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  • #46
    Thinking of my own region, some of your perceived stereotypes apply differently. My part of the Netherlands - always politically irrelevant - felt feudalism less strongly because while we did have feudal rulers even the vassals of the German empire were far away and less influential. Not that they had that much to gain from this region. As I can quote from one of my books on this my region was "a transition area between feudalism and free farmers" throughout the middle ages. Up to 1795 at least free land-owning farmers were represented as an estate.

    What I miss in your story, muck , is the stereotypes of national conscience and patriotism. This stems from a lack of understanding of cultural identification at the time as opposed to now.

    Even in my border area I have heard the rather naive argument that here there was always a division between "Dutch" (I doubt people felt that way) and "German" because the border is rather old border with Hochstift MΓΌnster and because there was a marsh between us and the Germans.

    This is hilarious on many levels.

    Some time after the forcible Christianization of my region villages were organized along church congregations ( Kirchspiele). The characteristics and organization of villages in my region were more similar to the "German" villages across the border than many places in the Netherlands. The people actually met in the arable lands in between the marshes and traded there. They had similar if not the same festivities and sagas. Over the centuries things changed of course because they had different leaders. On a higher level there was a cultural exchange and the same language was sometimes used in church congregations. I have a book about labor camps in Emsland and here too you can read that up to the invasion in 1940 farmers communicated with each other, traded with each other and up to some extent considered each other to be the same people.

    Hochstift MΓΌnster at several points in history even had (and more often tried to have) administrative powers on the now Dutch side of the border. Parts of East Frisia were economically and culturally oriented towards the Dutch side, not their own "German" side.

    The reformation of course complicated things: our region quickly became protestant. But it also led to intensified contacts between co-religionists on both sides of the border.

    The entire region was culturally fluid throughout the Middle Ages. If you would go back in time you would find Hollandic, Westphalian, Frisian and Low Saxon influences in competition. The "language border" was also not static throughout the middle ages and the early modern period.

    While I find the rise of 19th century civic nationalism very interesting and perhaps essential for my current way of life,I must admit it has had a negative influence on people's knowledge and perception of cultural identity.

    Comment


    • #47
      Originally posted by Morlach
      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 opponents 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.
      I'm fully aware of cavalry tactic - however it doesn't change the fact that it was common for cavalry to break infantry ranks. Cataphracts was a small formation, their number was never high. Actually it prove my point that deploying large number of heavy riders was a problematic even for rich, well-organised ancient states, not to mention medieval kingdoms/duchies. It determine why medieval armies were smaller.

      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.
      I have no doubt that medieval cavalry could not frontally charge phalanx, however we can't say that any ancient infantry formation was tested against solid cavalry. Ancient horses were much smaller, there was no stirrups (it makes HUGE difference), typical cavalrymen wore less armour than late-medieval rider and didn't know heavy lances, designed for charging, not melee combat.

      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.
      Vandals, Goths and other barbarian tribes didn't have much cavalry, it's a common myth. Neither of folk you mentioned could deploy masive cavalry-oriented armies, larger than medieval armies. Maybe except Huns, but they were nomadic people, it's completely different story.

      Comment


      • #48
        Originally posted by Mindy Fashionista View Post

        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.

        Both sides combined
        Meaning that you had 20-25 K on one side and 30-25K on the other side. From memory i don't recall any western europe medieval army above those limits. If you look Asia (minor or central or far east) you could have hundred of thousands of troops deployed.
        As early as Qin Empire some writters speak about million men armies but that's a different population pool

        Comment


        • #49
          Originally posted by hastati View Post

          I'm fully aware of cavalry tactic - however it doesn't change the fact that it was common for cavalry to break infantry ranks. Cataphracts was a small formation, their number was never high. Actually it prove my point that deploying large number of heavy riders was a problematic even for rich, well-organised ancient states, not to mention medieval kingdoms/duchies. It determine why medieval armies were smaller.

          Point me towards occasions where cavalry frontally broke through infantry. Where did you get the idea that Cataphracts-style cavalry (originating from Indo-Iranian Steppe nomads) was a small fraction of their force?

          It amuses me that you haven't even bothered to search for examples from age of musketry and bayonet and the logic behind square formation, which are the most-squishiest infantry type imaginable, far more than predominantly polearm infantry of High Medieval period prior to pike blocks.

