Ancient Roman Horse Equipment (and Medieval eqp.)

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<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by steenie</i>
<br />What do you call a knight of yore and how do u define small?

Henry Vlll was well over 6 foot tall. His tournament armour would hold a man of 16 stone fighting (that equates for you americans to 224 lbs) or in metric 100 kg. This means, with his full horse harness he would weigh twice this at 200kg. If we accept General Smith of the Royal Army Veterinary Corp circa 1900, that a horse should not carry more than 20% of its total body weight, we have a horse to carry King Harry weighing in at 1 metric tonne. We must also accept this large animal must be also nimble. Must reach 25 mph in 4 strides and turn on a sixpence to re-engage. Therefore the horse could not have been just a short squat thing but a horse of height and puissance.
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Excellent point. And there are plenty of examples of tall men of the period. Harald Haardraada, the Viking King, for example, was a tall man, as noted by Harold Godwinson in reply to Haardraada's question "How much of England will you give me?", the answer being "Six feet, as you are bigger than other men." (That is, his grave would be bigger).

And a person must be careful about using armor to guage the size of the people who wore it, as just viewing it doesn't take into account the looseness with which it fit.

Tournament armor, we might note, did tend to be heavier than than armor for combat. It contemplated definate engagement, and less time mounted, so it was stouter. Not that this diminishes your point. To add just a bit, armor for games had been exaggerated for a long time, as Gladiator's armor was also exaggerated in comparison to Roman armor, if I understand it correctly.

As an aside, what all does your book cover?

Pat


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Stanley:

You infer too much. I never said anything at all about a ''short squatty thing.''

Henry VIII's armor is indeed large, as was the man. Great Harry was great in more ways than one. In fact, he is known to have been exceptionally large. No doubt, he could locate and pay for suitably large and impressive steeds. Yet, he was exceptional by any standard (and as as King, by definition), a point that he himself would have vigorously asserted. One could argue that is makes little sense to use such an exceptional individual to make a point about the ordinary way of things in his times.

''Yore'' covers a lot of ground. Doubtless breeds and sizes changed from time to time. Yet if you look at old illustrations and a broader assortment than Great Harry's show armor, you will find that by modern standards people were smaller. So were horses <i>for the most part</i>. Look at the Normans in the Bayeaoux Tapestry. These are well fed and well funded men in the relatively prosperous 11th century. Man and beast, they are small by our standards. Later, in the 15th and 16th centuries, there is evidence of larger horses, but still only mid-sized by todays norms. This is confirmed by the size of armor for most people. Here are some images. The largest look to be to be 16 hands or less and +- 1000 lbs. This is far from the size of modern draft animals:

Image

Image

Image

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On the Normans, without addressing the other decades and centuries of the Middle Ages, I've wondered to some extent about the horses depicted in the Tapestry. Whether indicative of anything in particular or not for this dicussion, the Normans are always shown to be wearing mail for the most part. No doubt mail isn't light, but it isn't the heavy armor of later eras either.

Anyhow, given that, I've wondered what their horses were, if we can identfy them. Norman horses (the breed) perhaps? Or were they likely something else?

As a total aside, I was watching something the other day that noted that Duke William had a mote and bailey (sp?) castle under construction even prior to the Battle of Hastings, after landing in England. Impressive, really.

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<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Subotai</i>
<br />[font=Book Antiqua]Greetings All,

With reference to large Asian horses. We know the Medes bred the Nisaean charger as early as the 7th century BC. We know the Massagetaes [from what is today northern Iran], bred or acquired large horses from the Medes in the 6th century BC and we know the Sarmatians in the 3rd century BC used heavy armored cavalry on large horses to destroy the Scythian state. These large horses were used all over Asia Minor by the Persian Empire.

The Parthians had a breeding program which produced Nisaean chargers under the kingship of Mithridates II [124 - 87 BC] on which they mounted their heavies, the cataphractii, who were armed with long lances and protected by mail or scale armor as were the horses.

