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View Full Version : Got a Real-World Weapon, Armor or Tactics Question? Mk. XXVI



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Avista
2018-08-31, 02:54 PM
Cost and by extension, ease of manufacture is still an issue to be addressed.

That said, you're going to have to introduce something that stops the alloy being used for other purposes - if it's super light and super durable, what's stopping people building thicker and longer cannon/musket barrels instead, thus negating the additional protection offered by the armour?

Even if the alloy could stop a normal musket/cannon ball, it's still going to hurt or kill the wearer through blunt force trauma as there's only so much padding you wear to cushion the blow. Even if this poor carabinier's armour could have stopped the cannon ball, he's still being thrown off his horse and killed.

Edit: Thinking about it some more, maybe we're approaching the problem from the wrong direction. Rather than bulking up on armour in an arms race to defeat better guns, go the opposite direction and reduce the amount of protection, making up for it with improved mobility instead? I know mercury fulminate and percussion caps are still a long way off, but incorporating tactical elements of later period army could be interesting in what is effectively the threshold of the pike and shot era.

Perhaps instead I'll have the armor come first and the guns second. It can fit. This country is pretty cut off from the rest of the main world due to a very large sea, and their mountains are the only known place to have the minerals to make the alloy. They could keep their armor-making techniques a secret for awhile, but then someone makes a knockoff or buys up their products to melt down and starts producing guns. Now they're in trouble.

This can fit since story-wise; they're getting backed in the corner by wanting to keep to their traditions but acknowledging they need to adapt to the new changing world.

It's supposed to be a luxury for the wealthy and only nobles can afford a full armor. The middle class can get a sword or armor segments compensated with leather (fixes the overheating), and a peasant can only dream. People wouldn't waste making bullets or arrowheads with it. So manufacturing-wise, demand will have to outweigh supply to keep it valuable.

Lemmy
2018-08-31, 04:04 PM
This conversation about combat simulations x real combat made me think...

Assuming there's near-perfect protection and prompt access to good healthcare... (And/or some disregard for the participants well-being other than "they shouldn't be too wounded to fight")...

Assuming, modern-ish technology and knowledge, what would be necessary to simulate combat as well as possible with little to no risk of permanently injuring someone? How could the military of a ruthless-but-not-necessarily-evil society best simulate the physical and psychological conditions of the battlefield? How to make them get used to the adrenaline and fear without actually putting them in real risk?

Avista
2018-08-31, 04:43 PM
This conversation about combat simulations x real combat made me think...

Assuming there's near-perfect protection and prompt access to good healthcare... (And/or some disregard for the participants well-being other than "they shouldn't be too wounded to fight")...

Assuming, modern-ish technology and knowledge, what would be necessary to simulate combat as well as possible with little to no risk of permanently injuring someone? How could the military of a ruthless-but-not-necessarily-evil society best simulate the physical and psychological conditions of the battlefield? How to make them get used to the adrenaline and fear without actually putting them in real risk?

In the future you can just plug wires into the brain and plug that into a simulator. I'd say simulation is the closest we got today for little-to-no-risk, but the downside is combat is extremely downplayed and inaccurate.

Military train their troops with realistic scenarios, depriving them of sleep or moving from location to location to simulate warfare. Weapons are fake obviously, so if you screw up you don't die - you just get yelled at right in the face.

Xuc Xac
2018-08-31, 07:48 PM
This country is... the only known place to have the minerals to make the alloy. They could keep their armor-making techniques a secret for awhile, but then someone makes a knockoff or buys up their products to melt down and starts producing guns. Now they're in trouble.

There's more to a metal's properties than the recipe for its alloy. A big part is how it's processed and treated during the manufacturing of the item.

If you take a broken bronze sword with a soft spine and hard edge, you can melt it, pour it into a mold, and make a new sword. It won't have a hard edge, but a trained bronzesmith will know how to harden the edge.

If you take a single piece of steel, you can heat them up and pound them into new shapes like a sword, a spring, or a ball bearing. Giving the metal the proper hardness or flexibility is a function of how you heat it and cool it after forging the shape.

Your super armor alloy techniques could be a secret manufacturing process as much as a secret ingredient in the material itself.

Brother Oni
2018-09-01, 01:48 AM
My point is that with a traditional bow the force draw curve always ends up looking like a triangle give or take. By contrast, modern compound bows can sometimes achieve almost an actual square. Storing almost twice as much energy overall than a triangle can.

I'm much happier with those two new graphs as the draw axis is better labelled and there's more data on what those curves are representing, giving a much better point of comparison for a crossbow's f/d curve.

I'm not denying those misbegotten aberrations of cams and pulleys are far more efficient and would be by far the superior weapon if they were ever used against armour, although I'm not sure how well compounds shoot with heavier arrows (pretty much every compound shooter I know or seen shoots with CF arrows or aluminium if they're expecting to lose them), plus manufacturers don't seem to make them with more than 100lb draw (as I understand it, you can tweak them to gain an extra 10-15lbs, but it's not recommended).


Your super armor alloy techniques could be a secret manufacturing process as much as a secret ingredient in the material itself.

Seconding this approach. It's even better if they know how to do it, but don't know exactly what's going on - for example, the original secret of damascus steel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damascus_steel) involved the blacksmiths using wood and other biomass from the local area, which was found to have certain trace elements which gave the steel its fabled properties. When the technique was stolen and taken elsewhere, they couldn't reproduce it as their local materials didn't have the required elements.

The original smiths didn't know about the trace elements and wouldn't have known that using wood from anywhere else wouldn't have worked with making damascus steel.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-09-01, 09:45 AM
Somewhat tangential question--

How does one get started with learning medieval* weapon-play? Are there drills or something you can/should do at home if you're totally not athletic to begin with? Resources? Organizations?

* I know this isn't probably the right term, but I want to distinguish it from modern fencing. HEMA, SCA, etc.--the use of at least reasonably authentic techniques and weapons. Exact historicity isn't critical to me, but I'd rather avoid LARP and modern-style sport fencing.

Mike_G
2018-09-01, 10:12 AM
Somewhat tangential question--

How does one get started with learning medieval* weapon-play? Are there drills or something you can/should do at home if you're totally not athletic to begin with? Resources? Organizations?

* I know this isn't probably the right term, but I want to distinguish it from modern fencing. HEMA, SCA, etc.--the use of at least reasonably authentic techniques and weapons. Exact historicity isn't critical to me, but I'd rather avoid LARP and modern-style sport fencing.

HEMA is going to be closest to replicating actual techniques, with the least intrusion of sport-type restrictions. The focus tends to be on later eras, closer to renaissance combat than Viking or High Middle Ages knightly combat.

That said, sport fencing is really, really, really good for teaching smallsword technique, and ingraining good habits. It gets waaaay too much dismissive crap from a lot of people who do horrible fencing with heavier weapons. I was a college fencer who showed up to an SCA rapier event having never picked up a rapier before and mopped the floor with almost everyone because I was fast and controlled and my guards were correct and my parries just as big as they needed to be, rather than hugely overdone and my point control amazing. An SCA guy turning up to a fencing tournament with no prior foil training would get smeared. Sure I had to remember I could step sideways and unlearn Right of Way, but that was easier than them learning point control.

oudeis
2018-09-01, 05:38 PM
There's more to a metal's properties than the recipe for its alloy. A big part is how it's processed and treated during the manufacturing of the item.

If you take a broken bronze sword with a soft spine and hard edge, you can melt it, pour it into a mold, and make a new sword. It won't have a hard edge, but a trained bronzesmith will know how to harden the edge.

If you take a single piece of steel, you can heat them up and pound them into new shapes like a sword, a spring, or a ball bearing. Giving the metal the proper hardness or flexibility is a function of how you heat it and cool it after forging the shape.

Your super armor alloy techniques could be a secret manufacturing process as much as a secret ingredient in the material itself.



Seconding this approach. It's even better if they know how to do it, but don't know exactly what's going on - for example, the original secret of damascus steel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damascus_steel) involved the blacksmiths using wood and other biomass from the local area, which was found to have certain trace elements which gave the steel its fabled properties. When the technique was stolen and taken elsewhere, they couldn't reproduce it as their local materials didn't have the required elements.

The original smiths didn't know about the trace elements and wouldn't have known that using wood from anywhere else wouldn't have worked with making damascus steel.

This is the first I've ever read about this. My understanding was that while the wind-fed blast furnaces used in smelting created a crucible steel of exceptional purity for the time, Wootz derived its superior qualities from trace quantities of beneficial impurities in the ore such as vanadium and such.

Vinyadan
2018-09-02, 01:39 AM
In the meantime, some information about weaponized microwaves.


https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/01/science/sonic-attack-cuba-microwave.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Brother Oni
2018-09-02, 01:46 AM
This is the first I've ever read about this. My understanding was that while the wind-fed blast furnaces used in smelting created a crucible steel of exceptional purity for the time, Wootz derived its superior qualities from trace quantities of beneficial impurities in the ore such as vanadium and such.

I remember hearing about it from a TV documentary many years ago, so it may have been superseded with more recent research. Essentially whatever materials they used during the carburising (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carburizing) process (where they add carbon to the iron to make steel) had other trace elements in, which contributed to the steel's properties.

I'll see if I can dig up the documentary - it was either on the BBC or Channel 4 over here in the UK.

gkathellar
2018-09-02, 09:15 AM
Somewhat tangential question--

How does one get started with learning medieval* weapon-play? Are there drills or something you can/should do at home if you're totally not athletic to begin with? Resources? Organizations?

* I know this isn't probably the right term, but I want to distinguish it from modern fencing. HEMA, SCA, etc.--the use of at least reasonably authentic techniques and weapons. Exact historicity isn't critical to me, but I'd rather avoid LARP and modern-style sport fencing.

Your best bet could be to seek out your local HEMA club, but that depends a lot on where you are. There's a variant of the McDojo problem in play - a lot of people out there are simply copying the movements without any attention to detail, and often due to the lack of a martial arts background without really knowing what attention to detail even looks like. This is why you get (as Mike_G mentions) HEMA and SCA guys who have ostensibly studied "real" rapier fencing but have no point control and shoddy understanding of the guards and who slide as they lunge, or (as I know people have complained about in this thread) people doing "longsword" who have no concept of or interest in defense.

So the answer is, as it always is when looking into studying the martial arts, to look around for schools and try to find one that places a high premium on correct execution, attention to detail, and full transmission. (If you happen to be in the NYC area, I can shoot you a recommendation in PM. Otherwise, I got nothing.)


That said, sport fencing is really, really, really good for teaching smallsword technique, and ingraining good habits. It gets waaaay too much dismissive crap from a lot of people who do horrible fencing with heavier weapons. I was a college fencer who showed up to an SCA rapier event having never picked up a rapier before and mopped the floor with almost everyone because I was fast and controlled and my guards were correct and my parries just as big as they needed to be, rather than hugely overdone and my point control amazing. An SCA guy turning up to a fencing tournament with no prior foil training would get smeared. Sure I had to remember I could step sideways and unlearn Right of Way, but that was easier than them learning point control.

Out of curiosity, did you study in the pre-electronic era?

And yeah, foil should be good for learning smallsword, since even in classical fencing it's not actually a weapon unto itself so much as a smallsword training tool. I've heard it said that foil, non-weapon that it is, can form a baseline for every other weapon in the European martial arts (including things like spear and bayonet).


I remember hearing about it from a TV documentary many years ago, so it may have been superseded with more recent research. Essentially whatever materials they used during the carburising (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carburizing) process (where they add carbon to the iron to make steel) had other trace elements in, which contributed to the steel's properties.

I'll see if I can dig up the documentary - it was either on the BBC or Channel 4 over here in the UK.

I've definitely read the same thing: the types of wood or coal used in your furnace could play a big part in contributing trace elements to the metal.

Mike_G
2018-09-02, 10:28 AM
Out of curiosity, did you study in the pre-electronic era?

And yeah, foil should be good for learning smallsword, since even in classical fencing it's not actually a weapon unto itself so much as a smallsword training tool. I've heard it said that foil, non-weapon that it is, can form a baseline for every other weapon in the European martial arts (including things like spear and bayonet).



Partly. Electric sabre wasn't a thing yet when I was starting. Electric foil and epee were, but they hadn't really affected the rules or the teaching so much yet. The "fly fishing" flicks hadn't come into being yet.

And yes, foil isn't a weapon. It's the shinai /boken version of the smallsword. it's specifically designed as a trainer.

But a good foil fencer has a head start in any other weapon. The training and the rules, even when they aren't realistic, are intended to reward correct actions and penalize poor ones. It's not a weapon where you can get away with bad footwork or point control or sloppy parries. Your parry has to be good, because you can't sidestep. Your parry can't be too wide or your riposte won't be lined up and will miss, or you'll be too far out of line if the initial attack was feint. Your timing and distance has to be spot on because the weapons are so fast.

Practice like that for a year and you will have a very strong foundation. I do pretty well with any one handed sword just from foil and sabre fencing. I can beat beginners with longsword by using timing and distance and a tight guard, but there are so many things a good longsword fencer can do that are pretty unique to that weapon that I will lose to an experienced longsword guy. Not as bad as somebody who never fenced foil will, but I'll still lose. It's not like I can think of it as a big foil and get by the same way I can with a rapier.

Galloglaich
2018-09-02, 10:36 AM
I remember hearing about it from a TV documentary many years ago, so it may have been superseded with more recent research. Essentially whatever materials they used during the carburising (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carburizing) process (where they add carbon to the iron to make steel) had other trace elements in, which contributed to the steel's properties.

I'll see if I can dig up the documentary - it was either on the BBC or Channel 4 over here in the UK.

oudeis is right, the vanadium and other trace elements in wootz / ukku steel (the original "damascus" steel) came from the clay used in the crucible. Once the clay was mined out in the 18th Century they could no longer make it.

Crucible steel, made in the Punjab region (today straddling Pakistan and northern India) and down in southern India and Sri Lanka, was made in a somewhat unique process in a special crucible, almost analagous to how tandoori chicken is made.

As most are probably aware - the resulting metal had many remarkable properties, modern researchers find cabon nanotubes and nanowires in it (https://www.nature.com/news/2006/061113/full/news061113-11.html). It has a higher carbon content than any other type of steel (modern or ancient) more than a modern drill bit, and yet is more flexible than the best spring steel, whereas most higher carbon steels are to brittle to even make a sword out of.

https://bashny.net/uploads/images/00/00/03/2013/08/29/4bd95f.jpg

https://assets.catawiki.nl/assets/2018/3/10/8/f/5/8f56003e-50d8-4d92-a9f2-753c917eb03a.jpg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMAsCuDFSUI

Indian Alchemy was focused on iron metallurgy and they created many amazing metal technologies such as steel bows and whip swords (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urumi) which few anywhere else could match. Ancient India has left us reminders of their early mastery metalurgy with such mysteries as the famous iron pillar of Delhi.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/55/Iron_Pillar%2C_Delhi.jpg/486px-Iron_Pillar%2C_Delhi.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_pillar_of_Delhi

How it sits there in Tropical Monsoon zone for two millennia without rusting is perplexing, sufficiently to spawn the inevitable "Aliens Made It" fantasies and so on.


Ferrous metallurgy in many other places did rely on other substances. Vikings and Saxons put wolf and bear teeth in the mix when smelting iron, which we now know added phosphorous and other trace elements that gave the steel certain valuable properties. Same with mixing iron filings with grain and feeding it to ducks, and then collecting their poop - a practice which we have found traces of at Viking settlements in Newfoundland.

Elements from the wood used to make the charcoal would be news to me, but it makes sense - plants have all kinds of trace minerals etc. in them.

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-02, 10:38 AM
Somewhat tangential question--

How does one get started with learning medieval* weapon-play? Are there drills or something you can/should do at home if you're totally not athletic to begin with? Resources? Organizations?

* I know this isn't probably the right term, but I want to distinguish it from modern fencing. HEMA, SCA, etc.--the use of at least reasonably authentic techniques and weapons. Exact historicity isn't critical to me, but I'd rather avoid LARP and modern-style sport fencing.

Look up the local HEMA group. But if you are not in shape and don't have a will to fight so to speak, it probably won't be for you. Really fencing requires a combination of rigorous work and a willingness to mix it up even if it hurts. You need at least one of the two traits in spades, and a general willingness to push yourself. You can't learn it from osmosis and the fighting spirit comes from within you, it can't be trained.

As one of the masters said, "if you are scared easily don't use the sword".

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-02, 10:45 AM
Oh, I agree that there are better and worse comparisons.

But, having done a lot of combat sports and recreation and training, I think that even NERO LARP is going to give some insight to a guy whose only combat knowledge comes from World of Warcraft or theoretical discussion. People are at least trying to hit you with something, you're trying to hit them and not be hit. It can give some enlightenment to people who have never done any more realistic training.

I conceded - they can learn something, just like you can learn something about gunfights from nerf guns, but paintball is a lot better. Paintball guns can teach you how to use suppressive fire, bounding advances and so on - real infantry training works in paintball. Airsoft probably a bit less, Nerf a little less than airsoft, because they shoot slower, have shorter range, and hurt less. As the master said "What hurts, teaches".



It's similar to how I repeatedly have to defend sport fencing on this forum as being valuable. It's not great, but you will learn something that looking at books won't give you.

LARP is about safety and fun and often allows fairly young kids, so I get the whole desire to avoid either driving people away or getting sued. I actually got my scalp cut through my fencing mask at HEMA. (It was the mask itself that cut me, the sword didn't go though, but it taught me that a foil mask isn't up to longsword sparring.) I shrugged it off, mopped up the blood and kept sparring, but I could see a lesser man dropping out of the club. If I were the club's lawyer or CEO I might have felt a bit concerned.

Ouch! somebody goofed, you should have had at least a 3 Weapon Mask, but preferably 1600 Newton if you are going to be in a tournament. Have you been to a big tournament yet?

That said, even with a good mask ,you can get mask rash. If they allow pommel strikes for example, or if you get thrown. And masks can just collapse on you.

I was in a tournament back in 2012 when Jay Vail was fighting, he's one of the top Ringen guys in the US and also a Fiore dagger expert. He's written a good book on dagger fighting by the way which I recommend if you can find it (https://www.amazon.com/Medieval-Renaissance-Dagger-Combat-Jason/dp/158160517X)). Anyway Jay was (cough) a bit older than 90% of the fighters in the tournament, but his Ringen was so good, he literally threw three people out of the ring during his pool fights. This one kid i know from Baton Rouge had a mask imprint on his forehead in a perfect red grid, pressed through the skin. I told him it was a badge of honor but he was worried about having to go to work on Monday.

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-02, 10:50 AM
Partly. Electric sabre wasn't a thing yet when I was starting. Electric foil and epee were, but they hadn't really affected the rules or the teaching so much yet. The "fly fishing" flicks hadn't come into being yet.

And yes, foil isn't a weapon. It's the shinai /boken version of the smallsword. it's specifically designed as a trainer.

But a good foil fencer has a head start in any other weapon. The training and the rules, even when they aren't realistic, are intended to reward correct actions and penalize poor ones. It's not a weapon where you can get away with bad footwork or point control or sloppy parries. Your parry has to be good, because you can't sidestep. Your parry can't be too wide or your riposte won't be lined up and will miss, or you'll be too far out of line if the initial attack was feint. Your timing and distance has to be spot on because the weapons are so fast.

Practice like that for a year and you will have a very strong foundation. I do pretty well with any one handed sword just from foil and sabre fencing. I can beat beginners with longsword by using timing and distance and a tight guard, but there are so many things a good longsword fencer can do that are pretty unique to that weapon that I will lose to an experienced longsword guy. Not as bad as somebody who never fenced foil will, but I'll still lose. It's not like I can think of it as a big foil and get by the same way I can with a rapier.

Collegiate / sport fencing can teach you many good fundamentals, it's a shame that it has become so hyper-sportified now that it also unfortunately teaches -and drills in- a few errors. The main one to me is the habit of fighting in a one-dimensional line.

That said, collegiate fencers are quick. Some of the best fencers in the HEMA scene like Dustin Reagan (who I think is an A rated Epee fencer) came from that background. But Dustin also spent years learning HEMA and was capable of diving into the manuals and doing his own research, before he started winning and placing in tournaments.

I would love to see HEMA spur a "renaissance" of sport fencing or creating a sport-fencing / classical fencing hybrid in the US the way it has in Italy. Basic foil fencing of the type they did back in the 20's is great stuff and very good for learning how to fence (control, quickness, precision). After all, that is what the foil was made for.

Plus they would train actors how to actually fence again and we could have fight scenes like this again


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nB8tiSMCwRE

G

Mike_G
2018-09-02, 11:41 AM
Ouch! somebody goofed, you should have had at least a 3 Weapon Mask, but preferably 1600 Newton if you are going to be in a tournament. Have you been to a big tournament yet?

That said, even with a good mask ,you can get mask rash. If they allow pommel strikes for example, or if you get thrown. And masks can just collapse on you.



I got that on the bridge of my prominent French nose from a thrust to the face once. The scalp cut was a Krumphau that landed on the top of my mask and made me see stars. A lightly padded rivet in the top of the mask cut me pretty good. It would have been fine (had been fine for years) for sabre or foil. Didn't discourage me, but it taught me a lesson about gear.

I've done a few in-club tournaments where guys were practicing to go to some big ones.

I strained my elbow pretty badly this spring and I'm just getting back into it.

That's another sport fencing advantage. You can do it at 50 with arthritis and still function the next day.



I was in a tournament back in 2012 when Jay Vail was fighting, he's one of the top Ringen guys in the US and also a Fiore dagger expert. He's written a good book on dagger fighting by the way which I recommend if you can find it (https://www.amazon.com/Medieval-Renaissance-Dagger-Combat-Jason/dp/158160517X)). Anyway Jay was (cough) a bit older than 90% of the fighters in the tournament, but his Ringen was so good, he literally threw three people out of the ring during his pool fights. This one kid i know from Baton Rouge had a mask imprint on his forehead in a perfect red grid, pressed through the skin. I told him it was a badge of honor but he was worried about having to go to work on Monday.

G

Yeah, I can see that.

I like being able to reply "Swordfight" when asked how I got a scar.

Galloglaich
2018-09-02, 04:57 PM
I got that on the bridge of my prominent French nose from a thrust to the face once. The scalp cut was a Krumphau that landed on the top of my mask and made me see stars. A lightly padded rivet in the top of the mask cut me pretty good. It would have been fine (had been fine for years) for sabre or foil. Didn't discourage me, but it taught me a lesson about gear.

I've done a few in-club tournaments where guys were practicing to go to some big ones.

I strained my elbow pretty badly this spring and I'm just getting back into it.

That's another sport fencing advantage. You can do it at 50 with arthritis and still function the next day.



I feel you brother, I wish this had been around when I was 15, or 20, or 30. But the nice thing about fencing in general, is that "old age and treachery" can overcome "youth and enthusiasm" when you know the system a little.

I recommend going to at least one Tournament. You can pick and choose, they all have a different emphasis, but being there - and in it - does raise the whole experience to a higher level. Even if it does put a strain on us older guys.

The most recent one I did was in 2017. I haven't been to any this year and probably won't, but I think I'm going to go across the pond next year for one of the big ones.



Yeah, I can see that.

I like being able to reply "Swordfight" when asked how I got a scar.

Definite Punk Rock points for that breh. Wear that with pride. And get a 1600 newton mask! ;)

G

Max_Killjoy
2018-09-02, 06:36 PM
That's probably better than my scars explanation -- "flaming molten plastic splatter".

Galloglaich
2018-09-03, 07:47 AM
That's probably better than my scars explanation -- "flaming molten plastic splatter".

Hey man, respect - that's a rite of passage in American boyhood anyway...

So long as you earn some scars growing up, that's the important thing. ;)

G

Epimethee
2018-09-03, 06:27 PM
Partly. Electric sabre wasn't a thing yet when I was starting. Electric foil and epee were, but they hadn't really affected the rules or the teaching so much yet. The "fly fishing" flicks hadn't come into being yet.

The "fly fishing" thing is one of the most heinous I ever experienced in fencing (actually sword). In some championship (the term tournoi is still widely used), an adversary was unable to do it correctly as he tried to aim for my hand and could only crash is blade on my wrist.
That's hurt. A lot. Then he did it again. And again. And I'm sure that at this point it was is goal. And I really despise that in sport.

As an aside, it is hard for me to play LAARP and I'm weary the few times I use a reproduction of a real sword. In my first LAARP experience it was really hard not to use the tip. I knew I should not but it was hard not to point it defensively as a reflex or not to finish a parry with a counter. I tended to feel the opening in the iron of the adversary, to dig in easily. Also the guys were quite slow, I mean their timing was really off.
So that was not that conclusive, in a way what I learned in sport made me dangerous in an even more sanitized context.

Still going from the linear movement of sport fencing to a more fluid setting was not the most difficult thing to do. In fact, the basic step of fencing is really stable to use a one handed weapon. Both going forward or backward is easy and you are unlikely to fall if you do it correctly even in somewhat difficult terrain. You are also really quick and explosive in short bursts.
You have to adapt a little bit but you gain also strong basis.

rrgg
2018-09-07, 04:26 PM
What we can say definitively about the medieval crossbow is that they actually started with a more conventional design, (i.e. with a bowlike prod and a bowlike string and a longer bolt that was really an arrow, and a long powerstrike) and then they moved away from that and toward the short powerstroke, very high draw weight, mechanically spanned weapons which according to just about every eyewitness - including foreign enemies like the Mongols and the Ottomans- were extremely formidable weapons.

As I said, they can't reproduce this with modern replicas, in fact the last time a university made a major effort at making some composite prod crossbows of the late medieval type they couldn't get 3 shots out of them before they lost power. So we obviously don't understand how they worked yet.

But given the fact that they clearly knew about the simpler long powerstroke type of bow, and that in spite of the extreme inconvenience and hazards associated with a weapon you have to span mechanically, they kept going further and further down that road. They had recurve and recurve composite bows, they had longbows, they had the older type of crossbows (which were still used as light hunting weapons all through the late medieval period) and yet nearly every army was using the hard hitting arbalests and statchel arbalests. So I assume (dangerous to assume, but I think I'm on firm ground here) that they had a good reason.



As for Early Modern military theorists like Forqueveaux, I tend to take them with a grain of salt, as they typically take conventional reality as they know it and bend it toward their theories, which are often outlandish and were rarely implemented. Also being in France - and writing in the mid 16th Century - he's not really relevant so much to crossbows and well past the tipping point on guns where they have decisively taken the forefront. We are into the wheelock era there.

Monte is different to me because he was a fencing master himself and though yes he was selling a book, it's an earlier time period and in Italy which is the center of for example fencing theory in his time. I would say the same for guys like Piccolomnini and Machiavelli and so on (more or less). They did have an axe to grind too needless to say but were writing for a different, better informed audience that was familiar with everything they were talking about. It's a different type of book from a different era in other words.

G

I agree that they definitely knew how to make crossbows with longer power strokes and must have had a good reason for usually not doing so, we just don't know what it is yet.

I don't think I would be quite so critical of Fourquevaux's experience with the crossbow. While not quite as slow as england, many parts of France seem to have been a bit late to switch over to firearms completely as well. When Montluc was first promoted to ensign in 1520 he notes that the Gascon troops were still armed almost entirely with crossbows at that point, and it seems that around half the French shot was still armed with crossbows at Pavia in 1525. A number of the fench defenders were even still armed with crossbows when the English invaded Boulonge in the 1540s. As far as the comparison to archers goes, presumably Fourquevaux was basing his opinion on power to the English longbowmen France had been fighting a couple of years before. Remember that the Mary Rose sank in 1545 so we know that england had some pretty beefy archers at the time, and the idea that they may have been similar in power to the average military crossbow may not have been too far off.

At the same though his conclusion was that while archers and crossbowmen couldn't match the effect of arquebusiers at over 200 paces, they got more effective the closer they managed to get before shooting, and at extremely close ranges they might outmatch twice as many arquebusiers. So perhaps the crossbow he was talking about was a bit weaker but with a higher rate of fire, a bit closer to that of a longbow? He also thought that archers and crossbowmen tended to be much more reliable in wet weather than firearms.

Getting back to medieval crossbows, there's also the question of how mounted crossbowmen fit into all this. During the Italian wars, crossbows seem to have remained a preferred light cavalry weapon much longer than they remained the preferred light infantry weapon, particularly in Italy, Germany, Scandinavia, and parts of eastern Europe, since they remained much easier to handle from horseback than a burning match. This didn't really start changing until around the 1540s when it wheellocks and snaphaunces started to become more affordable.

Though Sir John smythe was writing in the 1590s and has his biases, his thoughts on mounted archers and mounted crossbowmen probably were based on his actual experiences as a young mercenary fighting for Maximilian In against the Turks in Hungary. He seems to have thought that mounted crossbowmen armed with light "German"-style crossbows were similar in performance to mounted archers, though he gave them both a shorter overall effective range than he gave longbowmen on foot.

rrgg
2018-09-07, 04:54 PM
If anyone's interested, Montluc's description of a skirmish involving crossbowmen starts on page 8 here. (https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?cc=eebo;c=eebo;idno=a51199.0001.001;seq=31;vid =105656;page=root;view=text)

The engagement took place near the boarder between france and spain. The French Gendarmes engaged three squadrons of spanish cavalry and began to be overwhelmed, so montluc volunteered to lead his company of about 100 crossbowmen and 6 arquebusiers across the river to rescue them.

"I was not above a dozen paces distant from the Enemy when I gave them this Volley, by which (as it appear'd by the testimony of the Prisoners, who were taken a few days after) above fifty Horses were kill'd, and wounded, and two Troopers slain, an execution that a little cool'd their courage, and caus'd their Troops to make a halt. In the mean time Captain Carbon had leisure with his party to retire full gallop towards the brook I had pass'd over to relieve him. . ."

He was then able to use repeated volleys of crossbow shot to keep the spanish cavalry from pursuing too closely while his men made their way back across the river and the bridge was destroyed by axes.

Epimethee
2018-09-08, 12:43 AM
Thanks rrgg!

On a unrelated note, I wanted to share the great archive put online by Jean-Claude Golvin (http://jeanclaudegolvin.com/en/), a French architect and archeologist, specialized in reconstitutions. Some of you may already know it.
The archive is not exactly well referenced (Vikings for example are under "Medieval France"), some dates are missing and not every painting is clearly labelled, sometimes they are also a few errors in the legends, but it is stil a huge and brillant collection.

Obviously, the classics, like Egypt, Rome or the medieval France are over-represented, and you will find a great lot of temples and villa, but it is still a great way to look at the past, for example to feel the diversity of roman architecture. But you will also find some castles and fortress and a lot of fortified cities. I love a general view of a city to understand how the landscape was shaped. As an illustration:
http://jeanclaudegolvin.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gaule-lugdunum-lyon-jc-golvin.jpghttp://jeanclaudegolvin.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/france-lyon-XV-medievale-jc-golvin.jpgLyon in medieval and roman time
http://jeanclaudegolvin.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gaule-vesunna-perigeux-ensemble-jc-golvin.jpghttp://jeanclaudegolvin.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gaule-vesunna-perigueux-bas-empire-jc-golvin.jpg Périgueux in Roman time and late empire

Vinyadan
2018-09-08, 06:52 AM
Nice, they show very well the shrinking of cities and, in the case of Lyon, the transformation of urban territory into fields (which also happened in parts of Rome itself). For some reason, the decline of cities was already ongoing during the Empire. They would come back with a vengeance around the XI century.

Galloglaich
2018-09-10, 10:35 AM
I agree that they definitely knew how to make crossbows with longer power strokes and must have had a good reason for usually not doing so, we just don't know what it is yet.

I don't think I would be quite so critical of Fourquevaux's experience with the crossbow. While not quite as slow as england, many parts of France seem to have been a bit late to switch over to firearms completely as well. When Montluc was first promoted to ensign in 1520 he notes that the Gascon troops were still armed almost entirely with crossbows at that point, and it seems that around half the French shot was still armed with crossbows at Pavia in 1525. A number of the fench defenders were even still armed with crossbows when the English invaded Boulonge in the 1540s. As far as the comparison to archers goes, presumably Fourquevaux was basing his opinion on power to the English longbowmen France had been fighting a couple of years before. Remember that the Mary Rose sank in 1545 so we know that england had some pretty beefy archers at the time, and the idea that they may have been similar in power to the average military crossbow may not have been too far off.

At the same though his conclusion was that while archers and crossbowmen couldn't match the effect of arquebusiers at over 200 paces, they got more effective the closer they managed to get before shooting, and at extremely close ranges they might outmatch twice as many arquebusiers. So perhaps the crossbow he was talking about was a bit weaker but with a higher rate of fire, a bit closer to that of a longbow? He also thought that archers and crossbowmen tended to be much more reliable in wet weather than firearms.

Getting back to medieval crossbows, there's also the question of how mounted crossbowmen fit into all this. During the Italian wars, crossbows seem to have remained a preferred light cavalry weapon much longer than they remained the preferred light infantry weapon, particularly in Italy, Germany, Scandinavia, and parts of eastern Europe, since they remained much easier to handle from horseback than a burning match. This didn't really start changing until around the 1540s when it wheellocks and snaphaunces started to become more affordable.

Though Sir John smythe was writing in the 1590s and has his biases, his thoughts on mounted archers and mounted crossbowmen probably were based on his actual experiences as a young mercenary fighting for Maximilian In against the Turks in Hungary. He seems to have thought that mounted crossbowmen armed with light "German"-style crossbows were similar in performance to mounted archers, though he gave them both a shorter overall effective range than he gave longbowmen on foot.

Good post!

I can't say I disagree with any of that, but I would add a few nuances to it.

Just as you noted that French infantry (and presumably, light cavalry though I haven't seen direct evidence they used mounted crossbowmen too) were slow to adopt firearms, so to were they slow to adopt the more sophisticated and powerful crossbows which had already become common in Italy and Central Europe by around 1400.

And it's the same reason, I would argue, that the Renaissance didn't hit in France until nearly the end of the 16th Century, over a hundred years after it had spread through Italy, Germany and even Flanders and the Low Countries.

In a nutshell, because in Italy, Germany, Flanders etc. these innovations including both the firearms and crossbows spread from mainly commoners, especially burghers. In France, commoners in general were poorer and more under the thumb of the nobility than East of the Rhine or South of the Alps. There is a reason, in other words, that Gascon crossbowmen were not as widely sought-after in the armies of say, Hungary, or Prussia or Sweden the way that Italian Condottiere, Genoese militia, Swiss militia, German crossbowmen or gunners (also mostly urban militia) or (German, and mostly rural) Landsknechts were.

http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/files/2_124.jpg

In a German or Italian or Flemish (or Czech or Prussian or even Catalan) city ~ 1400 you would be obligated to purchase the latest and most modern crossbow or firearm available upon receiving citizenship, along with body armor and a sword and other gear, (including sometimes a horse depending on your social rank). In a town like Venice, or Genoa, or Florence or Bruges or Strasbourg or Cologne or Nuremberg or Prague, these weapons would be produced locally at the highest level and / or imported in the thriving markets and available at a fairly reasonable (if still high) price.

https://www.italybyevents.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Balestro-del-Girifalco-750x464.jpg


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQIW40qqO7g

Those same towns would sponsor shooting contests every year to keep the skill levels up, with expensive prizes for the winners. Shooting a crossbow well was a matter of social prestige and could contribute to social advancement. It still does, incidentally, in many towns in Italy.

In a town in Gascony say Bordeau or Pau, the militia weaponry requirement would be considerably less stringent, they had fewer citizens anyway, and the town itself had much less of a budget to devote to training or contests. And that is why Gascon crossbowmen were not in the same kind of demand as say, Genoese or Nuremberger crossbowmen were internationally.

This may sound like a bit of a cop out, but it's real - France suffered for centuries from a lack of qualified infantry. Not because French people were incapable but because the French kings and princes consciously resisted the cultivation of a martial culture among their lower and middle classes, because they believed it contributed to social unrest. This is why the French relied so heavily on Swiss mercenaries, despite the enormous cost (and the inconvenience when they ran out of money to pay them, because as the saying went, "pas d'argent, pas de Suisse").

You are correct that they were using crossbows on horseback for most of the 15th Century and well into the 16th, but there was a fairly early and rapid adoption of wheel-lock firearms in the 16th Century in spite of their considerable cost, particularly in Northern Germany, Prussia and the Low Countries. This was the origin of the famous black riders or 'Schwarze Reiter', who start to appear by the 1520s and are available in large numbers already in 1540, carrying as many as six pistols per rider.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reiter

The crossbows did still remain in use particularly for mounted men thanks to the invention of sophisticated (and quite expensive) spanning tools like the 'goats foot' and the 'cranqequin', again both of these would be less widely available to French commoners than to German or Italian burghers. This in turn allowed small but quite powerful crossbows to be used by the cavalry. Better than what Forqueveaux probably knew from France.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ftgjT9cf2Kc/USfmxIfHUXI/AAAAAAAAB_0/-sLXAbnKALg/s1600/5vgu3.jpg

A generation more deadly and sophisticated. I think this is one of the biggest issues with understanding crossbows in general- they all look kind of similar so we tend to lump them together. The old cliche about a crossbow being so simple whereas a longbow takes talent, is complete nonsense in the late medieval context. Spanning an 800 lb draw crossbow using a cranequin or even a goats foot is tricky on foot let alone mounted! Needless to say only highly trained (and expensive) troops could do this. It really took a culture that had been nurtured for generations. Who had for example been allowed to hunt from horseback with crossbows, often on land owned by the city. In France, almost all of the game was reserved (quite strictly) for the pleasure of the nobility. In some parts of France commoners weren't even allowed to eat many kinds of meat.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/attachment.php?attachmentid=83253&stc=1

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/2080/1501/products/15thC_Munition_Crossbow_-_bow_irons_1.JPG?v=1518597815

https://lakeimagesweb.artic.edu/iiif/2/c7cdce1a-e043-aa90-c06d-ce54d383e7a9/full/!800,800/0/default.jpg

https://www.lonniecolson.com/images/gallery/medieval/hunting/totp2015-crossbow.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/5d/bd/4a/5dbd4a61a5315e8f81df6c3666e8d031.jpg

Lets also keep in mind that in the medieval context, there were crossbows and then there were CROSSBOWS. Some "wall crossbows" or siege crossbows were massively powerful and much more so than anything carried on horseback. Weapons of this size were very common in German, Czech and Prussian towns by the early 1400's and could definitely keep cavalry and infantry away from the walls.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/attachment.php?attachmentid=75181&stc=1
Note: one of these things is larger than the other

In summary, I do think crossbows could rival firearms to a point - not muskets, big wall guns or light cannon, but certainly common arquebus and calivers... I just think when you did have those in France they were in the hands of foreign mercenaries. I am sure Forqueveaux knew more than I did about the daily reality of warfare in his day, but I also think when it came to infantry warfare in particular, or any kind of fighting among commoners (anything but knights and gens d'armes, with an exception made for cannon artillery) the French were a step or three behind the rest of Europe in his day, so I would rely more on sources from those other pats of Europe from where these technologies and techniques were still emerging, and the culture of their use still very much a living thing at the forefront of it's development.


G

Galloglaich
2018-09-10, 10:46 AM
If anyone's interested, Montluc's description of a skirmish involving crossbowmen starts on page 8 here. (https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?cc=eebo;c=eebo;idno=a51199.0001.001;seq=31;vid =105656;page=root;view=text)

The engagement took place near the boarder between france and spain. The French Gendarmes engaged three squadrons of spanish cavalry and began to be overwhelmed, so montluc volunteered to lead his company of about 100 crossbowmen and 6 arquebusiers across the river to rescue them.

"I was not above a dozen paces distant from the Enemy when I gave them this Volley, by which (as it appear'd by the testimony of the Prisoners, who were taken a few days after) above fifty Horses were kill'd, and wounded, and two Troopers slain, an execution that a little cool'd their courage, and caus'd their Troops to make a halt. In the mean time Captain Carbon had leisure with his party to retire full gallop towards the brook I had pass'd over to relieve him. . ."

He was then able to use repeated volleys of crossbow shot to keep the spanish cavalry from pursuing too closely while his men made their way back across the river and the bridge was destroyed by axes.

Fascinating, and an another excellent post - this passage about the destruction of the horses matches a theory of mine about the heavier type of late medieval crossbows, i.e. part of their utility was specifically in killing horses.

From what I have read by the way, i would say that in general crossbows had the longest effectivre range of just about any late medieval ranged weapon for shooting individual targets. The most effective could still aim at and hit and individual person at up to 200 meters, apparently, and a horse probably a bit further. I base this both on the comments of various authors observing warfare in the time period (including Mongols) but also on the stated ranges of the shooting contests.

Longbows had a good range and recurves probably had the best range, but for area shooting. Clout shooting and that kind of thing. In other words shooting into a zone almost like artillery. They were of course also shot at individual targets but that would be at a much closer target. Maybe 50 meters.

Similarly early hand-culverins, hacken-busche and aquebuses could shoot far in a volley, but for most gunners, the effective range for an individual target was ~ 50 meters.

This helps contextualize crossbows a bit, and their specific value relative to the other weapons. Crossbows were also used for indirect / area shots by the way but were not as useful for that mainly due to their rate of shots (i.e. rate of 'fire' though you don't fire a bow)



There were exceptions to this rule, you always did have some people who were exceptional shots. Some hand-gunners even back to the earlier 1400's seemed to have been able to hit small targets at very long distances, up to 200 meters or more. This continued into the 16th Century and was a known quantity. Benvenutto Cellini seems to have been one of those crack shots. During the siege of Malta both the Latin / Hospitaler side and the Turks seem to have had a small number of "super expert" marksmen who could hit targets much further away than the average gunner. If I remember right each side had about 50 guys like this who they would position carefully and use as a protected asset.

Those guys were remarkable individuals who tended to mix their own powder and sometimes even supervise the forging of their own personal firearms.

Similarly, Turkish, Mongol, and English accounts all refer to certain individuals who had uncanny accuracy with bows out to extraordinary distances. So these things do have outliers.

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-10, 10:54 AM
Thanks rrgg!

On a unrelated note, I wanted to share the great archive put online by Jean-Claude Golvin (http://jeanclaudegolvin.com/en/), a French architect and archeologist, specialized in reconstitutions. Some of you may already know it.
The archive is not exactly well referenced (Vikings for example are under "Medieval France"), some dates are missing and not every painting is clearly labelled, sometimes they are also a few errors in the legends, but it is stil a huge and brillant collection.

Obviously, the classics, like Egypt, Rome or the medieval France are over-represented, and you will find a great lot of temples and villa, but it is still a great way to look at the past, for example to feel the diversity of roman architecture. But you will also find some castles and fortress and a lot of fortified cities. I love a general view of a city to understand how the landscape was shaped. As an illustration:
http://jeanclaudegolvin.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gaule-lugdunum-lyon-jc-golvin.jpghttp://jeanclaudegolvin.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/france-lyon-XV-medievale-jc-golvin.jpgLyon in medieval and roman time
http://jeanclaudegolvin.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gaule-vesunna-perigeux-ensemble-jc-golvin.jpghttp://jeanclaudegolvin.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/gaule-vesunna-perigueux-bas-empire-jc-golvin.jpg Périgueux in Roman time and late empire

Lovely !

You might like the Braun and Hogenburg atlas from the 16th Century, many of the maps were done with that kind of "helicopter" angled view from above,

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4c/Braun_Hogenberg_Alexandria.jpg/1200px-Braun_Hogenberg_Alexandria.jpg

https://www.sanderusmaps.com/content/images/kaarten/site_166126-9366.jpg

There is a (sadly small, but thankfully affordable) fascimele available on Amazon right now for the low low price of $16, highly recommended. I hope they release a larger version one day as well. You can learn a lot from these maps.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Braun

https://www.amazon.com/Braun-Hogenberg-Cities-Stephan-F%C3%BCssel/dp/3836556413/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=JWTE9DSP0465BD10S0TC

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-10, 11:06 AM
Speaking of firearms, apparently Montluc is known for this quote:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blaise_de_Lasseran-Massenc%C3%B4me,_seigneur_de_Montluc


"Would to heaven that this accursed engine [the arquebus] had never been invented, I had not then received those wounds which I now languish under, neither had so many valiant men been slain for the most part by the most pitiful fellows and the greatest cowards..."

rrgg
2018-09-10, 12:40 PM
That's true. In his book on the Italian Wars FL Talyor kept referring to them as "the despised Gascon and Italian crossbowmen."

I will add the caveat though that while France was never known for very good infantry, the best French infantry came from Gascony, "a province fertile only in soldiers."

We know the wheellock dates back to at least 1500, and it was certainly starting to gain some popularity among nobles and roadside bandits by the 1520s and 30s. However there's still debate over how exactly early German rieters were armed. Sources often don't distinguish between pistols and small arquebuses and it seems that many or most originally continued to carry lances for quite a while. It might be that the early mercenary reiter bands generally looked a lot like other medieval european cavalry with a mix of heavily armored lancers supported by light "archers" armed with small arquebuses, pistols, light lances, etc.

Additionally, pretty much throughout the Italian Wars there were already quite a few light horsemen who just taught themselves how to use a matchlock arquebus from horseback anyways. Shooting a matchlock from horseback was hardly impossible, just more difficult and thus remained less popular for the most part.

https://i.imgur.com/Mncu42X.jpg

Regarding the power of Crossbows, I'm still not so sure they were comparable at the time except with the smallest firearms. From the translation of Pietro Monte where he's talking about an armory in Germany known for it's very good steel he says "some who had seen the excellence of this iron wanted to experiment to make a corslet resistant to sclopetis, which is a small kind of cannon, and in fact achieved this."

While the French and a lot of nations tended to start calling all small arms "harquebuses", "sclopetis" in Italian or "escopetero" in spanish for the first half of the century tended to refer specifically to a fairly small weapon firing a bullet only around half an ounce in weight. This seems to have been the most popular kind of handheld firearm up through at least the battle of Pavia, but probably wasn't as powerful as larger sizes of arquebuses or the later caliver.

http://ejercitodeflandes.blogspot.com/2015/06/escopeteros-y-arcabuceros-en-pavia-1525.html

Anyways getting back to crossbows. My hypothesis is that part of the confusion over their power is that towards the very end of the middle ages you start to see a shift in what crossbows were designed to do. While it was always possible to just make a bigger and better siege crossbow (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nY2untEwCnU), by the very end of the 15th century there was a growing demand for makers to design crossbows which were reasonably powerful, but also very compact and portable, so that for instance a light infantryman or light horseman could easily run up, deliver a powerful, accurate, close range shot into an enemy's face and then run away or else draw their sword while holding their crossbow in their left hand like montluc describes. Even if the weapon was still very complicated to load. Basically, by the late 15th century the heyday of the great siege crossbows was already over, replaced by small cannons and the larger harquebus-a-crocs. The crossbows that were still being used by that point were for the most part those best suited to use by light skirmishers.

rrgg
2018-09-10, 01:02 PM
And yeah I agree there were always outliers. If Fourquevaux got anything wrong it seems that he was perhaps a bit too optimistic about the capabilities of crossbows in modern warfare compared to most others at the time. However, as evidence to support his position he did have anecdotes of a couple of crossbowmen who had recently made names for themselves despite being among companies of arquebusiers:

". . . and this I will proove by one Crossebow man that was in Thurin, when as the Lord Marshall of Annibault was Governour there, who, as I have understood, in five or sixe skirmishes, did kill and hurt more of our enemyes, then five or sixe of the best Harquebusiers did, during the whole time of the siege. I have heard say of one other only that was in the army that the King had under the charge of Mounsieur de Lautrec who slewe in the battaile of Bycorque a Spanish Captaine called John of Cardone, in the lifting up of his helmet. I have spoken of these two specially, because that being employed amongst great store of Harquebusiers, they made themselves to be so knowne, that they deserved to be spoken of: what would a great number of such do?"

Rerem115
2018-09-10, 01:31 PM
While I'm definitely not the one to ask when it comes to the details, from what I know of early firearms, the crossbows probably were more accurate, at least on an individual basis than large-bore, unrifled arquebuses.

I wouldn't be surprised if a small number of expert crossbowmen managed to inflict more damage than the arquebusers; in skirmish and siege based combat, accuracy would actually be more important than either the rate of fire or the volley factor granted by gunpowder. If the enemy is either hiding behind walls or behind other cover, one well-placed bolt could do much more than a massed volley of unaimed bullets.

Galloglaich
2018-09-10, 01:45 PM
Basically, by the late 15th century the heyday of the great siege crossbows was already over, replaced by small cannons and the larger harquebus-a-crocs. The crossbows that were still being used by that point were for the most part those best suited to use by light skirmishers.

I think you are being influenced here a little bit by all those theoretical warfare manuals (and specifically the subset of English and French ones).

While I agree that the mounted crossbowman, and his weapon, that small but powerful type of crossbow you refer to, was indeed a 'hot' item and a popular weapon system in the 16th Century, widely admired by international observers well beyond Central Europe or Italy, and indeed across many cultures and estates (incidentally both for war and for hunting, where it remained in a niche for the nobility well into the 18th Century), it was not the only or even the main focus of crossbow production in the 16th.

It's not that the mounted crossbow wasn't very popular, it certainly was, but production of specifically infantry and siege crossbows remained in practice well into the 16th Century, and perhaps more importantly, they were still playing an important role in the field. Central European cities and polities such as the Teutonic Knights and various paramilitary and martial arts guilds (like the Brotherhood of the Blackheads of Riga or the Lilienvente of Brunswick were still producing or financing the creation large wall crossbows and large infantry crossbows.

The Czechs, who basically introduced firearms into the open battlefield in the 1420's were still using large numbers of crossbows in successful campaigns all through the mid 16th Century, both against Latin (German, Austrian, Polish) armies and those further East (Muscovite, Ottoman, Tartar). These deployed in their habitual fashion behind war wagons, mantlets and pavises. Notably in the Ottoman-Hapsburg wars of the 1530s -1560s.

TL : DR Firearms were the new and increasingly dominant weapon, but crossbows had a persistent and surprisingly stubborn niche. Not just by cavalry but also in siege warfare and by certain infantry.

As for the efficacy of firearms vs. armor and your theories about the light sclopetta and so on, I assume you saw the recent NOVA special where they build a steel armor based on a Greenwich harness, and tested a full sized musket against it at ~20 feet?

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/secrets-shining-knight.html

I think even Alan Williams was shocked by the results of that experiment.

One thing about the firearms and cannon of the day, the size of the caliber didn't always determine the impact of the shot - quite often in fact a little bit smaller caliber weapons were used (with longer barrels) to achieve higher velocity and better range... and better armor-piercing capacity.

That said I think the true original monster sized musket was the armor-piercing weapon of it's day, and cannon (including relatively small caliber cannon suitable for targeting individuals) were the ultimate siege weapon. I think the role of the wall crossbow was in part to kill and maim horses, but perhaps also for it's accuracy. It also didn't require gunpowder which was still a rather expensive commodity in most of Europe through the 16th Century.

Whatever the reasons, you do still see these in armories all the way through the 16th Century and new ones being ordered and produced. So were some other 'ancient' types of siege weapons such as the mangonel.

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-10, 01:47 PM
While I'm definitely not the one to ask when it comes to the details, from what I know of early firearms, the crossbows probably were more accurate, at least on an individual basis than large-bore, unrifled arquebuses.

I wouldn't be surprised if a small number of expert crossbowmen managed to inflict more damage than the arquebusers; in skirmish and siege based combat, accuracy would actually be more important than either the rate of fire or the volley factor granted by gunpowder. If the enemy is either hiding behind walls or behind other cover, one well-placed bolt could do much more than a massed volley of unaimed bullets.

I think (just a theory though) that part of the reason for the persistence of crossbows may have been due to the highly tuned culture for crossbow shooting which had been established in so many of the towns and also in some of the rural areas. Left to us in legends like the William Tell stories and in the surviving crossbow societies and shooting festivals in so many towns in Italy to this day, like the one I linked to a video clip of up thread.

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-10, 01:59 PM
And yeah I agree there were always outliers. If Fourquevaux got anything wrong it seems that he was perhaps a bit too optimistic about the capabilities of crossbows in modern warfare compared to most others at the time. However, as evidence to support his position he did have anecdotes of a couple of crossbowmen who had recently made names for themselves despite being among companies of arquebusiers:

". . . and this I will proove by one Crossebow man that was in Thurin, when as the Lord Marshall of Annibault was Governour there, who, as I have understood, in five or sixe skirmishes, did kill and hurt more of our enemyes, then five or sixe of the best Harquebusiers did, during the whole time of the siege. I have heard say of one other only that was in the army that the King had under the charge of Mounsieur de Lautrec who slewe in the battaile of Bycorque a Spanish Captaine called John of Cardone, in the lifting up of his helmet. I have spoken of these two specially, because that being employed amongst great store of Harquebusiers, they made themselves to be so knowne, that they deserved to be spoken of: what would a great number of such do?"