          If the infantry stand their ground (and trained infantry did so, even absorbing cannon and musket fire, shrugging off casualties) the charge was doomed to a failure. People nowadays look at Caracole and Reiter pistol tactics as if they were cowards and refused to do the instawin that the cavalry charge is in their minds. As I have previously said, doing a full speed charge would be a great way to lose your horse and get killed due to the impact, not to mention the more probable case of horse stopping or steering away from solid infantry line, disrupting the charge line.


          Originally posted by hastati View Post
          I have no doubt that medieval cavalry could not frontally charge phalanx, however we can't say that any ancient infantry formation was tested against solid cavalry. Ancient horses were much smaller, there was no stirrups (it makes HUGE difference), typical cavalrymen wore less armour than late-medieval rider and didn't know heavy lances, designed for charging, not melee combat.
          Stirrups were known to equestrian cultures, stirrups don't make a difference for lance charge but they do for skirmishers or horse archers, and mounted melee, they promote side to side stability, not front to back. If you give it a bit of thinking, you might understand why. Also, full contact ancient cavalry was literally strapped in their saddle.

          Kontos was a two handed lance, bigger and heavier than medieval ones. Until plate armour introduced lance rests, the impact of the lance was limited to the point when it started sliding in the couched manner. The lance handguard and the shape of lance itself evolved to remedy it.

          Eastern heavy cavalry had more armour than typical medieval knights. As late as Latin Empire, the difference was significant. Western knights relied on faster speed and tigher lance charge. Protection against missiles for horses was mandatory in archery-saturated battlefields. Nisaean and other shock cavalry horses being smaller than Medieval ones? Oh, tell me more.

          Again, you have no idea what you are talking about.


          Originally posted by hastati View Post
          Vandals, Goths and other barbarian tribes didn't have much cavalry, it's a common myth. Neither of folk you mentioned could deploy masive cavalry-oriented armies, larger than medieval armies. Maybe except Huns, but they were nomadic people, it's completely different story.
          Would you be so kind and explain their mobility, raids and campaign pace, point me towards quotes and references which disprove that myth?

          Did you really just claim that the steppe cultures and actual cavalry exclusive armies couldn't field enough cavalry?
          Last edited by Morlach; 13-10-2017, 02:22 AM.

          Comment


          • #50
            Point me towards occasions where cavalry frontally broke through infantry. Where did you get the idea that Cataphtacts-style cavalry (originating from Indo-Iranian Steppe nomads) was a small fraction of their froce?
            Milvius Bridge for example
            Although Cataphractii got bogged in the follow up lines, they broke the first contact lines and maniples though

            Stirrups were known to equestrain cultures, stirrups don't make a difference for lance charge but they do for skirmishers or horse archers, they promote side to side stability, not front to back. If you give it a bit of thinking, you might understand why. Also, full contact ancient cavalry was literally strapped in their saddle.
            Not entirely exact.; Before stirrups, cavalry lances (kontos) were held with two hands as you said and thus were not of easy use and handling for frontal charges. Stirrups gave also a stable enough support for the evolution of "under the shoulder" held lance, increasing the impact power of frontal charges

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            • #51
              Originally posted by Mordoror View Post

              Milvius Bridge for example
              Although Cataphractii got bogged in the follow up lines, they broke the first contact lines and maniples though
              I was always under the impression that Constantine's cavalry first routed the opposing cavalry and then circled around the flank. Where did you read on the frontal cavarly charge account?

              Originally posted by Mordoror View Post
              Not entirely exact.; Before stirrups, cavalry lances (kontos) were held with two hands as you said and thus were not of easy use and handling for frontal charges. Stirrups gave also a stable enough support for the evolution of "under the shoulder" held lance, increasing the impact power of frontal charges
              Frankish pictures depict their cavalry with and without stirrups. We know they had melee cavalry for certainty. Couched lance charge tactic was developed in France between XI and XIII century.
              Stirrups were introduced to Europe much before that, Avars had them for example.

              See that the chronology does not match exactly? "Common knowledge" of history is usually repeated quoting and referencing of an outdated or outright wrong work from the past. The most notable example being WW2 and all those cute little politically motivated myths promoted by people with a stake in it, that survive to this day. This is a very informative article that summarises a great deal of books and papers on cavalry warfare in the past.
              Last edited by Morlach; 13-10-2017, 03:02 AM.

