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  • #31
    Originally posted by Kilgor View Post

    Even in 1812 and 1941 this was still a problem. From memory 500,000 horses involved in Barbarossa. Yes much of the equipment had changed but the reliance on horses was little different to their forefathers.
    Big difference in 1941 was that trains could bring oats and hay directly to the railhead. Makes it a lot easier to support a large number of horses (away from the coastline as UJ has pointed out which was the main manner of keeping them supplied pre-steam power).

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    • #32
      ~UNiOnJaCk~ & Mordoror

      One aspect which makes estimating the sizes and losses of medieval armies a real bitch is the fact that our source documents treat stuff differently. What I mean by that is one document speaks of "one knight and ten levies", another names only the knight --- for brevity's sake, out of disrespect for the infantry et cetera. In German documents 'a knight' might even denote what we nowadays would call a tactical unit.
      Roll calls are another problem. Especially mercenaries often brought fewer soldiers than agreed upon or opted not to report casualties so as to rake in the pay of the dead.

      As for the biggest armies, I believe you need not look for a Christian army bigger than 20000, perhaps 25000 at most prior to the mid-15th century. Most were smaller, especially in the 14th century after the plague had killed off like one in two Europeans alive.

      Some German historians believe that the army that marched into the very first crusade was about 50000 strong, but it did march in separate columns and never fought a battle with all forces combined.

      As far I know, the largest troop strengths which historians assume were possible to muster are

      Battle of Nicopolis, 1396: 35000 (Holy Roman Empire, France, Hungary, England, Croatia, Bulgaria, Genoa, Venice)
      Battle of Grunwald / Tannenberg, 1410: 27000 troops of the Teutonic State vs. 39000 Poles, Lithuanians and allies
      Battle of Towton, 1461: Up to 25000 Yorkists vs. up to 25000 Lancastrians (i.e. together they could've mustered 40000-50000 English troops)
      Battle of Vaslui, 1475: Up to 51000 (Moldavians, Poles, Hungarians)

      Many large armies we know little about seem to have been raised on the Balkans during the second half of the 15th century; to them the Ottoman threat was so real that in most cases the defenders weren't short of volunteers (if able-bodied ones). All large armies of the period have two things in common: They were all raised in defense and didn't have to march far nor stayed together for more than a few weeks; and/ or they were coalition armies.

      It's interesting how the Ottomans managed to raise and move larger bodies of military than their Christian rivals could. As I understand it their soldiers were on a special diet which required less foraging and provisions-making. Furthermore they managed the administrative side really good and planned years ahead, so they ran into fewer problems in the end while on the move.


      Originally posted by ~UNiOnJaCk~ View Post

      Question, when you refer to "men-at-arms", in what sense do you use the term? Are you referring to a man-at-arms in the sense of his socio-military class, or are you using it more broadly to cover all men under arms? If the latter, then i would contest the above assertion.

      As for a dismissal of the idea that Crusader armies ever numbered more than 40,000 men at their very largest, out of interest, where has this universal dismissal stemmed from? I can't say i have encountered it myself.
      Sorry, I should've clarified that. Coming from central Europe, my understanding of the term would be different than yours, of course. Here, a man-at-arms would be what nowadays we'd call a professional soldier (regardless of the social background). People in the Holy Roman Empire would've made a distinction between

      Ritter (knights)
      Knappen (squires)
      Edelknechte (professional soldiers of noble birth who'd opted not to become knighted to dodge the costs of a knight's lifestyle and duties)
      Waffenknechte (professional soldiers and foreign mercenaries)

      I understand that this terminology or a similiar one was used not only in Germany, Bohemia and Silesia, but also (albeit periodically) in Hungary, Croatia and Italy. Another definition I could give you is Armiger (Lat. "weapon-bearing man"), i.e. all men whom society regarded as warriors by occupation.

      Peasants levied in defense were not regarded as armigers.

