October 21, 2020, 11:05:05 PM

Author Topic: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons  (Read 16000 times)

Offline Yora

Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #30 on: April 13, 2015, 09:39:03 AM »
There is a video on YouTube with Lars Anderson showing off his archery techniques. Does anyone know how accurate this portrayal of archery is? He makes some interesting points with how the weapon is fired compared to modern bows.
What he does is trick shots for show archery. I think it's a great demonstration of what archers could potentially do, but it is not something anyone would have been doing in warfare. We also don't see how many tries it took until it worked. In a battle situation, you don't try the fancy thing that works 10% of the time, but the reliable thing that works 70% of the time or something like that.
It's not "fake", but you have to keep the context in mind.

That being said, actual military archery was a completely different thing than Olympic archery as well. Olympic archery probably has as much to do with real archery as olympic fencing with swordfighting. In an archery contest, time is not an issue and you can all the  time you need to get that one extra point. In a combat situation, it's more important to get the maximum number of hits instead of super-precise hits with the minimum amount of shots.

The most common criticism I've heard against fast shoting archery videos is that those people tend to use very low powered bows that are very easy to pull. Which looks good on video, but also means they have little range, poor accuracy at longer distances, and won't penetrate deeply on a hit. The counterargument is that those people do it as a hobby and don't have the decades of training to increase the strength of their arm and chest muscles, so genuine military archers would be able to get the same speed with much more powerful bows. But I believe accuracy would still be pretty poor at anything but very close range (which you usually see in videos), and with arrows being pretty big, they would want to make every shot count or you run out of arrows very quickly.

I think the most interesting thing about trick shot archery is that it demonstrates how fast and precise the human brain can do the aiming and control the arms to make a shot against very small and moving targets. And when you then make this brain stop fooling around and actually try to kill someone effectively at long range, you get an idea of how dangerous those archers would be in a real battle situation.


The Katana word actually made its way from Japan to Portugal, and there's some debate as to whether the Japanese for 'Thank you', Arigato, comes from the Portuguese Obrigado, which sound very similarly. The Portuguese Jesuits were also the first real propagandists for the spread of Christianity in Japan, and the first to present a Gunpowder weapon to the archipelago. Oh, these were also the first Europeans to bring tea back to the West from Japan, so yeah, you owe us that my British friends  ;)
Since we're talking history here, I think it's acceptible to correct each other. It's not smartassing when it's science.  ;)

"Obligatio" is Latin. Though I have no clue when the shift from L to R happened in Portuguese. It's still an L in Spanish.

And the Portuguese were not the first to bring guns to East Asia. Guns had been invented in China many centuries before. However, the Europeans did make some really major progress with improving those guns so that by the time the Portuguese came to the region, the portuguese guns were significantly better than what any local gunsmiths could make. And the Japanese being the kind of people who they are (seriously, this is a major thing throughout all Japanese history) throw out their domestically produced stuff and bought the superior alternative from foreigners to learn how to do it themselves.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2015, 09:49:11 AM by Yora »
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline silvijanus

Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #31 on: April 13, 2015, 10:36:41 AM »
The most common criticism I've heard against fast shoting archery videos is that those people tend to use very low powered bows that are very easy to pull. Which looks good on video, but also means they have little range, poor accuracy at longer distances, and won't penetrate deeply on a hit. The counterargument is that those people do it as a hobby and don't have the decades of training to increase the strength of their arm and chest muscles, so genuine military archers would be able to get the same speed with much more powerful bows. But I believe accuracy would still be pretty poor at anything but very close range (which you usually see in videos), and with arrows being pretty big, they would want to make every shot count or you run out of arrows very quickly.

