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Jared Smith

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PostPosted: Mon 11 Jul, 2005 2:46 pm    Post subject: Origin of Tournaments         Reply with quote

Articles discussing forerunners to the medieval tournament might include the “Roman Games of Troy”. “Ludi Romani or Ludi Magni”or mention of german tribal mock combat. All of the articles I found had very brief introductions of a few sentences, which seemed to be the same rehashed introduction. I thought some might enjoy a little more colorful background info. I know very little of this myself, but thought some would have fun with the topic if it got posted. Please challenge, add more tales, have fun...

Games of Troy is a very vague term in period Roman use, and could refer to any kind of test of courage, including a form of children’s tug of war game. Funeral Games were held for Patroclus and Achilles in Homer’s tale of the siege of Troy (roughly 1100 BC era? … often debated as elements of the tale are said to be stolen from much older stories.) Several versus of Homers Illiad describe Achilles’ funeral games which include fist fighting, wrestling, archery, javelin, chariot races, house racing (on mounts translated as Coursers), and a bloody spear fight (in which the victor and loser agree to part as friends.)

Iphitus is credited for establishing a war truce and organizing competitive games in Olympia around 900 B.C. He also re-established the tradition at intervals and is somehow associated with spread of the tradition to Delphi. (There is yet a 3rd location where such games were practiced at intervals, but no known individual or date seems to be accepted as the “true origin”.) Seems like a pretty “Chivalrous” hastilude to me, but it did not rank mention in articles on origins of the Tournament.

“Ludi Romani or Ludi Magni” is more precisely a holiday period around mid September, that originated at about 507-509 BC. Eventually the Ludi Romani event grew into a 15 day event that included chariot races (1 day) and a dress inspection/parade of cavalry (during 1 of the latter 15 days.)
Roman historian Athenaeus (170 to 230 AD) wrote of Celtic feasts;
“The Celts sit on hay and have their meals served up on wooden tables raised slightly above the earth. ….When a large number dine together they sit around in a circle with the most influential man in the centre, like the leader of the chorus, whether he surpasses the others in warlike skill, or lineage, or wealth. Beside him sits the host and next on either side the others in order of distinction. ä The Celts sometimes engage in single combat at dinner. For they gather in arms and engage in mock battles, and fight hand-to-hand, but sometimes wounds are inflicted, and the irritation caused by this may even lead to killing unless the bystanders restrain them. And in former times, when the hindquarters were served up the bravest hero took the thigh piece, and if another man claimed it they stood up and fought in single combat to death.”

Direct copy of another web site --- "An early stage combat/ exhibition affair occurred in 842, to celebrate an alliance between Louis the German and Charles the Bald. Rows and rows of horsemen would charge at each other, then one ‘army’ or the other would wheel away as if fleeing, and another charge would begin anew. There was also formation marching, and complex horse dancing. These were displays of horsemanship, however, and there was no actual fighting of any kind. (Barber and Barker 1989)"

Direct copy of another web site --- "Tournaments in the 9th century with actual fighting were simply friendly training sessions. Groups of soldiers would compete under the leadership of the lord they would follow into battle during actual warfare. The tourneyers were unmounted melees. The contest would take place on an expanse of fields and farmlands, with no official borders, other than to state that the contest was to take place between two given towns. There were no rules, and no prevented tactics. Often, for instance, several competitors would band together to take down a single opponent. The only concessions were a few safe zones where a competitor could rest, and that the object was to capture the opposing soldiers and ransom them, not to kill them. Mounted combat came later. (Barber and Barker 1989)"

Several authors stated that the medieval tournament did not actually appear in written records until around the middle of the 10th century AD. The first (at least that most 3rd party authors seem to be aware of) recorded reference of such an organized event is dated in the year 1066, and makes mention of a certain Godfrey de Preuilly, who is credited in many articles as having invented the medieval tournament. In fact, he is reported to have been accidentally killed while taking part in his own invention. In addition, there are certain documents (that I have not tracked down and read) which are said to detail the arrival of the sport in England during the reign of King Stephen in the mid 1100's.

During the 12th century, however, tournaments began to become more organized. The single greatest unifying factor which appeared at this time was the almost universal adoption of the "lance charge" which began a mass melee. When the respective charges had ground more-or-less to a halt, the melee would become a swirling mass of horses and riders, the participants hacking and slashing at one another in an attempt to win the advantage for their side. Fatalities were not uncommon. The practice was banned by several popes, but it seems that these bans were sometimes ignored.
During the 13th century rules were developed to add to the relative safety of both participants and observers. An alternative form of lance was developed, the blunted 'lance of peace'. In addition, rebated swords came into general use at tournaments around the same time, along with lighter more specialized armor, and all such “safe armaments” were grouped together under the title 'armes a plaisance' (arms of courtesy). Nevertheless, actual sharpened weaponry and heavy field armor was still used in 'armes a outrance' or "arms of war." These were serious challenges and combats, the contest ending when one combatant was killed or disabled.

Some things I ran into finding the above stuff, which humored and amazed me.

I was amazed to read a movie review of “A Knights Tale” that stated there was a real Count Ulricht Von Lichtenstein…who was very over the top. Supposedly he did things ranging from dressing as a woman (during jousts), to cutting one of his fingers off and presenting it to a lady. I tried to follow up that one, but you need to read German to get anywhere (and I don’t.)
There was another kind of tournament called a melee. The melee consists of two teams with flags on their backs using clubs and blunt swords. The object was to knock the flags off. One of the less popular tournaments was on water. Where one knight had a lance and tried to knock his opponent off his boat while other people rowed forward.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Ryan A. C.

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PostPosted: Mon 11 Jul, 2005 6:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think it is interesting that for the longest time a tourney was nothing more than an agreed upon combat, those participating often getting killed and few if any rules were set in place. Then again why would you waste time with a bunch of rules when serviceable weapons were going to used. It wasn't until further on its life that the tourney saw the emergence of the joust, the 1 on 1 engagement that seem to get all the attention nowadays. A melee, now that would be a sight!

I hadn't really thought of the origins of the western tourney being in the Roman martial traditions, but they did seem to pioneer the idea. They themselves getting the idea from someone else.

In The Chronicles of Froissart it tells of a French squire that challenged the English in the middle of fighting to a tourney for love and honor.

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