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Tom Bancevich





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PostPosted: Mon 04 Jul, 2005 9:45 pm    Post subject: Islamic/Middle Eastern armor and weapons versus Europe         Reply with quote

Can the normal light mail armor with leather Bazubands stand up to a one or two handed battle sword used by the european armies? In a book on richard the lion hearted, he is suppposed to have drawn his sword in a holly land battle, rode up to an islamic cavalryman and sliced his opponent from shoulder to waist with one blow of his sword. Is that possible?
And just how effective were the middle eastern saber, scimitars, shamsirs on european mail and plate reinforcements or the brigandine?

Im just wondering as im considering an islamic set of armor that ive read about (everyday shirt, gambeson/aketon, light hauberk of mail, leather arm guards)
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Hisham Gaballa





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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2005 1:18 am    Post subject: Re: Islamic/Middle Eastern armor and weapons versus europe         Reply with quote

Tom Bancevich wrote:
Can the normal light mail armor with leather Bazubands stand up to a one or two handed battle sword used by the european armies? In a book on richard the lion hearted, he is suppposed to have drawn his sword in a holly land battle, rode up to an islamic cavalryman and sliced his opponent from shoulder to waist with one blow of his sword. Is that possible?
And just how effective were the middle eastern saber, scimitars, shamsirs on european mail and plate reinforcements or the brigandine?

Im just wondering as im considering an islamic set of armor that ive read about (everyday shirt, gambeson/aketon, light hauberk of mail, leather arm guards)


Good question, I look forward very much to seeing your Islamic set. Happy

I think the answer to that is complicated. I'm no expert, but I do have a bit of fascination with Islamic armour. First of all Islamic did change slightly over time, although much more slowly than in Europe. Islamic armour from the crudading era c. 1100-1300 AD would not have been that dissimilar to European armour; Arab and kurdish warriors would probably have worn hauberks of rivetted mail with knee length skirts and elbow length sleeves over padded gambesons. Only the helmets would have been slightly different; conical or bowl shaped helmets, usually without nasals with attached mail aventails. Warriors of Turkish origin would also have worn lamellar armour made of iron or leather lamellae. According to David Nicolle PhD (Arms and armour of the Crusading era and various Osprey titles) some heavy cavalry may have worn lamellar cuirasses over mail shirts. I love Nicolle's books, but I take some of his reconstructions with a pinch of salt, sometimes his enthusiasm for his subject overtakes the available evidence, although I give him credit for taking a subject most people aren't really interested in.

I think with later Islamic armours 1400 AD onwards we are on safer ground as lots of armour survives. The Topkapi Sarai in Istanbul and other Museums around the world have substancial collectons of Mamluk, Ottoman and Iranian Armour. The most commonly seen type in Museums is mail and plate armour, basically mail reinforced with plates of various shapes over the back, abdomen and chest, there is also some surviving mail-and-plate armour for the limbs as well. I have a feeling that this type of armour was reserved for emirs and pashas. I think ordinary soldiers had to make do with plain old mail, brigandines or no armour at all.

Right, I've strayed way off the point here. I think during the Crusading era Islamic heavy cavalry, especially at the start of the period, were equiped not too differently from their European counterparts and would have fought in the same way. the big difference was the presence of Turkish horse archers, these were lightly armoured if at all. There tactic was to stay out of the way of heavy cavalry and pepper them with arrows from a distance. If one of these guys was caught by a European knight he wouldn't have had a chance, but if he did his job properly he wouldn't get caught. With regards to the later period The mamluks were able to defeat late 13th century European armies and defeated a 15th century european army as well in Cyprus. But we have to bear in mind that mamluks were highly trained and disciplined. Their tactic would have been to soften the enemy from a distance with horse archers and would only have charged once
the enemy was sufficiently weakened. The Ottomans of course did defeat Europeans several times, including the battle of Mohacs in 1526. But Ottoman armies were more like European renaissance armies and relied heavily on artillary and matchlock muskets.

