Medieval warfare
Overview
 
Medieval warfare is the warfare of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. In Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, technological, cultural, and social developments had forced a dramatic transformation in the character of warfare from antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

, changing military tactics
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 and the role of cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 and artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

. In terms of fortification, the Middle Ages saw the emergence of the castle
Castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

 in Europe, which then spread to southwestern Asia.
Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, Vegetius for short, wrote De re militari
De Re Militari
De Re Militari , also Epitoma Rei Militaris, is a treatise by the late Latin writer Vegetius about Roman warfare and military principles as a presentation of methods and practices in use during the height of Rome's power, and responsible for that power...

 possibly in the late 4th century.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Medieval warfare is the warfare of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. In Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, technological, cultural, and social developments had forced a dramatic transformation in the character of warfare from antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

, changing military tactics
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 and the role of cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 and artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

. In terms of fortification, the Middle Ages saw the emergence of the castle
Castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

 in Europe, which then spread to southwestern Asia.

De re militari

Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, Vegetius for short, wrote De re militari
De Re Militari
De Re Militari , also Epitoma Rei Militaris, is a treatise by the late Latin writer Vegetius about Roman warfare and military principles as a presentation of methods and practices in use during the height of Rome's power, and responsible for that power...

 possibly in the late 4th century. Described by historian Walter Goffart
Walter Goffart
Walter Andre Goffart is a historian of the later Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages who specializes in research on the barbarian kingdoms of those periods. He is a senior research scholar and lecturer at Yale University....

 as "the bible of warfare throughout the Middle Ages", De re militari was widely distributed through the Latin West. While western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 relied on a single text for the basis of its military knowledge, the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 in southeastern Europe had a succession of military writers. Though Vegetius had no military experience, and De re militari was derived from the works of Cato
Cato the Younger
Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis , commonly known as Cato the Younger to distinguish him from his great-grandfather , was a politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a follower of the Stoic philosophy...

 and Frontinus, his books were the standard for military discourse in western Europe from their production until the 16th century. De re militari was divided into four books: who should be a soldier and the skills they needed to learn; the composition and structure of an army
Army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

; field tactics; how to conduct and withstand siege
Siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

s, and the role of the navy
Navy
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

. According to Vegetius, infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 was the most important element of an army because it was cheap compared to cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 and could be deployed on any terrain. One of the tenets he put forward was that a general should only engage in battle when he was sure of victory or had no other choice. As archaeologist Robert Liddiard explains "Pitched battles, particularly in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, were rare."

Though his work was widely reproduced, and over 200 copies, translations, and extracts survive today, the extent to which Vegetius affected the actual practice of warfare as opposed to its concept is unclear due to his habit of stating the obvious. Historian Michael Clanchy
Michael Clanchy
Michael T. Clanchy is a Professor Emeritus of Medieval History at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, and a Fellow of the British Academy....

 noted "the medieval axiom that laymen are illiterate and its converse that clergy are literate", so it may be the case that few soldiers read Vegetius' work. While their Roman predecessors were well-educated and had been experienced in warfare, the European nobility of the early medieval were not renowned their education, however from the 12th century it became more common for them to read. Some soldiers regarded experience of warfare as more valuable than reading about it; for example, Geoffroi de Charney, a 14th century knight who wrote about warfare, recommended that his audience should learn by observing and asking advice from their superiors. While it is uncertain to what extent his work was read amongst the warrior class as opposed to the clergy, Vegetius remained prominent in the lieterature on warfare in the medieval period. In 1489 King Henry VII of England commissioned the translation of De re militari into English "so every gentleman born to arms and all manner of men of war, captains, soldiers, vituallers and all others would know how they ought to behavein the feats of wars and battles".

Employment of force

The experience level and tactical maneuvering ability of medieval armies varied depending on the period and region. For larger battles, pre-battle planning typically consisted of a council of the war leaders, which could either be the general laying down a plan or a noisy debate between the different leaders, depending on how much authority the general possessed. Battlefield communications before the advent of strict lines of communication were naturally very difficult. Communication was done through musical signals, audible commands, messengers, or visual signals such as raising a standard banner or flag.

The infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

, including missile troops (such as archer
Archery
Archery is the art, practice, or skill of propelling arrows with the use of a bow, from Latin arcus. Archery has historically been used for hunting and combat; in modern times, however, its main use is that of a recreational activity...

s), would typically be employed at the outset of the battle to break open infantry formations while the cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 attempted to defeat its opposing number. If the cavalry met foot solders the pike men would get them. Perhaps the most important technological advancement for medieval warfare in Europe was the invention of the stirrup
Stirrup
A stirrup is a light frame or ring that holds the foot of a rider, attached to the saddle by a strap, often called a stirrup leather. Stirrups are usually paired and are used to aid in mounting and as a support while using a riding animal...

. It most likely came to Europe with the Avars
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

 in the 7th century, although it was not properly adopted by the major European powers until the 10th century.

Once one side coaxed their opposing infantry into breaking formation, the cavalry would be deployed in attempt to exploit the loss of cohesion in the opposing infantry lines and begin slaying the infantrymen in the pandemonium. Once a break in the lines was exploited, the cavalry became instrumental to victory, causing further breakage in the lines and wreaking havoc amongst the infantrymen, as it is much easier to kill a man from the top of a horse than to stand on the ground and face a half-ton destrier
Destrier
The destrier is the best-known war horse of the medieval era. It carried knights in battles, tournaments, and jousts. It was described by contemporary sources as the Great Horse, due to its size and reputation....

 (large warhorse) carrying an armed knight. However, until a significant break in the enemy infantry lines arose, the cavalry could not be used to much effect against infantry since horses are not easily harried into a wall of pikemen. Pure infantry conflicts would be lengthy and drawn-out.

Muzzle-loaded
Muzzleloader
A muzzleloader is any firearm into which the projectile and usually the propellant charge is loaded from the muzzle of the gun . This is distinct from the more popular modern designs of breech-loading firearms...

 cannon
Cannon
A cannon is any piece of artillery that uses gunpowder or other usually explosive-based propellents to launch a projectile. Cannon vary in caliber, range, mobility, rate of fire, angle of fire, and firepower; different forms of cannon combine and balance these attributes in varying degrees,...

s were introduced to the battlefield in the later medieval period. However, their very poor rate of fire (which often meant that only one shot was fired in the course of an entire battle) and their inaccuracy made them more of a psychological force multiplier than an effective anti-personnel weapon. Later on in medieval warfare, once hand cannons were introduced, the rate of fire improved only slightly, but the cannons became far easier to aim, largely because they were smaller and much closer to their wielder. Their users could be easily protected, because the cannons were lighter and could be moved far more quickly.

A hasty retreat could cause greater casualties than an organized withdrawal, because the fast cavalry of the winning side's rearguard would intercept the fleeing enemy while their infantry continued their attack . In most medieval battles, more soldiers were killed during the retreat than in battle, since mounted knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

s could quickly and easily dispatch the archer
Archery
Archery is the art, practice, or skill of propelling arrows with the use of a bow, from Latin arcus. Archery has historically been used for hunting and combat; in modern times, however, its main use is that of a recreational activity...

s and infantry who were no longer protected by a line of pike
Pike (weapon)
A pike is a pole weapon, a very long thrusting spear used extensively by infantry both for attacks on enemy foot soldiers and as a counter-measure against cavalry assaults. Unlike many similar weapons, the pike is not intended to be thrown. Pikes were used regularly in European warfare from the...

s as they had been during the previous fighting.

Fortifications

Breakdowns in centralized states led to the rise of a number of groups that turned to large-scale pillage as a source of income. Most notably the Vikings (but also Arabs, Mongols
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 and Magyars) raided significantly. As these groups were generally small and needed to move quickly, building fortifications was a good way to provide refuge and protection for the people and the wealth in the region.

These fortifications evolved over the course of the Middle Ages, the most important form being the castle
Castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

, a structure which has become linked with the Medieval era to many. The castle served as a protected place for the local elites. Inside a castle they were protected from bands of raiders and could send mounted warriors to drive the raiders from the area, or to disrupt the efforts of larger armies to supply themselves in the region by gaining local superiority over foraging parties that would be impossible against the whole enemy host.

Fortifications were a very important part of warfare because they provided safety to the lord, his family, and his servants. They provided refuge from armies too large to face in open battle. The ability of the heavy cavalry to dominate a battle on an open field was useless against fortifications. Building siege engines was a time-consuming process, and could seldom be effectively done without preparations before the campaign. Many sieges could take months, if not years, to weaken or demoralize the defenders sufficiently. Fortifications were an excellent means of ensuring that the elite could not be easily dislodged from their lands - as Count Baldwin of Hainaut
Baldwin V, Count of Hainaut
Baldwin V of Hainaut was count of Hainaut , count of Flanders as Baldwin VIII and margrave of Namur as Baldwin I .-History:...

 commented in 1184 on seeing enemy troops ravage his lands from the safety of his castle, "they can't take the land with them".