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              • #52
                Originally posted by Mordoror View Post

                Both sides combined
                Meaning that you had 20-25 K on one side and 30-25K on the other side. From memory i don't recall any western europe medieval army above those limits. If you look Asia (minor or central or far east) you could have hundred of thousands of troops deployed.
                As early as Qin Empire some writters speak about million men armies but that's a different population pool

                But when you think about it. That means in England alone you would have close to 100,000 troops available for a campaign. Most castles would have still have token garrisons as well as any "royal" fortresses specifically built for the defense of the realm. Plus there was a sizable garrison in Caen. And this in a country that had been at war for 100 years against France and had been experiencing civil for sometime.

                Logistically nothing had really changed from the Romans until the the Industrial Revolution and it wasn't until the 20th Century that illness became less of a factor then combat.

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                • #53
                  Originally posted by Morlach View Post

                  I was always under the impression that Constantine's cavalry first routed the opposing cavalry and then circled around the flank. Where did you read on the frontal cavarly charge account?
                  You are correct about the flanking. I remember that i have read somewhere that some cataphractii charged some infantry formations straight but it's foggy and could be very well wrong; Moreover as there are not a lot of details on the battle itself


                  Originally posted by Morlach View Post
                  Frankish pictures depict their cavalry with and without stirrups. We know they had melee cavalry for certainty. Couched lance charge tactic was developed in France between XI and XIII century.
                  Stirrups were introduced to Europe much before that, Avars had them for example.

                  See that the chronology does not match exactly? "Common knowledge" of history is usually repeated quoting and referencing of an outdated or outright wrong work from the past. The most notable example being WW2 and all those cute little politically motivated myths promoted by people with a stake in it, that survive to this day. This is a very informative article that summarises a great deal of books and papers on cavalry warfare in the past.
                  About the Franks : yes on the whole line. Yet their victories cavalry versus cavalry versus the Lombard and Saxons are credited to the stirrups
                  Avars used mostly Kontos style heavy lances even with their stirrups. It takes time to change military habits or develop new ones so i don't see that as a chronology issue but rather as a military evolution timeframe
                  In any case the stirrups case is controversial even among historians
                  Some are up to say that wide adoption led to feodalism
                  Some are like you saying that they had no other interest than a better lateral stability and thus no real social or military impact

                  Comment


                  • #54
                    Originally posted by Mindy Fashionista View Post


                    But when you think about it. That means in England alone you would have close to 100,000 troops available for a campaign. Most castles would have still have token garrisons as well as any "royal" fortresses specifically built for the defense of the realm. Plus there was a sizable garrison in Caen. And this in a country that had been at war for 100 years against France and had been experiencing civil for sometime.

                    Logistically nothing had really changed from the Romans until the the Industrial Revolution and it wasn't until the 20th Century that illness became less of a factor then combat.
                    100 000 is a bit overstretched. Towton battle is at most 60K according to most recent reports needing to be refined (you'll note that the winner is twice less numerous than the vainquished side, as always )
                    Token garrissons including Caen won't bring you to 100K
                    During a civil war you usualy scrap the bottom of the barrel and engage most of your forces.
                    So if we take the medieval sources for granted, England would have a maximum of 70-75K men available for war and that at great cost (cost and balance of kingdom treasure was not a limit point taken in consideration during a civil war for succession)
                    In others wors, a civil war of succession is a specific case when you sacrifice the future of your Kingdom for an immediate gain.
                    Much like when you spend 30-50% of GDP for military. It's unsustainable for the medium-long term.
                    Even under this very specific situation, you had 60K men and as said by historians around 4/5 of the peers of the Kingdom (with their retinue) bludgeoning each others on the field
                    Knowing that, it gives you the totality of the military forces available in England back then i.e 75K at most with a scrapped barrel quality

