Warfare During the Medieval Period
- Knights of the Middle Ages
- Medieval Battle Equipment and Weapons Used
- Key Battles of Medieval Europe
- Effects of Warfare on Society
KnighthoodKnights were considered the backbone of warfare and order in the medieval era. Knighthood was often earned. Knights were usually high-born nobles who earned their privileged military status after training and being raised by a sovereign. Others may also be awarded the title after being acknowledged for fighting bravely on the battlefield. Knights served as vassals to a lord and bore the house’s banners. They were clad in armor, equipped with well-made weapons, and given horses. As elite soldiers, they were valuable in battles, wars, and crusades, but when they were not fighting, they helped enforce laws in the royal or local lord’s court.
Code of ChivalryThe Code of Chivalry was an idealized but informal moral system that was usually followed by knights. There was no actual code, but there was an unspoken set of rules that knights were expected to uphold. Others defined the code as qualifications of a knight. In line with this, knighthood was associated with virtues including bravery, honor, courtesy, valor, and generosity. While knights in combat with their swords and lances were one of the most well-known aspects of medieval warfare, there were many weapons that were used during battles and sieges in the Middle Ages. The weaponry employed was designed for efficient attacking and defending. The armaments evolved through the period through new discoveries. There were primarily three types of weapons during this period. One was the hand weapons carried by lords, knights, and nobles on horseback. The second type was used by archers and foot soldiers. The last type was the heavy-duty armament used to lay siege to a castle, city, or fort.
Melee & Ranged WeaponsLords, knights, foot soldiers, and archers used a variation of melee and ranged weapons during battles.
Castle Siege WeaponsThe aristocracy and feudal lords constructed castles that were fortified for attacking and defense. Conquering a castle took a lot of firepower, which is why siege weapons were developed. Below are some examples.
A. The Battle of Tours (October 732)The Battle of Tours preceded the advancement of Abd al-Rahman’s Muslim army in France. After Bordeaux was conquered, Duke Eudes sought an alliance with a rival named Charles Martel. This was the farthest that the Umayyad Caliphate ever got in Europe, as it was eventually defeated when Rahman was killed thanks to Martel’s military strategy. The Caliphate never recovered. The victory put the Franks (French) on the map as a new dominant power.
B. The Battle of Hastings (October 1066)After King Edward’s death in January 1066, he was replaced by Harold Godwineson who was proclaimed as King Harold II. William the Conqueror protested by claiming his right to the English throne in the Battle of Hastings. Historians said that the dispute was the result of Edward promising William to make him his heir when the latter was visiting his cousin. The aftermath of the battle brought on a new era of British history and made the English language what it is today.
C. The Battle of Bouvines (July 1214)The Battle of Bouvines is considered to be one of the most influential moments of European history because it resulted in the Magna Carta, a document or charter of rights that was used as the basis for British and American laws. It was signed by the tyrannical King John of England on June 1215 under the pressure of a group of rebellious barons. The Magna Carta outlined that everyone was entitled to basic rights, a fair trial, and that the laws applied to all, including the king.
D. The Battle of Mohi (April 1241)Also known as the Battle of the Sajo River, the Battle of Mohi was the biggest battle during the Mongol invasion of Europe. The invasion of the Mongols under Subutai demonstrated how innovative military warfare was, like the catapult that fired explosives and could lay waste to a kingdom. While Hungary lost, East-West relations blossomed, and there was a proliferation of travel, trade, and even communication. After establishing diplomatic relations, alternative world-view was documented as Europeans were seen to be open to other cultures despite their racist past in their colonial era and in other periods in history.
E. The Battle of Castillon (July 1453)The decisive French victory over the English in the Battle of Castillon ended the wrongly named Hundred Years’ War. The series of fighting between the English and French before this last battle was a series of conflicts rather than one huge war. Due to this, the English influence was effectively halted in the mainland of France. The battle is also historically significant because of the extensive use of advanced artillery, which was no match for the Englishmen’s inferior weapons. Society is composed of several types of classes, and the effects on these classes are different. In medieval Europe, the people directly involved in wars experienced it differently compared to serfs. Ideally, wars between kingdoms were supposed to only exclusively involve the warring parties. While serfs did not fight in them, they supported them by diligently paying the fees and taxes while working for their lords. The wars in the Middle Ages were relatively small compared to those after the period. Most of the major European battles were fought by small armies. The involvement of the Church brought medieval warfare to a whole new level under the heading Crusades. The Crusades were a series of holy wars to secure sites that were considered sacred by both religions and an attempt to stop the expansion of Muslim states or to reclaim converted territories and vice versa. The stories of savagery and bloodshed during those times still hold influence in the political and cultural views of the Middle East and Western European Nations. With the bad comes the good in the aftermath of the Crusades. Trade, learning, and transportation flourished in Europe, with some experts believing that this intellectual transformation pushed the period to the Age of Discovery and to the Renaissance period.
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