Since I have talked so much about the mamluks, I had better have a few pics of Mamluk armour, please excuse the poor quality of the photos, they are bad photocopies from old books.

A 14th century helmet:


Various 15th and 16th century pieces of armour:


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Ruel A. Macaraeg





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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2005 10:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It should be pointed out that "Islamic" doesn't constitute a true category of armor or weapons. Much of what's called "Islamic" armor is identical to analogous armor in Europe. In fact, many of the terms are identical across the languages.

For example, Persian chahar aina 'plate of mirrors'/ Russian zertsalo 'mirror' plate; Turkish shishaq/German zischagge (helmet with visor, sliding nasal, and plate aventail); Turkish/Persian/Russian kalkan (round shield usually of wooden or rattan rings); Turkish/Russian yushman (mail shirt with horizontal lamellar plates); Turkish mec/Polish miecz/Russian mech (cavalry thrusting sword); Arabic khanjar/Russian konchar, kinzhal (large knife or dagger). These are just a few examples.
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Hisham Gaballa





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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2005 12:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ruel A. Macaraeg wrote:
It should be pointed out that "Islamic" doesn't constitute a true category of armor or weapons. Much of what's called "Islamic" armor is identical to analogous armor in Europe. In fact, many of the terms are identical across the languages.

For example, Persian chahar aina 'plate of mirrors'/ Russian zertsalo 'mirror' plate; Turkish shishaq/German zischagge (helmet with visor, sliding nasal, and plate aventail); Turkish/Persian/Russian kalkan (round shield usually of wooden or rattan rings); Turkish/Russian yushman (mail shirt with horizontal lamellar plates); Turkish mec/Polish miecz/Russian mech (cavalry thrusting sword); Arabic khanjar/Russian konchar, kinzhal (large knife or dagger). These are just a few examples.


Oh I agree that Islamic refers to a style of armour rather than a particular category. Without wishing to stray too far from the point of the thread (there is another thread were we could discuss this to our hearts' content Happy), don't those analogues exist because Russian and Eastern European armour was heavily influenced by Ottoman Turkish and Iranian armour?

To get back to the original point, since Russian armour is virtually identical to Islamic styles of armour, how does a Russian Yushman or bakhterets stand up to blows from a Western European sword?
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Ruel A. Macaraeg





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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2005 12:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
don't those analogues exist because Russian and Eastern European armour was heavily influenced by Ottoman Turkish and Iranian armour?


In this case I would think that the resemblances are more due to shared origins than contemporaneous influence. Long before the Ottoman, Safavid, or Muscovite states were established, Turkish, Persian, and Russian arms and armor already looked very similar. Since they were all participants in the great steppe tradition of mounted warfare, this is no surprise -- the various parties all learned the same effective methods of combat for their environment and used them. Likewise, as innovations progressed, they changed together until the Russians broke with tradition to adopt Western military inventions and tactics ca. 1700.


Quote:
To get back to the original point, since Russian armour is virtually identical to Islamic styles of armour, how does a Russian Yushman or bakhterets stand up to blows from a Western European sword?


I'd image just as well as against their own sabers, though I think this may miss the point as these armors were designed more with arrows than swords in mind. But it's practically impossible to address Tom's original question because it seems to cover several time periods of armor styles, several "European" martial traditions, and several "Islamic" martial traditions all at the same time.
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Hisham Gaballa





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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2005 1:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ruel A. Macaraeg wrote:
...But it's practically impossible to address Tom's original question because it seems to cover several time periods of armor styles, several "European" martial traditions, and several "Islamic" martial traditions all at the same time.