Siege warfare

In the Medieval period besieging armies used a wide variety of siege engine
Siege engine
A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent city walls and other fortifications in siege warfare. Some have been operated close to the fortifications, while others have been used to attack from a distance. From antiquity, siege engines were constructed largely of wood and...

s including: scaling ladders; battering ram
Battering ram
A battering ram is a siege engine originating in ancient times and designed to break open the masonry walls of fortifications or splinter their wooden gates...

s; siege tower
Siege tower
A siege tower is a specialized siege engine, constructed to protect assailants and ladders while approaching the defensive walls of a fortification. The tower was often rectangular with four wheels with its height roughly equal to that of the wall or sometimes higher to allow archers to stand on...

s and various types of catapult
Catapult
A catapult is a device used to throw or hurl a projectile a great distance without the aid of explosive devices—particularly various types of ancient and medieval siege engines. Although the catapult has been used since ancient times, it has proven to be one of the most effective mechanisms during...

s such as the mangonel
Mangonel
A mangonel was a type of catapult or siege engine used in the medieval period to throw projectiles at a castle's walls. The exact meaning of the term is debatable, and several possibilities have been suggested. Mangonel may also be indirectly referring to the 'mangon' a French hard stone found in...

, onager
Onager (siege weapon)
The onager was a Roman siege engine, which derived its name from the kicking action of the machine, similar to that of an onager , it was created as a simpler, cheaper version of the ballista. The Onager is a type of catapult that uses torsional pressure, generally from twisted rope, to store...

, ballista
Ballista
The ballista , plural ballistae, was an ancient missile weapon which launched a large projectile at a distant target....

, and trebuchet
Trebuchet
A trebuchet is a siege engine that was employed in the Middle Ages. It is sometimes called a "counterweight trebuchet" or "counterpoise trebuchet" in order to distinguish it from an earlier weapon that has come to be called the "traction trebuchet", the original version with pulling men instead of...

. Siege techniques also included mining in which tunnels were dug under a section of the wall and then rapidly collapsed to destabilize the wall's foundation. A final technique was to bore into the enemy walls, however this was not nearly as effective as other methods due to the thickness of castle walls Several of these siege techniques were used by the Romans but experienced a rebirth during the Crusades.

Advances in the prosecution of siege
Siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

s encouraged the development of a variety of defensive counter-measures. In particular, medieval fortification
Medieval fortification
Medieval fortification is military methods of Medieval technology that covers the development of fortification construction and use in Europe roughly from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the Renaissance...

s became progressively stronger — for example, the advent of the concentric castle
Concentric castle
A concentric castle is a castle with two or more concentric curtain walls, such that the outer wall is lower than the inner and can be defended from it. The word concentric does not imply that these castles were circular; in fact if taken too literally the term "concentric" is quite misleading...

 from the period of the Crusades
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

 — and more dangerous to attackers — witness the increasing use of machicolation
Machicolation
A machicolation is a floor opening between the supporting corbels of a battlement, through which stones, or other objects, could be dropped on attackers at the base of a defensive wall. The design was developed in the Middle Ages when the Norman crusaders returned. A machicolated battlement...

s and murder-hole
Murder-hole
A murder hole or meurtrière is a hole in the ceiling of a gateway or passageway in a fortification through which the defenders could fire, throw or pour harmful substances, such as rocks, arrows, scalding water, hot sand, quicklime, tar, or boiling oil, down on attackers. They also allowed water to...

s, as well the preparation of hot or incendiary substances. Arrow slits, concealed doors for sallies, and deep water wells were also integral to resisting siege at this time. Designers of castles paid particular attention to defending entrances, protecting gates with drawbridge
Drawbridge
A drawbridge is a type of movable bridge typically associated with the entrance of a castle surrounded by a moat. The term is often used to describe all different types of movable bridges, like bascule bridges and lift bridges.-Castle drawbridges:...

s, portcullis
Portcullis
A portcullis is a latticed grille made of wood, metal, fibreglass or a combination of the three. Portcullises fortified the entrances to many medieval castles, acting as a last line of defence during time of attack or siege...

es and barbican
Barbican
A barbican, from medieval Latin barbecana, signifying the "outer fortification of a city or castle," with cognates in the Romance languages A barbican, from medieval Latin barbecana, signifying the "outer fortification of a city or castle," with cognates in the Romance languages A barbican, from...

s. Wet animal skins were often draped over gates to retard fire. Moat
Moat
A moat is a deep, broad ditch, either dry or filled with water, that surrounds a castle, other building or town, historically to provide it with a preliminary line of defence. In some places moats evolved into more extensive water defences, including natural or artificial lakes, dams and sluices...

s and other water defenses, whether natural or augmented, were also vital to defenders.

In the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, virtually all large cities had city walls — Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is a Croatian city on the Adriatic Sea coast, positioned at the terminal end of the Isthmus of Dubrovnik. It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations on the Adriatic, a seaport and the centre of Dubrovnik-Neretva county. Its total population is 42,641...

 in Dalmatia
Dalmatia
Dalmatia is a historical region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It stretches from the island of Rab in the northwest to the Bay of Kotor in the southeast. The hinterland, the Dalmatian Zagora, ranges from fifty kilometers in width in the north to just a few kilometers in the south....

 is an impressive and well-preserved example — and more important cities had citadel
Citadel
A citadel is a fortress for protecting a town, sometimes incorporating a castle. The term derives from the same Latin root as the word "city", civis, meaning citizen....

s, forts or castle
Castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

s. Great effort was expended to ensure a good water supply inside the city in case of siege. In some cases, long tunnels were constructed to carry water into the city. Complex systems of underground tunnels were used for storage and communications in medieval cities like Tábor
Tábor
Tábor is a city of the Czech Republic, in the South Bohemian Region. It is named after Mount Tabor, which is believed by many to be the place of the Transfiguration of Christ; however, the name became popular and nowadays translates to "camp" or "encampment" in the Czech language.The town was...

 in Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

. Against these would be matched the mining
Mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

 skills of teams of trained sapper
Sapper
A sapper, pioneer or combat engineer is a combatant soldier who performs a wide variety of combat engineering duties, typically including, but not limited to, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences, general construction and building, as well as road and airfield...

s, who were sometimes employed by besieging armies.

Until the invention of gunpowder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

-based weapons (and the resulting higher-velocity projectiles), the balance of power and logistics definitely favored the defender. With the invention of gunpowder, the traditional methods of defense became less and less effective against a determined siege.

Organization

The medieval knight was usually a mounted and armoured soldier
Soldier
A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

, often connected with nobility
Nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

 or royalty
Royal family
A royal family is the extended family of a king or queen regnant. The term imperial family appropriately describes the extended family of an emperor or empress, while the terms "ducal family", "grand ducal family" or "princely family" are more appropriate to describe the relatives of a reigning...

, although (especially in north-eastern Europe) knights could also come from the lower classes, and could even be unfree persons. The cost of their armor, horses
Horses in the Middle Ages
Horses in the Middle Ages differed in size, build and breed from the modern horse, and were, on average, smaller. They were also more central to society than their modern counterparts, being essential for war, agriculture, and transport....

, and weapons was great; this, among other things, helped gradually transform the knight, at least in western Europe, into a distinct social class separate from other warriors. During the crusades
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

, holy orders of Knights fought in the Holy Land (see Knights Templar
Knights Templar
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon , commonly known as the Knights Templar, the Order of the Temple or simply as Templars, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders...

, the Hospitallers, etc.).

Heavily armed cavalry, armed with lances and a varied assortment of hand weapons played a significant part in the battles of the Middle Ages. The heavy cavalry consisted of wealthy knights and noblemen who could afford the equipment and non-noble squires employed by noblemen. Heavy cavalry was the difference between victory and defeat in many key battles. Their thunderous charges could break the lines of most infantry formations, making them a valuable asset to all medieval armies.

Light cavalry consisted usually of lighter armed and armoured men, who could have lances, javelin
Javelin
A Javelin is a light spear intended for throwing. It is commonly known from the modern athletic discipline, the Javelin throw.Javelin may also refer to:-Aviation:* ATG Javelin, an American-Israeli civil jet aircraft, under development...

s or missile weapons, such as bows
Bow (weapon)
The bow and arrow is a projectile weapon system that predates recorded history and is common to most cultures.-Description:A bow is a flexible arc that shoots aerodynamic projectiles by means of elastic energy. Essentially, the bow is a form of spring powered by a string or cord...

 or crossbow
Crossbow
A crossbow is a weapon consisting of a bow mounted on a stock that shoots projectiles, often called bolts or quarrels. The medieval crossbow was called by many names, most of which derived from the word ballista, a torsion engine resembling a crossbow in appearance.Historically, crossbows played a...

s. In the dark ages and much of the middle ages light cavalry usually consisted of wealthy commoners. Later in the middle ages light cavalry would also include sergeants who were men who had trained as knights but could not afford the costs associated with the title. Light cavalry were used as scouts, skirmishers or outflankers. Many countries developed their own styles of light cavalry, such as Hungarian mounted archers, Spanish jinetes, Italian and German mounted crossbowmen and English currours.