      As for the crusades, in his book 'The Middle Ages' Cardini outlines the current state of science on the matter. He's unearthed Venetian documents detailing the assistance Venice rendered to the first three crusades. Thanks to them we have a good hunch on what the crusaders' armies looked like. Cardini says the largest unified army to ever embark on a crusade were the forces of the third crusade under Richard of England, Philip of France (allied with Frederick of Germany). For the Republic's help in getting the army to Outremer Venice's duke Enrico Dandolo demanded a sum of 85000 Colognian Mark (= approx.
      β…” pound of silver). The army consisted of exactly 4500 knights who brought with them 9000 squires and two horses each (the kings had dismissed any knight who could not so this we know for certain), and about 20000 infantry and auxiliary. In these years squires weren't universally recognized as combattants though and usually participated not in battle. In other words, it seems like the largest crusader army prior to AD 1400 consisted of about 20000 fighting men on foot and 4500 on horse.

      Of course they reinforced the army of Jerusalem, but frankly I would not call the Latins (i.e. the Christian inhabitants of Outremer) crusaders. Many of them had been born in the Holy Land. Having said that, Jerusalem's army was never very strong and their Muslim levies not reliable. After Hattin, Jerusalem had less than 1000 cavalry left.


      Originally posted by BogT View Post
      I know that the discovery of America was important, but for me it's more the start of a different era rather then the end of the previous one. Keeping inline with an "imperial definition", I would use Charlemagne's ascension to the imperial Roman throne as a start date, but I would use the fall of Constantinople (1453) as the end date. With the fall of Constantinople, the last vestige of the Roman empire was gone and the Ottomans were here to stay (rather than an external threat like the Mongols).
      I see what you mean, but I don't quite agree. I mean, you kind of using the downfall of an empire that had arisen in the ancient world as an indicator of the end of the period that came after antiquity. Moreover, even after the fall of Constantinople (i.e. East Rome) the Holy Roman Empire (a.k.a. the alleged heir to West Rome) continued to endure for another 350 years. And in the meantime in Burgundy medieval culture and knightly customs flourished one last time. I don't think the middle ages had ended just yet.

      The reason why I think Columbus's voyage marks the end of the middle ages is that his discovery not only triggered a change in the mindset of the medieval world (a.k.a. the Bible explains it all, a notion Columbus had defied) but also, eventually, medieval structures themselves. After his discovery the princes of Europe began looking to the west, and after realizing their realms weren't flexible enough to compete with Spain's claim on the new world, commenced to restructure their governments.


      Originally posted by BogT View Post
      Interesting fact about Stephen the Great forces. In Romanian old (nationalistic) movies the army is shown to be made mostly by foot infantry. However, historians now say that most of his force was light cavalry (mercenaries) and it was not uncommon for peasants to bring their own horses for mobility when joining the core mercenary force. So in light of this, I can see the 51k army being a quick mobilization (Vaslui is really in the center of Stephen's Moldavia) rather than a standing army situation (pure speculation on my part).
      Interesting, I wasn't aware of that discrepancy. The size of his army also reflects his policies at the time, by the way. As I understand it, Stephen basically emptied his realm and evacuated all citizens to some remote area while drafting almost every able-bodied man into his army. I think it's pretty clear that under circumstances less dire he couldn't have raised a force as large as the one which fought at Vaslui.

      Originally posted by Spartan10k View Post
      If you had to point to 1 book on the subject, would you have any recommendations?
      Spartan10k I should very much like to do so but to be honest, my insight into the English-speaking book market is limited. If you're more interested in the first half of the middle ages (particularly the Crusades), I'd say Thomas Asbridge has got you covered. If the second half is more your thing --- the Hundred Years' War and whatnot --- Anne Curry wrote some books about this period. In the end it really depends on what part of medieval life interests you most. If you're most interested in arms and amor, there's Tobias Capwell who is director of the most extensive arms collection in England; his books are fricking expensive, though. If life in general suits you more, Franco Cardini wrote a 'Companion to Medieval Society', but Amazon doesn't seem to have it as of today.

      And should you want to dig deeper there's actually a myriad of surprisingly dedicated books with titles like 'Horsemen in the armies of medieval Russia in the 12th century' or 'The life of a farmer in Burgundy in the 13th century'. (You'll get the point.)