I would agree with that, but for a slightly different reason. The only real way to test it would be for someone to wear a replica of a medieval Islamic armour (say a 15th century mail shirt for example), and someone else to start swing at him with a replica of a 15th century European longsword. Big Grin

I think I also mentioned in my first reply that these armours were primarily designed as a defense against archers. Happy
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David R. Glier





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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2005 2:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the quality of the soldier has much more to do with the results you're coming up with than the quality of the armor and equipment. At the time, in the East, everyone west of Germany was seen as bloodlusting, uneducated, savage barbarians. They thought "the Franks" -their name for everyone European- verily *lived* on warfare and bloodshed.
"The Franks" for their part thought of the Greeks and Arabs as weak, effete cowards who couldn't hold a battle line if their balls depended on it.

Think of the paradigms here. "Strike swift, and skillfully", vs. "Strike hard, and take a blow like a man". The equipment was virtually the same at the time -it was the PLAYERS who were different. It would be like throwing a World Cup Football team into a brawl with an NFL Football team, or a Tennis club against a Lacrosse team, a Foxhunt club against a company of Rebel ACW Cavalry reenactors, or the members of your local Dojo against a platoon of Marines. The Greeks thought of themselves as Romans, and their solders drilled and paraded proudly through Constantinople. The Arabs were proud of the empire their ancestors had conqured in the name of Allah, and thought of themsleves as hardy, indomitable desert warriors. And then the Europeans were people who fought mass battles on horseback -in which people were routinely killed and maimed- for FUN, who hit each other with spears at 50 miles an hour for relaxation, who drew steel at snickers or odd glances, who went to full-scale war with their neighbors if they married the wrong person, who hunted wild boar with spears and swords in their plainclothes because it wasn't sporting to wear armor... They were living in entirely different worlds.

When I read about the Crusades, and the reactions the various Eastern actors had to the Western Crusaders, I'm often called into mind of the early Republic. The Romans conquered their world in large part because Hellenistic armies prefered to vie for favorable battlefield positions over fighting. They would rather surrender than fight a battle they might lose. The Republic lost entire Legions at a time and kept on fighting -and before the Romans subsiquently conquered them, their enemies though they were downright bloodthirsty and just plain nuts. It wasn't their equipment that won their wars -especially early on.

Yes, on average I would say a european sword of Types X-XII was better ballanced and cut better than an arabic sword used during the same time period, but Crusader armor (other than their very good helmets) was probably inferior if you get right down to it. You'll be just fine in that suit.
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Ruel A. Macaraeg





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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2005 2:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi David,

Couple responses here, intended primarily for conversation and clarification.

Quote:
And then the Europeans were people who fought mass battles on horseback -in which people were routinely killed and maimed- for FUN


I dare say, I'd wager people were routinely killed and maimed in mass battles everywhere. I'm sure many survivors of such encounters, European and other, might account such experiences "fun" in hindsight, but I'm not sure this is borne out in the historical record. Can you point us to medieval European sources where this is the case, and contrastive "Islamic" examples where it's not?

I would also note that the Crusaders' greatest opponents in the Middle East, the ones who eventually ran them out altogether, were Turks, not Arabs. Even by the time of the First Crusade, Turks and the Turkic way of war were becoming the dominant military tradition of the region. So comparisons with Arabs and their tradition are perhaps not appropriate to the period under discussion (Crusades to Ottoman times).

Quote:
who drew steel at snickers or odd glances, who went to full-scale war with their neighbors if they married the wrong person, who hunted wild boar with spears and swords in their plainclothes because it wasn't sporting to wear armor... They were living in entirely different worlds.


Again, these are things attested to outside of Europe as well.


Quote:
Think of the paradigms here. "Strike swift, and skillfully", vs. "Strike hard, and take a blow like a man". The equipment was virtually the same at the time -it was the PLAYERS who were different.


I don't see the equipment as being similar, and when also considering tactics they're even less similar. The Crusaders seem to have stuck with stuff like massive fortifications and heavy cavalry charges, while the Turks and other locals stuck with their predominantly light cavalry/mounted archery tactics.


