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|WorldWar2.ro Forum > Ancient, Medieval and Modern History > Middle Eastern armies|
|Posted by: Agarici May 14, 2005 11:53 am|
| [split from the Favorite non-WW2 movies discussion]
Yes I did, and about in the same period (a few years later but still in gymnasia); maybe that’s why I don’t remember if the movie was inspired by the book. I recall reading the book, asking myself if the film was made after it, and not being able to decide… so probably it was only vaguely (“creatively”) inspired by Sinkiewicz’ s novel. However I must say that from the movie I remember nothing about the plot, but only a few separate sequences and the sensation I mentioned earlier… the bloody scenes when we wanted to turn our heads but we couldn’t, being caught by the story…
About the books compared to movies…. I would only say that the books are different. I don’t think we should do that comparison (so common, unfortunately), the writing represents another form of art (if one could call “art” organizing in/by words the human talent, creativity, knowledge). So the basic logic should teach us not to compare different categories… Also the books and the movies inspired by them are seldom in the same league (as quality) so we not so often have good books and good movies made after them (if it could be the case), thus comparing good books with bad movies.
But when in comes to masterpieces, I think is difficult to say that the books are better, and I leave it for you to find examples. The only thing, I guess, is that the books leave a wider space to our imagination, while the movies "visualize" themselves almost everything for us. But unfortunately for our times they are also way more time consuming...
|Posted by: Imperialist May 14, 2005 09:46 pm|
Well this error is a big one. I personally could not forgive a movie that carefully depicts the fighting tactics and weapons of only one side and makes baloney out of the other's.
And the hit and run mounted archers tactics were pretty shock tactics.
|Posted by: Victor May 14, 2005 10:06 pm|
That was at Tripoli. Kerak is in Jordan.
Heavy cavalry means armored cavalry. It doesn't have to wear plate armor t obe heavy cavalry. Chain mail will do. By the time heavy cavalry got to use full plate armor in the 16th century it was already close to obsolence.
Most of the Middle Eastern cavalry was light or medium cavalry, armed with bows along with spears or sabers. The same goes for the kataphraktoi, which weren't the heavy cavalry depicted in some computer games. The Kataphraktoi were medium cavalry armed with bows, which could harass and outrun any enemy they could not charge down.
The use of many horse archers by Sultan Salah ad Din in the battle of the Horns of Hattin is well documented as far as I know. They harassed the Christiam lines until the infantry fled and left the heavy cavalry withour protection. Eventually they were all cut down.
|Posted by: Imperialist May 15, 2005 05:58 pm|
I dont know why you're laughing.
There were vikings in the East too.
The Byzantine Imperial Guard was dominated by vikings and northerners up to 1204!!!
And the Ingvar Saga depicts viking expeditions against the Saracens...
So I think its historically possible.
|Posted by: Alexandru H. May 15, 2005 06:04 pm|
|Well, to be honestly true, the first crusader king was Sigurd of Norway, who arrived in the Holy Land in 1107, so it's possible for vikings to have been present at the time of the movie there!|
|Posted by: Agarici May 15, 2005 09:06 pm|
First I want to say that I don't take my information from the computer games or from Wikipedia... at least not all of it. I don’t know much about tanks or planes, but still I might know a thing or two about medieval history. And I found out most of it by reading (yeah, that boring and old fashioned manner of gathering information - no search button, no ready-to-chew reviews), before the internet was around. However, since this is not an argument I will specify a few available sources for my points.
Victor, you’re right in one of your statements, about Kerak castle (“Crak des Moabites”, or “Le Pierre du Desert” for the French); I didn’t know about its existence (it’s situated in Jordan, over 100 km South of Amman). I thought they tried to depict “Krack de Chevaliers” in Syria - considered the most important crusader fortress, home of the Hospitallier Knights order. It bordered Saladin’s sultanat and it was also besieged by him without success, so I think my ignorance in the matter is somewhat justifiable.
