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Martin Kallander




Location: Sweden
Joined: 25 Sep 2018

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PostPosted: Wed 12 Aug, 2020 3:03 pm    Post subject: Where does it say in Choniates that Manuel adopted the kite?         Reply with quote

This is something I've heard reiterated by loads of people over the years.There is supposed to be a passage in O city of Byzantium where Manuel trained his horsemen in a western manner and also equipped them with kite shields. Having finally gotten around to read through it, I was unable to find said passage. The only thing I found which was even vaguely comparable is when Manuel did a tournament with some latins but no mentions are made about kite shields there.

Is there actually such a passage in this book or are people just misquoting someone who drew conclusions based on the book's content? Quite grandiose claims are made about the romans and their usage of kite shields with some people claiming none were used before the normans came, others saying the romans stopped using other shields entirely during Manuels reign and some of them even going so far as to say they didn't use kites at all before Manuel introduced them in the mid 12th century.

I have read the Sylloge Tacticorum so I know most of these are just wrong, but I do not want to read Choniates again because he is a terrible author and I cannot for the love of the mother of cities pay attention while reading it anyway. If this passage about kite shields actually exists then I might just miss it again while rereading it so I cannot really conclude that it does or does not exist either way.

Does anyone here know if Choniates actually says Manuel Komnenos adopted the kite shield for his cavalry?
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Dan Howard




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

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PostPosted: Wed 12 Aug, 2020 4:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Contemporaries never called them "kite shields". That is a modern term. We have no idea what term was used to describe them at the time so the texts are useless. You'd need to find a document that specifically describes the shape of the shield and I can't think of any that do this. Most of the info we have about these shields comes from illustrations.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Martin Kallander




Location: Sweden
Joined: 25 Sep 2018

Posts: 92

PostPosted: Wed 12 Aug, 2020 10:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Contemporaries never called them "kite shields". That is a modern term. We have no idea what term was used to describe them at the time so the texts are useless.
I know that much, the shape of the kite shield is described in the Alexiad and there are mentions of long shields and shields the height of a man earlier in Choniates like in the siege of Baka when Eustraties duels Constantine. Constantine's shield is described as being equal on all sides with a cross in the middle while Eustraties' is the height of a man which is term the romans used to describe shields 140 cm or taller a century earlier. (If we can agree that the roman span is 23.4~ cm)

I was looking for something that confirm what is said is supposed to be in Choniates - A passage where Manuel retrains his cavalry in a western manner and preferably mentions a change of shields. Something like "The barbarian shield that is round at the top but tapers to a point at the bottom he equipped his cavalry with" or at the very least something which could reasonably be interpreted as a kite shield like Eustraties' shield, like "He drilled his cavalry in the barbarian manner and gave them long shields to turn away arrows".
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Martin Kallander




Location: Sweden
Joined: 25 Sep 2018

Posts: 92

PostPosted: Thu 13 Aug, 2020 2:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Okay, the passage is supposed to exist in John Kinnamos' History. I'm going to aquire and read that one.
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Dan Howard




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

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PostPosted: Fri 14 Aug, 2020 2:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin Kallander wrote:
Quote:
Contemporaries never called them "kite shields". That is a modern term. We have no idea what term was used to describe them at the time so the texts are useless.
I know that much, the shape of the kite shield is described in the Alexiad and there are mentions of long shields and shields the height of a man earlier in Choniates like in the siege of Baka when Eustraties duels Constantine. Constantine's shield is described as being equal on all sides with a cross in the middle while Eustraties' is the height of a man which is term the romans used to describe shields 140 cm or taller a century earlier. (If we can agree that the roman span is 23.4~ cm)

I was looking for something that confirm what is said is supposed to be in Choniates - A passage where Manuel retrains his cavalry in a western manner and preferably mentions a change of shields. Something like "The barbarian shield that is round at the top but tapers to a point at the bottom he equipped his cavalry with" or at the very least something which could reasonably be interpreted as a kite shield like Eustraties' shield, like "He drilled his cavalry in the barbarian manner and gave them long shields to turn away arrows".


There are plenty of different types of long shield that aren't kite shaped. Without the text specifically stating that they taper to a point at the bottom, they aren't much use.

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Martin Kallander




Location: Sweden
Joined: 25 Sep 2018

Posts: 92

PostPosted: Fri 14 Aug, 2020 4:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, the key phrase was something which could reasonably be assumed to be a kite shield. As I am looking for whatever has lead people to the conclusion that Manuel adopted kite shields for his cavalry, definite proof is not necessarily what I am after. People may have drawn this conclusion without adequate evidence.

The only source I know which definitely describes a kite shield is when Anna Komnenos describes how Bohemund's troops are armed in book 13 of the Alexiad.

Quote:
An additional weapon of defence is a shield which is not round, but a long shield, very broad at the top and running out to a point, hollowed out slightly inside, but externally smooth and gleaming with a brilliant boss of molten brass.


On that subject though, what shields did the romans employ beside the kite shield that could be described as long at the time? The only one I can think of is the thueroi and that stops appearing in art some 100 years earlier and was last mentioned in Leo's Taktika which was written at the turn of the 9th century.
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