1-10 - CHAPTER I Stirrup Mounted Shock Combat F eudalism...

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Unformatted text preview: CHAPTER I Stirrup, Mounted Shock Combat, F eudalism, and Chivalry THE history of the use of the horse in battle is divided into three periods: first, that of the charioteer; second, that of the mOunted warrior who clings to his steed by pressure of the knees; and third that of the W The horse has always given its master an advantage over the foOtman m battle, and each 1m- provement in its military use has been related to far-reaching social and cultural changes.2 Before the introduction of the stirrup, the seat of the rider was precarious.3 Bit4 and spur5 might help him to control his mount; the simple saddle6 might confirm his seat; nevertheless, he was still much restricted in his methods of fighting. He was primarily a rapidly mobile bnwmanand hurler of j avelins. Swordplay was limited because ‘Without stirrups your slashing horseman, taking a good broadhanded swipe at his foe, had only tomiss ’to find himself on the’ground’i As for the spear, before the invention of the stirrup it was wielded at the end of the arm and the blow was delivered with ‘ See p.135. 2 See p.135 3 Cf. H. Muller—Hickler, ‘Sitz und Sattel 1m Laufe der Jahrhunderte’, Zeitsrhrzft fur historische W afién- and Kastdm/cunde, x (1923),9. “ R. Zschille and R Forrer, Die Pfirdetrense hi ihrer Formentzm'cklung (Berlin, 1893); H. A. Potratz, ‘Die Pferdcgebisse des zwischenstromliindischen Raumes’, Arrbiv fz'ir Orienrfiirsrhwtg, xiv (1941),1 1-39; A. Mozsolics, ‘Mors en bois de cerf sur le territoire du bassin des Carpathes’, Arm arrhaealogica (Budapest), iii(19 5 3), 69—109; M. Schiller, ‘Trense und Kandare’, PV 1asenschafll1rhe Zeilschnfl der Humboldt— Universirri't 211 Berlin, Mark. -naturwiss. Reilre, vii (1957—8), 465-9 5 5 C. de L. Lacy, History of the S par (London, 1911); J. Martin, Der Reitersfiom: seine Entstehung undfruheste Entmicklung (Leipzig, 1921); K. Friis—Johansen, ‘Et bidrag til ryttarsporen aeldste historie’, Corrolla arclzaealogz'ra 1'11 honorem C. A. Nordman (Helsinki, 1952), 41- 5- 1 5 A. Schlieben, ‘Reit- 11nd Packsiittel der Alten, Annular: tier V erems ffir Nassamsche Altertumskunde, xxi(1889), 14—27; R. Norberg, ‘Om {drhistoriska sadlari Sverige’, Rig, xii (1929), 97—113; J. Werner, ‘Beitrage zur Archiologie des Attila-Reiches’ ,Bayerisrhe Akademie der Wissenscimflen, Phil. 41111. Klasse, Abhandlungen, Heft 38A (19 56), 0-5 3 , infra, p. 7, 11.1. 7 D. H. Gordon, ‘Swords, rapiers and horseriders’ , 14111141111], xxvii (19 53), 75. 2 STIRRUP, MOUNTED SHOCK COMBAT, ETC. the strength of shoulder and biceps.I The’stirrup made possible— although it did not demand—a vastly more effective mode of attack: now the rider could lay his lance at rest, held between the upper arm and the body, and make at his foe, delivering the blow not with his muscles but with the combined weight of himself and his charging stallion. Thet st_i11'up,_by_gi11ing_1ateral—support 1n addition to the front and back support offered by pommel and cantle, effectively welded horse and rider into a single fighting unit capable of 3 Violence without precedent. The fighter’s hand no longer delivered the blow: it merely guided it.2 The stirrup thus replaced human energy with animal power, and immensely increased the swarrior’s ability to damage his enemy. Immediately, without preparatory steps, it made possible mounted shock combat, a revolutionary new way of doing b_a__ttle. Wh———at was the effect of the introduction of the stirrup in Europe? I The Classic Theory of the Origins of Feudalz'sm, and its Critics The historian, of F rankish institutions too often recalls to the wearied mind Eliza on the ice: hypothesis clutched to bosom, he leaps from suspect charter to ambiguous capitulary, the critics baying at his heels. So thin and so slippery of interpretation are the written remains from the Germanic kingdoms that one might expect that scholars exploring the sources of feudalism would have made every effort to supplement the extant documents with the archaeological material which, in recent years, has begun so greatly to modify our View of the early Middle Ages. But this is not the case: the vast literature of ingenious controversy about feudal Origins has been ‘ As noted first, among scholars, by H. Delbruck, Gesehiehte der Kriegsleunst (Berlin, 1900), 1.141. 