                    Comment


                    • #55
                      Originally posted by muck View Post
                      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!
                      Or in the East, prisoners who had committed misdemeanors were forced to stick their head and hands in the pillory, were paraded around town, and the people smeared the captive's face with cinder or excrement to enhance their ridicule.
                      Cinder in Byzantine Greek is mundza, and the gesture of smearing the prisoner's face has produced the homonym, homophone & homograph modern Greek offensive hand gesture...
                      ...but, the punishment for murder in Constantinople was (at some point) the burning alive of the culprit at the stake, after being besmeared with pitch. Usually convicted murderers were executed in pairs, they were left burning at the entrance of the Golden horn on both sides, and the fire was visible from the ships entering the port (later, port authorities decided to have beacons in place of the execution stakes, so they replaced them with two permanent lighthouses!)
                      Originally posted by muck View Post
                      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.
                      The 22,000 captive Thessalonians (including prominent firgures like the historian Ioannes Kaminiates who wrote the history of the capturing of the city) taken prisoner by the Saracens, after the sack of Thessaloniki in 904 by them, were later almost all ransomed by the emperor
                      Originally posted by muck View Post
                      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.
                      No, not at all, in the East, the Church organized very early (perhaps 5th, 6th c.) elementary schools (called "χαμαιδιδασκαλΡῖον / khamaididaskaleion" i.e. ground-school because the 6-7 yo pupils sat down on the ground) and were taught by educated priests/monks how to read & write, basic arithmetics, Greek grammar, Byzantine chanting and the Church's Synaxarium.
                      Interestingly enough, both Homer's works were used as elementary books for teaching children how to read, uninterruptibly in the Greek speaking world from the Classical Greek days up until the 7th c. (that is 1200 years!). In the 7th c. the Septuagint psalter replaced Homer at elementary school, and the Iliad & Odyssey were used thereon as manuals for teaching Greek grammar to pupils aged 10 or older for a couple of centuries more. It was sine non qua for the Byzantine pupil to know by heart large portions from both Homeric epics, and even to perform them publicly, in metre!

                      Comment


                      • #56
                        Originally posted by Mordoror View Post

                        100 000 is a bit overstretched. Towton battle is at most 60K according to most recent reports needing to be refined (you'll note that the winner is twice less numerous than the vainquished side, as always )
                        Token garrissons including Caen won't bring you to 100K
                        During a civil war you usualy scrap the bottom of the barrel and engage most of your forces.
                        So if we take the medieval sources for granted, England would have a maximum of 70-75K men available for war and that at great cost (cost and balance of kingdom treasure was not a limit point taken in consideration during a civil war for succession)
                        In others wors, a civil war of succession is a specific case when you sacrifice the future of your Kingdom for an immediate gain.
                        Much like when you spend 30-50% of GDP for military. It's unsustainable for the medium-long term.
                        Even under this very specific situation, you had 60K men and as said by historians around 4/5 of the peers of the Kingdom (with their retinue) bludgeoning each others on the field
                        Knowing that, it gives you the totality of the military forces available in England back then i.e 75K at most with a scrapped barrel quality

                        What I was getting at is that there was nothing really stopping Kingdoms/Duchies ect from fielding very large armies even by todays standards if the need arose. Of course they wouldn't field their entire army. Harold Godwinson for example left a large (more than half) contigent in the North when he rushed south to face William.

                        As for organisation in the period. There was some remarkable feats of arms that were displayed that were not much different to what happens today. King John for an example managed to twice invade France with two armies with what today would be considered combined arms operations. Yeah sure he lost France for good but his efforts were quite remarkable considering the communication issues of the time.

                        Comment


                        • #57
                          Originally posted by Mindy Fashionista View Post


                          What I was getting at is that there was nothing really stopping Kingdoms/Duchies ect from fielding very large armies even by todays standards if the need arose. Of course they wouldn't field their entire army. Harold Godwinson for example left a large (more than half) contigent in the North when he rushed south to face William.

                          As for organisation in the period. There was some remarkable feats of arms that were displayed that were not much different to what happens today. King John for an example managed to twice invade France with two armies with what today would be considered combined arms operations. Yeah sure he lost France for good but his efforts were quite remarkable considering the communication issues of the time.
                          Bold part : i understood that well and may even agree to some extend; But the Art of war has changed little within its basics
                          Your army no matter how big you want to have it will be limited by population pool available (especially in a labour heavy society), money and quality/training as well as weapons availability
                          Packing up tenth of thousands of hastened levees equiped with a bamboo pike for a short time can inflate the numbers
                          It will ultimately turn into a disaster when harvesting time will rise or when in contact with veteran forces
                          There are tenth of examples of that during Antiquity and quite a few during Medieval Ages
                          So nobodies do that except in specific cases (last ditch defense, civil war for succession, large Empire ala Persia with a huge manpower ....)

