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Kevin S.





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PostPosted: Fri 16 Nov, 2012 10:40 am    Post subject: Fastest Footmen of the Ancient Era?         Reply with quote

I have heard that in some Germanic tribes, chosen warriors would grab on to the tail of horses while traversing from one battlefield site to another. The men would still be touching the ground, but they would be faster since the horses are pulling them. The men would not be technically considered as riding those horses.

Has this myth ever been tested in modern times? Can men really travel at horse speed clinging on to the tails of horses while on foot?

Because if this is true, then those Germans would be the fastest footmen of the Ancient era.


Last edited by Kevin S. on Sat 17 Nov, 2012 9:15 am; edited 2 times in total
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Gregory J. Liebau




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Nov, 2012 10:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Horses galloping from one site to another at reasonable speeds aren't really unreasonable speeds for men to maintain over short distances. With the advantage of grasping a horse, allowing it to take one's weight and rather 'prancing' across the ground to keep solid footing, I suspect that it would be quite reasonable to assume men could traverse many miles at speeds in excess of 15 miles per hour without great effort.

-Gregory
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Nov, 2012 11:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not sure most horses would like a person holding onto its tail like that....

RPM
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Nov, 2012 11:33 am    Post subject: Re: Fastest Footmen of the Ancient Era?         Reply with quote

What's the source for it? The closest I can get is Tacitus' Germania, and it only mentions that the picked youth of the Germans were assigned to fight in conjunction with the cavalry--no information to the effect that they were supposed to run aside the galloping horses while holding the horses' manes or tails or anything like that. Besides, Tacitus also said that the German horses at this time were not particularly known for great swiftness or beauty, and cavalry generally doesn't move at the top speed of the horses in long marches, so following the pace of the horse (assuming you can find a source that mentions it at all) doesn't always have to mean moving very fast by conventional human standards.

Note that the Germanic picked youth weren't the only ancient light infantry assigned to cooperate with the cavalry; the Greek had their hamippoi too, while a fraction of the Roman velites after 211 BC were trained to ride pillion behind the cavalry and dismount rapidly to support them when necessary (although some doubt has been cast upon the Naevii family tradition that probably informed Livy on his account of this).
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Nov, 2012 1:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Right, my impression is that this was a *battlefield* tactic, not done on the march. On the road, cavalry moved at a walk like the infantry, in fact both were commonly limited by the speed of an ox-cart hauling the baggage. As Private Jones says in "Zulu", "I don't see no sense in running to fight the battle!"

Matthew
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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Nov, 2012 6:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had heard this mentioned (re-enactors chatting, not exactly a primary text) but I got the impression it was guys "skipping" alongside a horse by holding onto he saddle/ rider's belt.
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Kevin S.





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PostPosted: Sat 17 Nov, 2012 9:16 am    Post subject: Re: Fastest Footmen of the Ancient Era?         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
What's the source for it?

It's not from a book. I remember reading it somewhere on the internet.
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Raman A




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Nov, 2012 1:16 pm    Post subject: Re: Fastest Footmen of the Ancient Era?         Reply with quote

Kevin Sanguanlosit wrote:
Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
What's the source for it?

It's not from a book. I remember reading it somewhere on the internet.


hmm. . .

Well, on the topic of fastest footman, would skiers count? I believe there's evidence there were skiing soldiers back in the 13th century, and of course there's evidence for skiing much much farther back than that. Common sense would tell me they just skied to the battle and did not actually fight on skis but I haven't researched the topic enough. I believe skiers should be able to get around on favorable terrain at speeds similar to cavalry.
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Christopher Treichel




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Nov, 2012 4:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with the "most horses would not like that." Arround horses you want to maintain some distance from its backside. Horses can get quite skitish if something is jangling about where they can't see and a good kick can crush your skull or break ribs. Not to mention having 200lbs yanking on your tail....
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Eric Meulemans
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PostPosted: Sat 17 Nov, 2012 6:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Treichel wrote:
I agree with the "most horses would not like that."


Like a lot of things, it all really does depend on the horse. I've seen plenty of kids skiing behind horses (skijoring) just holding onto their tails - typical activity of daring youth. And one of my ponies really enjoys having her tail pulled/stretched, but this of course is not done by some bounding Teuton in the midst of mayhem.

Overall it sounds rather an absurd notion to me. I can see it being done on skis though, certainly. Otherwise it seems a recipe for ending up on your face, backside, or both, trampled into a bloody pulp by the ranks behind you.
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Michael Wiethop




Location: St. Louis
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2012 7:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

They're not ancient, but the post-Shaka reform Zulu warriors could supposedly march 50 miles a day, and were notably fast in the charge.
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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2012 5:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Humans are some of nature's finest distance runners. There are races, both marathon and ultramarathon distances, that have runners on foot going up against riders on horseback.
Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Nov, 2012 3:02 am    Post subject: Re: Fastest Footmen of the Ancient Era?         Reply with quote

Do those ultra-marathoners have to carry substantial loads over the distance and fight at the end of the day, though? Unless they do, their case has little bearing upon the subject we're discussing right now.


Kevin Sanguanlosit wrote:
Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
What's the source for it?

It's not from a book. I remember reading it somewhere on the internet.


Well, in that case, I strongly suspect it's just something made up by a modern commentator rather than a statement backed up by a primary source. Don't just believe it out of hand.
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