      Originally posted by Spartan10k View Post
      This is one era in history I know criminally little about.
      "Criminally"? I'd say it's only natural. We're more likely to get interested in stuff we get into contact with on a daily basis. The medieval world is still visible in Europe on every second corner; for example, my elementary school was situated right next to a 13th century castle, which does leave an imprint of course. And once we decide to expand our horizons it's really up to one's taste (knowingly or not). For example, I've never developed an interest in ancient China even though it's certainly an interesting topic. I just can't relate to the bureaucracy stuff and whatnot. And only recently did I start to dig into the American Civil War, an event "criminally" underestimated in Europe. It's one of the most important events in America's history; but here, were are all like, 'That war about slavery, is that right?'

      Speaking of taste, heck, my lack of interest in the early modern age is perhaps entirely the fault of those ridiculous pants and wigs they began to wear!

      Comment


      • #33
        I'll cut straight to the point on the issue of crusader armies*. I think it is important to remember that a crusader army existed in phases or states throughout its life, so with that in mind it is important to set the parameters of the debate. By that i mean, are we referring to a crusader army as it existed at the point of contact with the enemy, or the army at its formation? Perhaps we might refer to the state and composition of the force as it transited to the East? Certainly, if primary sources are to be believed (and that, in itself, is a historiographical minefield that i could go on endlessly about!) we might well be led to believe that crusader armies at the point of inception tended to be really quite large with their later states poorly reflecting overall levels of participation on any one expedition.
        ~UNiOnJaCk~
        That's the point. It is admitted that armies were large at gathering point and bolstered from time to time by reinforcements/gatherings during their journey but indeed, depleted by attrition, splitting and lack of maritime transportation once reaching Balkans or Italian maritime coasts. Which means that effective contact troops reaching and operating in Outremer were always less in number than departing forces as showed by muck .
        For the record, muslim armies (that had shorter logistical lines) never reached above 30-40K in Syria, Palestine and Anatolia. Those areas being particularly ill suited from a logistical pov for water, grazing and food sources, especially for medieval armies with a poor logistical train. Except when departing or operating around Egypt (and up to southern Palestine) but here, Egypt was a specific case as it was the wheat granary of the region with a large population pool.

        Even during WWI and between WWI and WII with better logistical means (including availability of canned food and airdropped logistic, example Levant campaign 1925), number of combattants in those regions were limited particularly because number of horses was not infinite as precised by TheKiwi

        In short, more often than not, the initial intended Zerg rush envisionned in Western Europe ended up as a limited military capability once engaged in Outremer.

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        • #34
          muck muck

          ​I do not need a long answer, but I do have one question. To which extent do your myths still apply to Western Europe before the Carolingians?

          My impression is that post-Roman Europe was definitely a worse place to be alive prior to their rise.

          Comment


          • #35
            Originally posted by Mordoror View Post
            ~UNiOnJaCk~
            That's the point. It is admitted that armies were large at gathering point and bolstered from time to time by reinforcements/gatherings during their journey but indeed, depleted by attrition, splitting and lack of maritime transportation once reaching Balkans or Italian maritime coasts. Which means that effective contact troops reaching and operating in Outremer were always less in number than departing forces as showed by muck .
            For the record, muslim armies (that had shorter logistical lines) never reached above 30-40K in Syria, Palestine and Anatolia. Those areas being particularly ill suited from a logistical pov for water, grazing and food sources, especially for medieval armies with a poor logistical train. Except when departing or operating around Egypt (and up to southern Palestine) but here, Egypt was a specific case as it was the wheat granary of the region with a large population pool.

            Even during WWI and between WWI and WII with better logistical means (including availability of canned food and airdropped logistic, example Levant campaign 1925), number of combattants in those regions were limited particularly because number of horses was not infinite as precised by TheKiwi

            In short, more often than not, the initial intended Zerg rush envisionned in Western Europe ended up as a limited military capability once engaged in Outremer.
            Often the anticipated "zerg rush" of Christians failed to even materialise at a crusade's exception, let alone reach the Holy Land in such great numbers!