2 In the twelfth century Usamah clearly defined the greater efficiency of shock combat and the new relation between man and horse: ‘He who 1s on the point of striking with his lance should hold his lance as tightly as possible with his hand and under his arm, close to, his side, and should let his horse run and effect the required thrust; for if he should move his hand while holding the lance or stretch out his arm with the lance, then his thrust would have no effect whatever, and would result in no harm’ (An Arab—- Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Period 7’0f the Crusades: Memoirs of Usimah ilm Munqi'dh, ed. and tr. P. K. Hitti [New York, 1929], 69—70; cf. also 173 and 175 for relation of stirrup to the lance at rest). CLASSIC THEORY OF THE ORIGINS OF FEUDALISM 3 produced chiefly by legal and constitutional historians, and therefore is almost entirely a matter of textual exegesis. The first stage in the discussiOn culminated in 1887 with the ’ publication of Heinrich Brunner’s ‘Der Reiterdienst und die Anfange dcs Lehnwesens’.I Brunner codified, synthesized, and extended the findings of his predecessors so brilliantly’that his has become the classic theory of the inception of feudal society. According to Brunner, feudalism was essentially military, 2 a type of social organization designed to produce and su ort caval .The early Germans, including the Franks, had fought to some extent on horseback, but in proportion as agriculture displaced herding as the basis of their economy, the use of cavalry declined. The Franks in particular came to fight almost entirely on foot: indeed, their typical weapon, the fiancisca, was efficient only in the hands of infantry. 'Brunner believed that as late as 7323: Charles Martel’s army which met the Saracens near Poitiers was composed primarily of footmen who, in the famous words of the soc-called Isidoru-s Pacensis, ‘stand rigid as a wall and, like a belt of ice frozen solidly together, slay the Arabs with the sword’.4 Yet inean account of the battle of the Dyle in 891, we are told that ‘the Franks are unused to fighting on foot’. 5 When did this change from infantry to cavalry take place among the Franks? Brunner worked ba‘ck through the available evidence and con— cluded that the armies of Charlemagne and his successors were primarily mounted. In 758 Pipin changed the Saxon tribute’from cattle to horses.6 In 755 the Marchfield; the traditional muster'of the Frankish army, was transferred to May, presumably because the " Zeitsclm'ft def Saoigny-Sriflung ffir Rerhtsgesrhirhte, Germanistische Abteiiung, viii (1887), 1—38; reprinted in Brunner’s Porschungen zur Geschichte dc: deutschen and fianzdsischen Rechts (Stuttgart, 1894.), 39—74. For the earlier discussion, see C Stephen- son, ‘The origin and significance of feudalism’, American Historical Review, xlvi (1941) 738-94 2 See 13 I35 3 The date was an error. M. Baudot, ‘Localisation et datation de la premiere victoire remportée par Charles Martel contre les Musulmans’, M e'maxres et documents publiés par la Société de I’Ecole drs Charter, x11. i (1955), , 93-105, shows that this battle occurer not in 732 but on 17 Oct. 733, a few kilometres north-east of the confluence of the Vienne and the Creuse. ' “ See p. 136. 5 ‘Francis pedetemptim certare inusitatnrn est’ (MGH, Scriptures, i. 407). The importance of this passage is not diminished by 13. von Fraucnholz, Dar Heermesen der germanischen Praline”, 1125 1‘ mnkenreiches and 11:1 ritteriichen Zeitalters (Munich, 193 5) 65. See also the remark of Einhard writing before 836, regarding Charlemagne’ 3 love of riding and hunting. ‘Vix ulla 1n terris natio invenitur quae in hac arte Francis possit aequari’ [Vita Carali magni, c. 22, ed. L. Halphen (Paris 1923), 68]. ' 6 MGH, Scriptores, i. 140. 