The Romans were destroyed at Carrhae by 1,000 Parthian cataphractii and 8,000 horse archers. Hmm 39,000 defeated by 9,000 on open ground in broad daylight. Pretty good generalship. Mobility and firepower, what a combo...
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I'd note that some of these breeds are discussed in the link Joe put in earlier. The Romans are referenced as using Iberrian horses in the same text.

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The Goths who defeated the Romans at Adrianople were a Germanic tribe. The missing piece of information - why we are confused by Germans being expert horsemen is that they were a nomadic tribe [like the Ostrogoths and Vandals], who originated on the central steppes of Eurasia and were driven west by the rising power of the Hsing Nu - later known as the Huns.
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Indeed most of the Germanic peoples were migrating in the final stages of the Roman Empire, as noted above. The Ostrogoths (Eastern Goths), Visigoths (Western Goths), Vandals, Lombards, Franks, Saxons, Angles, Jutes, etc., were all Germanic tribes, and were all moving. And they certainly covered a lot of ground at the time, and permanetnly relocated themselves as a result. And it cannot be doubted that they were fleeing from pressures found to the east that were ultimately attributable to Asian Steppe peoples, although there was a lot of pushing by people being pushed as well. Indeed, the Slavic peoples were also moving, for the same reason, and pushing on the Germanic peoples. And the Germanic peoples, who didn't see themselves as one group by any means, were pushing on other Germanic people, and also on Celtic people.

What I don't know, and would be curious about, is what the pattern of existance was for those who lived on the Russian plains. Not all of them did. There were Germanic groups in the forest of nothern Europe at the same time. And some were seafaring. They all must have used horses to some degree, but to what degree?

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<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Joseph Sullivan</i>
<br />Image
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Joe, what does this image depict in terms of a message?

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Pat:

It is generally accepted that the Norman horses were smallish, but strong and stocky, by contrast with my Arabs, who are smallish, but strong and light.

I don't recall the background of that image - will have to go back and look it up. The other two are more interesting because they are contemporaneous with the things depicted. The color image is old, but is a romantic lookback. The top image is of Carolingian cavalry, so 8th or early 9th century. In all candor, I must admit that Charlemaine was 6'4" tall and well proportioned -- once again flying in the face of what I have said about most people of the antiquity. However, he was well nourished and that has much to do with size. The other is a german knight drawn in 1517 by Albrecht Durer. It is one of Durer's most famous images, Knight Death and the Devil--Ritter, Tod und Toeffel if my German spelling is still reasonable.

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steenie

The phrase 'short squatty thing' conjours up images of dwarvish characters of the norse tales lol. Thankyou Pat for putting it like that. It has made me have a good chortle.
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Pat,
re the motte and bailey castle, here is the scene on the Bayeaux tapestry:
http://www.bayeuxtapestry.org.uk/Bayeux22.htm

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<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by steenie</i>
<br />The phrase 'short squatty thing' conjours up images of dwarvish characters of the norse tales lol. Thankyou Pat for putting it like that. It has made me have a good chortle.

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Worthy of a chortle indeed, but that was Joe's phrase in reply to a query, rather than mine.

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<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Trooper</i>
<br />Pat,
re the motte and bailey castle, here is the scene on the Bayeaux tapestry:
http://www.bayeuxtapestry.org.uk/Bayeux22.htm

Dušan
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I was unaware they were able to construct those so rapidly. Impressive.

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Pat,
I seem to remember that the wooden tower that went on the top of the motte was prefabricated in Normandy and brought over in sections for quick re-assembly. William was very thorough in his preparations. The castle lent strength to his bridgehead and provided a base for the
raids into the interior that provoked Harold into attacking far too quickly - part of William's strategy. Incredibly, it all worked pretty well.

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<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Trooper</i>
<br />Pat,
I seem to remember that the wooden tower that went on the top of the motte was prefabricated in Normandy and brought over in sections for quick re-assembly. William was very thorough in his preparations. The castle lent strength to his bridgehead and provided a base for the
raids into the interior that provoked Harold into attacking far too quickly - part of William's strategy. Incredibly, it all worked pretty well.

