. Usually you had 1 to 10 nobles/noble retinue/hasted levy
                      Which means that you had between 20K and 40K of fully equiped warriors, the rest driffting between averagely and poorly equiped (with poorly being a shield and a spear or axe). Those 20 to 40K are in the range of the legions they met (Caesar estimation is between 30K and 38K, not all legionnaires BTW but also engineers, artillerymen etc)

                      Second point and most important is the religious taint of life and especially warrior path/code. Most warriors didn't cared about dying on the battlefield because they were expecting to be received by the Gods. They had a viking like mentality from that pov. Fighting naked was OK so no need for helmets or armor. Yet warriors with more income than peasant levy were able to offer themselves excellent quality swords and shields


                      Originally posted by hastati View Post
                      Original question was why Gauls didn't adopt Roman fighting tactic and my answer was: lack of funds and non-existing, effective, centralised administration which could perform military reforms.
                      I again disagree with the lack of funds, this is certainly not the choking point

                      Really income and funds were not an issue. Gauls were major customers of Italic goods (wine, olive oil) and major providers of iron, forged and jewelry goods as well as salt, loomed goods and livestock.
                      We are not talking about a ressource deprived area like Caledonia/Hibernia or beyond the Rhine Germanic territories

                      Lack of centralised administration, lack of permanent army (except the noble retinue) is however very true
                      BTW they adopted some Roman fighting tactics in some instance. I don't have my sources at hand but there are one or two examples of that, especially during the end of the Gaul war. Again, too few, too late because it's hard to change a warring mentality implemented for centuries in a few months. Those who tried this military reform (which was more a attempt for mentality change) were those who served in the roman army as auxiliaries officers.

                      Comment

                      Working...
                      X