Yeah, good find - this is exactly what I mean. You read a lot of accounts like this. The deal is, in Turin, by the time of this battle, you have probably had 10 or 15 generations of master marksmen, specifically trained on the crossbow. Is this guy as good of a shot with an arquebus? Maybe not. So let him use the crossbow, if he can harm the enemy with it, even if as a weapon it's not quite as amazing in all respects as an arquebus let alone a musket.

It probably took a few generations for this to peter out as society changed in Italy and many other places. In Germany where the towns remained autonomous a lot longer they seem to have just gradually switched over to the gun and continued the shooting contests with those, though there were certainly several generations of overlap where they had a lot of experts with both types of weapons.

Crossbow shooting guilds used to be the most elite and were typically (if not always) dedicated to St. George where as firearms guilds started out a bit 'nouveau' and were dedicated to St. Barbara, gradually rising in importance and prestige through the 15th Century.

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-10, 02:05 PM
"I was not above a dozen paces distant from the Enemy when I gave them this Volley, by which (as it appear'd by the testimony of the Prisoners, who were taken a few days after) above fifty Horses were kill'd, and wounded, and two Troopers slain, an execution that a little cool'd their courage, and caus'd their Troops to make a halt. In the mean time Captain Carbon had leisure with his party to retire full gallop towards the brook I had pass'd over to relieve him. . ."


One other thing to note about this - he mentions 50 horses 'killed and wounded' - probably unable to carry their riders into the fight- , vs. two troopers slain. The troopers were probably protected much better by armor than the horses. This again, I think, is one of the niches for the crossbow. The Mongols mentioned losing "too many" horses to crossbows as far back as the 13th Century.

This is a good example of how the crossbow could work as an antidote to the threat of cavalry (or incidentally, infantry skirmishers to refer to another discussion in the thread a few pages back)

G

rrgg
2018-09-10, 03:11 PM
I think you are being influenced here a little bit by all those theoretical warfare manuals (and specifically the subset of English and French ones).

While I agree that the mounted crossbowman, and his weapon, that small but powerful type of crossbow you refer to, was indeed a 'hot' item and a popular weapon system in the 16th Century, widely admired by international observers well beyond Central Europe or Italy, and indeed across many cultures and estates (incidentally both for war and for hunting, where it remained in a niche for the nobility well into the 18th Century), it was not the only or even the main focus of crossbow production in the 16th.

It's not that the mounted crossbow wasn't very popular, it certainly was, but production of specifically infantry and siege crossbows remained in practice well into the 16th Century, and perhaps more importantly, they were still playing an important role in the field. Central European cities and polities such as the Teutonic Knights and various paramilitary and martial arts guilds (like the Brotherhood of the Blackheads of Riga or the Lilienvente of Brunswick were still producing or financing the creation large wall crossbows and large infantry crossbows.

The Czechs, who basically introduced firearms into the open battlefield in the 1420's were still using large numbers of crossbows in successful campaigns all through the mid 16th Century, both against Latin (German, Austrian, Polish) armies and those further East (Muscovite, Ottoman, Tartar). These deployed in their habitual fashion behind war wagons, mantlets and pavises. Notably in the Ottoman-Hapsburg wars of the 1530s -1560s.

TL : DR Firearms were the new and increasingly dominant weapon, but crossbows had a persistent and surprisingly stubborn niche. Not just by cavalry but also in siege warfare and by certain infantry.

As for the efficacy of firearms vs. armor and your theories about the light sclopetta and so on, I assume you saw the recent NOVA special where they build a steel armor based on a Greenwich harness, and tested a full sized musket against it at ~20 feet?

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/secrets-shining-knight.html

I think even Alan Williams was shocked by the results of that experiment.

One thing about the firearms and cannon of the day, the size of the caliber didn't always determine the impact of the shot - quite often in fact a little bit smaller caliber weapons were used (with longer barrels) to achieve higher velocity and better range... and better armor-piercing capacity.

That said I think the true original monster sized musket was the armor-piercing weapon of it's day, and cannon (including relatively small caliber cannon suitable for targeting individuals) were the ultimate siege weapon. I think the role of the wall crossbow was in part to kill and maim horses, but perhaps also for it's accuracy. It also didn't require gunpowder which was still a rather expensive commodity in most of Europe through the 16th Century.

Whatever the reasons, you do still see these in armories all the way through the 16th Century and new ones being ordered and produced. So were some other 'ancient' types of siege weapons such as the mangonel.

G

I admit I'm being heavily influenced by later treatises and projecting backwards somewhat. That's why I'm checking with you :P

I didn't mean to say that infantry were carrying horse crossbows as well, but I still think they may have been starting to prefer a weapon more convenient than a full-sized siege crossbow. Sort of how a lot of older historians like Payne-Gallwey differentiate between a "siege crossbow" and a "military crossbow."

I do think that fouquevaux as well as Montluc (when talking about the 1544-46 war he claims that the French arquebusiers were accustomed to shooting from very far off, and thus surprised by how close the english longbowmen had to get before shooting their arrows), provide more evidence that guns largely became the preferred weapon for "far shooting" sooner than they became the preferred weapon for massed, close range volleys.

Far shooting was definitely a thing in the early modern period, a number of authors in the late 16th century including Rich, Williams, and Barwick actually focused on range as the musket's most important advantage, even moreso than it's armor penetration. They felt the arquebus was only deadly up to about 400 yards while the heavy musket could kill unarmored men and horses at up to 500-600 yards away. The issue was that being able to shoot with reasonable accuracy at a formation from very far away under battlefield conditions wasn't a very common skill. And a problem with guns in particular was that if you had a lot of people shooting at once then even those who were good shots wouldn't be able to focus with all the noise and smoke around them. In the late 16th century the tactic that developed was that a company would send forward only a couple files of it's best, carefully picked marksmen to start shooting at an enemy formation from as far as 600 yards away while the rest of the shot stood by waiting to deliver short ranged volleys at 20-50 yards if the enemy suddenly decided to charge. Sir John Smythe mentioned that the Spanish used this tactic but thought it was only to intimidate the enemy, Sir Roger Williams and Barnabe Rich however, who had far more first hand experience, definitely were convinced that far shooting could do a lot of damage, with Rich claiming that all the "captains of experience" in the Low countries quickly learned not to let a dense body of footmen or horsemen stand exposed to this kind of bombardment for very long, even at 480-600 paces.

When loose skirmishers fight loose skirmishers however, the maximum effective range tends to become much lower. In that kind of situation both sides are shooting scattered shots against scattered targets which tend to be moving back and fourth and ducking behind cover, and neither bows, crossbows, guns, or rifles become very effective beyond maybe 50 yards or so.

What I'm thinking is that while a company of crossbowmen might have a number of their best shots shooting at a formation of knights from very far away with siege crossbows, these aren't going to have much of an advantage against highly mobile skirmishers with lighter crossbows so long as they're still accurate enough to hit him in the face at <50 yards when he peaks out from behind his pavise.

rrgg
2018-09-10, 03:26 PM
One other thing to note about this - he mentions 50 horses 'killed and wounded' - probably unable to carry their riders into the fight- , vs. two troopers slain. The troopers were probably protected much better by armor than the horses. This again, I think, is one of the niches for the crossbow. The Mongols mentioned losing "too many" horses to crossbows as far back as the 13th Century.

This is a good example of how the crossbow could work as an antidote to the threat of cavalry (or incidentally, infantry skirmishers to refer to another discussion in the thread a few pages back)

G

On the effect against horses, Sir John Smythe had a pretty interesting argument for why he thought arrows were better against horses than bullets:

"Besides all which, it is to bee noted, that horses in the field being wounded, or but lightlie hurt with arrowes, they through the great paine that vppon e∣uerie motion they doo feele in their flesh, vaines, and sinewes by the shaking of the Arrowes with their barbed heads hanging in them, do presentlie fall a yerking, flinging and leaping as if they were mad, in such sort, as be it in squardron, or in troupe they do disorder one an other, and neuer leaue vntill they haue throwne, and cast their masters. Whereas contrariwise, horses that are in their vitall partes hurt with bulletts, or that the bones of their legges, shoul∣ders, or backs be broken, they do presently fall down, or otherwise, although they be strikē cleane through, or that the bulletts do still remaine in them, they after the first shrinck at the entring of the bullett doo passe their Carrire, as though they had verie litle or no hurt: And this of the hurting of horses with bulletts, both I my selfe, and all others do know, that haue seene any actions performed in the field. And the other of the great disordering of horses with the hurts of our Eng∣lish arrowes I haue read in diuers histories, and also heard reported by diuers Gentlemen of our nation that haue seene the same."

In the 16th century the English longbowmen weren't considered very effective against the scots at Flodden, they were still credited with routing the French cavalry as late as the Battle of the Spurs that same year. So I suspect that there might be some truth to this.

It seems not everyone agreed with this assessment though, Barwicks response was to basically point out that this still meant that the longbow could generally just wound the horse, not actually kill it.

Perhaps what made the crossbow so great against horses was that it was the best of both worlds? The quarrel would remain stuck in a wounded horse and cause it to panic the same way a longbow arrow could, but it could also penetrate deeply enough to kill the horse outright or break bones the same way a bullet could.

rrgg
2018-09-10, 05:48 PM
Yeah, good find - this is exactly what I mean. You read a lot of accounts like this. The deal is, in Turin, by the time of this battle, you have probably had 10 or 15 generations of master marksmen, specifically trained on the crossbow. Is this guy as good of a shot with an arquebus? Maybe not. So let him use the crossbow, if he can harm the enemy with it, even if as a weapon it's not quite as amazing in all respects as an arquebus let alone a musket.

It probably took a few generations for this to peter out as society changed in Italy and many other places. In Germany where the towns remained autonomous a lot longer they seem to have just gradually switched over to the gun and continued the shooting contests with those, though there were certainly several generations of overlap where they had a lot of experts with both types of weapons.

Crossbow shooting guilds used to be the most elite and were typically (if not always) dedicated to St. George where as firearms guilds started out a bit 'nouveau' and were dedicated to St. Barbara, gradually rising in importance and prestige through the 15th Century.

G

I have a couple more thoughts on this if I may. While I agree that the growing popularity of firearms likely caused a culture's overall firearm skill to increase and overall crossbow skill to decrease. In many ways it's a matter of scale, and popularity doesn't necessarily mean that the "average" arquebusier's skill increased and the "average" crossbowman's skill decreased. Fourquevaux's main complaint about arquebusiers at the time was that their numbers were rapidly swelling with unskilled men and thus their overall quality was greatly declining:

"The Harquebusse hath bin invented within these fewe yeares, and is verie good, so that it be used by those that have skill, but at this present every man will be a Harquebusier: I knowe not whether it be to take the more wages, or to be the lighter laden, or to fight the further off, wherein there must be an order taken to appoint fewer Harquebusiers, and those that are good, then many that are worth nothing: for this negligence is cause that in a skirmish wherein tenne thousand Harquebussados are shot, there dieth not so mutch as one man, for the Harquebusiers content themselves with making of a noyse, and so shoote at all adventures."

Montluc, though he criticized the range of the english longbow, still mentions that he started ordering his arquebusiers to wait until they got within arrow range before shooting in order to be more effective. You start to find a lot more complaints about arquebusier quality in later english treatises as well. Thomas Digges felt that anyone baring the name of "trained shot" should be able to put his bullet between the head and feet of a man at 160-200 paces, but says that most soldiers at the time were completely ineffective beyond just 80 paces. There's Barwick, who thought extremely highly of firearms, and yet: "But this I muste néedes confesse, that in the handes of an ignoraunt person, neither apte nor willing to vse the same, as of right it ought to be, it is rather hurtfull then commodious: For whosoeuer shall take in hand to vse the same wea∣pon, must take (as it were) a delighte in the well v∣sing thereof."


In the 15th century, when the handgun was still a fairly uncommon and unfamiliar weapon, even where a culture at the time had little to no prior firearm tradition to draw on, the few people drawn to this expensive, dangerous, and complicated weapon would likely be only those who found they had a natural talent for it, or at the very least those who where fascinated by the weapon and likely to spend a great deal of time practicing and experimenting. Conversely in 1540 when the arquebus was now seen as the popular "default" weapon, you know that the only people still using crossbows at that point are going to be those who are really really good at it.

The shift in culture likely meant that there were far more skilled arquebusiers in total during the late 16th century than the 15th century, but that doesn't mean that most of the few gunners there were in the 15th century weren't extremely good shots even by late 16th century standards.

We've talked about the declining popularity of communal "warlike games" before already and I agree it might be true that the "average" 15th century crossbowman was more skilled than the "average" late 16th century arquebusier. But I still don't think that necessarily means that the average crossbowman was quite as skilled as the ones Fourquevaux was talking about or nearly as good a shot as Humphrey Barwick was.

Barwick does say he saw a number of men killed by crossbow quarrels over the course of his mercenary career, especially northern france where he started in 1548 "where triall was to haue béene made, twice or thrice in a wéeke of all manner of warlike weapons, and the sufficiencie therof to haue beene iustly proued." He did consider the crossbow a much more accurate weapon than the longbow, but still not quite as accurate as the arquebus or musket.

Edit: to clarify he wasn't so much focusing on each weapon's mechanical accuracy as the fact that the arquebus could be aimed more "by rule" while the longbow had to be aimed more "by guess" with the crossbow being somewhere in between. It's kind of tricky to precisely estimate range when people are shooting back at you.

Also, he actually claims to have seen *more* men killed outright by crossbow quarrels than by arrows, which seems to suggest that crossbows at that time were still a bit deadlier than longbows were.

Galloglaich
2018-09-10, 06:56 PM
I think it's a lot simpler than what you are saying there - in my opinion, and I don't claim it's more than that, it's more of a matter of the major economic and political shifts between the 15th and 16th Centuries.

In the 15th Century the epicenter of power in Europe was toward the center, the main trade flow was to the East (to Persia, India and China) which was mostly controlled by the largest Italian City-States. The political system was incredibly complex and chaotic. Hundreds of independent actors - princely families, Free Cities and City-States, factions within the Church, all jostled or control. The economy, and the elite armies which came out of it, were basically skilled labor cavalry from the gentry and the nobility, and marksmen from the thriving urban centers. This skilled labor while effective in combat, was hard to control and expensive to hire - since they had a choice and had other options.

In the 16th Century, with the systems created for training of Landsknechts and later Tercios, the method for producing competent if not stellar soldiers from the poorest peasants was finally mastered. Places that had destitute peasants - from the Black Forest, impoverished serfs from Estremadura and Gascony, from Belarus and Ukraine, could be turned fairly quickly into armies. New "putting out systems" and royal foundries could similarly now produce weapons which again, were maybe not be at the same level as the finest guns from the Venetian Arsenal or the forges of Nuremberg, were still serviceable enough to kill the enemy. Especially when you had ten thousand young men bearing them.

With the Ottomans and Mamluks squeezing off the old trade routes down the Silk Road, and Moscow monopolizing the other, and with England, France and Spain blocking access to the Atlantic - polities in Central Europe, Italy and around the Med were basically under embargo. Religious wars scarred the European continent, triggering famine and disease, devastation of the infrastructure and masses of refugees, all leading to paralysis and rapid decline.

The small number of newly unified and increasingly Absolutist Atlantic facing Monarchies on the other hand, soon had very enhanced cash flow - Tobacco, Indigo, Cotton and Sugar - all grown by slaves in newly conquered lands-, furs from Canada, cochineal from Mexico, silver from Peru, Gold from Africa, and soon the spices of the Far East, were all flowing into the coffers of the Atlantic Kingdoms.

The only European polity really able to break out of this trap was Holland, but only after 80 years of war against Spain and the resulting (temporary and fragile, but vital) alliance with England allowed them to send their ships out across the great Oceans and claim a very lucrative toe hold in Indonesia and Malaysia.

TL DR: The gist is, a shift from skilled but expensive and hard to control labor in armies, to unskilled but cheap and easier to control armies.

Navies literally could grab any drunk out of a bar and make him into a sailor.


The issue of the 'warlike games' and so on in the Italian and Central European towns, and the persistent culture of highly skilled marksmen there, similar to the culture developed in England around shooting longbows, was something that existed for a long time in the medieval period but gradually (sometimes very gradually) faded away in the Early Modern period.

It lasted long enough though, it's worth noting, that dozens of those same Free Cities were able to remain neutral and unscathed through the great religious wars which devastated Europe including the apocalyptic 30 Years War. And allowed Venice to survive as a Republic into the 18th Century despite being trapped between the Ottoman Empire and an almost equally hostile Spanish Monarchy for three hundred years.

G

Marcus Amakar
2018-09-11, 06:59 AM
Hello all,
I've found this thread highly educational and I've come with a specific question.

I'm working on a much simpler TTRPG system than DnD (for the use of my group) and as such need each 'weapon' to cover a broader range, and be defined by less attributes. Whilst I've got some ideas, many from this thread, I'm not sure whether they're useful, or still based off of incorrect pop-culture.

An intermediary aim, is for each weapon group has a characteristic or property, and this characteristic is how they interact with the game. So damage and accuracy etc aren't determined by your weapon. The only difference a weapon makes is its characteristic (and maybe one/two handed and melee ranged properties)

E.g. Pole-arms have the characteristic [Reach].
Swords have the characteristic [Parrying].

So my specific question is this:
For the period 1250 to 1350, if you had to group all the weapons commonly used in Europe into 7-8 categories, and each category of weapon had one characteristic/property, what would those categories and their properties be?

Thanks in advance,
Marcus Amakar

Rerem115
2018-09-11, 10:01 AM
Well then. Hmmm. Defining every weapon into those categories might be hard, especially when you get into the whole tool vs weapon thing that crops up, especially with things like farm implements, but here's my best shot at it.

*Things to note*
While incredibly successful from a gamist perspective, from a realistic perspective, there shouldn't be a difference between Strength and Dexterity; in the vast majority of cases, the stronger you are, the faster and harder your muscles can work. So, the idea of dumping one stat in favor of another is simply impossible, and this is reflected by my choice of "muscle" as the attribute of choice. Without knowing the details of your system, this is the best I can do.

Weapons of War

1. Bow
Muscle/Aim
(Longbows are hard to draw! You need both incredible muscle strength and have good aim to properly use a bow in war)
2. Sword
Muscle
3. Axe
Muscle
4. Mace
Muscle
5. Formation spear
Muscle/Determination
(You need personal strength to use it, but in formation, it's holding the line that wins the day, not weapon skill)

Personal Weapons/Tools

1. Knife
Stealth/Muscle
(It's ubiquitous, easy to hide, and better than fists, but still benefits from being stronger than the opponent)
2. Spear
Muscle
3. Staff
Muscle
4. Improvised
Variant
(I'd recommend using what it most closely resembles, and then dropping the die size by one)

Marcus Amakar
2018-09-11, 01:04 PM
Thank you very much for your quick reply.



While incredibly successful from a gamist perspective, from a realistic perspective, there shouldn't be a difference between Strength and Dexterity; in the vast majority of cases, the stronger you are, the faster and harder your muscles can work. So, the idea of dumping one stat in favor of another is simply impossible, and this is reflected by my choice of "muscle" as the attribute of choice. Without knowing the details of your system, this is the best I can do.


I realise now that the language I used was incredibly misleading and didn't portray what I meant at all. I apologies for that.

What I meant was that each weapon group has a characteristic or property, and this characteristic is how they interact with the game. So damage and accuracy etc aren't determined by your weapon. The only difference a weapon makes is its characteristic (and maybe one/two handed and melee ranged properties)

E.g. Pole-arms have the characteristic [Reach].
Swords have the characteristic [Parrying].

So my question, hopefully better worded this time is:
So if the weapons used in Europe in 1250 to 1350 were grouped into 7-8 categories, and each category of weapon had one characteristic/property, what would those categories and their properties be?

P.S. I'll go back now and edit the initial post

Rerem115
2018-09-11, 01:58 PM
Ah, okay then.

Weapons of War

1. Bow (Range)
2. Sword (Parrying)
3. Axe (Cheap, bonus against shields)
4. Mace (Ignores armor)
5. Formation spear (15 ft reach, bad up close)

Personal Weapons/Tools

1. Knife (Hidden)
2. Spear (Reach)
3. Staff (Cheap+Reach)
4. Improvised (Extremely Cheap)

Galloglaich
2018-09-11, 03:33 PM
Can't a polearm or a staff or a spear parry?

Mike_G
2018-09-11, 04:35 PM
Yeah, what G said.

Would the characteristic be necessary for then to attempt a thing, or would it give a bonus to it? Swords give a defensive bonus, spears get reach, maces reduce the effectiveness of armor, etc.

I'm not sold on how to make this work as far as realism if you want to categorize weapons that much. It's fine for a game, but it can wind up being a little "Rock, Paper, Scissors."

Vinyadan
2018-09-11, 05:32 PM
As far as I remember, Machiavelli considered soldiers from Gascony quite lousy.

About strength and dexterity, muscles adapt remarkably well to what they are trained for. So you get different kinds of strength. However, you also get differences in mobility. Boxers don't do much weights, because lifting too much makes them slower and damages their punching techniques. So more strength can be a loss in dexterity, if the strength is obtained in a way that damages dexterity.

The Jack
2018-09-11, 06:38 PM
I think that's a weird way to view weaponry. It's arbitrary. People really tried to exhaust all their options when they made weapons, it's why there's so many crazy outliers like the lantern shield or the gunblade. When they made axes, they tried doing small axes, bigger axes, two handed axes, axes on poles... and then they tried everything on the end of poles too.


You could try
Main weapon (bow, crossbow, spear)
Sidearm (Sword, axe, mace)
Dagger (X, Y or Z) (forget sneak attacks, make it something you can grapple with or get in close)

and a part of your combat could be range (IE dropping the bow because the enemy is too close)

Or you could divide them between anti personal and anti armour.


I wouldn't even bother, just think of the stats for weapons as they're used. I guess if you're writing a system that's terrible advise, but maybe you'd be better of if you wrote the categories down and let GM's decide what weapon is what.

Mr Beer
2018-09-11, 06:48 PM
If you want simple, try something like Small (can conceal, does little damage), Normal (can generally wear in public, can use a shield) and Big (generally cannot wear in public, does large damage, no shield). You could call this Concealed, Sidearm and War if you prefer.

Another way would be to interact with armour, so for example Cutting is good vs. no armour and bad vs. armour, Stabbing is OK overall and Crushing is good vs. armour.

Once you start getting more complex than three or four types, you may as well either be playing D&D or you should be trying for something that emulates Real Life, in which case I'd just steal someone else's system.

wolflance
2018-09-11, 11:19 PM
What we can say definitively about the medieval crossbow is that they actually started with a more conventional design, (i.e. with a bowlike prod and a bowlike string and a longer bolt that was really an arrow, and a long powerstrike) and then they moved away from that and toward the short powerstroke, very high draw weight, mechanically spanned weapons which according to just about every eyewitness - including foreign enemies like the Mongols and the Ottomans- were extremely formidable weapons.

As I said, they can't reproduce this with modern replicas, in fact the last time a university made a major effort at making some composite prod crossbows of the late medieval type they couldn't get 3 shots out of them before they lost power. So we obviously don't understand how they worked yet.

But given the fact that they clearly knew about the simpler long powerstroke type of bow, and that in spite of the extreme inconvenience and hazards associated with a weapon you have to span mechanically, they kept going further and further down that road. They had recurve and recurve composite bows, they had longbows, they had the older type of crossbows (which were still used as light hunting weapons all through the late medieval period) and yet nearly every army was using the hard hitting arbalests and statchel arbalests. So I assume (dangerous to assume, but I think I'm on firm ground here) that they had a good reason.

G
Given today's understanding in the law of physics and material technology/metallurgy, I think today's replicas of steel prod crossbow should be pretty close, if not actually better, in performance to what medieval people made in past.

On the other hand, we have generally fewer experience on composite organic materials since we no longer use them often. So it's likely that any reproduction of composite prod crossbow will not hold up to the same level of past examples.

Even then, there are people that make long-powerstroke low draw weight composite crossbows today that outperform replica high draw weight steel crossbow (in terms of range and joule output).


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-_p_DrOPOs


I do agree with you that medieval armies had good reasons to switch from more powerful composite prod to less powerful steel prod, although I can only guess about what were those reasons. Probably had something to do with:

1) Cost
2) Maintenance
3) Reliability
4) Concentration of firepower (able to cram more crossbowmen into a smaller area)

gkathellar
2018-09-12, 06:33 AM
So my question, hopefully better worded this time is:
So if the weapons used in Europe in 1250 to 1350 were grouped into 7-8 categories, and each category of weapon had one characteristic/property, what would those categories and their properties be?

I might recommend coming at it from the opposite direction: come up with a set of properties, and say that every weapon is described by a set of properties (2-4 is probably good). You don't necessarily need to allow for every possible combination, but this approach allows you to begin from an abstract point and get concrete and specific from there. Some possible properties might include Binding, Two-Handed, Flexible, Anti-Armor, Formation ... that kind of stuff.


About strength and dexterity, muscles adapt remarkably well to what they are trained for. So you get different kinds of strength. However, you also get differences in mobility. Boxers don't do much weights, because lifting too much makes them slower and damages their punching techniques. So more strength can be a loss in dexterity, if the strength is obtained in a way that damages dexterity.

In general, bodybuilding is not a good way to train for anything other than bodybuilding. It's worth noting, however, that this isn't a strength vs. speed thing - it's a form vs. function thing. If you go look at top athletes (https://www.boredpanda.com/athlete-body-types-comparison-howard-schatz/?utm_source=duckduckgo&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=organic), you can see that their builds tend to be either a bit thick or lean and whipcord, without any overdevelopment or muscleboundness (musclebinding?) even in sports like powerlifting. This is because they're training to do a thing, not to look good or match some nebulous ideal of being "in shape." You can see the same sort of thing in dancers, especially male ballet dancers (some of the stuff they have to do is kinda nuts), and in martial artists.

Mind you, it is possible to train for strength or to train for speed specifically, but a lot of that has to do with coordination and discipline, rather than pure muscular power - to use your example of a boxer, it's the difference between practicing your straights and working the speedbag. In terms of muscular tissue (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle#Types), the question is actually power vs. endurance, where relatively weaker "red" muscle has the ability to perform lengthy, strenuous tasks, and "white" muscle is very strong but accumulates painful lactic acid very quickly.

Marcus Amakar
2018-09-12, 11:06 AM
Thanks for all the responses.

When I say I’m working on a system, I’m just creating (at the DM’s behest) a bit more complexity in the field of weapons for the Fates Core (with house rules) campaign that the DM is already running. We’re having a blast but currently what weapon you wield has no impact from weapon specific rules.
I didn’t want to lead with the system because I wanted to make the system fit the weapon attributes you all suggested, rather than the other way around.

In response to specific points raised.

Can't a polearm or a staff or a spear parry?

Would the characteristic be necessary for then to attempt a thing, or would it give a bonus to it? Swords give a defensive bonus, spears get reach, maces reduce the effectiveness of armor, etc.
Basically, in the system (slightly modified Fate Core) as it stands, unless you’re manipulating aspects, combat is just opposed fight rolls, and a success for the attacker either causes [Stress] or generates a [Consequence].
The example of swords parrying was just to illustrate what I meant by each weapon group having an attribute, as the original wording of my question was misleading, so I wanted to make sure I got it right the second time.
Whilst at any time a player can engage with aspects/consequences and make a case for being able to parry etc with any weapon, the idea was to give etc weapon group the access to an attribute that wouldn’t be dependent on the environment/situation and negotiation with the DM.


If you want simple, try something like Small (can conceal, does little damage), Normal (can generally wear in public, can use a shield) and Big (generally cannot wear in public, does large damage, no shield). You could call this Concealed, Sidearm and War if you prefer.
This is a great suggestion, and other posters have suggested a similar approach. The being able/not being able to wear in public thing works great for Fate as it is something that can be evoked outside of combat.

Rounding out Concealed, Sidearm, and War with Bows and Crossbows gets us up to 5 which is close enough. Are polearms/pikes different enough to other War weapons to have their own category, or would it be the case (as I suspect) that if polearms had their own category then other weapons within group should as well?
Also, were early handcannons/muskets common enough in parts of Europe 1250-1350 to be included, and if so should they have a category or would being grouped with crossbows be ok?


I might recommend coming at it from the opposite direction: come up with a set of properties, and say that every weapon is described by a set of properties (2-4 is probably good). You don't necessarily need to allow for every possible combination, but this approach allows you to begin from an abstract point and get concrete and specific from there. Some possible properties might include Binding, Two-Handed, Flexible, Anti-Armor, Formation ... that kind of stuff.
I considered this, but I thought if weapons had this level of depth, then armour etc would need to have the same depth in order for the properties to interact with something, and that all feels a bit clunky for fate.

Galloglaich
2018-09-12, 11:09 AM
Sorry but I think you are totally wrong about this.



Given today's understanding in the law of physics and material technology/metallurgy, I think today's replicas of steel prod crossbow should be pretty close, if not actually better, in performance to what medieval people made in past.


You would think this would be the case, but it has turned out we had a lot to learn from medieval sources about armor and swords - in fact they were looking back to medieval sources on how to improve armor for tanks and airplanes in WW2. We have only very recently began to match the quality and performance of medieval antique armor and swords and only by following their techniques. Even the magnificent harness they made for that NOVA documentary 'secrets of the shining knight' which stopped a musket at 20 paces did not have as good of a micro-structure as the 16th Century Greenwich harness they were copying, based on the electron microscope scan.




On the other hand, we have generally fewer experience on composite organic materials since we no longer use them often. So it's likely that any reproduction of composite prod crossbow will not hold up to the same level of past examples.

Given that modern steel prod reproductions can at least shoot, whereas attempts to reproduce the composite prod weapons don't manage more than 2 or 3 shots, I would agree we do better with steel. But we are probably only at 20 - 30% of the real power with the steel prods.



Even then, there are people that make long-powerstroke low draw weight composite crossbows today that outperform replica high draw weight steel crossbow (in terms of range and joule output).


I do agree with you that medieval armies had good reasons to switch from more powerful composite prod to less powerful steel prod, although I can only guess about what were those reasons. Probably had something to do with:

1) Cost
2) Maintenance
3) Reliability
4) Concentration of firepower (able to cram more crossbowmen into a smaller area)


Though it is true that they were able to make small (steel) prod crossbows, the rest of this is gibberish in my opinion. From all the period sources, the steel prod weapons, even the small ones, were as strong or stronger than the composite prod. I don't believe they would have adopted a weaker weapon.

I'm aware of Todds tests that that video referred to, and I've talked to Todd. Without getting into too many details, he has not done certain things with the string in particular which would significantly affect performance of his steel prod weapons, but would also make them a lot more dangerous to use and a much higher liability risk. He doesn't even like selling the more powerful of the ones he does make because of the liability - they are dangerous weapons. If you talk to him about buying one he tends to encourage the lighter grade weapons.

The truth is we still have a lot to learn in this field, but it is guys like Todd (and a handful of others around the world) who are in the process of figuring it out.

G

Max_Killjoy
2018-09-12, 11:39 AM
Iron and steel weapons and armor... one of the few areas of knowledge where I give much credence to the notion that "people back then were a lot better at X than we are now".

(The opposite being the damn Egyptian pyramids... if we really needed to build a giant precise stack of stone blocks in the modern era we'd find a way that didn't involve a decade of work and a workforce in the 5 digits.)

Galloglaich
2018-09-12, 12:32 PM
Iron and steel weapons and armor... one of the few areas of knowledge where I give much credence to the notion that "people back then were a lot better at X than we are now".

(The opposite being the damn Egyptian pyramids... if we really needed to build a giant precise stack of stone blocks in the modern era we'd find a way that didn't involve a decade of work and a workforce in the 5 digits.)

Yeah the pyramids are impressive - and more complex than they look, but it is the most obvious way to build a huge structure - the shape etc., it's what I would go to as a kid with blocks. So I never understood why people seem to need to insist Aliens did it per the meme etc.

If they built an inverted pyramid with the point at the bottom that would be more amazing and would indeed seem to indicate Aliens.

I've only ever seen the Mayan pyramids at Chichen-Itza and Palenque but those were far more impressive and sophisticated than I expected. It still does obviously take some impressive degree of social organization even just to cut all that rock (and to build those whole entire complexes, as it's much more than a couple of pyramids), but also of course to build those massive structures (and the case of meso-America, without even draft animals or wheels for help), with all their secret inner passages and chambers and aligning them with the solstices and so forth. But compared to say, the Cathedral at Strasbourg or the Hajia Sophia it's pretty simple overall design.


Still recommended though. Seeing it in person changed my perception, it's very very impressive.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-N-Tpad1T3hw/UwFWWBNN70I/AAAAAAAAKbo/yxNeEFw9lww/s1600/Pacal.jpg

And some of that Mayan art does look like dudes flying space ships for real


G

gkathellar
2018-09-12, 01:49 PM
Iron and steel weapons and armor... one of the few areas of knowledge where I give much credence to the notion that "people back then were a lot better at X than we are now".

(The opposite being the damn Egyptian pyramids... if we really needed to build a giant precise stack of stone blocks in the modern era we'd find a way that didn't involve a decade of work and a workforce in the 5 digits.)

Emphasis mine. I think this is important, and pretty broadly applicable. To expand a bit:

In general, we in the modern world definitely know more about all sorts of practical fields and their underpinnings than any culture that's preceded us. But our understanding of how to apply that generalized knowledge will always tend to center around questions we need or want the answers to. In the modern world, these are questions like, “how can we make safe, fire-retardant materials? How can we reduce the recoil on this rifle? How can we store potential electrical energy without lithium? How can we put cats on the blockchain?”

The questions our predecessors had, on the other hand, are often completely irrelevant to us, and so we haven’t really bothered to explore them. If we don’t understand medieval crossbow design, it’s not because we lack generalized knowledge of the relevant facts. It’s because, outside of hobbyist and academic circles, we (as a civilization) don’t care. How do you build the pyramids? We don’t care. How do you transport goods hundreds of miles with Stone Age tools? We don’t care. How do you optimize the durability of a sword? We don’t care. We could probably answer these questions if we had DARPA pouring tens of millions of dollars into them, but we don’t because what would we even do with those answers, anyway? There’s often a gap between theory an application, and few things bridge it better than urgency.

I think there’s sometimes a false dichotomy between the, “progress matches on,” and “wisdom of the ancients,” views. To say, “we don’t know how or why XYZ thing was done,” doesn’t imply that the people who did it were wiser than us. It simply demonstrates that they poured time and energy into finding answers that, at least momentarily, have ceased to matter.

Max_Killjoy
2018-09-12, 01:55 PM
Emphasis mine. I think this is important, and pretty broadly applicable. In general, we in the modern world definitely know more about all sorts of practical fields and their underpinnings than any culture that's preceded us. But our understanding of how to apply that generalized knowledge will always tend to center around questions we need or want the answers to. In the modern world, these are questions like, “how can we make safe, fire-retardant materials? How can we reduce the recoil on this rifle? How can we store potential electrical energy? How can we put cats on the blockchain?”

The questions our predecessors had, on the other hand, are often completely irrelevant to us, and so we haven’t really bothered to explore them. If we don’t understand medieval crossbow design, it’s not because we lack generalized knowledge of the relevant facts. It’s because, outside of hobbyist and academic circles, we (as a civilization) don’t care. How do you build the pyramids? We don’t care. How do you transport goods hundreds of miles with Stone Age tools? We don’t care. How do you optimize the durability of a sword? We don’t care. We could probably answer these questions if we had DARPA pouring tens of millions of dollars into them, but we don’t because what would we even do with those answers, anyway?

I think there’s sometimes a false dichotomy between the, “progress matches on,” and “wisdom of the ancients,” views. To say, “we don’t know how or why XYZ thing was done,” doesn’t imply that the people who did it were wiser than us. It simply demonstrates that they poured time and energy into finding answers that, at least momentarily, have ceased to matter.

It's so often presented as "We don't know how they did this, so we'd never be able to duplicate it!"

But as you note, if we really wanted to build a big stack-of-stone structure with that level of precision or better, we'd figure it out.

I get really sick of both extremes out there, the "ancient people had secrets we'll never fathom" claim, and the "no on way ancient people built this, there must be some dramatic hidden history, like aliens or a lost high-tech civilization" claim.

Rerem115
2018-09-12, 02:06 PM
That's not the vibe I'm getting; at least in my mind, it's almost more "technology marches on". Medieval armor and weapon smiths spent generations working out the optimal techniques for crafting swords and armor, but when swords and armor became obsolete, their skills were no longer necessary, and thus were lost.

While these techniques are/were remarkable, the are still obsolete. If you wanted to create a suit of armor today, we have the materials and the technology to create one that is simply better than anything from the middle ages. What we can't do is do that with steel and leather, at least until we figure out how they did it in the first place.

wolflance
2018-09-12, 02:37 PM
Sorry but I think you are totally wrong about this.


You would think this would be the case, but it has turned out we had a lot to learn from medieval sources about armor and swords - in fact they were looking back to medieval sources on how to improve armor for tanks and airplanes in WW2. We have only very recently began to match the quality and performance of medieval antique armor and swords and only by following their techniques. Even the magnificent harness they made for that NOVA documentary 'secrets of the shining knight' which stopped a musket at 20 paces did not have as good of a micro-structure as the 16th Century Greenwich harness they were copying, based on the electron microscope scan.


Though it is true that they were able to make small (steel) prod crossbows, the rest of this is gibberish in my opinion. From all the period sources, the steel prod weapons, even the small ones, were as strong or stronger than the composite prod.

I'm aware of Todds tests that that video referred to, and I've talked to Todd. Without getting into too many details, he has not done certain things with the string in particular which would significantly affect performance of his steel prod weapons, but would also make them a lot more dangerous to use and a much higher liability risk. He doesn't even like selling the more powerful of the ones he does make because of the liability - they are dangerous weapons. If you talk to him about buying one he tends to encourage the lighter grade weapons.

The truth is we still have a lot to learn in this field, but it is guys like Todd (and a handful of others around the world) who are in the process of figuring it out.

G
Actually Tod's replicas, and the NOVA Greenwich breastplate, are not as good as the originals because they are trying to replicate how medieval people did it, or put it in other words, they are trying to match the properties of the originals as much as they feasibly could for the sake of historical accuracy.

If given a bit of leeway on the historical accuracy though, one can certainly make an even tougher steel breastplate than the original Greenwich breastplate using today's metallurgy and high precision heat treatment, or make a better, tougher, springier steel prod than the medieval steel crossbow.

For the breastplate, its performance basically rely on the hardness/toughness, i.e. the quality of the material that made the armor. As long as one can made better, tougher steel, theoretically there isn't a upper limit on how much you can make the breastplate even tougher.

For crossbow, things are not so simple, for its performance relies on not just the material, but design as well. Better materials and craftsmanship can only improve the efficiency of the design, but NO amount of tinkering or improvement on the material of crossbow's prod, stock, string, or mechanism can overcome the law of physics. The 7 inches short powerstroke on medieval steel crossbow is pretty much the hard cap that is impossible to overcome.

While Tod's safer string may have affected the performance of his crossbow significantly, the same can be said on strings use on composite crossbow as well - so it's even. Since string is made of organic material, it's understandable that modern people may not be able to make them as good as the oldies.


I don't believe they would have adopted a weaker weapon.
Many militaries actually do that all the time for various reasons - you don't see modern armies equipping every soldier with a heavy machine gun, even though it is significantly more powerful and longer ranged than assault rifle. I know this is a rather bad analogy, but you get the idea.

The only advantage of composite crossbow over steel prod is that it has higher efficiency and thus hits harder/farther. On basically all other aspects, it is unanimously an inferior weapon to steel crossbow. Why wouldn't medieval armies want to switch?

(And it's not necessary weaker too, just dial the draw weight to 3,000 lbs and see if any composite can match with that power)

Max_Killjoy
2018-09-12, 02:47 PM
That's not the vibe I'm getting; at least in my mind, it's almost more "technology marches on". Medieval armor and weapon smiths spent generations working out the optimal techniques for crafting swords and armor, but when swords and armor became obsolete, their skills were no longer necessary, and thus were lost.

While these techniques are/were remarkable, the are still obsolete. If you wanted to create a suit of armor today, we have the materials and the technology to create one that is simply better than anything from the middle ages. What we can't do is do that with steel and leather, at least until we figure out how they did it in the first place.

If we wanted to create a suit of armor to defend against swords, spears, and early firearms, it would look very much like the height of full plate harness.

People like to ask "what would you make a sword out of using modern materials?"... and the answer is... steel. Steel is remarkable for making swords, and armor to defend against swords.

Galloglaich
2018-09-12, 02:51 PM
Emphasis mine. I think this is important, and pretty broadly applicable. To expand a bit:

In general, we in the modern world definitely know more about all sorts of practical fields and their underpinnings than any culture that's preceded us. But our understanding of how to apply that generalized knowledge will always tend to center around questions we need or want the answers to.

I guess I am a little bit in the middle on this. But I feel the need to play Devil's Advocate on the "Ancient Wisdom" side as a reality check if you will forgive me.

I very much appreciate modern innovations like air conditioning, indoor plumbing, the internet, and air travel. But I do see the limitations and sometimes hidden flaws in these things.

I think we go about learning and producing in a different way today than they did, and our modern way has had spectacular results in many areas, (though quite a bit of the tech we use today from computers to cars, has surprisingly long and rich chain of pre-industrial antecedents) but I think we tend to grossly overestimate how much we really understand, and forget how many of our newest and most sophisticated innovations have been dead-ends or mistakes. Margarine or Crisco didn't actually turn out to be better for our health than butter, asbestos wasn't the miracle fire-retardant safety fabric of the future, DDT wasn't the perfect bug zapper that we thought it was. The Fukushima Daichi power plant wasn't the miracle energy source they had hoped. "Disposable" plastic seems to have a downside. WW1 sadly wasn't the "War to End All Wars".

We understand a LOT compared to previous eras, but we also frequently overestimate our understanding of complex systems, and we tend to vastly oversimplify and dismiss the achievements of the pre-industrial world. Our approach is very efficient and effective at certain things, but it isn't fool proof our superior in every way to other older or just different systems for organizing society and figuring out the world.


In the modern world, these are questions like, “how can we make safe, fire-retardant materials? How can we reduce the recoil on this rifle? How can we store potential electrical energy without lithium? How can we put cats on the blockchain?”

But to each of these I would add "- and make BIG buck$$$". Nothing we do today is made outside of the profit motive, and increasingly extreme pressure for short term profits above all other priorities. Of course they liked money five hundred or a thousand years ago too, but one difference about a Cathedral or a town hall or a sword or a suit of armor or a bridge made in say, 1450 vs today, is that to a large degree, the creation of that item, building or artifact in the pre-industrial era was a sacred act to the producer. This is probably true for the pyramid as well. Without deviating into religion, people found spiritual gratification in the act of creation, they found personal expression in it. Art and artsianship were linked, and not necessarily at the expense of efficiency.

http://www.campinglesbouleaux.fr/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Strasbourg-5.jpg

When they built the Strasbourg Cathedral, which is by the way taller than the Pyramid at Giza, there were only about 30,000 people living in Strasbourg. What city of a million or five million in US can produce something like that today? What is the most beautiful and impressive building in say, Phoenix Arizona today?

https://www.travel4pictures.com/img/s/v-3/p1471480473-3.jpg

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2677/4299141783_b4721bd5e5.jpg https://i.pinimg.com/originals/d4/b2/4e/d4b24eaf5bfd05c72bf672d1a03c1f7e.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/3d/5a/29/3d5a2917d6cd0657b4bc211bff493d12.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/6c/75/7a/6c757a97cad28b1cfd08eb9ebe42dfae.jpg


When it comes to things like armor, crossbows and swords, there is more to emulating the highest achievements of centuries past than just looking at something in an electron microscope. It turned out we had to learn something about their culture as well. They approached making ordinary household objects, weapons, ships, buildings with a passion and level of commitment that in some way goes against modern economic theories. That, in part, is why so many of their creations can still be seen today - why you can walk into the Strasbourg Cathedral, the Santa Croce in Florence, or the Hajia Sophia yourself and walk the same steps that Albrecht Durer or Machiavelli or Emperor Justinian did centuries ago. They made things to last.

How many buildings that we make today will still be standing in 500 years?


We could probably answer these questions if we had DARPA pouring tens of millions of dollars into them, but we don’t because what would we even do with those answers, anyway? There’s often a gap between theory an application, and few things bridge it better than urgency.

I think there’s sometimes a false dichotomy between the, “progress matches on,” and “wisdom of the ancients,” views. To say, “we don’t know how or why XYZ thing was done,” doesn’t imply that the people who did it were wiser than us. It simply demonstrates that they poured time and energy into finding answers that, at least momentarily, have ceased to matter.

While I generally agree, the process to accomplish these things isn't always so straightforward. As an example, the Germans have retained some elements of their old medieval apprenticeship system as part of how they train skilled labor. This has contributed to significant macro-economic advantages especially in the manufacturing sector, and England as one of their economic rivals, has tried for years to figure out how to emulate this and institute their own apprenticeship system.

But it hasn't been so easy - there are cultural aspects to this which are not easily quantifiable with a reductionist Cartesian type of approach.

https://www.economist.com/britain/2014/04/26/keeping-up-with-the-schmidts

This itself does reflect on the subject at hand - places like Solingen were centers of sword making 1000 years ago (for example the Ulfberht swords) and are still world leaders in producing blades and knives, now days more for chefs and certain industrial purposes. If it was so easy to copy this kind of success many countries would quickly do so.


G

Galloglaich
2018-09-12, 03:23 PM
That's not the vibe I'm getting; at least in my mind, it's almost more "technology marches on". Medieval armor and weapon smiths spent generations working out the optimal techniques for crafting swords and armor, but when swords and armor became obsolete, their skills were no longer necessary, and thus were lost.

While these techniques are/were remarkable, the are still obsolete. If you wanted to create a suit of armor today, we have the materials and the technology to create one that is simply better than anything from the middle ages. What we can't do is do that with steel and leather, at least until we figure out how they did it in the first place.

But they are actually not obsolete. That is why they spent millions of dollars in WW2 studying medieval armor, swords and other steel artifacts trying to figure out how to make lighter and stronger armor for tanks, ships and aircraft ... which they eventually did by the way by essentially rediscovering advanced heat treatment processes that they had developed in the medieval era. But then they had a second problem in how to produce it efficiently with modern techniques, modern materials and modern workers. The latter proved harder than the former.

It was worth pursing for the same reason it was in the 1400's - tempered steel armor can be just as strong at half the weight. Very important for tanks and airplanes.

G

Vinyadan
2018-09-12, 03:40 PM
Mayan dude ain't got crap compared to Triptolemus, the man with the raddest wheelchair in the oikoumene.

https://image.ibb.co/jkDakU/O28_2_Triptolemos.jpg


About crossbows, I remember reading about just how much better mOdern crossbows have become in the last decade. It's been a massive improvement, and various technologies are still being adapted and implemented, now that the crossbow market has enlarged. The thing is, modern crossbows are still not up-to-date with what modern technology could do; people still have a lot of room for implementation.

Galloglaich
2018-09-12, 03:41 PM
Actually Tod's replicas, and the NOVA Greenwich breastplate, are not as good as the originals because they are trying to replicate how medieval people did it, or put it in other words, they are trying to match the properties of the originals as much as they feasibly could for the sake of historical accuracy.

That doesn't make sense - if they were following the ancient techniques (which they really weren't, as they were using electric furnaces and blow torches and so on) they in theory should have gotten the same results not inferior results. They actually smelted their own iron IMO because that was the surest way to get iron appropriate for making the type of steel they needed for the breastplate. It wasn't quite as good because they still don't know all of the secrets of the Augsburg via Greenwich armorers.


If given a bit of leeway on the historical accuracy though, one can certainly make an even tougher steel breastplate than the original Greenwich breastplate using today's metallurgy and high precision heat treatment, or make a better, tougher, springier steel prod than the medieval steel crossbow.

I'd love to see somebody prove that. I think they could make BIG buck$$$ too, the military has a need for light ballistic armor that can stop bullets.

There have been many people claiming to be able to make wootz steel with modern techniques but I have yet to see any real proof that anyone has actually done it.


For the breastplate, its performance basically rely on the hardness/toughness, i.e. the quality of the material that made the armor. As long as one can made better, tougher steel, theoretically there isn't a upper limit on how much you can make the breastplate even tougher.

It's also flexibility / springiness and shape.



For crossbow, things are not so simple, for its performance relies on not just the material, but design as well. Better materials and craftsmanship can only improve the efficiency of the design, but NO amount of tinkering or improvement on the material of crossbow's prod, stock, string, or mechanism can overcome the law of physics. The 7 inches short powerstroke on medieval steel crossbow is pretty much the hard cap that is impossible to overcome.


Many militaries actually do that all the time for various reasons - you don't see modern armies equipping every soldier with a heavy machine gun, even though it is significantly more powerful and longer ranged than assault rifle. I know this is a rather bad analogy, but you get the idea.

The only advantage of composite crossbow over steel prod is that it has higher efficiency and thus hits harder/farther. On basically all other aspects, it is unanimously an inferior weapon to steel crossbow. Why wouldn't medieval armies want to switch?

(And it's not necessary weaker too, just dial the draw weight to 3,000 lbs and see if any composite can match with that power)

I understand your theory, but I just dismiss it - I have read a lot of accounts from across ~400 years of military crossbow use in Europe, and the ~200 years that the steel prod weapons were in use. Nowhere did I ever read that the steel prod weapons were inferior in terms of power, range or armor penetration. The only downside mentioned for the steel is that it had a tendency to snap in extremely cold conditions, whereas the composite actually performed better in extreme cold. For this reason many military units, militias and armies operating in places like up in the Alps or in the Baltic region (for example the Teutonic Order) preferred and continued to use the composite prod weapons especially in Winter.

That said by the way, it's worth noting they also did have steel and also wooden prod weapons. The latter were called something like Knottelarmbrüste and were considered the weakest and least efficient of all the crossbows, ranked with regular Russian and Hungarian self bows and issued to the relatively untrained troops and levies used for castle defense. They also had Mongol and Ottoman recurve bows available but considered the heavier crossbows (like the statchel grade, or 'stinger' types) more effective in combat.

This is a good article which gets into some of the details of that and the various types and grades of crossbows:

http://deremilitari.org/2014/03/horses-and-crossbows-two-important-warfare-advantages-of-the-teutonic-order-in-prussia/

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-12, 03:42 PM
Mayan dude ain't got crap compared to Tryphon, the man with the raddest wheelchair in the oikoumene.

https://image.ibb.co/jkDakU/O28_2_Triptolemos.jpg

Rad ride!



About crossbows, I remember reading about just how much better mOdern crossbows have become in the last decade. It's been a massive improvement, and various technologies are still being adapted and implemented, now that the crossbow market has enlarged. The thing is, modern crossbows are still not up-to-date with what modern technology could do; people still have a lot of room for implementation.

That's true it's evolving in a very interesting new futuristic direction, hunting bows too. I don't even recognize them when I walk into an archery shop and they are incredibly expensive.

G

jayem
2018-09-12, 05:24 PM
That doesn't make sense - if they were following the ancient techniques (which they really weren't, as they were using electric furnaces and blow torches and so on) they in theory should have gotten the same results not inferior results. They actually smelted their own iron IMO because that was the surest way to get iron appropriate for making the type of steel they needed for the breastplate. It wasn't quite as good because they still don't know all of the secrets of the Augsburg via Greenwich armorers.
Not necessarily. They've thrown away (some of) the advantages of modern tech, while not gaining the practical experience (and probably doing it quickly). Plus of course they might have overshot.
Which to some extent is still "they don't know the secrets", but it needn't necessarily be dramatic ones or relevant ones.

What I'd like to know is how well canvas (and available fabrics) can stop an arrow when say it's tent distance away. So if it sticks through 10 inches or slowly tumbles to the ground that counts. If so it seems an easy way to get half the benefit of the tustedo a lot easier, say for Harold at hastings. Obviously fabric is expensive.
On a similar idea, pavises on wheels, easier to drag (and can even act as a personal cart) on the march. In battle push forward if you need to adjust firing position. You could possibly even use as a thinly manned shield wall. [ETA oh it's called a mantlet]

Mr Beer
2018-09-12, 05:47 PM
Rounding out Concealed, Sidearm, and War with Bows and Crossbows gets us up to 5 which is close enough. Are polearms/pikes different enough to other War weapons to have their own category, or would it be the case (as I suspect) that if polearms had their own category then other weapons within group should as well?
Also, were early handcannons/muskets common enough in parts of Europe 1250-1350 to be included, and if so should they have a category or would being grouped with crossbows be ok?

If I was going to use Concealed/Sidearm/War for melee weapons then I would:

- Consider polearms, pikes etc. as War.

- Keep it to two types of missile weapons max. To keep the theme of what you can cart around in public, Hunting (simple bows, crossbows and slings) and Battlefield (heavy longbows, large complicated crossbows and gonnes).

