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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Sat 22 Aug, 2009 11:46 am    Post subject: Cavalry Lance Impaling Multiple foes         Reply with quote

Okay we have sources for the Sassanin Heavy Horse and the Polish Winged Husaria impaling several people on the same lance.

So how did they accomplish this? How were the lances built? I.E what made the Lances where their wielders could pull this off?
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sat 22 Aug, 2009 3:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Unarmoured flesh offers very little resistance to thrusts, so with some luck you could probably do this with a regular, thin spear and some luck.
With a lance, you merely hit the first man, and push him backwards so the lance hits the man behind. since no great force is needed to penetrate, it is largely a question of wether the first target bumps into someone else before falling.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Sat 22 Aug, 2009 3:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

True. And against a tightly packed mass of men you would a hard time not hitting someone
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Scott S.




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PostPosted: Sat 22 Aug, 2009 7:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Although the Winged Hussars were well known for their economical use of the lance, I believe the multiple-impalement technique actually originated with the little known Order of the Knights of Shish during their existence in the 11th thru 13th century. The order actually chose their Warrior-Lord based on who could stack the most enemies onto one spear during a battle. This constant power struggle within the order led to the creation of a specialized form of extra-long spear referred to as a "Kabob" which they employed to deadly effect. (Sorry, couldn't resist!)
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 22 Aug, 2009 8:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott S. wrote:
Although the Winged Hussars were well known for their economical use of the lance, I believe the multiple-impalement technique actually originated with the little known Order of the Knights of Shish during their existence in the 11th thru 13th century. The order actually chose their Warrior-Lord based on who could stack the most enemies onto one spear during a battle. This constant power struggle within the order led to the creation of a specialized form of extra-long spear referred to as a "Kabob" which they employed to deadly effect. (Sorry, couldn't resist!)


Yes and then there was the " Order Of Cannibal Hussars " who few people know invented the BBQ.

A small group of these Knights became mercenaries fighting the Turks for Vlad the impaler of Transilvania and later raided into Greece and where the originators of the " Souvlaki " ..... Oh, after this there was an unfortunate cooling of relations with Vlad ( Dracula ) as he couldn't forgive them about the tzaziki sauce because the use of garlic was taken by him as a personal insult ! Razz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzatziki

O.K. seriously I guess stacking many on one's lance would depend on the lance not breaking or losing control of the lance due to the accumulated weight on the spear ! One would probably have to ditch it before one's shoulder got dislocated though !

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sat 22 Aug, 2009 9:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott S. wrote:
I believe the multiple-impalement technique actually originated with the little known Order of the Knights of Shish during their existence in the 11th thru 13th century. The order actually chose their Warrior-Lord based on who could stack the most enemies onto one spear during a battle.


Nicetas Choniates (Manuel I Comnenos) historian claimed he simultaneously unhorsed multiple opponents in "sport" tournament with the lance. (Approximate date 1153, Constantinople and/or Antioch. I'd have to dig back through references. I am not sure his biographer was specific about locations.)

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 23 Aug, 2009 3:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And let's not forget that thing about classicizing references inserted mostly to make the writer sound erudite. I'm not saying that this is necessarily the case with the stories about the Sassanids and the Polish husars sticking more than one foe on one lance, but now I want to look at the actual words used and see how much similarity (if at all) they have to the same deed attributed to Palmyran cataphracts in the 3rd century(ish) AD.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sun 23 Aug, 2009 6:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In any case, I would rate it as one of those things that could plausibly happen, but nothing you would really try for.
"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Sun 23 Aug, 2009 11:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
And let's not forget that thing about classicizing references inserted mostly to make the writer sound erudite. I'm not saying that this is necessarily the case with the stories about the Sassanids and the Polish husars sticking more than one foe on one lance, but now I want to look at the actual words used and see how much similarity (if at all) they have to the same deed attributed to Palmyran cataphracts in the 3rd century(ish) AD.



Um, I take that to mean you want sources? Sorry I haven't got much sleep lately Big Grin

Anyways here are the sources

There is a letter of Lithuanian hetman from 1660, where he stated that in the battle of Polonka 6 Russian infantrymen were pierced by single blow of the hussar lance.
And this is not only a feature of hussar lances.