The reasons I raise these points with you, David, is that they resemble the arguments made in Hansson's Carnage and Culture, which famously posited that Western military success in more recent centuries is due to some innate and unique characteristic in the European mind (basically a cultural determinist model). To me at least, his arguments don't hold up when placed against the much stronger contextual/environmental scenario offered in Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. I don't see a clear military-cultural boundary here, either during the Crusades or later. All the players involved were apparently shaped by proximal and environmental influences, and their shifting performances demonstrate that these influences were much more powerful than any culturally predetermined traits. I'd go so far as to say that talking about separate "European" and "Islamic" martial traditions is more a convenience than a reality.
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Hisham Gaballa





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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2005 4:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ruel A. Macaraeg wrote:
... The equipment was virtually the same at the time -it was the PLAYERS who were different...


I would say that up until the end of the 12th century, with regards to heavy cavalry, the equipment was broadly similar. Both sides relied on long straight swords and lances, both sides used mail shirts. In the 11th and 12th centuries Muslims even used tall kite-shaped shields. The extra element that Islamic armies had was Turkic horse-archers. I think it was after late 12th century that they diverged. Islamic armies started to rely more on horse archers, and sabres gradually replaced swords. On the other hand the European heavy cavalryman, i.e. the knight just got heavier and heavier. Great helms appeared, mail spread to cover the entire body, and in the 2nd half of the 13th century the coat of plates appeared.

Islamic heavy cavalry stayed pretty much the same because, as Ruel points out, by the end of the 12th century Arabs and Kurds had been eclipsed. Heavy cavalry was largely composed of men of Turkic origin and/or Turkish mamluks. These were a combination of heavy cavalry and horse archer.

I'm not sure either about European swords being superior to Islamic ones. Up until the mid-13th century, the most common type of Islamic sword was long and straight, furthermore, Damascus swords had a very high reputation. The sabre was also designed for a different style of fighting.

Some pics of early Islamic swords:




Last edited by Hisham Gaballa on Wed 06 Jul, 2005 2:22 am; edited 1 time in total
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Hisham Gaballa





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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 12:41 am    Post subject: Re: Islamic/Middle Eastern armor and weapons versus europe         Reply with quote

Tom Bancevich wrote:
Can the normal light mail armor with leather Bazubands stand up to a one or two handed battle sword used by the european armies? In a book on richard the lion hearted, he is suppposed to have drawn his sword in a holly land battle, rode up to an islamic cavalryman and sliced his opponent from shoulder to waist with one blow of his sword. Is that possible?
And just how effective were the middle eastern saber, scimitars, shamsirs on european mail and plate reinforcements or the brigandine?

Im just wondering as im considering an islamic set of armor that ive read about (everyday shirt, gambeson/aketon, light hauberk of mail, leather arm guards)


Just out of curiosity, since Islamic-style armour did slowly change over time,what sort of general period will the armour you are making belong to, is it:
7th to 11th century,
12th to 14th century,
15th-16th century, or
17th-19th century?

BTW this classification is my own and somewhat arbitrary, feel free to criticise it if you wish. Happy Of course certain types of armour, like the mail shirt, were worn right through the period from pre-Islamic times all the way to the early 20th century.
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David R. Glier





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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 11:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you Hisham, that was exactly what I was driving at. At the time of the most successful crusades -during the First, the campaigns of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the successes before the debacle at Hattin, and even (to a slightly lesser extent) during the Third- the arms and armor of the Europeans and the middle easterners they faces was supremely similiar. Differences are aesthetic and decorative at best. (again, to a lesser extent at the time of the Thrid.) After all, what is the difference between the protective value of Syrian maille and French maille? Or the difference between a conical helmet and an onion-shaped helmet?

Ruel, the points you raised would be -for the peoples of the East- very abberant behavior. We have people who do the same in our own countries today, but you'd hardly call them the norm! In Europe though, that behaviour was status quo.
The Byzantines had held on to Greek and Roman civilization -they had never fallen. The illiterate, fanatic Bedouins (I know that's not who they were, but that *is* what the looked like) who swept out of Arabia three centuries before had adopted Persian culture in whole cloth -they had become the image of the people they conquered. These were two groups of highly sophisticated, educated, mannered... civilized peoples who were suddenly thrust into conflict with a large group of comparative BARBARIANS who had exactly the same level of military technology. What would you *expect* to happen?

