Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘Medieval’


Equipment of an Aristocratic Soldier

[In 1062 C.E.] a certain Pedro Rúiz, of whom we know little save that he was a courtier of [King] Fernando I…, granted some land to the Castilian monastery of Arlanza, and threw in with it

my equipment, that is my gold-embossed saddle with its bridle, my sword and sword-belt, my spurs, my shield with its spear, my other decorated swords, my coats of mail and my helmets, the other swords which are not decorated, and my shields and horses and mules, and my clothes, and my other spurs, and the other bridle chased with silver.

This is as good a description as any of the equipment of an aristocratic soldier in the middle years of the eleventh century. Pedro Rúiz was approaching the end of a successful career and had amassed great riches…. Swords were often richly decorated about the hilt and pommel, and this is presumably the meaning of the word ‘decorated’ (labratas) in Pedro Rúiz’s list; though it could alternatively indicate that the swords in question were damascene, a technique originating in Damascus by which the metal was worked into wavy patterns. Sword-belts too were often decorated….

…Saddle, bridle, and spurs offered further opportunities for display….

Richard Fletcher, The Quest for El Cid, pp. 110-12

Patronage Was the Traditional Princely Activity

The wealth of the taifa [petty] kings [of Moorish Spain] enabled them to indulge the activity for which they are best remembered, the patronage of literature, learning and art. Of course, other factors alongside wealth were influential in this context. Patronage was the traditional princely activity, shedding lustre on the patron and his court. Competition grew up between courts: which prince could attract the most gifted poets or the most learned scholars, commission the most lavish palace, lay out the most elegant gardens? We should also reckon with the pressure of the distant past. Ibn Ghalib of Cordoba (d. 1044 [C.E.]) wrote a work called “Contentment of the soul in the contemplation of the ancient remains found in al-Andalus.” Contentment for the antiquarian perhaps, but not necessarily for the ruler. Near Seville there still stood the fourth largest amphitheatre of the Roman world.… By what monuments was an eleventh-century ruler to be remembered? There was also the pressure of a more recent past. ‘Abd al-Rahman III‘s palace outside Cordoba might have been razed to the ground, but everyone still remembered its splendor. Emulation of the past was a spur to princely patronage in the eleventh century. There was a sense too in which the passing of the [Umayyad] caliphate released provincial energies. Cultural as well as political life had been centralized in the tenth century. In the eleventh, the removal of that heavy hand which had sought to direct artistic endeavor towards Cordoba released a surge of creative energy in the provinces. By a happy chance the conditions were propitious for a flowering of the arts in Spanish Islam such as had never occurred before and was never to occur again.

Richard Fletcher, The Quest for El Cid, pp. 30-31

Emphasis mine.

Princes and their Personal Realms

The princes of [the late Medieval Period] were not territorial in the sense of having a fixed settlement and identification with that locality and its people; that would come later. At this time, the sense of their subjects was too local to be national; and the princes’ sense of themselves and their property was determined by inheritance and to a much lesser extent by solidarity with a particular land or its inhabitants. They were not the monarchs of nations. The Henry V who fought at Agincourt to recover his property on the continent is unlikely to have spoken the sentiments of a nationalist, Renaissance author like Shakespeare in exhorting his men. For Harry, yes; but not necessarily for England and St. George. Nor were these princes of states; rather they governed realms, each with a rudimentary administrative apparatus that was impermanent and fixed only to the person of the prince….

Philip Bobbitt, The Shield of Achilles, p. 78

Military Systems

The military system of a state is explained by its resources, principally financial, the structure of its government and administration, the level of its technology, the organization of its society and the nature of its economy, but one must also take into account its objectives and strictly military imperatives. Every state in effect seeks to raise armed forces adapted to its ambitions and to its own fears. This was the case in England at the end of the Middle Ages when military institutions were founded as a result of the interaction of several factors. First, it was a society where the feudal regime had changed almost completely into a system of land tenures, creating the need to establish new personal ties between those who governed and the men who were capable of serving them in war—’bastard feudalism’. Secondly, the fact that the principal English strength lay in the massive use of the longbow, a weapon which was popular rather than aristocratic, led to the need to draw on the resources of every level of society, independent of juridical status, in order to recruit a sufficient number of highly qualified archers. Finally, the adoption of a deliberately aggressive and expansive foreign policy implied the sending of forces against Scotland, Wales and Ireland, but above all across the sea. These expeditionary corps had to be capable of waging war away from their base for six months, a year, two years or even more. Garrison troops, intended to hold permanently a certain number of places on the continent and also, if the need arose, capable of turning themselves into a proper army of occupation, were vital.

Phillipe Contamine, War in the Middle Ages, p. 150

Zenith of the Castle

As the castle became indispensable to the continuous deepening exercise of power [in the 12th Century C.E.], it also became architecturally more formidable, steadily achieving higher levels of expert design, capable of cowing its countryside, wearing down any besiegers, exalting the castellan and his knights, and serving, much more than did the fortress of a later age, as a political center. Yet even at its strongest, the castle still suffered from the problem of all fixed defenses: once compromised, it became a prison for its own garrison. Its triumph represented a revival of the single inordinately valuable target, like the acropolis of a Greek city-state….

Derek Leebaert, To Dare and to Conquer, p. 110