Infantry were recruited and trained in a wide variety of manners in different regions of Europe all through the Middle Ages, and probably always formed the most numerous part of a medieval field army. Many infantrymen in prolonged wars would be mercenaries. Most armies contained significant numbers of spearmen, archers and other unmounted soldiers. In sieges, perhaps the most common element of medieval warfare, infantry units served as garrison troops and archers, among other positions. Near the end of the Middle Ages, with the advancements of weapons and armour, the infantryman became more important to an army.

Recruiting

In the earliest Middle Ages it was the obligation of every noble to respond to the call to battle with his own equipment, archers, and infantry. This decentralized system was necessary due to the social order of the time, but could lead to motley forces with variable training, equipment and abilities. The more resources the noble had access to, the better his troops would typically be. Typically the feudal armies consisted of a core of highly skilled knights and their household troops, mercenaries hired for the time of the campaign and feudal levies fulfilling their feudal obligations, who usually were little more than rabble. They could, however, be efficient in disadvantageous terrain. Towns and cities could also field militias.

As central governments grew in power, a return to the citizen and mercenary armies of the classical period also began, as central levies of the peasantry began to be the central recruiting tool. It was estimated that the best infantrymen came from the younger sons of free land-owning yeomen
Yeoman
Yeoman refers chiefly to a free man owning his own farm, especially from the Elizabethan era to the 17th century. Work requiring a great deal of effort or labor, such as would be done by a yeoman farmer, came to be described as "yeoman's work"...

, such as the English archers and Swiss pikemen. England was one of the most centralized states in the Late Middle Ages, and the armies that fought the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

 were mostly paid professionals. In theory, every Englishman had an obligation to serve for forty days. Forty days was not long enough for a campaign, especially one on the continent. Thus the scutage
Scutage
The form of taxation known as scutage, in the law of England under the feudal system, allowed a knight to "buy out" of the military service due to the Crown as a holder of a knight's fee held under the feudal land tenure of knight-service. Its name derived from shield...

 was introduced, whereby most Englishmen paid to escape their service and this money was used to create a permanent army. However, almost all high medieval armies in Europe were composed of a great deal of paid core troops, and there was a large mercenary market in Europe from at least the early 12th century.

As the Middle Ages progressed in Italy, Italian cities began to rely mostly on mercenaries to do their fighting rather than the militias that had dominated the early and high medieval period in this region. These would be groups of career soldiers who would be paid a set rate. Mercenaries tended to be effective soldiers, especially in combination with standing forces, but in Italy they came to dominate the armies of the city states. This made them problematic; while at war they were considerably more reliable than a standing army, at peacetime they proved a risk to the state itself like the Praetorian Guard
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

 had once been. Mercenary-on-mercenary warfare in Italy led to relatively bloodless campaigns which relied as much on manoeuvre as on battles, since the condottieri
Condottieri
thumb|Depiction of [[Farinata degli Uberti]] by [[Andrea del Castagno]], showing a 15th century condottiero's typical attire.Condottieri were the mercenary soldier leaders of the professional, military free companies contracted by the Italian city-states and the Papacy, from the late Middle Ages...

 recognized it was more efficient to attack the enemy's ability to wage war rather than his battle forces, discovering the concept of indirect warfare
Indirect approach
The Indirect approach was a strategy described and chronicled by B. H. Liddell Hart after World War I, was Liddell Hart's attempt to find a solution to the problem of high casualty rates in conflict zones with high force to space ratios, such as the Western Front on which he served. The strategy...

 500 years before Sir Basil Liddell Hart, and attempting to attack the enemy supply lines, his economy and his ability to wage war rather than risking an open battle, and manoeuvre him into a position where risking a battle would have been suicidial. Macchiavelli misunderstood the indirect approach
Indirect approach
The Indirect approach was a strategy described and chronicled by B. H. Liddell Hart after World War I, was Liddell Hart's attempt to find a solution to the problem of high casualty rates in conflict zones with high force to space ratios, such as the Western Front on which he served. The strategy...

 as cowardice.

The knights were drawn to battle by feudal and social obligation, and also by the prospect of profit and advancement. Those who performed well were likely to increase their landholdings and advance in the social hierarchy. The prospect of significant income from pillage and ransoming prisoners was also important. For the mounted knight Medieval Warfare could be a relatively low risk affair. Nobles avoided killing each other, rather preferring capturing them alive, for several reasons—for one thing, many were related to each other, had fought alongside one another, and they were all (more or less) members of the same elite culture; for another, a noble's ransom
Ransom
Ransom is the practice of holding a prisoner or item to extort money or property to secure their release, or it can refer to the sum of money involved.In an early German law, a similar concept was called bad influence...

 could be very high, and indeed some made a living by capturing and ransoming nobles in battle. Even peasants, who did not share the bonds of kinship and culture, would often avoid killing a nobleman, valuing the high ransom that a live capture could bring, as well as the valuable horse, armour and equipment that came with him. However, this is by no means a rule of medieval warfare. It was quite common, even at the height of "chivalric" warfare, for the knights to suffer heavy casualties during battles.

Equipment

Weapons
Medieval weapons consisted of many different types of ranged and hand-held objects:
  • Battleaxe
    • Horseman's pick
      Horseman's pick
      The horseman's pick was a weapon of Islamic origin but used by cavalry during the Middle Ages in Europe. This was a type of war hammer that had a very long spike on the reverse of the hammer head. Usually, this spike was slightly curved downwards, much like a miner's pickaxe. The term is sometimes...

  • Blades
    • Dagger
      Dagger
      A dagger is a fighting knife with a sharp point designed or capable of being used as a thrusting or stabbing weapon. The design dates to human prehistory, and daggers have been used throughout human experience to the modern day in close combat confrontations...

    • Knife
      Knife
      A knife is a cutting tool with an exposed cutting edge or blade, hand-held or otherwise, with or without a handle. Knives were used at least two-and-a-half million years ago, as evidenced by the Oldowan tools...

    • Longsword
      Longsword
      The longsword is a type of European sword designed for two-handed use, current during the late medieval and Renaissance periods, approximately 1350 to 1550 .Longswords have long cruciform hilts with grips over 10 to 15 cm length The longsword (of which stems the variation called the bastard...

    • Messer
      Messer (weapon)
      Messel during the German Late Middle Ages and Renaissance  was a term for the class of single-edged bladed weapons, deriving from the medieval falchion and preceding the modern sabre.Its hilt included a straight cross-guard and...

  • Blunt weapons
    • Club
      Club (weapon)
      A club is among the simplest of all weapons. A club is essentially a short staff, or stick, usually made of wood, and wielded as a weapon since prehistoric times....

    • Flail
      Flail (weapon)
      The flail is a hand weapon derived from the agricultural tool.The handle is attached to the striking part of a weapon by a flexible chain or cord...

    • Mace
    • War Hammer
      War hammer
      A war hammer is a late medieval weapon of war intended for close combat action, the design of which resembles the hammer.The war hammer consists of a handle and a head...

  • Polearm
    • Halberd
      Halberd
      A halberd is a two-handed pole weapon that came to prominent use during the 14th and 15th centuries. Possibly the word halberd comes from the German words Halm , and Barte - in modern-day German, the weapon is called Hellebarde. The halberd consists of an axe blade topped with a spike mounted on...

    • Lance
      Lance
      A Lance is a pole weapon or spear designed to be used by a mounted warrior. The lance is longer, stout and heavier than an infantry spear, and unsuited for throwing, or for rapid thrusting. Lances did not have tips designed to intentionally break off or bend, unlike many throwing weapons of the...

    • Military fork
      Military fork
      A fork is a pole weapon which was used in war in Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries. Like many polearms, the military fork traces its lineage to an agricultural tool, in this case the pitchfork....

      , the weaponized Pitchfork
      Pitchfork
      A pitchfork is an agricultural tool with a long handle and long, thin, widely separated pointed tines used to lift and pitch loose material, such as hay, leaves, grapes, dung or other agricultural materials. Pitchforks typically have two or three tines...

    • Poleaxe
    • Spear
      Spear
      A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with bamboo spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or...

  • Ranged
    • Bow
      Bow (weapon)
      The bow and arrow is a projectile weapon system that predates recorded history and is common to most cultures.-Description:A bow is a flexible arc that shoots aerodynamic projectiles by means of elastic energy. Essentially, the bow is a form of spring powered by a string or cord...

    • Longbow
      English longbow
      The English longbow, also called the Welsh longbow, is a powerful type of medieval longbow about 6 ft long used by the English and Welsh for hunting and as a weapon in medieval warfare...

    • Crossbow
      Crossbow
      A crossbow is a weapon consisting of a bow mounted on a stock that shoots projectiles, often called bolts or quarrels. The medieval crossbow was called by many names, most of which derived from the word ballista, a torsion engine resembling a crossbow in appearance.Historically, crossbows played a...