I said that the Western heavy cavalry, in the XI-XIII centuries was actually not so heavy having two points in mind: the first was to say that they were not at all invulnerable and the second to emphasize that they were not the only heavy cavalry around on that period’s battlefields. Saying that the chainmail armour they used “will do” really doesn’t mean too much, and I don’t thing this is for us to decide. It’s like saying that an APC or an armoured scout vehicle is a tank (on the other hand you can say anything - this is your site and you know best ). The chain armour consisted in a long shirt/jacket protecting the upper half of the body (sleeves included), with a slit below the waist and protecting (to the sides) the legs from below the knees up (or the entire legs when the knight was mounted); to that the armour added a helmet (usually half-spherical, with possible protection for the nose and later for the face). The complete plate armour was a full metal suite, protecting the entire knight’s body (and the vulnerable parts of the horse). So better take a look in here before saying there’s no difference: http://www.knightsandarmor.com/armor.htm
The XI-XIII century knights were better protected then another type of warriors, but they weren’t at all invulnerable. Spears (and Saracen javelins), composite and long bows, swords, maces… almost everything could wound/kill them without to much difficulty (of course with the chainmail attenuating the gravity of the cuts/wounds). The late Middle Age knights’ armour was arrowproof (excepting perhaps the heavy arbalests - but this is debatable) and protecting them with maximal effectiveness against most (all) of the close combat weapons, at least as long as the knight was able to fight. By the way, this complete armour appeared in the XIV-XV century, not in the XVIth, so more than 100 years before any portable fire weapon entered a high-scale use, not to mention the effectiveness of the early versions of this early arquebuses.
“By the fourteenth century, improvements in the range and power of the crossbow had made it an indispensable tool of war, and arguably the weapon of the cities and the seas. Time and time again in the Crusades, the crossbow, and not force of the knight in melee, proved the decisive factor.”
“Perhaps paradoxically, the cavalry charge became more and more decisive as factors on the battlefield arose that challenged it. The additional weight of heavier armor that would resist crossbow bolts (and, in northwest Europe, longbow arrows) provided additional power for breaking formations. It was an ongoing spiral of offense and defense as relatively light mail gave way to heavy mail, and then mail with pieces of plate , and finally to the knight in full suits of plate armor. Just as archers and polearm-equipped infantry had to adjust to the increasingly heavy armor of the knight with new weapons and tactics, the knight had to cooperate closely with his own formation not only to protect or defeat infantry, but also, and perhaps especially, the opposing knights. It is this set of challenges during the period of the fourteenth- sixteenth centuries that spurred huge changes and developments in weaponry and defensive gear”
For my other point, the kataphractoi WERE heavy shock cavalry, even heavier than the contemporary western knights. I know this from a computer game called Praecepta Militaria, a treaty about the art of the war written by the Xth century Byzantine general and later emperor Nikephoros Phocas; an English translation was reprinted last years in the US. According to that:
“Flanked by lighter-armed cavalry, the decisive attack is launched by a triangular formation of Kataphraktoi - armed with heavy maces and with riders and horses encased in armour. The kataphraktoi smash their way into the opposing army, aiming for the enemy commander, with the clear intention of causing as much shock and disruption as possible. If the enemy gives way before this onslaught, Phokas gives instructions for the kataphraktoi to maintain good order and leave the pursuit to their lighter colleagues on each flank. If the enemy stands firm, the battle becomes an escalating trial of strength and organisation, with the Byzantine commander carefully feeding extra units into combat as he sees fit. Check also the source: http://byzantium.seashell.net.nz/articlemain.php?artid=fbook_mcgeer
“It was to take another two centuries before Western armour was to approach the quality described in this source. Some of the most basic forms, such as padded garments, were to become European staples in the wake of contact with Levantine cultures during the Crusades”
Source: http://www.levantia.com.au/military/armour.html - you should also check this link for reconstituted images of Byzantine, Muslim and crusader soldiers
Also see some Byzantine (cataphracts) platemail armour and weapons around the XIth century to this link: http://www.shadesmtw.com/cataphracts.htm
You can compare that with the chain armour available for the Western knights in the XII-XIII centuries:
And about the computer games (again), “Medieval Total War” (if you were referring to that one), besides the fact that in my opinion is a success as a turn-based strategy game, it presents these historical details in a very realistic manner.
|Posted by: Chandernagore May 15, 2005 09:58 pm|
But, as the text implies the crossbow was mostly a factor in sieges. In meeting encounters or even most set piece battles I doubt they were such a factor.