Dušan
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></blockquote id="quote"></font id="quote">

A partially prefabricated castle is even more amazing. It would appear that Dwight Eisnhower and company didn't have anything over Duke William in terms of cross channel invasion planning.

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An item from the Baden Powell article linked in by Brent in the thread on British units in the Boer War:

<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote">
Small wiry men stand more strain than big beefy ones (e.g. the armour that our forebears wore would be too heavy for most of us to carry to-day, if we could get into it. They were very small men but must have been very strong for their size).
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I don't know that I agree with Baden Powell on the weight of the armor and overall very small size of the men, but it is an interesting comment.

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Gentlemen,
A few comments about armor...
Plate armor is nowhere near as heavy as generally thought. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centurys, which is about when plate armor was really in use, a full harness weighed from about 65 to 85 pounds, rarely more and that in the case of an exceptionally large person. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that the average cavalry horse of the mid-nineteenth century was expected to carry more weight.

That weight was as well distributed over the person's body as can be imagined - the articulation of original armor is quite amazing and between the skin and the metal the knight wore an "arming cote" - a close fitting, padded garment that protected him from the sharp edges and generally filled all the inside spaces comfortably. It must have been hot in some weather but I suspect most people simply took that for granted. Mail armor, as worn by the Normans, was lighter.

The conventional notion of extreme weight, knights floundering on their backs in the mud unable to rise, comes from several sources. First, and most important, formal jousting armor of very late design of which there are numerous famous illustrations. This indeed was very heavy, as it was not made for warfare but for a formalized sport. It usually extends down only to thigh defenses - the legs being protected by steel flanges and padding attached to the saddle. Added to this is the fact that original armor is actually very rare. There is only one complete Gothic harness, for instance. Virtually all of the "suits of armor" we see, even those in major museums, have restored elements and many are simply "asembled" from collected pieces. This is perfectly legtimate but in the course of doing this it was common for new elements to be made to fill the gaps and these were often much heavier than original ones would have been since they were never designed to be used and were made of available materials, primarily machine rolled steel. Despite the talent of the restorer, and there have been some great ones, there were usually shortcuts taken as outright fraud was not often their goal. In the 19th century there were several "armor factories" notably that of Ernst Schmidt of Munich who published a catalog of available armor, pole arms, banners, etc used primarily for decorative purposes but good enough to fool most people. If the
Graf von Whatever sold a family harness because he needed the money he could get a "reproduction" from Schmidt for a reasonable price and no one would be the wiser. Not surprisingly many of these suits have been accepted as original until quite recently. The largest collection of this "fake" armor belongs to the Higgins Armory in Worcester, bought by John Woodman Higgins at the turn of the century who believed it to be original stuff. (Not on display...I assume you'd have to ask to see them)

Then we add the romanticism of the 19th century...Armor collecting really started at the beginning of the 19th century but the application of what we would recognize as real scholarship didn't begin until near the start of the 20th century. As a result many "myths and ledgends" were accepted and once part of the lore, are difficult to displace.

As regards horses... I suppose I am suggesting that the weight of armor was never a major consideration provided the horse could carry perhaps 70 pounds more than the rider. Unless they were much bigger and stronger (which from other discussion here I doubt) the horses of the Ironside Cavalry had a more difficult time as 17th century armor - such as would have been worn by Gustavus Adolphus or Cromwell, often made to be at least pistol proof, is quite a bit heavier than the earlier forms.

As for the people, while they were smaller than we are today, or at least smaller than Americans are, the "knightly" class may not have been much smaller. They were, to the standard of the times, the best fed and best excercised part of the society and it is generally believed that the baronial class was physically larger as a result than the "average" person. Certainly in the case of clothing, and possibly to a lesser extent with armor, we are influenced by the fact that the smallest sizes are the ones that have survived, primarilly because they were too small to be made use of by others. Both clothing and armor were extremely expensive by any modern measure so the "average" sizes tended to be used until completely worn out. The Henry VIII harness is an exception but it has been preserved for its workmanship and who owned it rather than as "working" armor.

I've gone on too long . . .