    • Throwing axe
      Throwing axe
      A throwing axe is an axe that is used primarily as a missile weapon. Usually, they are thrown in an overhand motion in a manner that causes the axe to rotate as it travels through the air. Throwing axes have been used since prehistoric times and were developed into the Francisca by the Franks in...

    • Throwing spear
      Spear
      A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with bamboo spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or...

       and Javelin


Armour
  • Body armour
    Components of medieval armour
    Following is a table that concisely identifies various pieces of medieval armour, mostly plate but some mail, arranged by the part of body that is protected and roughly by date...

    • Leather
      Boiled leather
      Boiled leather, sometimes called cuir bouilli, was a historical construction material for armour. It consists of thick leather, boiled in water . The boiling causes the leather to be harder but more brittle...

    • Fabric
      Gambeson
      A gambeson is a padded defensive jacket, worn as armour separately, or combined with mail or plate armour. Gambeson were produced with a sewing technique called quilting. Usually constructed of linen or wool, the stuffing varied, and could be for example scrap cloth or horse hair...

    • Chainmail
      Chainmail
      Mail is a type of armour consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh.-History:Mail was a highly successful type of armour and was used by nearly every metalworking culture....

    • Brigandine
      Brigandine
      A brigandine is a form of body armour from the Middle Ages. It is a cloth garment, generally canvas or leather, lined with small oblong steel plates riveted to the fabric....

    • Plate
      Plate armour
      Plate armour is a historical type of personal armour made from iron or steel plates.While there are early predecessors such the Roman-era lorica segmentata, full plate armour developed in Europe during the Late Middle Ages, especially in the context of the Hundred Years' War, from the coat of...

  • Shield
    Shield
    A shield is a type of personal armor, meant to intercept attacks, either by stopping projectiles such as arrows or redirecting a hit from a sword, mace or battle axe to the side of the shield-bearer....

  • Helmet
    Combat helmet
    A combat helmet or battle helmet is a type of personal armor designed specifically to protect the head during combat. Helmets are among the oldest forms of personal protective equipment and are known to have been worn by the Akkadians/Sumerians in the 23rd century BC, Mycenaean Greeks since 17th...



Artillery and Siege engine
  • battering rams
  • catapult
    Catapult
    A catapult is a device used to throw or hurl a projectile a great distance without the aid of explosive devices—particularly various types of ancient and medieval siege engines. Although the catapult has been used since ancient times, it has proven to be one of the most effective mechanisms during...

  • trebuchet
    Trebuchet
    A trebuchet is a siege engine that was employed in the Middle Ages. It is sometimes called a "counterweight trebuchet" or "counterpoise trebuchet" in order to distinguish it from an earlier weapon that has come to be called the "traction trebuchet", the original version with pulling men instead of...

  • ballista
    Ballista
    The ballista , plural ballistae, was an ancient missile weapon which launched a large projectile at a distant target....

  • siege tower
    Siege tower
    A siege tower is a specialized siege engine, constructed to protect assailants and ladders while approaching the defensive walls of a fortification. The tower was often rectangular with four wheels with its height roughly equal to that of the wall or sometimes higher to allow archers to stand on...



Animals
  • Camels in warfare
    Camel cavalry
    Camel cavalry, or camelry, is a generic designation for armed forces using camels as a means of transportation. Sometimes warriors or soldiers of this type also fought from camel-back with spears, bows or rifles....

  • Dogs in warfare
  • Horses in warfare
    Horses in warfare
    The first use of horses in warfare occurred over 5,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of horses ridden in warfare dates from Eurasia between 4000 and 3000 BC. A Sumerian illustration of warfare from 2500 BC depicts some type of equine pulling wagons...

     and Horses in the Middle Ages
    Horses in the Middle Ages
    Horses in the Middle Ages differed in size, build and breed from the modern horse, and were, on average, smaller. They were also more central to society than their modern counterparts, being essential for war, agriculture, and transport....

  • War elephant
    War elephant
    A war elephant was an elephant trained and guided by humans for combat. Their main use was to charge the enemy, trampling them and breaking their ranks. A division of war elephants is known as elephantry....

  • War pigs
    War Pigs
    "War Pigs" is a song by British heavy metal band Black Sabbath from their 1970 album Paranoid. It is generally believed that the band wrote the song as a protest against the Vietnam War; however, when Sabbath played "War Pigs" in the mid-'70s, they projected scenes from World War II.As explained in...

  • War pigeons

Relics

The practice of carrying relic
Relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

s into battle is a feature that distinguishes medieval warfare from its predecessors or from early modern warfare. The presence of relics was believed to be an important source of supernatural power that served both as a spiritual weapon and a form of defense; the relics of martyrs were considered by Saint John Chrysostom
John Chrysostom
John Chrysostom , Archbishop of Constantinople, was an important Early Church Father. He is known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and his ascetic...

 much more powerful than "walls, trenches, weapons and hosts of soldiers"

In Italy, the carroccio
Carroccio
A Carroccio was a four-wheeled war altar, mounting a large vexillum standard, drawn by oxen, used by the medieval republics of Italy. It was a rectangular platform on which the standard of the city and an altar were erected; priests held services on the altar before the battle, and the trumpeters...

 or carro della guerra, the "war wagon", was an elaboration of this practice that developed during the 13th century. The carro della guerra of Milan was described in detail in 1288 by Bonvesin de la Riva
Bonvesin de la Riva
Bonvesin da la Riva was a well-to-do Milanese lay member of the Ordine degli Umiliati , a teacher of grammar and a notable Lombard poet and writer of the 13th century.His De magnalibus urbis Mediolani , written in the late spring of...

 in his book on the "Marvels of Milan". Wrapped in scarlet cloth and drawn by three yoke of oxen that were caparison
Caparison
A caparison is a covering, or cloth, laid over a horse or other animal, especially a pack animal, or horse of state. In modern times, it is used mainly for decoration in parades and for historical reenactments. A similar term is horse-trapper....

ed in white with the red cross of Saint George
Saint George
Saint George was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic , Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox...

, the city's patron, it carried a crucifix so massive it took four men to step it in place, like a ship's mast.

Supplies and logistics

As Napoleon
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 famously said, "an army marches on its stomach", a weakness that has applied to all military campaigns in history. Medieval armies were supplied much as earlier armies had been. With the advent of castle-building and the extended siege, supply problems had to be solved on a scale seldom seen before, as armies had to stay in one spot for months, or even years.

Plunder and foraging

The usual method for solving logistical problems for smaller armies was foraging or "living off the land". As medieval campaigns were often directed at well-populated settled areas, a travelling army would forcibly commandeer all available resources from the land they passed through, from food to raw materials to equipment. Living off the land is not very easy when there is no food ready to eat, so there was, in theory at least, a prescribed "campaign season" that aimed to conduct warfare at a predictable time, when there would be both food on the ground and relatively good weather. This season was usually from spring to autumn, as by early spring all the crops would be planted, thus freeing the male population for warfare until they were needed for harvest time in late-autumn. As an example, in many European countries serfs and peasants were obliged to perform around 45 days of military service per year without pay, usually during this campaign season when they were not required for agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

.

Plunder in itself was often the objective of a military campaign, to either pay mercenary forces, seize resources, reduce the fighting capacity of enemy forces, or as a calculated insult to the enemy ruler. Examples are the Viking attacks across Europe, or the highly destructive English chevauchée
Chevauchée
A chevauchée was a raiding method of medieval warfare for weakening the enemy, focusing mainly on wreaking havoc, burning and pillaging enemy territory, in order to reduce the productivity of a region; as opposed to siege warfare or wars of conquest...

s across northern France during the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

.

Supply trains

Supply trains are as much a feature of Medieval warfare as they are of ancient and modern warfare. Due to the impossibility of maintaining a real front in premodern warfare, the supplies had to be carried with the army and/or transported to it while under guard. However, a supply source moving with the army was necessary for any large-scale army to operate. Medieval supply trains are often found in illuminations and even poems of the period.

River and sea travel proved to be the easiest ways to transport supplies. During his invasion of the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

, Richard I of England
Richard I of England
Richard I was King of England from 6 July 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes, and Overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period...

 was forced to supply his army as it was marching through a barren desert. By marching his army along the shore, Richard was regularly resupplied by ships travelling along the coast. Likewise, as in Roman Imperial
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 times, armies would frequently follow rivers while their supplies were being carried by barges. Supplying armies by mass land-transport would not become practical until the invention of rail transport
Rail transport
Rail transport is a means of conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks. In contrast to road transport, where vehicles merely run on a prepared surface, rail vehicles are also directionally guided by the tracks they run on...

 and the internal combustion engine
Internal combustion engine
The internal combustion engine is an engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer in a combustion chamber. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and high -pressure gases produced by combustion apply direct force to some component of the engine...

.