The Crusaders wrote at length about the institutional bravery but personal cowardace of their Greek allies and Arab enemies. I find it difficult to believe that men defending their homelands were that cowardly. On the other hand, I find it very *easy* to believe that the Arabs and Greeks were perfectly normal, stouthearted soldiers, but that their Frankish opponents were *so* hard-core (at the time) that they were made to look bad in comparison.
On the other hand, they found the Turks to be tough customers. Is it a coincidence that the Turks were a lesser developed people, with traditions of hard living and martial play? Rural Turks *still* ride around on steppe ponies, flinging blunt javelins at one another -for FUN. They don't wear armour in that game, either. I'm seeing some serious cultural correlations! Wink
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Felix Wang




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 8:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow!

Many, many issues.

I will try to make my comments separate, and not too confused.

The very first issue is the effectiveness of armour (Muslim) against swords (Crusader). AFAIK, no one has done destructive testing, nor is anyone likely to have the chance. However, much is known about the strength of European armour against various weapons. The general concensus is that armour of the Crusading era - mail, aketon/gambeson underneath, and helmet - was not easily breached by weapons of the day. In particular, swords rarely cut through such armour. Of course, the literature of the day makes it sound like this happened fairly often - but the literature must be judged carefully. Most of it was written far away from the field of battle where the fighting occurred, and it was written for the fighting classes. Naturally the audience wanted to hear about something exciting, which means (among other things) something out of the ordinary. Hitting a guy with a sword, stunning him, and watching him fall off his horse and be trampled to death is a fine way of killing him. However, it lacks entertainment value compared to slicing his helmet and head into two pieces, with one eye falling left and the other eye falling to the right.

I don't have a lot of data about Muslim (Syrian / Egyptian) mail, but from what I can tell, it wasn't significantly inferior to European stuff. This implies that chopping armoured Muslims in half didn't happen all that often.
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Tom Bancevich





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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 8:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The period im thinking on is the era of Vlad the impaler. Iadmit it wasnt good to be a turk who lost to his forces, but the turk offered death for those who refused to convert.

The last vlad fil was a 2 part series on tnt, they did pretty good and they show the same turkih armor as most drawings ive seen:
onion helmet, padded gambeson under a mail shirt, with pieces of courbulli on various parts and that is what i want to replicate as it could also be used to portray the byzantine troops from scandinavia, and even a 1300 ad european man at arms. even similar to a few pictures of rusian armor if seen that depict alexander nevskis armyfighting the muslim invasion.

I just wanted to see what historical records said about the usefulness of muslim armor agaisnt european swords.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 9:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom;

Check into the painting "The Battle of Orsha" of 1514 between the Poles and Muscovites. Here's a link to the wikipedia site on it, with a display of the painting:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Orsha

The painting shows a LOT of interesting details, from the Pole's use of European Heavy Cavalry in Maximillian Armour complete with heavy horses wearing matching bardings, German arquebusiers and artillery, Polish light cavalry, and of course the various Muscovite forces.

Most of the Muscovites are shown wearing quilted coats with onion-helmets, but there are some (as I recall) in maille as well.

Anyway, as far as I know it's the only detailed artwork showing a battle between Eastern and Western armies that might be of some use to you. Earlier artwork is too stylized (and not exactly detail-oriented), while later artwork would involve too many later developments such as firearms. I would suspect that the clash between the Polish light horse and the Muscovites would be of the most interest to you.

I hope it is of some help to your study!

Cheers,

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Ryan A. C.





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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 10:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom Bancevich wrote:
I just wanted to see what historical records said about the usefulness of muslim armor agaisnt european swords.