                          Comment


                          • #58
                            I kinda lost my way in here.
                            I seem to remember OrangeWolf raised a point about nationalism. Provided I understood his argument as it was intended, I agree: there was no such thing as nationalism.

                            The concept of nation and of races hadn't been born yet. Ethnicity-based rivalries in the modern sense of the word were a product of the centuries to come and only manufactured into historical medieval accounts by a modern audience. For example, the idea of a Polish-German ethnic rivalry to have manifested itself in the Battle of Grunwald is almost entirely an invention by Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz and by the German propaganda of World War One. In reality, both the Teutonic Knights and their Polish counterparts hesitated to fight each other quite significantly; and the majority of the Baltic Germans actually hoped for the Polish king to succeed, and went on to join forces with Poland later on. That's because the war was about dominion over the Balticum, nothing more. That's not to say ethnicity-based stereotypes didn't exist, of course. For example, Wallonians (who often served as mercenaries in foreign services) had a bit of an reputation for being cruel. In general though, the only feature to matter at the time was faith. There were only *the* Christians, and all Christian monarchs believed themselves brethren.

                            Mindy Fashionista et.al.

                            Wars were the most expensive undertakings of governments at the time, and as they were often pressed for coin and did a lot of paperwork to come by some, we have a rather detailed picture of how often they went to war and with what numbers. For one it's important to know that they didn't go to war more often than their descendants would. This we know. The most bellicose times in Europe prior to World War One were the 17th and 18th centuries. In average, Europe's 15th century saw two recorded land battles per year; the 17th century did nine.

                            As for army sizes, terminology and the attitude of the nobles give us pause every now and again, but we do know for certain that all those monstrous numbers we consider in here appear only in reports written after the fact, with a purpose in mind --- propaganda most likely. Harken ye fool how many men we vanquished! Lo how many men we doth commandeth! However, there's not a single document wherein a monarch demands from his vassals to raise armies the size of which we dispute. Nor is there any evidence of preparations to support armies that big.

                            Historians believe the hightest number of knighted men to have ever taken up arms on a single day was about 11000 in 1278's Battle on the Marchfeld, pitting Ottokar, King of Bohemia against Rudolph, King of the Romans and Ladislaus, King of Hungary. Both sides brought with them most knights available to them (often several men per family) as well as knights from foreign lands who'd taken service with them. They also had large contingents of infantry at their disposal but agreed not to deploy them before battle commenced; Marchfeld was a cavalry battle through and through and remained the largest one for over 400 years (until the Poles fielded a cavalry 20000 strong to lift 1683's siege of Vienna).

                            Ottokar deployed about 4500 knights, Rudolph and Ladislaus had about 6500.

                            In other words, we know that in the late 13th century (one of the peaks of medieval progress and prosperity, I hasten to add) Germany, Bohemia and Hungary --- the most populous part of Europe --- had something in the vicinity of 10000 knights at their disposal. Mind you, that was before the Black Death dealt demographics a blow which required centuries to heal. If we --- just for argument's sake --- assumed the ratio of battle-ready knights per 1000 people was the same in all of Christian Europe at the eve of this battle (they all needed the same minimum of lands after all) the result would be a total of between 17000 (lowest population estimate) and 29000 (highest estimate) knights give or take. In other words, there weren't enough knights in all of Europe in order to field but the cavalry of some of the armies the chronclers mention.

                            Also we should not forget there was no conscription and forcing men to fight in a war of aggression was a thing only the most powerful lords could dare do, as the lord owed his subjects protection. If he willingly exposed them to danger abroad or forced them to fight as though they had to protect themselves, he'd risked relieving his subjects from their duty of allegiance. Whenever a lord had to lead an army beyond his own borders, he had to do so at his own expense. And we do know (or manage to estimate at least) the kind of money they had for those shenanigans. It just wasn't enough.