I think the most interesting thing about trick shot archery is that it demonstrates how fast and precise the human brain can do the aiming and control the arms to make a shot against very small and moving targets. And when you then make this brain stop fooling around and actually try to kill someone effectively at long range, you get an idea of how dangerous those archers would be in a real battle situation.
Bows are not close range weapons. It would be too clumsy. Tricks shots are allowed in fiction. About poor accuracy... archers comes in bigger groups so accuracy is not a issue. One can be deadly even on long range, but it's pretty hard to hit moving objects. They dont fight as individuals. Archers unit let it rain in big numbers - that's their thing and it's deadly ;)

Offline Yora

Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #32 on: April 13, 2015, 11:36:21 AM »
In a large field battle, that is certainly the case. But in smaller scale fights aiming is not optional. If you have a group of 20 attacking a group of 30, just shoting arrows in the general direction won't do you much help. And it's totally not an option once your own people with spears and swords are getting close enough to use them. Same goes for hunters.
Which are all situations fantasy characters are much more likely to find themselves in.

And if you are doing long range indirect fire, then you still need to pull the bow at full strength so that your arrows even get that far.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline silvijanus

Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #33 on: April 13, 2015, 01:58:04 PM »
True, but let's say it this way - we are on writers corner pdf. As readers and potential writers we love the image of individual, renegade looking type with the hood hiding his face, and a bow in one hand. Looking cool like gunslingers from western films. Thing is in RL, unlike gunslingers, archers would avoid getting in close fights. In fiction, especially fantasy, Legolas is allowed.

If you imagine the fight scene, 5vs5 or 10vs10 somewhere in old fort courtyard... archers wouldn't go there. If archer is caught up in situation described above, he would probably grab his knife or try to run away. We talked about fear and survival instincts on other fight topic. Simply they are range units with no armor and if infantry gets to them usually it's game over. Crossbow is a different story, but still need too much time to reload.

All depends on few variables actually. Back to old fort courtyard fight, archer could go for his bow but he needs time and space to work his thing. If you give your character enough time and space, it will work.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2015, 02:16:41 PM by silvijanus »

Offline Rostum

  • Strange Turnip Person and He Who Waits
  • Dragonrider
  • ***
  • Posts: 4075
  • Total likes: 2025
  • Gender: Male
Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #34 on: April 13, 2015, 02:29:10 PM »
In Skirmish type situations where a few archers are spread out showing your enemy a clean set of heels is always a good option. If any of the enemy chase you, you try and draw them into the field of your friends shots and separate them from their own line. If you are in a block and do this in a bigger engagement you may cause your own side to rout. I have watched a couple off archers turn a shield wall because the guys on the end wanted to keep their shield between them and the arrows. This makes a wall very weak to work it needs to have everyone facing the same way.

Offline Saraband

  • Haggis eater, fantasy scribbler and a Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Master Namer
  • ******
  • Posts: 2283
  • Total likes: 1004
  • Gender: Male
  • Geeky Reading (and Writing) Introvert
    • BrawBlether
Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #35 on: April 13, 2015, 02:59:56 PM »


The Katana word actually made its way from Japan to Portugal, and there's some debate as to whether the Japanese for 'Thank you', Arigato, comes from the Portuguese Obrigado, which sound very similarly. The Portuguese Jesuits were also the first real propagandists for the spread of Christianity in Japan, and the first to present a Gunpowder weapon to the archipelago. Oh, these were also the first Europeans to bring tea back to the West from Japan, so yeah, you owe us that my British friends  ;)
Since we're talking history here, I think it's acceptible to correct each other. It's not smartassing when it's science.  ;)

"Obligatio" is Latin. Though I have no clue when the shift from L to R happened in Portuguese. It's still an L in Spanish.

And the Portuguese were not the first to bring guns to East Asia. Guns had been invented in China many centuries before. However, the Europeans did make some really major progress with improving those guns so that by the time the Portuguese came to the region, the portuguese guns were significantly better than what any local gunsmiths could make. And the Japanese being the kind of people who they are (seriously, this is a major thing throughout all Japanese history) throw out their domestically produced stuff and bought the superior alternative from foreigners to learn how to do it themselves.

No, no, no, maybe I didn't make myself clear; obrigado is definetly latin, the debate is on whether obrigado gave origin to the japanese Arigato, and not the other way around  ;) As for the guns, thanks for that correction! We've always been taught around here that we were the ones who brought guns to Japan, but we tend to appropriate the achievements of others quite often, so it doesn't surprise me that what I said was incorrect  ::)
https://brawblether.com

"Poor gauzy souls trying to express ourselves in something tangible." - F. S. Fitzgerald

"Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love." - Robert Burns

Offline xiagan

  • Writing Contest Organizer
  • Powers That Be
  • Ringbearer
  • *
  • Posts: 6263
  • Total likes: 2806
  • Gender: Male
  • Master Procrastinator
Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #36 on: April 13, 2015, 07:08:50 PM »
Great topic, thanks to all!