The baggage train provided an alternative supply method that was not dependent on access to a water-way. However, it was often a tactical liability. Supply chains forced armies to travel more slowly than a light skirmishing force and were typically centrally placed in the army, protected by the infantry and outriders. Attacks on an enemy's baggage when it was unprotected — as for instance the French attack on the English train at Agincourt
Battle of Agincourt
The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory against a numerically superior French army in the Hundred Years' War. The battle occurred on Friday, 25 October 1415 , near modern-day Azincourt, in northern France...

, highlighted in the play Henry V
Henry V (play)
Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to be written in approximately 1599. Its full titles are The Cronicle History of Henry the Fifth and The Life of Henry the Fifth...

—could cripple an army's ability to continue a campaign. This was particularly true in the case of sieges, when large amounts of supplies had to be provided for the besieging army. To refill its supply train, an army would forage extensively as well as resupply itself in cities or supply points - border castles were frequently stocked with supplies for this purpose.

Famine and disease

A failure in logistics often resulted in famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

 and disease
Disease
A disease is an abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism. It is often construed to be a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs. It may be caused by external factors, such as infectious disease, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions, such as autoimmune...

 for the medieval world, with corresponding deaths and loss of morale
Morale
Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others...

. A besieging force could starve while waiting for the same to happen to the besieged, which meant the siege had to be lifted. With the advent of the great castles of high medieval Europe however, this problem was typically something commanders prepared for on both sides, so sieges could be long, drawn-out affairs.

Epidemics of diseases such as smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

, cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

, typhoid, and dysentery
Dysentery
Dysentery is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the faeces with fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.There are differences between dysentery and normal bloody diarrhoea...

 often swept through medieval armies, especially when poorly supplied or sedentary. In a famous example, in 1347 the bubonic plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

 erupted in the besieging Mongol army outside the walls of Caffa, Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 where the disease then spread throughout Europe as the Black Death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

.

For the inhabitants of a contested area, famine often followed protracted periods of warfare, because foraging armies ate any food stores they could find, reducing or depleting reserve stores. In addition, the overland routes taken by armies on the move could easily destroy a carefully planted field, preventing a crop the following season. Moreover, the death toll in war hit the farming labour pool particularly hard, making it even more difficult to recoup losses.

Naval warfare

The waters surrounding Europe can be grouped into two types which affected the design of craft that travelled and therefore the warfare. The Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 and Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

s were free of tides, generally calm, and the weather predicatable. The seas around the north and west of Europe experiecned stronger and less predictable weather. The weather gage
Weather gage
The weather gage is a nautical term used to describe the advantageous position of a fighting sailing vessel, relative to another. The term is from the Age of Sail, and is now antiquated. A ship is said to possess the weather gage if it is in any position, at sea, upwind of the other vessel...

, the advantage of having a following wind, was an important factor in naval battles, particularly to the attackers. Typically westerlies
Westerlies
The Westerlies, anti-trades, or Prevailing Westerlies, are the prevailing winds in the middle latitudes between 30 and 60 degrees latitude, blowing from the high pressure area in the horse latitudes towards the poles. These prevailing winds blow from the west to the east, and steer extratropical...

 (winds blowing from west to east) dominated Europe, giving naval powers to the west an advantage. Medieval sources on the conduct of medieval warfare are less common than those about land-based war. Most medieval chroniclers had no experience of life ont he sea, and generally were not well-informed. Marine archaeology has helped provide information.

In the Mediterranean, naval warfare in the medieval period resembled that of the ancient period: fleets of galleys would exchange missile fire and then come alongside for marines to fight on deck. This mode of naval warfare continued even into the early modern period, as, for example, at the Battle of Lepanto
Battle of Lepanto (1571)
The Battle of Lepanto took place on 7 October 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of Catholic maritime states, decisively defeated the main fleet of the Ottoman Empire in five hours of fighting on the northern edge of the Gulf of Patras, off western Greece...

. Famous admirals included Andrea Doria
Andrea Doria
Andrea Doria was an Italian condottiere and admiral from Genoa.-Early life:Doria was born at Oneglia from the ancient Genoese family, the Doria di Oneglia branch of the old Doria, de Oria or de Auria family. His parents were related: Ceva Doria, co-lord of Oneglia, and Caracosa Doria, of the...

, Hayreddin Barbarossa, and Don John of Austria. However, galleys were fragile and difficult to use in the cold and turbulent North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 and northern Atlantic, although they saw occasional use. Bulkier ships were developed which were primarily sail
Sail
A sail is any type of surface intended to move a vessel, vehicle or rotor by being placed in a wind—in essence a propulsion wing. Sails are used in sailing.-History of sails:...

-driven, although the long lowboard Viking-style rowed longship
Longship
Longships were sea vessels made and used by the Vikings from the Nordic countries for trade, commerce, exploration, and warfare during the Viking Age. The longship’s design evolved over many years, beginning in the Stone Age with the invention of the umiak and continuing up to the 9th century with...

 saw use well into the 15th century. Ramming was impractical with these sailing ships, but their main purpose remained the transportation of soldiers to fight on the decks of the opposing ship (as, for example, at the Battle of Svolder
Battle of Svolder
The Battle of Svolder was a naval battle fought in September 999 or 1000 in the western Baltic Sea between King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway and an alliance of his enemies...

 or the Battle of Sluys
Battle of Sluys
The decisive naval Battle of Sluys , also called Battle of l'Ecluse was fought on 24 June 1340 as one of the opening conflicts of the Hundred Years' War...

).

Warships resembled floating fortresses, with towers in the bows and at the stern
Stern
The stern is the rear or aft-most part of a ship or boat, technically defined as the area built up over the sternpost, extending upwards from the counter rail to the taffrail. The stern lies opposite of the bow, the foremost part of a ship. Originally, the term only referred to the aft port section...

 (respectively, the forecastle
Forecastle
Forecastle refers to the upper deck of a sailing ship forward of the foremast, or the forward part of a ship with the sailors' living quarters...

 and aftcastle
Aftcastle
An aftcastle is the upper deck of a sailing ship positioned behind the mizzenmast. It was used in medieval shipping such as galleys or galleasses to provide a heightened platform from which to fire upon other ships; it was also a place of defense in the event of boarding. More common, but much...

). The large superstructure made these warships quite unstable, but the decisive defeats the more mobile but considerably lower boarded longships suffered at the hands of high-boarded cogs in the 15th century ended the issue of which ship type would dominate northern European warfare.

In the medieval period, it had proved difficult to mount cannons on board a warship, although some were placed in the fore- and aftcastles. Small hand-held anti-personnel cannons were used, but large cannons mounted on deck further compromised the stability of warships, and cannons at that time had a slow rate of fire and were inaccurate. All this was about to change at the end of the medieval period. The insertion of an opening in the side of a ship, with a hinged cover, allowed the creation of a gundeck
Naval artillery in the Age of Sail
Naval artillery in the Age of Sail encompasses the period of roughly 1571-1863: when large, sail-powered wooden naval warships dominated the high seas, mounting a bewildering variety of different types and sizes of cannon as their main armament. By modern standards, these cannon were extremely...

 below the main deck. The weight of cannon distributed to lower decks of the ship increased its stability immensely, effectively providing ballast
Sailing ballast
Ballast is used in sailboats to provide moment to resist the lateral forces on the sail. Insufficiently ballasted boats will tend to tip, or heel, excessively in high winds. Too much heel may result in the boat capsizing. If a sailing vessel should need to voyage without cargo then ballast of...

, and a row of cannon on a lower deck produced the broadside
Broadside
A broadside is the side of a ship; the battery of cannon on one side of a warship; or their simultaneous fire in naval warfare.-Age of Sail:...

, where the weight of shot overcame the inherent inaccuracy of firing cannons from a ship at sea. An example is the Mary Rose
Mary Rose
The Mary Rose was a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a...

, the flagship of King Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

's fleet, which had around eleven heavy guns per side, all of which were capable of firing shot nine pounds or more.

Rise of infantry

In the Medieval period, the mounted cavalry long held sway on the battlefield. Heavily armoured, mounted knights represented a formidable foe for reluctant peasant draftees and lightly armoured freemen. To defeat mounted cavalry, infantry used swarms of missiles or a tightly packed phalanx of men, techniques honed in Antiquity by the Greeks. The ancient generals of Asia used regiments of archers to fend off mounted threats. Alexander the Great combined both methods in his clashes with swarming Asiatic horseman, screening the central infantry core with slingers, archers and javelin men, before unleashing his cavalry to see off attackers.

Swiss pikemen

The use of long pikes and densely packed foot troops was not uncommon in the Middle Ages. The Flemish footmen at the Battle of the Golden Spurs
Battle of the Golden Spurs
The Battle of the Golden Spurs, known also as the Battle of Courtrai was fought on July 11, 1302, near Kortrijk in Flanders...

 met and overcame French knights in 1302, and the Scots held their own against heavily armored English invaders. During the St.Louis crusade, dismounted French knights formed a tight lance-and-shield phalanx to repel Egyptian cavalry. The Swiss used pike tactics in the late medieval period. While pikemen usually grouped together and awaited a mounted attack, the Swiss developed flexible formations and aggressive maneuvering, forcing their opponents to respond. The Swiss won at Morgarten
Battle of Morgarten
The Battle of Morgarten occurred on November 15, 1315, when a Swiss Confederation force of 1,500 infantry archers ambushed a group of Austrian soldiers of the Holy Roman Empire near the Morgarten Pass...