Including thirst, witness Hattin.
|Posted by: Agarici May 15, 2005 10:07 pm|
As Horns of Hattin was not a desert place, some sources say that Saladin even set the vegetation around the crusader camp on fire, in order to prevent them to move to the water sources.
|Posted by: Alexandru H. May 15, 2005 10:07 pm|
| The problem here is not that knights were invincible, they certainly weren't. The main issue is that the feudal system prevented any good use of other types of troops. The french lost the main battles of the 100 Years War because they lacked the initiative of turning some of the important roles in battle to the lesser people (foot soldiers, crossbowmen, spearmen etc...). The crusades sprung the importance of light-armoured troops (like the turcopoles) but those were mainly recruited from the local turkish and arabic populations and only later they were enforced with european manpower.
This is what the movie fails to represent. In its speed race towards modern thought and language, it doesn't say why those people went into the desert to fight, in spite of lack of water, it doesn't say why the other lords never thought of making a predominant foot-soldier army, it doesn't say essential things about the medieval world and warfare. Until such a film will arise, I can only call KoH an epic adventure set in a fantasy time.
|Posted by: Agarici May 15, 2005 10:33 pm|
I agree with your first paragraph. As for the second one, in my opinion you are partly right, but for fulfilling all the requirements from that agenda another film would have been needed, or a genial scriptwriter/director couple - there are also the time constraints where making a movie and it's pretty difficult to be a thousand pages Tolstoi on the screen.
In my observations I was dealing mainly with the realism of the historical details...
|Posted by: rcristi May 16, 2005 01:50 am|
In Agarici's defence here's a pic taken from Osprey's Man at arms serie - Byzantine Armies 886-1118. They look pretty heavy to me.
|Posted by: Imperialist May 16, 2005 05:14 am|
The path to a nearby water source was blocked by the Saracens, and the crusaders made plenty of tactical blunders. The fire occurred later when the crusaders were already pinned down on Hattin Horns, it had nothing to do with blocking them from the water sources.
|Posted by: Imperialist May 16, 2005 05:20 am|
True, the crossbow was hard to operate. A mounted saracen fired 2 arrows in the time it took the crossbowman to fire 1.
|Posted by: Agarici May 16, 2005 11:39 am|
My main interests in Middle Age history is in social structure, mentalities, warfare, lifestyle… sometimes focused on less publicized periods&areas. I never developed a special interest (even as a hobbyist) for the second or the third crusade, neither for the fall of Jerusalem, so I now little about the battle of Hattin.
However, some sources (hard cover) also mention that the Christian army defeat had nothing to do with their access to the water sources (which they could actually secure), but with them being outmaneuvered in the arid land.
I think a good lesson for what that could mean was the battle of Manzikert (1071), in then Armenia - nowadays Turkey. By the way that was the turning point where the whole story involving the crusades begun; an event involving first rate characters and dramatical developments before, during and after the battle. I surely like to see this in a movie - directed by a half genius-half common sense (because I’m not interested to see the result of his frustrations on the screen) non Hollywood director, with a professional (not Hollywood stipended) historian as co-scriptwriter an with a Hollywood budget… (and at this point I woke up )
A few online sources for the battle itself (they, of course, tend to simplify the things…):
And a few about it’s main protagonists:
Romanus IV Diogenes, an arrogant hero (or “too honest to deal with the aristocracy”):
A rather dramatic account (a Greek historian’s book):
Introducing “the Valiant Lion” (or “a Saladin avant la lettre”):
And a more dramatic view from Wikipedia:
And also something about the Seljuk Turks:
|Posted by: Alexandru H. May 16, 2005 12:23 pm|
| Unfortunately, the real tragedy was not the battle of Mantzikert (Alp Arslan's terms were quite acceptable and moderate) but the fact that after Basilios II Bulgaroctonul, the Empire began to be ruled once again by the court aristocracy, while the old generals were left to rot. The outer garrisons were disbanded because of lack of funds (the Macedonians had left a sizeable treasury, eaten away by the subsequent emperors), the laws that freed the peasant or community lands from the yoke of the Church and the aristocracy were lifted, meaning that the soldier reserve in case of an attack would decrease dramatically, thus the need of foreign mercenaries. Isac Comnenus and Romanos Diogenes had tried to do something about it, but they had no real legitimacy, no great family name that could back up their plans. With an incompetent family as the Dukas, with Michael Psellos as their counsellor (brilliant man, but mediocre administrator), the Empire was doomed. When after Mantzikert, a son of Alp-Arslan, Suleiman Sah, decided to invade Anatolia, he found not a trace of resistence... the establishment of his capital at Niceea (right across Constantinople) was a dire thing to see for any byzantine.
