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Rene Louviere




Location: Austin, TX (currently)
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PostPosted: Wed 17 Jun, 2009 9:32 pm    Post subject: Arms and armor in a hot, wet climate.         Reply with quote

I have a great interest in the topic overall, and I am very impressed with the site overall.

I do have a question, but I am not sure if this is the proper place to ask. If it isn't I apologize, and will discuss other things, however, if it is the wrong place, or if there might be somewhere better that you know of, please let me know.

I am a writer, including speculative fiction (among others). Although I have an interest in historical combat techniques, I have come across a problem, and I have decided to seek knowledgeable/expert advice.

I need to decide on what arms and armor would be common and preferred in a particular society. Here is the thing: The society has a large population, abundant resources, are a trading empire, and an active society that is a semi-theocracy which also has aspects of state worship. The various temples also try to outdo each other with their private armies. So, none of that is much of a restriction.

However, the climate is. It's extremely hot, and extremely humid. The nation is at the equator and just north, and due to land and weather patterns, very stormy. Temperatures in the summer are often over 100, with very high humidity, and frequent, often violent storms. The problem is, I do want them to have medium and heavy infantry and cavalry, but I can't think of any set of arms and armor that would not cause them to collapse from heat stroke!

A few more details despite the heavy armor and cavalry, the pride of their forces are their archers. Technology is early renaissance.

Thanks very much.
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Wed 17 Jun, 2009 10:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Italians, perhaps?

M.

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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
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PostPosted: Wed 17 Jun, 2009 10:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I guess you could research armies in southern India, southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Lots of heavy infantry just had spears and shields. Quilted armour seems relatively popular in hot climates; the Aztecs and some African peoples used it for example. Good luck with your research!
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Darryl Aoki





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PostPosted: Thu 18 Jun, 2009 7:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Ottoman Turks might also be another culture to investigate. I've heard (but not tested for obvious reasons) that multi-layered silk garments will slow an arrow down enough to make getting hit painful, but not life-threatening. (Mileage may vary.) I've also heard that multi-layered silk garments are also fairly cool. (I haven't tested this either, because silk's kinda pricey these days, but wouldn't mind testing this one.)

Actually, from what you've described of your hypothetical culture, the Ottoman Empire and the Mughal Empire both come to mind. (Perhaps the Mughals more, given the presence of what sounds like a monsoon season.)

I'm afraid that this isn't a terribly helpful answer, but it's all I've got at the moment.

-Darryl
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D. Rosen





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PostPosted: Thu 18 Jun, 2009 7:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Research the Spanish in the Dominican Republic/Hispanola and the rest of South America. When I went to visit the Dominican Republic several years ago, they had a number of suits of armor (from about 1480-1520-ish) on display. I remember there was some mention of their use in such a climate, i just can't remember exactly what they said.
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Thu 18 Jun, 2009 8:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Spanish were the most heavily armoured Europeans to come to the Americas and thier primary theater of operations were the jungle like equatorial climate of the South Americas and deep south of America and the dry heat of the desert states of the America west. There are large amounts of arms and armour around South America as well as quanities in the American south west. Additionally Spain itself is made up of large regions of dry semi desertlike territory. Pick up a copy of " Arms and Armor in Colinial America 1514-1783 " for some good info on Spanish arms and armour in the Americas. The arms and armour of the Turks or various Indo Persian societies is certainly climatically viable as an option, although the " oriental " flavor of the arms and armour of these regions is easily conjured by images if theres to be any sort of photography or pics in the work. This would tend to make readers think of an Asian/Asiatic culture if that effects the story line.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 05 Jul, 2009 4:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I live just south of the equator, and the medieval armies of my native culture (Javanese, that is) simply got around the problem by wearing practically no armor at all. Of course, this made arrows and javelins very effective, so you practically couldn't have a medieval Javanese army without them. They didn't seem to have been used in massed missile formations, though, just intermixed within the shock infantry formations that formed the bulk of Javanese armies until the reorganization of Javanese forces along European lines (a process that extended from the mid-17th century all the way to the mid-19th).