                            It might be that in a do-or-die-scenario (like in Moldavia's case when the Ottomans attacked) some armies were larger than I'd give them credit for; however, I'm unable to draw any other conclusion from history than that these situations were the absolute exception. Heck, Clausewitz's teachings tell us a lot about how bloody difficult moving such large bodies of military would've been under the circumstances of the period, especially prior to the re-discovery of marching in step.

                            Oh, yeah, there's another stereotype for you: Medieval armies did not march in step. Cadence wasn't invented before the 1620s. ​

                            If you take 20000 men at first light and send them a day's march west on a road four men wide, wrote Clausewitz, the rearguard of the column will not be able to reach its destination on the same day. In other words, you'd need two days to assemble your army at the least --- and the late half wouldn't have had a moment of rest yet. What's to stop the enemy from attacking you in the meantime?

                            Comment


                            • #59
                              The Catholic Church oppressed science!
                              It did to some extent, though mostly so in the two centuries to come after the middle ages. A more correct description would be: the Church oppressed a certain way of doing science which it deemed provocative. By Catholic doctrine every word of the Bible was to be held as universal truth and open dissent would've spelt proof of apostasy.
                              However, the Church *did* allow a certain form of scientific discourse which most scientists were eager to adopt to work rather unhinderedly: that of a fictive dialogue. In simplified terms, a scientist who sought to publish a theory against which the clergy might've had objections just used the conditional form instead of giving a *definitive* statement.
                              The Vatican knew the potential side-effects of being proven wrong too often and spent considerable time and energy on engaging in every discipline of science to get there first; and needing in brains what it lacked in muscles it was very keen on making the Papal States the most technically advanced realm in Europe. That way, it actually became the most prolific patron of sciences during the Renaissance.
                              Contrary to public belief, the Church did not oppose astronomy, alchemy or autopsies on the dead (in general).
                              Everyone believed the world was flat!
                              There is some debate among historians whether the ancient Greeks' discovery of earth's true form survived the fall of Rome as common lore or as but a tidbit available only to the educated, but there is no doubt that at no point during the middle ages did the elites ever believe the earth to be flat.
                              Cue to the evil empire's army marching onto the battlefield in step!
                              The Romans and Greeks knew the importance of marching in cadence and even wrote treatises on it. Whether this kind of knowledge was available at medieval European courts we do not know; but we do know that medieval armies didn't march in step. For one thing, it's never mentioned nor pictured anywhere. For another, after marching in step had been rediscovered in the 17th century at last some European militaries learnt the hard way that bridges which had survived from the middle ages into the modern era weren't suited to this kind of practice, and sometimes collapsed. Conflicting reports exist as to who rediscovered marching in step and when, but one of the more commonly namend figures is Raimondo Montecuccoli, Duke of Melfi and field captain to the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648).
                              Bummer. It certainly looks cool…
                              'Braveheart' gives us a loose but okay-ish rendition of how the Scots won their freedom! / 'Braveheart''s use of the term freedom is Hollywood fluff, like any other part of the damned movie!
                              'Braveheart' is so ripe with stereotypes and inaccuracies it might single-handedly keep this thread alive for years. A particular one drew my attention though, as it's kind of fun. History buffs are mad at the movie for giving the impression that Scotland's anti-English party had been fighting for common man's "freedom". On the other hand, fans of the movie stoically defend it while ignoring a half-assed attempt of the movie itself to get its ass back onto the tracks of history:

                              (Extras conversing)
                              "I didn't come here to fight so they could own more lands. Then I'd have to work for them."
                              --- "Nor me. All right, lads! Let's go home!"