I agree with Yora on the rapier. A cut hurts or maims, a pierce kills.

A friend of mine (who has a PHD in medieval history and can read all the original texts) does medieval sword fighting with real blades and in the style of Liechtenauer, one of the most famous medieval fencing masters.
I trained with him once and have watched him fight a few times and it is astonishing how much it reminds me on Asian Martial Arts.
I do Wing Tsun (or Chun) Kung Fu and did some Karate, Escrima and Capoeira a few years ago.
All the main principles of Kung Fu, the ways to move, to attack are similar to European medieval sword fight.
Which of course makes sense, since the anatomy of the human body is about the same and so the same things work or work not...
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline Yora

Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #37 on: April 13, 2015, 07:29:06 PM »
Yeah, at some point I noticed that I've seen all of Lichtenhauers four starting positions in samurai movies.

Spoiler for Hiden:



Gedan, jodan, gasumi, seigan. All there.

And why? Because they work! And not only do they work, people didn't come up with anything much better for many centuries. And it's unlikely that they were happy with what they got and stopped trying. It probably is just the best you can get for a human body with this kind of weapon.

When you want to know if something worked and worked well, try to find out if it was common and if it kept being used for a long time. If it's only in one place or for a short period, it probably isn't actually that great.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2015, 07:40:02 PM by Yora »
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline Yora

Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #38 on: April 14, 2015, 09:49:27 AM »
Shoting into the dark here, but does anyone know something about armor made from fabric and textiles? There are some pieces of "common knowledge" flying around the internet, but almost none of them hold up under serious examination.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline Rostum

  • Strange Turnip Person and He Who Waits
  • Dragonrider
  • ***
  • Posts: 4075
  • Total likes: 2025
  • Gender: Male
Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #39 on: April 14, 2015, 12:28:38 PM »
I believe there was some ancient Greek breastplates made out of glued linen folded several times but I have no real clue how they were made. They were supposed to be good at stopping arrows though, which laminated materials usually are.
Jacks were made by sewing a double thickness of linen into tubes or sometimes diamonds and stuffing the gaps with scraps of linen. This is surprisingly good protection. Later on linen was layered on itself by folding it 16 times and then cut and sewn to shape and soaked in oil this makes it very dense and heavy but as good as plate If somewhat more cumbersome and requiring to be dipped again and again to keep it useful. Later still metal plates were sewn in between the layers similar to how a brigandine is constructed.

These all work wholly or partly the same way as modern ballistic cloth, They slow and spread the force of the blow across the surface of the armour.

Linings from helmets show unspun silk was often used (on the surviving ones anyway) and moulded to the head as they were worn. a bit like cotton wool would. This would absorb a lot of shock and hopefully keep your own helmet from braining you.

Cuir Bouilli is worth a look as well this is leather boiled in beeswax and was used for armour. It was so tough that cannon barrels have been made out of it. Although you would probably not want to stand next to one being touched off.

Offline silvijanus

Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #40 on: April 14, 2015, 02:57:04 PM »
Shoting into the dark here, but does anyone know something about armor made from fabric and textiles? There are some pieces of "common knowledge" flying around the internet, but almost none of them hold up under serious examination.
Wearing silk shirt under armor helps against arrows. Arrow usually doesn't pierce through silk so it's easier to cleanly pull them out (helps with healing process too). Hope that helps. Just have in mind that silk shirts are expensive so lord, king or whoever is financing that army has to be rich (and willing to invest).;)

Offline Rostum

  • Strange Turnip Person and He Who Waits
  • Dragonrider
  • ***
  • Posts: 4075
  • Total likes: 2025
  • Gender: Male
Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #41 on: April 14, 2015, 03:32:15 PM »
Strangely Silk was cheaper than Cotton in England until about 500 years ago. Cotton was brought from Egypt at great cost to make banners as silk weaving makes a banner that is too heavy to unfurl properly.