Remember that you can have "medium" and "heavy" troops without much body armor at all. Size of shields can be used to distinguish different "weights" of troops; historically, this was often the case in ancient Greece, where the heavy hoplites sometimes had little else besides their massive round shields while the light akontistai (javelinmen) made do with small shields or none at all. The heavy-infantry hastati component of a Roman legion in the 3rd century BC also often had no armor other than their helmets and shields, and the only distinctions in equipment between them and the light-infantry velites were the weight of their javelins and the size of their shields.

Another method of distinguishing different "weights" of troops is, of course, by role. Imagine two different units of unarmored cavalry, identically armored with spears, swords, bows, or any combination thereof. The two can still have different "weights" if one is primarily trained to attack the enemy and break their formation (and is therefore "heavy") while the other is tasked with scouting, screening, and skirmishing (and is therefore "light").

If you still think a distinction in armor is necessary, though, you could look into quilted armors--if I'm not mistaken, it was fairly widely used by medieval Burmese shock troops. The Spaniards and Portuguese also used quilted and padded armors a lot in the Americas. Other possible sources of inspiration are the (literally) fish-scale armor of the Dayak tribes in Kalimantan (Borneo) and the various bizarre armors developed by the cultures of the Pacific Islands (Kiribati, maybe?).
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Peter Remling





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PostPosted: Sun 05 Jul, 2009 5:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While the summer monthes are the traditional time of war in Europe, I'd suggest this be the reverse and have winter be your traditional time of war. During the summer monthes the troops would wear virtually no armor unless they were being attacked and in the winter they would march, fight and train in whatever armor you decide on. Metal armor would be kept well oiled until the winter monthes. Your winter will be less humid (most likely) and cooler so heat prostration should not be an item of undue concern.

With the multiple posibilities of the standing temple armies, I'd suggest you have a few use the weapons their god/gods/saints used.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 05 Jul, 2009 10:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Unfortunately, that idea is practically impossible to apply if the original poster is referring to a tropical setting, since such a setting wouldn't have any "winters" at all. Of course, here we have a dry season and a wet season, but, well...the dry season is searing hot, while the wet season is clammy stifling hot. Just different kinds of hot. And let's not forget that the wet season is literally WET, with unpaved roads turning into a really horrific species of mud. Armor would easily get soggy under the rain, too. It's probably part of the reason why the medieval Javanese went not only unarmored, but half-naked altogether (bare-chested was the rule for the aristocracy while the peasants often covered only their crotches, if they bothered to cover up at all).
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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PostPosted: Sun 05 Jul, 2009 12:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How about medieval Thai and Burmese armies? Their elites wore some very complete armours, IIRC, some of very interesting design. When the Europeans showed up, though, they started wearing that stuff.
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Hisham Gaballa





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PostPosted: Sun 05 Jul, 2009 12:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I present the example of the Mughul Empire and Indian armour in general. The Mughuls ruled over a vast Empire which stretched from Afghanistan to Southern India. Mughul Cavalry wore quite heavy armour usually of mail and plate type, but they also used various types of quilted fabric armours and brigandine type armour.

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William Knight




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PostPosted: Sun 05 Jul, 2009 6:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The thing about the Mughals is that they are centered around the northern part of the subcontinent, modern norther india and Pakistan, which mostly ranges from moderate to arid.

South India, Thailand and Burma, on the other hand, are rather wetter (were medieval vietnamese soldiers armoured, I wonder? Though campaigning probably happened in the dry season of any monsoon climate, I'd imagine).

Does anyone have pictures of southeast asian armour?
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Hisham Gaballa





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PostPosted: Mon 06 Jul, 2009 10:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William Knight wrote:
The thing about the Mughals is that they are centered around the northern part of the subcontinent, modern norther india and Pakistan, which mostly ranges from moderate to arid...


Good point. I had a look in Robert Elgood's "Hindu Arms and Ritual" and I found a description of the Vijayanagara Army in 1520. The Vijayanagara Empire dominated southern India from from the mid-14th to the mid-16th century.

Quote:
"The horsemen were dressed in quilted tunics (laudeis) also of brocade and velvet and every kind of silk. These tunics are made of layers of very strong raw leather, and furnished with other iron (plates) that make them strong...Their headpices are in the manner of helmets with borders covering the neck and each has it's piece to to protect the face; they are of the same fashion as the tunics. They wear on the neck gorgets (cofos) all gilded, others made of silk with plates of gold and silver, others of steel as bright as a mirror."