1. The battle of Chocim 1621 - relation of hussar rotemaster (I hope it's a good translation Happy) Rudomina. Rudomina commanded his unit in this charge. Auxent (the eyewitness of this battle). They both wrote about 3-4 Ottomans pierced by single blows of hussar lances.
2. The battle of Polanka 1660 (vs Russians) - grand Lithuanian hetman (the main commander) Sapieha. He commanded Lithuanian army in this battle. He wrote to the king about 6 Russian infantrymen pierced by hussar lance.
3. The battle of Cudnów 1660 (vs Russians and Cossacks) - colonel of Polish cavalry and member of the battle Leszczyński (5 Russians pierced by hussar lance)
4. The battle of Vienna 1683 - hussar comrade Kochowski (2-3 Ottomans pierced by hussar lances)

1. Potocki (3 Ottomans pierced at once)
2. Auxent (3 - 4 Ottomans pierced at once)
3. Rudomina (3 - 4 Ottomans pierced at once)
4. Marchocki (2 Ottomans pierced at once)
5. Sobieski (3 Ottomans pierced at once)
6. Lubomirski (2-3 Ottomans pierced at once)

Here is the secret of the hussar manner of wielding the lance:
http://www.radoslawsikora.republika.pl/materialy/husaria3.pdf
Look at the second picture in the article. It is not the hussar's arm which has to endure the impact. It is the hussar's saddle where the impact is transfered.
There are even accouts that hussar lances were able to pierce an armour in this way (Which seems to make sense considering how much force would be behind the Kopia.

When hussars attacked unarmoured cavalrymen, they aimed enemy navels. Potocki describes that hussar lances at Chocim 1621 struck livers. This part of the body is very easy to penetrate.


I think the secret to all this is the length of the Hussar lance (25 odd feet) and the fact it was hollowed and different materials were used to put it back together is had a lot of flex and there was a thin steel rod through the length of the lance (Kopia) which would also make it where it could hold together long enough that they could impale that many dudes. Keep in mind that's just my theory.

BTW are there sources that say the Palmyrans took out 2 people with one blow from their lances as well?

Here's a source for the Sassanins

". . . spurred him (The Horse) with his heels and rode upon his enemies at full tilt like a man made of iron or a statue fashioned with hammers. He carried a great lance that ran though every man it hit, and often carried away two men together pierced by one stroke.

So even if you weren't trying to nail a bunch of people at the same time it would happen before the lance broke or at least you would knock down the same amount of foes and even the jagged stump of a broken lance would nail someone before its wielder dropped it and it would really hurt.
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Scott S.




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PostPosted: Sun 23 Aug, 2009 3:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean, thanks for humoring me!

Now I feel slightly less like the forum jackass. Happy

Quote:
A small group of these Knights became mercenaries fighting the Turks

Yes, their sigil being the "flame and two-pronged fork" I believe.

Quote:
an unfortunate cooling of relations with Vlad ( Dracula ) as he couldn't forgive them about the tzaziki sauce because the use of garlic was taken by him as a personal insult !


Now you did it, I gotta go marinate some pork tenderloin. Alton Brown has a kick-ass recipe for tzatziki sauce by the way, AHEM, but that's another forum.

Sorry again guys. Excellent topic, please carry on!
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Michael G.





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PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2009 9:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Going back even further, Plutarch mentions that the heavy spears of the Parthian cavalry at Carrhae would often impale two men at once.
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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2009 11:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, and Roman Armour and Scutums weren't exactly crap either

Can you cite that statement? Cool
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Michael G.





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PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2009 12:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben P. wrote:
Wow, and Roman Armour and Scutums weren't exactly crap either

Can you cite that statement? Cool


Plutarch, Life of Crassus, 27.2
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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Aug, 2009 12:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Big Grin I'm curious were they doing it from a Frontal charge?
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Michael G.





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PostPosted: Thu 27 Aug, 2009 1:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben P. wrote:
Thanks Big Grin I'm curious were they doing it from a Frontal charge?


It's not entirely clear. I think the context was that the Romans were already being peppered with arrows, and occasionally some small group of them would desperately charge out against the Parthians, at which point they were skewered by the heavy cavalry. So they were probably often attacking the Romans head on, but against soldiers who were already quite demoralized. It's also entirely possible that as these small groups of Romans moved away from the main body, they could have been attacked from the flanks and rear as well.

It does seem that the Parthian heavy cavalry was wary of attacking the solid Roman formation head-on, though. In the Life of Crassus 24.3, Plutarch mentions that the Parthians first tried to charge the Roman front lines with their heavy cavalry, but when they saw how strong the formation was, they pulled back and let the archers do their work.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Aug, 2009 4:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The context in Plutarch is pretty clear from this translated quote:

Quote:
When the Parthians began the attack, their slaves and clients, riding about on the flanks of the Romans, galled them with their arrows: and the horsemen in front, using their long spears, kept driving the Romans into a narrow compass, except those who, to avoid death from the arrows, made a desperate attempt to rush upon the Parthians; wherein they did the enemy little damage, but met with a speedy death by great and mortal wounds; for the Parthians drove their spears, heavy with iron, against the horsemen; and, from the force of the blow, they often went even through two men.