Please note that is based on my opinion of one method to heavily simplify weapon characteristics for game purposes, rather than personal expertise in the area.

rrgg
2018-09-12, 06:07 PM
While I'm definitely not the one to ask when it comes to the details, from what I know of early firearms, the crossbows probably were more accurate, at least on an individual basis than large-bore, unrifled arquebuses.

I wouldn't be surprised if a small number of expert crossbowmen managed to inflict more damage than the arquebusers; in skirmish and siege based combat, accuracy would actually be more important than either the rate of fire or the volley factor granted by gunpowder. If the enemy is either hiding behind walls or behind other cover, one well-placed bolt could do much more than a massed volley of unaimed bullets.

This is something I feel that I need to keep harping on. But the all too common mistake people keep making is that they assume early gunpowder weapons must have somehow just been destined to evolve into a big line of redcoats standing out in the field firing volleys.

As a disclaimer, I'm much more familiar with the sides of the longbow vs gun debate that was going on in England at the time, but one thing that gets made clear is that guns at the time were seen as a really terrible massed volley weapon in a lot of ways. First there's the issue that if you have too many men shooting at once in a condensed area then they end up blinding and deafening each other with their own noise and smoke. But it's also a weapon that only allows the first one or two ranks to shoot at a time meaning that it doesn't scale very well at all. The larger the number of shot you try to field the deeper the formations you have to use and the smaller the proportion that can actually shoot effectively at any time. From Matthew Sutcliffe in 1595:


A small number of targetters if once they come to reach shot with their swordes, put great numbers of them out of the field. Put case that some come shorte; yet sure not manie, considering that onely the first rankes of shot can discharge, and that all doe not hit, and few mortally, especially if the first targets be of proofe, and the men march resolutely to the charge. Neither can shot retirie where many of them are in the field, nor save themselves in any place, but targetters wil come to them.

Shot in a deep formation could cycle their ranks after firing by countermarching, but this was still a very slow and tiring process. Thomas Digges in 1578 estimated that it would take an army of 10,000 shot at least a quarter of an hour to complete just one complete volley with every man. With 10,000 archers on the other hand, no matter what formation you put them in then even if they weren't quite as effective as shooting directly, every man could still contribute to the battle by shooting into the air from wherever he's standing. He could even shoot over the heads of friendly pikemen or a small line of friendly arquebusiers if he needed to.

The fact that longbowmen could stay in place while shooting while shot, when used in large numbers, had to keep running forwards and backwards to take turns shooting and reloading, is even one of the reasons given for why, starting around 1580 or so, longbowmen continue being told to wear plated coats or heavy mail shirts while arquebusiers and musketeers start being ordered to wear no armor at all except a helmet, even though the latter were generally paid more and held in much higher regard.


Instead, arquebuses' greatest strength was that they were considered a fantastic weapon for any kind of small skirmish, ambushing, guerilla warfare etc. In small numbers, good marksmen could more easily conceal themselves and pick out individual targets. The high velocity of the projectile meant that he didn't need to be as accurate when it came to estimating a target's distance (which tended to be almost impossible on broken and unfamiliar ground anyways) it couldn't easily be dodged, and it required much less lead time on a moving target (though hitting a moving target with a single shot weapon still wasn't easy. The late medieval tactic of telling skirmishers to slowly walk side to side while shooting continued to be recommended against arquebuses as well for quite a while). If you're shooting a bow or crossbow at a distance where you need to lead the target by one second, but is behind cover and only sticks his head out for a second at a time to shoot, then there's not a whole lot you can do about it.

The arquebus was especially useful when fighting on any sort of broken terrain, such as in woods, mountains, towns, etc. Anywhere there might be some sort of hedge, ditch, wall, or other obstacle to make it harder for enemies to run up and hit him with a sword before he can finish reloading. Additionally any sort of cover such as trees or wagons allows him to to hide and stay protected from missiles during the long reloading process. As Rich put it in 1574 ". . . euery Bushe, euery Hedge, euery Ditch, euery Tree, and almost euery Moalhil is a sufficient safgarde for a shotte, where the Archer is little worse, but on a playne."

Firearms were also great at penetrating shields and armor, especially at short ranges. Even if the enemy has a shield or breastplate strong enough to protect him from arquebus fire at 50 yards, it still might not protect him from an arquebusier shooting from 2 yards away as he tries to slowly climb out of a muddy ditch with his heavy shield. And even if he does make it out, the light skirmishers when small in number can usually just run away. Alternatively against unarmored opponents at under 100 yards, larger caliber weapons like the musket could be loaded with multiple smaller bullets, turning it into a giant shotgun.

From Sutcliffe again:


The force of shot is greater in skirmish, then in set battelles. For shot if they be driven to stand thicke have no use. As the unprofitable number of at the battell of Moncontour, and Dreux: and other inounters in the late warres of France, declare sufficiently.

I think the question for me is how crossbows fit into all this, since it's hard to find as many sources which compare the two weapons directly. (It's best not to rely on two completely different authors' definitions of concepts like "effective range" if you can help it. I doubt that fourquevaux was trying to say that 100-200 paces was the maximum distance a crossbow can shoot). It seems to share some properties with bows and some with arquebuses, so does that mean its uses were somewhere inbetween? Or was it used in a completely different way to either?

Things like fourquevaux referring to crossbowmen who had made names for themselves in "skirmishes" seems to suggest that it may have been closer to the skirmish weapon side of things. Pietro Monte considered the crossbow a weapon that was difficult to dodge or deflect in time like the cannon or arquebus:


LXXXIV. ON THE METHODS OF FIGHTING ON FOOT AND IN LIGHT BATTLE OR CONFLICT, WHICH IN THE VERNACULAR WE CALL SKIRMISHING, AND WHICH IS OFTEN DONE TO PROVOKE EACH OTHER.

In provocation or skirmishes on foot, there is little danger when crossbows, arquebuses, or cannons are not used, since anyone can easily bend away from or cover himself against other missiles, as long as we keep a parma or other, similar defensive arm. But in such a place a
man should not be still, so that he is not wounded by any kind of cannon or crossbow, and one must go on the sides as lightly and with as good cover as possible.


But on the other hand the 15th century did see a number of armies fielded with very large proportions of crossbowmen like with the English longbow. Would massed crossbowmen have been able to fight by shooting volleys into the air like archers could, or would they use an early version of the countermarch or split into many small, alternating squads of loose skirmishers (https://imgur.com/a/bJFlVRE)?

Handguns and small artillery seem to have become extremely useful in the 15th century when used in small numbers to support a larger force of for example swiss pikemen. There were occasionally experiments to field armies with much larger numbers of early arquebusiers for example by charles the bold, but in general they didn't end up working too well unless the arquebusiers were used very defensively or for fighting a sort of guerilla warfare. The Spanish in the late 15th century Granada war had to fight on extremely mountainous terrain against an enemy who started using a lot of hit and run "small war" tactics. To combat this they started fielding lots of crossbowmen and very flexible infantry carrying shields, but as the war dragged on the crossbowmen were slowly replaced by arquebusiers.

In either case, once they Joined the war in itally, the spanish found that neither their crossbowmen nor arquebusiers could stand a chance against the Swiss pikemen or the french heavy cavalry in a pitched battle.

rrgg
2018-09-12, 07:27 PM
Regarding the Nova documentary. It has come up on one of these threads before and I don't want to get in another slapfight. But my position is still that I don't think their replica gun or gunpowder charge was as powerful as a lot of originals would have been either. Too many tests like this end up using so little powder that they don't even look worried that the gun might explode. :p

Vinyadan
2018-09-12, 07:51 PM
I've just watched a western movie in which they used cannons to shoot dynamite sticks, fuses alight, without blowing themselves up. Man, those were the times!

gkathellar
2018-09-12, 07:57 PM
I think we go about learning and producing in a different way today than they did, and our modern way has had spectacular results in many areas, (though quite a bit of the tech we use today from computers to cars, has surprisingly long and rich chain of pre-industrial antecedents) but I think we tend to grossly overestimate how much we really understand, and forget how many of our newest and most sophisticated innovations have been dead-ends or mistakes. Margarine or Crisco didn't actually turn out to be better for our health than butter, asbestos wasn't the miracle fire-retardant safety fabric of the future, DDT wasn't the perfect bug zapper that we thought it was. The Fukushima Daichi power plant wasn't the miracle energy source they had hoped. "Disposable" plastic seems to have a downside. WW1 sadly wasn't the "War to End All Wars".

We understand a LOT compared to previous eras, but we also frequently overestimate our understanding of complex systems, and we tend to vastly oversimplify and dismiss the achievements of the pre-industrial world. Our approach is very efficient and effective at certain things, but it isn't fool proof our superior in every way to other older or just different systems for organizing society and figuring out the world.

I absolutely agree, and I hope I didn't imply that the application of modern science to ancient problems would make finding solutions trivial. That's possible, but very unlikely, and experience has tended to demonstrate just the opposite - the hodgepodge of hobbyists and underfunded scholars that are often exploring these questions have not been adequate to answer them, or in many cases even to determine the full scope of those questions. I'm confident that we could solve the problems that ancient people solved, if only because we know it can be done, but I don't think it would be simple or easy in the majority of cases. Might we be able to do it a little faster, or even improve on ancient solutions given time? That I'm fairly confident in, but that "given time," is a big proviso, and we have the advantage of being able to look at those ancient solutions for reference.

For what it's worth, I think the assumption that the problems of archaeology and medieval studies would be easy to solve if you just had some Real Scientists (that sound was my most exasperated sigh) look at them is not unique to these fields. (https://www.xkcd.com/793/) One of the strengths of modern science is that it builds towards pragmatic solutions from a highly conceptual framework, allowing us to examine the full implications of those solutions as they relate to the framework, and then expand outwards. We begin from first principles, and that's generally a strength - but I think there's a real problem in the sciences with underestimating how much work is required to get from theoretical grounding to practical implementation (A.I. research is the easiest example by far). It's inadequate to simply say, "oh, we know more about metallurgy, we could do that," until we've actually demonstrated that yes we do know how it was done and yes we could do it. Theory and practice are a dialectic.


But to each of these I would add "- and make BIG buck$$$". Nothing we do today is made outside of the profit motive, and increasingly extreme pressure for short term profits above all other priorities.

This I also agree with, and I think it's terribly misguided in light of how much great scientific work comes out of universities and, "let's just kinda do stuff and hope we find something cool," organizations like DARPA.


Of course they liked money five hundred or a thousand years ago too, but one difference about a Cathedral or a town hall or a sword or a suit of armor or a bridge made in say, 1450 vs today, is that to a large degree, the creation of that item, building or artifact in the pre-industrial era was a sacred act to the producer. This is probably true for the pyramid as well. Without deviating into religion, people found spiritual gratification in the act of creation, they found personal expression in it. Art and artsianship were linked, and not necessarily at the expense of efficiency.

Without wanting to disagree, I'll raise that there may be a bit of sampling bias in play. The things which have endured, and which have garnered the most attention, are likely to be those made with real care and attention, whereas pedestrian junk is less likely to have survived for reasons of its make and the energy people put into preserving it. I don't think that I'm optimistic enough about human nature or pessimistic enough about the modern era to think that our mass-produced trash is a novelty on any level other than the scale at which we can produce it.

I was talking to a traditional Japanese carpentry master just the other day, and he was sort of proudly bitter about how he never gets repeat business to do repairs, because he makes stuff too well. He joked kind of glumly, "I need to learn how to use plywood and PVC." But the thing is, in three-hundred years, the tables he made will still be standing, and people in the year 2300 could very well look at them and say, "wow, they really knew how to make things to last in the early 21st century."


When it comes to things like armor, crossbows and swords, there is more to emulating the highest achievements of centuries past than just looking at something in an electron microscope. It turned out we had to learn something about their culture as well. They approached making ordinary household objects, weapons, ships, buildings with a passion and level of commitment that in some way goes against modern economic theories. That, in part, is why so many of their creations can still be seen today - why you can walk into the Strasbourg Cathedral, the Santa Croce in Florence, or the Hajia Sophia yourself and walk the same steps that Albrecht Durer or Machiavelli or Emperor Justinian did centuries ago. They made things to last.

How many buildings that we make today will still be standing in 500 years?

The philosophy of architecture is interesting here, because "building to last" and "building to be functional" have only become really truly divergent in the last hundred or so years. But just because they may require more regular maintenance, I don't think it's fair to discount the care and attention that went into structures like the Louvre Grand Pyramid, or the Empire State Building. It's also become a lot easier to make really weird buildings, so "architecture as modern art" has definitely become a thing and that changes the nature of what's being done.

But I grant you that the ease of modern construction methods means it's often more practical to do periodic fixes, and that means the really cool stuff isn't built to last the way it once was.


While these techniques are/were remarkable, the are still obsolete. If you wanted to create a suit of armor today, we have the materials and the technology to create one that is simply better than anything from the middle ages. What we can't do is do that with steel and leather, at least until we figure out how they did it in the first place.

That's not so clear. Certainly we know how to build armor relevant to combat as it's encountered today, but protracted melee engagement is an altogether different animal that places very different requirements on personal protection. It's nice to think that our understanding of ceramic polymers and nanofabrics and blahblahblah would facilitate the creation of superior close-combat armor, that remains speculative. Certainly a knife-proof vest is not the equal of a breastplate, and among other things will deteriorate far faster if both are cared for reasonably well.


If we wanted to create a suit of armor to defend against swords, spears, and early firearms, it would look very much like the height of full plate harness.

People like to ask "what would you make a sword out of using modern materials?"... and the answer is... steel. Steel is remarkable for making swords, and armor to defend against swords.

Hell, for most intents and purposes, "modern materials" ends up meaning "fancy steel." There's a reason we don't make our boats out of kevlar.

Max_Killjoy
2018-09-12, 09:22 PM
Hell, for most intents and purposes, "modern materials" ends up meaning "fancy steel." There's a reason we don't make our boats out of kevlar.


Generally true, but, well... https://www.google.com/search?as_q=kevlar+boat+hull

Epimethee
2018-09-13, 01:05 AM
Sometimes you are really baiting me...

I have some longer answer in the way, about trade roads and progress, but as i am currently moving my stuffs to a new place, it take me more time than intended... so you just wait.

Still i wanted to adress briefly the question of Ancient Aliens.
First, it need to be said that the famous Palenque stone look like a rocket if you forget the actual mayan iconography.
That’s a bit like using angels in classical painting to prove the existence of flying peoples: utterly meaningless and disconnected from the culture who produced it.

More to the point, the cultural history of The ancient aliens hypothesis is fascinating. It roughly start with theosophy.
By the end of the XIX century some spiritual forces were like incarnated in the Alien. Theosophy also proposed the scenario of a deep antiquity, of a cosmic connection between earth and the galaxy.

Note that positivism was by this point changing brutally the place of humanity, but also that things like darwinism were used to imagine life in other planets. Theosophy was like in between, trying to reshape spirituality in the new century.

Highly influential, theosophy was used by none other than Lovecraft to craft his work, giving to the Alien hypothesis most of its aesthetical Power of fascination.
(Note that Hubbard, Founder of Scientology was a pulp writer and we have some letters he wrote to Lovecraft suggesting to build a religion upon his work.)

Then, after the war, the french Pauwels and Bergier, also editing Lovecraft, would propose the scenario of Ancient Aliens mostly formed but for thé first time as a concrete hypothesis they try to demonstrate. From there you go to a gallery of crooks and charlatans, like Stitchin or Von Däniken.

But, as Lovecraft and theosophy hint to, the subject is heavily tied to Identity politics. In a lot of case, it is a new way of articulating a foundation myth, like in India today, or reshaping racist arguments for thé XXI century.
Read She, from Haggard. The only way Africa could have civilization in this narrative is trough withe people. The same dynamic is present in changing the ( jews, viking, roman, etc but mostly occidental) for an alien : natives could not do it by themselves...

Then you have some side dishes, the invention of the Nazi Ufo ( by Miguel Serrano mostly, an argentinian who intended to make nazism fun for the cultural landscape of the 70’) or the huge influence of soviet propaganda using the scenario as a Troyan horse for discrediting occidental science.

So the subject is really fascinating, taken as a history of mentalities. I’m not sure i will go much deeper here: discuting it correctly implies to adress political and religious topics. But you may start with the very good ( but a bit dated according to his new research on the subject) «*Cult of Alien Gods*» from Jason Colavito.

Brother Oni
2018-09-13, 02:08 AM
That's true it's evolving in a very interesting new futuristic direction, hunting bows too. I don't even recognize them when I walk into an archery shop and they are incredibly expensive.

For the best example of this, compare the Olympic recurve to a traditional recurve, let alone the science and engineering involved in the compound bow:


https://jordansequillion.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/bow-anatomy.jpg

https://classic-bow.com/store/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/product_0_1_0185.jpg

https://ke-courses-production.s3.amazonaws.com/asset_files/production/35/attachments/original/bow-compound-labled.jpg

snowblizz
2018-09-13, 03:56 AM
I guess I am a little bit in the middle on this. But I feel the need to play Devil's Advocate on the "Ancient Wisdom" side as a reality check if you will forgive me.
Let's do that shall we.


When they built the Strasbourg Cathedral, which is by the way taller than the Pyramid at Giza, there were only about 30,000 people living in Strasbourg. What city of a million or five million in US can produce something like that today? What is the most beautiful and impressive building in say, Phoenix Arizona today? It also took over 200 years to compelte. Every city that cares to? Duno, but I'm thinking the citizens of Phoenix Arizona don't care to build a medieaval cathedral. Or they would have. It's a matter of will (which normally is expressed in dollars today).



That, in part, is why so many of their creations can still be seen today - why you can walk into the Strasbourg Cathedral, the Santa Croce in Florence, or the Hajia Sophia yourself and walk the same steps that Albrecht Durer or Machiavelli or Emperor Justinian did centuries ago. They made things to last.
No the reason why we can see so many of their creations is because people the last 500 years has found it worthwhile to keep, maintain, refurbish, restore, improve, ruin and rebuild said places and objects. Not because of some "medieaval inner magical essence". Nothing last forever without maintenance, even the pyramids are pale shadows of their original selves.

It's not too far off the truth to say that Europe has the world's youngest medieaval, renaissance, 17th, 18th and 19th century buildings. A surprisingly large number are only 73 years old...

Even discounting direct malicious actions precious few "built to last" structures would remain if they were untouched since their magical everlasting creation. For every impressively preserved castle there are probably 10 piles of stones that show how "built to last" looks like when noone maintained it.


How many buildings that we make today will still be standing in 500 years?
[/QUOTE] Any and all buildings people deem worth saving, maintaining and keeping for the next 500 years regardless of how we built them.

Marcus Amakar
2018-09-13, 04:23 AM
If I was going to use Concealed/Sidearm/War for melee weapons then I would:

- Consider polearms, pikes etc. as War.

- Keep it to two types of missile weapons max. To keep the theme of what you can cart around in public, Hunting (simple bows, crossbows and slings) and Battlefield (heavy longbows, large complicated crossbows and gonnes).

Please note that is based on my opinion of one method to heavily simplify weapon characteristics for game purposes, rather than personal expertise in the area.

This sounds perfect for my requirements, thank you.

I was going to say that thrown weapons could be a sixth but then I realised that they have their key attribute built in: when you throw it, you no longer have that weapon in your possession. :smalltongue:

Armour isn't as important, but would a tripartite division make sense for 1250-1350; textile, mail, plate?

Brother Oni
2018-09-13, 09:54 AM
Armour isn't as important, but would a tripartite division make sense for 1250-1350; textile, mail, plate?

In an European context, it seems reasonable to me. Note that in the 13th Century, textile and mail armours would be supplemented by large shields, with shields mostly disappearing off the battlefield by the middle 14th Century as the quality of plate harness improved.

The Jack
2018-09-13, 11:16 AM
I feel almost offended that such sensationalist nonsense gets credit here. If people now wanted to put their time and effort into building cathedrals or creating plate armour, they'd easily surpass what was done before. Using modern materials and means isn't a disqualifier, and learning from past itterations from a device is absurdly mundane; basing a new helmet design on a sallet is hardly different from basing the CPU's of 2019 on what we've got in 2018. Damascus steel is inferior to what can be made now, and I have doubts that greek fire was any more dangerous than modern napalm, thermates or willy pete.

As said, people don't care about building grandiose cathedrals any more. We don't make stuff as good because we're not able to, we don't because we don't want to. Sociological and economic factors deter us from doing what we used to do. In earlier society, people could laboriously engage in architectural marvels because they weren't spending billions on films and videogames; filling a monastery with paintings, carvings, etchings, mosaics and grotesques was something done because people spent their lives in these buildings and wanted to fill time. Armourers did their best because there was little point in rushing the job; armour was one of the most expensive purchases you could make for much of history and it would've been one of the most prestigious metalworking professions out there and they wanted to show skill and pride in work, as the commission work relies on reputation.

Compare and contrast to today, where things are manufactured and audiences are larger. Reputation matters less when you can fake reviews and you can't go all out on your home or workplace when the building is rented and most are expendable low-wage workers who work a distance from home. You can't feasibly try for a richly ornamented new bridge when you're using taxpayer's money in a democracy ( A four year political cycle makes long term constructions like nuclear power a terrible choice, because your government will pay for it and the next government will reap the benefits)

The way everything works is very different; people aren't going to volunteer to make something beautiful, they're going to want to get paid and they do their best to get the most return for the least investment. But in the event someone does change the system in way that favours this kind of work ethic, I'm sure we could build neogothic skyscrapers and Greenwich tactical armours that vastly exceed the capabilities of our forebears in every conceivable way.

Galloglaich
2018-09-13, 12:01 PM
Sometimes you are really baiting me...

Still i wanted to adress briefly the question of Ancient Aliens.
First, it need to be said that the famous Palenque stone look like a rocket if you forget the actual mayan iconography.
That’s a bit like using angels in classical painting to prove the existence of flying peoples: utterly meaningless and disconnected from the culture who produced it.


I just want to be clear on one thing, because I suspect it might have been "lost in translation" so to speak- I do not espouse or even entertain the "Ancient Aliens" school of thought. I posted that Mayan "Astronaut" Palenque thing as a joke.

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-13, 12:49 PM
Let's do that shall we.

We shall! You are mischaracterizing my post but I'll do my best to clear that up.



It also took over 200 years to compelte. Every city that cares to? Duno, but I'm thinking the citizens of Phoenix Arizona don't care to build a medieaval cathedral. Or they would have. It's a matter of will (which normally is expressed in dollars today).

Actually, it was done in stages - like most of these great buildings. Choir then Chapel then tower, which was then added to, and then another tower and so on. So it's not like they had this one big open pit unfinished construction project continuously for 200 years.

It's also worth noting that the time it took - just as it takes today in the modern attempts to build such Cathedrals, is due to the fact that practically every inch of it is covered in art - frescoes, sculptures, reliefs, and they have to coordinate with the sculptors and painters and so on. Cathedrals from this period, the real medieval ones, in fact can be thought of as temples to art as much as to religion. Many in places like Florence or Siena for example are decorated as much with civic and political art as with religious scenery.

When we make modern giant religious structures today as we still do, the emphasis is less on the artistic aspects of course.

http://www.prosoundtraining.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/mega-church-1.jpg



No the reason why we can see so many of their creations is because people the last 500 years has found it worthwhile to keep, maintain, refurbish, restore, improve, ruin and rebuild said places and objects.

This is a common myth and Trope related to medieval architecture. While it is indeed true that Cathedrals an many other great public buildings have been well and carefully maintained in some of the greatest and most famous tourist cities of Europe - first that in itself is a fairly recent phenomenon, and second, it represents only a small fraction of the medieval (and older) architecture and artifacts which survive to this day.

As a kid I spent a lot of my youth in France, and i was stationed in the Army in Germany as a young man. I've traveled around Italy, Portugal, Spain, the Czech Republic and Belgium among other places. Many areas even in these modern countries are surprisingly neglected. You will find dozens of villages for example in Italy and France alone which were built in the middle ages and have been neglected for centuries, barely maintained - and yet are still standing. Architecture from the 15th and 16th Century is known for it's excellent quality - in many cases it outlasts construction from the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries -with or without maintenance. Even peasant homes are still intact, many still have numerous features left over from 400 and 500 years ago or even more.

In fact the single greatest loss of medieval architecture took place in the mid 20th Century - during World War 2, in the bombings and artillery. The Strasbourg Cathedral itself by the way was struck by Artillery during the Franco Prussian War and hit by bombs in 1944 during WW2. So for every every renovation project there has also been man made destruction as well as that wrought by nature in terms of floods, lightning etc.

And I stand by my earlier statement - I don't think most modern architecture will last a quarter as long, including with maintenance. Many even large buildings are built today with a finite lifespan in mind and steel beams will not last forever.

Though Cathedrals and Churches have always been a draw for pilgrims (especially certain ones) many were neglected until the 20th Century (post WW2) when tourism sharply increased. Today they generate enormous income. As do the museums containing the artwork from the "Renaissance" period which is generally speaking among the very most valuable and popular of any period ever.



Not because of some "medieaval inner magical essence". Nothing last forever without maintenance, even the pyramids are pale shadows of their original selves.

I personally never said anything about magic - that is superstitious thinking on your part. The construction of the Cathedrals, town halls, walls, towers and other major architecture of the period was based on math - from Aristotle, Euclid, Pythagoras and Vitruvius, to fibbonacci and the other great thinkers of antiquity and the medieval period itself. Just like with the swords.

I don't think a city today could afford the stone, could afford the architectural expertise, could find the skilled artists and artisans to make something 460 feet tall with no rebar or i-beams that could last 500 years.

I certainly would not call it magic. I would call it the result of a combination of good education in the core fundamentals of math, with sophisticated culture of artisanship and thousands of iterations of "on the job training" shared in an efficient system of transmission of knowledge. Somethings as I pointed out, Certain European manufacturing sectors like the Germans base their modern industries on to this day (you should really read that Economist article I posted).



It's not too far off the truth to say that Europe has the world's youngest medieaval, renaissance, 17th, 18th and 19th century buildings. A surprisingly large number are only 73 years old...

Some Gothic Cathedrals were finished or substantially added to in the 19th Century, as the ongoing construction on dozens of them stopped when much of Central and Northern Europe shifted to the Protestant faith after the Reformation. However it is completely disengenuous to suggest that the majority of medieval architecture came from the 17th-19th Century.



Even discounting direct malicious actions precious few "built to last" structures would remain if they were untouched since their magical everlasting creation. For every impressively preserved castle there are probably 10 piles of stones that show how "built to last" looks like when noone maintained it.

When it comes to castles most of the wrecked ones were actually blown up intentionally to keep someone from using it as a military asset - some as recently as WW2. The same, incidentally is what happened to the town walls of most medieval towns.

Other less overtly military structures however have remained a really long time intact. Most towns in Italy for example still have their old town hall and accompanying towers and so on, such as this one the Palazzo Publico in Siena. The building itself was built in roughly 5 years by the way and the tower was built in 19 years - much of that time due to the integration of the mechanical clock, at that time a mechanical marvel.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/19/43/06/194306a2430e69de1e941fa0bf68c481.jpg

The Town hall (Palazo Veccio) in Florence also dates from the 13th -14th Century, and though a public building and in part, a fortress, also stands on it's own as a work of art.

https://www.italoamericano.org/sites/default/files/styles/crop_show/public/pv1.jpg?itok=31vUBfUP

https://www.borghiditoscana.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Il-cortile-di-Palazzo-Vecchio-Firenze-Italia.-Author-and-Copyright-Marco-Ramerini-620x330.jpg

https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/07/b5/2e/a8/palazzo-vecchio.jpg


Any and all buildings people deem worth saving, maintaining and keeping for the next 500 years regardless of how we built them.

I'd really like to see it. They are trying to build one in Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagrada_Fam%C3%ADlia#Construction), and it's a nice effort, but so far it's taken 92 years and it's not finished - they are expecting it to be done by 2030. So even with modern industrial capabilities it still takes a long time.

But Barcelona is an ancient city with roots deep in the medieval world and before. I don't think Phoenix could pull this off ;)


Grounding this back into weapons etc., we have indeed learned secrets, and things we hadn't thought of, from very long lasting and careful analysis of medieval arms and armor. For example, the famous Graz test back in the 80's noted that modern steels tended to be more brittle and cracked compared to the older steel which performed better against bullets.

When we first analyzed medieval swords we were baffled by the different types of steel and iron within them, and originally chalked this up to poor quality control. Now thanks to the research of guys like Peter Johnsson we understand much better why there are different types of ferrous metal in different parts of the sword. his analogy of an airplane wing rather than a crowbar turns out to be far more apt.


I don't have time now to answer the other similar thread but I just wanted to add, as for "Damascus" i.e. Wootz crucible steel, sorry no they have NOT been able to emulate that yet. There are some (notably in Russia, who claim to have figured out the process, but this has not been proven as far as I know.

But let me be clear, I am not claiming any kind of magic anything. Or Aliens. I am pointing out that there are complex cultural factors and knowledge tied up within these ancient cultures that we have not yet figured out and are not so simple to emulate, in part because they require a cultural element. My analogy would be to pharmaceuticals derived from Jungles. Yes, it's true that I'm sure our modern chemical industry can synthesize nearly any chemical imaginable, and can even use AI to "imagine" new ones we haven't thought of, but the best new drugs typically emerge, at least in their larval form, from nature. This is why biodiversity is important. (They even occasionally find new drugs in medieval documents (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/getting-medieval-on-bacteria-ancient-books-may-point-to-new-antibiotics/) so the analogy could be taken literally to some extent)

When I 'play devil's advocate' regarding late medieval culture, I'm advocating a kind of cultural diversity.

Certainly when it comes to swords, armor and I also believe crossbows, we still have a lot to learn from what they knew and we have not yet caught up. I believe any qualified modern sword smith or armor smith will tell you the same thing.

G

Max_Killjoy
2018-09-13, 12:56 PM
It is my understanding that modern buildings, especially from the later half of the 20th century onward, are often woefully underbuilt by older standards, whereas the cathedrals etc of an earlier age are staggeringly overbuilt by recent standards.

Even in the short term and just regarding homes, comparing construction of homes from the mid-20th century to those built today... a house built in 1970 will likely be in good shape long after many of the houses built in 2018, given the same level of maintenance for both.

rrgg
2018-09-13, 04:03 PM
If a premodern army needed to transport a certain mass of supplies a certain distance. Would it be more efficient in terms of food/other provisions to use human slaves instead of horses, oxen, or other animals?

Galloglaich
2018-09-13, 05:24 PM
The most efficient way by far is boats or rafts. Even if you have to portage them sometimes.

This image from the Braun and Hogenburg Atlas, a map of Warsaw from the 16th Century, conveys a sense of the busy, almost tom-sawyer like traffic of rafts, barges, and boats down the Vistula river at that time.

https://www.sanderusmaps.com/content/images/kaarten/site_161639-2741.jpg

A lot of rivers in medieval Europe and China were also connected by a vast network of canals precisely for that reason. Including inside the towns and not just in the famous places like Bruges and Venice.

This canal lock dates from the 14th Century for example. It was part of a series of canals and locks linking Hamburg, Lubeck and Luneburg which allowed cargo to be moved from the North to Baltic Sea and back without having to go through the Oresund (i.e. past Denmark). It also allowed heavy cargo like military assets to be quickly moved between the three cities which was vital for their defense, as they were often at war with regional nobles and even Kingdoms.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/40/Palmschleuse.jpg

This is part of an urban canal system in Lucca, Italy.

https://i0.wp.com/www.studia.photos/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Canal-Via-del-Fosso-Lucca-Italy.jpg?fit=484%2C725

The single most popular, safest, easiest and most reliable way to move heavy cargo in pre-industrial times was via water, mainly using barges and rafts. Many of the canals were quite shallow and the purpose was basically to eliminate friction almost like a crude version of a railroad.

Failing that, depending on the terrain, carts were used if it was sufficiently flat, or mules or donkeys for hilly areas. Fast coaches developed from the pony express type mail system in Hungary (the term 'coach' comes from the name of a Hungarian town, Koce or Kocs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kocs)) around the mid-15th Century.

In general suspension for all kinds of carts and carriages improved a lot in the 15th Century and they started using larger wheels. Roads had also gotten a lot better and public infrastructure like bridges were much more widespread and better maintained. So travel by cart or coach quickly became more popular, as it could shelter you from the elements.

Human porters (free or otherwise) were an option of course but not that efficient, and I think were used in for example India but I had not read of widespread use within Europe.

Mere travel over land was also mainly done via horses, especially those which were capable of the ambling gait.



In the winter in areas that got heavy snow, skis, sleighs, sleds and tobaggans were widely used making overland travel actually significantly more convenient if you had enough snow and didn't have the bad luck to run into a storm. The troika was a particularly fast - three horses, two IIRC cantor on the sides while the middle one trots... or is it vice versa? Anyway it could keep up a high speed for a very long duration.


G

Galloglaich
2018-09-13, 05:46 PM
Of course if coastal or seagoing vessels are an option, that is even better.

Knaight
2018-09-13, 06:19 PM
The single most popular, safest, easiest and most reliable way to move heavy cargo in pre-industrial times was via water, mainly using barges and rafts. Many of the canals were quite shallow and the purpose was basically to eliminate friction almost like a crude version of a railroad.

If you allow for oceangoing craft this is still the case.

Vinyadan
2018-09-13, 06:38 PM
Concerning the Sagrada Familia, the reason the works are slow is that they have some extremely restrictive standards concerning funding. If I recall correctly, they only accept entrance tickets by visitors, or something like that.

In general, I would agree with Galloglaich: at least in Italy, older architecture was of remarkable quality. However, it's true that these buildings, if left unmantained, did disappear. There are lots of churches without a roof, and of monasteries turned into rubble by passing time and abandonment, without need of further help. The cathedrals still exist because of the local Opera del Duomo or Domwerk, which are constantly working on them. All you need is a hole in the roof, and, once water starts getting through, the cover is destined to collapse. There's also the fact that there has already been a selection through survival: we only see the buildings that had the potential to survive for that many centuries. We don't see the ones which collapsed, nor do we see St Peter's bell towers, which were already showing cracks during construction and had to be pulled down before they even were completed.

As an aside, for what I have seen, American homes are a lot flimsier than European homes. So a certain surprise to the survival of older buildings is understandable. However, I wouldn't be too surprised if many modern European homes were to last centuries, too, assuming that maintenance is provided. The magic of bricks!

Galloglaich
2018-09-13, 09:07 PM
For every Cathedral or Great Church there are a hundred amazing town halls, bath houses, market buildings, dance halls, guild halls, clock towers, defensive towers and barbicans, ancient harbor cranes, etc. etc.

None of these are Cathedrals or Churches

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/71/Rothenburg_BW_4.JPG/1024px-Rothenburg_BW_4.JPG

https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/pictures/20000/velka/the-clock-tower-in-prague-11291744030SUF.jpg
Town hall clock tower Prague

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e4/Krak%C3%B3w_-_Town_Hall_Tower_01a.jpg/220px-Krak%C3%B3w_-_Town_Hall_Tower_01a.jpg
Town hall tower Krakow

https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/b/medieval-bell-tower-historical-centre-bruges-brugge-belgium-september-ancient-clock-brugge-belgium-september-45059426.jpg
Clock tower Bruges

https://www.reiserat.de/img/reiserat/!-ulm-rathaus-2.jpg
Rathaus Ulm

https://de.travello.com/f/p/2009/10/06/33252.l.jpg
Rathaus Breslau / Wroclaw

https://data.luebeck-tourismus.de/typo3temp/GB/csm_AS_Rathaus_01_a__S-E_Arndt_02_f7b062_8bfbfc4cb0.jpg
Rathaus Lubeck

https://media.touristtube.com/u201246/The-Brick-Main-Holsten-Gate-Towers-of-Lubeck-in-the-Snow-in-Germany-1418053808213.JPG
Gate Towers Lubeck

http://www.bremen.citysam.de/fotos-bremen-p/altstadt/rathaus/rathaus-bremen-1.jpg
Rathaus Bremen

https://assets.isango.com/productimages/product/2209/venice_26579_1.jpg
Palace of the Doge (mayor) of Venice

https://www.gpsmycity.com/img/gd/4180.jpg
Town hall Bologna (palazzo publico)

https://ak2.picdn.net/shutterstock/videos/1926562/thumb/1.jpg
University Bologna


I probably shouldn't even have used Cathedrals as an example since it's part of the Trope - they do always show the Cathedral (or some equivalent) which mysteriously exists among the mobs of filthy peasant / cavemen living in straw huts...

Knaight
2018-09-13, 10:19 PM
I probably shouldn't even have used Cathedrals as an example since it's part of the Trope - they do always show the Cathedral (or some equivalent) which mysteriously exists among the mobs of filthy peasant / cavemen living in straw huts...

For all that the trope is nonsense, the showing of peasants does make a point - medieval Europe was, even at its most urbanized, mostly a very rural society. The splendor of the towns doesn't apply to nearly the same extent as these rural villages, and while they'd still have things like sophisticated mills a lot of the time waud and dauble, thatch, etc. were still in use.

Brother Oni
2018-09-14, 02:18 AM
Damascus steel is inferior to what can be made now...

Galloglaich has touched on this, but it isn't true. Our industrial base is very good at mass producing vast quantities of homogenous steel - for the purpose that Damascus steel is used for (swords primarily), we haven't been able to beat it.

It's also worth pointing out that the nature of warfare has changed - Greenwich plate wouldn't be much use on a modern battlefield since you'd need an unfeasible thickness of steel to stop a modern battle round (between 6 -12 mm worth for a 7.62mm round) and such heavily armoured soldiers would most certainly attract heavier firepower.


If a premodern army needed to transport a certain mass of supplies a certain distance. Would it be more efficient in terms of food/other provisions to use human slaves instead of horses, oxen, or other animals?

If canals and ships weren't possible, then horses and other beasts of burden would still be more useful in most environments as they can subsist off foliage and grass which humans can't. Human slaves would have to be fed from the same rations that the army have.

Vinyadan
2018-09-14, 03:54 AM
For all that the trope is nonsense, the showing of peasants does make a point - medieval Europe was, even at its most urbanized, mostly a very rural society. The splendor of the towns doesn't apply to nearly the same extent as these rural villages, and while they'd still have things like sophisticated mills a lot of the time waud and dauble, thatch, etc. were still in use.

There are farmsteads that have survived until today or very recently, if they were properly maintained. That's always the key issue. It is for buildings from ancient Greece - the Parthenon survived two thousand years, because it was kept as a church and as a mosque - and for buildings from Rome, like the Pantheon, too. For town halls, too: there recently was a fire atop Siena's palace tower. If the damage had not been repaired, it would probably have been the beginning of its end.

snowblizz
2018-09-14, 04:34 AM
Even in the short term and just regarding homes, comparing construction of homes from the mid-20th century to those built today... a house built in 1970 will likely be in good shape long after many of the houses built in 2018, given the same level of maintenance for both.Maybe, maybe not. The 1970s and oilcrisis lead to an interesting issue where old houses were insulated and new house built with almost no airflow in them. Which resulted in serious issues since the old houses needed to be aired to prevent mold and similarly many 70s houses suffer from ventilation issues because they are literally too well insulated. Especially public institutions suffer form this. New building standards not fully understood combined with rapid expansion of welfare services has done in a lot of the old 70s buildings. Unfortunately, as humans are wont, the lessons haven't stuck and similar things are being done still today.

Old is not necessarily better, nor is new. Though in general I'm an unfortunate "believer" in the idea things aren't built to last nowadays idea.



As an aside, for what I have seen, American homes are a lot flimsier than European homes. So a certain surprise to the survival of older buildings is understandable. However, I wouldn't be too surprised if many modern European homes were to last centuries, too, assuming that maintenance is provided. The magic of bricks!
Oh I always got that feeling too. It may depend on the type of homes featured being mainly from warm areas ofc. I mean the houses getting blown away by tornados look like the 2nd Lil Piggy built them. No wonder it got blown down.

They must build more European-like houses up in Minnesota surely?

On that subject I was watching a bit of a show called "The 100 year house" where some guy in Finland had to tear down his old childhood home (built at the turn of 1960/70 in the then new "american way") due to mold issues and decided to build a family home that should last a century. Turns out not to be that easy in this day and age. And cost enormously much more than was probably appropriate. Basically it turned out to be unsellable as a normal family home at about twice the cost.



In fact the single greatest loss of medieval architecture took place in the mid 20th Century - during World War 2, in the bombings and artillery. The Strasbourg Cathedral itself by the way was struck by Artillery during the Franco Prussian War and hit by bombs in 1944 during WW2. So for every every renovation project there has also been man made destruction as well as that wrought by nature in terms of floods, lightning etc.

And I stand by my earlier statement - I don't think most modern architecture will last a quarter as long, including with maintenance. Many even large buildings are built today with a finite lifespan in mind and steel beams will not last forever. WW2 was in fact one of things I was pointing to as a cause for loss of older buildings.
So you agree that maybe built to last means it won't actually hold up to anything and that proper upkeep might actually be needed?

Right, so in other words will (again mostly expressed in terms of money), not ability is the problem. For a modern "built to last" approach I think we should look to the Seed Archive in Svalbard. Or the nuclear waste storage sites. Those are being planned with a impressive built to last span.



I personally never said anything about magic - that is superstitious thinking on your part.

It's a joke of sorts. When you ignore 500-1000 years of deliberate continual upkeep to only focus on the original builder's work then, yes clearly it's magic. Because you don't recognize any of the subsequent effort to maintain, rebuild and restore what exists today. In short, what exists today would not exist today if it wasn't for the upkeep.

You're entire argument to me boils down to "they built it so good in medieval times that regardless of anything it's here today".

I think you are rather dismissevely discounting the subsequent efforts to maintain those structures. Or they are magic because how else do they survive all natural and unnatural catastrophes happening throughout history? In short, they didn't build medieaval stuff so good it could survive anything. The reason they survive is continual care.

The same goes for medieaval weaponry for that matter. Well-made is not the same as can survive time's ravages come what may. The original smith's skills will determine how easy it is to maintain the piece, not it's final condition.

Wouldn't the medieaval builders also understand this. In other words they built to last with the expectation that there was going to be someone to care for the building later on throuhg the ages.



Some Gothic Cathedrals were finished or substantially added to in the 19th Century, as the ongoing construction on dozens of them stopped when much of Central and Northern Europe shifted to the Protestant faith after the Reformation. However it is completely disengenuous to suggest that the majority of medieval architecture came from the 17th-19th Century.
Let's be blunt. In WW2 half of Europe's cities were bombed into rubble. Many of the magnificient medieval structures have since been repaired. That's what I'm saying. They've not survived unscatched through time without... maintenace. The same for anything built before 1945 (whether renaissance, 16th, 17th,18th or 19th century). About 50/50 odds it had major rework since that date. Hence 73 years, the amount of time elapsed since 1945.


TL:DR While we might call this a medieval building built to last:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c3/Monte_Cassino_Opactwo_1.JPG

This is how built to last looks with no maintenance after some of the less easier to foresee ravages come around knocking:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/53/Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-2005-0004%2C_Italien%2C_Monte_Cassino.jpg




I'd really like to see it. They are trying to build one in Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagrada_Fam%C3%ADlia#Construction), and it's a nice effort, but so far it's taken 92 years and it's not finished - they are expecting it to be done by 2030. So even with modern industrial capabilities it still takes a long time.

But Barcelona is an ancient city with roots deep in the medieval world and before. I don't think Phoenix could pull this off ;)
I'd aruge the ancient deep medieaval roots is what is keeping it formbeing built.

I think Phoenix probably could. By doing exactly what they did in medieaval times and hire the cathedral building specialits for it, cost be damned.
Though where you get those today I couldn't say. Not from Barcelona for sure.




I don't have time now to answer the other similar thread but I just wanted to add, as for "Damascus" i.e. Wootz crucible steel, sorry no they have NOT been able to emulate that yet. There are some (notably in Russia, who claim to have figured out the process, but this has not been proven as far as I know.

When you have time I think we could do with refresher on proper damascus steel. I've been watching Forged In Fire for a while now and most people on there (all smiths of various ability) seem to talk about it as just something with a fancy pattern. It's almost like that word is starting to mean something else. The again, that program is on History channel which says something (I'm still surprised there's not an alien on the judge's panel, though admittedly one or two there could well be).

Brother Oni
2018-09-14, 06:27 AM
Though in general I'm an unfortunate "believer" in the idea things aren't built to last nowadays idea.

Planned obsoleteness (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence) is most definitely a thing, so it's less an idea and more a fact of life.


Let's be blunt. In WW2 half of Europe's cities were bombed into rubble. Many of the magnificient medieval structures have since been repaired. That's what I'm saying. They've not survived unscatched through time without... maintenace. The same for anything built before 1945 (whether renaissance, 16th, 17th,18th or 19th century). About 50/50 odds it had major rework since that date. Hence 73 years, the amount of time elapsed since 1945.

TL:DR While we might call this a medieval building built to last:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c3/Monte_Cassino_Opactwo_1.JPG

This is how built to last looks with no maintenance after some of the less easier to foresee ravages come around knocking:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/53/Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-2005-0004%2C_Italien%2C_Monte_Cassino.jpg


A couple more anecdotes:

The Krak de Chevaliers is still in reasonable condition after the heavy fighting in the Syrian war, although I don't know about the maintenance of it up to modern times.

There's a number of American sources for the Battle of Aachen in WW2 that record a medieval gate bouncing at least two Sherman 76mm AP shells, before they resorted to a 155mm HE shell to knock it down. Unfortunately the AAR isn't clear which gate was so resistant and I can't find any other details in English language sources. I don't know whether there's any German sources as mein Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut. :smalltongue:

gkathellar
2018-09-14, 08:22 AM
Old is not necessarily better, nor is new. Though in general I'm an unfortunate "believer" in the idea things aren't built to last nowadays idea.

There are also sometimes practical constraints in play. For example: older trees produce better, stronger wood. However, because of deforestation and economies of scale, most lumber comes from tree farms, where of course the trees are very young. This means that modern woodworking is rarely going to be as strong as something from a few hundred years prior, because the materials have ceased to be practical.


On that subject I was watching a bit of a show called "The 100 year house" where some guy in Finland had to tear down his old childhood home (built at the turn of 1960/70 in the then new "american way") due to mold issues and decided to build a family home that should last a century. Turns out not to be that easy in this day and age. And cost enormously much more than was probably appropriate. Basically it turned out to be unsellable as a normal family home at about twice the cost.

Is it possible it may not have been all that easy in the past, either? The efficiency and ease of modern construction methods is pretty remarkable, so our concept of a building's value may simply be very different from that of earlier periods.


When you have time I think we could do with refresher on proper damascus steel. I've been watching Forged In Fire for a while now and most people on there (all smiths of various ability) seem to talk about it as just something with a fancy pattern. It's almost like that word is starting to mean something else. The again, that program is on History channel which says something (I'm still surprised there's not an alien on the judge's panel, though admittedly one or two there could well be).

A lot of that comes from manufacturers overselling their product, or materials scientists overselling their research, to the point that modern smiths may not even know what real damascus steel is. To the best of my understanding, no modern effort has been able to reproduce the cementite nanowires and carbon nanotubes found in the ancient stuff, and we're still not really sure how they got there (although we have some good guesses).

Galloglaich
2018-09-14, 09:43 AM
When you have time I think we could do with refresher on proper damascus steel. I've been watching Forged In Fire for a while now and most people on there (all smiths of various ability) seem to talk about it as just something with a fancy pattern. It's almost like that word is starting to mean something else. The again, that program is on History channel which says something (I'm still surprised there's not an alien on the judge's panel, though admittedly one or two there could well be).

Before I get to your longer and sadly very misguided post, let me deal with this because I think it's fairly important for this thread.

The short version is there is such a thing as real "Damascus" steel and then there is not real "Damascus" steel. The latter usually boils down to some form of acid-etched pattern welding.

Pattern welding in turn can be subdivided into three categories for metal artifacts:


Fake or cosmetic pattern welded blades
Functional but simple pattern welded blades
Functional and complex pattern welded blades



All three are historical but only #2 and #3 were used historically for knives, swords, sabers (etc.).

On shows like Forged in Fire and in the context of many amateur blade makers as well as companies that mass produce sword replicas, #1 is by far the most common, #2 would be very rare and #3 is exceptionally rare and usually both hugely expensive and something you have to wait on an extremely long waiting list for.


This is a very common misconception in any kind of discussion of swords or blades, which of course remain more popular than ever it seems, but enduringly in the more fake incarnations and tropes even as knowledge of real things gradually seeps into the popular consciousness.

Real Damascus Steel

Actual real "Damascus" still is really something more properly called wootz (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wootz_steel) or ukku (https://www.britannica.com/technology/wootz-steel) steel. This was a very special type of crucible steel made in South Asia, mostly in two zones, one around the Punjab and today quite volatile Kashmir regions, especially what is now the Sikh area in between Pakistan and India, and the other in the Tamil region in and near Sri Lanka.

Without getting deep into it, wootz was being produced in these parts of what today is basically India as far back as the 6th Century BC, which is very far back when you consider anything even close to steel itself probably only dates from about the 8th Century.

Wootz has very extraordinary properties for steel in that it has a very high carbon content from 1.5% to close to 2%, which for most forms of iron compounds would mean it would be extremely brittle like cast iron - far too brittle to use for a sword for example. Normal "high carbon" steel is usually in the .5 - .95 % range. But not only is it far from brittle, wootz is extraordinarily flexible and springy. A wootz sword can actually be bent 90 degrees and return to true with no problem. I have myself actually seen somebody do this to an antique (my heart was in my throat).

To show that a given blade was made with wootz, which is an unusual compound of high and low carbon alloys, blades were often etched revealing a highly recognizable and appealing "watered" look. True wootz steel blades are very rare and extremely valuable.

https://www.tf.uni-kiel.de/matwis/amat/iss/kap_b/illustr/khorasani_woodgrain.jpg

http://www.mandarinmansion.com/images/indian/heavy-talwar/talwar6.jpg

Wootz was very, very valuable in ancient times and was exported all over the world over many centuries. To the Chinese, Japanese, and Romans. To the Franks, the Vikings, the Moors, and the Arabs. Notably specifically to places like Damascus, Toledo, and what is now Solingen Germany where a lasting reputation for fine blades still lingers, in some cases like Toledo, without much reason (as most swords you can buy there today are from the Philippines and are basically wall-hangers).

http://www.oriental-arms.co.il/photos/items/36/001336/ph-0.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/49/49/60/49496004901c3f9a8de26e58b6484809.jpg

Wootz was shipped in billets like this and then subsequently made on-site by locals into swords and blades.

Special wootz patterns like "Mohammads ladder" were created in places like Damascus contributing to their reputation as blade makers.

The method for making wootz was based on a crucible almost like the way tandouri chicken is made. The process was shrouded in mystery however and after the locals stopped making it in the 18th Century, modern attempts have so far failed to reproduce it.

Let me be clear - if you could produce this efficiently today there would be very high demand for it.

The unique characteristics of true wootz- being simultaneously very hard yet also extremely flexible and springy- have triggered a great deal of high level scientific interest in wootz and they have learned a few things. The biggest discoveries were made within the last 20 years. Most spectacularly:


that there is some kind of role of rare metals like vanadium and molybdenum (probably from the special clay in the crucible)
and that the structure of many wootz steel blades includes carbon nano wires and nano tubes


https://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/9809/Verhoeven-9809.html

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2008/09/27/carbon-nanotechnology-in-an-17th-century-damascus-sword/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925838803011277

Real Pattern Welding

So whereas wootz steel is done at the metal level and can be shipped as-such in billets, to later be reheated and forged into a sword... there was also another way to achieve a similar combination of the desired traits mechanically so to speak.

This is called pattern welding (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pattern_welding), and what it means is different types of low carbon iron and steel or steel-like ferrous compounds are forge-welded together in some kind of combination. In it's simplest form this can be just as basic as welding hard but brittle steely iron to the cutting edge part of a sword to softer but more flexible (and therefore tougher) lower carbon steel or iron to the core.

This goes very far back to the 8th Century BC in places like Europe and Central Asia, centuries before true homogeneous steel was produced in Africa and Europe around the 3rd Century. The issue in fact was that true homogenius steel was very hard to produce and "steely iron" could only be produced in small amounts in early bloomeries. So they would combine the different types of metal to make the properties they needed.

Eventually Celtic smiths figured out how to make a kind of lattice by twisting rods of alternating harder and softer steel or iron compounds which made a pattern which looks similar to wootz in the middle part of the blade, when it is etched with acid. You can also see this pattern briefly if for example a sword is cooled in the snow and then warmed by breath. The Germanic tribes called this "The wyrm in the steel' or "the serpent". It was usually a good indicator of a high quality blade.

We know that in fact some of these pattern welded swords, which always rare but were being made in somewhat larger numbers by Germanic tribes particularly during the Migration Era, did have rather extraordinary qualities as well. For example the very nice combinations of hardness and flexibility, almost as good as a wootz sword. But they were extremely hard and labor intensive to make and therefore very expensive.