The same book has a description of Deccan cavalry written by Duarte Barbosa in 1514:
Quote:
"...They wear tunics quilted in cotton, which they call laudes, and some wear tunics of mail...some carry iron maces and battle-axes, two swords and a buckler, Turkish bows supplied with many arrows...they are frequently at war with the king of Narsinga (Vijayanagara)...


The same book has other descriptions of Vijayanagara troops.


Last edited by Hisham Gaballa on Mon 06 Jul, 2009 3:13 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Mon 06 Jul, 2009 11:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well you said its gonna be renaissance, so due to the humidity of weather are they going to have guns? In a climate that overall doesn't sound that conducive to armor, if guns are in the picture then you may not have different grades of infantry (since shields and light armor are worthless versus guns) Additionally if this environment is jungle then cavalry will not do well in it. The would probably be light cavalry.
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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Mon 06 Jul, 2009 2:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well I lived in a climate like the one you described for ten years (hated it as I was from a much, cooler and drier climate) so I think the troops in a climate like that would probably be armoured like Lafayette and Hisham said although Italian style could work, keep in mind Knights were in full armour in the middle east during the crusades and they seemed to have toughed it out and Cataphract cavalrymen and their horses fought in that same climate and they had way more armour than a cursader, bit IMO the soldiers in that book would look a lot like egyptian troops. Sans chariots if this is a jungle location.
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Max Chouinard




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Jul, 2009 11:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
keep in mind Knights were in full armour in the middle east during the crusades and they seemed to have toughed it out and Cataphract cavalrymen and their horses fought in that same climate and they had way more armour than a cursader, bit IMO the soldiers in that book would look a lot like egyptian troops.


Correct me if I'm wrong but these climates are mostly arid, nothing like a tropical jungle. And while they did endured the weather, like it was said before in Hattin for example the armor became a serious burden.

Japan is nearly tropical in certain areas and sure is humid and hot. Lacquer was used to prevent rust and armors were engineered to work in this climate, so it could be another inspiration.

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 12 Jul, 2009 5:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Curl wrote:
Well you said its gonna be renaissance, so due to the humidity of weather are they going to have guns? In a climate that overall doesn't sound that conducive to armor, if guns are in the picture then you may not have different grades of infantry (since shields and light armor are worthless versus guns).


Shields and armor may be largely useless against Renaissance firearms, but it would be good to remember that not even all European soldiers at that time were armed with them (just look at all those pikemen and targeteers), much less non-European soldiers. I can speak for my own culture--the Javanese, that is--where shields were definitely still found among local 17th-century armies that had plenty of firearms, particularly among the cavalry where shields were still very useful for warding off the enemy horsemen's javelins. Infantry armed with swords and round targets (apparently with both European and Turkish influences) even survived into the 19th century or so, when the armies of the local Javanese kingdoms were finally reduced into a ceremonial palace force.
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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Sun 12 Jul, 2009 8:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Okay there was a discussion on the ARMA forum about fighting in heat in full armour and one of the guys said that he could go on for hours in 90+ (farenheit) weather that was very, very humid.

So you do it like that and IIRC in Korea they had Cataphracts
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James R.Fox




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PostPosted: Sun 12 Jul, 2009 1:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sirs-Read the "Discovery and Conquest of Mexico" By Bernal Diaz del Castillo. There are lots of good english translations, you can probably get one from Amazon.com. He states that the Infantry abandoned all metal armour except helmet ,gorget and shields and went to the native quilted armour. Only the cavalry kept their metal armour. Since he fought through the entire conguest as an infantryman, from the first voyage of discovery to the final extermination of the Aztec Empire, I should say he knew what he was talking about. Since he parents were wealthy enough to give him an education,he did some thinking about it too.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 19 Jul, 2009 7:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben P. wrote:
Okay there was a discussion on the ARMA forum about fighting in heat in full armour and one of the guys said that he could go on for hours in 90+ (farenheit) weather that was very, very humid.


Tropical "weather" isn't just the heat and humidity, though. It's also the mud, the water, and the bugs. The BUGS!

(Says a man who's swatting a horde of mosquitoes away as he types.)


Quote:
So you do it like that and IIRC in Korea they had Cataphracts


Korea is way, way north of the tropics, though, and the summers there--though beastly hot by the account of people I know who have been there--aren't quite the same as tropical *********.
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