It was basically the closing stages of the battle, when the Roman morale was already breaking down. The Romans who got skewered were obviously the ones who left the safety of their own formation in desperate but misguided attempts to strike back at the Parthians, and it is as likely that they got stuck in the side or the back as on the front of their bodies.

In any case, Plutarch's account highlights one of the most notorious difficulties about the ancient accounts of two or more men being skewered by a single lance: they don't mention any single identifiable incident--"they often went through two men" vs. "at one point two of our men were skewered" and so on. This lack of precision likely indicates hearsay evidence at best and total invention at worst; a common suspicion held among the academic world is that "skewering two men" is just an exaggeration made to emphasize the enormous length of the cataphracts' spears, which were indeed so long (more like pikes) that they were known in Greek as kontoi (literally "oars" or "barge-poles").

I haven't had much luck locating the actual sources for the Parthian and Sassanid cataphracts--Zosimus didn't say anything about Palmyrans skewering two people at once, and I'm not done going through Ammianus yet, let alone the other sources about the wars between the Romans and Sassanids.


I'm not saying anything about the Polish incidents yet due to my lack of familiarity with the sources.
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Michael G.





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PostPosted: Sun 30 Aug, 2009 10:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I should also mention that Cassius Dio gives an account of the battle of Carrhae in his Roman History that is different in many respects from Plutarch. For example, Cassius Dio says that the Romans were attacked by the cataphracts specifically when they were in locked shield formation (definitely a head-on engagement), just the opposite of Plutarch who says the cataphracts avoided the strong locked shield formation. Cassius Dio does not mention skewering two men at once, but does mention men being "carried off transfixed" by the lances. Perhaps another example of exaggeration? In any case, the great differences between Plutarch and Cassius Dio regarding this battle might encourage us to take these claims with a grain of salt.

For those keeping score this is in Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 40, 22.2
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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Aug, 2009 10:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
The context in Plutarch is pretty clear from this translated quote:



I haven't had much luck locating the actual sources for the Parthian and Sassanid cataphracts--Zosimus didn't say anything about Palmyrans skewering two people at once, and I'm not done going through Ammianus yet, let alone the other sources about the wars between the Romans and Sassanids.


I think Heliodorus mentions it and I'm pretty sure Ammianius mentions it as well

MichaeI G wrote:
I should also mention that Cassius Dio gives an account of the battle of Carrhae in his Roman History that is different in many respects from Plutarch. For example, Cassius Dio says that the Romans were attacked by the cataphracts specifically when they were in locked shield formation (definitely a head-on engagement), just the opposite of Plutarch who says the cataphracts avoided the strong locked shield formation. Cassius Dio does not mention skewering two men at once, but does mention men being "carried off transfixed" by the lances. Perhaps another example of exaggeration? In any case, the great differences between Plutarch and Cassius Dio regarding this battle might encourage us to take these claims with a grain of salt.

For those keeping score this is in Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 40, 22.2


Perhaps we should take both to mean that in some places the Cataphracts engaged unbroken roman troops head on and others they hit formations that had been loosened up and either way they did a lot of damage.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Sep, 2009 6:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben P. wrote:
I think Heliodorus mentions it and I'm pretty sure Ammianius mentions it as well.


Still looking in Amiianus. Heliodoros...OK, I found him, and his work, and translations thereof, but by God, he was writing fiction. And pulp fiction at that. Taking him seriously is exactly what you want to do when you want to weaken your thesis. Either way, I haven't seen any specific evidence of a nameable incident in which ancient cataphracts actually did stick two or three people on a single lance, so I'm strongly leaning towards the opinion that it was purely dramatic exaggeration meant to highlight the length of the cataphracts' lances. Seen in this light, the incidents with the Poles are much more likely to have a kernel of truth in them.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Sep, 2009 7:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, while we're at it, this:

Quote:
spurred him (The Horse) with his heels and rode upon his enemies at full tilt like a man made of iron or a statue fashioned with hammers. He carried a great lance that ran though every man it hit, and often carried away two men together pierced by one stroke


is the Heliodoros bit. I've seen a couple of webpages (and blogs) mistakenly attribute it to Ammianus, but that's just a misinterpretation of the information in some other sites like this post in Judith Weingarten's blog, which put the Heliodoros quote next to a genuine citation from Ammianus but didn't say that it was from Ammianus (though in hindsight she probably should have clarified that it wasn't Ammianus. I'll pester her about it tonight). So...yes, it's the fiction bit, and I'm still looking in Ammianus to say if he actually said anything about two men (or more) being pierced by a single lance. Now that I've looked so far without finding a single bit, I'm seriously beginning to doubt that he mentioned it at all.
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