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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 7:12 am    Post subject: Muslim armour and equipment         Reply with quote

I read Joinville's chronicle of the Crusade of st. Louis few days ago and there is one part when Joinville grabs dead Saracen's gambeson and use it to protect himself from Saracen arrows. The thing is that I thought Saracens didn't use padding and in this chronicle it seems that Saracens had very similar equipment as Western knights (mail, gambesons) and I thought Crusader victories in the first crusade and through 12th century are mostly result of better protection of Crusaders... Than what was the thing? Just high moral and more discipline in cavalry charges? Or maybe Muslims adopted better protection in 13th century because they learned their lesson? And when I'm already asking, what would be equipment of Muslims (cavalry and footmen) through Crusades (did it change much from 1096 to 1291) and also what would be Muslim equipment on Sicily during the Norman conquest of Sicily and in Spain from let's say El Cid's time to the fall of Granada. Please don't recommend any books because they are almost impossible to get here in Croatia. I'm waiting for my Records of the medieval sword for about 3 months now and who knows when will I get it and it's going to be very expensive.
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Sean Smith





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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 7:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One of the major reasons people attribute the sucess of the First Crusade (and only that one), is due to the infighting among the Muslim community as a whole. There was one "clan"/tribe/group based in Egypt, and the other over in Eastern end of the Middle East, which absolutely hated each other. This allowed the Crusaders to pit one against another, and work when it was advantageous to them. It also allowed them to have a solidarity of purpose, which was not nearly as strong afterwards. Once they took Jerusalem, and the cooperation began to dissapate, there were major problems with cooperation. Saladin's success is attributed to the same kind of thing, but in reverse. He united almost all the Muslim tribes, and attacked when the Europeans were infighting.

Are you sure the account you are reading is correct? I am thinking of a time when de Joinville fell, and a servant laid a haubert de joute over him (Hauberk of/for jousting). Is this the same instance, or are you referring to another one? Which reference (book, website,etc) did you get that from exactly? Either my memory is faulty (always possible), or I missed something.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 8:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It was from Chronicles of the Crusades, Villehardouin and de Joinville, translated by Sir Frank Marzials.
Quote: "We were all covered with the darts that failed to hit the sergeants. Now it chanced that I found a Saracen's gambeson (quilted tunic) lined with tow: I turned the open side towars me and made a shield of the gambeson, which did me good service, for I was only wounded by their darts in five places, and my horse in fifteen."

And I ment battles like Ascalon, or the first and third battle of Ramleh when badly outnumbered crusaders defeated Muslims with heavy cavalry charges or in hand to hand combat. It seems that crusaders had some advantage over the Muslims in their equipment or discipline because in a battle against one Muslim army (Egyptian armies in these cases) political situation between various Muslim cities or states isn't very important at the moment. And even without uniting with other Muslims Egyptians had much bigger armies than early Kingdom of Jerusalem...
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Hisham Gaballa





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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 11:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
It was from Chronicles of the Crusades, Villehardouin and de Joinville, translated by Sir Frank Marzials.
Quote: "We were all covered with the darts that failed to hit the sergeants. Now it chanced that I found a Saracen's gambeson (quilted tunic) lined with tow: I turned the open side towars me and made a shield of the gambeson, which did me good service, for I was only wounded by their darts in five places, and my horse in fifteen."

And I ment battles like Ascalon, or the first and third battle of Ramleh when badly outnumbered crusaders defeated Muslims with heavy cavalry charges or in hand to hand combat. It seems that crusaders had some advantage over the Muslims in their equipment or discipline because in a battle against one Muslim army (Egyptian armies in these cases) political situation between various Muslim cities or states isn't very important at the moment. And even without uniting with other Muslims Egyptians had much bigger armies than early Kingdom of Jerusalem...