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Joe P:

Good points, spoken with the voice of someone who really knows his subject. Let me add that knights were trained to mount and dismount rapidly, and do somersaults in combat armor. After all, they had to survive.

Jousting armor was indeed heavy and specialized. No one would have considered using it for anything else. The helmet generally bolted rigidly to the body armor, and the eye slits were minimal. the idea was to protect head, neck and eyes from the shock of the lance.

Below are some views of a German tournament helm drawn by Albrecht Durer in the early 16th century. Note the dramatic differences between it and the combat helmet shown above in Durer's <i>Knight Death and the Devil</i>:

Image

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Back to size of people and horses; I guess we need some kind of scale to discuss this intelligently. How big is big, and how small is small? By modern American standards (excluding recent immigrants) a large person would be +- Henry VIII. I, for example at 6'5" and roughly 225 lbs, am taller than Henry was, but weigh about the same. Even now, most people would consider me to be a large person -- yet I am certainly nowhere near the top of the scale. A generation ago, in America, 6' was condsidered to be fairly tall. Now, I'd say that you have to be 6" 2" or more to be condisidered tall.

Notwithstanding Joe P's very good point about the higher survival rate of small suits of this and that (and I had not thought of that before Joe mentioned it), I think we would hve to agree from all the evidence -- written, graphic, and artifactual, that european men larger than 6' were relatively scarce even in the well-fed high Gothic era, and certainly before that. I would conjecture that nomal sizes would have run from say, 5' 2" to 5' 8". Even if I am low by two or three inches, we are not talking about giants in the earth.

Back then to the original point about horse sizes, if you look at the images I posted earlier, and many others that can be found, the proportionate size of the animals is such that one would guess them to be less than 16 hands, and some to be less than 15 hands. The smaller ones seem to be especially prelevant in more ancient times. For example, if you can find the well-known mounted image of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, look at how far his legs hang down.

There is a lot more to that could be said but in the interests of space and time probably shouldn't -- but in the end, I think the case is strong that ancients and mideavils were not riding animals of the size of modern draft horses.

Joe

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It looks like Joe S and I are really on the same page here. I'll add that the armor he's posted drawings of is a german type the name of which I can promounce but g-d help me I can't come close to spelling. Oddly, its one of the most faked types, mostly because in the 19th century it was mistaken for fighting armor. I've been told that the one on display at the Met is mostly made up. The Higgins has about the best example but John Higgins bought about five of them before he got a good one.
It is quite true that rather than being lifted into the saddle a knight was expected to be able to mount by himslef, even vault into the saddle. It's reported the Henry VIII could vault over the rump of his horse into the saddle in full armor. That implies both a very strong and big man and a not-so-big horse though probably a very sturdy one. He certainly wasn't vaulting onto something that could pull the Budweiser beer wagon.

I'll add a tip should anyone out there considering buying a closed helm. The most common mistake, made by pratically all makers of reproduction armors, is that with the visor closed, you can see out of occularium (eye slits). With a real helmet you have to cock your head forward to see so that the impact of a lance would jerk your head back thus keeping you from getting a possible splinter of broken lance in the eye. Horrid as it sounds, a badly cut chin was a lot better than blindness. They had to lift the visor to see because the eye slits were not convenient to use with it closed.

Oddly, while armor collecting is virtually beyond the relm of possibility for anything but public collections quite a few good bits and pieces come on the market every year and are often sold for very reasonable prices (I mean hundreds, not thousands) A friend of mine recently got a pair of articulated gauntlets complete with the attached leather gloves (ca.1480-1500) - something I had never seen before and only read about.
Also, those Ernst Schmidt suits, now can sell for 25 to 35,000 dollars. His most popular model sold for 150 marks in 1910. No matter how you measure it they have appreicated more in the past 100 years than the real stuff has.

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<blockquote id="quote"><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by JV Puleo</i>
<br />Gentlemen,
A few comments about armor...
Plate armor is nowhere near as heavy as generally thought. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centurys, which about when plate armor was really in use, a full harness weighed from about 65 to 85 pounds, rarely more and that in the case of an exceptionally large person. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that the average cavalry horse of the mid-nineteenth century was expected to carry more weight.