So was true crucible wootz which we have found was for example used in some of the famous Ulfberht swords.

https://www.tf.uni-kiel.de/matwis/amat/iss/kap_b/illustr/templ_1_large.jpg

Modern bladesmiths have learned how to make true pattern welded blades of superb quality. They also cost a small fortune and typically require multi-year long waiting lists to acquire.


But it could also be faked...

Fake Damascus Steel

So in a nutshell, it is very very hard to make a proper true pattern welded blade and nobody even knows how to make true wootz any more. But people still associate the 'watered' pattern with quality even though they don't know what it means.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_59GYpEVAu0U/TAdns2yp4CI/AAAAAAAAAIY/QAbV8hK4s-U/s1600/damascus-barrel-1.jpg

So much so that everything from gun barrels to tea kettles and of course, made in part to imitate this look. This started as far back as the 19th Century.

Fake pattern welded or 'Damascus' steel blades were also being made as far back as 2000 years ago...

Today this is by far the most common type of damascus steel you will find and that amateur bladesmiths will make. Contrary to crucible steel or real pattern welded steel, you can for example just take a cable and forge a balde out of that, and it will have a cool looking "Damascus" or watered pattern that looks really nice. But it doesn't mean it's a particularly good quality blade. It's basically just nice art.

https://d3axvdqkyu09xk.cloudfront.net/proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2F68.media.tumblr.com%2 Fb04de21b6cb9063835f53ee7924aa059%2Ftumblr_nzpye5Q 0v41qzhjh2o1_1280.jpg&hash=2e0379326f1ca9c59ea9f7853f4864f3

Galloglaich
2018-09-14, 11:05 AM
I think this is a paper that the guy who did that video wrote, but my German is not sufficient to read it

https://www.amazon.de/Jahrblatt-Interessengemeinschaft-Historische-Armbrust-2016/dp/3741250201

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-14, 11:20 AM
Also... sorry to spam the thread but this looks fairly promising. The armor at 01:27 seems spot on


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-G1BME8FKw

Sadly the charging cavalry doesn't seem to have lances though from what i could see in a couple of seconds. Why does Hollywood hate lances so much? Seems like they could CGI them if it's a safety issue.

Still looks a lot better than Braveheart

Epimethee
2018-09-14, 11:49 AM
On the joke, @Galloglaich: Really that's a joke I've grown to dislike but I wouldn't start to think you have fallen for such lunacy. As much as I like science fiction and XIX century novels, I think they are a lot of potentially dangerous ideas inside this hypothesis and really it is worth dissecting. In fact I intended to address mostly the other part of your note, the part about how peoples could believe such things.

I saw too many archeologist reference those idea as a joke, as if they were not important in the way they shape representations of history, in a huge specter of narratives, from pseudo--documentary to blockbuster movies. So we, as peoples invested in history, should treat this kind of subject with care, as laughing is not the best strategy to confront them.
Here may not be the best place to go further than that. But this is in my opinion an important subject in the way historical discoveries are related to the public, and how history shape representations, also with great historical characters.


On the current subject: fascinating, but the few things I may add would come too late to be relevant. I think also that a specific kind of building relate to a specific kind of society, so comparing achievement of the past or present is a bit meaningless. Also I agree with, I hope, snowbliss: to endure, most of the buildings, and particularly those showed by G., like town hall and such, were heavily and constantly rebuild.


On the wall of text that follow: yeah, it's late... I promise to make amend as soon as possible but I have too many thing to do so I started and never had the time to achieve this before now:


I think it's a lot simpler than what you are saying there - in my opinion, and I don't claim it's more than that, it's more of a matter of the major economic and political shifts between the 15th and 16th Centuries.

I have also an opinion that tend to differ a bit from yours. It is also not much than an opinion, as I never really get deep enough it this specific subject to make more of it, but still. As a precaution, I agree on the shift of power between the XV and XVI century, but beg to differ on some specifics.


In the 15th Century the epicenter of power in Europe was toward the center, the main trade flow was to the East (to Persia, India and China) which was mostly controlled by the largest Italian City-States. The political system was incredibly complex and chaotic. Hundreds of independent actors - princely families, Free Cities and City-States, factions within the Church, all jostled or control. The economy, and the elite armies which came out of it, were basically skilled labor cavalry from the gentry and the nobility, and marksmen from the thriving urban centers. This skilled labor while effective in combat, was hard to control and expensive to hire - since they had a choice and had other options.


For one thing, I think you understate here North to South communications across the Alps and through the Danubian and Rhône valley, and also the internal European trade. Est-West trade was important, but mediated by so many intermediaries that the actual meaningful roads for European politic were a bit different. For example, a goal for Italians was actually to send the goods across Europe, thus engineering the main dynamic in my opinion and explaining the importance of cities like Milan.

Also by the XIII century, a lot of cities in Northern Europe were actually producing goods, such as fabric and pastel. This internal trade would represent in continental Europe far more goods and peoples than Asian to Europe trade, even if Asia was the provider of prestigious stuff like spices.
The main road from Florence to Bruges was mostly terrestrial and explain quite a lot of the politics of Central Europe.

From the roman period to the late medieval age, the Alpine pass are a very important axe of communication but fade around the end of the XVI century. My case in point is the Grand Saint Bernard Pass and the valley under it, also most of the western part of Switzerland, politically hugely shaped in medieval time by those axis. (The history of the Old Swiss Confederation goes mostly around the same topics, but on the Gothard road.)

The St Bernard pass was a huge road for the romans, with the town of Octodurus important enough to warrant a bit part in the Bello Gallico. In early medieval time, Saint Maurice was an important place for christianity, actually the most ancient monastery continuously occupied since its foundation, and influential in the way the first kingdom of Burgundy shaped its sovereignty.
The region of St Bernard, like the Simplon, were given independence rights early, not only but also to preserve those roads. Further north, the cities would often be founded or expanded to profit from this trafic and draw it to them in the way north, or south.
Lausanne, Geneva, but also Fribourg and Bern, or Neuchâtel with moderate success, were all founded or expanded to profit from this axe and were actually, as you said, mostly competing.

Aventicum, the roman capital of Switzerland, was pushed out of the picture by the newly arrived who would displace the roads.
In fact, as shown by the huge history of Burgundy, or the early Habsburg reach, or the Za¨hringen history, controlling those roads was one of the reasons for the number of small states, for the fractured landscape of Europe. Like the Habsburg for the Gothard, Burgundy and then Savoy would try to control the Saint Bernard Pass.
As late as the XVI century, the bishop of Sion was an important character, able to command the Swiss armies in Marignan or speak directly with the three Kings of the XVI century, Charles Quint, François the First and Henri IV.

In my opinion, one of the main drive behind the change in trading roads was actually the galleon, with better nautical abilities letting the europeans nations directly trade with every places around the world but also displacing some of the continental roads. It is quite notable in the way Netherland for example would quickly reshape its trading roads and develop companies to go by the Atlantic.
It is really interesting how the high road of the Saint Bernard would fade until the passage of Napoleon, then the rise of railroad and tourism. It would still be used, and I don't like the idea of a remote place. But still, with the exception of a few huge figures like Gaspard Stockalper, trade trough the mountains would become less relevant.

On the options for soldiers, I have also other echoes. I agree that a fractured landscape would produce smaller armies. But by the XV century, with kingdoms in the process of unification and cities expanding, the need for greater forces would increase, starting maybe a prior to that but really clear in the huge forces deployed and killed during the Italians Wars.

Also, for a lot of peoples, mostly second sons and poor, the military was actually one of the ways to make a living, as work was rare in the home country. It is particularly evident in Switzerland, where an increasing population would be a factor in developing what we could call a new workplace, the mercenary service.
Ok, they would not lack of opportunities, but they had other options only in who they would serve, the others way of subsisting were mostly blocked.

Also tercio, like landsknecht, were actually as much a military force than a way to address the political changes of Europe. As big powers would rise, the idea of nation grow also stronger. The Swiss start refusing to fight against other Swiss, but the Empire and kingdom start also to build the first national armies.

It is as much a reaction to the professional mercenaries than a way of increasing centralized power and of displacing old hierarchies.



In the 16th Century, with the systems created for training of Landsknechts and later Tercios, the method for producing competent if not stellar soldiers from the poorest peasants was finally mastered. Places that had destitute peasants - from the Black Forest, impoverished serfs from Estremadura and Gascony, from Belarus and Ukraine, could be turned fairly quickly into armies. New "putting out systems" and royal foundries could similarly now produce weapons which again, were maybe not be at the same level as the finest guns from the Venetian Arsenal or the forges of Nuremberg, were still serviceable enough to kill the enemy. Especially when you had ten thousand young men bearing them.


I think here you sound a bit like Bayard regretting the age of the true warriors, by comparison to the new ways of war.
Gascony, like other places, had not really destitute peasant but a growing population that would press on the demography and make them commendable for war.
The Black Death was around 1350, the huge wars of religion would really start to become ugly at the beginning of the XVII century after the fifty years of relative peace brought by the treaty of Augsburg.

So we have like a constellation, with more centralized power, a disposable population, an increasing administration of the forces that will lead to posit the strategy as a science, but also more firepower and a better way of understanding its technology and its effects. All those factors would translate directly in a battlefield were the single warrior is less and less relevant and loose more and more regularly to the soldiers.
I can relate to the romantic views, both of the warriors that fade and of the imitation of the Swiss, but I think it goes beyond that.

By the time Cardan wrote "The Ludo Aleae", introducing in XVI century the possibility of probabilities, the bend is firmly taken and the age of the warrior is definitively eclipsed by a war that is more and more technical, professionalized, rationalized.



With the Ottomans and Mamluks squeezing off the old trade routes down the Silk Road, and Moscow monopolizing the other, and with England, France and Spain blocking access to the Atlantic - polities in Central Europe, Italy and around the Med were basically under embargo. Religious wars scarred the European continent, triggering famine and disease, devastation of the infrastructure and masses of refugees, all leading to paralysis and rapid decline.


I think you jump from a point in time to another but I nevertheless tend to agree with the wide picture. Still, I think it is important not to forget that even before Columbus, the Portuguese ship made their way around Africa and before the end of the XV century, 1498, trade with India was a reality by the Atlantic. As much as the pass in the Alps, the galleon make the Med obsolete.
But a better run down of the country involved would be Portugal, Spain, England and France (and if possible to squeeze some Netherland inside...)

You speak a bit like if the Augsburg Peace never happened. The second half of the XVI century is mostly free of religious war. Their scars would come later, even the ottoman expansionism stay in the fringes.

Also interestingly in a lot of cities the reformation and counter-reformation would lead to an increasing of wealth and prestige. Reformed cities like Geneva or Neuchatel would profit hugely from the refugees, mostly French aristocrats, merchants and thinkers.
For counter-reformed cities, the Baroque style follow the precepts of the council of Trente around 1550 but appeared around 1580. Before that, monasteries and church would be renovated, or founded in a huge and dynamic renewal.
Also note that the XVI century is also the century of mannerism, one of the first recognizable aesthetically stream across Europe.

So again, I agree that huge powers appears and they also start to protect their trade roads and their industries, displacing the traditional centers, but the picture you paint is a bit bleak for my taste.


The small number of newly unified and increasingly Absolutist Atlantic facing Monarchies on the other hand, soon had very enhanced cash flow - Tobacco, Indigo, Cotton and Sugar - all grown by slaves in newly conquered lands-, furs from Canada, cochineal from Mexico, silver from Peru, Gold from Africa, and soon the spices of the Far East, were all flowing into the coffers of the Atlantic Kingdoms.


Yes mostly, but the other way around. Actually trade with Africa and beyond was exploited long before America. Madeira was reached in 1419 for example, and Elmina, in Ghana, was founded in 1482. The conquest of America is like a step in this direction and not the driving force.



The only European polity really able to break out of this trap was Holland, but only after 80 years of war against Spain and the resulting (temporary and fragile, but vital) alliance with England allowed them to send their ships out across the great Oceans and claim a very lucrative toe hold in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Here we go! Yes, but only after the 30 years war and the fall of Spanish power, by which time the Tercio is clearly also outclassed by the new Dutch and Swedish drills. Again, we are in XVII century.


TL DR: The gist is, a shift from skilled but expensive and hard to control labor in armies, to unskilled but cheap and easier to control armies.

Yep, as I said we differ only on the specifics, who are always longer to state. :smallsmile:




Navies literally could grab any drunk out of a bar and make him into a sailor.

Ok, yes and no... all was a question of ship: By the end of the XVI century, a huge military ship would be like a space rocket in terms of technological achievement.

On a ship of the line, specialization is important. Each sailor had a specific task to do. Again that's less emphasis on individual skills, more on technical aspects, Building the ship is the achievement. And note also that you still need trained sailors on ships of the line, but not in every role.


The issue of the 'warlike games' and so on in the Italian and Central European towns, and the persistent culture of highly skilled marksmen there, similar to the culture developed in England around shooting longbows, was something that existed for a long time in the medieval period but gradually (sometimes very gradually) faded away in the Early Modern period.

It lasted long enough though, it's worth noting, that dozens of those same Free Cities were able to remain neutral and unscathed through the great religious wars which devastated Europe including the apocalyptic 30 Years War. And allowed Venice to survive as a Republic into the 18th Century despite being trapped between the Ottoman Empire and an almost equally hostile Spanish Monarchy for three hundred years.

G

Here again I think you put too much emphasis on individual valor, as if Maurice of Nassau for example never existed.
Also you are a bit quick to relate Italian towns to the thirty years war, as it was fought mostly on the northern part of Central Europe. Again, a guy like Stockalper may shine a light on how the southern part of Europe would actually profit from this conflict.

And then never forget diplomacy, as Venice was more than other places able to play the europeans powers against Spain or the Ottomans, something in my opinion more important that a military that was outclassed.

But as I said, I agree with a lot of your points, with the wide picture and a lot of specifics. But still I think you are a bit quick to assert some of your ideas, something I can understand. It is also what I made here, using a few threads to unravel a very complex time (literally as much as figuratively). I'm sure you could find other ways to explain the same and one never exhaust the others in my opinion.

Galloglaich
2018-09-14, 12:50 PM
But as I said, I agree with a lot of your points, with the wide picture and a lot of specifics. But still I think you are a bit quick to assert some of your ideas, something I can understand. It is also what I made here, using a few threads to unravel a very complex time (literally as much as figuratively). I'm sure you could find other ways to explain the same and one never exhaust the others in my opinion.


Epimethee - you clearly know alot, and have a lot to say. As you know, discussing things this complex and this far in the past can very easily devolve into confusion and talking past each other. So in the sake of brevity lets try to quickly dismiss those (many) areas where we actually agree and focus on what we don't agree for any argument. What i really don't want to do is be lectured or corrected about points that i did not in fact make, it gets tiresome and drops the signal to noise ratio to near zero (this is more directed at others than at you here but you are drifting into that territory too).

So very quickly lets try to get back in track.

In general
Many of the things you are criticizing in this post are simply a matter of summarization or attempted (rarely successful) brevity on my part, so try to keep that in mind. I think you have to try to do that especially when discussing broad topics of the distant past like macro economics or social organization across Europe. So please give me the benefit of the doubt and don't assume I am ignorant of the basics since i don't think i have demonstrated that I am, and i will extend the same courtesy to you.

Internal vs. external trade
I most certainly do not discount internal trade in medieval Europe. In fact, in particular the manufacture of middle-level products for middle class markets was probably the single most important factor in making the High to Late medieval period so unique and interesting. However, foreign trade was the cash lifeline. Across most of the later medieval period we know that the Silk Road was the most profitable trade and things like pepper, spices and silk were almost like the modern illicit drug trade in terms of their spectacular profitability. These were for the most part luxury commodities (though middle class people also indulged in them) but were not as important as the north south, east west trade within Europe including across the Gothard Pass, up and down the Rhine, across the Via Regia and Via Imperia, the Amber Road and so on and so forth - in terms of volume or impact on average people's lives.

Do you follow the difference?

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f8/Via_Imperii_und_Via_Regia.png/640px-Via_Imperii_und_Via_Regia.png

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/8/85/Trade_routes_during_Venetian-Genoese_wars_%281256-1381%29.jpg/640px-Trade_routes_during_Venetian-Genoese_wars_%281256-1381%29.jpg

Linen, fustian and wool textiles, in other words, were more fundamental to the European economy than silk yes, just as salt was more important than pepper. But silk pepper and spices were the main cash source for the richest polities in Europe like Venice. Let me try to illustrate the point - Somehow or another we know that something like half of the currency circulating in Europe every year ended up in Italy. This in turn ended up flowing down the Silk Road to places like Persia, India and China for the purchase of those luxury commodities we mentioned. Polities in the East did buy Latin European goods but would only accept hard currency in exchange for their most valuable treasures - pepper and silk. This in turn contributed to at least three major currency crises in Europe as many towns started to run out of coins and the precious metals to make them.

That, in turn, triggered a fascinating surge of activity and technological innovation related to mining - in at least three occasions within no more than a couple of years old mines were re-opened using new technology and methods both for the mining itself and for the processing of the ore. But that is another story.

(Also at risk of oversimplifying, the development Hanseatic League up north was also very important to economic growth via trade, and they too had an incredibly profitable Silk Road outlet via Russia and Poland, even while their most important trade was in more mundane wool, herring, salt, grain and beer)

So in summary yes linen or wool is more fundamental to the European economic story than silk but silk made more money partly because it came from so far away. Same analogy for salt vs. pepper.

Africa and the Atlantic
Yes I agree the exploration of Africa and the Atlantic were already well underway by the second quarter of the 15th Century and I already pointed this out more than once including upthread somewhere in this very iteration of this very long lasting thread. I know it's a lot to keep up with but give me some credit. As I noted, yes Henry the Navigator of Portugal pioneered the trade far down the African coast, (although it's worth noting that Genoese and Venetian traders also made it all the say to Timbuktu in the 15th and 16th Century, a feat nobody would repeat until 500 years later) and had discovered the Canary Islands, the Azores, and the Cape Verde islands for example all within the mid 15th Century so it's certainly part of a fairly gradual process.

Although the Spanish and Portuguese were already reaping some benefit particularly from their sugar plantations in these newly discovered islands (starting with Madeira, discovered in 1418) and their production of sweetened Madeira and "Port" wine, the real shift in the cash crops didn't occur until later with the discovery of the New World and the new routes to India. yes they did get to India before the 16th Century but only just.

The real shift was in the 16th and 17th Century when the new sugar, indigo, cotton, tobacco plantations, the silver mines in Peru and Mexico, and the French fur trade started producing income. THAT shifted the cash flow from the Italian city-states to the Atlantic Kingdoms - and the one plucky (and you might say "old school" or medieval style) Republic of Holland, once they fought their way clear of Spain.

It was Peruvian silver (along with Fugger credit) which largely financed the conquests of Charles V in the 16th Century including his victories in the Schmalkaldic War (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schmalkaldic_War) which I would indeed call one of the Religious Wars as it was quite bloody the subsequent peace notwithstanding. You are also forgetting the Huguenot Wars (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Wars_of_Religion) in France (1562-1598) which were quite ugly as well as the really nasty and brutal Religious wars between Catholic and Orthodox in the East notably the devastating Livonian War (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livonian_War) (1558-1583) which itself was in certain respects a precursor to the 30 Years War of the 17th Century.

Were larger less skilled armies effective
Yes. I never said they weren't. Maurice of Nassau, Oliver Cromwell and Gustavus Adolphus were mighty warlords, on par with the greats of any age. And their armies were very effective in spite of the limitations in skill of some of the troops. I'm just saying they were different. And I AM saying - this is probably a point of disagreement between you and I, that a smaller high skilled medieval style army could hold it's own against a much larger Early Modern type larger conscript style army. Why do I say this? In part because of examples like the Hungarian Black Army against the Ottomans. But that too is a subject for another discussion. This is however one of the areas where we probably do disagree.

Where we actually disagree
I would say certainly on this issue of high skilled vs. lower skilled labor in armies, and of the quality of medieval vs. later architecture, artisans and artifacts, and what differences in training really meant (for example, I don't think "individual prowess" is so important and was not precisely what I was getting at).

For the "Artisans Architecture Artifacts" part of this debate, I'll address that in a reply to snowblizz when I have some more time, probably tomorrow as I've already wasted enough today. Suffice to say I think he's debating arguments I wasn't actually making (I never claimed that any of this was within a vacuum of maintenance or that medieval buildings could stand up to anything you threw at them, which would be a ridiculous argument I am not dumb enough to make- I'm saying assuming that given the same level of maintenance the medieval holds up much better).

And one which you and he made which I think is incorrect - that it's only the great buildings like town halls and cathedrals which survived. I think it's very easy to prove that is false in fact you could probably do that yourself for me in a few days of driving around nearby southern France or northern Italy. Fancy a vacation?

Hopefully that will help us refocus this discussion a bit in a helpful way.

G

Grim Portent
2018-09-14, 02:05 PM
Is anyone able to describe the general loadouts of armies in central/southern Europe around the time guns were still in the early matchlock stage? Mid-1400s or thereabouts as I understand it.

I'm trying to work out a setting idea based on roughly the time when guns were still in their infancy but not completely impractical from a blowing-off-your-fingers perspective and started to function more like a modern trigger based weapon*, but I don't know a whole lot about the armies in the time period other than that professional infantrymen made up a large portion of armies.

*I feel it's the best technology level to balance guns in, just inconvenient and uncommon enough that bows and crossbows are probably preferable most of the time, but with some potential advantages and without being the chore that a handcannon would be.

rrgg
2018-09-14, 02:30 PM
Regarding the theory about the change in armies' qualities, it might need a bit more of a disclaimer on what exactly you mean by "cheaper". While you could consider early modern soldiers "cheaper" in some ways, it seems that for a monarch to turn unskilled labor into properly equipped professional soldiers with the latest weapons was not a cheap process. And despite completely revamped fiscal systems and tons of new wealth coming in from trade and global colonies, early modern states remained pretty much always strained to the breaking point by military expenditures. By the late 16th century, sustaining the several thousand cronically underpaid, half-starved, "ragged rogues" stationed on the continent and in ireland, many of whom were literally impressed out of prisons, was starting to cost the English crown more than 250,000 pounds per year with income barely able to keep up.

http://deremilitari.org/2013/11/the-military-revolution-from-a-medieval-perspective/

rrgg
2018-09-14, 05:23 PM
Is anyone able to describe the general loadouts of armies in central/southern Europe around the time guns were still in the early matchlock stage? Mid-1400s or thereabouts as I understand it.

I'm trying to work out a setting idea based on roughly the time when guns were still in their infancy but not completely impractical from a blowing-off-your-fingers perspective and started to function more like a modern trigger based weapon*, but I don't know a whole lot about the armies in the time period other than that professional infantrymen made up a large portion of armies.

*I feel it's the best technology level to balance guns in, just inconvenient and uncommon enough that bows and crossbows are probably preferable most of the time, but with some potential advantages and without being the chore that a handcannon would be.

I'm going to refer back to this previous post http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showsinglepost.php?p=23363976&postcount=568

For a more specific tldr, the main factor balancing early guns is that earlier their effect wouldn't scale too well with numbers. An army that has a handful of skilled marksmen armed with handguns or small cannons which can be used to pick off important targets, fire man-piercing bullets or hailshot at dense formations and choke points, and help suppress enemy skirmishers, will potentially have a huge advantage against an army which has no guns at all. However an army with many gunners would usually have at best a slight advantage against an enemy which has only half as many, unless their gunners are also far more skilled than those of the enemy. During the 15th century you see quite a bit of experimentation with different numbers of handgunners, but during the last decade the preferred proportion of gunners in an army still tended to be less than 10-15%. Back at the very beginning of the century very few gunners at best tended to be fielded outside of sieges.

In the middle of the 15th century, even simple early matchlocks would have been still pretty rare, and as their lock got better the main area of improvement would have been for the most part mobility.

Trying to control the recoil of an early handgun with only one hand while the other held a burning match put a limit on how powerful the weapon could be made unless the shooter had a way to brace it against the ground, a wall, or if one gunner held the weapon in both hands while a second gunner held the match. This meant that 15th century guns still tended to be by far best suited for use from a fortified position such as a castle wall, trench, or from atop a walled wagon or cart where a hook gun had something to brace against. And they could be pretty good when used this way, long hook guns without any sort of lock mechanism continued to see quite a bit of use as wall guns or trench guns even through most of the 16th century.

As trigger mechanisms and stock designs on matchlocks improved so did a single shooter's ability to handle recoil. And as designs trended towards smaller calibers and much longer barrels relative to their bore diameter, guns could be made with far less weight and recoil while still having a similar penetration at close range and a much higher bullet velocity.

The biggest problem with balancing early guns I think is when it's for a RPG/small adventure party setting since they can quickly start to make things very unfair for any sort of melee fighter. One on one as long as the gunner is able to aim calmly, knows how to take very good care of his weapon and powder to avoid misfires, and his weapon is powerful enough to peirce the enemy's armor, then he's probably going to win almost every time.

Compared to other missile weapons like crossbows, I think in the 15th century they still had enough advantages and disadvantages relative to each other that someone might prefer one or the other in a shootout. Depending on specific design and quality, I'd give:

Crossbows
-Usually better precision
-More reliable
-More efficient penetration at a distance
-Usually better penetration relative to mobility

Handguns or portable cannons:
-Higher velocity
-Better range overall
-Usually better penetration overall at short ranges
-hailshot

The exact balance should also slowly shift depending on the exact time period. Around the start of the 15th century handguns will tend to be useful only in very niche situations, but over time guns' strengths slowly become more significant relative to crossbows while guns' weaknesses become less significant, until some point in the 16th century where any potential advantages to using crossbows become almost non-existent, or are even reversed.

Additionally there were economic and cultural shifts where at the start 15th century quality crossbows, crossbow bolts, and crossbow skills would have been much more common and much cheaper than all the equivalent for handguns. But over time all those slowly become more expensive for crossbows and less expensive for guns and gunpowder. IIRC the cost of the average crossbow and average arquebus crossed each other sometime around 1500.

Galloglaich
2018-09-14, 06:07 PM
The serpentine, what you might call a crude trigger like mechanism shows up around the end of the 14th Century, forming the basis of what you might call a 'proto-matchlock'. Recognizable gunstocks (as opposed to just poles) start to show up around the middle of the 15th Century. A little bit earlier than that you see short firearms with crossbow-like tillers that look (and behave) a bit like sawed off shotguns.

But these all work with a match you have to keep lit. The 'match' or 'slow match' is actually a type of fuse, a piece of cord saturated in potassium nitrate which burns very slowly at a rate of about 1' per hour. Keeping it lit poses some problems (it makes smoke and you can smell it from far away for one).

That match remains a constant until the wheel-lock shows up around 1500. So after the medieval period, and even then wheel-locks were expensive and were mostly used by cavalry, regular infantry still used matchlocks well into the 19th Century.

Hand-culverin type weapons and arquebus type weapons remained in use simultaneously through the third quarter of the 15th Century when somewhat recognizable arquebuses started to become more universal.

As for "Load out" - back in the earlier period when guns first started moving into the open field, back in the 1420's, a typical war-wagon with a compliment of about 20 fighters included two gunners, if that gives you some idea. By the 1450's the Hungarian Black Army had as many as 1 out of 3 troops who were gunners but that was considered extreme.

The other major thing is how powder changed. It's complicated but powder you can carry around and it retains it's composition was also a 15th Century invention.

G

Grim Portent
2018-09-14, 07:00 PM
That does help, but I'm also needing information on how stuff like infantry was outfitted and deployed at the time, what support elements they had in addition to sparse handgunners and how cavalry was outfitted and used. I can find images of stuff from the period and vaguaries about some battles, but not much about the actual role and tactics of different types of soldier.

A bit of looking around makes it seem like 1400s infantry were focused on halberds/pikes and heavy armour, and cavalry was still predominantly heavily armoured as well. Infantry seem like they were being used to grind away at each other for lack of a better term, but I'm not sure how heavy cavalry would be used in the period. Pikes/halberds seem unpleasant to charge into on horseback but they're clearly not skirmishing cavalry, so all I can think is they were charging in on the flanks or headlong into smaller formations and relying on good equipment and intimidation factor.

I assume crossbows were still being used for volley fire into the infantry blocks considering useful firearms were still unusual and rare, though the armour I keep seeing infantry portrated in looks pretty hard to .

Firearms themselves I can only assume saw limited use before infantry formations met in battle and obscured firing lines, or in skirmishes and flanking manouvres.

rrgg
2018-09-14, 07:10 PM
Oh yeah, I was going to add that during the first half of the 15th century many gunners, including handgunners, continued to prefer to ignite their weapons with a red hot iron wire instead of a match cord. When this was done it would mean needing to remain near a burning pile of hot coals at all times, further limiting mobility, though it probably wasn't too much of an inconvenience during sieges.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/attachment.php?attachmentid=85980&stc=1

One tactic you do see quite a bit in the 15th century as an alternative to or in addition to the use of war wagons or polearm infantry spam was to accompany the shot with lots of heavy infantry carrying very large, sturdy pavises. The idea was still sort of similar though, the arquebusiers/crossbowmen would play to their defensive strengths from behind the shieldbearers while the shieldbearers gave them a mobile wall which could move anywhere on the battlefield giving the shot protection from missiles at a distance and melee troops up close.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b1/Behamisch_facht.jpg/534px-Behamisch_facht.jpg

I suspect this tactic was a bit better suited for fighting off scattered attacks by light cavalry or other skirmishers. Again, a single arquebus volley from behind the pavises was unlikely to inflict many casualties on its own against a large, determined column of swiss pikemen or heavy men-at-arms before they closed the distance

Galloglaich
2018-09-14, 07:13 PM
The specific details would depend on the exact time period (you'd want to narrow it down to about 25 years) and the region. English armies were different from French armies which were different from Italian or Spanish or Polish armies. And so on.

This picture will give you a pretty good idea of a small medieval army of Central Europe around the third quarter of the 15th Century, on the move with a combination of light and heavy cavalry (some armed with lances, some with crossbows), infantry armed with polearms, infantry armed with guns and crossbows, and wagons carrying light cannons.

I won't hotlink it because it will be too big. Click on the link though and you can zoom in for a high level of detail.

http://warfare.gq/15/Hausbuch_Wolfegg.htm?i=1

http://warfare.gq/15/th/Hausbuch_Wolfegg-Heerzug_th.jpg

This is the same army organized into a lagger or temporary fort

http://warfare.gq/15/th/Hausbuch_Wolfegg-Heerlager_th.jpg

That is central Europe though, like I said it's different in other places in the same time period. Less guns in France for example. More light cavalry in Spain. Longbows instead of crossbows (for the most part) in England. And so forth.

Once you figure out what region you would want to base your context on, the best source for you would probably be something like one of those Osprey books.

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-14, 07:27 PM
One tactic you do see quite a bit in the 15th century as an alternative to or in addition to the use of war wagons or polearm infantry spam was to accompany the shot with lots of heavy infantry carrying very large, sturdy pavises. The idea was still sort of similar though, the arquebusiers/crossbowmen would play to their defensive strengths from behind the shieldbearers while the shieldbearers gave them a mobile wall which could move anywhere on the battlefield giving the shot protection from missiles at a distance and melee troops up close.


I suspect this tactic was a bit better suited for fighting off scattered attacks by light cavalry or other skirmishers. Again, a single arquebus volley from behind the pavises was unlikely to inflict many casualties on its own against a large, determined column of swiss pikemen or heavy men-at-arms

Just FYI that image depicts a battle by Bohemian mercenaries in a battle during the Landshut War of Succession (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_the_Succession_of_Landshut) in around 1505 in Bavaria. There are some other similar images depicting the same action. These mercenaries used both war wagons and those pavises. As a side note one of the military leaders on the German side who helped defeat the Bohemians in that battle was Ludwig von Eyb, who is known for having written both a fencing manual and a war-manual which illustrates all kinds of interesting war machines (and also includes war-wagon tactics).

You are right to point out the pavises though these were important both for hand-gunners and crossbowmen all the way through the 15th Century.

Grim Portent these images may give you some idea of the type of personal kit that handgunners and crossbowmen carried in Central and Southern Europe in the mid to late 15th Century, including the ubiquitous pavises

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/f5/42/28/f54228bfd24b828c51602c2cc15c333b.jpg

https://i1.trekearth.com/photos/42719/etlerl151.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/71/47/ba/7147ba4bbe2e63f90cefb6aafe8b89fb.png

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/88/da/49/88da49b8d4422a91533e22b9b85fbe4a.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/91/47/ba/9147ba248c9cfbdf276043afdeb125a8.jpg

https://i.redd.it/bucrnnvmwxcz.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/236x/ef/61/b0/ef61b03dc7bc872dc91f2570144fbbf0--saint-george-character-development.jpg https://i.pinimg.com/236x/c8/31/8e/c8318e4b2d3a5474bdc0d2fbe0bd7a90--medieval-weapons-italian-renaissance.jpg


Common denominators of kit would include:

Some kind of helmet
armor, often just on the torso or upper body
a shield or a pavise of some kind
a sidearm or two (sword or messer plus a dagger or knife)
Nice clothes as they tended to be fairly well paid

This re-enactor group the "Company of Saynte George" represents themselves hand-gunners, marksmen and artillery teams and their kit is extremely accurate - for Central Europe. You can find more detail there

https://www.companie-of-st-george.ch/cms/?q=en/The_Company

And more images here including a nice one of a more typical early 15th Century gunners kit

http://je-lay-emprins.blogspot.com/2011/06/company-of-st-george-at-gruyeres.html

G

Incanur
2018-09-14, 09:08 PM
Like I assume many of you, I watch Matt Easton's videos. Through them I've learned more about 19th-century swords and fencing styles. My own studies focus on the 15th & 16th centuries. I'm most familiar with English, French, Spanish, and Italian sources from roughly 1540s-1620s. Because of this, Matt's baseline what's long or heavy has surprised me.

In the 16th century, you had various military writers who insisting on limiting blade length to around 36 inches for single-handed swords, presumably because many soldiers favored longer. Official regulations mirror this. George Silver called a baskethilt with a 37-40-inch blade a "short sword" circa 1600. A number of Italian rapier masters recommended (https://blog.subcaelo.net/ensis/capoferro-weapon-length/) blades of in excess of 48 inches for folks around 6ft tall.

Between long cut-&-thrust single-handed swords like Silver liked, rapiers, and the longswords civilians as well as soldiers wore, in 16th-century European wearing a sidearm with a total length of 4 feet (or even more!) was pretty common. These weapons weighed anywhere from 2.5lbs to around 4lbs (for some longswords). And keep in mind that was with an average male height of 5' 8" or less.

By contrast, in the 19th century, a mere 35in blade is pretty serious cavalry sword, the French cavalry swords with blade lengths in Silver's perfect range (37-40 inches) are supposedly unwieldy on foot, and anything beyond maybe 2lbs is heavy.

Remaining biased toward the 16th century and my own limited sparring experience, I tend to think longer really is better (up to at least Silver's perfect length), and that 19th-century soldiers and fencers opted for somewhat shorter and lighter weapons for convenience of carry rather than pure martial effectiveness.

Of course I don't have nearly the breadth of Matt's practice, so I could easily be wrong! (Though Matt has asserted the rapier as the best sidearm for a duel, so perhaps he's almost on the same page. The next step is convincing him & others that Silver's baskhilted sword was nearly a rapier itself (https://artmilitary.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/george-silvers-short-sword-had-a-37-40in-blade/).)

Note that basically nobody spars Silver's style with blades quite as long as he specified and few people wield ones as long as Cappoferro and company desired either.

So, what do y'all think? Were 19th-century soldiers/fencers too lazy to carry a proper 4ft sidearm, or were 16th-century folks freakishly obsessed with size to their detriment?

If, say, the smallsword really does match or surpass the rapier, long cut-&-thrust baskethilt, and longsword in a duel, then 16th-century swashbucklers were being awfully foolish in retrospect, lugging all that unneeded encumbrance around!

It's worth remembering that I don't know of any other group, anywhere, anytime, who routinely carried as long sidearms as 15th/16th-century Europeans. The closest I know of would be the 16th-century Chinese & Japanese warriors who wielded two-handed swords (http://greatmingmilitary.blogspot.com/2015/04/chang-dao.html), the smaller version of which was similar to European longswords (nearly 4ft total).

rrgg
2018-09-14, 10:40 PM
Just FYI that image depicts a battle by Bohemian mercenaries in a battle during the Landshut War of Succession (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_the_Succession_of_Landshut) in around 1505 in Bavaria. There are some other similar images depicting the same action. These mercenaries used both war wagons and those pavises. As a side note one of the military leaders on the German side who helped defeat the Bohemians in that battle was Ludwig von Eyb, who is known for having written both a fencing manual and a war-manual which illustrates all kinds of interesting war machines (and also includes war-wagon tactics).

You are right to point out the pavises though these were important both for hand-gunners and crossbowmen all the way through the 15th Century.


That's right, thanks. I was just looking for a quick depiction of the tactic. The armor and dress isn't correct at all for the mid-15th century.

The pavise did continue to see some use into the early 1500s. Pietro Monte even suggested that the swiss/german pike formation could be vulnerable to a combined formation of shield bearers wearing heavy armor and carrying large "scutums" and pikemen carrying extra long pikes. In Jacopo di Porcia's precepts of war, he says that against an army that includes mostly archers like some armies in the east you should set against them men with large shields in order to keep your army safe. Some sources claim that the scots at Flodden were protected by pavises. One spanish source even states that the Spanish swordsmen who pushed their way into the German pike formation at the battle of ravenna were actually armed with a kind of large pavise rather than the round rodela.

In either case the pavise seems to have been largely lost its popularity, perhaps due to the increasing prevalence of artillery and more powerful weapons that could penetrate it, or perhaps people felt that their was a need for something much more mobile. For most of the sixteenth century the only real equivalent to the earlier shield bearer and his pavise was generally just the targeteer carrying the far more moderately-sized target. Back to this in a bit.

Regarding the pictures of pavises, I just want to quickly add that it can make a difference whether you're talking about a stationary pavise or one carried by a separate shield-bearer. While a stationary pavise might be great in a skirmish to provide protection from missiles if no other cover is available, it would do very little to protect an arquebusier or crossbowman from charging infantry or cavalry compared to a big, burly man in armor holding the pavise with his left arm and a sword or long spear with his right (nor protect as well as a big heavy wagon which can't be easily knocked over).

Anyways, in the 16th century one of the niches of the targeteers was that many military writers considered them really great troops to accompany loose skirmishers with. In a shootout, even targets of a very light proof helped give the unarmored shot a bit more cover from ricochets and bullets fired from a distance while the targeteers themselves could help fight off any enemy melee troops who try to get too close. Skirmishers also tended to spend a lot of time running through trenches, dense woods, buildings, etc. places where a targeteer with his moderate-sized shield usually had a much easier time keeping up and could fight more effectively than a long pike or halberd.

Light skirmishers accompanied by some number of targeteers was also considered a great combo for assaults, especially to clear out any enemy troops hiding within trenches, dense woods, or buildings. Montluc in his commentaries mentions quite a few incidents like this were he combines arquebusiers and targeteers to enter buildings. In one of the more detailed ones he describes clearing out a tower where a number of enemy troops were still holed up. First he brought over a lot of arquebusiers to surround the tower and got them to keep up a constant fire against all of its openings and the entrance so that none of the troops inside would be able to poke his head out or shoot back at the attackers. He then ordered an officer carrying a target to climb to the top of the tower followed closely behind by two more arquebusiers, and when they reached the top he threw open the door, the two arquebusiers fired into the room from underneath the officer's target, and all three of them then leap onto the enemy with their swords in the confusion.

Anyways, this would be me extrapolating backwards from the 16th century but maybe crossbowmen and their shieldbearers would do stuff like that at times.


---

Regarding the Wolfegg book and the illustration of an army on the march, is it depicting both light and heavy cavalry? or is it just depicting light cavalry, some of which are carrying crossbows and others lances?

wolflance
2018-09-14, 11:46 PM
Galloglaich has touched on this, but it isn't true. Our industrial base is very good at mass producing vast quantities of homogenous steel - for the purpose that Damascus steel is used for (swords primarily), we haven't been able to beat it.

I believe a few years back someone (Howard Clark?) made a katana out of L6 Bainite and run a destructive test with it. That katana can take extreme abuse (like throughly chop up a refrigerator and kitchen sink, or repeatedly hitting against hard surface that no sword is meant to hit) without so much a dent. However good damascus steel may be, I don't think a sword made of damascus steel can take that level of punishment.



Incidentally here is a video from 2015 where a guy seems to have made what looks to me to be an Italian-style composite prod crossbow which performed much better than any of Tod's replicas. He measured the velocity at 57.7 m.s with a 260 gram bolt for 433 joules at 24 meters, and 52.9 m/s with a 348 gram bolt for 488 joules which is very good.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nY2untEwCnU


Compare this to 52 gram weight (minimum) arrows as typical for a longbow per the English Warbow Society (http://www.theenglishwarbowsociety.com/standard-arrow_EN.html) if I'm reading that right.

Per Wikipedia they are saying ~ 115 - 160 Joules and 47 meters per second for a 144 lb longbow with a 102 gram arrow.

So I would say that whoever this guy is that did the crossbow test, he is indeed showing us something much closer to the performance reported by medieval sources, and demonstrated by Ralf Payne Gallway famously with his antique 100 years ago.

G
The comments in that video suggest that he mistakenly placed the crossbow too close to the chronometer, which means the actual arrow speed should be even faster than the measured results.

On the other hand, this test was done with much heavier bolt than Tod's test. This is actually much more in accordance to common sense (it's usually sugggested, for modern archery, something like 5~7 grains of arrow weight per pound of draw weight for optimum performance. So a ~6350grain/411grams bolt suits the 1270 lbs crossbow best). If the bolt is too light, much of the energy of the high draw weight is wasted on nothing (and might damage the bow/prod), hence the rather underwhelming performance in other tests.

However, I believe Tod knows his stuffs, both in history and in archery knowledge. He test his steel crossbow with a 88 g bolt because that is what most surviving medieval crossbow bolts usually weighted. I bet medieval crossbowmen didn't want to carry an extra 20 pound of crossbow bolts in their quivers on top of their already heavy gear.

As far as I am aware, there are no surviving bolts/records of bolts that weigh anywhere near 266g (unless it's for siege engine), but I could be wrong.

rrgg
2018-09-15, 12:17 AM
The comments in that video suggest that he mistakenly placed the crossbow too close to the chronometer, which means the actual arrow speed should be even faster than the measured results.

On the other hand, this test was done with much heavier bolt than Tod's test. This is actually much more in accordance to common sense (it's usually sugggested, for modern archery, something like 5~7 grains of arrow weight per pound of draw weight for optimum performance. So a ~6350grain/411grams bolt suits the 1270 lbs crossbow best). If the bolt is too light, much of the energy of the high draw weight is wasted on nothing (and might damage the bow/prod), hence the rather underwhelming performance in other tests.

However, I believe Tod knows his stuffs, both in history and in archery knowledge. He test his steel crossbow with a 88 g bolt because that is what most surviving medieval crossbow bolts usually weighted. I bet medieval crossbowmen didn't want to carry an extra 20 pound of crossbow bolts in their quivers on top of their already heavy gear.

As far as I am aware, there are no surviving bolts/records of bolts that weigh anywhere near 266g (unless it's for siege engine), but I could be wrong.

The main difference is that the crossbow in the video is quite a bit bigger with a longer powerstroke and hence way more powerful than either Todds or Payne Gallwey's crossbows. The end of the video gives the overall stored energy in the bow when fully drawn at 1277 J, which is why it was able to deliver 433 J and 488 J kinetic energy to the two bolts.

IIRC from the measurements Payne Gallwey gives his siege crossbow had a total potential energy of only around 400 J, but his longest shot with the mass of the lighter bolt he was shooting still would have required a minimum of about 200 J or so in a vacuum. So if Gallwey's numbers are correct then his siege crossbow was far more efficient than even the massive composite crossbow in the video.

Galloglaich
2018-09-15, 12:50 AM
I thought Payne Gallweys crossbow was ~1200 lbs... ? or am I remembering that wrong

rrgg
2018-09-15, 01:52 AM
I thought Payne Gallweys crossbow was ~1200 lbs... ? or am I remembering that wrong

1200 lbs at full draw and a 7 inch draw from where the string is at rest to the latch. If we assume the the force on the string increases more or less linearly from 0 to 1200 lbs as you draw it back then that gives us an average force of 600 lbs over 7 inches, which equals 350 foot-pounds or 475 Joules of stored potential energy.

I don't remember were exactly i heard the calculation that it would have taken at least 200 Joules to send Gallway's bolt 440-450 yards. It was on some forum somewhere.

In either case its the range which is the most impressive part here. With a bow or crossbow you can usually increase how efficient the PE to KE transfer is enormously by shooting a much heavier projectile, but it's going to be moving much slower when it does leave the bow. To send a bolt a whole 440 yards it would have needed to start with a velocity quite a bit higher than 57 m/s, and if the bolt you're shooting is too light it can end up losing too much velocity over time to air resistance for it to travel the entire distance.

wolflance
2018-09-15, 04:31 AM
Just FYI that image depicts a battle by Bohemian mercenaries in a battle during the Landshut War of Succession (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_the_Succession_of_Landshut) in around 1505 in Bavaria. There are some other similar images depicting the same action. These mercenaries used both war wagons and those pavises. As a side note one of the military leaders on the German side who helped defeat the Bohemians in that battle was Ludwig von Eyb, who is known for having written both a fencing manual and a war-manual which illustrates all kinds of interesting war machines (and also includes war-wagon tactics).

You are right to point out the pavises though these were important both for hand-gunners and crossbowmen all the way through the 15th Century.

Grim Portent these images may give you some idea of the type of personal kit that handgunners and crossbowmen carried in Central and Southern Europe in the mid to late 15th Century, including the ubiquitous pavises

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/f5/42/28/f54228bfd24b828c51602c2cc15c333b.jpg

https://i1.trekearth.com/photos/42719/etlerl151.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/71/47/ba/7147ba4bbe2e63f90cefb6aafe8b89fb.png

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/88/da/49/88da49b8d4422a91533e22b9b85fbe4a.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/91/47/ba/9147ba248c9cfbdf276043afdeb125a8.jpg

https://i.redd.it/bucrnnvmwxcz.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/236x/ef/61/b0/ef61b03dc7bc872dc91f2570144fbbf0--saint-george-character-development.jpg https://i.pinimg.com/236x/c8/31/8e/c8318e4b2d3a5474bdc0d2fbe0bd7a90--medieval-weapons-italian-renaissance.jpg


Common denominators of kit would include:

Some kind of helmet
armor, often just on the torso or upper body
a shield or a pavise of some kind
a sidearm or two (sword or messer plus a dagger or knife)
Nice clothes as they tended to be fairly well paid

This re-enactor group the "Company of Saynte George" represents themselves hand-gunners, marksmen and artillery teams and their kit is extremely accurate - for Central Europe. You can find more detail there

https://www.companie-of-st-george.ch/cms/?q=en/The_Company

And more images here including a nice one of a more typical early 15th Century gunners kit

http://je-lay-emprins.blogspot.com/2011/06/company-of-st-george-at-gruyeres.html

G
I remember I asked a closely related question a while back, so I really appreciate this. Thanks!

gkathellar
2018-09-15, 08:46 AM
In terms of use and especially technique, how do one-handed and two-handed messers differ from other European swords of similar size and/or shape? Under what circumstances was the messer preferred? Is there much fencing literature on the messer, specifically? I’m especially interested in the comparison with military saber, and with double-edged cruciform swords both long and short.

Mike_G
2018-09-15, 08:58 AM
So, what do y'all think? Were 19th-century soldiers/fencers too lazy to carry a proper 4ft sidearm, or were 16th-century folks freakishly obsessed with size to their detriment?


I think both of these conclusions are preposterous.

There are 400 years between the 15th and 19th Centuries, and those are 400 years of significant cultural and technological change in Europe, which meant that the style of fighting in both duels and battles changed..

Rapiers, smallswords and sabres were each optimized for a specific style of combat, and each has advantages and disadvantages. They are apples to oranges.

It's madness to dismiss any of these weapons as bad or useless, because they are all very very good for certain things, and fit well with certain styles of fighting.

Another point to bear in mind is that the longer rapiers are often used with a second weapon, wither a dagger or buckler, and the smallsword an sabre are generally not, so a weapon that has to rapidly alternate between parry and attack will want different properties than one that doesn't.

I have sparred with a ton of different weapons, and they handle differently, but DIFFERENT ISN'T ALWAYS WRONG.

I think a heavy sword with a 40 inch blade is ludicrously unwieldy. But that's because they work terribly in the style of fighting I am best at. They were in use for a long time by very reputable fencing masters, so I would not call them bad swords, just not at all what I would choose. I like a sabre for general fighting, or a smallsword for a specialized duel. I recognize the value of a longsword, but I'm not very good with one.

So for me anything over two pounds and 35 inches is suboptimal. Because I like a nimble blade. I'm strong and fast, but very short, so I am not going to play the reach game. I play the timing game and the riposte and bind game. Very well, if I say so myself, and those work with a nimble blade.

I used to tell my fencing students, "don't try to fight tall if you're short, or fight fast if you're slow. Figure out your natural advantages, and make the most of them." Tall guys should try to fight with reach, keep the opponent away, and short quick guys should want to get inside, grab him by the belt buckle. A long rapier is really good at the first style and a smallsword or sabre is really good for the second

I won a national rating in sabre at 5' 3". So reach don't mean squat against a guy who knows how to counter it. I don't care if you're 8 feet tall and have a 50 inch blade, you can't hit me without moving your sword through my guard, and when you do, I'm waiting. If I parry and bind and lunge, now it's all my game. As a short guy, I know you will get the first shot, from a range where I can't compete, so I practiced the hell out of stopping that first shot. I parry very well, I know my binds and my ripostes are immediate. All this is easier with a short, nimble blade and harder with a big, long rapier.

In short, hammers are hammers and screwdrivers are screwdrivers. Which you prefer depends on what you want to accomplish

wolflance
2018-09-15, 11:06 AM
Of course I don't have nearly the breadth of Matt's practice, so I could easily be wrong! (Though Matt has asserted the rapier as the best sidearm for a duel, so perhaps he's almost on the same page. The next step is convincing him & others that Silver's baskhilted sword was nearly a rapier itself (https://artmilitary.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/george-silvers-short-sword-had-a-37-40in-blade/).
This is only tangentially related to your question, but I think even Matt neglected the CONTEXT of the duel when he claims that rapier is best for a duel - rapier is only best for duels that favors rapier (i.e. the duel begins with both participants have their weapons drawn, and out of reach of each other).

There are judicial duels that expect the participants to show up full plate (medieval), duels that start with both participants in punching range of each other (Chinese, even though this is still a sword fight) and duels that essentially allow the participants to assassinate each other before actual fighting/muster as many helpers as he possibly could to join the fight (Japanese, and this is not considered dishonorable. Japanese duel literally allows you to bring a gun to a knife fight). None of these duels favor rapier.



Now, as for your actual question, IMHO the development of "civilian" and "battlefield" swords influenced each other, as did the nature of the duel. Armor and pikes disappeared from the battlefield in the 19th century, duels became (for the most part) first blood only, instead of to the death. I presume law enforcement became more efficient, and killing your rival in a duel may get you into trouble. People also used pistols for self defense purpose (against robbers etc) and on the battlefield more often.

Something like this: people didn't need to fight bloody melee on the battlefield anymore >> less need for longer sword >> swordsmiths no longer make longer sword >> civilian sword also became shorter

Galloglaich
2018-09-15, 11:28 AM
In terms of use and especially technique, how do one-handed and two-handed messers differ from other European swords of similar size and/or shape? Under what circumstances was the messer preferred? Is there much fencing literature on the messer, specifically? I’m especially interested in the comparison with military saber, and with double-edged cruciform swords both long and short.

There is indeed a lot of material specifically for messer.

Messer fencing is different from longsword or saber or etc. in many ways it's hard to immediately summarize, but I would say a lot of it has to do with leverage of the long handle and the use of the nagel (the little guard near the hilt). There is a lot of ringen / grappling in it, and disarms and that kind of thing.

That said it does overlap with longsword quite a bit to.

As far as I know there isn't really a lot of material on the larger two-handed messer, most of what you see in the fencing manuals shows one of two types, a short roughly 2' weapon with a thin strait blade and a somewhat longer roughly 3' weapon with a broader and slightly more curved blade, the latter usually also having a more substantial cross guard.

If you are interested in messer I would highly recommend this book, it's a good translation and has a lot of material:

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41EkNGrTFPL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

https://www.amazon.com/Swordsmanship-Hans-Leck%C3%BCchner-Armour-Weapons/dp/1783270284



From personal experience, having done a lot of messer, dussack, longsword and 19th Century saber fencing, I would say this: The messer is surprisingly good at defense - you could say this about the saber and dussack as well. The messer is different from them in that it is typically strait, and with the nagel and the short cross you have, it lends itself very well to getting into or forcing binds. This is why I think there is so much grappling stuff for the messer. You can use the long handle to hook peoples wrists, strike them in the face from binds, and help you control angles.

Messer fencing is a lot of fun.

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-15, 11:39 AM
The main difference is that the crossbow in the video is quite a bit bigger with a longer powerstroke and hence way more powerful than either Todds or Payne Gallwey's crossbows. The end of the video gives the overall stored energy in the bow when fully drawn at 1277 J, which is why it was able to deliver 433 J and 488 J kinetic energy to the two bolts.

IIRC from the measurements Payne Gallwey gives his siege crossbow had a total potential energy of only around 400 J, but his longest shot with the mass of the lighter bolt he was shooting still would have required a minimum of about 200 J or so in a vacuum. So if Gallwey's numbers are correct then his siege crossbow was far more efficient than even the massive composite crossbow in the video.

Yeah so as far as i know, we really don't have any reason to assume this crossbow from the video is substantially larger or more powerful than the one Gallwey shot. 1277 lbs draw isn't hugely more than 1200 lbs.

There seems to be an unfortunate lack of data floating around for the weights of late medieval crossbow bolts but I can tell you having seen some that while there is a wide range of sizes and shapes etc., some of them are quite substantial and in general they are all much thicker and stouter than any arrow I've ever seen.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/84/97/c0/8497c0beb3f647c1d4ab092dbcd7a266.jpg

So I think heavier bolts are not in fact unlikely, I just don't know how heavy.

One other thing I remember is that medieval sources often mention that the two vanes on crossbow bolts would be tilted slightly, one up one down, so as to impart spin. The medieval sources described this as being for armor-piercing, saying the bolts would literally 'screw into' the armor. I think what makes more sense is that as we know spin-stabilization helps quite a bit with accuracy.

This experiment in the video while obviously serious (As i noted there appears to be an academic paper associated with it) is just one step in the right direction. I do fully expect that we will see much more powerful crossbows of the late medieval type (with heavy bolts, short powerstroke and the whole thing) emerging going forward.

G

wolflance
2018-09-15, 12:47 PM
Yeah so as far as i know, we really don't have any reason to assume this crossbow from the video is substantially larger or more powerful than the one Gallwey shot. 1277 lbs draw isn't hugely more than 1200 lbs.

There seems to be an unfortunate lack of data floating around for the weights of late medieval crossbow bolts but I can tell you having seen some that while there is a wide range of sizes and shapes etc., some of them are quite substantial and in general they are all much thicker and stouter than any arrow I've ever seen.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/84/97/c0/8497c0beb3f647c1d4ab092dbcd7a266.jpg

So I think heavier bolts are not in fact unlikely, I just don't know how heavy.

One other thing I remember is that medieval sources often mention that the two vanes on crossbow bolts would be tilted slightly, one up one down, so as to impart spin. The medieval sources described this as being for armor-piercing, saying the bolts would literally 'screw into' the armor. I think what makes more sense is that as we know spin-stabilization helps quite a bit with accuracy.

This experiment in the video while obviously serious (As i noted there appears to be an academic paper associated with it) is just one step in the right direction. I do fully expect that we will see much more powerful crossbows of the late medieval type (with heavy bolts, short powerstroke and the whole thing) emerging going forward.

G
Indeed some forms of very heavy bolt must've existed, since someone got to make something for the heavy siege crossbow to shoot.

That being said, the great horn crossbow bolt is substantially larger than Tod's bolt (almost double the thickness and length by my rough estimate), to the point that I doubt whether it can fit into Tod's crossbow. The 6~7 in powerstroke of medieval steel crossbow has more ramifications beyond just the efficiency of the weapon - it also limits how heavy you can make the projectile and still let it fit the weapon. Also, if heavy bolt used in the great horn crossbow test was common in the past, one should at least expect to find some surviving crossbowman's quivers large enough to accommodate it.

https://imgur.com/a/Lg2duuQ

(BTW, if the ruler in your crossbow bolt photo is in cm, then most of these bolts should be around the same size as Tod's bolt).

Incanur
2018-09-15, 02:39 PM
Rapiers, smallswords and sabres were each optimized for a specific style of combat, and each has advantages and disadvantages. They are apples to oranges.

Dueling (two people fighting) and skirmishing (more than two people fighting) in the open are about the same across time & space. A lot of the military & civilian encounters involving close combat that folks in the 16th century experienced were similar to those in the 19th century.


It's madness to dismiss any of these weapons as bad or useless, because they are all very very good for certain things, and fit well with certain styles of fighting.

Obviously shorter weapons are better in certain contexts, such as confined quarters. That should go without saying. The question is what's ideal for duel/skirmishing when a person has full room to move.

This brings us to another important point: if the shorter/lighter weapon matches or beats in the longer weapon in the open, it's doubly superior overall, as it's both more convenient to carry & better in restricted spaces.

Maybe certain weapons are better suited to certain individuals &/or fighting styles. The former doesn't really explain anything, as body/mind types differed among folks in both periods, so you'd expect to see a range of weapons in both periods if that was the case. You see more of a range of close-combat weapons in the 16th century, but you nonetheless had a definite trend toward longer swords. As far as fighting styles go, I'm sure that's a factor. Fencing styles competed & evolved.


Another point to bear in mind is that the longer rapiers are often used with a second weapon, wither a dagger or buckler, and the smallsword an sabre are generally not, so a weapon that has to rapidly alternate between parry and attack will want different properties than one that doesn't.

Long rapiers were used alone plenty.


So for me anything over two pounds and 35 inches is suboptimal.

Note that 35 inches of blade is still longer than most (all?) 19th-century infantry swords & probably around George Silver's perfect length for you, guessing by your height.

rrgg
2018-09-15, 04:00 PM
Sorry, there was a bit of a mix up with units somewhere. I was saying that the crossbow in the video had 1277 joules of stored energy, as opposed to the 475 Joules stored in gallweys crossbow. Both crossbows have a draw weight of about 1200 lbs, but the video crossbow stores way more energy overall since it has more than twice the draw length that Gallwey's siege crossbow did.

Even if you shot a bolt made out of a neutron star, the maximum possible kinetic energy it could have would be 475 J with Gallwey's crossbow or 1277 J with the video crossbow

The video description does say that the replica was based on an actual museum example which should be some pretty solid evidence that medieval makers did know how to make crossbows that were both rediculously powerful and had longer power strokes, we just don't know why they don't seem to have done it more often.

@incanur

I agree that the preferred military short sword seems to have actually been a good bit shorter than silver's sword at the time. I just want to nitpick a bit about the phrase "pure martial effectiveness", because i think the military writers were under the impression that slightly shorter, more convienient swords actually would make soldiers more "effective." The idea seems to have been that soldiers would tend to end up in a lot more situations where they needed to draw their swords really quickly or where there wasn't as much room to actually swing a sword if it was too long. There was also I guess concerns that soldiers would tire quicker, that a longer sword would cause more problems when marching in formation or moving through brush. The sword could potentially slow a soldier down while he was reloading his musket, etc.

It seems that the ideal length also may have depended a bit on the design of the sword. The mid-late 16th century also saw a lot of heavy cavalry start carrying a "falcion"/"curtal-axe"/" curtilace"/cutlass in addition to their arming sword. It was apparently considered a better weapon against armored opponents than the arming sword, but you also start to hear of many cavalrymen preferring to carry the cutlass as their only sidearm. At some point during the 17th century the cutlass apparently started to become somewhat common as an infantry sidearm as well.

So a lot of people apperently did prefer wider, beefy chopping blades even back then. So perhaps a 19th century saber or broadsword with a less pronounced taper than most of the straightswords in silver's time would have been a easier to handle with bit shorter blade than silver or the Italian fencers want.

rrgg
2018-09-15, 04:37 PM
I thought of another possible similarity between early guns and crossbows. If a catastrophic failure occurs you probably have a good chance of losing fingers whether it's a gun barrel exploding or a 1200 lb crossbow suddenly snapping.

Mike_G
2018-09-15, 05:19 PM
Dueling (two people fighting) and skirmishing (more than two people fighting) in the open are about the same across time & space. A lot of the military & civilian encounters involving close combat that folks in the 16th century experienced were similar to those in the 19th century.


I disagree.

yes, there has always been skirmishing, but as society changed, and armies changed and training changed, skirmishing changed.

If you are drawing soldiers from the upper classes and they are assumed to be training for combat their whole lives, you can use very different tactics and weapons than if you draw conscripts from non-martial populations and have to make the soldiers in a short time. And as firearms get better, you rely less on your sword, so you probably train less with it. The primary sidearm/backup weapon is the bayonet. Not many infantry privates carried swords by the late 18th century. By the time of the breech loading rifle, the sword is pretty much gone for the average footsoldier. So maybe a rapier take more hours of drill to get good, so a sabre or hanger is a better choice. Because of societal changes.




Obviously shorter weapons are better in certain contexts, such as confined quarters. That should go without saying. The question is what's ideal for duel/skirmishing when a person has full room to move.


I'm not talking about confined spaces. I've sparred with a lot of weapons, and not much, if any of it in confined spaces. A gym is pretty open, and I still find a sabre or smallsword or even a short dussack or hanger to work better than a long rapier. But that's not true for everyone.




This brings us to another important point: if the shorter/lighter weapon matches or beats in the longer weapon in the open, it's doubly superior overall, as it's both more convenient to carry & better in restricted spaces.


This is why I find Silver infuriating.

I've read his stuff, and his techniques and advice for fight aren't bad. I like his longsword stuff better than Lichtenhauer, actually, because I finsd it more intuitive.

But I freaking hate hate hate his attempts to create weapon hierarchies. It's Rock/ Paper/ Scissors with some Xenophobia thrown in.

Different swords are optimized for different techniques. A rapier is not "better" than a sabre. Nor is it "worse," in any objective way. If you train in Fabris and try to pick up a sabre, you will think it's a crap weapon. But if you've studied your Hutton, then you know it's not.



Maybe certain weapons are better suited to certain individuals &/or fighting styles. The former doesn't really explain anything, as body/mind types differed among folks in both periods, so you'd expect to see a range of weapons in both periods if that was the case. You see more of a range of close-combat weapons in the 16th century, but you nonetheless had a definite trend toward longer swords. As far as fighting styles go, I'm sure that's a factor. Fencing styles competed & evolved.




Long rapiers were used alone plenty.


Hence my use of the word "often" and not "always."

Sabres and smallswords were never, to my knowledge used with a buckler or dagger, so they were assumed to be your only parrying implement, which changes the requirements. They had to be more agile and able to quickly defend after an attack and vice versa. So they aren't 3 pounds and 48 inches of steel.



Note that 35 inches of blade is still longer than most (all?) 19th-century infantry swords & probably around George Silver's perfect length for you, guessing by your height.

35 is my upper limit for a useful blade. For me. I don't consider it perfect by any means. Heft and balance and weight matter a lot more.

The very term "perfect length" make my blood boil. For his theories, sure, maybe it was. But Musashi and Hutton and Capo Ferro would probably all have a different number in mind.

This all comes across as Knight vs Samurai or would Muhammad Ali beat Bruce Lee kind of thing. Different sword work for different fighting styles, which work for different situations and different people.

There is no "best." I have a best. You have a best. And as you train and learn, you "best" will change.

Gnoman
2018-09-15, 11:36 PM
This is from a bit ago, but I wanted to comment on it.




Oh I always got that feeling too. It may depend on the type of homes featured being mainly from warm areas ofc. I mean the houses getting blown away by tornados look like the 2nd Lil Piggy built them. No wonder it got blown down.

They must build more European-like houses up in Minnesota surely?


Do you know what happens to a European-style house that gets hit by a Midwestern tornado? The same thing that happens to everything else.

A large tornado can quite literally pick up a car and send it flying at 150+ miles an hour - anything that cannot withstand that will probably be wrecked if hit. There are no common home construction methods that can withstand a medium-to-large tornado without severe damage. It is possible to build such a structure, but you would have to build it to the same specs you'd need to resist artillery. Not only would the resulting structures be obscenely expensive, but they would be almost unlivably uncomfortable as well. Nobody's going to build to that standard. Instead, what is increasingly common is for houses to have single rooms built to that standard, as an emergency shelter.

If you try to build extremely strongly but to a lesser standard (essentially the European style), you won't be very well off if a tornado goes through and your house is in the damage zone (tornado damage is notoriously spotty, but this has nothing to do with construction standards, just a cosmic die roll). Either the house will be flattened (the better case), or it will be damaged to the point where it is structurally unsound and has to be torn down (the worse case, as this involves much more time and expense.) To make matters worse, the presense of such a house has a good chance of making the damage worse for everyone else, because all that splendid reinforced concrete turns into highly destructive shrapnel.

The lighter-built houses that are currently common are not simply cheaper to build and replace, they are by far the better option in tornado areas.

There have been some experiments with reinforced concrete domes, and at least one such house survived a direct hit from a fairly powerful tornado (albeit not without damage), but this is a new concept that still has some serious livability drawbacks.

Incanur
2018-09-16, 12:04 AM
@incanur

I agree that the preferred military short sword seems to have actually been a good bit shorter than silver's sword at the time.

Do you mean in the 16th century or the 19th? For the former, the preferred military sword according to various English manuals & at least one Spanish one, had a blade of 36-37 inches (sometimes this was expressed a limit, other times as a standard). Silver wanted 37in blades for men of mean stature, so that's awfully close. 16th-century military manuals don't mention different sword lengths based on height as far as I recall. Silver did want 39-40in blades for men of tall stature, which is a bit beyond the military standard/limit.

For the 19th century, 30-33in blades seem to have been most common for infantry swords.


I just want to nitpick a bit about the phrase "pure martial effectiveness", because i think the military writers were under the impression that slightly shorter, more convienient swords actually would make soldiers more "effective." The idea seems to have been that soldiers would tend to end up in a lot more situations where they needed to draw their swords really quickly or where there wasn't as much room to actually swing a sword if it was too long. There was also I guess concerns that soldiers would tire quicker, that a longer sword would cause more problems when marching in formation or moving through brush. The sword could potentially slow a soldier down while he was reloading his musket, etc.

I suspect this was a major part of the motivation for the smaller size of military swords vs. civilian swords in the 16th century as well as the smaller size of 19th-century military swords compared with 16th-century ones. 16th-century military writers stressed the important of sidearms of moderate length, typically defined as 36-37in of blade or under, especially because of the need to draw quickly. Soldiers apparently did try to wear longer blades at times, hence the need to impose a limit.

As far as convenience goes, I consider it a cost-benefit question. Even assuming larger sidearms grant an edge in the open, as I still believe, would it have been worth it for 19th-century soldiers to sacrifice convenience for slightly better odds in the relatively rare cases where they used their sidearms? Not necessarily. In the 16th century, more armor unquestionably provided an advantage to pikers & other heavy infantry when they actually came to blows, yet few if any pikers wore the three-quarters harness (plus mail hose & a shield on the back!) that Raimond de Fourquevaux recommended. I suspect it was just too much trouble in practice, marching around with all that kit.

I continue to find it marvelous that 15th/16th/17th-century Europeans were so obsessed with getting that edge that they carried sidearms that reached or exceeded 4ft in overall length. That's some dedication. Jospeh Swetnam (early 17th century) mentioned a person going around armed with a sword & dagger plus a Welsh hook on the back. Swetnam personally advocated carry a rapier of at least 4 feet & dagger of at least 2 feet. Going around like that on a daily basis seems immensely awkward. An earlier English source described how some people would carry 13-14ft pikes on the roads, prompting riders to carry pistols. Etc.

This did eventually get a touch absurd, as Girard Thibault pointed out. He asserted (https://blog.subcaelo.net/ensis/capoferro-weapon-length/) that the enormous rapiers favored by Ridolfo Capoferro & company would be "unsightly and inconvenient, as much to carry at one’s side, as to draw out of the scabbard, and also dangerous and unwieldy to use." Thibault's own perfect length is slightly longer than Silver's.


But I freaking hate hate hate his attempts to create weapon hierarchies. It's Rock/ Paper/ Scissors with some Xenophobia thrown in.

That's exactly what drew me to Silver in the first place!

Note that there's no rock-paper-scissors dynamic in hierarchy whatsoever. Instead, it's quite simple: up to his perfect lengths, longer is better, & longer than perfect length is better than shorter than perfect length. In this way his advice & understand resembles Antonio Manciolino's, though Manciolino preferred even longer staff weapons. He recommended the lancia (12-14ft?) over the spiedo (8ft?), holding the former in the middle.

It's funny how Silver only thought of single-handed weapons with blades under 37-40 inches as an afterthought. Intentionally or not, he technically gives the rapier odds over the vast majority of single-handed swords ever made/used, because of how he says longer than perfect is better than shorter than perfect. & his specific advice for beating the long rapier involves using the sword a lot like a rapier.



Sabres and smallswords were never, to my knowledge used with a buckler or dagger, so they were assumed to be your only parrying implement, which changes the requirements.

Sabres, especially in the broad sense, were used with shields across the world at various time, though certainly European sabres in the 19th century certainly weren't.


There is no "best." I have a best. You have a best. And as you train and learn, you "best" will change.

This reminds me of how Tom Leoni, a magnificent fencer & scholar, once claimed to me that the dagger matches the halberd at high levels of skill. As I recall, he was quite specific that if he took a halberd & went up against some dagger expert in an unarmored duel to the death, he'd expect only a 50% chance of winning/surviving.

While it'd make sense to thinkthat if in that situation in order to avoid underestimating your opponent, it's a wildly implausible claim about how fencing functions overall. We have so much evidence from across history that reach provides an advantage, on average. It'd be bizarre if all the effort folks have gone through to make & carry weapons amounts to nothing more than an exercise in personal aesthetics.

If Leoni made an RPG, the dagger would be the ultimate weapon in it & no PC would bother with anything else.

It's possible that smallsword, sabre, rapier, longsword, etc. are all approximately equal for dueling/skirmishing in the open. Again, that makes the smallsword the best weapon of these because of its convenience, but I wouldn't rule that out. Some contemporary sparring evidence supports this view, though I'd say the weight of the evidence I've seen aligns with Matt Easton's belief that the rapier trumps all other sidearms. See Nick Thomas's YouTube channel, for example.

Needless to say, skill matters the most in any duel. It all comes down to the specific movements of the combatants in question. I'd expect a master to thrash me ten times out of ten if I had a 9ft spear & they were totally unarmed.

However, weapons determine what you have to work with. At approximately even levels of skill, this is huge, especially with major disparities. Almost nobody who spars today considers the dagger a fair match against any type of sword, much less any staff weapon. I can grudging accept the possibly of sidearm equality, but dagger-matches-halberd constitutes a bridge too far for me.

wolflance
2018-09-16, 02:10 AM
though I'd say the weight of the evidence I've seen aligns with Matt Easton's belief that the rapier trumps all other sidearms.
I think even Matt is neglecting the CONTEXT of the duel here. Rapier is only good for duels that favor rapier. "Duel" in his context assumes that it's a one on one battle in the open, with both sides having their weapons already drawn, and the fight begins with both participants out of reach of each other. There's a sense of "fairness" in European-style duel in that both participants are expected to use similar or even identical weapons, lest one side is unfairly disadvantaged.

This definition obviously doesn't extend outside of Europe. Take samurai duel for example - you can basically assassinate your rival (and his entire household, if you can get away with it) before the actual duel took place, and it will not be considered dishonorable. You can also literally bring a gun (or lots of guns) to a knife fight, or call your buddies to help you up. Rapier obviously doesn't work very well here.

Epimethee
2018-09-16, 03:35 AM
Where we actually disagree
I would say certainly on this issue of high skilled vs. lower skilled labor in armies, and of the quality of medieval vs. later architecture, artisans and artifacts, and what differences in training really meant (for example, I don't think "individual prowess" is so important and was not precisely what I was getting at).

For the "Artisans Architecture Artifacts" part of this debate, I'll address that in a reply to snowblizz when I have some more time, probably tomorrow as I've already wasted enough today. Suffice to say I think he's debating arguments I wasn't actually making (I never claimed that any of this was within a vacuum of maintenance or that medieval buildings could stand up to anything you threw at them, which would be a ridiculous argument I am not dumb enough to make- I'm saying assuming that given the same level of maintenance the medieval holds up much better).

And one which you and he made which I think is incorrect - that it's only the great buildings like town halls and cathedrals which survived. I think it's very easy to prove that is false in fact you could probably do that yourself for me in a few days of driving around nearby southern France or northern Italy. Fancy a vacation?

Hopefully that will help us refocus this discussion a bit in a helpful way.

G

Yeah, that's a good trimming down. So let's get to the points.

Artisans Architecture Artifacts

Here you are guilty of the same thing you complain about. I actually live in a house that was built around 1350 (at least it is the first mention of the building in medieval chronicles).
And as a young boy I used to drink with some friends in a place that claim to have a roman wall on one side. And I can go a long way on.

So I'm well aware of what survived. In the case of my home, it is in fact the result of a lot of increasing changes: at one point it was three different houses. One of the fireplaces is outside a wall, as if a room was there, and you have also a XVIII century furnace in another room.
Most of the places I know that survived have the same kind of history. That's also because I live in such a place that I understand the kind of organic growth they represent.


One other thing to keep in mind is that standards would differ as much in medieval or roman time than today. Everything was not build to last, even castle or churches. But the reverse is also true: a lot of destroyed or surviving places owe their destiny to human intervention, regardless of their intrinsic qualities.
(Also the adaptation to the place is important, to climate, to geography, but again it is another topic.)

A building was erected with specific intentions in mind, responding to needs and goals. Most of the places that actually survived preserved this goal, like churches, city halls, farmstead or my home, or found new ways of being relevant, sometimes with huge changes in the layout of the place, I think of a lot of "grenettes", a Swiss vernacular for covered market who survive today in the name of a lot of buildings and town places around the country. They were refurbished as meeting places, and today often as restaurant, with interventions across time.
(try not to think too heavily of the Plato's ship here.)

The idea of durability as a sign of greatness is by itself quite interesting, a topic that would quickly lead to anthropological considerations but still worth mentioning here. It explain why a lot of power places, like churches or castle, were often built around the idea of lasting, of being a statement for the ages.
A lot of houses, buildings and such are lost today, only surviving in chronicles or archeological vestiges or even totally destroyed. More would be unrecognizable for those who started to build there.

That's accounting for human activity and natural hazard. I can point you to maybe as many ruins due to war or fire or lightning than ruined buildings that were rebuild but still seem to have last forever. That's again why in my opinion the defining factor in durability is human activity.

Lastly, peoples today are quite capable of building impressive things, again I don't speak only of the sumptuary things, or the military fortifications, but even common houses may be quite impressive.
As I discussed the point with architects and also a guy who is a compagnon and worked a lot on actual medieval building, they concur on one thing: what you need is time, effort and intention, regardless of the time period.
Only a select few constructions can hold to the best standards, and they are the most likely to survive.

That why I think discussing the qualities of buildings in a vacuum is a bit of a moot point.

The same hold true for artifacts, accounting for the fact that often only the best pieces have survived. Of course we could curse all day the cheap productions of mass consumption goods, but cheap and quickly build stuff were a standard across time.
Again the defining factor is time and effort. But still and not to diminish the achievement of the past, given the need we are able to perform most of the things they have done, and more. Not exactly like them of course, but the effect is often quite impressive.


Were larger less skilled armies effective

Yeah, we probably disagree on that! But we may come to it somewhere along the way. To be honest, I think the tercio and then its fall have already proved this point, as the tercio was intended to react against the type of armies existing in the end of the medieval period. The new drill add even more flexibility.
Still, given the right conditions, both could be defeated. That's obvious. To stole from Sit Terry, we could always find a pen sharp enough to defeat a small enough sword. But the new drill give an advantage in so many situations, starting with recruitment, that such a defeat would only be delaying an inevitable victory. But yeah, we are better keeping something like that for another time.

On trade


A quick note on Timbuktu (not to be too personal, one of the closest person in my life made a lot of archeological campaigns in the ancient Malian empire. Here it is closer to home so I will address it).

The thing is that, by the beginning of the XVII century, the Songhaï empire fall under the domination of Morocco, and also the trade roads across the desert are less relevant with the opening of the sea ways by the Portuguese navy.
As shown by the great Kanga Moussa, Timbuktu and the Malian empire were well known in Medieval Europe. Here he is on the Catalan Atlas, around 1375:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Europe_Mediterranean_Catalan_Atlas.jpeghttps://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/05/Kanga_Moussa_Atlas_Catalan.jpg/440px-Kanga_Moussa_Atlas_Catalan.jpg

As an aside, his great pilgrimage in Mecca was one of the cause of economical troubles for the entire Mediterranean area, disrupting the price of gold for years as he came with such richness that he provoked an international devaluation.
Not only a producer of gold, his empire was also a hub for commercial roads across the desert to Europe and the islamic world.
(Also Paul Imbert was there in 1690, and Anselme d'Isalguier, from Toulouse, in 1413.)
That's also one of the reasons for the developing African trade by Portuguese. The richness of Africa were well known and the ships were intended to profit from them more easily.

Generally, I think we should start with the rise not only of the Italian cities, but also on other parts of Europe. By the XIV century, and even accounting for the effect of the Great Pest, the European cities are sustaining quite a lot of economical activities by themselves, what I consider, and I think you do the same, as the most relevant factor in the centralization of power and the shift into the Modern Age.

And even then, a startling thing to consider is how, producing poor goods for oriental standard and buying luxury items, europeans were able to balance their commercial deficit, exporting a huge quantity of drap, even making some places dependent of those exportations around the Mediterranean Sea.

In fact, profitable is a relative term. One of the main reason of the economical rise of the European cities may be the fact that they aimed for profitability. A case in point could be the contrasting commerce of sugar in Sicily and Spain against Cyprus.
As a luxury item, its trade was not really important in the muslim part of Europe. But in Cyprus, following the crusades and of course driven by Italians, its culture was reformed to be more profitable, in a kind of pre-capitalistic way.

So in my opinion the opening of new trades roads was more a consequence of those factors. After commons goods, European powers would start to dominate also luxury items, boosting profitability, but I think by this point their economical grasp is already firmly on the rise, if not established.
But that's really a complex subject, with commercial, economical and financial problems to consider as much as ideologies.

In general

You should know Galloglaich that I give you a lot of credit and that's why I react somewhat strongly to your posts. You often take the risk of summarizing huge parts of history, and I'm not sure all the things you summarize are so basic for everybody. So my responses are really not intended to challenge your basic knowledge, or what we can both do backed up by a good pile of books.
But at the same time I understand that I often flirt with a limit here, where a lot of discussion are really more concerned by the technical side of things.

I think I made clear that I don't believe any human activity exist in a vacuum, that war is interconnected with a lot of other consideration, as much as technology, and that was for quite some time my main interest, how things are woven together.
So that's also why I react to some of the more cultural arguments you or other peoples make, and I think they warrant as much care as the discussions on crossbows or the importance of such and such piece of a complete suit of armor and may be in the end as relevant for some topics here.

So again my point is not to lecture anybody. Also I have to find a more balanced way of responding to peoples here, and to follow the flow of the responses.

But still, I try and again I commend you, G. And most other peoples here as you seem to let me and other a lot of space, and I think about this necessary kind of refocusing as a good interaction in the sense of the quality of our relationship.

So I hope I've cleared things up, and again, I will try to go more straightly to the point if possible.

Storm Bringer
2018-09-16, 05:41 AM
Regarding the theory about the change in armies' qualities, it might need a bit more of a disclaimer on what exactly you mean by "cheaper". While you could consider early modern soldiers "cheaper" in some ways, it seems that for a monarch to turn unskilled labor into properly equipped professional soldiers with the latest weapons was not a cheap process. And despite completely revamped fiscal systems and tons of new wealth coming in from trade and global colonies, early modern states remained pretty much always strained to the breaking point by military expenditures. By the late 16th century, sustaining the several thousand cronically underpaid, half-starved, "ragged rogues" stationed on the continent and in ireland, many of whom were literally impressed out of prisons, was starting to cost the English crown more than 250,000 pounds per year with income barely able to keep up.

http://deremilitari.org/2013/11/the-military-revolution-from-a-medieval-perspective/

I'd argue the big changes is that the Early Modern monarch is able to generate the wealth to raise and maintain an army himself, using his more articulated fiscal system and additional revenue streams, whereas the Medieval monarch was forced to "outsource" the creation of the army to his nobles, as he couldn't raise the money to do it without them. it might cost similar total amounts of money, but the point is the Modern monarch could centralise it under his control rather than being forced to distribute it to local nobles.


Rome spent something like 75% of the imperial budget on its army, but I think that might be more of a case of differing accounting practices than anything else (ie a lot of what we'd call "government" spending was seen as private or otherwise not counted by the romans as "governmental").

Deffers
2018-09-16, 06:40 AM
Hrm. I really appreciated the refresher on wootz and ukku steels last page. Here's a question-- assuming you had an infinite supply of wootz to work with, and so many craftsmen as to make questions of time moot, are there any roles some other form of steel would be better suited to? Wootz is very likely the best steel ever devised for swords. Is its capability to return to its original shape after deformation even really matched by anything steel? People used wootz as armor-- was that actually a smart idea or was it someone wrongly assuming that steel best-suited for swords would be best-suited for armor as well?

Obviously since this is a question about real-world weapons and armor, we can start there, but if anybody has any cutting insights on anything wootz would be bad for in general I'd be down to listen. I guess its corrosion resistance could be better, but reading up on the links supplied last page it would appear that there's a decent nickel and maybe even small chromium content in wootz blades, so I straight up have no idea.

Galloglaich
2018-09-16, 07:27 AM
Hrm. I really appreciated the refresher on wootz and ukku steels last page. Here's a question-- assuming you had an infinite supply of wootz to work with, and so many craftsmen as to make questions of time moot, are there any roles some other form of steel would be better suited to? Wootz is very likely the best steel ever devised for swords. Is its capability to return to its original shape after deformation even really matched by anything steel? People used wootz as armor-- was that actually a smart idea or was it someone wrongly assuming that steel best-suited for swords would be best-suited for armor as well?

Obviously since this is a question about real-world weapons and armor, we can start there, but if anybody has any cutting insights on anything wootz would be bad for in general I'd be down to listen. I guess its corrosion resistance could be better, but reading up on the links supplied last page it would appear that there's a decent nickel and maybe even small chromium content in wootz blades, so I straight up have no idea.

I think, I could be wrong though because it's at the limits of my understanding of physics, that most forms of wootz was / is not quite as hard as some other steels, so for example for surgical instruments or even the very edge of a blade you might want another type - rather like the way the pattern welded blades were made (which you might call 'mechanical' wootz though that is a limited analogy) where the center has the lattice and the edges don't.

Wootz armor is an interesting notion - I don't know of any examples but I'm sure it was done, it would be horrendously expensive.

Somebody mentioned modern armor, I know they do have ballistic plates used for stopping small arms which range from 3-6mm tempered steel. I wonder if wootz could actually outperform that.

3mm from what I gather can be made sufficient to protect against pretty much all pistols and lighter military rifles (5.56 mm and 7.62 x 39 etc.) whereas you need at least 6mm to protect against 7.62 x 51 or 54, or .30-06 etc. (https://www.spartanarmorsystems.com/ar550-body-armor-single-plate/?sku=SAS-550810-SGL&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzM3Oy7-_3QIVT77ACh16EgfQEAQYBSABEgKNGPD_BwE) 6mm "rifle grade" is very heavy. Also increasingly restricted incidentally.

That is with AR550 heat-treated steel with a hardness of 545-560 BHN (Brinell Hardness Scale). Wootz can be up to 640 from what I understand. Regular wrought iron is about 200.

One area however that modern armor makers could use help with is in the shaping and fit of the plates, which in current form is pretty crude, IMO.

G

gkathellar
2018-09-16, 07:33 AM
are there any roles some other form of steel would be better suited to?

To clarify, do you mean any roles, or just roles related to weapons and armor?

Because there's lots of engineering where you could certainly do better than Damascus steel.

Galloglaich
2018-09-16, 07:58 AM
My thoughts on the sword length stuff:

Longer weapons do generally tend to beat shorter weapons in the open, all things being equal.

To my experience again all things being equal, a rapier beats a smallsword 2/3 times and a rapier with dagger beats a smallsword 9/10 times.

As for having trouble with the length, of course this does depend on your size, but I would recommend to try handling an antique* - a good quality antique - you may be surprised by the balance. I held a 16th Century basket hilt 'claymore' type sword which was quite long, and the balance was so perfect, it didn't feel either light or heavy, it just felt like I had a seven foot long very sharp arm. I would be very confident fighting with that weapon.

It's the same with longswords, there is an immense difference between a poorly made one and a very well made one in terms of the balance and therefore speed and versatility. In terms of handling on a scale of 1-10 I'd put the average replica at a 1 or 2, typical HEMA tournament blunt or feder at 3-5, a top of the line Albion at a 5-6, a top of the line small shop replica from Europe at a 7-8, and the most of the (few) antiques I've handled 8-10.

A sword is a pain in the arse to lug around on your hip and definitely does get in the way. The longer it is the more of a nuisance it is.




So IMO that 1) Training and 2) the likelihood of actually getting into a fight are the key factors.

If you are a handgunner in an army in 1420, if you see action your chances of getting into some kind of melee where you have to use your sidearm are fairly high, almost routine, whereas the chances for a Musketeer in 1620 were a little less, and by 1720 much less. By 1820 the chance of ever using your sword is plummeting downward at least for infantry. So it's more likely that you are carrying a sword around that you will never actually need to defend your life.

It's worth pointing out also, that personal honor and the right to defend it was more widespread in earlier periods. Punishments for dueling particularly in Western Europe became increasingly draconian in the Early Modern period. If you as a common artisan were insulted in a tavern in say, Augsburg in 1450 and defended yourself in a fight, resulting in someone being wounded, so long as the eyewitnesses agreed you were defending and not the aggressor, you might get away with a fine and at worst would get exiled. But if you were a common soldier in France or England in 1600 or 1700 and wounded or killed somebody in a duel there is a very good chance you would be hanged.

So maybe there is less likelihood of getting in personal fights, though I'm not sure that is the case. France seemed to still be pretty violent.

In the medieval period incidentally, the most elite soldiers usually carried longer swords into combat, whereas the poorer and presumably less well trained soldiers carried shorter ones. Landsknechts who were relatively poor, famously carried shortish katzbalgers into combat, whereas the more elite Swiss Reislauffer quite often carried longswords, and some of the poorer ones carried baselard based short swords or messers.

It's also worth pointing out that training with longsword or rapier took twice as long as for a single sword (we know this for example from the costs charged to the city of Florence by a fencing master) and we also know that being certified to fight with a longsword or montante would get you double pay as a solider - not just in Germany or Central Europe but also in Spain and this continued to be the case well into the 17th Century. Spanish fencing masters used the greatsword as a symbol of their office in fact.


So TL : DR would be, longer weapons require more training to be of much use - not that this prevented people from carrying them anyway but their actual value would be probably less than a shorter one unless you were trained; and a diminishing likelihood of actually using your sidearm made carrying a shorter one more logical.


Rapier vs. other swords in duels
Matt's point about the rapier being best in a duel is in part him being provocative, but he has a good reason. Each weapon was designed for a specific purpose. The rapier was a custom made dueling weapon. It was believed to confer an unfair advantage in a fight and was therefore banned in many Central European cities (dueling swords meant for stabbing and of excessive length were being confiscated in Augsburg as early as 1398).

Stab wounds, incidentally, particularly to the torso or the head were also much harder to treat by pre-industrial medicine than cuts. A punctured lung or gut was usually fatal whereas a severed hand might not be.

For example sabers were designed for fighting from horseback.

Longswords and basket hilt type swords were versatile generalized weapons meant to give you a fighting chance against a wide variety of situations and when facing a wide variety of weapons. They should give you a good chance in a duel in a courtly palace or on the city streets, but that is not their specific niche.

From personal anecdotal experience, I would say that a good longsword fighter (with a long enough weapon) can own a rapier alone, has a slight edge over rapier with buckler, and is about equal to a rapier with dagger. You have to fight carefully and you can't open up your guard, but this is also the case against a good longsword opponent. The longsword has certain advantages but you have to be very careful especially due to the dagger - for example you can't close in to ringen without extreme risk. The hand protection on a rapier is also a factor. But your best bet it still to target the arms.


A rapier however even with a dagger is far less protection against a polearm or say, a long staff, such as you would be likely to encounter in a fight outdoors (outside of town).






G

Deffers
2018-09-16, 09:21 AM
I think, I could be wrong though because it's at the limits of my understanding of physics, that most forms of wootz was / is not quite as hard as some other steels, so for example for surgical instruments or even the very edge of a blade you might want another type - rather like the way the pattern welded blades were made (which you might call 'mechanical' wootz though that is a limited analogy) where the center has the lattice and the edges don't.

Wootz armor is an interesting notion - I don't know of any examples but I'm sure it was done, it would be horrendously expensive.

Somebody mentioned modern armor, I know they do have ballistic plates used for stopping small arms which range from 3-6mm tempered steel. I wonder if wootz could actually outperform that.

3mm from what I gather can be made sufficient to protect against pretty much all pistols and lighter military rifles (5.56 mm and 7.62 x 39 etc.) whereas you need at least 6mm to protect against 7.62 x 51 or 54, or .30-06 etc. (https://www.spartanarmorsystems.com/ar550-body-armor-single-plate/?sku=SAS-550810-SGL&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzM3Oy7-_3QIVT77ACh16EgfQEAQYBSABEgKNGPD_BwE) 6mm "rifle grade" is very heavy. Also increasingly restricted incidentally.

That is with AR550 heat-treated steel with a hardness of 545-560 BHN (Brinell Hardness Scale). Wootz can be up to 640 from what I understand. Regular wrought iron is about 200.

One area however that modern armor makers could use help with is in the shaping and fit of the plates, which in current form is pretty crude, IMO.

G

See, I'd heard that Wootz had pretty poor edge retention. Some specimens show significant evidence of, like... intense, repeated resharpening. We're talking "this blade is a quarter inch less wide now than when it was made." So it clearly was able to sharpen to an edge that people found enviable-- but retention seems to be a bigger issue. As for hardness-- what research I've managed to do seems to indicate that this is the case for the cementite nanowire. It's actually quite staggering how big the differences in Rockwell C hardness between the cementite portions and the pearlite portions of the wootz are, for something that holds up to abuse as well as it does. If you want a good idea of its mechanical properties, Ric Furrer has a series of videos on his Youtube channel where he cuts apart and bend tests pieces of an original wootz steel sword (while becoming increasingly distraught at what he's doing)-- this is the one that's been visibly sharpened over and over, incidentally. A fascinating detail is that it's likely the most beautiful patterns on wootz swords were the result of intentionally leaching out some carbon during the heat treatment of the ingot before forging-- as near as anybody can tell, because on top of being an extremely high carbon steel, wootz was an extremely high-phosphorus steel. There's a lot going on, metallurgically speaking. The repeated sharpening does seem to indicate that the steel is good at withstanding impacts, particularly given the visible evidence of the sword being forge-welded out of two distinct pieces of wootz. If you've used a sword so often you're sharpening it out of shape, it's probably taken the beating of ten lifetimes. Perhaps literally.


To clarify, do you mean any roles, or just roles related to weapons and armor?

Because there's lots of engineering where you could certainly do better than Damascus steel.

Well, I was focusing on weaponry and armor first, but if there's a fun mechanical constraint you can think of I'd be interesting in hearing what would be superior. I say mechanical constraint since I'm well aware it can't compete with, say, inconel in the inside of a rocket engine, or with electrical steel at the things an intentionally thoroughly decarburized steel is actually good at doing.

Max_Killjoy
2018-09-16, 09:32 AM
This is from a bit ago, but I wanted to comment on it.



Do you know what happens to a European-style house that gets hit by a Midwestern tornado? The same thing that happens to everything else.

A large tornado can quite literally pick up a car and send it flying at 150+ miles an hour - anything that cannot withstand that will probably be wrecked if hit. There are no common home construction methods that can withstand a medium-to-large tornado without severe damage. It is possible to build such a structure, but you would have to build it to the same specs you'd need to resist artillery. Not only would the resulting structures be obscenely expensive, but they would be almost unlivably uncomfortable as well. Nobody's going to build to that standard. Instead, what is increasingly common is for houses to have single rooms built to that standard, as an emergency shelter.

If you try to build extremely strongly but to a lesser standard (essentially the European style), you won't be very well off if a tornado goes through and your house is in the damage zone (tornado damage is notoriously spotty, but this has nothing to do with construction standards, just a cosmic die roll). Either the house will be flattened (the better case), or it will be damaged to the point where it is structurally unsound and has to be torn down (the worse case, as this involves much more time and expense.) To make matters worse, the presense of such a house has a good chance of making the damage worse for everyone else, because all that splendid reinforced concrete turns into highly destructive shrapnel.

The lighter-built houses that are currently common are not simply cheaper to build and replace, they are by far the better option in tornado areas.

There have been some experiments with reinforced concrete domes, and at least one such house survived a direct hit from a fairly powerful tornado (albeit not without damage), but this is a new concept that still has some serious livability drawbacks.


Well, it depends on the tornado.

For most tornadoes, reinforced structures do actually make a difference. Most of them aren't the freakish EF5s that make international news. Even building with 2x6 or 2x8 instead of 2x4, using cement board or similar materials for siding or under the siding, and installing impact-resistant windows, along with a bolted foundation and strapped rafters, is shown to make a large difference in the survival of a structure against the more common small tornadoes.

I don't know what "European style" we're talking about, so it's hard to compare.

A lot of the houses shown destroyed by small tornadoes were mobile homes, or crappy construction that slides in under shoddy local building codes.

Mike_G
2018-09-16, 01:42 PM
My thoughts on the sword length stuff:

Longer weapons do generally tend to beat shorter weapons in the open, all things being equal.

To my experience again all things being equal, a rapier beats a smallsword 2/3 times and a rapier with dagger beats a smallsword 9/10 times.

As for having trouble with the length, of course this does depend on your size, but I would recommend to try handling an antique* - a good quality antique - you may be surprised by the balance. I held a 16th Century basket hilt 'claymore' type sword which was quite long, and the balance was so perfect, it didn't feel either light or heavy, it just felt like I had a seven foot long very sharp arm. I would be very confident fighting with that weapon.


I agree with this.

I've handled an antique American Civil War sabre and it's far far better balanced than any replica sabre, even though it's quite heavy and long for a 19th Century sabre, which I assume is due to distal taper. That's much later, but still it was a weapon assumed to be fought with, not hung on a wall or carried in a parade, so it's a much nicer blade than the point heavy crowbar-like replicas I've dealt with. I'd love to handle an antique rapier, but that hasn't happened

I've handled a very nice replica Viking sword, which felt more agile than a lot of lighter blades.




It's the same with longswords, there is an immense difference between a poorly made one and a very well made one in terms of the balance and therefore speed and versatility. In terms of handling on a scale of 1-10 I'd put the average replica at a 1 or 2, typical HEMA tournament blunt or feder at 3-5, a top of the line Albion at a 5-6, a top of the line small shop replica from Europe at a 7-8, and the most of the (few) antiques I've handled 8-10.

A sword is a pain in the arse to lug around on your hip and definitely does get in the way. The longer it is the more of a nuisance it is.


I would think you can only make a competition blade so thin, because you don't want to cut your partner for real or destroy your edge, so they probably don't taper much.




So IMO that 1) Training and 2) the likelihood of actually getting into a fight are the key factors.

If you are a handgunner in an army in 1420, if you see action your chances of getting into some kind of melee where you have to use your sidearm are fairly high, almost routine, whereas the chances for a Musketeer in 1620 were a little less, and by 1720 much less. By 1820 the chance of ever using your sword is plummeting downward at least for infantry. So it's more likely that you are carrying a sword around that you will never actually need to defend your life.


This is the exact point I was trying to make in response to the "skirmishing is skirmishing for ever" argument. Near the end of the era when swords were still considered battlefield weapons, men skirmished in 1870 with trapdoor Springfields, and I don't see anybody carrying a rapier to the Indian Wars. Custer's men didn't even bring their sabres on the Little Bighorn campaign, figuring a revolver was the sidearm, and knives after than point. I would give the rapier odds over a tomahawk, but I don't think it would be worth wasting training time on it.



It's worth pointing out also, that personal honor and the right to defend it was more widespread in earlier periods. Punishments for dueling particularly in Western Europe became increasingly draconian in the Early Modern period. If you as a common artisan were insulted in a tavern in say, Augsburg in 1450 and defended yourself in a fight, resulting in someone being wounded, so long as the eyewitnesses agreed you were defending and not the aggressor, you might get away with a fine and at worst would get exiled. But if you were a common soldier in France or England in 1600 or 1700 and wounded or killed somebody in a duel there is a very good chance you would be hanged.



Hence my point about societal changes.



So maybe there is less likelihood of getting in personal fights, though I'm not sure that is the case. France seemed to still be pretty violent.

In the medieval period incidentally, the most elite soldiers usually carried longer swords into combat, whereas the poorer and presumably less well trained soldiers carried shorter ones. Landsknechts who were relatively poor, famously carried shortish katzbalgers into combat, whereas the more elite Swiss Reislauffer quite often carried longswords, and some of the poorer ones carried baselard based short swords or messers.


I see this as more of the same. Social issues, training time, etc.




So TL : DR would be, longer weapons require more training to be of much use - not that this prevented people from carrying them anyway but their actual value would be probably less than a shorter one unless you were trained; and a diminishing likelihood of actually using your sidearm made carrying a shorter one more logical.


I agree with this, but I also think that, beyond just time of training, different weapons are better suited to different styles of fighting.




Rapier vs. other swords in duels
Matt's point about the rapier being best in a duel is in part him being provocative, but he has a good reason. Each weapon was designed for a specific purpose. The rapier was a custom made dueling weapon. It was believed to confer an unfair advantage in a fight and was therefore banned in many Central European cities (dueling swords meant for stabbing and of excessive length were being confiscated in Augsburg as early as 1398).

Stab wounds, incidentally, particularly to the torso or the head were also much harder to treat by pre-industrial medicine than cuts. A punctured lung or gut was usually fatal whereas a severed hand might not be.

For example sabers were designed for fighting from horseback.

Longswords and basket hilt type swords were versatile generalized weapons meant to give you a fighting chance against a wide variety of situations and when facing a wide variety of weapons. They should give you a good chance in a duel in a courtly palace or on the city streets, but that is not their specific niche.


From personal anecdotal experience, I would say that a good longsword fighter (with a long enough weapon) can own a rapier alone, has a slight edge over rapier with buckler, and is about equal to a rapier with dagger. You have to fight carefully and you can't open up your guard, but this is also the case against a good longsword opponent. The longsword has certain advantages but you have to be very careful especially due to the dagger - for example you can't close in to ringen without extreme risk. The hand protection on a rapier is also a factor. But your best bet it still to target the arms.


A rapier however even with a dagger is far less protection against a polearm or say, a long staff, such as you would be likely to encounter in a fight outdoors (outside of town).

G

As far as anecdotes, a friend of mine who does SCA rapier fighting, after 30 years as a a sport fencer, loves the dagger. If he loses use of one arm, due to the SCA wound rules, he will fight dagger alone rather than rapier alone, because, as he says "it's all forte." Once he make s parry, he binds, closes and slashes his opponent across the mask. It's impressive. Especially as the guy with the rapier thinks the fight is in the bag up until he gets his throat cut.

I wouldn't choose dagger versus rapier, but it's a good example of a weapon that should be inferior on paper being very well suited to his style.

My real gripe with the premise of the original post is that weapons and especially the change in weapons and fighting didn't happen in a vacuum, so it's almost always apples to oranges if you compare 15 to 19th Century stuff.

I think it's similar to arguing the longbow vs the Brown Bess. The longbow should have a better rate of shot and better effective range, but society and the army and training had changed to where giving Wellinton's troops longbows would not be the same as transporting Henry V's troops to Waterloo.

gkathellar
2018-09-16, 02:30 PM
As far as anecdotes, a friend of mine who does SCA rapier fighting, after 30 years as a a sport fencer, loves the dagger. If he loses use of one arm, due to the SCA wound rules, he will fight dagger alone rather than rapier alone, because, as he says "it's all forte." Once he make s parry, he binds, closes and slashes his opponent across the mask. It's impressive. Especially as the guy with the rapier thinks the fight is in the bag up until he gets his throat cut.

I wouldn't choose dagger versus rapier, but it's a good example of a weapon that should be inferior on paper being very well suited to his style.

Could some of it also be surprise and lack of preparation to fight against single dagger? If the opponents he's up against almost always contend with rapier and dagger or single rapier, they may not know how to fight the matchup they're in, even if it "should" go to them by virtue of weapon advantage (and by contrast, that's a fight your friend specifically knows how to win and is good at winning).

I raise the possibility because I've seen something similar in exhibition matches between kendo and other Japanese weapon styles/sports. Even when the shinai should be equal or better on paper, the kendo fighter typically seems as though they don't know how how to approach anything other than another shinai. The traditional tanto guy, on the other hand, has almost certainly practiced fighting against both sword and dagger.

Galloglaich
2018-09-16, 03:39 PM
These things do come into play for sure. Once I got really into HEMA for a few years I kind of lost my ability to deal with SCA style group melee's - I get confused between all my Kunst Des Fechten options when facing multiple potential opponents. I'd have to retrain a bit to be useful in that kind of situation (I'm a bit embarrassed to admit. But it's Ok because I am old.)

Regarding bows in the Early Modern period, one interesting niche they seemed to have was in naval warfare. The Ottomans in particular crammed lots of their excellent recurve bow archers onto their warships. Period writers attributed to this to the knack for bows in plunging shots, i.e. dropping arrows from above ala clout shooting onto the enemy vessel, whereas crossbows and guns could be dodged more easily by hiding behind cover. Range also wouildn't matter quite as much in naval fights because if one ship is going to board another as so often happened in that era they would certainly pass through the range where a shower of arrows would be a devastating attack.

I even saw (but did not read) a paper speculating that the decline of Ottoman military power after Lepanto (1571) had to do with the large number of skilled archers they lost in that engagement.

I always kind of wondered if that is why they found so many mighty longbows on the Mary Rose, i.e. for similar reasons. The English had a lot of good archers and English longbows had good range and heavy impact. Maybe it helped them in naval combat until the point when it became more common for ships to just blast each other to pieces with cannon.

G

rrgg
2018-09-16, 04:48 PM
If you are a handgunner in an army in 1420, if you see action your chances of getting into some kind of melee where you have to use your sidearm are fairly high, almost routine, whereas the chances for a Musketeer in 1620 were a little less, and by 1720 much less. By 1820 the chance of ever using your sword is plummeting downward at least for infantry. So it's more likely that you are carrying a sword around that you will never actually need to defend your life.

The kind of melee fighting in which many soldiers usually actually needed their sidearm would have also been changing quite a bit. While the longer melee weapon might usually have the advantage between two duelists standing apart, as firearms' reliability, ergonomics, and ease of reloading gradually improved, any situation where you have enough room to point a spear at someone becomes one where you might just as easily point point your rifle at them. When a soldier was trying to come to handblows with a musketeer he would usually want to catch him off guard or else close the distance as rapidly as possible before the enemy has time to take careful aim or finish reloading his weapon. If the attacker can manage to do that in time then it doesn't really matter so much whether he's wielding a spear, a sword, a hatchet, or simply swinging his musket like a club. In fact, the longer weapons might even end up slowing him down slightly due to their weight or due to getting caught on something. Similarly, if the defending musketeer doesn't have time to put his musket on target anyways, then his best chance of survival is likely to be quickdrawing his sword, his dagger, or his wrestling skills.

https://i.imgur.com/q9UKfps.jpg

As was brought up earlier, right or wrong elizabethan military theorists at the end of the century do seem to get pretty opinionated about the size of soldiers' swords and daggers. And while the exact length may not have been completely agreed on, they do tend to make it clear that "shortness" is the main quality they are concerned about. For instance they'd usually write is something like "their swords must be no longer than a yard in blade" and rarely ever "their swords must be at least x long."

IIRC one of the reasons cited by Christopher Duffy for why riflemen continued to be issued sword-bayonets instead of regluar bayonets was that the sword was supposed to be easier to fight with in dense undergrowth or close quarters.

All of this does still seem to point to the rapier or longer sword being seen as having the advantage in a "fair fight" or on paper though. So it's sort of like the rapier/longsword was the tiger tank and the short sword was the war-winning sherman or t-34, only unlike the German big cats, there was once a time period in which longswords actually were the better weapon overall for a while.

That said, do you think that there is any merit to the idea that there are certain "perfect lengths" for certain categories of weapon based on distances and a body's dimensions? If someone's complaint about trying to use a longer sword is just that it feels too heavy or too imbalanced, then they could always try using a better-balanced/better made weapon, or they could just keep practicing until the weapon feels lighter. However there's presumably a certain length where no matter how light you make it, you can no longer cross/uncross your sword as easily or can't put the point on target while wrestling.

Do 19th century saber/smallsword fencing techniques use a lot of moves that just wouldn't work if the sword was made a few inches longer without changing the weight or balance?

Mike_G
2018-09-16, 06:37 PM
That said, do you think that there is any merit to the idea that there are certain "perfect lengths" for certain categories of weapon based on distances and a body's dimensions? If someone's complaint about trying to use a longer sword is just that it feels too heavy or too imbalanced, then they could always try using a better-balanced/better made weapon, or they could just keep practicing until the weapon feels lighter. However there's presumably a certain length where no matter how light you make it, you can no longer cross/uncross your sword as easily or can't put the point on target while wrestling.


I don't know.

I think every person, given the combination of size, strength, and preferred fighting style has a perfect length of sword. I really don't think there is a "perfect length" rapier.

As far as "just train with the long weapon until it feel right" I disagree completely.

I like a short, quick blade. I can do very, very well with it, because it suits my stature and the way I like to fight. I do much less well with a long blade, so why waste hours of practice just to get to the level I'm already at but with a longer sword? I'm never gonna win the reach game, unless I fight a clan of hobbits, so why pick a weapon that is optimized for reach? Genetics want me to play the speed and timing game, so I like a weapon that fits that niche.

One of my fencing buddies is 6' 5", so he likes a long blade, and likes to keep the fight at a distance, retreating when I advance, trying to keep me where I can't hit him. He'd love a 48 inch rapier. Even if I have the same long blade, his arm is still way longer than mine, so I lose. If I have a short, fast, blade, make my parry and immediately close and riposte with a bind, then I have a chance to win.




Do 19th century saber/smallsword fencing techniques use a lot of moves that just wouldn't work if the sword was made a few inches longer without changing the weight or balance?

If you make the blade longer, you change the point of balance. There's no way around that. I think a sabre or smallsword with a 37-40 inch blade would stop acting like a smallsword or sabre, losing those advantages and not be as good as a 40 inch rapier.

Galloglaich
2018-09-16, 06:51 PM
I'm not an expert on it but in my opinion 18th Century smallsword is just (for the most part) simplified versions of earlier Spanish or Italian rapier fencing.

The notion of a 'perfect size' for a weapon does go back a ways, Fiore mentions this as does Vadi. I'm not sure how much merit is in it though.

I think a rapier is kind of useless if you aren't trained for it, and I know a lot of soldiers carried rapiers who were not trained. So that's a thing.

You have some points about muskets and also, I would say that wheras gunners in the 15th Century were quite often skirmishers at least part of the time, gunnners in the 16th Century were more often going to be in larger formations or units meant to remain cohesive as a block (of people who also have guns). That makes it a little more challenging to use a larger weapon on the one hand and gives you safety in numbers on the other.

All that said, I do think a larger sword is better if you know how to use it.

The smallsword got small because of court fashions, for the most part - and people started carrying smallswords in the 18th Century for the same reasons ordinary soldiers wore powdered wigs- to emulate courtiers. That's because courtiers and nobles were the only people with any power or rights.

Post French Revolution French army is kind of a special case because they were trying to be uber scientific and they thought they had figured out the optimal way to arm soldiers, to fence etc. etc. But a lot of their confident beliefs turned out to be a little off.

G

rrgg
2018-09-16, 07:38 PM
Regarding bows in the Early Modern period, one interesting niche they seemed to have was in naval warfare. The Ottomans in particular crammed lots of their excellent recurve bow archers onto their warships. Period writers attributed to this to the knack for bows in plunging shots, i.e. dropping arrows from above ala clout shooting onto the enemy vessel, whereas crossbows and guns could be dodged more easily by hiding behind cover. Range also wouildn't matter quite as much in naval fights because if one ship is going to board another as so often happened in that era they would certainly pass through the range where a shower of arrows would be a devastating attack.

I even saw (but did not read) a paper speculating that the decline of Ottoman military power after Lepanto (1571) had to do with the large number of skilled archers they lost in that engagement.

I always kind of wondered if that is why they found so many mighty longbows on the Mary Rose, i.e. for similar reasons. The English had a lot of good archers and English longbows had good range and heavy impact. Maybe it helped them in naval combat until the point when it became more common for ships to just blast each other to pieces with cannon.

G

There's some evidence that the Ottomans may have concluded that they suffered due to a lack of firepower at lepanto. A year after the battle, the sultan ordered that all timar holders who served in the navy would now have to bring an arquebus, or at least one servant armed with an arquebus when going to war.

You're right though that bows and crossbows continued to see use alongside matchlocks aboard ships for quite a while. Skilled archers with their high rate of fire could still do a lot of damage to unarmored target at close ranges, they also may have continued to see use from the fighting tops up in the masts. Bernardino de Mendoza in 1594 stated that the weapons primarily used by spanish soldiers stationed in the fighting tops during battle were still mostly iron, lead, or stone projectiles thrown by hand down onto the decks below, so it might be that a skilled archer rapidly shooting aimed arrows at exposed enemies below him could also do more damage than a slow-loading arquebus at close ranges. Mendoza said however that the amount of damage that could be done from the fighting tops had greatly decreased in recent years since it was getting too hard to reinforce them strongly enough to protect the men stationed their from the more powerful muskets.

Mendoza does mention "balesteras" still being used alongside arquebuses aboard spanish galleys:


The armie being all of gallies and shipps of oares, they vse to place their wast bordes to fight with them, garnishing well the rombadas, and to repaire with trauesses, bolsters, and beds the boate and mast, for that in case the enimie should gaine the foreparte, yet he should finde fightes able to turne him out againe, the poope being well renforced with men, and the ladders pulled vp where they putt some litle pieces, the Captain of the gallie standing at the standeroll, which is his place to gouerne, the soldiours keeping their balesteras with their harquebuses, & in the spaces betweene the bankes they are wont to putt trunkes or balls of fire, lighted, to vse them, if occasion require, and pikes, targetts, and halbardes vpon the Cruzia for the same purpose, the men which are not to fight, standing in holde, and the Surgions to cure those that are hurte, and the Carpenters with their instruments, to remedie anie hurte, which might happen on that parte by the fall of anie shott.

For regular bows and longbows at least though, I suspect that by the late 1500s and 1600s the main advantage of keeping some archers aboard ships was that they could pepper enemy vessels with incendiary arrows.

Incanur
2018-09-16, 10:44 PM
In the medieval period incidentally, the most elite soldiers usually carried longer swords into combat, whereas the poorer and presumably less well trained soldiers carried shorter ones. Landsknechts who were relatively poor, famously carried shortish katzbalgers into combat, whereas the more elite Swiss Reislauffer quite often carried longswords, and some of the poorer ones carried baselard based short swords or messers.

It's worth noting that in his 1595 manual (https://books.google.com/books?id=FmiXjd3rpj8C&q=espada#v=snippet&q=arcabuz&f=false), Martín de Eguiluz both recommended swords of medium length like everyone else (he didn't give a measurement but a few decades earlier Sancho de Londoño gave around 37 inches as the old blade-length limit in the Spanish army) & claimed that Spanish arquebusiers carried longer swords than Turkish & Walloon arquebusiers, which granted them an advantage in close combat.

I'm not sure what to make of Landsknecht katzbalgers. Francesco Patrizi criticized them in his 1595 book (http://hemaforums.com/viewtopic.php?t=2025&start=20), though he recognized their convenience in a tight press. The rounded point as always struck me as obviously suboptimal, but I can see the merits of a short weapon to have when fighting in close formation.


From personal anecdotal experience, I would say that a good longsword fighter (with a long enough weapon) can own a rapier alone, has a slight edge over rapier with buckler, and is about equal to a rapier with dagger. You have to fight carefully and you can't open up your guard, but this is also the case against a good longsword opponent. The longsword has certain advantages but you have to be very careful especially due to the dagger - for example you can't close in to ringen without extreme risk. The hand protection on a rapier is also a factor. But your best bet it still to target the arms.

That's fascinating, & fairly similar to what George Silver wrote, albeit a bit more generous to the rapier. I've never see a sparring video where a longsword owns a rapier, though. I'd like to.


A rapier however even with a dagger is far less protection against a polearm or say, a long staff, such as you would be likely to encounter in a fight outdoors (outside of town).

Having read rapier techniques against staff weapons & messed around a bit with Joseph Swetnam's rapier-&-dagger technique, I'm not so sure about this. As I understand it, you ideally want to parry, bind, & close, & having a weapon in each hand facilitates this. Of course, with a longsword I guess you have have a powerful parry & then grab the shaft with your off hand.


The kind of melee fighting in which many soldiers usually actually needed their sidearm would have also been changing quite a bit. While the longer melee weapon might usually have the advantage between two duelists standing apart, as firearms' reliability, ergonomics, and ease of reloading gradually improved, any situation where you have enough room to point a spear at someone becomes one where you might just as easily point point your rifle at them.

As I understand it, the 19th-century featured a number of small-scale encounters (& some large-scale ones) with close-combat weapons despite the presence of firearms. Folks used the musket with a bayonet, for example, which was amounted to short, heavy spear. Reloading did take time, & ammunition sometimes ran out.


As was brought up earlier, right or wrong elizabethan military theorists at the end of the century do seem to get pretty opinionated about the size of soldiers' swords and daggers. And while the exact length may not have been completely agreed on, they do tend to make it clear that "shortness" is the main quality they are concerned about. For instance they'd usually write is something like "their swords must be no longer than a yard in blade" and rarely ever "their swords must be at least x long."

A lot of manuals do simply say a yard of blade from what I recall. Sir John Smythe started out saying a 3/4s of yard to a yard a most but eventually settled on just a yard & no more. Humphrey Barwick assigned "a good shorte sworde of a yarde in blade" to arquebusiers & other infantry. As mentioned above, Martín de Eguiluz counseled against excessively long swords but also considered the longer swords the Spanish arquebusiers carried as an advantage over their Walloon & Turkish counterparts. I suspect authors stressed medium-length swords because some soldiers were showing up with giant rapiers or similar & then struggling to draw them swiftly when it mattered.


All of this does still seem to point to the rapier or longer sword being seen as having the advantage in a "fair fight" or on paper though. So it's sort of like the rapier/longsword was the tiger tank and the short sword was the war-winning sherman or t-34, only unlike the German big cats, there was once a time period in which longswords actually were the better weapon overall for a while.

When it comes to preparing for close combat, there's always a trade-off between advantage in a fair fight & convenience. There might be some disagreement about this, but I think of a light full harness plus pollaxe, longsword, & dagger as the absolute best kit for single combat as well as small-scale combat that doesn't involve a lot of running around. It's also excellent for a mass melee. Yet of course it'd be absurd to equip musketeers & similar with such gear, because it'd hinder them in their main task of moving swiftly & shooting people. (It'd also cost a fortune.)

Ranged troops carried sidearms because carrying a staff weapon plus a gun or bow is impractical in most cases. The question is about the optimum compromise between advantage in a fair fight & convenience.

It doesn't seem completely clear that longer sidearms are actually better in the fair fight, though I'm definitely in that camp with medium confidence. I never meant to suggest that shorter sidearms are worse weapons overall, or that 19th-century officers would have been better off carrying rapiers of Capoferro's recommended length.

wolflance
2018-09-16, 10:46 PM
Could some of it also be surprise and lack of preparation to fight against single dagger? If the opponents he's up against almost always contend with rapier and dagger or single rapier, they may not know how to fight the matchup they're in, even if it "should" go to them by virtue of weapon advantage (and by contrast, that's a fight your friend specifically knows how to win and is good at winning).

I raise the possibility because I've seen something similar in exhibition matches between kendo and other Japanese weapon styles/sports. Even when the shinai should be equal or better on paper, the kendo fighter typically seems as though they don't know how how to approach anything other than another shinai. The traditional tanto guy, on the other hand, has almost certainly practiced fighting against both sword and dagger.
The problem of using dagger, or anything of insufficient length, against a spear/polearm/long(er) sword is that you will have a hard time defending your legs. The Thailand Mae Sun Sawk (tonfa-equivalent) fight from a crouched position against longer weapon for this very reason. The kendo guy is having a hard time probably because leg is not a valid target in kendo, thus removing one of the biggest weakness of shorter weapon.

I've seen this in my limited observation of HEMA too (although it does happen from time to time) - leg strike is easy to avoid and expose you to counterattack to the head if your weapon is about the same length to your opponent, so people that spar in longsword vs longsword or rapier vs rapier don't do that often. But if you have significant reach advantage, I see no reason to NOT focus on attacking your opponent's legs.



Ranged troops carried sidearms because carrying a staff weapon plus a gun or bow is impractical in most cases. The question is about the optimum compromise between advantage in a fair fight & convenience.
In the east, it was not unusual for "ranged troop" for carrying a matchlock, a bow, a spear or other heavy duty polearms, a sword, AND a dagger, and possibly a mace if he can help it though.

Incanur
2018-09-16, 11:52 PM
In the east, it was not unusual for "ranged troop" for carrying a matchlock, a bow, a spear or other heavy duty polearms, a sword, AND a dagger, and possibly a mace if he can help it though.

I don't know of any infantry that did this. Cavalry, absolutely. It helps to have a horse to put stuff on. Sir John Smythe commented on how many weapons Turkish cavalry carried, & thought it was awesome. He modeled his ideal cavalry in part off of the Turkish & Eastern European cavalry he saw in action.

At least some Qing infantry carried both muskets & bows, but not staff weapons too as far as I've seen, & probably just a sabre & maybe dagger.

Galloglaich
2018-09-17, 12:05 AM
There's some evidence that the Ottomans may have concluded that they suffered due to a lack of firepower at lepanto.

Lol

Oh they suffered from a lack of firepower at Lepanto alright, but not necessarily due to gunners. You see those real big ships blasting their way through the Turkish lines? Those are Venetian Galleasses (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galleass), h-e-a-v-i-l-y a-r-m-e-d warships for the day, not to mention huge.

A rather new and extremely timely invention for the Venetians at that time.


https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/86/Fernando_Bertelli%2C_Die_Seeschlacht_von_Lepanto%2 C_Venedig_1572%2C_Museo_Storico_Navale_%28550x500% 29.jpg


https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/03/Armada_galleass.png

https://pre00.deviantart.net/49a5/th/pre/i/2006/293/8/5/battle_of_lepanto_by_radojavor.jpg

The Turks may have regretted flaying the Venetian Captain of Famagusta (Cypress) alive and displaying his body on the ship, as they lost 40,000 men and 200 galleys that day.

As for the bows - I don't know about English military treatises etc. but the first hand accounts of combat in the Med (such as from Lepanto) all describes bows being used to shoot volleys of plunging shots, i.e. descending from above. Yes they did often have archers up in the crows nest but that only held a few people.

G

PersonMan
2018-09-17, 04:04 AM
I've got a question about what the organization of a town/village's defense would look like - assuming it's somewhere in the 14th/15th century, Baltic/Eastern Europe, and it's a town under German town law, how would things be organized? Were there general rules that were followed by these sorts of places, or was there a fairly specific formula? And by what means would things like fortifications or pay for soldiers be funded?

IIRC, later on you'd have towns and cities where it was required for the burghers to have weapons and armor ready. Was this the case earlier, and in smaller places as well?

Vinyadan
2018-09-17, 04:39 AM
The ship in Galloglaich's post doesn't seem to have any Venetian symbol on it, and I believe it has an Imperial/Spanish flag on its rear. Were they subsidizing them? Or was the fleet all using the same flags?

wolflance
2018-09-17, 07:13 AM
I don't know of any infantry that did this. Cavalry, absolutely. It helps to have a horse to put stuff on. Sir John Smythe commented on how many weapons Turkish cavalry carried, & thought it was awesome. He modeled his ideal cavalry in part off of the Turkish & Eastern European cavalry he saw in action.

At least some Qing infantry carried both muskets & bows, but not staff weapons too as far as I've seen, & probably just a sabre & maybe dagger.
Ah, indeed. Those overequipped warriors tend to be mounted, since they must be rich to be able to afford all the equipment, and thus had the means to buy a mount.

That said, Chinese ranged troops since at least the Tang period were usually armed with quarterstaves or some kind of chopping polearms, and were expected to actively engaged in close combat in support of the spear/pikemen (Alternatively, sometimes pikemen were given bows instead). The Persian immortals were also spear-armed archers.

Brother Oni
2018-09-17, 08:36 AM
Somebody mentioned modern armor, I know they do have ballistic plates used for stopping small arms which range from 3-6mm tempered steel. I wonder if wootz could actually outperform that.

3mm from what I gather can be made sufficient to protect against pretty much all pistols and lighter military rifles (5.56 mm and 7.62 x 39 etc.) whereas you need at least 6mm to protect against 7.62 x 51 or 54, or .30-06 etc. (https://www.spartanarmorsystems.com/ar550-body-armor-single-plate/?sku=SAS-550810-SGL&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzM3Oy7-_3QIVT77ACh16EgfQEAQYBSABEgKNGPD_BwE) 6mm "rifle grade" is very heavy. Also increasingly restricted incidentally.

That is with AR550 heat-treated steel with a hardness of 545-560 BHN (Brinell Hardness Scale). Wootz can be up to 640 from what I understand. Regular wrought iron is about 200.

One area however that modern armor makers could use help with is in the shaping and fit of the plates, which in current form is pretty crude, IMO.

The armour plate you've listed is 0.25" thickness with an additional 0.25" coating, which I'm fairly sure includes foam padding for comfort, a Kevlar layer for additional ballistic protection and a spall liner of some sort. It's also worn in a plate carrier (https://www.spartanarmorsystems.com/spartan-armor-condor-mopc-plate-carrier-and-spartan-omega-ar500-body-armor-platform/), which I'm not sure of the material of (is there an additional Kevlar layer somewhere?), which adds additional thickness and padding to the armour.

I agree that the weight is very heavy; your listed armour is 11lb 7oz for a 11x14 front plate only, making it on par with a ~1.3mm cuirass and backplate.


There's a couple of issues with shaping rigid armour; a logistical one is having to form fit the armour for each user's body shape is pretty much the antithesis of mass production, adding even more to the cost.
A technical one is based on how that armour protects against the very high velocity rounds, whether it deflects the round is or is intended to shatter to disperse the energy and prevent it from penetrating.

With shaped deflection, you have to be careful not to deflect the round into a more vital part of the body (ie shot traps). For example cuirasses are curved backwards on the upper chest to enable it to fit to the straps or the back plate. This was fine for attacks from above, but blows or projectiles from the front could be deflected up into the neck, which was prevent by wearing a bevor or gorget.

With a shattering approach, you want a flat surface for the round to impact against for optimal protection. The best example of this is the evolution of tank armour design, from the angled armour approach of later WW2 tanks to the current flat armour shapes of current MBTs.

http://www.theshermantank.com/wp-content/uploads/ShermanTank05.jpg
https://www.janes.com/images/assets/099/78099/p1377874_-_main.jpg

While I don't think a steel plate would use the shattering approach (it's typically used with ceramic plates), I don't know enough about that armour system to say.

Obviously this shape restriction doesn't apply to soft armours as their protection is fairly independent of the angle of attack, thus there are Kevlar vests shaped for women, rather than the general 'one size fits all' approach for plate carriers.

Edit: A question for you former military types: I remember a couple years ago, JustSomeGuy posted a video of him having a go at trying to hack through an old NATO ceramic body armour plate with a khukri. I remember that plate being rather small - does that mean there are different types of plate carriers, with big ones that cover the full torso and smaller ones that cover critical areas, or have the latter type been phased out?

Galloglaich
2018-09-17, 08:46 AM
The ship in Galloglaich's post doesn't seem to have any Venetian symbol on it, and I believe it has an Imperial/Spanish flag on its rear. Were they subsidizing them? Or was the fleet all using the same flags?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_League_(1571)

Galloglaich
2018-09-17, 09:50 AM
I've got a question about what the organization of a town/village's defense would look like - assuming it's somewhere in the 14th/15th century, Baltic/Eastern Europe, and it's a town under German town law, how would things be organized? Were there general rules that were followed by these sorts of places, or was there a fairly specific formula? And by what means would things like fortifications or pay for soldiers be funded?

IIRC, later on you'd have towns and cities where it was required for the burghers to have weapons and armor ready. Was this the case earlier, and in smaller places as well?

Yes it was pretty standard for any town under German town law, whether in Sweden, Poland or Prussia or Transylvania or back within the Holy Roman Empire. The only differences was a matter of scale. Larger Free Cities had much bigger armies and much more elaborate defenses, smaller towns and market villages had smaller armies.

Generally the real militia was only a fraction of the overall population - maybe 10 - 20% depending on the town. Though in theory the whole population was in the militia - and would be deployed if the town was attacked, it's really only able bodied males of fighting age (16-60) and with at least partial citizenship (down to journeymen). Servants and apprentices, churchmen and women, & men with disabilities were not obligated to be in the militia, though they would join in the defense of the town if it was attacked.

Militia requirements for equipment (armor and weapons, and sometimes horses) go back to the 11th-12th Century in most of Central Europe, Italy or Flanders. In the Baltic it might be a little later up to the 13th Century, whenever they went over to German Town Law.

Defense was generally organized by quarter or neighborhood of the town. Each neighborhood was further subdivided into lanes often according to the craft or the industrial activity on it - butchers on one lane, bakers on another, cloth merchants on another. Each lane had a commander and each quarter had a commander. The town itself would be led into combat by burgomeisters and members of the town council, who would also be members of the elite cavalry societies sometimes called "konstafler" or by a series of other names.

Each quarter or neighborhood also had a gate tower to defend, the towers all had names and patron saints, were typically assigned to one of the merchant families or one of the craft guilds (depending on the type of town government, whether dominated by the merchants or by the craft artisans). Whoever was in charge of the management of the gate collected small fees from people entering through it which was used to help with upkeep.

For example this is the St. Florians gate in Krakow. Krakow was under German town law since the early 13th Century.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/19/Brama_florianska.jpg/800px-Brama_florianska.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Florian%27s_Gate

This gate was run by the furriers guild, one of the more prominent of the craft guilds. It was built in 1285, a year after they got permission from the local Duke to build new walls, and just two years later helped repell the 3rd Mongol Invasion of Poland. Originally Krakow had 47 towers, today only the St. Florians tower, and the the Carpenters', Haberdashers' and Joiners' Towers remain.

Towers held small armouries and arsenals, and these would include both armor and weapons (mainly to equip non-citizens), as well as ammunition - to the tune of hundreds of thousands or even millions of crossbow bolts as well as by the 15th Century plentiful gunpowder and shot. They would also usually have at least a few cannon.

Krakow also have their impressive barbican which was built later in the 15th Century

http://www.krakow-info.com/Barbakan.jpg

http://www.krakow-info.com/images/Mury.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krak%C3%B3w_Barbican

The larger towns would also typically subdivided into separate municipalities which each had their own systems of walls. The walls, particularly the outermost ones, would be continuously upgraded to deal with different evolving threats.

In addition to the outer walls, some towns had citadels, basically huge castles inside the town, though in many cases these were destroyed in the 13th or 14th Century, whenever the town became independent or became a republic, since the citadels were often used by rulers to control the town. Danzig destroyed theirs in the 15th Century at the beginning of their rebellion against the Teutonic Knights.

Internally within more defensive positions, strong points and towers. The town hall was usually fortified and had a tower. This is the one in Krakow, famous for a lookout being shot there during one of the Mongol invasions (they play a trailing off trumpet note every day to commemorate this)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Town_Hall_Tower,_Krak%C3%B3w

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e4/Krak%C3%B3w_-_Town_Hall_Tower_01a.jpg/316px-Krak%C3%B3w_-_Town_Hall_Tower_01a.jpg

Guild halls, granaries, inns, water towers and the houses of great patrician families would also often be fortified. All major public buildings especially the craft guild halls and patrician 'hotels' had armories in them with more arms and armor and weapons.

Very large Churches and Cathedrals with very high steeples were also used as lookout positions from which to observe enemy armies.

Towers will include small and medium cannons starting in the late 13th Century. In the 14th Century fast firing breach loaders, often mounted on pintles, started to be popular. Many towns in the late 14th or early 15th Century started making giant 'super guns' - huge bombards with very long range, as a way to discourage the approach of enemy cannon, towers or siege engines. This one from Bremen in 1411 (during a time of great military danger to the town) it was kept until the 18th Century, when they decided to shoot it one more time before melting it down, it was able to shoot a 725 lb stone ball 2400 meters. They said the sound echoed 20 for miles.

Internally within the town they would have springs and wells for water sources, and huge granaries capable of feeding the city for up to a year, typically, sometimes much more. They would also even keep raw materials sufficient for the guilds to continue to practice their crafts for a year. In "The Prince" Machiavelli noted that:

“The cities of Germany are absolutely free, have little surrounding country, and obey the emperor when they choose, and they do not fear him or any other potentate that they have about them. They are fortified in such a manner that every one thinks that to reduce them would be tedius and difficult, for they have all the necessary moats and bastions, sufficient artillery, and always keep food, drink, and fuel for one year in the public storehouses. Beyond which, to keep the lower classes satisfied, and without loss to the commonwealth, they have always enough means to give them work for one year in these employments which form the nerve and life of the town, and in the industries by which the lower classes live. Military exercises are still held in high reputation, and many regulations are in force for maintaining them.”

Towns would also have secret tunnels with sally ports used to attack enemy siege camps. Wroclaw / Breslau was noted to have done this successfully on numerous occasions against a wide variety of enemies.

In the field they would often combine town militia with mercenaries. Too many casualties among the militia were very damaging to the town economy so they tried to minimize them, not to mention the craft guilds etc. often refused to put themselves at extended risk - the town laws required them to defend the town itself but not necessarily to go one weeks-long deployments beyond them. In expeditionary deployments they would often rely on a hard core of volunteers plus a much larger mercenary force, at a ratio of maybe 5-1 or more. Conversely German and German / Polish, German / Swedish etc. towns did not trust mercenaries to defend their own walls, unlike in Italy where so often Condottiere took over.

In the field town militia would be organized into Fähnlein (banners - battalion sized units) based on neighborhoods and led by city councilors or guild aldermen, and Rotte (rows or lanes, basically a squad) usually led by aldermen. The core of the militia was infantry gunners and (crossbow) marksmen, with lesser ranked citizens and residents armed as pikemen or with other mixed polearms. By the second quarter of the 15th Century war-wagons were also very common part of urban militia deployments, as were artillery like volley guns and small breach loading cannon.

They would also have a small but well equipped cavalry force based on merchants and the more prominent guilds. The town of Riga for example had a special cavalry society called the Brotherhood of the Blackheads (dedicated to St. Maurice (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Maurice)) which was founded after the St. Georges Night uprising in 1345 and fielded roughly 200 lances in 1420. They also had 20 cannon, 8 mangonels and 66 small caliber cannon in records in the early 16th Century. They fought successfully against the Muscovites in the Livonian War. The similar Lilienvente of Brunswick was founded with 60 men in 1386, but was able to field 400 horses in 1388.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brotherhood_of_Blackheads

https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilienvente&prev=search

One common tactic was to send out a tough column to engage the enemy and pin them down, observe the battle from the Cathedral or tallest Church spire, and at the most intense / pivotal moment of the battle, to send out a second heavily armed column as reinforcements.

In the Baltic area towns relied heavily on their navies, both on the rivers and out to sea. Danzig had by far the most powerful navy (converted merchants ships) in the Baltic in the 15th Century.

Anyway hopefully that gives you a good baseline.

G

Galloglaich
2018-09-17, 10:20 AM
Forgot to link the gun from Brunswick I was referring to

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faule_Mette

Another officers position in German (and German-ish) urban armies was the Büchsenmeister or cannon-master. These guys were usually the craft guild master who had actually cast or forged most of the cannon himself so he was an expert on their use, as well as on mixing and dealing with the gunpowder they used. They were also knowledgeable in the fundamentals of geometry (being trained in Euclid, Virtruvious etc.) and were very crafty about both defending and destroying fortifications. These guys ended up being a very important part of many German armies in the late medieval and Early Modern period.

Here is an auto-translate from German wikipedia on them

https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%25C3%25BCchsenmeister&prev=search

I should also add, that in addition to the elite cavalry societies, nearly every town under German town law also had shooting clubs, which were guilds or confraternities - named after patron saints. So crossbow shooting guild was usually under St. George, archers under St. Sebastian, gunners and cannon crew under St. Barbara and so on. And they also had fencing guilds - the Brotherhood of St. Mark and later the Federfechter of St. Vitus. Certain crafts were closely associated with these fencing guilds. Interestingly for Krakow in the above examples, the Furriers guild was closely associated with both the Marks Bruder and the Federfechter.

The st George and St Sebastian guild halls in Bruges are popular tourist destinations today.

https://www.visitbruges.be/en/schuttersgilde-sint-sebastiaansgilde-st-sebastians-archers-guild

These clubs and the cavalry societies would sponsor shooting contests and other competitions (horse races, fecthtschuler and so on). As a result of the shooting contests, it was well established who the best marksmen in town were, per the conversation we were having upthread about the small number of unusually crack shots / sharpshooters who could be found in pre-industrial armies. These people would be carefully distributed around the defensive systems of the towns (often placed in high well defended towers) and used to pick off enemy leaders and key personnel. Expert fencers would often be given those dangerous jobs like to attack from secret sally port tunnels and burn enemy supplies or release their horses and so on. Often those types of tactics were successful in forcing besieging armies to move on or disperse.

Most larger towns (like say Danzig or Lubeck) had such formidable defenses that they were basically immune from direct attack. Smaller towns and market villages were much more vulnerable but they too often successfully resisted very large armies*. Steppe nomads like the Mongols in particular weren't very good at siege warfare, though the Ottomans were due to their propensity to build large and excellent quality cannon. Nevertheless towns were surprisingly resilient in defense, particularly in the northern most parts of Central Europe. Their record was more mixed in the open field.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/21/Alter_Z%C3%BCrichkrieg_-_Schwyzer_beschiessen_von_einem_Floss_aus_erfolglo s_Rapperswil,_Ammann_Hans_ab_Yberg_wird_von_einer_ Kugel_getroffen,_Chronik_Werner_Schodoler,_1514_-_Stadtmuseum_Rapperswil_2013-01-05_16-32-38_-ACD5-.JPG

Naval assets were often used on the rivers and lakes (and sea access if any) to harass the enemy with gunfire, bring in supplies and drop assault teams here and there. Due to their technological edge, towns often had the advantage in naval warfare vs. enemies from other estates. Ships, floating batteries and fortified rafts were often equipped with a lot of artillery as this was one of the best ways to move artillery around. This was quite effective against the Mongols and Ottomans including in the Black Sea where Cossacks were very active.

Finally i should also mention that a very common tactic of urban militias was to take advantage of their deep pool of expertise in masonry to send small but well protected expeditions to construct small castles or block-houses in positions to make life difficult for enemy forces. Kind of a chess game or slow motion armored warfare.



G

* Krakow incidentally, as a relatively small free city, was kind of on the borderline of this. Many towns in the Baltic / Northeastern European zone, even the Free Cities, were pretty small and existed in that area where they were 'pretty safe' but had to stay very vigilant.

rrgg
2018-09-17, 02:32 PM
One last point regarding weapon hierarchies and whether certain weapons were better than others. It helps a lot to keep in mind to what degree of an advantage someone might be referring to. Even silver points out a lot of exceptions, of course the greatest advantage in a duel goes to whoever is taller, more skilled, more talented with their weapon, luckier, etc. However if the end result is that, all other things being equal, the weapon with the "advantage" is going to win just 51% of the time, then it's very unlikely that people will actually notice, never mind actually care if the 49% weapon is cheaper, easier to carry, and looks cooler.

This is what makes authors like Silver so interesting, since they've apparently concluded from their experience that not only do certain weapons have an advantage, but that those advantages are significant enough to be worth mentioning. As opposed to for example the the black bill, halberd, and battle axe which he thinks might as well all be the same weapon if they're a similar length. Also, all polearms of "the perfect length" he considers interchangeable including the half pike, partisan, glaive, and short staff, with the lone exception of the welsh hook or forest bill, which has the advantage over the rest in this category.

Some of his advantages he suggests are more extreme than others, for instance he claims the half pike has the advantage even when fighting two swordsmen at once while the full pike has the advantage only in a dual against one swordsman at a time. When comparing him to other authors you can also start to figure out which of his claims were more controversial than others and may have been mistaken. The big one of course being the rapier vs short sword (although in battle at least it does seem that a lot of military men largely did agree with Silver at the time. He mentioned that already "in the wars we use few rapiers, or none at all, but short swords." He just didn't like the English military's short swords either since they rarely included a wrap-around hilt to protect the hand.) His low opinion of the sword and target compared to two-handed weapons also comes across as somewhat unique. There are even various authors who don't seem to think that the half pike has any particular advantage over the full pike in one on one combat or loose skirmishes.

For the most part however you do tend to find a lot of authors who seem largely in agreement with silver for the most part, or at least don't directly disagree. Sometimes you find authors which at times go into slightly more detail than even silver did. Di Grassi for instance suggests that bills might be a slightly better weapon design than halberds since they can hurt in one more direction than halberds can, however he still doesn't seem to put much stock in this as long as both the bill and the halberd are of the same size and weight. Far more often especially the military authors tend to be far less particular, usually deciding to lump just about every melee weapon which isn't a pike into a single category called "short weapons." So there definitely were a lot of people at the time under the impression that even if certain weapons were advantageous to some degree, whether you had soldiers armed with halberds, partisans, two-handed swords, or swords and targets shouldn't make too much of a difference tactically.




You have some points about muskets and also, I would say that wheras gunners in the 15th Century were quite often skirmishers at least part of the time, gunnners in the 16th Century were more often going to be in larger formations or units meant to remain cohesive as a block (of people who also have guns). That makes it a little more challenging to use a larger weapon on the one hand and gives you safety in numbers on the other.

That's another good point. At some time in the 16th century guns seem to have reached the point where even in massed formations and in the hands of lower-quality recruits volleys of musket fire were considered able to do far more damage than massed formations of archers could. One last distinction I want to make though between these troops and the actual "line infantry" of the 18th century is that arquebusiers and musketeers throughout the pike and shot period remained pretty much exclusively light infantry. While you increasingly see most of the shot drilled to fight in large cohesive blocks in order to keep them easier to control and help keep them close to the protection of their block of pikemen, they would never really be expected to stand shoulder to should and "hold the line" like later british redcoats. They might sometimes be willing to get in a brawl with other light infantry, but otherwise anytime danger got too close they were supposed to just leg it back to the safety of pikemen or fortifications.

Skirmishing never really went away or became less common, although when you have an army of 30,000 men you're probably only going to send a small fraction out skirmishing at any one time. And even for the soldiers who were trained to fight in cohesive blocks, a lot of their drills continued to serve as sort of a hybrid between massed volley tactics and skirmish tactics. Countermarch drills of the 17th century for example often included each rank or file first advancing forward to a Sergent or corporal stationed 10, 30, or more paces in front of the main body depending on the commander's discretion. The musketeers might then be allowed to spread out somewhat or kneel behind cover if there was enough space available before discharging their weapons and retiring back to the rear. http://syler.com/drillDemo/CombinedArms/Msktr2RanksFire.html

Anyways, regarding the use of melee weapons in skirmishes. During the 16th century it did remain fairly common and highly recommended for loose skirmishers operating independently to have a small number of melee troops mixed in armed with halberds, longswords, targets, and sometimes pikes.



The which bils and halberds with other short weapons as swords and targets, and long swords, and such like, shall serue as in a place of best seruice for them, to mingle with your naked troupes of shot, and also (placed with some pikes) for the gard of the cariage and munition and ordinance, or for execution if the ene∣my begin to breake and slye, with sundry such seruices not contained in the bo∣dy of the battell.

During the 17th century however, the use of short weapons seems to largly dry up completely, except among officers. Which might indicate that the skirmishing shot were getting better at defending themselves with their firearms alone, or were at least getting better at running away from danger.

As early as the 1620s in england's American colonies you find colonial militias arming themselves with firearms exclusively (carrying swords as sidearms) in their wars against the Indians, having concluded that the pikes, bills, and halberds they brought were of little use due to the terrain and against the tactics used by the native americans.

Edit: also there's sieges which come all the way back around to being a possible exception again. From Sir James Turner in 1671:


There are besides these I have mention'd, other Weapons for the Foot, such as long Rapiers and Touks, Shables, two handedswords, Hangmens Swords, Javelins, Morning stars, but most of these are rather for the defence of Towns, Forts, Trenches, Batteries and Approaches, than for the Field. And as our light armed Foot are now for most part armed with Sword and Musket, so our heavy arm'd offensively are with Sword and Pike.

Basically, when melees did occur during the 17th-19th centuries it was usually when defending some town, trench, etc. since that tended to be somewhere that the musketeers were cornered and couldn't just run away, and when a melee did begin there it seems that all these longer weapons were still considered more effective. What Turner suggested was that if you still had any of these older weapons laying around you should keep them stored along with things like halberds and half pikes in the trenches or on the ramparts where the enemy was likely to assault. Then the musketeers or pikemen defending their could use their primary weapons first and drop them to pick up these other melee weapons once the enemy got close.

rrgg
2018-09-17, 06:02 PM
Lol

Oh they suffered from a lack of firepower at Lepanto alright, but not necessarily due to gunners. You see those real big ships blasting their way through the Turkish lines? Those are Venetian Galleasses (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galleass), h-e-a-v-i-l-y a-r-m-e-d warships for the day, not to mention huge.

A rather new and extremely timely invention for the Venetians at that time.
Ha, I guess I walked into that one. :smalltongue:

The fact that the Galleasses were so huge as you can see in the illustrations was a big part of their success. In 16th century naval combat having the taller ship or the taller fore and aft castles generally became a ridiculous advantage in close quarters, I think even moreso than in the middle ages. Trying to board a taller ship would mean having to attack uphill while the men on deck would have far fewer places to effectively hide from handguns, crossbows, and swivel guns shooting downward from higher ground, against which even armor or shields held overhead were no longer a reliable defense. The men fighting from the higher deck also had a much easier time throwing down all sorts of grenades, balls of wildfire, hot coals, and anything else they can think of onto the enemy ship below. Mendoza even mentions scalding oil being poured onto the decks of enemy ships, and I'd always thought that was a myth.

It's during the later 16th century that you really see the growing focus on shipboard artillery over size as designs improved and cast iron cannon got cheaper. The dominance of the tall, round carracks in combat started to be challenged by specially-designed warships like the galleon and later the frigate, built to be narrower, faster, and sturdy enough to support much more heavy artillery, especially broadside artillery.



As for the bows - I don't know about English military treatises etc. but the first hand accounts of combat in the Med (such as from Lepanto) all describes bows being used to shoot volleys of plunging shots, i.e. descending from above. Yes they did often have archers up in the crows nest but that only held a few people.

G

Thanks! can you happen to give any examples?

The english treatises I've read don't really go into much detail about naval combat so I'm just sort of guessing here aside from some 17th century discussion about longbows still being useful for their ability to shoot fire arrows.

If anyone's interested Wikisouce has the transcriptions and illustrations from the 1546 Antony Rolls, recording all of the English navy's warships and their armaments at the time. Note that the category labeled "Galleasses" are really more what we would consider early galleons. There's only one true galley, the "Subtle", but you can see how it was able to carry much heavier artillery on its bow than other ships of it's tonnage at the time.

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Anthony_Roll

Also if anyone's interested here's William Bourne's "Inventions or Devices" many of which deal with sailing or naval combat.

https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A16509.0001.001?rgn=subject;view=toc;

Seharvepernfan
2018-09-17, 06:07 PM
How fast do iron or steel items rust in water? Say it's a clear stone pool of rainwater. What if the items had wax or oil coatings? Paint, enamel?

Gnoman
2018-09-17, 09:27 PM
Waterproof paint will protect the metal indefinitely, as long as the coating is not damaged. Once any part of the metal begins to rust, it will spread.

Brother Oni
2018-09-18, 01:55 AM
How fast do iron or steel items rust in water? Say it's a clear stone pool of rainwater. What if the items had wax or oil coatings? Paint, enamel?

Assuming a rural environment, bare steel/iron and the items are just sitting there fully immersed, a very rough ballpark figure is 4 - 60 µm / year.

More concrete values are highly dependent on the local environment, amount of oxygen dissolved in the water, rate of flow, partial immersion, etc. It's a very complicated question better asked in a more scientific forum.

Any of the inert coatings (wax, oil, etc) will significantly reduce the corrosion until they abrade or degrade away. The paint and enamel is more complex as they will protect until the water permeates or touches the steel, then it depends on what exactly the paint or enamel is made of as it could potentially set up an electrochemical reaction that degrades the steel more quickly.

Epimethee
2018-09-18, 06:40 AM
The fact that the Galleasses were so huge as you can see in the illustrations was a big part of their success. In 16th century naval combat having the taller ship or the taller fore and aft castles generally became a ridiculous advantage in close quarters, I think even moreso than in the middle ages. Trying to board a taller ship would mean having to attack uphill while the men on deck would have far fewer places to effectively hide from handguns, crossbows, and swivel guns shooting downward from higher ground, against which even armor or shields held overhead were no longer a reliable defense. The men fighting from the higher deck also had a much easier time throwing down all sorts of grenades, balls of wildfire, hot coals, and anything else they can think of onto the enemy ship below. Mendoza even mentions scalding oil being poured onto the decks of enemy ships, and I'd always thought that was a myth.

It's during the later 16th century that you really see the growing focus on shipboard artillery over size as designs improved and cast iron cannon got cheaper. The dominance of the tall, round carracks in combat started to be challenged by specially-designed warships like the galleon and later the frigate, built to be narrower, faster, and sturdy enough to support much more heavy artillery, especially broadside artillery.

Interestingly, the Venetians galleasses in Lepanto were build around merchant galleys. They were seen as a response from oarsed ships to the sea warships and the huge Spanish galleys of the time.
But your description is accurate for what it would look for a galley attacking a galleas. In Lepanto they where like castle, almost impregnable for Turkish troops. But they also were quickly obsolete, slow and not as well armed as later warships.

Also don't forget that a huge battle would be the exception: most naval battle would actually concern a few ships, barbarians corsairs against merchant or escort ships. In this case, speed and surprise would be more relevant as for Barbary coast corsairs, the aim was more to take prisoners as slaves then as projected ransoms than killing the sailors.
I have an account of such a raid but it is a bit late, around 1665, and in French, by a guy named René du Chatelet des Boys. I can resume it if you wish.





Thanks! can you happen to give any examples?

The english treatises I've read don't really go into much detail about naval combat so I'm just sort of guessing here aside from some 17th century discussion about longbows still being useful for their ability to shoot fire arrows.

I have yet to look at primary sources, but there was a huge discrepancy in ordinance and firearms between the Turkish and christian fleets in Lepanto. Over half the christian fleet carried five guns or more, the ordinary number being three in Turkish forces.
Also most of the christian were armed with arquebus and a few muskets, two-third of the Turkish used bows.
Bow had advantage in rate of fire but arquebus had more penetrative power and more range.

Also don't forget incendiary bombs and grenades, who were more efficient than fire arrows.

Here you have a contemporary engraving (the image is protected so you have to follow the link (https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-line-engraving-of-the-battle-of-lepanto-engraved-by-l-cornelisz-dated-84968060.html?pv=1&stamp=2&imageid=2A14C9D4-5A3B-4B5C-B012-23C08B68A307&p=75935&n=0&orientation=0&pn=1&searchtype=0&IsFromSearch=1&srch=foo%3dbar%26st%3d0%26pn%3d1%26ps%3d100%26sort by%3d2%26resultview%3dsortbyPopular%26npgs%3d0%26q t%3dbattle%2520lepanto%26qt_raw%3dbattle%2520lepan to%26lic%3d3%26mr%3d0%26pr%3d0%26ot%3d0%26creative %3d%26ag%3d0%26hc%3d0%26pc%3d%26blackwhite%3d%26cu tout%3d%26tbar%3d1%26et%3d0x000000000000000000000% 26vp%3d0%26loc%3d0%26imgt%3d0%26dtfr%3d%26dtto%3d% 26size%3d0xFF%26archive%3d1%26groupid%3d%26pseudoi d%3d%26a%3d%26cdid%3d%26cdsrt%3d%26name%3d%26qn%3d %26apalib%3d%26apalic%3d%26lightbox%3d%26gname%3d% 26gtype%3d%26xstx%3d0%26simid%3d%26saveQry%3d%26ed itorial%3d1%26nu%3d%26t%3d%26edoptin%3d%26customge oip%3d%26cap%3d1%26cbstore%3d1%26vd%3d0%26lb%3d%26 fi%3d2%26edrf%3d%26ispremium%3d1%26flip%3d0)) but in the lower left corner you could see clearly a Turkish galley with the archers positioned on the fighting platform and the use of a swivel guns on the port beam.

Note that even Ali Pacha is said to have used is bow, like Venier, a christian captain used a crossbow. But by this point the fight is like a huge press of men and ships. Close-combat weapons would be more efficient.

Also I like this painting were you see clearly the preparation of a boarding action and the equipment of the boarding party. The setting is inaccurate but not the fighting.
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e0/Battle_of_Lepanto_1571.jpg/800px-Battle_of_Lepanto_1571.jpg

And thanks for the links!

rrgg
2018-09-18, 01:13 PM
Thanks!

The fire arrows described in the 1628 "A New Invention of Shooting Fire-Shafts in Longbows" were to be made with a hollow metal tube near the arrowhead, which would be filled with some sort of gunpowder mixture that had the proportions altered to let it burn faster or slower and would be ignited by a lit match held in the archer's left hand while shooting. So it essentially would be a small grenade or incendiary bomb but capable of far more range than any projectile thrown by hand.

There are accounts of longbows being used to start fires during sieges as late as the English Civil Wars. Whether similar gunpowder arrows were used very often in the 16th century and earlier as well I don't know. But given the frequent descriptions of so many different elaborate fireworks that show up including flamethrowers, sticky bombs, rockets, artificial "stars" to light up an enemy army at night, and fire arrows designed to be shot out of cannons, I'd be very surprised if they skipped over fire arrows shot from regular bows and crossbows as well.

I did find some illustrations from a 1588 treatise showing the construction of a large fire arrow it says can be shot out of any piece of artillery or "out of the inguine called Balista":

https://i.imgur.com/jVZHZWJ.gif

I dunno, maybe they were rarely actually used in naval combat due to the risk of setting your own ship on fire.

Regarding links, another interesting one I forgot to add was Bourne's "The arte of shooting in great ordnaunce"

https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A16508.0001.001?rgn=subject;view=toc;

Chapter 16 discusses how to mount cannons aboard a ship, including going into detail about the english "truck" design where naval cannons would be mounted very low to the floor and on very small wheels to make it much easier to control their recoil. At the time of the Spanish Armada, the spanish navy's guns still used roughly the same gun carriages as land artillery with just two very large wheels and a tongue, which made them much less convenient to load and shoot quickly. Bourne also explains how guns mounted along the broadside of the ship needed to have relatively short barrels. Even on sailing ships at the time the easiest place to put the really long artillery was at the stern, facing straight backwards.

Chapter 15 is also pretty interesting as it talks about how to hit a moving ship from another moving ship or galley, and in particular helps highlight just how difficult it could be to hit a vessel below the waterline back then.

PersonMan
2018-09-18, 04:30 PM
That information is very helpful, Galloglaich, thank you!

I'm curious, though, about what the scale of these towns was like; what would the smallest town organized in this way (perhaps effectively organized is a better criterion) be like? Is this a way of doing things that only starts working at 5000+ inhabitants, or would you have a town of 1000 people be able to function in a similar way?

Epimethee
2018-09-18, 04:46 PM
I was looking some paintings of Lepanto and other battles. I know they are paintings, and should be taken with a rock of salt, but after reading your post rrgg I was startled by how little fire is shown.

Here, the one I showed you before, albeit in a better definition: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e0/Battle_of_Lepanto_1571.jpg/1920px-Battle_of_Lepanto_1571.jpg

Most of the smoke come from shooting guns, only one ship seem ablaze, in the lower right corner.

As an aside, I love those paintings by Tintoretto, not really accurate for the time of the Crusade, but the crossbow on the foreground is great, and the second is really full of movement and give a taste of the maelstrom such a battle would be: https://romeonrome.com/files/2014/10/constntnople1204_tintoretto.jpghttp://4.bp.blogspot.com/-pF-r35E-GqA/UGoMDRkGKxI/AAAAAAAADn8/83bNw70tbYg/s1600/Julián+008.jpg
One depict the fourth crusade, the second the battle of Djerba (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Djerba), close to the time of Lepanto.

Back to this huge fight, you have the famous Veronese painting, and again only a dot in the center seem to be an explosion or some ship on fire. Also note the angel dropping fire arrows from above.
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/The_Battle_of_Lepanto_by_Paolo_Veronese.jpeg/660px-The_Battle_of_Lepanto_by_Paolo_Veronese.jpeg

Tintoretto seem to have painted it a few time, like this piece (http://leclere-mdv.com/html/fiche.jsp?id=6290128&np=5&lng=fr&npp=20&ordre=&aff=1&r=), attributed to him and bound to decorate a room in the Doge Palace. The final work is lost and this is a study. Smoke abound but fire is rare.

You have a bit more fire in this one from Vasari: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-BSbSROXQVAo/Vh9VnizIqpI/AAAAAAAAEoY/cctYkAiyYGk/s1600/Giorgio%2BVasari%2B-%2BLa%2Bbattaglia%2Bdi%2BLepanto%2B%25281572%2529. jpg

A bit latter, Andries van Eertvelt show also a lot of smoke but no fire:
https://e03-elmundo.uecdn.es/assets/multimedia/imagenes/2015/10/07/14442343185921.jpg

I have a few more examples but I don't know exactly what to do of that. It may be some kind of convention. But I found hard to believe those first mannerist were not quick to show some spectacular scene.

In light of your commentary, I was wondering how fire would be in effect dangerous for both navies in a huge battle, as entangled ships would surely make a ever increasing bonfire. As a commander you would not use it in fear of lighting your own ships and making the fire uncontrollable. Seem not totally implausible.
But really that's like a soggy finger estimation, as I have no real clue of this fact, only a quick look at some ancient paintings.

As a privateer I would surely not use fire, as I want my prey to stay in the best possible shape for the sake of plunder.

gkathellar
2018-09-18, 05:41 PM
As a privateer I would surely not use fire, as I want my prey to stay in the best possible shape for the sake of plunder.

My understanding is that even outside of privateering, early modern warships were generally so valuable that captains tried to capture them in reparable shape whenever possible. For a privateer, the ship was typically the most valuable piece of salvage they could seize, so the same principle applied. That said, "reparable" typically meant the ship wasn't actually sinking and the mainmast and keel were intact.

KarlMarx
2018-09-18, 06:14 PM
So I was thinking about the details of a possible British intervention in the US Civil War and began wondering which side's naval technology would actually be superior. Not in terms of number of ships but in terms of most modern ironclads.

So, what ship would come out on top, a British iron frigate a la HMS Warrior or one of the American ironclads of the USS Monitor type? Assuming a 1 on 1 confrontation in relatively calm weather.

Mr Beer
2018-09-18, 06:33 PM
A quick google makes it look like Warrior was faster, more heavily armed and didn't sink in a stiff breeze so I guess it has the edge over Monitor.

rrgg
2018-09-18, 06:43 PM
So I was thinking about the details of a possible British intervention in the US Civil War and began wondering which side's naval technology would actually be superior. Not in terms of number of ships but in terms of most modern ironclads.

So, what ship would come out on top, a British iron frigate a la HMS Warrior or one of the American ironclads of the USS Monitor type? Assuming a 1 on 1 confrontation in relatively calm weather.

Well, on the one hand the Warrior was way bigger, had way more guns which were much faster firing and shown to be pretty effective at penetrating armor when supplied with steel cannonballs, its armor was of a much higher quality, and it was oceangoing to boot.

But on the other hand, the American cheeseboxes were protected by around 8 to 11 inches of laminated freedom, armed with huge, low-velocity Dahlgren guns great for battering wooden ships and shelling positions if not for actually piercing armor, and with just enough sheer dumb luck good-ol' patriotic gumption might just manage to hit the warrior's unarmored stern where the propellers and rudder are, leaving the broadside ship unable to turn at all even if it probably can't be sunk.

Mr Beer
2018-09-18, 06:48 PM
But on the other hand, the American cheeseboxes were protected by around 8 to 11 inches of laminated freedom

"8 inches of laminated freedom" is now how I refer to my business end when clad in a condom.

Epimethee
2018-09-18, 06:50 PM
My understanding is that even outside of privateering, early modern warships were generally so valuable that captains tried to capture them in reparable shape whenever possible. For a privateer, the ship was typically the most valuable piece of salvage they could seize, so the same principle applied. That said, "reparable" typically meant the ship wasn't actually sinking and the mainmast and keel were intact.

In fact a galley was for a great part expandable. The crew of a galley would cost roughly three time a year the cost of building a ship (roughly 2300 ducats for a Spanish galley in 1530, compared to 580 ducats a month to pay the crew.)

At the same time, Uluch Ali in Lepanto would for example try to tow the "Capitana" of the knights of Malta. But it is first a great trophy, and Uluch Ali would cut the towing rope but keep the flag of the knights floating on is own mast to flee.

Vinyadan
2018-09-19, 12:48 AM
In fact a galley was for a great part expandable. The crew of a galley would cost roughly three time a year the cost of building a ship (roughly 2300 ducats for a Spanish galley in 1530, compared to 580 ducats a month to pay the crew.)

At the same time, Uluch Ali in Lepanto would for example try to tow the "Capitana" of the knights of Malta. But it is first a great trophy, and Uluch Ali would cut the towing rope but keep the flag of the knights floating on is own mast to flee.

Iirc, the cost proportions for a trieres in Athens were similar: paying the crew for a year would cost about four times as much as the hull. The city paid for hull construction, while the guy who got the liturgy would pay for the crew, with the options of assuming command personally, or paying a specialist to command the ship in his stead.

Galloglaich
2018-09-19, 10:18 AM
I think the whole "ship is the biggest prize" thing was real, but it applies more to A) sailing vessels and B) larger ocean-going sailing vessels, i.e. carracks, caravels, galleons, frigates etc.

Galleys were more expensive to operate because they require so many crew. They also, from what I understand, generally had such a short lifespan as a viable maritime vessel that they didn't have as much value. And they didn't carry that much cargo.

A sailing ship by contrast could get away with a very small crew (in comparison), especially if it was not being operated as a warship, carried a lot of cargo (in comparison) and lasted a little longer, and could earn money with relatively little investment. So I think up in the North Sea and the Baltic for example taking a sailing ship as a prize was already a 'thing' by the 14th Century and probably earlier.

That said crew and cargo - and things like cannons- could have greater value than the ship, so it also depends on that factor as well. If in the North Sea you captured say, the Mayor of London as the Danzig ship captain Paul Benecke (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Beneke) did in the 1470s', that was probably worth more than the ship he was sailing on. If you were lucky enough to have captured say, the Atocha (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuestra_Se%C3%B1ora_de_Atocha) in the 17th Century you wouldn't be so worried about the value of the ship itself. Except perhaps as a means of bringing the treasure home...

G

wolflance
2018-09-19, 01:47 PM
Some of the replies I missed, so I will reply them now:

That doesn't make sense - if they were following the ancient techniques (which they really weren't, as they were using electric furnaces and blow torches and so on) they in theory should have gotten the same results not inferior results. They actually smelted their own iron IMO because that was the surest way to get iron appropriate for making the type of steel they needed for the breastplate. It wasn't quite as good because they still don't know all of the secrets of the Augsburg via Greenwich armorers.
I say "follow" to mean that "they are trying to replicate a lost skill with a lots of guesstimate". Since it's their AIM to make the replica as close to originals as plausible, they will take care to not overengineer the replica with too much modern tech (as they plausibly could).



I'd love to see somebody prove that. I think they could make BIG buck$$$ too, the military has a need for light ballistic armor that can stop bullets.
Surpassing the original Greenwich armor is actually rather easily achievable with today's technology/metallurgy. However, something that's MERELY "better than Greenwish armor" is still pretty bad by modern standard, since we already have much more powerful guns than 17th century musket.



I understand your theory, but I just dismiss it - I have read a lot of accounts from across ~400 years of military crossbow use in Europe, and the ~200 years that the steel prod weapons were in use. Nowhere did I ever read that the steel prod weapons were inferior in terms of power, range or armor penetration. The only downside mentioned for the steel is that it had a tendency to snap in extremely cold conditions, whereas the composite actually performed better in extreme cold. For this reason many military units, militias and armies operating in places like up in the Alps or in the Baltic region (for example the Teutonic Order) preferred and continued to use the composite prod weapons especially in Winter.

That said by the way, it's worth noting they also did have steel and also wooden prod weapons. The latter were called something like Knottelarmbrüste and were considered the weakest and least efficient of all the crossbows, ranked with regular Russian and Hungarian self bows and issued to the relatively untrained troops and levies used for castle defense. They also had Mongol and Ottoman recurve bows available but considered the heavier crossbows (like the statchel grade, or 'stinger' types) more effective in combat.

This is a good article which gets into some of the details of that and the various types and grades of crossbows:

http://deremilitari.org/2014/03/horses-and-crossbows-two-important-warfare-advantages-of-the-teutonic-order-in-prussia/

G
I actually don't see any reason to dismiss my theory based on these historical accounts. Law of physics is constant and universal after all, and it's not like the law and historical accounts are in conflict or anything.

In fact this can be easily explained away with reasons such as:
1) Composite or wooden crossbows of the time have the same design (i.e. same 6-7 inches short powerstroke) as their steel counterpart.
2) Composite or wooden crossbows have lower draw weight than steel crossbow.

As I said before, a crossbow's performance relies on not just the material, but DESIGN as well. If a composite crossbow follows the same, 7 inches powerstroke hard cap, but has lower draw weight, then obviously it's gonna be worse than a steel crossbow with higher draw weight.

gkathellar
2018-09-19, 06:59 PM
Really? Please show me an example of armor made of modern materials which is superior.

I feel like this challenge is doomed to get hung up on the definition of "superior." Modern armor can certainly absorb gunshots that historical armor would have failed to, but the entire framework in which we develop body armor for modern combat is so different as to make direct comparison along a single rubric kind of ... irrelevant? Modern armor is expected to get completely destroyed and replaced simply as a function of doing its job, hence the replaceable plate in a sleeve or pouch. Given this is not really how a suit of full plate functioned, practically or logistically, so the particular materials used in modern bullet-resistant armor would be unsuitable. In either case, the armor's material composition is tailored to the context in which it is used, and you probably wouldn't want the type of materials that are optimal for one to be used in the other.

That doesn't mean it's unimaginable that we're producing some kind of steel with desirable properties for a suit of plate, it's just probably not being used in armor if we are.

wolflance
2018-09-20, 01:20 AM
Really? Please show me an example of armor made of modern materials which is superior.
Sure. We already have things like tool steel that can be hardened to 800 Brinell, and it's not even the most high-end stuff currently available. At the cutting edge, stuffs like amorphous alloy can have mindbogglingly high hardness (as in Brinell in the thousands) and still being light, elastic, and not brittle. And yes, people are planning to design next-gen body armor out of it.


Your assertion that modern smiths relearning medieval methods to make better armor/swords is completely valid, but with several caveats:
1) Modern smiths may not have access to the best material, at least not in a cost-effective way. Commercially-available modern steel may not hold a candle to medieval armor-grade steel, but that doesn't mean no such material exist in our time.

2) Sword or other cold weapons are muscle-powered tools designed for human usage, are very technique/training/"human factor" dependent ("elusive and subtle" as you put it), and medieval people had the most experience using such tools to cut other people up. So obviously, their designs would be superior to ours. Doubly true since we are trying to relearn medieval techniques which were designed/optimized for use with medieval swords, not "modern new designs".

And even then, modern people can still design superior cold weapons where such subtleness doesn't factor in. For example, a spear with synthetic material shaft will be superior to wooden shafted spear - lighter, sturdier, easier for the hands, no less deadly, and can be dismantled for easier carry.


3) Crossbow, however, is a purely mechanical devise. If there's anything we as modern people are unquestionably better than the medieval people, then mechanical engineering and mathematics should be somewhere among the top. Modern crossbow (especially the compound kind) is superior to even the most powerful of medieval crossbow in every conceivable way, and that's not because we have superior material (although that helps too), but because we have superior design. And we moderners haven't even go all out yet, due to regulations, no one dares to design a 1000 lbs compound crossbow (yet).




I'm not surprised you like your theory but it doesn't jibe with the other data. For example


Composite crossbows had the same (short) powerstroke as the metal prod ones.
Composite crosbsows had the same range of draw weights as the metal prod ones.


We know this from surviving antiques and (the very large volumes of) period records. So you don't have to guess.

Wooden prod crossbows were weaker / lower draw weight which we also know from period records. I already posted a document to the thread which is a good overview of all that.

Theories that don't fit the data are really just fantasies.
G
If the period records are true, and I have no reason to assume they are not, then the data actually jibe perfectly with the theory.

I said before that NO amount of tinkering can overcome law of physics, and powerstroke is the hard cap that is impossible to overcome. The problem lies in the crossbow DESIGN, not the material of the prod.

If medieval wooden/composite crossbows have the same powerstroke/hard cap as steel crossbow, which you say the data supports, then they have the same design issue with steel crossbow, i.e. not very efficient for their draw weight. If both steel and composite crossbow are equally inefficient, then steel crossbow with its higher draw weight will obviously outperform composite crossbow with lower draw weight, which the data also supports.

(I posted this video before)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-_p_DrOPOs
This dude's crossbow outshoot Tod's replica NOT because he used wood for the prod. It's because he DESIGN the crossbow differently from medieval crossbow, and has four times the powerstroke (hard cap). In fact, he could've replace the prod with a steel one, and will still outshoot Tod's.

Epimethee
2018-09-20, 06:23 AM
I think the whole "ship is the biggest prize" thing was real, but it applies more to A) sailing vessels and B) larger ocean-going sailing vessels, i.e. carracks, caravels, galleons, frigates etc.

I'm actually looking on that, mostly as yet on some Ospreys cause most of my books are currently in boxes. Still, I think it is worth recalling some generalities, to be sure we talk about the same thing.

First, te circumstances are relevant: in a naval battle captains would be unconcerned by taking the ships of their opponents, outside specific actions like the one demonstrated by Uluch Ali. Most naval battle are fought at a huge cost and that's part of the reasons they are so bloody and decisive, think Trafalgar or Lepanto.
As for frigates and ship of the line, a lot of them would be rendered useless before they would be sunk, so taking them was obvious. They are a lot of example of dismasted ships surrendering or scuttling their useless hull.

Then pirates in their manies definition would try to take the ships. IIRC, the famous Caribbean pirates were a ragtag group of scoundrels who used any ship they could take, something true for most of the historical pirates I know. Their ships were often any floating hulk and taking any prey was obvious.

Also an important thing is the increase in size in sailed ships: the first Galleon, and the carvel were relatively small, the average galleon around 1550 would have a burden of around 300 toneladas (close to Gross register tonnage). By 1570 it would be close to 500 and reach 1000 around the time of the Invincible Armada. After that, the size would decrease and stabilize around 500 tooeladas for the rest of the age of the galleon, till the middle of XVII century.

But another little and important detail is that in the case of the Spanish, more and more goods from the new world were shipped in military ships, it was even stated as an edict by king Phillip III at the beginning of the XVII century. A new way of using cargo space was the main technical aspect who made that applicable.




Galleys were more expensive to operate because they require so many crew. They also, from what I understand, generally had such a short lifespan as a viable maritime vessel that they didn't have as much value. And they didn't carry that much cargo.


Quite right on the lifespan. But I think it is worth adding that most of the Venetians were professional sailors, able to master difficult rhythm with their oars. That's why crew were often captured. But again, a lot was dependent of the power of the state: for most of the pirates on the Barbary coast a ship was a huge prize in any case, as even a galley could be easily crewed with prisoners or slaves, of poorer quality but inexpensive compared to the professional sailors of the Republic.
Also the Galea gross, as a trading ship, was huge, even compared to the first galleon.



A sailing ship by contrast could get away with a very small crew (in comparison), especially if it was not being operated as a warship, carried a lot of cargo (in comparison) and lasted a little longer, and could earn money with relatively little investment. So I think up in the North Sea and the Baltic for example taking a sailing ship as a prize was already a 'thing' by the 14th Century and probably earlier.


Don't know about the Baltic Sea in XIV century but by the modern age, the size and technicality of the ships would increase greatly and so would the cost and effort required to build them. Spain was limited by a crisis in the contractors who build the galleons, for example. Also managing the ressources necessary to build such forest of masts was an increasing problem. In France for example the forest and how they need to be constantly replanted is a huge problematic, subject of many decree in the XVII century.


That said crew and cargo - and things like cannons- could have greater value than the ship, so it also depends on that factor as well. If in the North Sea you captured say, the Mayor of London as the Danzig ship captain Paul Benecke (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Beneke) did in the 1470s', that was probably worth more than the ship he was sailing on. If you were lucky enough to have captured say, the Atocha (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuestra_Se%C3%B1ora_de_Atocha) in the 17th Century you wouldn't be so worried about the value of the ship itself. Except perhaps as a means of bringing the treasure home...


Again quite right, but I have also a memory of the other way around. I have read that a few years ago so I may not be exactly accurate but, again in the Caribbean Sea, often the cargo were not that impressive: some salted fish, a few tools... The richest preys were well defended and the pirates would often attack small merchants that were travelling around the Caribbean.

In this case, obtaining a financial gain meant taking anything and everything, including of course the ship.

I will let you know if I find more!

rrgg
2018-09-20, 08:54 AM
Getting back to the subject of fire and sea warfare. Here's the English translation of Mendoza, his section on naval conquests begins on page 148:

https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A07432.0001.001?rgn=main;view=toc;

He does indicate that fire could be a huge danger to both ships in battle, with precautions always taken before and the fire weapons themselves used very judiciously.


Offring to giue battayle, which is the most dangerous mat∣ter of all whatsoeuer doth concerne the warres, aswell for the facilitie with which the shipps are sett on fire, as that of neces∣sitie he which will subdewe his enimie, must enter him: and when he hath not done it by force of Artillerie, he then com∣meth to fight with so much disaduantage, as hauing grappe∣led the shippes, to leape vpon the shrowdes, maystering the poope, forecastle, and both the deckes: A perill to which an other not the least is added, fighting vpon the Sea, which is the greatest enimie of all, sparing none that falleth into her, which is not so vpon the lande.


Likewise Y.H. [Your Highness] is to command, that among such persons as are known and haue skill to vse them, may bee bestowed the artificial fires, and tronkes and balls of wild fire, and such like, for the danger which may ensewe if they should not knowe to vse them as they ought.

Iointly you must command that such a one may be put in charge with the powder, as will looke vnto it with great care and circumspection, that by no meanes any touch it or come neare that caryeth any fire, and that two or three trustie per∣sons may bee appointed to assist him which hath charge of the powder.


Also that they commaund all emptie caske to bee sawed a sunder in the midste, and in fight fill them with salt water, and all the rest of the caske which hath bene emptied in the ship, putting them in places where the soldiers fight, prouiding by this means to be able to quench the fire, and to haue buckets to carrie the water, and all other thinges which the artillerie shall stand in neede of, appointing a leader to take counte of these things, & persons to helpe him.


They likewise defend with woolbeds & bolsters, or wol∣sackes, if there be anie, those places in the shippes which are most conuenient at such time as they goe to fight, ordayning after that the men stande bestowed in the fower principall places, that they fight in order, and not running them selues out of breath: for that it hath fallen out after grapeling, that shippes haue fought without being able to iudge which was likeliest to haue the victorie, a whole day and a night, & more time too, & serued their turne with wildefire vpon good oc∣casion, because if one haue not the winde, it is a most dange∣rous mischiefe to fling fier into his enimie, his owne shippe being likelie to take it, and very hardlie able to lose him selfe.

He also talks a bit about how to protect a fleet at anchor against approaching fire ships by launching small skiffs, longboats, or "barkes" armed with some artillery, wooden blinders for protection, and chains, ropes, and grapples which could be used to tow the fireships somewhere else if unmanned.

All this seems to provide a lot of good reasons why a captain might want to avoid using fire weapons most of the time. I was thinking it would be safer if you could use bows/crossbows to help start fires from a longer distance, but perhaps even if they did manage to start a major fire and the enemy had the wind at their backs, it would mean that you still had a large burning ship headed straight for you most of the time.

At the same time though, even if you're a captain who wants to capture the enemy ship instead of burning it that doesn't mean that the other captain wouldn't be willing to burn your ship if he's on a merchant vessel and just wants to escape. So you'd still likely need to take precautions to defend yourself from fires. Mendoza mentions that fires are another reason that it's so advantageous to always attack from upwind of the enemy. Also as he mentions you can fill a whole bunch of barrels and buckets with saltwater before a battle and keep them stored in convenient places all over the ship.

I wonder just how effective the firefighting efforts of the crew would usually be? The firework books I've been looking at list a lot of recipes that mix in oil, pitch, or other ingredients and are said to be impossible to quench with water and capable of floating and burning even if thrown directly into the sea, which all seem like something that would be very difficult to deal with aboard a ship. But maybe the fires started by arrows and quarrels were still small enough that they could usually be put out before they spread?

The author of the 17th century Fire Shafts pamphlet on the other hand claimed they would be very useful against sails in particular: "for the canvas will take fire like tinder, and vanish by enforcement of the winde in a sudden flame, if any arrow fasten in it, as among many some assuredly will do."

Presumably gunpowder substances like these were already being discovered and used way back in the 15th and 14th centuries as well. Though I wonder how pre-gunpowder medieval incendiaries would have compared, aside from maybe greek fire?

Incanur
2018-09-20, 11:21 AM
As far as crossbows go, I've long been confused by the contrast between many period accounts of crossbow range/power & the relatively poor performance of replicas. I was recently reminded of how Pedro Monte wrote that crossbows could be dangerous to soldiers in full harness.

Tod's 1,250lb crossbow performs about as well as a 150lb yew warbow, if that, & that's similar to the numbers from other replica crossbows with heavy steel prods. Nothing puts them notably above the 150lb Mary Rose replica tested in The Great Warbow. & the few replica horn prods have also performed quite poorly, though I don't think anybody today really knows how to make them just yet.

While curious, it's possible the crossbow's advantage came from accuracy & ease of use rather than raw power. Raimond de Fourquevaux lumped bows & crossbow together in his 1548 manual, claiming both could potentially overwhelm lower-quality harness with a close-range barrage. But he seems to have been most impressed with crossbows specifically, & gave an account of how a single crossbower got many more kills than the best arquebusiers at a siege in the 1520s. That would be a matter of accuracy.

On the other hand, it's odd Monte would say crossbows were a dangerous to soldiers in harness if even heavy ones only managed in the 120-150 J range. That should only be enough to possibly penetrate the thinnest bits on a high-quality late-15th-century white harness.

By contrast with modern replicas, Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey supposedly shot a 3oz bolt from a refurbished 15th-century crossbow 440-450 yards. Based on The Great Warbow numbers, assuming similar aerodynamics, which is unlikely, the bolt Payne-Gallwey shot must have had about 245 J of initial energy. That would be enough to genuinely threaten good plate armor at close range. But it's also possible Payne-Gallwey lied or miscalculated, or that the bolt was just much better for long-distance shooting than any of the arrows used in The Great Warbow test (or than the bolts Tod has used with his crossbows).

I don't really know. The evidence on crossbow power is all contradictory. Some sources say they were super potent, while others say a volley of crossbow bolts inflicted no more damage than a shower of rotten apples against English archers (who presumably were generally only wearing jacks & sallets or the like for defense).

It's funny that current tests indicate that a 150lb yew warbow, 1,250lb steel crossbow, & 82lb Manchu bow each delivers approximately the same kinetic energy.

I'm inclined to believe historical steel & horn crossbows performed better than current replicas, but I don't really know. The weight of replica evidence so far shows that yew warbows were inferior to well-made composites, so it's conceivable European ranged weapons were just trash compared with their Middle Eastern & Asian counterparts. Of course, firsthand accounts of Europeans who fought against or planned to fight against foes who used composite bows don't really support this. A possible way to explain that is that Turkish-style composites shot very light arrows & their bows were lighter for mounted use, so they didn't hit as hard as 150lb yew warbows shooting heavy or heavy(ish) arrows.

If heavy steel crossbows really could deliver 240+ J with a 3oz bolt, then they would have been truly impressive in the context of ranged weapons that typically delivered 110-150 J (150lb yew warbow) or less. Even, say, 180 J would be beyond the reach of almost any practical yew warbow. (A few European archers might have been shooting 180+lb bows with heavy arrows.) And heavier bolts, which we know existed, deliver more energy.

As far as design goes, ancient Chinese crossbows seem more like modern crossbows, what with their long power strokes, but we still don't have solid numbers on their performance as far as I know. Song China apparently had lots of crossbows with this high-quality design, & used them in a rotating volley system. However, for whatever reason, Song armies nonetheless lost to Mongol armies, & the crossbow became much less important in Chinese warfare. (The same thing of course happened to Ming armies equipped with firearms against Manchu armies centuries later, so maybe Song crossbow were about as good as early firearms but that just wasn't good enough against elite horse archers.)

Finally, remember that even early 15th-century European crossbows often required strength to span. In El Victorial, Pero Niño shows his prodigious might by spanning a crossbow nobody else could (while sick, no less).

P.S. If Payne Gallwey's shot really happened, 15th-century crossbows probably technically could deliver more kinetic energy than any modern production crossbow. The TAC 15 comes in at about 210 J. Of course, that's only because there's no good reason to make a more powerful crossbow today, but still an interesting bit of trivia.

Incanur
2018-09-20, 12:52 PM
I know it's fun to try to find order in the chaos, but the period evidence is contradictory. Many sources indeed say crossbows were awesome, while many others treat them as equivalent to yew warbows, & a few present them as rather pathetic ("a shower of rotten apples" (https://books.google.com/books?id=H7VFJAK8LSUC&pg=PA44&lpg=PA44&dq=a+shower+of+rotten+apples&source=bl&ots=OzWTClW6Uy&sig=_-EooVMt87689KG-XAMmQhYZIjU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjUuPDuj8rdAhUEI3wKHWX2CKUQ6AEwAHoECAIQA Q#v=onepage&q=a%20shower%20of%20rotten%20apples&f=false)).

One specific point: greater accuracy doesn't necessarily entail higher velocity. Arquebuses sure as hell had much higher velocity than crossbows, yet Fourquevaux still has that account of the crossbower who outshot the best arquebusiers. All things being equal, yeah, higher velocity is better for accuracy, but basic physical difficulty of aiming matters too. Humphrey Barwick claimed crossbows (or tiller bows) were more accurate than bows, presumably because of their greater stability. With a bow, you have to draw & aim at the same time. With an early firearm, you have to get the bullet fit just right or there's inherent randomness in where it goes. Crossbows are more stable & reliable in comparison, so that could be the reason for greater accuracy.

The only period account I know that indicates greater power for historical crossbows of the personal-weapon size than for modern crossbows is Anna Komnene's, & it seems like hyperbole. Larger historical crossbows shot through multiple people with shields & all that, but they weren't personal weapons in the same sense as a TAC 15. & you could probably shoot through multiple people with shields with a TAC 15 with the right bolt design.

Again remember that cranequins & windlasses weren't the only way to load crossbows! Other spanning systems that required strength like belt hooks & levers were militarily important into the 15th century.

I tend to agree with the notion that historical crossbows performed much better than current replicas, as I said above, but there's unfortunately no proof yet.

One last bit of trivia: according to Garcilaso de la Vega, a Englishman & a Spaniard raised in England who participated in Hernando de Soto's expedition used bows rather than the crossbows (or firearms) the other Spaniards used. This supports both the crossbow-bow equivalence notion & even the old tale about how effective archery requires lifelong practice.

I hope replicas start performing in line with the higher end of period accounts soon. Another thing to remember is that quality of any weapon or armor type varied dramatically, so it's possible some historical crossbows performed very well while others performed very poorly. We have unambiguous that that's the case for historical European melee weapons & armor, some evidence of the same for yew warbows & arrows.

rrgg
2018-09-20, 01:38 PM
If the period records are true, and I have no reason to assume they are not, then the data actually jibe perfectly with the theory.

I said before that NO amount of tinkering can overcome law of physics, and powerstroke is the hard cap that is impossible to overcome. The problem lies in the crossbow DESIGN, not the material of the prod.

You're sort of missing the point here. What the math shows is that a lot of late medieval military crossbows including a number of Todd's replicas, even with their short power strokes, did store more than 200-400 Joules of potential energy when fully drawn. And with the right bolt or arrowhead that should be enough to penetrate some pretty thick steel armor.

The issue is how much of that energy actually gets transferred to bolt as kinetic energy when shooting. Most high-draw weight reproduction medieval crossbows today still tend to only manage using around 20-30% of their total stored energy at best. Gallwey's siege crossbow on the other hand seems to have managed to transfer at least 40-50% of its stored energy even when shooting a relatively light bolt, and would likely do even better with a much heavier one.

The best ways to improve efficiently of these steel crossbows even with lighter bolts still seems to be the least understood area of designing them. It likely has to do with somehow using a lighter string, giving the bow a more pronounced taper to make it lighter near the tips and stronger near the center, as well as experimenting with different thicknesses and cross-section shapes to increase stiffness while reducing the amount of material used. All of which are really dangerous to play around with today since they put a lot more strain on the material that's still there and increase the risk of catastrophic failure.

Basically I'm with Galloglaich completely. There is enough first hand evidence that a lot of historic crossbows really did perform extremely well despite relatively short power strokes and a limited amount of overall stored energy. Which most likely just means that they knew how to use the energy they did store far more efficiently than modern reproductions do. Not "all these primary sources just so happened to be made up by liars."

Incanur
2018-09-20, 05:27 PM
I'd also add that if you are relying on 16th or 17th Century English theoretical sources, they are writing long past the heydey of crossbows, they are writing from an area where crossbows were not as heavily emphasized or as heavily advanced, and in fact where they had a rival weapon system (the longbow).

Most 16th/17th-century English military manuals barely even mention crossbows, if at all. Sir John Smythe wanted mounted crossbowers with goat's-foot-levers along with mounted archers. Humphrey Barwick claimed they were more accurate than bows & maybe saw a few in action over the course of his military career, but that's about it.


The same is true to a lesser extent for French of Spanish sources. Though the French and especially the Spanish did indeed use crossbows, they were not at the leading edge of the technologies.

The French continued using crossbows past when the Spanish had mostly switched over to firearms on the Continent. French captains like Blaise de Monluc & Raimond de Fourquevaux had direct experience with crossbows in battles & skirmishes. Monluc personally commanded a bunch of crossbowers. As far as technology goes, I've yet to find any clear evidence of what type of crossbows French soldiers used during this period. The only hint is that Monluc ordered his crossbowers to hold their crossbows in the off hand as makeshift shields once they'd run out of bolts, so they probably (but not necessarily) didn't have big heavy steel prods. They also seem to have shot relatively swiftly & ran out of ammo before the arquebusiers, but it's possible the arquebusiers were able to carry more ammo.

What evidence do you know of for the technical details of French crossbows in the Italian Wars era? I haven't been able to find much conclusive. Few sources say much about them, though French crossbowers fought in considerable numbers. Based on Monluc, their volleys had a significant impact, especially on horses.


More to the point they weren't pushing the technology so to speak in the periods we are talking about (say 13th-16th Centuries).

While windlasses & cranequins seem more technologically advanced than belt hooks & levers, I'm not sure they performed better. As over the top as El Victorial (see a translation here (http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/gamez_evans.pdf), & you can also find it Spanish) may be at times, it provides a sober account of Spanish & French crossbowers battling English archers in the early 15th century. Pero Niño interacted with various French, Spanish, & Italian crossbowers, & the text repeatedly mentions spanning by the belt or girdle (& the strength this method requires).

There's lots of textual & artistic evidence that soldiers continued to levers & belt hooks in the same period as windlasses & cranequins were popular. Speed of spanning could have been the reason, &/or price.

It's frustrating how much there is about crossbows we don't understand at present.

Thanks for sharing that video, that's excellent! I hadn't seen that one before. Such performance indeed surpasses almost any English-style bow (any practical one, probably), & it would presumably hit even harder with heavier bolts, which we know existed.

rrgg
2018-09-20, 09:05 PM
There's also Porcia's "The Preceptes of Warre" where lumps crossbowmen in with gunners during a siege, stating that if the attacker has too many gunners or crossbow shooters then they can make it impossible for any defending soldiers to stand safely on top of the walls. Again suggesting that like the gun, the crossbow was often fast enough to use against targets playing peekaboo from behind cover. Conversely, he states that an army including mostly archers, like armies from the east sometimes did, can be safely countered by sending some infantry carrying shields towards them.

That said, he also claims that the bows used by the English would have no problem going straight through breastplates. Perhaps the stories of Agincourt had gotten somewhat embellished by the time they reached Italy.


--

To get all the way back to Pietro Monte. Another important piece of evidence which I think got sort of lost in the discussion is that he compares the crossbow to the first charge of a lance, not just firearms. And we've found from Capwells experiments now that the 15th century lance used with an arret should have been easily capable of more than 200-250 joules at impact, most of the time limited only by the breaking of the lance.

http://www.academia.edu/33789994/AN_EXPERIMENTAL_INVESTIGATION_OF_LATE_MEDIEVAL_COM BAT_WITH_THE_COUCHED_LANCE

Monte even recommends that horsemen wear some sort of second, detatchable chest-cover over the corselet which he can use to survive the initial lance charge, then let it detach and fall away afterwards. If it was that powerful, it might be that the couched lance and the arret were driving the improvement of plate armor during the 15th century as much as or even moreso than newer crossbows or firearms were.

That said, Monte still seems to suggest that firearms at the time were a bit better at penetrating armor than crossbows were. In that passage regarding proofing I quoted earlier, he was saying that at the armory in question they were already accustomed to proofing their armor with crossbows, and it was only some who had started proofing armor against the "sclopetis" as well:


If someone wants to handle light and safe arms, he should altogether take up iron or steel. In Spruco, a city in Germany, the best iron and steel is found. Therefore the masters there put arms to the test with crossbows, and commonly it is said that such tempering is caused because of one body of water which passes through those places. But in fact they temper with any cold water, and some who had seen the excellence of this iron wanted to experiment to make a corslet resistant to sclopetis, which is a small kind of cannon, and in fact achieved this. Nevertheless, one should wear a silk quilt and a well-sewn cloth over the corslet. And when it becomes wet it is rendered stronger, though such armour is heavy according to the Germans, but not according to the Italians or French, and this armour should be strong through all parts. Now though there are arms made in Italy which are nearly as good as those from Spruco. Although the art recently originated from Germany, and afterwards hands are of good nature and well-equipped, the secret consists in beating the arms a lot when they are already cold, and they should produce strong tempering, though they should not be broken but remain like any iron of an arrow, weapon, or things like these, which are neither broken nor folded. At the time when I was composing this work, Duke Sigismund of Austria, Galeazzo da Sanseverino, and Claudius de Voldre of Burgundian birth, engaged much in dealing in different kinds of arms. Before them, in truth, nearly all armsbearers were armed in one and the same way, especially with arms which are worn; those three illustrious nobles invented many new arms for footsoldiers as well as for mounted retainers, and not just different but extremely useful. And since shortly afterwards the French entered Italy to conquer the Kingdom of Naples and the Duchy of Milan, many Germans and Spaniards came together to join in this attack, in such a way that already in these days arms became diverse and excellent. At first defensive arms made in Spruco were so very strong because of tempering and because they were beating them very much in the cold when they already had their shape; now, though, this and that is known in many places. Those however who invented this good thing were, first, Duke Sigismund and second, Galeazzo da Sanseverino.


You're right that it's possible that the sclopetis that monte was referring to was a larger caliber weapon than the one Niccolao described 40 years later. From the sources in Bert Hall's book, it seems that the new "arcabuceros" that the spanish started using during the 1520s most likely were a very large, heavy weapon which fired a bullet about as big as the arquebus-a-croc did and required a forked rest to use. From Paolo Giovio's account of Pavia:


These were no longer shot from the lighter sclopetti (as had been the custom a little while before), but from the heavier types, which they call archibugi. These penetrated not only one man at arms, but often two, and two horses as well.

It's just that this seems to create sort of an odd timeline where first the Spanish introduce the heavy "arcabucero", then spanish military records show the proportion of "acabuceros" steadily increasing and the proportion of "escopeteros" steadily decreasing over the 1520s-30s until the latter dissappear completely. However during this time for some reason the arcabucero shrinks down to only a 1 ounce caliber while the escopetero/sclopeti shrinks down to just a 0.5 ounce caliber, eventually leading the spanish to start introducing a new heavy weapon called the "musket" in the 1540s or 50s.

http://ejercitodeflandes.blogspot.com/search/label/Arcabucero

in either case, again its worth keeping in mind that caliber wasn't always everything when it came to a bullet's penetration, at least at very close ranges.

Mabn
2018-09-21, 02:35 AM
So as usual, I was thinking about something utterly unrelated when a historical combat question hit me. Don't know why that keeps happening. Anyway, why weren't ridden oxen employed in a military context? Obviously, they are far slower than horses and fill a totally different role, but their superior carrying capacity and differing physiology should have allowed them to be armored more heavily and in more places while also carrying a more heavily armored rider. Their consistently horizontal necks also seem like they would obstruct their rider's use of swinging weapons less. Combined with their horns and greater innate durability, these traits seem like they would be useful in assaulting infantry blocks.

Mr Beer
2018-09-21, 05:02 AM
I suspect that as well as cattle being slower, they are also less tractable and maybe dumber than horses.

If you could reliably train and ride a large armoured bull into battle, people probably would have done so...they would toss horses like ninepins.

Epimethee
2018-09-21, 06:07 AM
Just wanted to thank you rrgg for the great quotes, that are really accurate for our discussion!

I have no time to look at them now but I will as soon as possible.
I have found a few references about the English navy around the XVI-XVII century, Henriy VIII and Elizabeth, and it was like one of the missing link in my understanding on naval history, so if I read something relevant I will let you know!

Brother Oni
2018-09-21, 06:52 AM
So as usual, I was thinking about something utterly unrelated when a historical combat question hit me. Don't know why that keeps happening. Anyway, why weren't ridden oxen employed in a military context? Obviously, they are far slower than horses and fill a totally different role, but their superior carrying capacity and differing physiology should have allowed them to be armored more heavily and in more places while also carrying a more heavily armored rider. Their consistently horizontal necks also seem like they would obstruct their rider's use of swinging weapons less. Combined with their horns and greater innate durability, these traits seem like they would be useful in assaulting infantry blocks.

I'd agree with Mr Beer in that it's mostly down to animal temperament and trainability. It's much the same reason why we don't have working cats in the same way as we have working dogs. Both species have been domesticated and both are arguably as intelligent as each other, but only one is used as a proper work animal, while the other is relegated to independent pest control.

While there are records of oxen being used in warfare aside from beasts of burden and dragging artillery into position, I suspect that their personality doesn't lend well to being ridden into loud scary situations like combat. If you can't direct your mount around the battlefield then it's not of much use to a rider.

There was a Chinese siege I forget the name of at the moment*, where the defenders got a few hundred oxen, attached daggers attached to their horns, pointed them in the direction of the enemy then tied burning brands to their tails and let them stampede away. The tactic was very effective, but I'd rate the controllability as near zero.

Edit: *The siege of Jimo during the Warring States period (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tian_Dan).


Tian Dan collected more than one thousand oxen from the people in the city. He had them dressed with red silk, and had multicolour lines, like those of dragons, painted on them. Sharp blades were adjusted to their horns, and reeds dipped in grease, so that their tips could be set aflame, were attached to their tails. Several passages were dug in the city walls, and on one night, the oxen were released, followed by five thousand sturdy men. The oxen, their tail on fire, charged the army of Yan, creating panic. The torches attached to the tails illuminated the night, the troops of Yan saw the lines on their bodies, which looked like dragons, and all those who met their horns were either killed or wounded. Then, the five thousand men, their mouths closed with pieces of wood, attacked them. They were followed by the sound of shouts and drums from the city, and all the old people and children struck metal pots. The noise shook heaven and earth. The soldiers of Yan panicked. They were defeated and repealed, and the people of Qi killed his general, Ji Jie. As the army of Yan was falling back, in disorder and confusion, the soldiers of Qi chased it, and destroyed it as they pushed it northwards. All the cities it went through revolted, and rallied Tian Dan, whose troops were larger every day. As he fled from a victory to another, the army of Yan was defeated every day, and finally reached the northern bank of the Yellow River. At this time, more than seventy cities had returned back to Qi.

rrgg
2018-09-21, 12:32 PM
Just wanted to thank you rrgg for the great quotes, that are really accurate for our discussion!

I have no time to look at them now but I will as soon as possible.
I have found a few references about the English navy around the XVI-XVII century, Henriy VIII and Elizabeth, and it was like one of the missing link in my understanding on naval history, so if I read something relevant I will let you know!

You are more than welcome! And I'm looking forward to anything you might find!

As I said, I'm not quite as familiar with naval warfare, but if you ever get around to reading the rest of Mendoza's section on naval conquest I found it particularly enlightening. Especially when it comes to the use of wide, line-abreast formations instead of line-astern, and the claim I often hear made today that 16th century ships were only ever capable of firing their cannons once before boarding.


In shooting of the Artillerie before bording, it is to bee considered that it be at such a distance, as to be able to charge the seconde time, because that discharging the Artillerie af∣ter bording, it doth not onely come to hurt with more cer∣teintie, but with a farre greater losse, for that a blowe is of great force at full, a matter which the verie reason of shoo∣ting proueth, through the motion whiche the violence of powder giueth to the bullet, a manner in which the artillerie is mounted in the gallies: And if in assaultes by lande they staie shooting anie piece out of the trauesses, vntill the men be clambered vnto the toppe of the breach, that they may do the more hurte by the certeintie of the shott, two gallies be∣ing borded, which is to come to assalte one another, without all doubt shee shall haue most aduātage which in that season and instance is able to helpe her selfe with her full Artillerie: a particular of which great consideration is to be had, and to be esteemed of great moment at that instant to vse artillerie, then before with shooting off great shott, which come all to be lost, and none of that force they are when they come to borde.

In other words, it's not that naval artillery at the time couldn't be reloaded in combat, but rather their effect was considered so much greater at very close range that a captain would always want to leave enough distance that he would still have time to reload another volley if the enemy ship suddenly decided to close the distance. For the heaviest, slowest loading artillery this might mean only allowing them to shoot at an extremely long range if at all. Or it might mean keeping the heaviest guns at the ready, and only allowing distant shots to be conducted with the smaller-caliber artillery or breachloaders on the upper decks, since they could be reloaded in a much shorter time.

This seems to go a long way to helping explain the apparent huge discrepancy in spanish and english ships' rate of fire in 1588, even moreso than the difference in gun carriages, which gets estimated at around one shot per gun per hour for the english ships and only one shot per gun per day for the spanish ships that engaged. With the English "race-built" galleons constantly conducting drive-by attacks from upwind, the spanish captains, if they followed a doctrine similar to what Mendoza describes, would have had to be very cautious about firing off the bulk of their artillery in return. If they fired off their heavy cannons at the first english ship, then they'd risk leaving the next attacking english completely free to sail by at a much closer distance, doing far more damage to the fleet with its guns in the process.

Mendoza actually does mention this as well as a useful tactic for a smaller, more maneuverable ship fighting one that is much taller and likely to have a huge advantage in close quarters. The smaller ship is supposed to repeatedly make a start as if it's planning to close and board, but not actually do so, instead keeping a reasonable distance while firing its broadsides. If the smaller ship keeps a moderate distance against a ship with more tiers of guns, then the small ship can make for a more difficult target, especially for the gun decks higher up as opposed to low to the water.


. . . and if he be desirous to shunne bording, by reason his shippes be lower, he entertayneth time shooting of still his Tyres by making Bordes, which is to annoy the e∣nimie, without aduenturing to come to hande strokes with him, for the disaduantage which he knoweth he shall gett by it, not hauing so high shippes, nor multitude of souldiours, whose handes and force vpon bording getteth the victorie, because they discharge no other artillerie then Cannons pe∣riall and smal pieces in their vpper works where they vse not alreadie slinges, shooting of all the artillerie he can at such time as he is readie to borde, when bullets worke most effect, and almost none at all before, the rest being but short into the ayre, of which great consideration is to be had.

rrgg
2018-09-21, 12:40 PM
He also talks a bit about amphibious landings, with arquebusiers and pikemen rowing up to shore on old-timey Spanish Higgins boats:


. . . and when their is a place fortified where the men must needs land, then doe they arme their boats with blinders, which couereth the fore parte and serued for a defence, and then letting it to fall when they come to land, it serueth for a bridge, helping them selues with this, and such other maner of barkes, which they defend with sundrie sortes of instruments.

Vinyadan
2018-09-21, 02:37 PM
So as usual, I was thinking about something utterly unrelated when a historical combat question hit me. Don't know why that keeps happening. Anyway, why weren't ridden oxen employed in a military context? Obviously, they are far slower than horses and fill a totally different role, but their superior carrying capacity and differing physiology should have allowed them to be armored more heavily and in more places while also carrying a more heavily armored rider. Their consistently horizontal necks also seem like they would obstruct their rider's use of swinging weapons less. Combined with their horns and greater innate durability, these traits seem like they would be useful in assaulting infantry blocks.

A horse head protects the rider. This is something that had been noticed in discussions about armour and cavalry in the later times, around XVIII century.

Nettlekid
2018-09-21, 02:58 PM
Why does this sword look like this? What's the point of the cutout semicircles, and what would the little saw spikes be used for?
http://i66.tinypic.com/orp8nl.jpg

Max_Killjoy
2018-09-21, 04:02 PM
My first thought is that it's purely, entirely artistic -- no functional reason.

Gnoman
2018-09-21, 05:18 PM
That would be my first thought as well. Along with my second, third, fourth, and eleventy-first thought. Particularly given the bit of guard we can see, which looks like a typical gaudy "fantasy" hilt.

ExLibrisMortis
2018-09-21, 05:38 PM
It's hard to see in the pictures, but I think the spiky bits are unsharpened, and would give a good grip when half-swording, if your hand was small enough.

Aneurin
2018-09-21, 05:51 PM
It looks very much like a replica of something from fantasy - an impression helped by the fact that either it's tiny, or that laptop is ridiculously large (seriously, the blade can't be more than about 20 inches at most, and probably less). I strongly suspect it looks the way it does because someone thought it would be cool for it to look that way.

Looking practically at it, you can only actually use the top third of the blade to do damage to an opponent, since it's the only bit that can be sharpened. Which means you're basically making little cuts, or just thrusting with it. The mid-part of the blade has no use offensively, and while I suppose the wibbly bits could act a little like a sword-breaker and trap/break an opponent's blade, I suspect it mostly just causes an opponents blade (and maybe your own) to go off in unpredictable directions when parried or parrying. The thin part of the blade below all the wibblyness just seems decorative, and like a great place for the blade to break.

And, again, it's tiny.

It really just looks like a display piece.

The Jack
2018-09-21, 09:52 PM
Mostly bollocks
G

Titanium doesn't need to be stronger than steel by volume, it's stronger than steel by weight. Volume means jack-**** when metal armour is MM thin.
I'd wager heavily that modern materials and techniques would outdo the old in armour production. Just imagine the ways the gambeson could be improved or how we could improve vision and air flow whilst bettering protection
Modern rifle plates are often made of steel or titanium rather than disposable ceramic plates. The downside is that they're heavy/uncomfortable or expensive.
Reinactment combat sports use old armour designs because they're often there to simulate history/the people who practice that stuff like history, whilst people who invent new knife shapes and such are into marketing. You should really try to differentiate people who're earnestly trying to improve something and people trying to make a buck.


Right, now for the questions I came here for
How do criminal gangs actually go to war (outside of prison)?

Brother Oni
2018-09-22, 02:49 AM
Titanium doesn't need to be stronger than steel by volume, it's stronger than steel by weight. Volume means jack-**** when metal armour is MM thin.
I'd wager heavily that modern materials and techniques would outdo the old in armour production. Just imagine the ways the gambeson could be improved or how we could improve vision and air flow whilst bettering protection


Volume, and hence thickness, matters more for armour when determining protection. Modern armour plates in plate carriers are rated by their thickness, not their weight.

Sure the armour may be millimetres thin, but it's got a large surface area to protect. Taking the front plate of body armour to be 3420cm2, a 6mm thick steel plate would be ~16.5kg, while a 6mm thick titanium plate would be ~9.1kg. However you would need a thicker titanium plate to match the protection of that steel plate - I've seen estimates from 45% to 100% thicker, upping the thickness and weight to between ~9mm and ~13.3kg to 12mm and 18.4kg.

If you've never worn armour before, thickness of the plate is a major hassle when ensuring coverage as what's fine on a mannequin isn't fine on a person who needs to move - take a look at all the solutions that armourers used to cover joints.

You say a gambeson can be improved - how? It's just layers of fabric and there's few modern fibres that would be useful - kevlar is great at stopping small blunt high velocity rounds, not so good at high momentum cutting arrows.

A helmet, I'll give you on visibility as you can install polycarbonate lenses or visors. Airflow, not so much as the more gaps you make, the less protection you have - the pig faced bascinet looks very silly to modern sensibilities, but it's actually really good for airflow since you're not sucking air through a metal grill as the 'snout' holds enough volume to permit easy breathing.

https://www.by-the-sword.com/images/product/large/ah-4422_1_.jpg



How do criminal gangs actually go to war (outside of prison)?

Go to war against a government? Go look up how the cartels wage war in Mexico or the US led War on drugs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_Drug_War).

gkathellar
2018-09-22, 04:28 AM
How do criminal gangs actually go to war (outside of prison)?

You're going to have to be more specific, because the answer varies not just with the type and scale of the criminal organization in question, but also where they are and what exactly they're going to "war" against.

gkathellar
2018-09-22, 01:00 PM
Titanium isn't actually effective as body armor, and is not used as body armor... for one thing it's too brittle.

The thickness does matter as it's enough mm thick to be an issue.

But by all means, try it and make a video for us.

G

Titanium does see limited use in trauma plates, although not in the standard-issue inserts of the USAF.

Epimethee
2018-09-22, 02:08 PM
rrgg, I don't forget you! I just read a few pages yesterday, and the only thing I may yet wish to add is that guns were counted as such regardless of the actual size. For example, the listed total of 112 guns on the Henri Grace A Dieu, from 1525, included the handguns, it would have 51 heavy guns, 29 swivel and the rest would be handguns, but they were all listed as guns.
It may be something to keep in mind when discussing the volleys described in primary sources.

Also, as a warship, she would crew 260 sailors, 400 soldiers and 40 gunners. I have not found a true estimation of the cost, but I'm fairly sure it would be more than a galley. That's also evident looking at how much longer she need to sail.

Also the part on amphibious warfare is interesting, given that the galley were actually often used in such operations, as they were able to navigate on really few water.



Regarding gang war, I don't know exactly what you are referencing, but I would look at the Small Arm Survey (http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/publications/by-type/reports.html) for modern and accurate informations, such as "In Transit: Gangs and Criminal Networks in Guyana", by Taylor Owen and Alexandre Grigsby, from 2012, or "Confronting the Don: The Political Economy of Gang Violence in Jamaica", by Glaister Leslie, from 2010, or "Gangs of Central America: Causes, Costs, and Interventions", by Dennis Rodgers, Robert Muggah, and Chris Stevenson, May 2009, or maybe At the Crossroads of Sahelian Conflicts: Insecurity, Terrorism, and Arms Trafficking in *****", by Savannah de Tessières this January.

Mr Beer
2018-09-22, 07:05 PM
How do criminal gangs actually go to war (outside of prison)?

Context required.

Anything from sending a couple of guys round to intimidate someone to hiring hundreds of ex-professional soldiers and having them attack other drug gangs and/or police in quasi-military operations.

Incanur
2018-09-23, 04:35 PM
As mentioned before, I definitely don't agree that Spanish or French sources are somehow inferior or less relevant when it comes to crossbows. Mounted, armored crossbowers were indeed important in the late 15th century & early 16th century, & the French used those too. Armored, mounted crossbowers defended the French king at Marignano 1515, for example. Such mounted crossbowers were sometimes called cranequiniers & most likely used cranequins like their German-region counterparts presumably did.

The French & Spanish armies of course had access to all the best technologies from Central Europe. European elites in at that time frequently traveled all over Western & Central Europe.

Raimond de Fourquevaux was age seven in 1515. He grew up in a France where crossbows were militarily important & saw them decline during his lifetime. The same for Blaise de Monluc, though he was even six years older & of course commanded crossbowers in the field.

Incanur
2018-09-23, 06:35 PM
the technology of the more sophisticated types of crossbows and spanners originated elsewhere, as did the culture of using these weapons. Did the French have them too? yes but they lagged a generation or two behind (just as the Renaissance was 100 years late to France)

Do you have any evidence of this for crossbow technology specifically? References to cranequiniers appear in Louis XI's reign (1461-1483), if not earlier. Windlass crossbows appear in lots of 15th-century French art.


almost all of the infantry and quite a few of the mounted crossbowmen (and pikemen, halberdiers, hand-gunners, and archers) in any French army were foreign mercenaries, quite often not even French speakers, so again, you don't have the same level of insight and ...

This is an exaggeration. The French crown certainly relied heavily on mercenaries, especially in era of the Italian Wars, but French infantry existed as well throughout the 15th/16th centuries, albeit usually of lower quality than mercenary infantry, specially for heavy infantry. French infantry were always pretty decent at using crossbows, & later arquebuses.


guys like Reimond de Beccarie de Pavie the seigneur de Forquevaux, effectively a baron, was of the tiny noble estate in France, among whom it was a point of pride to ignore and disparage anyone not of their own Estate, who they literally perceived as subhuman trash (or human livestock).

That's generally true, but I don't see much evidence of that view in Fourquevaux's writings.


All three of these factors (and the fact that he essentially wrote books of theory as opposed to personal accounts or analysis) contribute to an at best vague understanding of the finer points of everything to do with the culture and technology of these weapons.

Have you read Fourquevaux's Instructions sur le faict de la Guerre? It contains a mix of theory, person accounts, & analysis. Fourquevaux had an extensive military career, serving in Italy, France, & Scotland.


Read Piccolomini or Machiavelli for example. Read some of the town chronicles. Read guys like Cellini or Bartholamew Sastrow. It will change your perception and not for the worse.

You realize Fourquevaux drew heavily on Niccolò Machiavelli's Art of War, right?

I've of course read various of Machiavelli's works. I don't recall much about crossbows. The same for Benvenuto Cellini's autobiography. I've read a lot of chronicles. I don't believe I've read either Piccolomini or Bartholamew Sastrow.

rrgg
2018-09-23, 08:17 PM
Since some comparisons to the English are starting to pop up, I just want to clarify that from my perspective I'm not disparaging or ignoring continental shooting cultures in the slightest. It's just that I'm convinced that the English archery tradition has been hugely overstated by both modern and medieval propaganda, which sets the bar way lower for continental shooting traditions and professional mercenaries. While there were no doubt some incredibly impressive english archers who could continually shoot super powerful, 180+ lb bows, most longbowmen would have been shooting less than 100 J, perhaps far less depending on how much stock you put in Barwick's comments about exhausted or frightened longbowmen struggling to actually bend their bows back all the way. In that context even a fairly weak crossbow which is guaranteed to shoot with 100 J every time regardless of whether or not the soldier has had breakfast yet would be a huge improvement.


As for technology, even if there were experts in 15th century central europe who understood how to make crossbows better than anyone else, the fact is that making an extremely powerful crossbow able to shoot very long distances was not at all hard to do. Even with just a wooden laythe and no access to mechanical spanning aids, the simple solution is just to make the thing so large that you have to lie flat on your back in order to span it all the way. In this manner you had crossbows which were able to outrange composite recurve bows and pierce through shields and armor already as far back as the first crusade. If you need a crossbow which is as powerful as the most powerful longbow, just take said longbow and mount it on a tiller. Then you could make the longbow you're drawing perhaps up to twice as powerful as that since you can use far more of your body's muscles when drawing a crossbow. And if you for some reason need even more power than that you could even try doing what the chinese sometimes did and have 2 or 3 men span the bow while working together.

If this technology was somehow never introduced to regions like france over the course of a few hundred years, or if the French actively switched from these large tiller-bows to stiff, composite crossbows with short draw lengths despite the latter being more complicate, much more difficult to make, and often much weaker than what a tiller bow might have been capable of, then they must have had a good reason for it. The same goes for the heavy windlass and cranaquin-driven crossbows that start showing up. Despite the increasingly impressive level of engineering that starts going into these weapons, the end result was still just figuring out more roundabout ways to achieve what could be done so much more easily by just making the bow slightly larger and adding a longer draw.

Obviously I don't think people in the middle ages were dumb, they would have had very good reasons for designing their crossbows the way they did and it seems that they almost certainly had other tricks to squeeze additional energy out of their crossbows that we haven't figured out yet. But the overall design, the short draw lengths, and the fact that crossbows seem to have been rarely, if ever, made the size of handbows still serves as pretty convincing evidence to me that "more range and power" must have been much lower on the list of priorities than you might think.

Incanur
2018-09-23, 10:23 PM
As understand it, there are actually issues with just making crossbows bigger. Efficiency decreases as size increases; that's why multiprod crossbows (http://greatmingmilitary.blogspot.com/2017/08/chinese-multiprod-crossbow.html) were a thing & why attempts to make have Leonardo da Vinci's giant crossbow have gone poorly. You also need a trigger system capable of handling all the strain reliably.

Chinese crossbows use longer prods & power strokes. In theory, they might be very efficient, but I've yet to find solid performance numbers for them. One person who commented on that 1,200lb crossbow video claims the efficiency was almost the same as in a Han crossbow test. If that's true, then that replica must not have performed nearly as well as estimates. Friction seems like it would be an issue with all ancient/medieval crossbow designs. & even the Han designs don't have quite the power stroke as a hand-drawn bow.