I think the consensus is that at the time of the first and 2nd Crusades, the armour and equipment used by Muslim heavy cavalry was very similar to that used by their western European counterparts, i.e. mail hauberks, conical helmets, kite shields, straight double-edged swords, lances etc. However it's also worth remembering that on the Muslim side you had additional "exotic" troops like the Nubian spearmen used by the Fatimids and the Seljuq Turkish horse archers. The Muslims also employed more conventional troops; the Fatimids used Armenian infantry archers and both the Fatimids and the Seljuqs used relatively disciplined urban militias in Syria and Palestine.
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Robin Palmer




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 11:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From my reading I believe there were two reasons for the first crusades success one as stated was the Muslims were divided and largely unprepared for the invasion. The second was a decline in the level of training of Muslim warriors the mamelukes in Egypt were certainly not up to the job specifical archery. After the first shock passed they improved their training and standards mameluke archers shot crusader charges to pieces without coming to sword strokes.

The Muslims certainly had access to armour every bit as good as the crusaders. The early 10th century chronicler al-tabari lists the following essential arms and armour for a warrior. Mail, breastplate, helmet leg guards, arm guards, horse armour, lance, shield, sword, mace, battle axe, quiver of thirty arrows, bowcase with two bows and two spare bow strings. Hardly the lightly armoured warrior beloved of hollywood. One chronicler states that he wore two mail shirts on long one short sleeved shorter stitched inside a coat.
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Sean Smith





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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 11:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The other thing that needs to be mentioned is that most of what I was talking about (as well as others) refers to the First-Third Crusade. The account you are reading is from the Fourth Crusade.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 2:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Smith wrote:
The other thing that needs to be mentioned is that most of what I was talking about (as well as others) refers to the First-Third Crusade. The account you are reading is from the Fourth Crusade.


St. Louis crusade is seventh crusade... I asked because I had really no idea how well would typical Saracen warrior be equipped and did their equipment changed significantly during the crusades.

quote:
The Muslims certainly had access to armour every bit as good as the crusaders. The early 10th century chronicler al-tabari lists the following essential arms and armour for a warrior. Mail, breastplate, helmet leg guards, arm guards, horse armour, lance, shield, sword, mace, battle axe, quiver of thirty arrows, bowcase with two bows and two spare bow strings. Hardly the lightly armoured warrior beloved of hollywood. One chronicler states that he wore two mail shirts on long one short sleeved shorter stitched inside a coat.

That is indeed a nice selection of weapons and armour...
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Sean Smith





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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 2:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And I am exhausted. Yes, thanks for correcting me.
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Robin Palmer




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 2:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have to confess to being a little rusty on the crusades but I see little reason to believe that the Muslim armies equipment decreased in fact given the amount of fighting I suspect if anything it got better.
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Randy W




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 4:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would also assume that they would be more purpose built to counter Frankish weapons and thus more effective
Randy Westgate
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 11:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Divisions between both groups is the down fall of the crusades, Christian or Muslim. Saladin's boss Nur Al Din's father Sengi began the unification of Muslim states by slowly making alliances or swallowing up other muslim states. Saladin's real increase in power came when sent to Egypt to take it over for Nur Al Din.... which in the end he took it over but ended up staying there in charge and after Nur Al Din died he became Sultan there. The Crusaders had just as many problems. The King of Jerusalem was supposed to have the support of the other regions, Edessa, Antioch and Tripoli but that rarely took place. Edessa fell with remarkably little assistance from their allies it being founded in 1098 as a crusader state and most being east of the Euprates lost by 1110 and the final fall in 1149/50 but the great majority of what was left fell in 1144. So I think the arms of any group likley was not the battle winner as much as lack of support on either end.

There are some very interesting armies used in the near east at this time that are not seen in the west. A leather and steel type of COP, that Nicolle Claims the westrn COP is based on (I am not sure that is correct but that is another story), a type of brig there, a variety of padded armours. There seem to be a number of types of mail. I sadly do not speak arabic but I had a teacher who did and was quite educated on their arms and armour. So perhaps the double layering was of different types of mail. Their swords were straight for the most part though there are every once and a while long slightly curved blades seen in artwork in the near east but mroe often not in Muslim traditional armies.