, Laupen, Sempach
Battle of Sempach
An armistice was agreed upon on 12 October, followed by a peace agreement valid for one year, beginning on 14 January 1387.The battle was a severe blow to Austrian interests in the region, and allowed for the further growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy....

, Grandson
Battle of Grandson
The Battle of Grandson, took place on 2 March 1476, was part of the Burgundian Wars, and resulted in a major defeat for Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy.- Siege of Grandson, February 1476 :...

 and Murten
Battle of Morat
The Battle of Morat was a battle in the Burgundian Wars fought June 22, 1476 between Charles I, Duke of Burgundy and a Swiss army at Morat, about 30 kilometres from Bern.-Background:...

, and between 1450 and 1550 every leading prince in Europe hired Swiss pikemen, or emulated their tactics and weapons (e.g., the German Landsknechte).

Welsh & English longbowmen

The Welsh & English longbowman used a single-piece longbow (but some bows later developed a composite design) to deliver arrows that could penetrate contemporary plate armour
Plate armour
Plate armour is a historical type of personal armour made from iron or steel plates.While there are early predecessors such the Roman-era lorica segmentata, full plate armour developed in Europe during the Late Middle Ages, especially in the context of the Hundred Years' War, from the coat of...

 and mail
Mail (armour)
Mail is a type of armour consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh.-History:Mail was a highly successful type of armour and was used by nearly every metalworking culture....

. The longbow was a difficult weapon to master, requiring long years of use and constant practice. A skilled longbowman could shoot about 12 shots per minute. This rate of fire was far superior to competing weapons like the crossbow
Crossbow
A crossbow is a weapon consisting of a bow mounted on a stock that shoots projectiles, often called bolts or quarrels. The medieval crossbow was called by many names, most of which derived from the word ballista, a torsion engine resembling a crossbow in appearance.Historically, crossbows played a...

 or early gunpowder weapons. The nearest competitor to the longbow was the much more expensive crossbow, used often by urban militias and mercenary
Mercenary
A mercenary, is a person who takes part in an armed conflict based on the promise of material compensation rather than having a direct interest in, or a legal obligation to, the conflict itself. A non-conscript professional member of a regular army is not considered to be a mercenary although he...

 forces. The crossbow had greater penetrating power, and did not require the extended years of training. However, it lacked the rate of fire of the longbow.

At Crécy
Battle of Crécy
The Battle of Crécy took place on 26 August 1346 near Crécy in northern France, and was one of the most important battles of the Hundred Years' War...

 and Agincourt
Battle of Agincourt
The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory against a numerically superior French army in the Hundred Years' War. The battle occurred on Friday, 25 October 1415 , near modern-day Azincourt, in northern France...

 bowmen unleashed clouds of arrows into the ranks of knights. At Crécy, even 15,000 Genoese' crossbowmen could not dislodge them from their hill. At Agincourt, thousands of French knights were brought down by armour-piercing bodkin point
Bodkin point
A bodkin point is a type of arrowhead. In its simplest form it is an uncomplicated squared metal spike, and was used extensively during the Middle Ages. The typical bodkin was a square-section arrowhead, generally up to 4½" long and ⅜" thick at its widest point, tapered down behind this initial...

 arrows and horse-maiming broadheads. The Welsh longbowmen decimated an entire generation of the French nobility.

Since the longbow was difficult to deploy in a thrusting mobile offensive, it was best used in a defensive configuration. Bowmen were extended in thin lines and protected and screened by pits (as at the Battle of Bannockburn
Battle of Bannockburn
The Battle of Bannockburn was a significant Scottish victory in the Wars of Scottish Independence...

), staves or trenches. The terrain was usually chosen to put the archers at an advantage forcing their opponents into a bottleneck (at Agincourt) or a hard climb under fire (at Crécy). Sometimes the bowmen were deployed in a shallow "W", enabling them to trap and enfilade their foes.

The pike and the longbow put an end to the dominance of cavalry in European warfare, making the use of foot soldiers more important than they had been in recent years. Knights began themselves to rather fight dismounted, using two-handed swords, poleaxes and other polearms, as the improved knightly plate armour made them fairly immune to arrows. Gunpowder eventually was to provoke even more significant changes. However, a mounted reserve was often kept, and the heavy cavalry continued to be an important battlefield arm of European armies until the 19th century, when new and more accurate weapons made the mounted soldier too easy a target, with WWI being the last instance where cavalry played a major role in the war.

Medieval Wars

Major wars of the Middle Ages:

Eastern Europe
  • Byzantine-Arab Wars
    Byzantine-Arab Wars
    The Byzantine–Arab Wars were a series of wars between the Arab Caliphates and the East Roman or Byzantine Empire between the 7th and 12th centuries AD. These started during the initial Muslim conquests under the expansionist Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs and continued in the form of an enduring...

     (629-1169)
  • Byzantine-Bulgarian Wars
    Byzantine-Bulgarian Wars
    The Byzantine–Bulgarian Wars were a series of conflicts fought between the Byzantines and Bulgarians which began when the Bulgars first settled in the Balkan peninsula in the 5th century, and intensified with the expansion of the Bulgarian Empire to the southwest after 680 AD...

     (680–1364)
  • Byzantine-Seljuk Wars
    Byzantine-Seljuk wars
    The Byzantine–Seljuq Wars were a series of decisive battles that shifted the balance of power in Asia Minor and Syria from the Byzantine Empire to the Seljuq Turks...

     (1064–1308)
  • Byzantine-Ottoman Wars
    Byzantine-Ottoman wars
    The Byzantine–Ottoman Wars were a series of decisive conflicts between the Ottoman Turks and the Byzantine that led to the final destruction of the Byzantine Empire and the rise of the Ottoman Empire....

     (1299–1453)
  • Bulgarian-Latin Wars
    Bulgarian-Latin Wars
    The Bulgarian–Latin Wars were a series of conflicts between the Bulgarian Empire and the Latin Empire, which was created during the Fourth Crusade in 1204...

     (1204-1261)
  • Bulgarian-Hungarian Wars
    Bulgarian-Hungarian Wars
    The Bulgarian–Hungarian wars were a series of conflicts which took place between the Bulgarian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary between the 9th and 14th centuries...

     (9–14th centuries)
  • Bulgarian-Serbian Wars (839 - 1330)
  • Bulgarian-Ottoman Wars
    Bulgarian-Ottoman Wars
    The Bulgarian-Ottoman wars were fought between the disintegrating Bulgarian Empire and the new emerging Turkic power, the Ottoman Turks in the second half the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th century. The war ended with the collapse of the once powerful Bulgarian Empire in 1422. The...

     (1354–1422)
  • Mongol invasion of Europe
    Mongol invasion of Europe
    The resumption of the Mongol invasion of Europe, during which the Mongols attacked medieval Rus' principalities and the powers of Poland and Hungary, was marked by the Mongol invasion of Rus starting in 21 December 1237...

     (1223–1284)


Western Europe
  • Saxon Wars
    Saxon Wars
    The Saxon Wars were the campaigns and insurrections of the more than thirty years from 772, when Charlemagne first entered Saxony with the intent to conquer, to 804, when the last rebellion of disaffected tribesmen was crushed. In all, eighteen battles were fought in what is now northwestern Germany...

      (772-804)
  • Reconquista
    Reconquista
    The Reconquista was a period of almost 800 years in the Middle Ages during which several Christian kingdoms succeeded in retaking the Muslim-controlled areas of the Iberian Peninsula broadly known as Al-Andalus...

     (718-1492)
  • Hussite Wars
    Hussite Wars
    The Hussite Wars, also called the Bohemian Wars involved the military actions against and amongst the followers of Jan Hus in Bohemia in the period 1419 to circa 1434. The Hussite Wars were notable for the extensive use of early hand-held gunpowder weapons such as hand cannons...

     (1420–1434)
  • Hundred Years' War
    Hundred Years' War
    The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

     (1337–1453)
  • Wars of the Roses
    Wars of the Roses
    The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

     (1455–1487)
  • Crusades
    Crusades
    The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

     (1096–1291)

Arabs

The initial Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 conquests began in the 7th century after the death of the Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

ic prophet Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

, and were marked by a century of rapid Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 expansion beyond the Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

 under the Rashidun
Rashidun Caliphate
The Rashidun Caliphate , comprising the first four caliphs in Islam's history, was founded after Muhammad's death in 632, Year 10 A.H.. At its height, the Caliphate extended from the Arabian Peninsula, to the Levant, Caucasus and North Africa in the west, to the Iranian highlands and Central Asia...

 and Umayyad Caliphates. Under the Rashidun
Rashidun
The Rightly Guided Caliphs or The Righteous Caliphs is a term used in Sunni Islam to refer to the first four Caliphs who established the Rashidun Caliphate. The concept of "Rightly Guided Caliphs" originated with the Abbasid Dynasty...