But I agree, this subject would be another "would-be great movie if it wasn't for Hollywood and its own version of greatness". Like the First Crusade (I can only imagine a PC-free conquest of Jerusalem), the life of Alexios Comnenus, maybe something about the Magyar Invasions.... Oh, I could only drool....
|Posted by: Agarici May 19, 2005 11:08 pm|
After the death of Bazil II and up to the battle of Mazinkert the empire was affected mainly by weak emperors and by the absence of a clear line of succession (thus a series of usurpations of the throne) - a situation not uncommon in its past. The phenomena described by you occurred mainly after that battle, and only after the instauration of the Comnen dynasty and I would simply summarize them as being the process of feudalization of The Eastern Roman Empire. Because the Byzantine Empire was before anything an administrative apparatus it depended too much on the leader, and we know that this is a real problem for all the non-democratically burocracies (and for other hierarchical structures as well). The birocratic structure (inherited from the Romans and developed over the time) which on many times, until the half of the XI century, proved its efficiency but also failed to reach the goals set on quite numerous accounts (especially under incompetent monarchs) was gradually replaced by a quite typical feudal system. The aristocracy, gathered around the opulent imperial court (and thus easily controllable, tough very money-consuming and prone to plotting against weaker emperors) became from the XIIth century onwards a real land aristocracy. The reverse tendency will be later present to the absolutist-type monarchs’ courts in Western Europe, Louis the XIVth being the example for that.
But what have made this mid XIth century crisis (of a type encountered before) so costly on that particular time? Well, there were several factors and I’ll emphasize some of them:
- The Great Schism (1054), combined with the defeat at Mazinkert and the lost of Middle East (Anatolian region) for the empire questioned its status as a viable eastern branch of Christianity
- The Middle Eastern provinces were the main recruiting pool for the imperial army and of major economic importance; they also controlled the land trade with the Orient, and this was very important since the sea trade was difficult due to the Saracen pirates domination over the Mediterranean (which a weaken imperial fleet had to wrestle), and due to the fact that the Byzantines were challenged by the raising Italian maritime republics
- The lost of southern Italy (the last empire Western European possession) to the Normans combined with the strengthening of the Western European states proved to be a real challenge for the empire.
Now a few corrections: Isaac Comnenus became emperor before Romanus IV (being the first Comnen ruler of Byzantine empire), but the Comnens firmly became the ruling dynasty only with Alexios I, his nephew - so Isaac was less representative for this family and being arguably an “usurper” himself was confronted with the same legitimacy problem as Romanus. The evolutions you called as destructive for the empire took place under Comnen dynasty, which was mutually supported by the aristocratic faction, this being rather common knowledge I think. This does not mean that the Comnens did not have their good administrators as well (and the good think for this decadent period of the empire was the culture flourished ).