I had forgotten about the silk shirts worn as protection which started in the East. Silk is a protein and is less likely than cloth made from fibres to fester if it gets caught in a wound and is not retrieved.

Offline Yora

Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #42 on: April 14, 2015, 03:41:40 PM »
The Greek glues linen armor is something that gets mentioned in regard to this topic a lot, I believe mostly two American historians built one put a video of it on youtube. But looking deeper into it, all the useful information anyone can really name is one historic quote from a document which says that "Alexander's soldiers got a new shipment of armor and burned their old ones". Which really only tells us that some soldiers in Alexander's ary had armor that burns. Also quite possibly implying that this type of armor wears down over time and needs replacing at a somewhat regular basis, though even this is already conjecture.
What it was made of, how it was constructed, what it looked like, and what it was called we don't know anything about. At least as far as armchair historians on the internet (like me) are concerned. What those Americans did was to prove that glued layers of linen cloth stops arrows pretty well. At least certain types of arrows shot from a certain type of bow under certain conditions. And the videos don't say anything how much those factors match what Alexander's soldiers were facing.
I've often seen people say that we know it existed and what it looks like, because we can see it on Greek vase paintings and the Alexander mosaic in Pompeii. But we only see some kind of armor and the image from Pompeii was 400 years later. What most amazes me is that the artist of the mosaic went to a lot of trouble to use stones in very slightly different tones of white and light brown, which he placed in a way that make the surfaces of Alexander's armor look like polished bronze that gleams in the sunlight. How anyone can use that as proof that he wore linen armor is beyond my comprehension.
Could they have used armor made from glued linen cloth, even though there is no indication for or against it? Perhaps, but shoting arrows at it and seeing that they are stopped from penetrating doesn't tell us much. What I would like to know is how well that armor holds up when you head a sweaty guy running around with it in the desert and perhaps he fell face down in a river once. Would it still work? Some years ago there was some minor scandal about the US army refusing to buy new lighter body armor for all soldiers while keeping the construction of the armor a secrety, which lead to accusations of bribery by their old and current supplier of the old type of armor. But apparently the reason they didn't adopt it despite being lighter and very effective at shoting range test, is that these things just don't last long in a desert environment. Wonderful armor that lasts only a week or two isn't much good on campaign. Apparently that was a problem for the Greeks too, but making something without glue seems much more likely.

What really surprised me is that apparenty quilted armor also works very well against cuts and is not just padding. The wonderful thing about quilting is that you only need an inner and outer top layer of woven cloth, but between them you can stuff strips of old cloth or even unwoven fibers. Without having to spin and weave 20 layers of textile, production becomes much faster and therefore cheaper. And by using rows of stiched thread to make this "pillow" into a series "tubes", the entire thing becomes apparently much stiffer, like super thick leather or something like linoleum. And the lines of stitching don't even need to be very close together. Two fingers space between them still makes the armor quite stiff. Another great advantage: You can wash it. Probably not very well, but when the thing got a month of sweat and the blood of three people on it, then even just rinsing it in a river is certainly highly appreciated by everyone nearby.

Regarding leather armor: Cuir bouilli was certainly a thing as far as materials go, but I've never seen any examples of how a suit of armor made from it would have looked like.
What I can tell you for certain is that 95% of fantasy leather armor you've ever seen is total rubbish. Normal  leather does nothing against sharp blades. Seeing a leatherworker at work, they cut through that stuff like nothing. Since it doesn't crumple as easy as cloth, cutting it is even easier. It won't do anything to stop any kind of weapons. Best it can do is to protect your legs from thorny bushes. (Except when you are a woman wearing fantasy leather armor, because then the armor won't cover your legs. Or stomach. Or chest.) And there is no such thing as "studded leather armor", which Dungeons & Dragons insist is an actual thing for 40 years. Making holes into the leather to add metal studds only weakens the material and makes it hurt more when you get hit.
One type of leather armor that is very well documented is Mongolian leather scale armor. There is a good reason they were using it, which are that they were plains nomads who did not have iron mines and great foundries and lots of charcoal to make steel, and they also were herders, which means leather was something they had huge supplies of. The scale armor construction is also a really great idea, because like quilted armor stuffed with scraps and raw fibres, scales can be recyled. When leather is cut, it is cut, You can not fix a hole. If the armor is made from scales, you just replace a damaged scale which is made from small pieces of leather. If you had a whole breastplate made from a single large piece of leather, getting a replacement for it is a lot more difficult, and it would be a lot more expensive.