, the Arabs conquered the Persian Empire, along with Roman Syria
Muslim conquest of Syria
The Muslim conquest of Syria occurred in the first half of the 7th century, and refers to the region known as the Bilad al-Sham, the Levant, or Greater Syria...

 and Roman Egypt
Muslim conquest of Egypt
At the commencement of the Muslims conquest of Egypt, Egypt was part of the Byzantine Empire with its capital in Constantinople. However, it had been occupied just a decade before by the Persian Empire under Khosrau II...

 during the Byzantine-Arab Wars
Byzantine-Arab Wars
The Byzantine–Arab Wars were a series of wars between the Arab Caliphates and the East Roman or Byzantine Empire between the 7th and 12th centuries AD. These started during the initial Muslim conquests under the expansionist Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs and continued in the form of an enduring...

, all within just seven years from 633 to 640. Under the Umayyads, the Arabs annexed North Africa
Umayyad conquest of North Africa
The Umayyad conquest of North Africa continued the century of rapid Arab Muslim expansion following the death of Muhammad in 632 CE. By 640 the Arabs controlled Mesopotamia, had invaded Armenia, and were concluding their conquest of Byzantine Syria. Damascus was the seat of the Umayyad caliphate....

 and southern Italy
History of Islam in southern Italy
The history of Islam in southern Italy begins with the Islamic conquest and subsequent rule of Sicily and Malta, a process that started in the 9th century. Islamic rule over Sicily was effective from 902, and the complete rule of the island lasted from 965 until 1061...

 from the Romans and the Arab Empire soon stretched from parts of the Indian subcontinent
Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent
Muslim conquest in South Asia mainly took place from the 13th to the 16th centuries, though earlier Muslim conquests made limited inroads into the region, beginning during the period of the ascendancy of the Rajput Kingdoms in North India, from the 7th century onwards.However, the Himalayan...

, across Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

, the Middle East, North Africa, and southern Italy, to the Iberian Peninsula
Umayyad conquest of Hispania
The Umayyad conquest of Hispania is the initial Islamic Ummayad Caliphate's conquest, between 711 and 718, of the Christian Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania, centered in the Iberian Peninsula, which was known to them under the Arabic name al-Andalus....

 and the Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

.

The early Arab army mainly consisted of camel
Camel
A camel is an even-toed ungulate within the genus Camelus, bearing distinctive fatty deposits known as humps on its back. There are two species of camels: the dromedary or Arabian camel has a single hump, and the bactrian has two humps. Dromedaries are native to the dry desert areas of West Asia,...

-mounted infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

, alongside a few Bedouin
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

. Constantly outnumbered by their opponent, they did however possess the advantage of strategic mobility, their camel-borne nature allowing them to constantly outmaneuver larger Byzantine and Sassanid armies to take prime defensive positions. The Rashidun
Rashidun
The Rightly Guided Caliphs or The Righteous Caliphs is a term used in Sunni Islam to refer to the first four Caliphs who established the Rashidun Caliphate. The concept of "Rightly Guided Caliphs" originated with the Abbasid Dynasty...

 cavalry, while lacking the number and mounted archery skill of their Roman and Persian counterparts was for the most part skilfully employed, and played a decisive role in many crucial battles such as Battle of Yarmouk
Yarmouk
* Yarmouk River* Battle of Yarmouk* Yarmouk University in Jordan* Yarmouk , an upscale neighborhood in Iraq* Al-Yarmouk Hospital * Yarmouk , an unofficial Palestinian refugee camp in Syria...

. In contrast, the Roman army
Roman army
The Roman army is the generic term for the terrestrial armed forces deployed by the kingdom of Rome , the Roman Republic , the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine empire...

 and Persian army
Sassanid army
The birth of the Sassanid army dates back to the rise of Ardashir I , the founder of the Sassanid dynasty, to the throne. Ardashir aimed at the revival of the Persian Empire, and to further this aim, he reformed the military by forming a standing army which was under his personal command and whose...

 at the time both had large numbers of heavy infantry
Heavy infantry
Heavy infantry refers to heavily armed and armoured ground troops, as opposed to medium or light infantry, in which the warriors are relatively lightly armoured. As modern infantry troops usually define their subgroups differently , 'heavy infantry' almost always is used to describe pre-gunpowder...

 and heavy cavalry
Heavy cavalry
Heavy cavalry is a class of cavalry whose primary role was to engage in direct combat with enemy forces . Although their equipment differed greatly depending on the region and historical period, they were generally mounted on large powerful horses, and were often equipped with some form of scale,...

 (cataphract
Cataphract
A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry utilised in ancient warfare by a number of peoples in Western Eurasia and the Eurasian Steppe....

s and clibanarii
Clibanarii
The Clibanarii or Klibanophoroi were a Sassanid Persian, late Roman and Byzantine military unit of heavy armored horsemen. Similar to the cataphracti, the horsemen themselves and their horses were fully armoured...

) that were better equipped, heavily protected, and more experienced and disciplined. However, the Arab invasions came at a time when both ancient powers were exhausted from the protracted Byzantine–Sassanid Wars
Byzantine–Sassanid Wars
The Byzantine–Sassanid Wars refers to a series of conflicts between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanid dynasty of the Persian Empire...

, particularly the bitterly fought Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628 which had brought both empires close to collapse. Also, the typically multi-ethnic Byzantine force was always racked by dissension and lack of command unity, a similar situation also being encountered among the Sassanids who had been embroiled in a bitter civil war for a decade before the coming of the Arabs. In contrast, the Ridda Wars
Ridda wars
The Ridda wars , also known as the Wars of Apostasy, were a series of military campaigns against the rebellion of several Arabian tribes launched by the Caliph Abu Bakr during 632 and 633 AD, after prophet Muhammad died....

 has forged the Caliphate
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

's army into a united and loyal fighting force.

Vikings

The Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

s were a feared force in Europe because of their savagery and speed of their attacks. Whilst seaborne raids were nothing new at the time the Vikings refined the practice to a science through their shipbuilding, tactics and training. Unlike other raiders the Vikings made a lasting impact on the face of Europe. During the Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

 age their expeditions, frequently combined raiding and trading, penetrated most of the old Frankish empire, the British Isles, The Baltic, Russia and both Muslim and Christian Iberia. Many served as mercenaries, and the famed Varangian Guard
Varangian Guard
The Varangian Guard was an elite unit of the Byzantine Army in 10th to the 14th centuries, whose members served as personal bodyguards of the Byzantine Emperors....

, serving the Emperor of Constantinople was drawn principally of Scandinavian warriors.

Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

 longship
Longship
Longships were sea vessels made and used by the Vikings from the Nordic countries for trade, commerce, exploration, and warfare during the Viking Age. The longship’s design evolved over many years, beginning in the Stone Age with the invention of the umiak and continuing up to the 9th century with...

s were swift and easily manoeuvred, they could navigate deep seas or shallow rivers, and could carry warrior
Warrior
A warrior is a person skilled in combat or warfare, especially within the context of a tribal or clan-based society that recognizes a separate warrior class.-Warrior classes in tribal culture:...

s that could be rapidly deployed directly onto land due to the longships being able land directly. The longship was the enabler of the Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

 style of warfare that was fast and mobile, relying heavily on the element of surprise, and they tended to capture horses for mobility rather than carry them on their ships. The usual method was to approach a target stealthily, strike with surprise and then retire swiftly. The tactics used were difficult to stop, for the Vikings, like guerrilla style raiders elsewhere, deployed at a time and place of their own choosing. The fully armoured Viking raider would wear an iron helmet and a maille hauberk, and fight with a combination of axe, sword, shield, spear or great "Danish" two-handed axe, although the typical raider would be unarmoured, carrying only a shield and spear; swords and axes were much less common.

Almost by definition opponents of the Vikings were ill prepared to fight a force that struck at will, with no warning. European countries with a weak system of government would be unable to organize a suitable response would naturally suffer the most to Viking raiders. Viking raiders always had the option to fallback in the face of a superior force or stubborn defence and then reappear to attack other locations or retreat to their bases in what is now Sweden, Denmark, Norway and their Atlantic colonies. As time went on, Viking raids became more sophisticated, with coordinated strikes involving multiple forces and large armies, as the "Great Heathen Army
Great Heathen Army
The Great Heathen Army, also known as the Great Army or the Great Danish Army, was a Viking army originating in Denmark which pillaged and conquered much of England in the late 9th century...

" that ravaged Anglo-Saxon England in the 9th century. In time the Vikings began to hold on to the areas they raided, first wintering and then consolidating footholds for further expansion later.