After Manzikert, the civil war broke out, while the generals revolted against the new emperor (Michael the VIIth, a member of Ducas family). The former Romanus Norman mercenaries at Mazinkert, (now led by Robert Guiscard and Bohemond de Tancred), seeing the disaster of the imperial army and the dire situation of the empire invaded the Byzantine provinces heading to Constantinople. Confronted with a war on two fronts and losing several battles with the Normans, the Byzantines made an alliance with the Seljuks, obtaining their support and/or hiring them as mercenaries in exchange for the lands they already invaded, and that’s how they occupied a large part of the empire’s eastern provinces without resistance. And after the alliance was concluded, many Seljuk garrisons of the Byzantine eastern cities used the pretext of changing sides between different pretenders of the Constantinople throne to add new lands to the Turkish empire…
So maybe the Byzantine historians had their reasons for calling the day of the battle “that dreadful day”…
|Posted by: Victor May 21, 2005 03:27 pm|
Those are klibanophori as far as I know, but I may be wrong.
|Posted by: johnny_bi July 01, 2005 08:39 pm|
|I still wonder how could resist the Crusaiders' states for 200 years, taking in consideration that beyond advantages and disadvantages the crusaiders had, the biggest disadvantage was the number - the Crusaiders' states always faced a problem of human ressources...|
|Posted by: Victor July 19, 2005 07:34 am|
| Found an interesting article regarding the Byzantine/Eastern Roman army
Regarding the cavalry charge:
from here: http://www.1jma.dk/articles/1jmaarticlesbyzantine.htm
|Posted by: Agarici July 19, 2005 09:39 am|
| Apparently there is a contradiction between sources, regarding the name of the heavy cavalry: kataphractoi or klibanophoroi. I used a translated (and published) version of a Byzantine military manual, written in the Xth century by a Byzantine successful general (who became emperor), Nichephoros Phocas. This source is also confirmed by several others. You used a internet compilation which, in my opinion, contains several flaws: the statement that the infantry was a secondary force in the Byzantine army, the detail that the Byzantine infantrymen were armed with pikes (which by the way appeared towards the end of the XIVth century) and a too static approach of the 11 centuries of Byzantine military history - among others.
However, my point was another one, and is confirmed even by this source: that the Byzantines used heavy cavalry in large number (and the Byzantines armored cavalrymen were heavier than the contemporary Western knights) and that they used the heavy cavalry shock charge, instead of rather harassing the enemy with light cavalry armed with bows as you said. This “Western heavy armor warriors ws. Eastern light harassing/ambushing forces” was the perception of the common sense I was going to contradict; and I think I did that.
|Posted by: Victor July 19, 2005 02:19 pm|
| It is not an "internet compilation", it's an article which mentions a bibliography at the end. As to what I was trying to say, my exact words were:
You are ofcourse right when you say that the Eastern armies also used heavy cavalry, but not like the Western Europeans. Maybe I should have said "armed also with bows" to make things clear. I did not say that they would just harass the enemy. They could also charge down the enemy, but after wearing him down with arrows. At least this is what I understood from the reading I have done on the subject. The Kataphraktoi would fire volleys of arrows upon the enemy to wear it down before the charge and would continue to do so while charging behind the heavier Klibanophoroi, armed with spears and maces. This way the enemy was kept with his head down until the heavier horsemen would make contact. Unlike its Western counterparts, the Eastern Roman heavy cavalry was deployed in a more complex formation with medium cavalry archers supporting it. The heavy cavalry charge was the death blow applied to an enemy already worn down by arrow fire. These kind of tactics were I believe also used by Parthians against Crassus at Carrhae and then against Marc Antony. The Western knights chose on many occasions the straigthforward approach of a direct cavalry charge. The Kataphraktoi were a much more flexible fighting force than the knights, which was the point I was trying to make.
As for the Byzantine infantry being armed with pikes, I have found this: http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chrisandpeter/chiliarchy/chiliarchy.html It's an article commenting McGreer's translations of Byzantine military manuals, which you already quoted, and it also uses the term pike. Even the website you initially quoted (http://byzantium.seashell.net.nz/articlemain.php?artid=fbook_mcgeer) contains the following fragment:
The last sentence also emphasizes the cavalry's importance and relegates the infantry the role of supporting the cavalry.
|Posted by: Agarici July 19, 2005 04:02 pm|
I entirely agree with that. About the heavy cavalry, apparently there was a misperception:
- I never denied the role of mounted archers/medium/light cavalry in the Eastern armies. The conclusion, as you said, is that they used more complex (and from this point of view more efficient) tactics then the western heavy cavalrymen. For the later, the absence of a force of mounted archers represented a shortcoming on many times. However, by the time of the crusades (and using the Eastern armies model), the Western armies started using the medium cavalry (the mounted sergeants) in support of the knights detachments.