            Back to the question though, theoretically, if a crusader army stood at 40,000+ strong, even if only for a brief period in its existence, is this sufficient enough to claim that "yes, armies of the medieval period could, and did, exceed the more modest estimations that have been suggested in this thread"? Or do we have to be a little more stringent with our standards? What are the goal posts? This would be my one remaining question to you all. As i said earlier, based on the source materials i have worked with in the past, i am of the opinion that it was certainly possible for a crusader army to have exceeded a strength of 40,000 men and that there may well have been occasions when they actually did so in practice. Of course, i will freely admit that such occasions were likely to have been the exception and not the norm, but i feel the possible existence of such armies can't be entirely ruled out just quite yet to my mind.

            muck Thanks for your reply. You are right, available sources on the period frequently pose a whole range of problems for medieval historians. Particularly with contemporary sources, specific military detail is often entirely absent, even when the source touches upon matters of warfare (which in turn hampers more recent historians of the period).

            Take some of the better known chronicles of the crusades, those provided by the likes of William of Tyre, Villehardouin or Oliver of Paderborn for example, where they discuss the more overtly militaristic elements of the respective crusades to which their chronicles refer, they frequently address these events only in the most broadly narrative of terms, providing a bare bones overview of the given battle, skirmish, siege etc. before returning once more to the overarching campaign narrative, often in very dramatic style – they are narrative histories, by and large.

            Where any attempt is made by such chroniclers to provide factual specificity of some sort, the tell-tale signs of sweeping generalisation are often readily apparent – the use of incredibly neat figures, conveniently vague estimates passed as informed commentary or how, remarkably, many of the armies of the age broadly seem to have been of similar sizes?

            Like i say, they can be problematic, for all their enormous value, particularly when dealing with matters like the one we are discussing here. There are many other issues with the available source material besides, some of which you have also noted, including differing terminologies.

            On Doge Dandolo, i think the figures you have quoted are actually in relation to the botched crusade of 1204, as opposed to the Third Crusade – which has inadvertently shown me that i made a factual error in my previous post because i confused the sum demanded by the Venetians for the anticipated size of the crusader force, doh! As far as i know Venice had little to no involvement in the Third Crusade and certainly Doge Dandolo is notorious in crusade history for the conspiracy theories which have arisen around his part in the Fourth Crusade, plus the figures quoted seem familiar to me in the context of 1202-1204. Richard the Lionheart conveyed himself to the Holy Land using an Anglo-Flemish fleet IIRC, Barbarossa took a land route and Philip did something else (i actually can’t remember how Philip got there! ).

            I digress however. Your central contention is spot on, it's extremely difficult to estimate the size of a medieval army, in this case, a crusader army. From my own point of view however, this lack of clarity leaves open the possibility that armies of the time may well have indeed met, or exceeded, on occasion, the magical 40,000 mark, particularly in the crusade context. It's just my two pennies worth of course.
            Last edited by ~UNiOnJaCk~; 12-10-2017, 10:58 AM.

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            • #36
              UJ
              To answer you quickly (because typing on a bloody mobile), remember that crusader armies were unified forces of several major power. That UK, France and Holy Empire (+ others like Italy, Flemish condominion etc) were able to gather 40K is more than likely. That each separate power had the mean to have its own 40K army is less likely.

              There is a rule of thumb. Number of soldiers is also limited by population pool and cost. Population pool was not very large and knights and retinue were expensive.
              At it s peak of power Roman Empire had a maximum of 100-120K legionnaries. I dont see how ten time smaller countries could have gathered 1/3 of that.

              Comment


              • #37
                Originally posted by OrangeWolf View Post
                muck muck

                ​I do not need a long answer, but I do have one question. To which extent do your myths still apply to Western Europe before the Carolingians?

                My impression is that post-Roman Europe was definitely a worse place to be alive prior to their rise.
                If by "myths" you mean the list of aforesaid stereotypes, I'd say this answer can no one give in short and plain. The migration period, i.e. the time between Rome's downfall and its restoration (in the eyes of the contemporary world) is one we mostly know the basics steps of but not many details in comparison. It's not by chance that many call this period the 𝖉𝖆𝖗𝖐 π–†π–Œπ–Šπ–˜, and there's even a small albeit popular group of historians who believe the 7th and 8th centuries were a chronicler's invention and never happened. Rome had fallen and the better part of the world's civilization had come tumbling down as well. It's not just that though; the onslaught on Europe from the east and from the Moors beset other cultures which might've filled the gap had they been left alone.