With the growth of centralized authority in the Scandinavian region, Viking raids, always an expression of "private enterprise" ceased and the raids became pure voyages of conquest. In 1066, King Harald Hardråde of Norway invaded England, only to be defeated by Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson
Harold Godwinson was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.It could be argued that Edgar the Atheling, who was proclaimed as king by the witan but never crowned, was really the last Anglo-Saxon king...

, who in turn was defeated by William of Normandy, descendant of the Viking Rollo
Rollo
Rollo has multiple meanings. It may mean:a first name*Rollo Armstrong, member of British dance act Faithless* Rollo May, American psychologist...

, who had accepted Normandy as a fief from the Frankish King. The three rulers had their claims to the English crown (Harald probably primarily on the overlord-ship of Northumbria) and it was this that motivated the battles rather than the lure of plunder.

At this point the Scandinavians had entered their medieval period the medieval period marks the end of significant raider activity both for plunder or conquest. Whilst obviously Scandinavian countries would continue to go to war. The growth of centralized authority throughout Europe limited the Vikings raider warfare in terms of opportunity whilst the Christianization of the Viking kingdoms reduced their motivation. The Vikings formed the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The Scandinavians started adapting more continental European ways, whilst retaining an emphasis on naval power from an early date - the "Viking" clinker-built warship was used effectively in war until the 14th century at least, and the larger Scandinavian warships in this style are all from the medieval period. However developments in shipbuilding elsewhere removed the previous advantage the Scandinavian countries had enjoyed at sea whilst castle building throughout Europe effectively ended any benefit it might bring. Naturally trading and diplomatic links between Scandinavia and ensured that the Scandinavians kept up to date with continental developments in warfare.

The Scandinavian armies of the High Middle Ages followed the usual pattern of the Northern European armies, with heavy emphasis on infantry. The terrain of the Scandinavia favoured heavily infantry, and while the nobles fought mounted as any European knights would do, the Scandinavian peasants formed well armed and well armoured infantry, of which approximately 30% to 50% could be archers or crossbowmen. Crossbow
Crossbow
A crossbow is a weapon consisting of a bow mounted on a stock that shoots projectiles, often called bolts or quarrels. The medieval crossbow was called by many names, most of which derived from the word ballista, a torsion engine resembling a crossbow in appearance.Historically, crossbows played a...

 was especially popular in Sweden and Finland. Lamellar armour
Lamellar armour
Lamellar armour was one of three early body armour types made from armour plates. The other two types are scale armour and laminar armour.-Description:...

 and coat of plates
Coat of plates
A coat of plates is a form of torso armour consisting of metal plates sewn or riveted inside a cloth or leather garment. The coat of plates makes a fairly brief appearance in the history of European armour during the era of transitional armour, during a portion of the 14th century...

 was the usual Scandinavian infantry armour before the era of plate armour.

Mongols

By 1241, having conquered large parts of Russia, the Mongols continued the invasion of Europe with a massive three-pronged advance, following the fleeing Cumans
Cumans
The Cumans were Turkic nomadic people comprising the western branch of the Cuman-Kipchak confederation. After Mongol invasion , they decided to seek asylum in Hungary, and subsequently to Bulgaria...

, who had established an uncertain alliance with King Bela IV of Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...

. They first invaded Poland, and finally Hungary, culminating in the crushing defeat of the Hungarians in the Battle of Mohi
Battle of Mohi
The Battle of Mohi , or Battle of the Sajó River, was the main battle between the Mongol Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary during the Mongol invasion of Europe. It took place at Muhi, Southwest of the Sajó River. After the invasion, Hungary lay in ruins. Nearly half of the inhabited places had...

. The Mongol aim seems to have consistently been to defeat the Hungarian-Cuman alliance. The Mongols raided across the borders to Austria and Bohemia in the summer when the Great Khan died, and the Mongol princes returned home to elect a new Great Khan.

The Golden Horde
Golden Horde
The Golden Horde was a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate that formed the north-western sector of the Mongol Empire...

 would frequently clash with Hungarians, Lithuanians and Poles in the thirteenth century, with two large raids in the 1260s and 1280s respectively. In 1284 the Hungarians repelled the last major raid into Hungary, and in 1287 the Poles repelled a raid against them. The instability in the Golden Horde seems to have quieted the western front of the Horde. The Hungarians and Poles had responded to the mobile threat by extensive fortification-building, army reform in the form of better armoured cavalry, and refusing battle unless they could control the site of the battlefield to deny the Mongols local superiority. The Lithuanians relied on their forested homelands for defense, and used their cavalry for raiding into Mongol-dominated Russia.

Turks

An early Turkic
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

 group, the Seljuks, were known for their cavalry archers. These fierce nomads were often raiding empires, such as the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

, and they scored several victories using mobility and timing to defeat the heavy cataphract
Cataphract
A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry utilised in ancient warfare by a number of peoples in Western Eurasia and the Eurasian Steppe....

s of the Byzantines.

One notable victory was at Manzikert
Battle of Manzikert
The Battle of Manzikert , was fought between the Byzantine Empire and Seljuq Turks led by Alp Arslan on August 26, 1071 near Manzikert...

, where a conflict among the generals of the Byzantines gave the Turks the perfect opportunity to strike. They hit the cataphracts with arrows, and outmaneuvered them, then rode down their less mobile infantry with light cavalry that used scimitar
Scimitar
A scimitar is a backsword or sabre with a curved blade, originating in Southwest Asia .The Arabic term saif translates to "sword" in general, but is normally taken to refer to the scimitar type of curved backsword in particular.The curved sword or "scimitar" was widespread throughout the Muslim...

s. When gunpowder was introduced, the Ottoman Turks
Ottoman Turks
The Ottoman Turks were the Turkish-speaking population of the Ottoman Empire who formed the base of the state's military and ruling classes. Reliable information about the early history of Ottoman Turks is scarce, but they take their Turkish name, Osmanlı , from the house of Osman I The Ottoman...

 of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 hired the mercenaries that used the gunpowder weapons and obtained their instruction for the Janissaries
Janissary
The Janissaries were infantry units that formed the Ottoman sultan's household troops and bodyguards...

. Out of these Ottoman soldiers rose the Janissaries (yeni ceri; "new soldier"), from which they also recruited many of their heavy infantry. Along with the use of cavalry and early grenades, the Ottomans mounted an offensive in the early Renaissance period and attacked Europe
Ottoman wars in Europe
The wars of the Ottoman Empire in Europe are also sometimes referred to as the Ottoman Wars or as Turkish Wars, particularly in older, European texts.- Rise :...

, taking Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 by massed infantry assaults.

Like many other nomadic peoples, the Turks featured a core of heavy cavalry from the upper classes. These evolved into the Sipahis (feudal landholders similar to western knights and Byzantine pronoiai) and Qapukulu (door slaves, taken from youth like Janissaries and trained to be royal servants and elite soldiers, mainly cataphracts).

See also

  • Timeline of women in Medieval warfare
    Timeline of women in Medieval warfare
    Warfare throughout history has mainly been a matter for men, but women have also played a role, often a leading one. The following list of prominent women in war and their exploits from about 500 C.E...

  • Horses in warfare
    Horses in warfare
    The first use of horses in warfare occurred over 5,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of horses ridden in warfare dates from Eurasia between 4000 and 3000 BC. A Sumerian illustration of warfare from 2500 BC depicts some type of equine pulling wagons...

  • Endemic warfare
    Endemic warfare
    Endemic warfare is the state of continual, low-threshold warfare in a tribal warrior society. Endemic warfare is often highly ritualized and plays an important function in assisting the formation of a social structure among the tribes' men by proving themselves in battle.Ritual fighting permits...


Further reading

  • Contamine, Philippe. War in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984.
  • Creveld, Martin Van
    Martin van Creveld
    Martin Levi van Creveld is an Israeli military historian and theorist.Van Creveld was born in the Netherlands in the city of Rotterdam, and has lived in Israel since shortly after his birth. He holds degrees from the London School of Economics and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he has...

    . Technology and War: From 2000 BC to present, 1989.
  • Keegan, John. The face of battle: a study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme. London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1988.
  • Keen, Maurice
    Maurice Keen
    Maurice Hugh Keen is a British historian specialising in the Middle Ages. He is an Emeritus Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, where he lectured in Medieval history from 1961-2000.In 1984 he won the Wolfson History Prize for his book Chivalry....

    . Medieval Warfare: A History. Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • H. W. Koch: Medieval Warfare. Bison Books Limited, London, 1978, ISBN 978-0861240081
  • McNeill, William Hardy. The pursuit of power: technology, armed force, and society since A.D. 1000. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.
  • Oman, Charles William Chadwick. A history of the art of war in the Middle Ages. London: Greenhill Books; Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1998.
  • De Re Militari: The Society for Medieval Military History
  • Kosztolnyik, Z.J. Hungary in the thirteenth century. New York: Columbia University Press: Stackpole Books, 1996. (Parts of which are available online)
  • Parker, Geoffrey. The Military Revolution: Military innovation and the Rise of The West, 1988.
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