- As I understood, in the beginning you contested the very existence (as a part of the Byzantine army) of a heavy cavalry corps capable of charging down the opponents (even with the support of arrow troops) - either because of the absence of an armor heavy enough, or because their small number. If you do not deny their existence anymore (be they kataphracts or klibanophors) and the fact that they were heavily armored and there were enough of them in the Byzantine army, or you didn’t mean to say that in your first intervention, our disputes has remained without its main subject ; tough, I would rather opt for Phocas' manual and for the kataphracts as heavy cavalry.
I didn't mean anything derogatory by the term "compilation", and the one you have quoted certainly has many good parts. I was only trying to say that using multiple sources gives the author more freedom in interpreting them and “make place” for his own opinions and preferences, which might not be all the time strictly (textually) backed by those sources as quoting a clearly delimited source is.
About my other two points:
- according to some authors (among them Ovidiu Drimba, in “Istoria culturii si civilizatiei”) there were periods in the Byzantine Empire history when the infantry played the primary role, especially in the first centuries of the empire.
- in what I have said about the pike, I think we are dealing with a so-called “false friend” in the English language. If we translate it as “halebard” (as I was referring to) it was invented in the end of the XIVth century. If we mean by it some hybrid form of an improved spear (with a hook attached, perhaps) it could have appeared earlier. What I mean is that the term pike is often used as an equivalent for halebard. If one chooses to use this term in a translation, because he/she did not find a better equivalent for the word used by the author, this is rather excusable (as was the case with the translation from “Praecepta militaria”). The fact is less excusable, in my oppinion, in an “interpretation” or “compilation” of several sources, when one (the author) should be more responsible/prudent with the terms he/she uses (those being his/her own terms of chioce and not the translated words of one author), especially when those could be controversial.
|Posted by: Agarici July 19, 2005 08:42 pm|
I will try to list some advantages, which made the difference although the crusaders were in numerical inferiority. Sorry I'm so late:
- the military organization of the crusaders: the existence of the monastical-military orders, dedicated to defend the Crusader states and the communication routes, and the existence of the chivalry as an institution (and its military value)
- the network of defensive constructions, the fortresses (kracks, as called in a mixture of Arab and French), some of them masterpieces of military architecture and considered inexpugnable even by the Saracens and situated at a day travel distance one from another
- the continuous excitement the crusades were producing in Europe, among nobles and commoners - a permanent source for the needed knights, squires and other “volunteers”
- the centuries-long conflicts in the area between the two factions of the Muslim world, the (raising) Sunni Seldjuks and the Shiite Fatimids from Syria and Egypt
- the ambivalent attitude of the Byzantine Empire, which sometimes ran against, but sometimes favored the crusaders position, by threatening/weakening their Muslim adversaries.
|Posted by: Kosmo December 19, 2005 10:16 am|
| The evolution of the amy of the Roman Empire should be seen as an ever changhing process with many local variations.
Roughly from Heraclius it was based on persian style heavy horsearchers that used a variety of weapons including lances (St. George in icons). Most of their opponents at that time used light and medium horsearchers. The roman soldiers were small landowners in Asia. There were several armies of "thema".
After Menzinkert they used western style heavy cavalry and many foreign mercenaries with their national weapons. There was a central gov. army.
Not many things are really known about the army, numers, tactics and weapons. Not even the authors of those strategy guides are certain.
But... we can see a lot of speculations.
|Posted by: Imperialist December 19, 2005 11:36 am|
The Kataphraktoi and Klibanophoroi are in fact the same thing.
The enemy was not worn out by arrow fire before the K/K charge, but the charge occurred first and broke the enemy's formation, leaving the archers, rest of cavalry and infantry to exploit the flanks.
|Posted by: Cristu February 12, 2011 08:15 am|
i think they were called "Varangians"...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varangians