                The 'magnus' (great) in Carolus Magnus is largely owed to his image as the savior and reviver of European civilization. So yes, it certainly wasn't a nice time to live in --- in the Christianized part of continental Europe and in Muslim Spain at least. I think the new Anglosaxon lords of England (prior to the Viking period) and the slavic tribes who settled in the Baltic region were a little better off than the rest; they enjoyed a higher degree of order and more artifacts of them survived.

                Comment


                • #38
                  Originally posted by Mordoror View Post
                  UJ
                  To answer you quickly (because typing on a bloody mobile), remember that crusader armies were unified forces of several major power. That UK, France and Holy Empire (+ others like Italy, Flemish condominion etc) were able to gather 40K is more than likely. That each separate power had the mean to have its own 40K army is less likely.

                  There is a rule of thumb. Number of soldiers is also limited by population pool and cost. Population pool was not very large and knights and retinue were expensive.
                  At it s peak of power Roman Empire had a maximum of 100-120K legionnaries. I dont see how ten time smaller countries could have gathered 1/3 of that.
                  The Roman Empire had 400.000 Soldiers all told(the late Roman Empire probably even more) Legionaries and Auxilia, and the numbers discrepancy can be explained by the fact that every Legionary and many of the Auxilia soldiers were armored and armed to a standard that was only approached by a Nobleman in the middle ages: every Legionary was armored with chain mail, segmented of scale armor and had identical weapons.
                  The state centrally paid and fed them. Just call up a lot of people expected to bring their own weapons might produce larger armies.

                  while the Romans are traditionally seen as inimical to cavalry, the proportion of cavalry in at least the late roman armies was probably higher than that in the knightly medieval armies. Though of course due to lack of stirrups cavalry could not match the fighting power of medieval cavalry and was more of a pursuit/skirmishing force.

                  Re sources, while we have indefinitely more sources on medieval warfare than on antique warfare, the medieval chroniclers are almost inevitably clergymen, which usually (but not always) meant they had little to no military experience, much less first hand knowledge of warfare and tended to fill those gaps with what they had read in antique sources available to them. In contrary to that most of the antique historians had first hand military experience (Polybios witnessing the 3rd Punic War firsthand) and in many cases even combat experience (Arrian, Pliny the Younger), at least in a leadership position, Virgil being the notable exception.


                  Originally posted by OrangeWolf View Post
                  muck muck

                  My impression is that post-Roman Europe was definitely a worse place to be alive prior to their rise.
                  The living conditions of a late roman colonus were probably equal or in some ways worse than a early medieval peasant.
                  Their 5th century masters lived little different than Cicero (even if they were christian) but they did so as much on the backs of peasants as their medieval successors. The only difference was that the table manners were better and the conversation indefinitely more cultured.
                  The rural population had their civil rights successively taken away beginning in the late 3rd century until they were basically serfs already by the end of the West Roman Empire. The early Germanic realms at least had their tribal common law that governed all free men while colones had little or no access to the Roman legal system.
                  Last edited by JCR; 12-10-2017, 01:11 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    I've always been under the impression that battles on the periphery of Europe, such as the British Isles and the Nordic countries, would have been fought on a smaller scale than those on the continent. Generally the big battles such as Hastings and Stamford Bridge seem to have very roughly 10,000 combatants on each side. Another example of the smaller scale of war on the edges was in Sweden in 1363, when Albrecht claimed the Swedish crown with roughly 1600 soldiers.

                    This thread peaked my curiosity and so I did a little looking into the field of agriculture and came across this:

                    http://www.medievalhistories.com/the-heavy-plough/

                    In my mind, the improved plow is as an important development as the military advances were.

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      Originally posted by JCR View Post
                      A great list, and one of the posts worthy of old MP.net



                      The (european) middle ages are usually seen as a lawless age:
                      It was not. In fact in the period between 900 and the the Religious Wars, society was if anything MORE legalized than afterwards.
                      Rule was not absolute but rather a very complex system of interdependencies that left no one really free to do as he pleased, from the lowest peasant to the Holy Roman Emperor.

                      19th century history tends to focus on kings, knights, battles and heroics because that is the stuff with which you can build patriotic legends, while today's history concentrates on the socio-economic interdependencies which makes medieval history sound dreadfully boring but is probably closer to every day life.