I really should add pictures, but I am on my android now and searching and linking to images with it really is no fun. I'll add some later.

I also noticed the post on swords is at a tie with the most liked post of the forum. Wow. :D
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline Rostum

  • Strange Turnip Person and He Who Waits
  • Dragonrider
  • ***
  • Posts: 4075
  • Total likes: 2025
  • Gender: Male
Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #43 on: April 14, 2015, 09:01:33 PM »
Quote
The Greek glues linen armor is something that gets mentioned in regard to this topic a lot, I believe mostly two American historians built one put a video of it on youtube. But looking deeper into it, all the useful information anyone can really name is one historic quote from a document which says that "Alexander's soldiers got a new shipment of armor and burned their old ones". Which really only tells us that some soldiers in Alexander's ary had armor that burns. Also quite possibly implying that this type of armor wears down over time and needs replacing at a somewhat regular basis, though even this is already conjecture.

Thanks for this I knew I had picked this up somewhere but know next to nothing about it.

Quote
What really surprised me is that apparenty quilted armor also works very well against cuts and is not just padding

Shooting bodkins (needle point armour piercing arrows) into gambersons and jacks the arrows often hit dead on but are turned before they go all the way through, often you hit the middle of a runnel and the head comes out the side by the stitching. Broad heads tend to bounce out. Not tried taking a sword to one but wouldn’t bet on being able to pierce one properly made with a sword unless it was seriously pointy a slash would probably bounce I did manage to put a sharp spear through a 15th century replica breastplate and the arming jacket beneath it and into a fencepost with a thrust. The breastplate wasn't really penetrated but I hit on the overlap between the placket and breastplate which burst the rivet out causing the two parts to seperate.

Quote
Regarding leather armor: Cuir bouilli was certainly a thing as far as materials go, but I've never seen any examples of how a suit of armor made from it would have looked like.

Pretty much like Plate harness  but with lots of embossing  as that was possible to carve decoration into the moulds the leather was pressed into. Archers Bracer, travelling chest and powder horn below.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/18014467229445426/

http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/furniture-lighting/a-french-cuir-bouilli-and-iron-banded-casket-5387688-details.aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=5387688&sid=8a408c7d-35d4-4dec-9cac-c167ea4db0d2

http://static.squarespace.com/static/523caa4ee4b0fc1c4a58a5db/5273ec2ce4b03cb93b8418d8/5273ed21e4b0fff56f6f734b/1383329059646/Italian_Cuir_Bouilli_powder-flask_circa_1570_GARY_FRIEDLAND_1.jpg

There is a beautiful milanese helm made out of a single piece of leather but I cannot find it on the web.
Buff coats were in use for quite a time in Europe and offer some protection from knives or slashes. They were probably made from horse hide and the hide was soaked and hammered to compress the leather.

Offline Yora

Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons
« Reply #44 on: April 14, 2015, 10:07:42 PM »
Pictures, as promised.

The famous mosaic of Alexander, not wearing linen armor.
Spoiler for Hiden:

The white gleaming is not a reflection of the cammera flash. It's on every photograph of it. I think I probably saw it in person, having been to Pompeii when I was 11 and 19, but I don't remember it as one of the impressive sights. (I do very much remember the "Warning: Dog" sign.  :D)

I am pretty sure that is is leather armor.
Spoiler for Hiden:


Always hard to tell though, as this type of armor can be made both from leather and metal, and it was quite common to coat both types with water repellant paint to prevent rott and rust. Then they look almost identical.

This is a pretty cool armor made from animal skins from Siberia:
Spoiler for Hiden:
Looks terrible to fight in, but I suspect that there is actually lots of winter clothing under it, and what good is armor if you freeze to death?

I'll probably write something about medieval European armor later this week.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2015, 09:59:35 AM by xiagan »
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor