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Jack F.




Location: London
Joined: 28 Aug 2010

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PostPosted: Sat 28 Aug, 2010 3:26 am    Post subject: Crusades & Mediterranean- Adapting for hot climate         Reply with quote

Greetings, from a newcomer and very much a bystander seeking direction to assist studies in another field.

As the crusading enterprise proceeded during the 12th-13th centuries, what body of lore built up as a result of experience and circulated back in the home lands so that a military man traveling south for the first time might be appropriately dressed and equipped?

I should explain that my interest is in fact the 14th century. What information might have still been available in Scotland to the party traveling south with Sir James Douglas, escorting King Robert I's heart? With Outremer and Jersualem having been back in the hands of the Muslim powers, for a generation or more, had the experience built up over two centuries simply dissipated away? Was Cyprus, the Balkans or indeed Spain or Southern France a source of hot weather advice?

Or did such practical considerations not bother men who perhaps trusted in God and their own prowess to see them through. It is interesting that John Barbour, in his poem 'Bruce', reports that King Alfonso of Castile assigned Douglas liaison officers-

gud men that war
Weill knawyn of that landis wer
And the maner tharoff alsua

to brief the Scots on local military practice. As events turned out, it might be argued that they did not pay enough attention.

Enough questions. Any comments or tips as to where I might learn more about this would be greatly appreciated.

JF
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
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PostPosted: Sat 28 Aug, 2010 10:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know the specifics of this expedition, but one can speculate based on a general knowledge of Scottish and Crusades history, starting from the general to the specific:

1) throughout the medieval period Jerusalem was considered the centre of the world throughout Christian nations, and the most educated and travelled people, i.e., senior people in the church, would have brought general information (likely very distorted) that would be a matter of great interest to the nobility in out of the way places like Scotland.

2) some Scots participated in some of the crusades (and were considered rather barbaric and ill-equipped by the elite continental mainstream). Some of these likely made it back home and told stories that were passed about locally.

3) Pilgrimage was a huge thing in medieval times and must have involved a relatively advanced logistic network. They may have talked to people who had already gone on piligrimages to the holy land while planning the expedition.

4) Likely the members of this expedition (being fairly high nobility on a royal mission) would have been expected beforehand at the major stops through both church and secular contacts originating from the highest levels in Scotland - they would not just have shown up unannounced. Likewise, they would have known the route and which stops to make, at least some steps ahead.

5) As they grew closer to the destination, they would likely have more contact with bodies directly involved in organizing pilgrimages and carrying out, and people with direct experience. I don't know much about this, but I believe that would be a combination of the church and the remaining remaining military orders in the 14th century, e.g. Hospitallers, who were still engaged in the mediteranean but had offices on the continent. For others involved in shipping etc, piligrimage was part of their private trade. This means a fair bit of money would have to be brought for anything not pre-arranged.

5) Naturally, the closer they got the more accurate the information would be. Assuming they had enough extra funds as they went along, they might have adjusted their attire etc, as they went along, although in general, from the histories I have read, Europeans did not tend to adapt very quickly to Middle-Eastern Conditions. Even when the attire and armor worn by Muslims was more practical for the weather, it was considered decedant, weak, or sacriligeous for adopt these foreign habits. For example, in earlier times the military orders continued to use the armor and clothing of European knights/monks for many years before making minor adjustments like allowing the wearing of turbans and looser clothing.

-JD
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Sat 28 Aug, 2010 3:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Regarding armour, climate is irrelevant. Heavy armour is no more uncomfortable in hot weather than heavy clothing. Keep in mind that the nobility in the Middle East at the time wore the same armour as the nobility of Europe. There was no "adapting for hot climates". The only problem is with enclosed helmets and, even with these, climate is irrelevant. Even in the middle of winter an enclosed helmet, worn for an extended period of time, will cause heat stress.
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Jack F.




Location: London
Joined: 28 Aug 2010

Posts: 3

PostPosted: Sat 28 Aug, 2010 3:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The sources for Sir James, Lord Douglas' expedition are contradictory, producing frequent misreadings as well as romantic misconceptions, and the story has become the source for number of legends. These competing traditions have given Douglas two distinct images. To the Scots he was revered as 'The Good Sir James' . His ruthlessness in war led the English on the border to fear him as 'The Black Douglas.'

The essence of the story is that Douglas' was allotted the task of carrying the embalmed heart of Robert Bruce, King Robert I of Scotland, on pilgrimage. This meant, depending on the sources, either travelling to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (once again in Muslim hands), or carrying the king's relic in battle against the Muslim powers wherever the opportunity might be found. Before his death in June 1329, King Robert had expressed remorse for failing to realise his hope of going on crusade and so purge his soul of the Christian blood spilled during his rise to power and defence of Scottish independence. It was his wish that the heart that formed the ambition and felt the remorse should make the pilgrimage in his stead and he chose Sir James Douglas, his loyal lieutenant, as its bearer. When the king died, his heart was duly removed, embalmed and placed in a silver casket that Douglas hung on his breast, suspended from a chain around his neck

We can be reasonably certain that, an international crusade project having failed to materialize, Douglas arrived in Seville in the summer of 1330 to offer his services to Alfonso XI of Castile who was resuming his campaign against the northwestern defences of the Muslim kingdom of Granada begun three years previously, in 1327. Jean LeBel, repeated by Froissart, tells us that Douglas was accompanied by eight knights and twenty esquires. In his verse history 'Bruce,' John Barbour states that the Scots brought their horses, which he describes being unloaded at Sevilla, although he does not describe their condition after a long, stormy voyage from Sluys in Flanders through the English Channel, across the Bay of Biscay and down the coast of Iberia. In addition, Barbour also informs us that King Alfonso XI provided the Scots with advisors, experienced local soldiers to brief them the ways of border warfare.

The Christian army advanced from Cordoba at the beginning of August 1330 and laid siege to the castle of Teba, a key fortress screening the Roman road to Malaga. All we can say with any certainty is that at some point towards the end of the siege Douglas was killed with a number of other Scots soldiers, cut off from the rest of the Christian army and outnumbered by an overwhelming force of Moorish cavalry. There are indications that this was during a skirmish for access to water although some commentators prefer to believe that it occurred during the decisive defeat of the Moorish relief force. Amidst the conflicting accounts of how Douglas died, a dominant theme is that he died as a result either of rashness or imprudence, which has led later commentators to conclude this was the result of Scots inexperience of Moorish tactics- specifically that of 'feigned withdrawal,' although this is only mentioned by later authors. Certainly we might reflect on the inexperience of the Scots in active cavalry warfare, although doubtless they were individually all experienced horsemen. Whether the condition of their horses after the voyage - or unfamiliarity with replacement mounts- played a role, we cannot say. A theme of betrayal if not actual treachery emerges in certain sources, either on the part of the Spanish leaders or the Moors, whose use of ruses and stratagems is also a notable theme.

It is this theme of inexperience that has led me to reflect on to what degree men we might regard as professional soldiers would have prepared themselves for the theatre of war to which they were headed. The sources make it clear that money was no object so certainly re-equipping 'in-country' would have been no problem. However, having refused money, horses and arms from King Alfonso in the name of being humble pilgrims and soldiers for the Faith, there may have been an element of pride and even penance in using the gear they had brought with them, perhaps newly acquired from the continent before their departure, regardless how in appropriate it might have been. It is also interesting to consider how wearing inappropriate equipment in the height of a southern Spanish summer may have helped provoke errors of judgment hinted at in the sources.

Commentators differ as to whether Douglas had succeeded in his mission when he died at Teba, depending on their interpretation of what his true objective might have been. Sources that do not mention the Holy Sepulchre as the ultimate destination of his pilgrimage are seen by some as wishing to underplay the fact that Douglas’ death in Spain prevented him fulfilling his promise to the dying king. Thus they emphasise the heroism of his last fight at Teba.
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Jack F.




Location: London
Joined: 28 Aug 2010

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PostPosted: Sat 28 Aug, 2010 3:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Dan Howard"] Keep in mind that the nobility in the Middle East at the time wore the same armour as the nobility of Europe. There was no "adapting for hot climates".

Hi- our messages crossed.


Commentators I have read (Nicolle; Joint inter al.) describe the Moorish cavalry of Granada c1300 abandoning the heavier armour and manner of riding 'a la brida' adopted from Christian caballeros in the C.13th and returning to Berber light cavalry tactics that favoured missile weapons and mobility over shock tactics and so dispensed with heavier armour. This was followed by increasing emulation of this Berber 'jinete' style on the Christian side over the next century or so. I am in the process of researching this generalisation. Does this run counter to your understanding?
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Sat 28 Aug, 2010 3:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Any abandonment of heavy armour had nothing to do with climate. Look at other factors such as resources, logistics, and tactics. If heavy armour was a problem in the Middle Eastern climate then nobody would have used it, which is demonstrably untrue for a period of at least three thousand years.
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Samuel Bena




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 10 Dec 2007

Posts: 93

PostPosted: Sun 29 Aug, 2010 5:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some interesting points you raise Jack

Jack F. wrote:

Commentators I have read (Nicolle; Joint inter al.) describe the Moorish cavalry of Granada c1300 abandoning the heavier armour and manner of riding 'a la brida' adopted from Christian caballeros in the C.13th and returning to Berber light cavalry tactics that favoured missile weapons and mobility over shock tactics and so dispensed with heavier armour. This was followed by increasing emulation of this Berber 'jinete' style on the Christian side over the next century or so. I am in the process of researching this generalisation. Does this run counter to your understanding?


It doesn't necessary concern the middle eastern climate but you can have mobile horsemen fully armoured and barded... , look for the countless examples of medieval central asian warriors... during the early middle ages they were iirc even more armored than the typical heavy european horse, yet they were more maneuverable due to the different type of saddle , shorter stirrups etc. Surely extra armour does slow down and tire both the rider as well as the mount though this criterion alone isn't imo indicative of any mobility of a rider

Just saying..

Cheers,
Samuel
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Michael Ekelmann




Location: Seattle Metro Area, USA
Joined: 01 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Thu 02 Sep, 2010 12:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The biggest adaptation that the Crusaders supposedly made to fighting in the Holy Land was the adoption of the gown or surcote over armour. Covering metal armour keeps the sun from heating it up, keeping the wearer cooler. Having worn armour in the New Mexico sun, I can attest to the value of a surcote. When I was stationed deep in the Saudi Arabian desert, I was cooler in long sleeves and pants thne in shorts and a tank top, simply because the sun was off my skin. the air inside my clothes might have been 98.5 degrees F, but the air outside was 120 degrees F, so I felt comparatively cooler. Loose robes work even better.
“Men prefer to fight with swords, so they can see each other's eyes!" Sean Connery as Mulay Hamid El Raisuli in The Wind and the Lion
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