                      The "Neuzeit" (in German the period starting with the Reformation and lasting basically until the Age of Enlightenment, these laws were successively broken down by religious strife, absolute rule and economics (and maybe even climate change), creating a climate of insecurity
                      It depended largely on the region. England had it's Anarchy, Percy/Neville Fued/War of the Roses, Barons Wars ect.

                      Germany where a centralised state never really got established. There was an aweful lot of violence. Especially in Thuringia where there was the most resistance against the Emperor. Remember Thuringia back then was most of Hesse, Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt with parts of modern day Brandenburg. Hell one Emperor couldn't even take 3 "Robber Baron" castles. (Drei Gleichen) and this state of affairs continued up until the 30 years war.

                      You have to ask yourself why did the Archbishop of Mainz build one of the largest Fortresses in Erfurt? It wasn't because it was an isolated city. Nordhausen and MuhlHausen never built such impressives fortresses. It was buildt because of the fucking around/being total arseholes that the Thuringen Landgraves and it's Robber Barons were doing. Even Charlamagne had problems. Let alone the theory that Odoacer was also Thuringen. One guy even kidnapped two princes and took them to Kappellendorf.

                      Also checkout the Anna Amelia library. Weimar had walls so big that they turned a part of them and a tower into a baroque palace and later a library. You don't build such defenses unless you are expecting to be besieged at some point by the Emporer or one of your Barons gets uppity whilst your busy defeating the Emporer's combined army with Bavaria. (Battle of Lucka)

                      One of the castles at Drei Gleichen mentions that art of the reason for the small population of Thuringia into the modern day was because of the huge amount of devestation that has always been prevelant there into the Early Modern Period. Despite the rich fertile farmland and abundant natural resources and being stuck between Leipzig and Frankfurt (The two big commercial centres of the Empire)

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        Originally posted by TheKiwi View Post
                        One of the big limitations to the size of an army (from recollection at any rate) was the amount of food/fodder needed by horses. If you couldn't take hay (and other fodder) with you - and the resources to do so were usually limited - then horses need a lot of grazing area. Something in the vicinity of 1 acre per 10 horses per day. It was very easy to graze out an area and not be able to support almost any cavalry.
                        That's a very good point. Main strength of medieval armies was high-quality cavalry, that would probably overhelm any ancient formation. On the other hand the core of ancient armies was infantry. Infantrymen is much cheaper to equip and maintain than cavalrymen, hence ancient states could muster much larger armies than medieval rulers. Of course logistic system of ancient times was superior to medieval one, but still, if ancient armies were cavalry-oriented, its's size would be much smaller.

                        It's worth to mention that Mongol armies had massive problem with feeding their horses - that's why they didn't advance any further than Hungarian and Eastern European plains, their horses needed vast grasslands.

                        Comment


                        • #42
                          The Roman Empire had 400.000 Soldiers all told(the late Roman Empire probably even more) Legionaries and Auxilia, and the numbers discrepancy can be explained by the fact that every Legionary and many of the Auxilia soldiers were armored and armed to a standard that was only approached by a Nobleman in the middle ages: every Legionary was armored with chain mail, segmented of scale armor and had identical weapons.
                          The state centrally paid and fed them. Just call up a lot of people expected to bring their own weapons might produce larger armies.
                          Yes my bad, 33 legions (180 000 men) at its peak (Septimus Severus) + around 200-250 000 permanent Auxilia
                          + Numeris (irregular levee of local auxilia for local defence)
                          But the point is that all that was centraly managed. Roman Empire had a population and money pool way larger than any Medieval Kingdom (including Holy Roman Empire)
                          Moreover when you take in consideration that medieval armies were made of calls for banners of knights/barons, each with a limited land surface and hence ressources, each call for banner being pretty tiny (few knights + squires + retinue of few tenth of men at arms)

                          Comment


                          • #43
                            Originally posted by muck View Post

                            If by "myths" you mean the list of aforesaid stereotypes, I'd say this answer can no one give in short and plain. The migration period, i.e. the time between Rome's downfall and its restoration (in the eyes of the contemporary world) is one we mostly know the basics steps of but not many details in comparison. It's not by chance that many call this period the 𝖉𝖆𝖗𝖐 π–†π–Œπ–Šπ–˜, and there's even a small albeit popular group of historians who believe the 7th and 8th centuries were a chronicler's invention and never happened. Rome had fallen and the better part of the world's civilization had come tumbling down as well. It's not just that though; the onslaught on Europe from the east and from the Moors beset other cultures which might've filled the gap had they been left alone.