It is possible that earlier in the crusades that the heavy cavalry was a suprise but I'd be sceptic that that would last very long. As far as archery goes. There are many accoutns of crusader mail stopping their arrows, Richard's army in particular comes to mind the arabs are so impressed that the infantry is so well decked out they cannot kill them with arrows. So my bet is more internal issue's than arms and armour, thought wi/out them a war would be hard to wage for sure! Big Grin

RPM
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Robin Palmer




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PostPosted: Tue 19 Feb, 2008 9:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Randle

I agree that crusader maile usually stopped the Muslim arrows which was why the mamelukes aimed at the horses first then knights once they were close enough to garrentee a kill. Many christian writers commented on the power of the Muslim recurve bow which in its ability to penetrate maile was a shock to the knights used to self bows. While padded horse armour was effective it was also very hot many horses collapsed due to heat exhaustion one died from heat during the filming of kingdom of heaven. So its use was a balancing act many knights chose not to use it preferring to save their horses.

In addition to the lack of co-operation between the the Christian states there were two other major factors which detracted from the defence. Outremer relied on reinforcements from Europe to keep numbers up a bulk carried by either Venetian or Genoese ships. These two states spent a lot of their time in open conflict including naval battles in the seas round the holy land each trying to force the other out of the lucrative trade. Within the holy land the Templars and Hospitallers waged their own private war for supremacy fighting taking place in streets of a dozen towns and cities. Other orders sat out or took sides depending on situation.

Lastly Outremer suffered one other major problem lack of land. Defence required large numbers of knights but the Kingdom lacked the land to support them a situation which only got worse as time went by. many knights were landless supported by taxes and trade but the kingdom simply did not have enough finances to defend itself.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2008 4:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin Palmer wrote:
Many christian writers commented on the power of the Muslim recurve bow which in its ability to penetrate maile was a shock to the knights used to self bows.

You wouldn't have any citations? I can find very very few eye witness accounts of Moslem arrows penetrating Frankish mail.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2008 9:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

“The deadly arrows of Tartars, unfailingly piercing, brought certain death. Indeed there was no breastplate, shield, or hauberk which was not penetrated by the blow delivered by the Tartar hand.” (Thomas, archdeacon of Spalato, writing about Mongol siege of Pest).
It's not about mamelukes, but recurve horse archer bow it is. And of course it may be exaggerated to justify crushing defeats of christian knights inflicted by Mongols.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2008 9:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
And I ment battles like Ascalon, or the first and third battle of Ramleh when badly outnumbered crusaders defeated Muslims with heavy cavalry charges or in hand to hand combat. It seems that crusaders had some advantage over the Muslims in their equipment or discipline because in a battle against one Muslim army (Egyptian armies in these cases) political situation between various Muslim cities or states isn't very important at the moment. And even without uniting with other Muslims Egyptians had much bigger armies than early Kingdom of Jerusalem...


Hi Luka,

I think this is actually a very good question. And I actually disagree with everybody Happy Of course it is true that on the Strategic level, infighting and lack of cooperation caused major problems on both sides. But it is quite clear that the Crusaders enjoyed a tactical advantage in close combat, particularly in cavalry charges, over all of their opponents here. As Luka points out, there were major battles in which observers among the Crusaders, from the Byzantines, and from the Arabs, all reported that the Crusaders won victories despite numerical disadantage, and that the effectiveness of their armor, and to a lesser extent their weapons played a major role in this. And yet we know that the Muslims did indeed have heavy armor and many similar weapons, so therin lies the conondrum.

I think the two questions are how much armor did both sides have (i.e. how many of the troops were heavily armored), and how good was the armor that both sides had. One thing we do know about the European armor, is that there was a massive increase in the production of high quality homogeneous steel in Europe right in this period. The Cistercian monks had been spreading the key technologies of the overwash water-wheel and the wind-mill, and the related machines such as the barcelona hammer and automated bellows led to an exlposion in the production quantity and quality of iron, including (especially) weapons and armor.