I don't know if anything like that exists; however, well made amrour of iron or steel stands up to swords pretty well. A sword just isn't going to be able to get through something like that. How would Muslim padded armour stand up against a sword? That depends on how padded it is and what materials are used, but a well padded garment takes a lot of the energy out of a sword cut. Sorry, but that’s about all I can offer you. I wouldn’t know where to find records of that sort of thing.

(thanks Gordon for the desktop background)
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 10:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ryan A. C. wrote:

(thanks Gordon for the desktop background)


Glad you liked that, Ryan. Happy

For those interested in a real in-depth study of the painting "Battle of Orsha", the book "Art, Arms and Armour", Robert Held, Ed. 1978 has a great article on it that I highly recommend. The author (can't recall now the name) took the painting and studied it in detail, going into lots of serious detail and depth on each aspect of the battle. If you can lay your hands on the book, by all means do so, there are lots of really nifty articles in it besides this one. However, it's worth getting if only for this essay.

Cheers,

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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David R. Glier





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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 11:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sometimes I wish that more of us sword fans would hang out with the armour fans, too. Laughing Out Loud

Had this question been asked on the Archive, the answer would have looked like three or four short posts full of simple declarative sentences, ammounting to roughly the same conclusion we're reaching after twenty five posts. Razz
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Hisham Gaballa





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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 2:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom Bancevich wrote:
The period im thinking on is the era of Vlad the impaler. Iadmit it wasnt good to be a turk who lost to his forces, but the turk offered death for those who refused to convert.

The last vlad fil was a 2 part series on tnt, they did pretty good and they show the same turkih armor as most drawings ive seen:
onion helmet, padded gambeson under a mail shirt, with pieces of courbulli on various parts and that is what i want to replicate as it could also be used to portray the byzantine troops from scandinavia, and even a 1300 ad european man at arms. even similar to a few pictures of rusian armor if seen that depict alexander nevskis armyfighting the muslim invasion.

I just wanted to see what historical records said about the usefulness of muslim armor agaisnt european swords.


Vlad the Impaler, so we are talking late 15th to early 16th century here. In that case Ottoman armour would have been quite similar to the Mamluk armours I posted above; mail shirts and/or mail-and-plate shirts over quilted gambesons, chichak helmets (onion helmets? pleeease, can we be a bit more scientific here Big Grin) and of course bazu bands and mail and plate cuisses and greaves. it is worth remembering here though that Ottoman armies of this period were very similar to European renaissance armies. They relied heavily on artillery and matchlock muskets, so most soldiers would have been unarmoured. Only heavy cavalry and possibly heavy infantry would have worn armour.

I have here a 16th century Ottoman miniature of the battle of Mohacs, fought between the Ottomans and Hungarians in 1526, most of the Turks are unarmoured:


BTW, in view of your original question, I will draw your attention to an incident in the lower left-hand corner of the picture, in view of what we've talked about in this thread, I'm inclined to take it with a pinch of salt. Happy
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Felix Wang




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PostPosted: Fri 08 Jul, 2005 8:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"The reasons I raise these points with you, David, is that they resemble the arguments made in Hansson's Carnage and Culture, which famously posited that Western military success in more recent centuries is due to some innate and unique characteristic in the European mind (basically a cultural determinist model). To me at least, his arguments don't hold up when placed against the much stronger contextual/environmental scenario offered in Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. I don't see a clear military-cultural boundary here, either during the Crusades or later. All the players involved were apparently shaped by proximal and environmental influences, and their shifting performances demonstrate that these influences were much more powerful than any culturally predetermined traits. I'd go so far as to say that talking about separate "European" and "Islamic" martial traditions is more a convenience than a reality."