4 STIRRUP, MOUNTED SHOCK COMBAT, ETC. number of cavalry hadbecome so large that more forage was needed than was available in March. I The military reform must therefore have occurred between the battle of Poitiers, dated by him in 732, and the year 755. , Brunner then turned his attention to the vast and ruthless con- fiscations of Church lands effected by Charles Martel. There , is ample evidence that the greatMayor of the Palace seized these lands and distributed them to retainers in order to strengthen his armed forces. In 743 his son Carloman excused his own retention of these secularized estates ‘propter imminentia bella et persecutiones cetera- rum gentium quae in circuitu nostro sunt . . . in adiutorium exercitus nostri’, 2 while Pope Zacharias accepted’the deplorable situation ‘pro eo quod nunc tribulatio accidit Saracinorum, Saxonum vel Fresc— num’. 3 Martel’s diversion of a considerable part of the Church’s vast riches to military purposes therefore was contemporary with the shift of the focus of the F rankish army from infantry to cavalry. No surviving document explicitly connects the two developments;- but in view of the great expense of maintaining war-horses, Brunner concluded that theyrwere in fact related. Martel had felt some urgent compulsion suddenly to increase the cavalry at his disposal. In the agricultural economy of ’ eighth-century Gaul, in which soil was the most important form of income- bearing wealth and in which the tax—collecting system was rudimentary, mountedwarriors could only be maintained in large numbers by landed endowment. The estates of the Church were available for his purpose ;5 these he seized and handed over to an enlarged body of followers on condition that they serve him on horseback. Failure to fulfil this military duty involved forfeiture of the endowment held under such obligation. ‘ See p. 136. z MGH, Capitularia, 1. 28, c. 2. 3 MGH, Epistolae, iii, no. 324; E. Lesne, Histoz're de la propriété eccle’siastique en France, 11. i: Les limp: Je 1a séwlarisatzon a’es biens d’e’glise du VIII"e au Xe siécle (Lille, 1922), 7-9, lends support to Brunner’ s thesis. ‘ Brunner might have adduced a passage in the Capitulare mismrum, probably of 792 or 786 (MGH, Cap. i. 67), of which the text is very corrupt. Charlemagne commands an oath of loyalty to him by many minor personages: ‘qui honorati beneficia et ministeria tenent vel in ’bassalatico honorati sunt cum domini sui et caballos, arma et scuto ’et lancea, spata et senespasio habere possunt.’ This appears to mean that these men had been honoured with fiefs in order that they might equip themselves for-cavalry service; cf. Stephenson, op. cit. 804; C. E. Odegaard, ‘Carolingian oaths of fidelity’, Speculum, xvi (1941), 284. 7 5 E. Lesne, La Proprie’te’ ecclésiastique en Frame aux ,e’poques romaine et me’rovz’ngienne (Paris, 1910), 224, estimates that the Church held one-third of the cultivable land of Gaul. CLASSIC THEORY OF THE ORIGINS OFVFEUDALISM 5 The WmaringflegianmJeadethassahgel was fused with the granting of an estate (benefice), and'the result was feudalism. Protofeudal and seigniorialelements had, of course, saturated the very fluid Celtic, Germanic, late Roman, and Mero- vingian societies; but it was the need for Cavalry felt by the early Carolingians which precipitated and crystallized these anticipations to form medieval feudalism. . Finally, Brunner tried to discover what military necessity led to such sudden and drastic measures on Charles Martel’s part. The northern enemies of the F rankish kingdom did not use Cavalry ex— tensively; the campaigns against, the Avars were either too early or too late to account for the reform. But the Muslim invasion seemed to fit the evidence.I Brunner believed that the Saracenic horde was mounted. While their charges had broken against the glacial line’ of the shield-wall of the F rankish footmen at