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> Middle Eastern armies, 10th-12th century
Agarici
Posted: May 14, 2005 11:53 am
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[split from the Favorite non-WW2 movies discussion]

QUOTE (Victor @ May 11 2005, 03:36 PM)
I have seen Kingdom of Heaven on Monday. It's fun to watch, like Gladiator was, but from a historical point of view it's pretty much flawed.

Besides what has already been mentioned here, I would like to add that there haven't been any mention of the Eastern Roman Empire in the entire film. The numbers of the Ayyubid army are hugely exagerrated (200,000 men!!!!) and the Saracens are going into battle head-long against armored heavy cavalry in the short battle scene at Kerak.

Alexandru H, Raymond of Tripoli is called Tiberias in the film, probably because he had a domain called this way. He says he is leaving for Cyprus, after Hattin, but the island was captured by Richard the Lionheart in 1191 during the 3rd crusade. In 1187 it was a brake away state from the Eastern Empire with no link to the Western Crusaders. And I could go on.

Agarici, you mentioned the Polish film The Teutonic Knights. Have you read the book by Henryk Sinkiewicz?


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...

This post has been edited by Victor on May 20, 2005 01:07 pm
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Imperialist
Posted: May 14, 2005 09:46 pm
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QUOTE (Chandernagore @ May 14 2005, 09:31 PM)

No. And it's a serious problem. Saladin's cavalry was not all a shock weapon. Unlike the crusaders who relied on the crushing power of the heavy horse charge, the Saracen used hit & run tactics. I don't recall seeing a single horse archer in the movie. Perhaps 50% of the Muslim cavalry was of the horse archer type.

I could forget this sort of technical error if the rest was done right.

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.

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Victor
Posted: May 14, 2005 10:06 pm
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QUOTE (Agarici)
the “Krack des Chevaliers” (Kerak as it was called in the movie)


That was at Tripoli. Kerak is in Jordan.

QUOTE (Agarici)

First is that of the Western heavy cavalry, which in fact by the XII century was not at all so heavy. They used the chainmail amour; the complete steel armour (cuirass type) started being used only in the XIV-XV centuries. Until then, the eastern Byzantine heavy cavalry (the cataphractoi) were more heavily aroured, using the platemail armour, as the Oriental heavy cavalry; and they had their horses also protected by the same type of armour. Another myth is that all the western cavalry was heavy cavalry - a fact which would’t have been at all useful in the desert conditions of the crusades; there the auxiliary light cavalry was more intensively used then back in Europe. And the third historical common sense myth I’m addressing here is saying that the oriental nations did not have a heavy cavalry. False - some of their aristocracy fight in heavy platemail amour, being thus fitted for a head-on charge (maybe a heritage from the Roman-time Partians heavy cavalry), but partly due to the climate they do not represent the main force (or the main strength) of their armies, and are not as numerous as their Western counterparts.


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.
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Imperialist
Posted: May 15, 2005 05:58 pm
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QUOTE (Indrid @ May 15 2005, 05:08 PM)


about historical accuracy: again appaled. the black crusader was the killer. :D what the f**k???!!??? oh, and how about the Viking ( yes, for those who know history it wil be a shock) that also joins the damn crusade....hahahahhaa

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.
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Alexandru H.
Posted: May 15, 2005 06:04 pm
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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!
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Agarici
Posted: May 15, 2005 09:06 pm
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QUOTE (Victor @ May 14 2005, 10:06 PM)
QUOTE (Agarici)
the “Krack des Chevaliers” (Kerak as it was called in the movie)


That was at Tripoli. Kerak is in Jordan.

QUOTE (Agarici)

First is that of the Western heavy cavalry, which in fact by the XII century was not at all so heavy. They used the chainmail amour; the complete steel armour (cuirass type) started being used only in the XIV-XV centuries. Until then, the eastern Byzantine heavy cavalry (the cataphractoi) were more heavily aroured, using the platemail armour, as the Oriental heavy cavalry; and they had their horses also protected by the same type of armour. Another myth is that all the western cavalry was heavy cavalry - a fact which would’t have been at all useful in the desert conditions of the crusades; there the auxiliary light cavalry was more intensively used then back in Europe. And the third historical common sense myth I’m addressing here is saying that the oriental nations did not have a heavy cavalry. False - some of their aristocracy fight in heavy platemail amour, being thus fitted for a head-on charge (maybe a heritage from the Roman-time Partians heavy cavalry), but partly due to the climate they do not represent the main force (or the main strength) of their armies, and are not as numerous as their Western counterparts.


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.


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.”
Source: http://linux2.hit.uib.no/non/echt/budapest/Selfrepr/arms.htm

“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”
Source: http://linux2.hit.uib.no/non/echt/budapest/Selfrepr/arms.htm

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/articlema...id=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:
http://www.knightsandarmor.com/, http://www.knightsandarmor.com/armor.htm

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.

This post has been edited by Agarici on June 15, 2005 09:02 am
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Chandernagore
Posted: May 15, 2005 09:58 pm
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QUOTE (Agarici @ May 15 2005, 09:06 PM)
[QUOTE=Agarici]

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.

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.

QUOTE
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 difficult


Including thirst, witness Hattin.
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Agarici
Posted: May 15, 2005 10:07 pm
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QUOTE (Chandernagore @ May 15 2005, 09:58 PM)
QUOTE
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 difficult


Including thirst, witness Hattin.


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.
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Alexandru H.
Posted: May 15, 2005 10:07 pm
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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.

This post has been edited by Alexandru H. on May 15, 2005 10:24 pm
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Agarici
Posted: May 15, 2005 10:33 pm
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QUOTE (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 battle 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.


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...

This post has been edited by Agarici on May 17, 2005 07:01 pm
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rcristi
Posted: May 16, 2005 01:50 am
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QUOTE (Agarici @ May 15 2005, 09:06 PM)

QUOTE (Agarici)

For my other point, the kataphractoi WERE heavy shock cavalry, even heavier than the contemporary western knights.

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.

Best regards
Chris

[img=http://img144.echo.cx/img144/4267/byzantine24kl.th.jpg]

This post has been edited by rcristi on May 16, 2005 01:54 am
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Imperialist
Posted: May 16, 2005 05:14 am
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QUOTE (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.

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.

take care
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Imperialist
Posted: May 16, 2005 05:20 am
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QUOTE (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.


True, the crossbow was hard to operate. A mounted saracen fired 2 arrows in the time it took the crossbowman to fire 1.
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Agarici
Posted: May 16, 2005 11:39 am
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QUOTE (Imperialist @ May 16 2005, 05:14 AM)
QUOTE (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.

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.

take care


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…):
http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_manzikert.html
http://www.dicksonc.act.edu.au/Showcase/Cl.../manzikert.html
http://encyclopedia.lockergnome.com/s/b/Battle_of_Manzikert

And a few about it’s main protagonists:
Romanus IV Diogenes, an arrogant hero (or “too honest to deal with the aristocracy”):
http://www.dicksonc.act.edu.au/Showcase/Cl.../manzikert.html
A rather dramatic account (a Greek historian’s book):
http://members.fortunecity.com/fstav1/empe...s4diogenis.html

Introducing “the Valiant Lion” (or “a Saladin avant la lettre”):
http://www.sciencedaily.com/encyclopedia/alp_arslan
And a more dramatic view from Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alp_Arslan

And also something about the Seljuk Turks:
http://www.ucalgary.ca/applied_history/tut...ies/seljuk.html

This post has been edited by Agarici on May 16, 2005 04:41 pm
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Alexandru H.
Posted: May 16, 2005 12:23 pm
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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....
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