Thursday, July 28, 2011

Infantry / Cavalry Square

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A Byzantine military manual of the middle of the 10th century depicts this' square infantry formation keeping the cavalry inside' which enabled the two arms to cooperate to best effect. The text is usually associated with the soldier--emperor Nikephoros Phokas II, who, led the revival of imperial fortunes from the 950s until his assassination in 969.


Matthew Bennett, et all, "Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World, AD500 - AD1500," Amber Books Ltd., St. Martin's Press, New York, 2005, Page 11 (ISBN 0-312-34820-7)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Ship In Medieval Economy 600 - 1600 -- Part 2 (Roman-Greek Ship Design)

The Romans did not contribute much to ancient ship design, being satisfied with simply using the designs which had been handed down through the years from the Hellenistic Greeks and utilizing designs which the Greeks had last seen fit to use. Both the Roman warship and merchant ship construction seems to have resembled greatly those designs which were last embodied by the Greek shipbuilders centuries previously, and then only when the Roman world was forced by happenstance to utilize fleets to carry out their military plans. Since there have been more pictures of Roman ships which have survived the ages than Greek pictures, it is common to think of the Roman ship designs as having been a later set of ideas. This is currently believed to be a wrong view of shipping design in the ancient times.
Two sources of Greek ship design come down to us. The first being a set of verses (passage) from the “Odyssey” by Homer (V, 228-261). The second is a vase-painter by the name of Exekias, who did an illustration on a cup which has been dated to the sixth century BC*. This boat was shown to be a vessel which could be either rowed or sailed. It was an illustration of a pirate vessel. The ship described in the “Odyssey” could be used as a sailing vessel only. Figure (1) is based on the picture featured on the cup with a few details added to it which come from some additional smaller period references.
The surprising thing about both of these references is the degree of technical information given in each one. In the story of the “Odyssey,” the hero was kept on an island by the nymph Calypso for some long period of time. When he is at long last permitted to leave the island, he is given both tools and a location of timber suitable for ship construction, rather than summoning a vessel by magic. It is shown that the hero (Odysseus) is not only a warrior and a seasoned explorer, but he is also a master of ship construction and design, in which, clearly, the author made the assumption that his readers would understand these ideas with little difficulty.
Exekias, in creating a scene of fantasy, did so in a very detailed manner . He was careful to draw the vessel in a careful design reflecting many of the ship’s design aspects and a detailed view of it’s resulting operation.
In later discussions we will move from oared vessels to sailing vessels but first we must address a major difference in all types of Roman and Greek vessels as compared to modern wooden ships. This difference, while not obvious in the pictures of these ships, is made quite obvious both in Homer’s account of the ship construction as well as from many archaeological findings in the recovery of ancient shipwrecks.

*Arias-Kirmer-Shefton, “A History of Greek Vase Painting,” (Thames & Hudson, London, 1962), plate XVI. (See;

Reference:--J.G. Landels, “Engineering In The Ancient World,” (Univ. of Calif. Press -- Berkley, Los Angles, & Oxford -- 1981) Pages 135-36; [ISBN 0-520-04127-5]

To be continued :--

Respectfully Submitted;
Marcus Audens

Monday, July 4, 2011

Siege Warfare In the Medieval Period

Of all of the warfare that involved sieges against fortified places the group that inspired
the worst fear in those who faced them were the Mongols. The Mongols it seems had
no limitations to what they thought proper in a siege from catapulting the heads of their
prisoners into the fortified place from using captured children as shields on their siege
engines. In respect to brutality and genocide, it appears that they had no equals save
for perhaps the ancient Assyrians.

In this history of the most violent of those who used siege warfare Vlad the Impaler (Count Dracula) is mentioned as the second of those so feared. The Prince of Wallachia used the device of impalement for the masses of his captured men and women whether they were either Christians or Turks. These tactics as cruel and horrendous as they were, successfully kept the enemy at bay through a campaign of intimidation.

In third place, surprisingly were the Vikings who struck terror to the hearts of those who
lived on virtually every coast-line of Europe and North Africa. Their trails of looting and
pillage remained as a burning memory to all those who had endured such a campaign.

In the history of siege warfare the worst destructive elements of this style of battle was:

--Disease or pestilence: Because this was not fully understood, use of this element
could easily cause defeat of either the attacker or those being besieged;

--Starvation: Without adequate stored supplies of food this element usually affected the
defender more than those engaged in the attack;

--Lack of water: This was probably the most effective element in warfare unless the
besieged had access to a well, cistern, or some other water source. One of the first
things a besieger wanted to do was to cut off or poison the water supply of the

--Time: This was usually determined by supplies or by rescue. If the siege extended a
long time the besieger was more likely to raise the siege. If the defenders were rescued
by forces friendly to the defender, this was also possible in raising the siege. However,
if the defender ran out of supplies (food, water, military supplies, etc.) the defender was
faced with surrender.

Of all of the weapons used in siege warfare, the following were the most effective:

--The Trebuchet: This is essentially a catapult that used a counterweight in order to gain
more power and a longer distance of throw. It could launch a wide variety of projectiles
and could with proper use inflict significant damage on walls and the inside of the castle,
fort, or city.

--The crossbow and long bow: The defender benefitted more from these tools of warfare,
allowing his to target and hit the enemy from behind fortifications.

--The Belfry: The belfry was a tower which in most cases allowed the attacker to reach
the summit of the fortifications and thereby dominate the walls. The problem was in
moving the machine into position over ditches, and other ground defenses.

--Mining: It was an effective way to bring down a wall or tower if the besieger had time on
is side. It could be defeated by countermining on the part of the defenders.

--The Cannon: In the latter part of the medieval period, the cannon was able to take
down walls that were weak and also had the ability to generate a great fear in the

Respectfully Submitted;

Marcus Audens

Siege Warfare In the Medieval Period