Poifitiers, Martel had been unable quickly to follow up his victory by means of his slow-moving infantry. Therefore he determined to createran adequate mounted force to be financed by confiscation of ecclesiastical property. Thus, Brunner concluded, the crisis which generated feudalism, the event which explains its almost explosivez development towards the middle of the eighth century, was the Arab incursion. Brunner’s synthesis has been the focal point of all subsequent discussion of European feudal origins. It has stood up remarkably well against assaults from all directions. The chief attack has come from military historians who deny that the second quarter of theieighth century witnessed any decisive change in methods of fighting. However, as a British scholar has remarked, their arguments ‘are not’a little bewildering, and seem to some extent mutually destructive’.3 One party holds that the transi— tion from infantry to cavalry began with the disintegratidn of the Roman legion and was a centuries—long process which merely reached completion under Charlemagne.4 The Opposite sect insiststhat the armies of Charlemagne were made up far less of cavalry than of infantry levies of Frankish freemen.5 This latter view may be correct as regards numbers: indeed, foot— men were never eliminated from medieval armies. On the contrary, as mounted shock combat developed, they continued to be essential, ‘ This weakest link in Brunner’s chain of hypotheses was suggested by M. Jahns, Raff and Reiter (Leipzig, 1872), ii. 40. 2 See p. I 37. 3 H. A. Cronne, ‘The origins of feudalism’, History, xxiv (1939), 257. 4 Seep. r37. ’ 5 See p. 138. 6 STIRRUP, MOUNTED SHOCK COMBAT, ETC. particularly as archers.I But no evidence has been produced to under- ‘ mine Brunner’s conclusion that under the early Carolingians the striking force of the Frankish army came rapidly and increasingly to consist of mounted feudal, knights. As the Aachen regulations of 807 Show,2 in theory Charlemagne’s army was composed of two parts: first, the holders of benefices and their retinues; second, those who served as freemen, and not by reason of tenure. Charlemagne’s edicts often mention, the military service owed by all freemen, most of whom, for economic reasons, must have fought on foot. But we do not know to what extent such levies were actually called up for personal service in the army, whereas it is clear that Charlemagne did his best to extract some cavalry even from this class of poorer landowners by organizing them, into groups according to the size of their holdings, each group to share the expenses of one fighter sent‘ mounted to the muster.3 Since jus normally lags behind fizctum, one would not expect a shift of emphasis from infantry to cavalry under Martel to be reflected in any formal renunciation by hisgrandson of a right to service which rested on centuries of precedent and which might conceivably be useful upon occasion. As regards Charle- magne’s practice, however, it may be significant that the only extant military summons sent by himto a magnate of his realm, that issued to Abbot Fulrad of Vermandois and Lobbes between 804 and 81 I, speaks in detail of horsemen but does not indicate that the abbot was expected to produce any footmen for war.4 . Far more dangerous to ru n r’s eori . ' he insistence? men- tioned above, that the a e of caval be ins not in the ei hth but'n the fourth century, or even earlier. The battle of Adrianople (AD. 378), in which the Germanic horse was decisive in defeating the W has often Been considered the turning—point in military history between ancient and medieval times. In the words of Sir Charles Oman: ‘The. Goth found that his stout lance and his good steed would carry him through the serried ranks of the Imperial infantry. He had become the arbiter of war, the lineal ancestor of all the knights of the Middle Ages, the inauguratm of that ascendancy of the horseman which was to endure for a thousand years.’5 , Careful examination of the events at Adrianople does not confirm, such generalization.6 It appears that no greatportion of the Visigothic ‘ Infia, p. 149, n. 6. 