I agree that Diamond's book is a ground-breaking work, looking at the development of different societies in ecological/economic terms. Hanson is interesting as a case in the development of a thinker, since his background is as a classicist. Most of his later writings are outside of his original field, and I have not been terribly impressed. However, his original two works are very interesting - Warfare and Agriculture in Ancient Greece, and The Western Way of War. The second book is mis-titled, and that twist is what took him off his foundation and sent him into celebrity. The book itself is extremely good, as is the first work. If you aren't familiar with it, Hanson's basic premise is simple, and hard to argue. The ancient writers make a great deal of fuss about invaders burning and destroying the crops and fields, and this has been understood to mean that hoplites went out, in their oddly formal battles, to defend the crops. Hanson is, I think, one the only classicists who has had any practical experience with Mediterranean agriculture. From his own experience and that of generations of farmers who relied on olives, grapes, and grain, he concluded that the damage which was actually done to Greek farms during the summer invasion period was relatively minor. The hoplite armies were not fighting about straight economic / agricultural survival, but in a considerable part about an idea.

The Greeks did develop a very intense form of warfare, and while it was limited, it was also very powerful in its way. They were not the only people to specialize in intense warfare - I believe that both Japanese warfare and the Zulu way of war were intense, and were disruptive to their neighbors. In all three cases, these fighters showed a willingness to seriously risk their lives en mass and in a disciplined fashion - which tended to shock and dismay their neighbors.

John Lynn's Battle is an interesting discussion of warfare as it varies from on society to another, based on their concept of what war is and should be. He seriously critiques Hanson's more generalized claims. Interestingly, he discusses one case which does seriously raise the issue of the importance of a Western society in military success. He discusses the sepoys of India, and makes the point that while European common soldiers were isolated from society (both at home and abroad), the sepoys lived in their society, which honored their role as soldiers - even ordinary infantrymen. The British understood that the social milieu which kept their own soldiers in order wouldn't work in India, and adjusted the social rules. The really intriguing part, which Lynn does not emphasize, is that the sepoys largely fought against the armies of native rulers. These native rulers quickly realized the effectiveness of European armies, and soon created similar units, equally well armed, trained by European mercenaries, and in larger numbers than the British forces. In fact, these forces were sometimes noticeably better armed than the Europeans and their sepoys. Yet when looking at the battle record, a striking fact emerges - that the British and their sepoys win again and again. Usually, they don't win by brilliant spywork, deft maneuvers, or sophisticated use of the terrain (which their enemies usually knew very well, since it was their own lands which the British were invading.). These battles were generally won by sheer grit, with numerically inferior force of sepoys and British regiments hammering straight into a larger force of equally trained, oft better armed (i.e. in artillery) men defending their own lands - and the defenders breaking up under the attack.

The Crusades offer something similar, which isn't clearly explained. We agree that technologically the Europeans had no advantage to speak of, but they adopted the heavy cavalry charge as a major tactic, and no one matched them. Frankish, Byzantine, and Muslim sources all agree that when a Frankish charge did manage to hit its target, the impact was devastating. TheTurkish method of war had a number of advantages, but did not have a direct answer to the Frankish charge - and no Middle Eastern ruler ever thought that they should create a unit to nullify the one great tactic of the Crusaders. The local rulers certainly had the technology, wealth, and a huge advantage in numbers of skilled fighters, but did not attempt this. It would seem there was something which could not simply be transfered from one society to the other.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Fri 08 Jul, 2005 9:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In light of Hisham's posted painting of Mohacs, and Felix's comments on Frankish Heavy Cavalry's devestating charge, I would like to point out the rather interesting inclusion of some Turkish Heavy Cavalry in the lower right-hand corner (well, just above the lower right-hand corner, really) of the painting. Chaps wearing helmets and what looks to be maille (which most of the other Turkish Horse isn't shown with), carrying lances and mounted on barded horses. Hard to know if the bardings are quilted cloth, or coverings for heavier armour, but it's there never the less, and looks substantial.

My own knowledge of Mohacs is quite scanty, being limited to the single chapter the Oman devotes to the battle, but it is interesting to note that the Turks had their own "Cataphracts" as it were to counter the Hungarian's Western-style Heavy Horse. Whether they were used or not, I don't recall. Hisham, do you have more details on Mohacs?

Cheers,

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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