                              The sober truth first: Not a single nobleman in Scotland, not even William Wallace himself, meant to relieve the peasantry from their duties.
                              However, one might argue there is some merit to the movie's portrayal of the Scottish independence movement. If all the peasants of the day had thought as their cineastic cousins, why then was Robert the Bruce hardly ever short of volunteers (except for a dry spell midway through the rebellion while he looked beaten)?
                              He wasn't because they *actually believed* they were fighting for their freedom --- the only form of freedom they knew: the abscence of arbitrary rule, the promise of not being fair game to any armed band in the vicinity, and the prospect of getting one with one's life as undisturbed as the period allowed. Robert the Bruce didn't liberate the Scots in the modern sense of the word, but he did give them what was certainly preferrable over what the English (or any foreign invader) had to offer: To be ruled by a king who resided in their own land, as his actions they could control to some degree (through rebellion), and who didn't mean to suck Scotland dry for his war plans in foreign lands. It's also worth mentioning that even though both England *and* Scotland were ruled by *Normans*, those in Scotland were on surprisingly good terms with the local population in comparison to their cousins in England. Might've been deliberate to win hearts and minds, but still.
                              All common people were waiting to be relieved from so oppressive a system!
                              Karl Marx saw the classes of feudal society at war against each other and the middle ages as a period of constant thwarting of the lower class's struggle for freedom. His view was a modern scholar's; knowing what he knew, he couldn't imagine there'd been no struggle. Likewise books and movies galore try to make the period more relateable to us by turning their protagonists into freethinkers and attributing to them a modern, inquisitive mindset --- a novice questioning religion, a servant girl's struggle with her role, you'll get the picture.
                              Now I'm not trying to say freethinkers didn't exist among the lower class; they did; but they were very rare a creature. In most cases it's but a trope because the average medieval commoner would've been a disappointment to us.
                              All the middle ages looked to the Bible and the Catholic Church for guidance and by and large *all* classes contented themselves with the answer they got in return: Clerics were supposed to pray and spread the Lord's word, nobles were supposed to rule and ride to war, common folks were supposed to work their arses off.
                              I think it's both interesting and important to know this worldview wasn't merely a devise to keep the population in check; as unimaginable as it may seem, it was a notion defended by *all* classes and rarely ever challanged until the dawn of the Renaissance.
                              The Jacquerie for example, the most prominent peasants' revolt of the entire era after France's miserable defeat at Poitiers in 1356, intended not to overturn the social order and bar the king from return --- it intended to vanquish those on whom the peasants blamed the order's hiccups and pave the way for the king's return. Some 80 years later also in France, Joan of Arc was in the process of becoming a figure for a brand-new notion that perhaps women had something more to contribute to the realm than previously thought. But Joan forbade a number of women eager to do so to take up arms and join the army. She didn't oppose the social order either.
                              It wasn't before the Black Death had made its dramatic entrance that common people began scratching their heads about life in general. However, it'd also take the invention of the printing press and the eventual re-discovery of ancient philosophy before the earliest forms of social criticism arose as a more widespread phenomenon.

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                              • #60
                                Re Church and Philosophy:
                                Antique knowledge in Europe before contact with Constantinople and the Arab world intensified around 1300 was limited to what was left in latin. The latin corpus however was pretty diverse and included Virgil (hence the weird medieval passion for Augustus as an ideal ruler) and other pagan authors, especially Cicero who was always regarded as the author whose style any latin speaker should aspire to (even if his letters were only widely published in the renaissance). Greek had been practically forgotten among the educated few, even among the clergy. So most of greek philosophy was only known insofar as it had been translated or quoted in extant latin sources. Example being Aristotle through St. Augustine.
                                Re philosophy, the change came with the first translations and the re learning of Greek in the west around 1100-1200.
                                Medieval philosophy was aristotelian, first through St. Augustine and later directly based on the classic works by Thomas Aquinas.
                                While Plato was rediscovered at the same time, platonic thought wasn't really a thing in the West until much later, in contrary to Constantinople where platonism was always popular among intellectuals.

                                Bottom line: medieval Church and classical Philosophy were not as mutually exclusive as today's cliches suggest. The medieval church was rooted in early christian thinking and by 400, nearly all bishops and other influential clergymen were roman upperclassmen educated in the full canon of classical literature and philosophy. The idea that medieval christianity was inimical to classic knowledge is simply wrong. In contrary, classical roman era knowledge was held as everything that was ever possible to accomplish. The only era when the church actually was actively anti-intellectual was during the late roman era, not after it.

                                Re the shape of the earth, a round geocentric model of the universe was apparently accepted pretty widely all the time among scholars, even in the west, due to the fact that many early church writers whose writings had been known in the middle ages were still classically educated Romans who knew Ptolemy. So while the author and his detailed calculations were only rediscovered for western scholars after the 1st Crusade, the general ideo of a round earth geocentric model apparently never died out entirely, even if there are all those jerusalem centered flat earth maps from those times.
                                Last edited by JCR; 14-10-2017, 01:41 AM.

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