That weight was as well distributed over the person's body as can be imagined - the articulation of original armor is quite amazing and between the skin and the metal the knight wore an "arming cote" - a close fitting, padded garment that protected him from the sharp edges and generally filled all the inside spaces comfortably. It must have been hot in some weather but I suspect most people simply took that for granted. Mail armor as worn by the Normans was lighter.

The conventional notion of extreme weight, knights floundering on their backs in the mud unable to rise, comes from several sources. First, and most important, formal jousting armor of very late design of which there are numerous famous illustrations. This indeed was very heavy, as it was not made for warfare but for a formalized sport. It usually extends down only to thigh defenses - the legs being protected by steel flanges attached to the saddle. Added to this is the fact that original arrmor is actually very rare. There is only one complete Gothic harness, for instance. Virtually all of the "suits of armor" we see, even those in major museums, have restored elements and many are simply "asembled" from collected pieces. This is perfectly legtimate but in the course of doing this it was common for new elements to be made to fill the gaps and these were often much heavier than original ones would have been since they were never designed to be used and were made of available materials, primarily machine rolled steel. Despite the talent of the restorer, and there have been some great ones, there were usually shortcuts taken as outright fraud was not often their goal. In the 19th century there were several "armor factories" notably that of Ernst Schmidt of Munich who published a catalog of available armor, pole arms, banners, etc used primarily for decorative purposes but good enough to fool most people. If the
Graf von Whatever sold a family harness because he needed the money he could get a "reporduction" from Schmidt for a reasonable price and no one would be the wiser. Not surprisingly many of these suits have been accepted as original until quite recently. The largest collection of this "fake" armor belongs to the Higgins Armory in Worcester, bought by John Woodman Higgins at the turn of the century who believed it to be original stuff. (Not on display...I assume you'd have to ask to see them)

Then we add the romanticism of the 19th century...Armor collecting really started at the beginning of the 19th century but the application of what we would recognize as real scholarship didn't begin until near the start of the 20th century. As a result many "myths and ledgends" were accepted and once part of the lore, are difficult to displace.

As regards horses... I suppose I am suggesting that the weight of armor was never a major consideration provided the horse could carry perhaps 70 pounds more than the rider. Unless they were much bigger and stronger (which from other discussion here I doubt) the horses of the Ironside Cavalry had a more difficult time as 17th century armor - such as would have been worn by Gustavus Adolphus or Cromwell-is quite a bit heavier than the earlier forms.

As for the people, while they were smaller than we are today, or at least smaller than Americans are, the "knightly" class may not have been much smaller. They were, to the standard of the times, the best fed and best excercised part of the society and it is generally believed that the baronial class was physically larger as a result than the "average" person. Certainly in the case of clothing, and possibly to a lesser extent with armor, we are influenced by the fact that the smallest sizes are the ones that have survived, primarilly because they were too small to be made use of by others. Both clothing and armor were extremely expensive by any modern measure so the "average" sizes tended to be used until completely worn out. The Henry VIII harness is an exception but it has ben preserved for its workmanship and who owned it rather than as "working" armor.

I've gone on too long . . .

Joe Puleo
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Excellent information Joe. Very intersting.

I was wondering, after considering this topic, about the weight a Medieval war horse would have carried. You raise that in a very intersting fashion. That they did ride larger horses than typical riding horses cannot be doubted, as it's known that they drove their war horses, for example, on the route of the Crusades, while riding lighter saddle mounts for the trip. But the factor of weight being less important than we might imagine raises some interesting questions.

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Part of the problem with "war horses" was that no knight worth his salt would have been caught dead riding into battle on anything but a stallion. I don't know enough about horses to be able to comment much more on this but I gather that "agressive" behavior on the part of horses towards each other was an ongoing problem. It apparently was permissible however to ride a mare or a gelding for the simple purpose of transportation. We have to also assume that the war horses were very valuable - its sort of like moving tanks on flat cars or tank transporters until you get them to where they have to be for action.
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