2 MGH, Cap. i. 134. 7 3 Infia, p. 30, n. I. 4 MGH, Cap. i. 1.68. 5 0p.,cit. i. I4. 6 W. Judeich, ‘Die Schlacht bei Adrianopel’, Deutsche Zeitsc/zrififfir Geschirhtswz‘ssen- CLASSIC THEORY OF THE ORIGINS OF FEUDALlSM 7 host was mounted: although’the Roman army was known [ObC near, the barbarian horse was on a foraging expedition when the Imperial forces marched to attack the German wagon fortress; moreoVer, the Romans drew up their line of battle 1n complete disregard of the possibility that the enemy cavalrymight return to take part in the fray. One can only conclude that neither the Emperor Valens nor F ritigern, the Gothic commander, considered the horsemen an im- portant element in the barbarian army. Valens arranged his infantry in the centre with cavalry oneeach. wing. The right wing was to have opened the attack, but the infantry, irritable because of an 8-mile march. in the August heat, impetuously opened the combat, thus destroying Valens’s tactical plans. At just that moment the Gothic horsemen, recalled by Fritigern, appeared -without warning and rushed upon the Roman right flankifrom the side or perhaps even from the rear, rolling it uprin confusion. Then a portion of the German cavalry swung around the Roman rear to attaclE the Imperial left wing, and the process was repeated, while a horde of barbarian footmen poured from the circle of wagons shooting arrows and hurling javelins, as did the horsemen, into thecrush of legionaries. Clearly, the catastrophe at Adrianople did not prove the superiority of cavalry over infantry. The Gothic horsemen routed the Romans already confused bytheir own indiscip’ line, not because of superior strength, but rather by effecting a surprise attack which amounted almost to ambush. The use of cavalry 1n the early Christian centuries demands much Wm developments somewhat increased the effectiveness of the mounted warrior. The more important was the saddle, which arrived in the West as a barbarian innovation in the first century after Christ, 1 and w hich gradually replaced the older heme-blanket and riding cushions. The saddle, with its rigid frame, although it did not add to a rider 5 lateral stability (a presupposition of mounted shock combat), never- theless 'helped to prevent him from falling over his horse’s, tail. Secondly, a new type of mount, the heavy horse, ancestor of the schaft, vi (1891),I -I21; F. Runkel, Die Schlacht be: Adrianopel (Rostock,1903); G. Gundel, Untersuchungen ‘zur Takiik and Strategic tier Germanen mach den antiken Quaker: (Marburg, 1937), 89, corrects Runkel’s conclusion (37, 41) that the Visigothic horse struck the Roman left flank rather than the right. ‘ Supra, p 1, n. I, and W. Gunther, ‘Sattel’, Reallexikon der V orgasrhwhte xi (1928), 214 and pl. 56:; F M. Feldhaus, Die Technik der Varzei: (Leipzig, 1914), 897; C. Darembcrg and E. Saglio, Dictionnai're des aritiqaite‘s (Paris, 1908), s.v. rclla cquestn’s. 8 STIRRUP, MOUNTED SHOCK COMBAT, ETC. medieval destrier and of the draught horse, likewise appeared in the West during the first Christian century. Such abeast could carry a heavily armed soldier and might even itself be armoured. W stimulated among Central Asian eo les earlier ex eriments 1n 11 MW: shown that in the sixth century before Christ the Massagets were developing a heavy cavalry, with fairly massive armour for both . horses and riders, the latter being normally armed with bows, but sometimes with long lances.2 From pictures3 we know that these lances were held in both hands at the charge, and Valerius Flaccus4 may indicate that the thrust was delivered by both man and mount; While no spear held at the end of the arms could have struck a blow comparable to that delivered by one held at rest under the upper arm, nevertheless for some circumstances the two—handed lance was an improvement over the one-handed spear: the evidence appears in pictures of t...
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