Finally, it's awkward to have to lie down to arm your weapon (though it was done to some extent in China), & awkward to have a big bulky weapon.

Back in the 13th century or earlier, European armies had access to powerful mechanically spanned crossbows. There's an account here (https://books.google.com/books?id=dvTyDyt-Ru4C&printsec=frontcover&dq=james+i+of+aragon&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiZ1cmb1tLdAhUOD3wKHXAoDtcQ6AEIKTAA#v=on epage&q=arbalest&f=false) of such a large crossbow being used to shoot through soldiers equipped with shields. This was during tunneling in a siege situation. I don't exactly how such crossbows functioned in that period, but apparently they did. But they weren't convenient personal weapons.

I doubt most English archers deployed in action were shooting under 100 J, though there's no way to say for sure. Remember that 150-160lb was the average from Mary Rose bows according to The Great Warbow.

100 J or even a bit under is fine, though: even a hefty (for mounted use) 110lb Turkish bow only delivers around 81-95 J with the light arrows Turkish archers apparently favored, according to Adam Karpowicz.

Another note about weapon convenience & portability: in the unlikely event that composite crossbows didn't perform any better than steel crossbows at any given draw weight & power stroke, they still certainly weighed a lot less. That's a major advantage.

rrgg
2018-09-24, 01:26 AM
But I don't think that means they took a step backward in effectiveness, to the contrary. That would go against all the trends of that period and again so far as I know, there is zero evidence to support it.


G

I don't think there was any stepping backwards. But again "effectiveness" on the battlefield is defined by far more things than just range and power. You and Incanur have given a number of good reasons that it could be useful to have a a smaller crossbow. So if I contrive a scenario with two crossbows made with the same technology, one slightly more powerful than the other, then I hope you'll agree that even in a situation where it's expected to be used as a siege crossbow or wall crossbow, there's going to be some maximum size where a soldier would likely be more effective if armed with the slightly smaller, lighter, more reliable weapon even if it's slightly less powerful. (Or at the very least there's some maximum size where the soldier would likely prefer the smaller weapon, I'm not really interested in a "but you can't really know for sure which is better" debate.)


If combat effectiveness always did closely correlate with raw power, then that would mean that even Payne Gallwey's crossbows at the time had already been rendered horribly obsolete by This vastly more powerful crossbow (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nY2untEwCnU) which is

A. From an earlier period

B. A modern reproduction

C. Has a much longer powerstroke.

It doesn't seem that at the time and place Payne gallwey's siege crossbow was made people would have still considered the the great horn crossbow a "more effective weapon over all. Otherwise I'd assume that whoever made gallwey's bow would have quit much earlier to pursue a different hobby.

At some point, enough penetration would be enough for almost practical intents. When really powerful crossbows start becoming much more popular around central europe in the 14th and 15th centuries much of that would have had to do with changing threats. i.e. before even the weaker wooden and composite crossbows usually proved plenty strong enough against targets protected by mail or gambesons, but as plate armor started improving and became more common, the much more powerful crossbows were needed more frequently, and there was an increased need for those powerful crossbows to be designed smaller and lighter so that the soldiers carrying them could more easily keep up with the rest of the light infantry.



We have no actual real reason to assume that what I think you are referring to worked better, or even as well as late medieval crossbows did.

You know, a couple of years back when a bunch of these questions about medieval crossbows started floating around internet forums, I spent a lot of time reading all I could find about bow design looking for any reason that the opposite might be true. But in the end I couldn't find any, and multiple reasons to assume that a longer draw length would indeed just be straight up better when it comes to efficient energy transfer and dry-fire speed.

If you have a bow which draws 300 lbs at 6 inches and instead draw it back 12 inches, then assuming it doesn't snap you've suddenly transformed your 300 lb bow into a 600+ lb bow without having to add any more mass to the lathe, you've doubled the power stroke as well which means that it now stores around 4x as much energy as the original did, and the bolt gets to accelerate over a longer distance, all of which tend to result in a higher dry fire speed.


The best explanations I can come up with at the moment for the shorter draw are still just convenience and probably a reduced risk of breaking. If you can come up with evidence for a different answer let me know.

Incanur
2018-09-24, 09:17 AM
A longer power stroke makes using a mechanical aid like a cranequin much more cumbersome & time consuming. Look at that giant crank used in the video, for example!

It is funny how that great horn crossbow only weighs 5lbs more than the steel crossbow Ralph Payne-Gallwey tested. That goes to show just how much heavier steel is.

The 1,200lb horn crossbow with the shorter power stroke only weighs 7.7lbs, by the way, & its cranequin just under 6lbs, for a total weight of around 13.7lbs.

So, even if steel performs just as well as horn, which I doubt because physics, the horn crossbow is a much more convenient & manageable weapon, assuming appropriate weather conditions & setting aside reliability issues.

Curiously, according to this (https://historum.com/threads/han-dynasty-crossbow-ii.131303/page-4), that Andreas Bichler's crossbow doesn't perform much better with heavier bolts, & performs worse in hotter weather (though that data point comes from what could just be measure inaccuracy).

I suspect the move to steel prods came because they were easier/cheaper to make & far less fussy than composite prods, but that they were simply worse than a well-maintained composite prod in its ideal environment.

The Jack
2018-09-24, 09:41 AM
All this crossbow talk has me thinking.

You know how in rollplaying games there's a tendancy to make metal bows or use exotic woods/materials

Is there any merit to that, in terms of physics? In games like morrowind they actually talk about their rare materials and give them a few properties that might be relevant, but what would you actually want for a bow/crossbow?

Of course, some people in these settings have supernatural strength, so maybe that may make up for rediculous draw weights.
I, personally just want to see bows and crossbows of different types/quality, but in some fantasies that'd be pretty poor in the arms-race.

Knaight
2018-09-24, 10:23 AM
Metal bows have existed historically - take a look at India.

rrgg
2018-09-24, 10:26 AM
A longer power stroke makes using a mechanical aid like a cranequin much more cumbersome & time consuming. Look at that giant crank used in the video, for example!


It shouldn't really make much of a difference though. It would take more or less the same amount of time to draw 6 inches using a windlass with a 40:1 mechanical advantage as it would to draw 12 inches if using a windlass with a 20:1 mechanical advantage. If the longer bow has only half the draw weight then the total energy stored by both bows would still be similar and the difficulty of drawing each windlass would still be exactly the same.

A windlass tends to be fitted at the end of the stock anyways, so I'm not seeing much reason that wouldn't be able to wind farther than 6 or 7 inches.

Perhaps most soldiers just felt that anything longer than a 6-7 inch draw made a crossbow much more awkward to aim and shoot?

One possibility is that if you shot the crossbow while turning or spinning around in circles then a very short, high-poundange powerstroke might improve accuracy since would mean the bolt needs less time to accellerate before leaving the bow. If true that would help explain why many hunting and sporting crossbows had even shorter powerstrokes. Though I have no idea how this would actually work exactly or if the difference would even be noticeable in practice.

Incanur
2018-09-24, 11:46 AM
Did Payne Gallwey mention the length of the prod or the powerstroke on his weapon?

Yes to both: 38 inches & 7 inches, respectively.


All we know about the performance of these weapons is Gallwey mentioned how far he shot a bolt, whereas in the video we get the speed (of 52-57 m/s) and weight of the bolts (348 and 260 g).

Payne-Gallwey shot a 85 gram bolt. That's much, much lighter. It might have had 245 J initially, depending on aerodynamics, but that's still less than Bichler's great horn crossbow's kinetic energy (433-488 J).

Of course, as mentioned before, I don't think huge crossbows were particularly practical apart from their role in defending (& perhaps assaulting) fortifications. A longer power stroke takes longer to wind or crank back: that's simple arithmetic. I suspect historical European crossbows were reasonably compact & convenient because that conveyed lots of advantages over larger, more powerful but awkward crossbows.

Relying on primary sources is a good policy, but sometimes period texts are directly contradictory or obviously wrong. Various texts assert that the English warbow could pierce plate armor, for example. Technical details about extant bows & armor help us decide which sources to believe & how to interpret the more outlandish claims. A heavy warbow shooting a heavy arrow might be able to kill through a low-quality &/or thin breastplate with perpendicular hit at close range, but otherwise probably not.

rrgg
2018-09-24, 12:06 PM
Gallwey gives the dimensions of his siege crossbow on page 14, and talks about shooting some other 15th century crossbows starting on page 20.

https://archive.org/details/Book_of_the_Crossbow_The_by_Sir_Ralph_Payne-Galloway

Gallwey's siege crossbow measured 7 inches from the string's resting position to the latch. Bichler's 1270 lb crossbow according to Incanur's link has a power stroke of 14.76 inches. That's where we're getting around 475 J of stored energy for Gallwey's bow as opposed to 1277 J of stored energy for Bichler's bow. Even if Gallway's crossbow was somehow able to achieve near 100% efficiency (which it didn't), it still wouldn't be able to match the 488 J of kinetic energy achieved by one of the bolts in the siege crossbow video. And since Bichler's replica crossbow still has another 700 Joules of wasted potential energy on top of that, it has even more room for potential improvement than Gallwey's crossbow would.

Also none of this discussion so far actually disparages or contradicts historical accounts of crossbow performance, including Gallwey's. What it does do is show that medieval crossbow technology was even more impressive, since it means that people in the late middle ages had access to crossbows capable of outmatching the very best eastern and western flight bows they encountered, even when the crossbows were not optomized to do so. It suggests that the people making these weapons were saying "Not only do we have crossbows capable of outperforming your very best bows and then some in every way, but we're going to make them smaller, more convenient to shoot and carry, more durable, and maybe more accurate to shoot while moving (see theory in my previous post) as well."

Incanur
2018-09-24, 12:26 PM
We now know that the best armor - in the thickest parts like on the chest and the front of the helmet, was probably pretty safe against even monster longbows.

There's no probably about this, by the numbers. You only need about 1.7-1.8mm of hardened steel to require 200 J to pierce 40mm according to Alan Williams. When you add in padding, that'd be enough to be safe from even a perpendicular hit from a 200 J projectile, which only a truly monstrous yew longbow could manage. 2mm of hardened steel, which was fairly common for breastplates and helmet fronts, would be utterly proof against even absurdly powerful yew longbows. & later breastplates could be 3mm or more of hardened steel, to stop pistol bullets.

& that's all assuming ideal conditions for the longbow. Getting a perfectly perpendicular hit on the curved surfaces of a white hardness would be rather unlikely, & in most cases distance would have already robbed the arrow of some of its initial kinetic energy. & even a 180lb yew longbow shooting a light(ish) livery arrow might only deliver 130 J initially.

On the other hand, there are advantages to wearing as light armor as possible, as Pietro Monte favored. He seems to have thought being potentially vulnerable to crossbow bolts (but apparently *not* arrows) was worth the risk. He recommended a detachable reinforcing piece or two to endure lance strikes.

I have far more faith in military manuals from experienced commanders than I have in chronicles and battle accounts, as a general rule. It depends on the specific texts in question, but in my experience, plenty of chronicles were written far after the fact by folks who weren't there & employing dubious sources.

For example, as I recall, some chronicler claimed Jorg von Ehingen cut the Moorish champion in fought in half, but von Ehingen's own account (https://myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=12611&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0) is very different. He won the duel with a cut to face & then a thrust to the throat.

ExLibrisMortis
2018-09-24, 01:42 PM
I don't know what kriedegrund or Rotfassung are, can somebody explain?
Kreidegrund (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kreidegrund) is gesso.


And something called "Fassung"?
Fassung (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fassung_(Bemalung)) can be decoration, Rotfassung would be decoration with red.


And another thign called "Hauteim"?
Haut is skin, but no idea what -eim would add.

Galloglaich
2018-09-24, 02:00 PM
Thank you that's very helpful.

So a stout pine board with a kind of paste of broken glass, iron filings, sinew and bone-meal, covered with layers of rawhide. Interesting bullet-proofing materials.

Then of course decorated with red paint and gold leaf since medieval artisans decorated everything.

G

Berenger
2018-09-24, 02:04 PM
Kreidegrund: primer (Grundierung) made from chalk (Kreide). An item is "painted" with primer as a first layer so the actual paint adheres and stays true in color.

Fassung: multiple meanings depending on context, can you provide the full sentence? Something that grips or enframes.

Hauteim: Hautleim? Glue (Leim) made from Haut (skin).

Galloglaich
2018-09-24, 03:36 PM
Thanks Berenger!

G

Epimethee
2018-09-25, 11:55 AM
All this crossbow talk has me thinking.

You know how in rollplaying games there's a tendancy to make metal bows or use exotic woods/materials

Is there any merit to that, in terms of physics? In games like morrowind they actually talk about their rare materials and give them a few properties that might be relevant, but what would you actually want for a bow/crossbow?

Of course, some people in these settings have supernatural strength, so maybe that may make up for rediculous draw weights.
I, personally just want to see bows and crossbows of different types/quality, but in some fantasies that'd be pretty poor in the arms-race.


Yeah, I was also wondering about one little thing: is it possible that the actual wood used to build crossbow and bow was specifically grown to make better bows? I don't speak here about the essence of tree but about the actual shape of the trees.
I really don't know but I remember reading some things about vineyards in French monasteries, where every plant was specifically planted and cared for.
I remember also, when I was young, so it is a bit foggy, to have talked with some guy who made furnitures and he could speak all day of the qualities of wood for a specific object, not only about the type of wood but also the shape of the tree.

So it may be possible that the specific qualities of medieval crossbows or bow may be due not to the essence of wood but of the specific way it was grown, like if you have the basic curvature already on the tree, bending the bow would be easier.

It is again some guesswork but I wonder if they are some sources, or some reenactment, that could prove or disprove this hypothesis.

Max_Killjoy
2018-09-25, 12:11 PM
Yeah, I was also wondering about one little thing: is it possible that the actual wood used to build crossbow and bow was specifically grown to make better bows? I don't speak here about the essence of tree but about the actual shape of the trees.
I really don't know but I remember reading some things about vineyards in French monasteries, where every plant was specifically planted and cared for.
I remember also, when I was young, so it is a bit foggy, to have talked with some guy who made furnitures and he could speak all day of the qualities of wood for a specific object, not only about the type of wood but also the shape of the tree.

So it may be possible that the specific qualities of medieval crossbows or bow may be due not to the essence of wood but of the specific way it was grown, like if you have the basic curvature already on the tree, bending the bow would be easier.

It is again some guesswork but I wonder if they are some sources, or some reenactment, that could prove or disprove this hypothesis.

Heck, just listening to the guys on shows like Stone House Revival and Barnwood Builders talk about the difference between old growth wood and new "farmed" wood, I'd have to wonder if there's a difference there. (Old growth tends to be bigger, but with tighter denser rings / grain because it grows slower, whereas the newer, often farmed trees for lumber tend to grow fast and be harvested young.)

rrgg
2018-09-25, 05:28 PM
Thanks! It definitely sounds like the lithuanians saw the knights' crossbows as being a huge improvement over their current bows. Not to mention the fact that the defenders on the castle walls don't seem to have been very worried about arrows or other missile weapons until they realised that the lithuanians were shooting back at them with crossbows.

It looks like there is another later section where the Lithuanians are attacking an order castle defended by crossbowmen, and the defenders' advantage in firepower (shootpower?) was so great that it was the actually the attacking army's archers who were either too scared or didn't have time to shoot while ducking for cover:

"[10041] Let me tell you about the activities of the pagans. In ten days they had made many a big ribald. The work troubled them little, they had brought many thousand carts of lumber for the filling of the moats. On the eleventh day many a heathen lamented, since he lost his life there, and his soul came into great misery. A powerful attack was made, many a ribald was driven by the heathen toward the moat. Some were killed while doing this before they arrived at the hill. The Brothers acted like true heroes, they shot many heathen dead. The Lithuanians did not want to give up the attack because of this danger. They stood like a wall. The heathen shot wooden arrows. But it happened to many a heathen that, when he wanted to bend down, his limbs escaped from him, so that he sat down on the ground and completely forgot to shoot: this came from the harassment of arrows. Death came to many a man in this way. And yet the Lithuanians did not give up; they were intent to carry off with them the possessions of the Brothers. This determination brought ill luck to many. One saw many a Sameitian being led away like a German bride. The white snow grew to look like blood and the field all blood-colored. The Brothers soon realized that the ribalds were on the moat: they directed their, catapults there. The heathen were pressed hard then, they took such great harm that they completely abandoned the ribalds. They left many dead there and fled from the battle area."

Do you know if the lithuanians were able to reverse-engineer the knights' crossbows and started producing their own? or were they still only able to use those which were captured or imported?

--

Anyways, I was looking back over some parts of the 13th century King's Mirror (http://www.mediumaevum.com/75years/mirror/sec2.html#XXXVII), and while it doesn't say that this was due to crossbows specifically, it apparently was possible for an attacking army to start out shooting the defenders at times, which is why it was recommended to prepare wooden hordings atop the walls beforehand if possible:


It sometimes happens that the shots fall so rapidly upon a fortress that the defenders are unable to remain at the battlements; it is then advisable to hang out brattices made of light planks and built high enough to reach two ells above the openings in the parapet and three ells below them. They should be wide enough to enable the men to fight with any sort of weapons between the parapet and the brattice wall, and they should be hung from slender beams in such a way that they may be readily drawn in and hung out again later, as one may wish.

Also, getting back to the subject of fire weapons being used during ship to ship combat, the King's Mirror says this:


Weapons of many sorts may be used to advantage on shipboard, which one has no occasion to use on land, except in a fortress or castle. Longhandled scythes and long-shafted broadaxes, "war-beams "and staff slings, darts,: and missiles of every sort are serviceable on ships. Crossbows and longbows are useful as well as all other forms of shooting weapons; but coal and sulphur are, however, the most effective munitions of all that I have named.

I did try looking through manuscript miniatures, for any depictions which might show fire being used as a naval weapon aside from the Byzantines, but only found one possible example (http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4454/8412/). The rest don't give any indication of fire or fireweapons being used at sea at all. I assume that either means whatever incendiary materials they had available weren't really that good at setting enemy ships on fire, or it means that the fire weapons they had were so dangerous that medieval sailors were almost never willing to risk actually using them in combat.

Also also, Gallogliach made a post a couple pages ago about central european waterways being used to quickly move around and position heavy artillery, which got me thinking about some of these illustrations. When attacking a town or castle close to a body of water. Could the water be used as a convenient way to move tall "siege towers" into position for shooting down at the enemy defenders (http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4974/15413/)?

Mr Beer
2018-09-25, 06:17 PM
These famously curved trees still found in several groves in northern Poland (formerly Pomerania and Prussia) are often attributed to Aliens or paranormal phenomena...... but they are in fact grown that way specifically for making boats

IMO, when the answer is either 'people back in the day were ingenious' or 'aliens'...it's never aliens.

Epimethee
2018-09-25, 06:47 PM
rrgg I really love you these days! Nice!

I'm currently reading Robert de Clari, a French knight part of the fourth crusade, it is interesting because he is not part of the commanders. What he say about Venetians in the XII century is quite interesting but outside the scope of the current discussion. I think it is meaningless to give here extracts in medieval French but if you find a translation, the negotiations between Venice and the crusaders are really interesting, and also the death and supplice of Andronicus made me laugh. (you could find an extract with translation on page 68 here (https://books.google.ch/books?id=EKE9AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA67&lpg=PA67&dq=je+ai+un+camel+en+maison+robert+de+clari&source=bl&ots=Cj2snBatAR&sig=rxFllr2b-9Q61K_GBnC8LEvo2bM&hl=fr&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjT-u24qtfdAhWLpYsKHfcaCNwQ6AEwAHoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=je%20ai%20un%20camel%20en%20maison%20robert%20de %20clari&f=false).


Thanks Galloglaich that's was mostly what I thought. I already knew of those bended tree and I may not have been as clear as I thought but I meant exactly something like that for bows and crossbows.
I understand the provenance of specific wood, but were they worked before, bended like those trees? Have we some sources on those potential technics?

And the logical following question: what advantage could one expect? How would you do something like that? Is it possible that it make for the difference between the historical weapons and the reconstitutions?

And also thanks for the text!

Galloglaich
2018-09-25, 08:18 PM
In a word, no. The yew they used was mainly I think larger trees with a thick enough core or heart. & I think maybe from certain altitudes or climates. I never heard of them cultivating trees to be curved or recurved.

Also i have never heard of floating a siege tower on inland waterways though they did use rafts with guns on them as I said and they also used floating batteries in naval combat.

As for incendiary weapons in naval combat, I think they did use them but the number one naval incendiary weapon you hear about in that era were 'fire ships' - where they would pack a whole ship full of inflammable materials and send it toward the enemy, in the hopes that it would arrive among their ships (which it sometimes did but they were pretty unpredictable).

I would imagine a floating siege tower would be pretty top heavy, though the Romans did have that hooked bridge thing. You also do see a lot of very odd contraptions in the kriegsbucher.


As for the crossbows in the Northern Crusade, yes it was obviously a key weapon. If you read the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia (recommended) it's full of ghastly massacres using crossbows. The crossbow was arguably even more important to the Crusaders than their cavalry.

Yes the Lithuanians did learn how to make them. Initially they had captured a few 'renegade' craftsmen like in the excerpt above, later on they had imported them and set up immigration into their country. By the later 14th Century in fact they had several hundreds of skilled Latin artisans living (tax free) in their new town of Vilnius. So plenty of bowyers, fletchers, blacksmiths, masons, armorers, shipwrights, gun casters and so on. As a result they were able to produce weapons and build fortifications as good as the Latin ones. This was seen as such a threat by the Teutonic Order that it became the main focus of their Crusades or Reysa to break Vilnius, which they failed after very strenuous efforts (and a truly epic siege). This is the one that Henry IV of England went to (before he became king).

G

HeadlessMermaid
2018-09-25, 11:11 PM
the death and supplice of Andronicus made me laugh. (you could find an extract with translation on page 68 here (https://books.google.ch/books?id=EKE9AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA67&lpg=PA67&dq=je+ai+un+camel+en+maison+robert+de+clari&source=bl&ots=Cj2snBatAR&sig=rxFllr2b-9Q61K_GBnC8LEvo2bM&hl=fr&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjT-u24qtfdAhWLpYsKHfcaCNwQ6AEwAHoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=je%20ai%20un%20camel%20en%20maison%20robert%20de %20clari&f=false).
That death and torture was described by Niketas Choniates in extremely gory details, and then retold (almost verbatim) by Umberto Eco in a famously disturbing passage of Baudolino. I was frankly a bit concerned that it made you laugh. :smalltongue: But then I followed your link, and okay, that particular quote is very tame. You may not be a maniac after all. :smalltongue:

snowblizz
2018-09-26, 03:07 AM
I assume that either means whatever incendiary materials they had available weren't really that good at setting enemy ships on fire, or it means that the fire weapons they had were so dangerous that medieval sailors were almost never willing to risk actually using them in combat.

Also also, Gallogliach made a post a couple pages ago about central european waterways being used to quickly move around and position heavy artillery, which got me thinking about some of these illustrations. When attacking a town or castle close to a body of water. Could the water be used as a convenient way to move tall "siege towers" into position for shooting down at the enemy defenders (http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4974/15413/)?
It's probably possible to do something like that yes.

Wouldn't surprise me if that's from something depicting the Venetian and Genoese attack on Constantinople during the...fourth? crusade. The one with "good" intentions (on part of the participants, not the greedy italian merchants, who ofc continued to do well despite the loss of the holy land) that turned into pillaging material wealth, arguably breaking the back of what should have been the most powerful Latin ally in the middle east if you truly wanted to capture and hold the holy lands. Things like that always bring back into focus this whole "good intentions" thing for me, and "shooting one's own foot".

They effectively used ships as siegetowers raising ladders and such from them to assualt the walls.


Fire at sea is considered one of the absolute worst things that can befall a ship. Since most medieval naval combat was essentially closecombat fireweapons are as dangerous to yourself as the enemy really. Even the fireships were used with caution because if the wind turned after releasing them they might actually come back towards you.

Fireships are also funny in that they can be effective even though they might not actually set the enemy afire that much. English fireships broke up the Spanish Armada's formation and many captains cut their anchors to escape the immediate danger. An action that came back to haunt them when the storm hit. If the ships had anchors they could have much more easily rode out the storm and 1588 would be the year of the Spanish setback that didn't save England in the long run. Queen Isabella Dos would be on your 5 peso bills. ;)

I'm willing to bet on the "couldn't use fireweapons reliably in a way that didn't endanger themselves too".




Thanks Galloglaich that's was mostly what I thought. I already knew of those bended tree and I may not have been as clear as I thought but I meant exactly something like that for bows and crossbows.
I understand the provenance of specific wood, but were they worked before, bended like those trees? Have we some sources on those potential technics?

And the logical following question: what advantage could one expect? How would you do something like that? Is it possible that it make for the difference between the historical weapons and the reconstitutions?

You don't want bent wood for bows really. Unless making a recurve bow I guess, since any pre-bend cost you power. A recurve is basically under tension even in the rest position. Something I wish 10 year old me had understood. Instead of using branches that already looked like a bow and put a straight piece of string between.
Longbows are pretty straight or have ever so slight a bend "fowards" unstrung.

The reason you do this ofc is so you can get "unnatural" shapes where the fibres follow the whole length of the piece for extra strength. Ye Olde Shipbuilderes would go out into the royal oak forests with cutouts of the shapes they needed and compare them to the trees in the forset to find particularly strong parts. Different parts of trees have different properties. So the place where a tree branch grows is a naturally tough part. This summer tried splitting a birch log with many small branches growing out all round and nearly kileld myself trying to. It's very very resilient to splitting.

Those bent trees would yield parts making the side of ships/boats much stronger than you were to shape and join 2 or more pieces from straigth lumber to get the shape. And even if you had an oak large enough you could just saw a piece like that out of it invariably you have "cut" fibres in it, instead of grain going all along the piece like a naturally grown shape has.

It probably mattered a whole lot what kind of wood they used in the construction, hence famously yew longbows, and IIRC you cut the stave so you have essentially 2 different parts of wood on it with slightly different properties one part is flexible other resists compression. That's why composits tend to be used as you can combine properties one single material might not be able to provide. Duno if recreators consider it, one would hope so.

If literally asking how you do it, tie a sapling down with wire and keep monitoring it. You can shape plants quite a lot if you know how and have patience. When you grow apples (professionall) you don't let it turn into a big tree like those standing in the garden, it's a a rather pathetic looking thing held up by wire and supports, but with large fruit as it's not wasting energy on making limbs that can actually carry apples.

Epimethee
2018-09-26, 05:29 AM
That death and torture was described by Niketas Choniates in extremely gory details, and then retold (almost verbatim) by Umberto Eco in a famously disturbing passage of Baudolino. I was frankly a bit concerned that it made you laugh. :smalltongue: But then I followed your link, and okay, that particular quote is very tame. You may not be a maniac after all. :smalltongue:

Yeah, I was aware of others descriptions but this one is really shaped like a fabliau with peoples that discuss the best way to make him suffer, but no one find a satisfactory solution till a wise man come and find the answer, and then the choice of words in the French original are really more grotesque than impressive.
As much as it contain pertinent historical informations, it is also a great look at how medieval chronicles would use literary tropes to explain history, here the fabliau.



Then to fire and ships, yeah snowbliss that's mostly the discussion we have with rrgg: how often would fire be used, in which circumstances, and how you account for the dangers to your own fleet.

The thing about fireships is that they were mostly used to attack anchored fleets, as your description suggest. On open sea, they would be mostly inefficient as they would not be able to change course.

Clari was actually a member of the fourth crusade, but I'm not yet on the description of the siege of Constantinople. The text is relatively short but the language is really archaic so I tend to read only a few pages every days.
As soon as I get to that point I will let you know.

Then on bows: no snowbliss, I was not thinking so literally. A huge part of my family produce wine and I was more often than not in the fields, so I saw the cut and shaping first-hand.

But I thank you for the precisions, again, that's mostly what I was thinking, but less precisely as the question never really occurred to me. I think it may be theoretically possible to shape this slight bend "forward" but I understand also with your explanations that it may not be as worth the effort as for shipbuilding.
Still, it may be useful the next time I describe some bow building fantasy peoples! Nice!

heavyfuel
2018-09-26, 12:05 PM
Friend is starting a Pirate campaign that takes place with technology equivalent to our real world 16th century.

My starting idea was to have my character be a Greek sailor, wielding a Gladius. However, upon looking it up on Wikipedia, I discovered/remembered that Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire at the time.

Was the Gladius still in use, or had it already been replaced by a more "modern" sword? If so, what would've been the melee weapon of choice for an Ottoman mariner?

Thanks!

Mike_G
2018-09-26, 01:15 PM
Friend is starting a Pirate campaign that takes place with technology equivalent to our real world 16th century.

My starting idea was to have my character be a Greek sailor, wielding a Gladius. However, upon looking it up on Wikipedia, I discovered/remembered that Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire at the time.

Was the Gladius still in use, or had it already been replaced by a more "modern" sword? If so, what would've been the melee weapon of choice for an Ottoman mariner?

Thanks!

The Gladius wasn't really in use as a major military weapon in the 16th century as such, but similar length and weight swords would be easy to find. Especially on board a ship, something short-ish for use in close quarters would seem pretty smart. Something like a Katzbalger or a hanger or a Messer rather than a big rapier or broadsword. I can see sailors preferring a short, versatile cut and thrust sword. The classic Hollywood pirate cutlass is later.

I'll be honest and admit I have no idea what the Ottomans were using for swords at that time, but I'd be stunned if some of them didn't have a short cut and thrust blade.

Deffers
2018-09-26, 03:18 PM
Thank you that's very helpful.

So a stout pine board with a kind of paste of broken glass, iron filings, sinew and bone-meal, covered with layers of rawhide. Interesting bullet-proofing materials.

Then of course decorated with red paint and gold leaf since medieval artisans decorated everything.

G

Fascinatingly, I'm actually quite surprised at that materials list. I'd like to add a consideration here-- it could be that the rawhide was boiled into something that could serve as a matrix for either the broken glass or the iron filings. Something similar could be the case with the sinew or the bone-meal. This may be a wildly different use case but I know that the traditional way to make ink sticks is to boil down rawhide and then pour soot in it. The result has an impressive Rockwell C hardness-- I'd imagine finely (or not so finely) ground glass would be more performant, not unlike how you can resin together a fiberglass welding blanket to make something that will withstand handgun bullets and shotgun slugs. Similarly, in modern times you can buy epoxy resin that has iron fillings included in it, typically designed to make a stronger weld. It could be that they used this along with their glue for the same purpose. For defensive purposes, arrangement of layers can also produce additional protection. It could be that their glass and iron-reinforced layers would lie closest to the front to create what is known as a break surface-- a surface in the armor layer designed to deform the projectile. By blunting it, the projectile has a larger surface area where it impacts progressive layers. The softer layers then would be there to distribute impact. Typically, we see this in body armor, since that helps the human not die from blunt trauma, but it could be a principle applied here for the purposes of making sure the pavise is strong enough to withstand multiple hits without suffering catastrophic failure like falling apart. If a shield you're holding suddenly loses its bottom half due to crack propagation, you're in big trouble.

Here's a question-- do we know if pavises were repaired after being damaged, or if they were discarded and made anew? I'd imagine sufficiently thorough damage would prompt the creation of a fresh pavise, but if they were repaired, then that's an argument in favor of my theory that rawhide was used in a boiled, viscous form rather than as solid patches. You could just pour in your rawhide-and-glass mixture into the hole along with some glue, then maybe patch over some stuff or resurface it.

Epimethee
2018-09-26, 05:37 PM
It's not the same period and not the same conception, but the few pieces of organic Celtic shield found show that glue was heavily used to connect the wooden front with softer materials on the back. Those materials, fabric, leather, wool, and so on would be covered with glue.
I don't know the composition of the glue, but it may also play an important part in the solidity of the shield.


Also rrgg I was looking at the picture of the boat with a tower and I noticed, I could have done it sooner, but I noticed it was an illustration from the Romance of Alexander, a kind of retelling of the life of Alexander the Great. I read one version some 15 years ago so I don't remember all the motives, and there is quite a lot of variations between the texts.

But I think it may be a representation of the siege of Tyr.

So some informations may be useful to understand the equipment and the general look of 1250 soldiers, curated by the ornemental context. But I think the tower-boat is a more fantastical creation, some medieval artist trying to make sense of the historical sources.

Still a great illustration!

Ninjadeadbeard
2018-09-26, 06:29 PM
Long time no post, but I got some worldbuilding to do for a campaign so I seek the wisdom of the Ancients.

What are the effects of cold weather on gunpowder? I've got a setting set mostly near the Arctic circle and at an 18th century level of gunpowder technology. I know dampness dooms gunpowder, but what about subzero temperatures you're likely to encounter trying to travel and fight up in Greenland or Alaska?

Mr Beer
2018-09-26, 08:29 PM
My uninformed guess is that the chemical reaction may work just fine but you'll have other problems e.g.

- Freezing/warming cycles tends to attract moisture
- Deep freeze conditions may solidify powder so you can't pour it
- Metal pins may snap
- Metal barrels may be less resilient and thus more prone to catastrophic failure

So the powder itself works but you are much more likely to get ancillary issues causing malfunctions.

Gnoman
2018-09-26, 09:47 PM
You're also quite likely to have trouble operating any sort of gunpoweder weapon in such temperatures. Gloved hands are poorly suited for the level of manual dexterity needed to do so, but you'll have an enormous chance of losing skin or hands if you try to go without heavy gloves in that sort of weather.


Bows and crossbows would probably suffer from this less, but the cold would probably sap their strength and/or cause them to snap instead of working. Metal swords and armor could also start getting brittle at these temperatures. From what I can find, hardened steel becomes brittle at around -30 Celsius, which isn't that cold for the area you're talking about.

Brother Oni
2018-09-27, 02:07 AM
Bows and crossbows would probably suffer from this less, but the cold would probably sap their strength and/or cause them to snap instead of working.

The Inuit and various other peoples who live that far north use cable backed composite bows (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cable-backed_bow) made of bone, horn, wood and sinew for hunting.

The performance isn't suitable for medieval warfare but still capable of killing people at distance, so would still be useful at a 18th century level technology where infantry were typically unarmoured.

gkathellar
2018-09-27, 10:09 AM
Referring back to the debate about armor, and ancient vs. modern, from this article somebody posted on the codex forum I get the impression that the American Army could learn some lessons in armor ergonomics from the old artisans of Augsburg and Milan

https://www.military.com/daily-news/2018/09/25/army-body-armor-may-be-too-heavy-combat-report-finds.html

G

This is something the USMC has been working around for a while by alternating an older, heavier (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modular_Tactical_Vest) model and a newer, lighter (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scalable_Plate_Carrier) one depending on their needs.

I thought that the comment about cultural problems in the last few paragraphs is especially interesting, and speaks to how "scientific" approaches to warfare are often reshaped by the realities of human behavior.

Some of it goes to economies of scale, too. It takes years to develop and test a suit of body armor, at which point a lot of capital is invested in mass-production. It's harder to make significant design adjustments than it would be on the armory floor. And of course, the modern soldier is pretty thoroughly disconnected from the forces that purchase and assign their kit, so ... the entire process of critique and improvement is greatly slowed. And while manufacturers and military bureaucrats would like to think that they can scale up the amount of data and deliver a superb product to compensate, it doesn't always work out perfectly.

Gnoman
2018-09-27, 01:20 PM
The Inuit and various other peoples who live that far north use cable backed composite bows (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cable-backed_bow) made of bone, horn, wood and sinew for hunting.

The performance isn't suitable for medieval warfare but still capable of killing people at distance, so would still be useful at a 18th century level technology where infantry were typically unarmoured.

Neat. The only weapons from these peoples I've ever seen were spears/harpoons, and I was under the impression that bows were not suitable for their lifestyle and/or environment.

Brother Oni
2018-09-28, 06:23 AM
Referring back to the debate about armor, and ancient vs. modern, from this article somebody posted on the codex forum I get the impression that the American Army could learn some lessons in armor ergonomics from the old artisans of Augsburg and Milan

https://www.military.com/daily-news/2018/09/25/army-body-armor-may-be-too-heavy-combat-report-finds.html

Possibly. The article only talks about body armour solely in terms of weight and notes that even if the weight was reduced, leadership would most likely find more crap equipment to make up for the weight saved.

I'm of the opinion that unless a new material/design/technology is found that significantly reduces the weight without reducing protection, modern body armour is going to be minute iterations of the current design.
That said, I remember reading work into the use of non-Newtonian gels and liquids (https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/04/07/new-liquid-body-armour-is-finally-read-for-the-frontline_n_7016174.html) for body armour (they only harden on impact), but it only seems to be for soft armours currently.
I can't find any information of it as a potential replacement for rigid and other Level III armours though.


Neat. The only weapons from these peoples I've ever seen were spears/harpoons, and I was under the impression that bows were not suitable for their lifestyle and/or environment.

Much like how the composite laminate recurves of the various Steppe peoples weren't ideal in the hotter more humid conditions of Europe (the glues tended to dissolve, causing de-lamination), these cable bows are specialised for their environment.

Some cable bow examples I've seen are essentially made with three parts like modern Olympic recurve bows, with a riser (central section where you hold the bow) and a top/bottom limb (main parts that bend), so getting a single long piece of wood wasn't required, nor was all the extensive work tillering that stave to get a longbow. I was reading that the Inuit traded seal/whale blubber for wood from more southern tribes.

BlacKnight
2018-09-28, 04:55 PM
I'm wondering how much thin thrusting swords like the rapier are dependent on the metallurgic knowledge of the XVI century.
It's possible to have a setting with rapiers but not plate armor ?
Could the ancient Romans have made similar swords ?

The Jack
2018-09-28, 05:46 PM
I'm wondering how much thin thrusting swords like the rapier are dependent on the metallurgic knowledge of the XVI century.
It's possible to have a setting with rapiers but not plate armor ?
Could the ancient Romans have made similar swords ?

A setting with rapiers but not plate: Guns, or another weapon with high penetration power (but probably other drawbacks to keep the rapiers useful) keep people from bothering with such extensive armouring.

Ninjadeadbeard
2018-09-29, 04:05 AM
I'm wondering how much thin thrusting swords like the rapier are dependent on the metallurgic knowledge of the XVI century.
It's possible to have a setting with rapiers but not plate armor ?
Could the ancient Romans have made similar swords ?

For what it's worth, we've found rapiers from the Bronze Age. Kinda. They're thin, long swords and they're rare as all get-out, but they existed.

Max_Killjoy
2018-09-29, 09:04 AM
Even in the real world age with guns, rapiers, and armor that could (if well made) stop the bullets of the day, most people were not wearing bullet-stopping plate-armor around in their day to day life, or in most contexts outside of battle.

The Jack
2018-09-30, 01:46 PM
Kinda makes me wish RPGs did 'light' and 'heavy armour' a matter of social acceptance.

Knaight
2018-09-30, 03:15 PM
One other thing about the real world, while going around armed with a sword or some kind of large knife was very common at least in Central Europe and most of Italy, and did not necessarily raise an eyebrow, wearing armor in public was definitely much more noticeable and if you were a stranger or part of a group of strangers walking up to the gates of town in armor and /or carrying a lot of battlefield weapons ( as is so typical in RPGs and fantasy genre computer games), you would certainly be challenged on this by the town watch and almost certainly forced to remove most of your kit and leave it at the town gate or an inn while doing your business in town.

Even carrying one battlefield weapon enough could start to look sketchy. Walking around with a sword all the time is one thing, walking around with a halberd all the time is something else entirely.

rrgg
2018-09-30, 08:09 PM
I think I may have had a thought about "cut vs thrust" and why many people seem to have continued to prefer short cutlasses, axes, or using muskets as clubs over a long thrusting sword. Perhaps which is better depends a lot on exactly how a particular soldier responds during a high-pressure, life or death situation. For instance, the rapier might be a much better weapon if the soldier using it is able to remain perfectly calm, but when a surge of adrenaline hits perhaps it get's easier to swing harder and faster with an axe, but much harder to keep the hands steady and put the point of a long rapier on target with any sort of precision.

Knaight
2018-09-30, 08:26 PM
I think I may have had a thought about "cut vs thrust" and why many people seem to have continued to prefer short cutlasses, axes, or using muskets as clubs over a long thrusting sword. Perhaps which is better depends a lot on exactly how a particular soldier responds during a high-pressure, life or death situation. For instance, the rapier might be a much better weapon if the soldier using it is able to remain perfectly calm, but when a surge of adrenaline hits perhaps it get's easier to swing harder and faster with an axe, but much harder to keep the hands steady and put the point of a long rapier on target with any sort of precision.

That's a possibility, but there is the small matter of the continued dominance of the spear - a primarily thrusting weapon, with several varieties completely unsuited to cutting. Clearly stabbing somebody when in a high pressure life or death situation is something a lot of people are capable of.

Mike_G
2018-10-01, 11:24 AM
What it actually boils down to is training. Piermarco Terminello found a document a year or two ago where a 16th Century fencing master was breaking down to the City of Florence how much it cost (and how long it took) to train somebody to use different weapons. I don't remember the exact numbers off hand but the gist of it was rapiers or longswords took about twice as long to train somebody to use as single swords or say, a bill. I think it was like 4 weeks for a sword and rotella or a bill, vs. 10 weeks for longsword or something like that.

This definitely matches my experience in HEMA. I could teach somebody to be a decent spearman or saber fencer in less than half the time it would take to teach longsword. (I'm not really qualified to teach rapier but I believe that might take even longer. It took me almost 3 years to reach even basic survival skills with a rapier).

Saber is easy to parry with, the guards are simple, the cuts are simple, and with a little practice (and some innate ability) an average relatively athletic person can pick up the basics in a few sessions. Of course that is basic saber, like 19th Century military saber, not advanced stuff. But basic saber is enough to be effective in a fight. You can continue to get better and better with a saber but you reach that basic level of competence much sooner.

By contrast, there is just a certain threshold with some weapons that it just takes more experience to be of any use with it in a fight. With a longsword, you need multiple sessions - at least a dozen to start, because you have to learn a lot more to be useful. Things you have to practice on your own. Like how to parry effectively without giving away your center, how to make passing and triangle steps, how to seek, exploit, or avoid a bind. There are a lot more guards and basic true and false-edge cuts, slices, thrusts, etc., plus the guards are much more counter-intuitive. Just how to hold the weapon in your hand as you go through true and false edge cuts and guard transitions takes some people weeks to get right.

Basic usefulness with a spear, or with 'sword and board' ala re-enactors or SCA (admittedly, not the same thing as the real granted, so take it with a grain of salt, but closer to most peoples experiences as an analogy) can be achieved in a similarly short time as saber training IMO. Show them how to hold a guard, how to do basic footwork, how not to telegraph and how to do a few basic parries and binds, how to keep their shield forward and how to cut without exposing themselves too much, and they can do some damage.

With a rapier or a longsword, you really need some significant training or else you are just useless.

G

I will agree with this pretty strongly. Longsword was a lot more complicated than sabre, and my sabre experience translated easily to any one handed cut and thrust sword. Rapier is similarly complex.

I see the advantages of longswords or rapiers, but if I had to train new recruits for my army, I'd drill them exhaustively with their muskets or pikes or bows, and the remaining time would be adequate to get them good enough with a sabre or backsword, but probably not a rapier or longsword.

VoxRationis
2018-10-01, 02:11 PM
So I was asking earlier about the abysmal ratio of shots fired to casualties inflicted in the American Civil War, and I'm wondering if there are any data on that sort of statistic when it comes to bows. How many arrows would English longbowmen loose in order to inflict one casualty? What about Turkish archers, or those of any of the American tribes?

DrewID
2018-10-01, 02:40 PM
My uninformed guess is that the chemical reaction may work just fine but you'll have other problems e.g.

- Freezing/warming cycles tends to attract moisture
- Deep freeze conditions may solidify powder so you can't pour it
- Metal pins may snap
- Metal barrels may be less resilient and thus more prone to catastrophic failure

So the powder itself works but you are much more likely to get ancillary issues causing malfunctions.

The three requirements for a self-sustaining fire are heat, oxygen, and fuel. Since slow-match is not a hot flame, it's possible that keeping a matchlock lit under those circumstances could be difficult. I know from experience that getting a match to light and stay lit becomes more difficult. The wheel-lock and flintlock could suffer from flint becoming brittle in sub-zero temperatures.

DrewID

Mike_G
2018-10-01, 02:49 PM
So I was asking earlier about the abysmal ratio of shots fired to casualties inflicted in the American Civil War, and I'm wondering if there are any data on that sort of statistic when it comes to bows. How many arrows would English longbowmen loose in order to inflict one casualty? What about Turkish archers, or those of any of the American tribes?

I don't think we have records of arrow shot versus casualties. Lots of battles the records don't even agree on how many troops were there on either side, or how many casualties were inflicted. Even if we did know the total casualties of say, the French at Agincourt, how many died from arrows versus how many were killed in melee or killed afterwards when the English thought they were under threat of counter attack, we don't know. Most medieval records tell us the important casualties, but don't give hard numbers for common troops

For comparatively recent wars, like the ACW, we have detail records of ammunition from quartermaster reports, and of casualties from the war department. Medical records can also help differentiate casualties from, say artillery versus musketry, or bayonet and sabre injuries, which were a small percentage in the ACW.

Even a modern war where one side used arrows, like, say the Battle of Little Bighorn, we know how many US troopers were killed or wounded, but not how many arrows the Sioux shot, or how many men were killed by arrows versus by other means. Most forces that were still using bows didn't keep detailed records. The number of Indian losses at Little Bighorn is a matter of conjecture, pieced together from various accounts from Indians who were there, and who don't always agree.

I agree it would be interesting to know, I just don't think we have reliable sources to get that specific.

rrgg
2018-10-01, 04:22 PM
It looks like Pietro Monte says something similar about skill. Those who are strong and less skilled should use a weapon which is shorter and heavier.


When a fight occurs one to one or few on few, he who is strong and has little skill should choose a short and heavy weapon, because with a short one we cannot use as much skill as if it is somewhat long. For art is easily placed in light and hardly in heavy, and he who desires to join himself to the other should choose a heavy and long one. For by turning it away a little to the sides it goes to the ground, or the weapon is directed far away before we can recover it, and then the opportunity is had to join together. Light ones are recollected at any part and continuously placed in front; if both fighters know little, a weapon-length (difference) of three or four fingers more or less is of little concern, for they always enter to strike with the middle of the sword, and with a deliberate blow. But those who embrace great art have a great advantage or security by one finger’s weapon-length. And if they throw a point without the arms being abandoned, they go back to recollect the weapon to themselves and to strike many other blows. If one person is skilled and holds a weapon which is slightly longer, while the other has had little teaching and has a weapon shorter than the enemy’s, the advantage to him who knows is great, and having art, even though a shorter weapon is taken hold of, a man can defend himself competently, especially against those who have little knowledge.


I agree the more training and experience someone has, the more likely they are to perform well with a rapier. However the caveat I want to add is that for some people much of that training can end up going out the window when put under extreme pressure. I was thinking that this might be part of the reason that 16th century military authors keep complaining about too many soldiers showing up with rapiers, or with halberds which were too long and not heavy enough. Presumably many of the soldiers who brought them had spent time practicing and sparring with these weapons before and believed themselves to be skilled, but once they got put into the thick of things they suddenly weren't quite able to perform as well as they had been doing before.

This does seem to make the frequent use of spears and pikes appear somewhat out of place. It might just be that the spear's overall advantage was so great that it still wouldn't take much skill for someone with a spear to beat a longsword. There's also the fact spears tend to be sturdier than something like a rapier, so even if the spearman couldn't hit gaps in armor he might still be able to push someone back with a powerful thrust to the shield or breastplate. One of the reasons George Silver gave the half-pike the advantage over sword and shield was that he claimed an overhead, downward blow with the staff could often crack an enemy's skull, even when he raised his shield to defend himself. There's also the fact that in a formation a spear or pike is long enough to reach past friends and let multiple soldiers better support each other.

This also fits into the subject of spear and shield, and the question of why, if reach and speed were so important, that so many soldiers would bring a 7-8 foot spear into battle if they're most often going to be depicted holding it only at the midpoint.


For among many fighting at the same time, the weapons we have are frequently thrown, and moreover weapons are taken hold of sometimes by the butt spike and sometimes by the middle. A partisan is taken now with one hand, now with both, and if with both, it should be taken hold of by the butt spike, even though the partisan is appropriate to be carried with a rotella or similar imbrazatura (something arm-borne) or shield. For then it is carried with one hand and by the middle, when the fighters are found almost joined, and many blows can be struck which we could not do with a long weapon.

Edit: I was going to add that Humphrey Barwick mentioned the "french" style of halberd which had a lightweight head and an extra long, thin point as being very good for those with extensive training, and for defeating Landsknecht sergeants armed with large, two-handed great swords. But he says that "our common country men" should instead be armed with a short, sturdy, black bill.


I wish no Halbards into the hands of any that hath no skill to vse the same, for it is a weapon that can abide no blowes, as the Bill wil do, but yet in the hands of officers, & such as hath skill how to vse the same, it is a very good weapon, but the same must be handled delicately with the push onely, and quickly drawne backe: the cause that the French officers do vse them with such long staues and pykes, is to encounter with the Lance-knights, who do vse being Sargiants of foote-bandes, to carrie verie good long swordes or Slaugh swordes.

But for our common countrie men, not vsed to handle a halbard as aforesaid: I woulde wish him to haue a good strong black Bill wide in the socket, to receiue a strong Staffe, the heade thicke in the backe, with a strong pyke in the backe and point sharpe edged:

Kiero
2018-10-01, 05:23 PM
How often were spears and polearms counter-weighted in this period?

rrgg
2018-10-01, 06:11 PM
How often were spears and polearms counter-weighted in this period?

I think some people knew from their readings that the spears and pikes used by the ancients were sometimes counterweighted, but as far as I know there wasn't much interest in trying this themselves. And in some cases they use weapons which seem to be almost the opposite of counter-weighted.

The "partisan" as Monte defined it had a blade on the end like a very short, wide sword. So he was presumably talking about some kind of ox-tongued spear like the one shown being carried by the Italian infantry in this illustration of Fornovo:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/Albanian_Stradioti_at_Battle_of_Fornovo.jpg

Mike_G
2018-10-01, 07:32 PM
It looks like Pietro Monte says something similar about skill. Those who are strong and less skilled should use a weapon which is shorter and heavier.





I still say that length is overrated. Especially for shorter fighters.

I'll give up a few inches of reach for a more agile weapon any day. I'm not gonna win the reach game, so I don't play it.

It's like if you have a football team with a great running game and a lousy passing game, you don't try to win through the air. Doesn't mean you can't compete with a team with a better passing game. You just have to work to your strengths, not theirs.

I remember another fencing instructor at a place I was teaching (a very tall fencing instructor) who said the best defense is to "parry with distance." I pointed out that for me that's suicide, since a retreat may save me from getting hit, but I'm out of range for my riposte and still in danger from my taller opponent. I want to hold my ground and parry and take advantage of the fact that he closed to ram my riposte down his throat.

Which is why I become so enraged by all these treatises with their hierarchies and "perfect" weapons and so on.

rrgg
2018-10-01, 09:31 PM
I still say that length is overrated. Especially for shorter fighters.

I'll give up a few inches of reach for a more agile weapon any day. I'm not gonna win the reach game, so I don't play it.

It's like if you have a football team with a great running game and a lousy passing game, you don't try to win through the air. Doesn't mean you can't compete with a team with a better passing game. You just have to work to your strengths, not theirs.

I remember another fencing instructor at a place I was teaching (a very tall fencing instructor) who said the best defense is to "parry with distance." I pointed out that for me that's suicide, since a retreat may save me from getting hit, but I'm out of range for my riposte and still in danger from my taller opponent. I want to hold my ground and parry and take advantage of the fact that he closed to ram my riposte down his throat.

Which is why I become so enraged by all these treatises with their hierarchies and "perfect" weapons and so on.

I think that's sort of what Monte was getting at though. If a fighter is more skilled then it's easier for him to demonstrate that skill with a lighter, faster weapon. It's just that there are other ways to make a weapon lighter instead of just making it shorter, for instance by making it thinner if you can do so, or with this method Monte recommends:


LIII. HOW WE CAN MAKE A SWORD LIGHTER.

In order to find the sword with which we want to fight lighter, for a few days before another, much heavier is to be frequently used, likewise the day before the conflict, a heavy stick or iron is to be used, so that the arm is exerted in discharging these heavy things and is found to be light with the lighter weapon which we offer it afterwards.

It might also make a difference whether or not the fighters are allowed to carry more than one weapon. For instance he suggests that a fighter who wishes to quickly join with the enemy should start with a weapon which is both long and heavy to get his opponent's weapon out of line, then rush in close for wrestling, dagger fighting, etc.