                            The 'magnus' (great) in Carolus Magnus is largely owed to his image as the savior and reviver of European civilization. So yes, it certainly wasn't a nice time to live in --- in the Christianized part of continental Europe and in Muslim Spain at least. I think the new Anglosaxon lords of England (prior to the Viking period) and the slavic tribes who settled in the Baltic region were a little better off than the rest; they enjoyed a higher degree of order and more artifacts of them survived.
                            THanks. And yes my bad I meant stereotypes instead of myths.

                            -

                            Comment


                            • #44
                              Originally posted by Mordoror View Post
                              Yes my bad, 33 legions (180 000 men) at its peak (Septimus Severus) + around 200-250 000 permanent Auxilia
                              + Numeris (irregular levee of local auxilia for local defence)
                              But the point is that all that was centraly managed. Roman Empire had a population and money pool way larger than any Medieval Kingdom (including Holy Roman Empire)
                              Moreover when you take in consideration that medieval armies were made of calls for banners of knights/barons, each with a limited land surface and hence ressources, each call for banner being pretty tiny (few knights + squires + retinue of few tenth of men at arms)
                              At the Battle of Towton around 50,000 men took part. Contempory writers at the time suggested around 100,000. Considering this was towards the end of the Middle Ages and only 10 or so years after the 100 years war it's evidence that in the middle ages even during civil war that armies could become quite large even by Roman standards.


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                              • #45
                                Originally posted by hastati View Post

                                That's a very good point. Main strength of medieval armies was high-quality cavalry, that would probably overhelm any ancient formation.
                                Cavalry charging a formation head-on is mostly Hollywood mythology. In a period where a quality trained horse is worth an entire village and farmland around it, no one is willing to charge and waste their precious horse an a futile endeavour. It was a game of chicken, and if the infantry stood their ground, the charge would fail: instead cavalry was employed in a combined arms manner: combat opponent's cavalry, screen the infrantry from harrassment by nimble troops and exploit a tactical opening or rout an exposed flank or rear. Heaviest casualties were inflicted after routing the enemy and during pursuit of broken forces.

                                Moreover, full speed charges are a myth as well. Even better, a horse is not a stupid or suicidal animal, and horses wouldn't charge a solid block of men. This has been conclusively proven and is witnessed in written accounts of battles. That is the point of pike and bayonet squares. The cataphracts were more heavily armored than medieval knights, at least until late Medieval full plate and horse barding entered the scene; yet the used their lances more in a sideway fashion against infantry than a frontal charge.

                                Why am I quoting a solid block of men? Because phalanx, sarissa phalanx and Roman closed rank defensive stance are the definitions of cavalry charge-proof formations. And tested against actual cavalry.

                                Pike squares of Middle Ages were effective against cavalry as well as against infantry, the only counter was other pikemen and ranged attack, artillery worked the best.

                                Tactics revolved around cavalry in Western Europe because the trained and well-equipped men preferred to fight from horseback and the infantry were poorer, conscripted and untrained forces unable to stand their ground. Once that changed, tactics adapted to it.

                                Originally posted by hastati View Post
                                On the other hand the core of ancient armies was infantry. Infantrymen is much cheaper to equip and maintain than cavalrymen, hence ancient states could muster much larger armies than medieval rulers. Of course logistic system of ancient times was superior to medieval one, but still, if ancient armies were cavalry-oriented, its's size would be much smaller.

                                It's worth to mention that Mongol armies had massive problem with feeding their horses - that's why they didn't advance any further than Hungarian and Eastern European plains, their horses needed vast grasslands.
                                It depends on the culture. Parthians, Sassanids, Sarmatians, Huns, Magyars and other equestrian cultures most certainly didn't lack in cavalry numbers or quality. Vandals and Goths put a large emphasis on cavalry as well. Heavy war horses can't be sustained on grass, they are grain fed because we are talking about 600+ kg animals. Pastoral nomads usually rode on tough little ponies which could be grass fed only, but their shock cavalrymen and nobility rode bigger horses.

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