There seems to have been some differences in how Western maile was constructed, there are numerous references to "double mail' which I have seen a lot of argument about over the years as to exactly what it was.

I suspect that the Muslims may have had good armor of this type, certainly the Byzantines seem to have had some effective armor (I remember one anecdote in the Alexiad about a Byzantine prince being knocked half-out of, and then back into his saddle by Frankish lance thrusts, only to emerge unscathed) but such highly effective armor may not have been available in as great a quantity. It would seem logical to me that in a region where there is immense heat and little water, there may have been a general tendancy among warriors to wear lighter armor.

I have read speculation before that relatively uneven or inferior quality in the iron in the mail is why early Russian, Byzantine, and Turkish Hauberks tended to either incorporate metal plates or (in the case of the Byzantine Klibanion) be augmented by a lamellar corselet or iron breastplate.

Similarly, the Muslims had strait swords at this time, but they were not the same as western swords. Different type of crossguard, but most Islamic swords I have seen from this period did not have a pommel like the European swords and most seemed to be cutters somewhat similar to an Oakeshott Type X, whereas European swords became pointier and stiffer and much more effective for thrusting into hard targets. The Muslim armies also did not have greatswords or longswords that I am aware of, which you would have seen among the 'Franj" by the time of the 7th Crusade.

I suspect the increasingly powerful crossbows of the Western troops also played an important role.

One of the Osprey books I have on this period makes repeated claims of a variety of fire weapons available to the Arab and Turkish troops, including something kind of like hand grenades or molatov coctails, as well as fire javelins dipped in naptha etc. It would be interesting to hear more about how these weapons effected the outcome of battles.

Anyway, interesting discussion.

Jean

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Last edited by Jean Henri Chandler on Wed 20 Feb, 2008 9:31 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2008 9:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
“The deadly arrows of Tartars, unfailingly piercing, brought certain death. Indeed there was no breastplate, shield, or hauberk which was not penetrated by the blow delivered by the Tartar hand.” (Thomas, archdeacon of Spalato, writing about Mongol siege of Pest).
It's not about mamelukes, but recurve horse archer bow it is. And of course it may be exaggerated to justify crushing defeats of christian knights inflicted by Mongols.


I think the Mongol bow was more powerful than what the Turks and Arabs had in the early Crusades.

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Shayan G





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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2008 9:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well the "Mongol" forces were often comprised of large numbers of Turkic peoples and a truly diverse grouping of tribes. The bow draw weight and arrow types favored varied considerably among them. Generally I think the Arab bows were lower in draw weight, and the Turks and Mongols kept see-sawing depending on tribe, time, and region.
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Robin Palmer




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2008 10:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bow power is a difficult subject no two were the same each made for the user naturally some men can draw a more powerful bow than others. No bow of the period has survived as far as I know?. Even so the Muslim recurve was made the same way as the Mongol so there is no reason to believe the Muslim bow would be any less powerful.

As for historical acounts of the effects of Tartar arrows I suspect that the writers were describing real events the power of recurve bows was something which came as a shock to western knights whenever they met them.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2008 11:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From the descriptions of the battle of Arsuf it seems that Saladin's archers did most of the damage to the horses of the Hospitallers who were in the rear - guard, not the knights themselves, so probably it wasn't easy to penetrate mails with their bows, except maybe from very short distances.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2008 12:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thomas was a contemporary of the Seige of Pest but was not an eyewitness. IMO his account is exaggerated especially after one considers his bias against the Mongols. Does someone have the original passage in the original language? The use of the word "breastplate" in this translation is suspect. The only reliable account I can find is Walter the Penniless being killed by seven arrows that penetrated his mail. At least one of these punched through far enough to prove fatal. The majority of accounts indicate that the Franks were well protected from Moslem arrows.
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