Hopefully this paper can help to answer “what was naval warfare like in the Middle Ages before cannons were widely used?”
Welcome to this tour through early medieval naval warfare and Dark Age maritime activity. Our exhibition will begin with a brief yet formal chronological jaunt along some of the many notable accounts of early Germanic piracy and Anglo-Saxon navy activity. Then we’ll explore Dark Age naval strategy and tactics before we conclude with a broad analysis of the material culture of early medieval naval warfare.
Faith to one’s lord and loyalty to one’s lord can mean the same thing in everyday speech, but like most words “faith” and “loyalty” also have secondary definitions depending on the context. Today, we’ll be exploring these secondary definitions within the context of a hero, warrior or knight in the Middle Ages. In order to examine the differences between heroic loyalty and chivalric faith in this medieval context, we must first clarify the differences between the heroic and the chivalric in medieval literature.
In a time before accurate guns, hawking and falconry were the best means of catching avian prey besides the odd “lucky bows-shot” or trapping, and falconers put many delicacies on the tables of aristocratic families. But because of the cost of equipment and the vast amounts of time needed to train predatory birds for hunting, hawking was deemed an “upper-class sport”. The female falcon was favored over the male hawk or tiercel because they were larger and fiercer. The kinds of quarry peregrines would catch were partridges, pheasants, cocks, ducks, bustards, geese, herons, snipes, cranes, mallards and larger falcons would even hunt rodents such as hares. Also, smaller predatory birds like the merlin were useful for hunting smaller birds like larks, and the lark tongue was a delicacy among nobles and wealthier townsfolk.
In the later Middle Ages, with the rise of universities and cathedral schools in urban areas across Europe, regulated organizations began to professionalize the trade of the surgeon or barber-surgeon (Siraisi 18). In Venice, there was a College of Physicians by 1316 which focused on a wide range of different medical practices (Siraisi 18). Bloodletting, however, was by far the most common medical practice throughout the Middle Ages, especially as it was less painful than cautery, and since all humors were believed to be in the blood, and since it was believed that by “disordered complexion” these humors could transform into unwanted secondary humors, bloodletting, or phlebotomy, allowed these unwanted humors to be removed from the body before the liver could produce more clean, pure blood (Siraisi 139).
Today, dragons are everywhere. Dragons in the Middle Ages, too, were everywhere, but not on cotton T-shirts, video games and plastic cups from the dollar store. The medieval dragon existed in such things as heraldry, aquamanilia, architecture and folklore. Anyone can tell you what a modern fantasy dragon looks like, but do dragons in our society have the same function as dragons in the Middle Ages? What are the different magical and physical characteristics of dragons throughout history? In order to give these questions justice we’re forced to learn a lot about dragons as they were depicted in medieval Europe—learn how to tame them if you will. Then, we’ll have to remove ourselves from Europe to observe the majestic dragons of the East because it could potentially be argued that the dragons that swam and flew from Chinese, Persian and Turkish cultures did more to influence what we think of when we say “dragon” today than the dragons of ancient Greece and Rome. We’ll conclude by taking a look at a few modern fantasy dragons in popular entertainment and nitpick their differences from the dragons of the past.
To examine how Venetian seapower grew to become an effective force in the Mediterranean, an examination of how Venice herself came to exist must be conducted. After understanding how and why the Venetian Arsenal was the leading European shipbuilding center in the Mediterranean by the sixteenth century, as well as how and why Venetian shipwrights and artillerists by the fifteenth century were world leaders in artillery- and naval-innovation, conceptualizing the outcomes of the conflicts that Venice played a role in such as the battle of Lepanto will be possible. By covering key medieval Venetian terms of vocabulary, a better picture of Venetian seapower can be envisaged. A picture of medieval Venetian seapower must be clear in order to determine how it has influenced the Mediterranean in the early modern period. To conclude, a theory attempting to scry what the Mediterranean may have looked like by the twentieth century if the Venetian Arsenal never existed will be presented.
Today, ghost stories are shared around campfires and bedsteads as sources of entertainment and have little to do with religion. In medieval times, however, these tales of ghosts haunting the living, though they may have been entertaining for some, revolved heavily around religious belief. Purgatory, a waiting terminal between Heaven and Hell, was where these ghosts were thought to reside. Therefore, to reveal how purgatory and other religious beliefs played an important role in forming the attitudes of medieval people, we may want to explore and analyze the common elements in these ghost stories further.
Mega swords, super swords and all other kinds of made-up dragon-slaying swords belong where they rightly exist–in fantasy! But why do they belong there, and not in real life? In Earth’s historical reality, the European one-handed arming sword has become a well-known and predictable symbol. But in popular medieval fantasy, whether it be in video games, books, movies or comics, the European sword has become a target for unpredictable creative reinvention!
In my quest to paint a perfect image of medieval times for myself, I, with wide eyes, enter such chansons de geste, or “poems of courage,” as that of The Song of Roland and can’t help myself from identifying a few misconceptions about life in the Middle Ages.
Though they may be filled with fantastical magic and myths, these chansons de geste, taking place in the 9th century, portray a much more realistic picture of medieval times compared to the majority of today’s medieval fantasy fiction. In the epic poems of Charlemagne, you’ll find small groups of courageous knights valiantly defending breaches in their towers with their shields against hordes of javelin-throwing Saracens. Sieges last for months, and knights are careful to arm themselves rightly in real, historical armor. But despite all this awesome realism, authors love to boon their storytelling with another sort of awesomeness–the fantasy trope. Aye, the trope, a cliché or misconception added for entertainment’s sake, is even highly abundant in the French medieval epic poems of Charlemagne!
There are hundreds of wonderful channels on YouTube devoted to history and medieval studies. You’ll see the channels here have earned their followers rightly for your academic pleasure. Even though these channels and many others have been branded together as “The Community of the Sword,” each one is very unique. Some channels provide a more in-depth look at traditional fantasy compared to historical reality by commentating on popular movies. Others ignore modern popular culture and teach HEMA and medieval armor at highly professional levels. For your convenience and mine I’ve simply taken the liberty of giving each one an award.
I chose the title for this paper very carefully. A few months ago I might have said “time to begin the Great Crusade against Misconceptions in the Medieval Fantasy Genre,” but I’ve learned that in order to win this holy war we must not fight against what we hate–lies and misconceptions–but rather save what we love–truth!
Worn over a skirt of maille, a fauld is a piece of armor that sits under a breastplate, corresponding to a ‘culet’ which sits under the backplate on the other side (although in early medieval times, culets were rarely worn as maille over the arse was deemed ‘good enough’). A fauld consists of steel lames connected by strips of leather, albeit other less popular methods were sometimes used to connect them. The leather strips allow expansion and contraction, which is absolutely necessary because the fauld needs to contract when the wearer mounts a horse. Oftimes, additional ‘tassets’ were hinged to the bottom of faulds to hang over the ‘cuisses’ and provide additional protection for thighs.
In my niche, a popular argument is circulating. Should fantasy be more realistic? One side believes fantasy should take pride in being unrealistic because, after all, it’s fantasy.
The other side thinks fantasy is awesome, but the unrealistic armour, fighting styles and architecture makes it not as good as it could be. They believe more realism can make fantasy more believable, and therefore more entertaining. I’m a gamer as well as a medievalist, so in a way I support both sides of this argument, though anyone who’s chatted with me could tell you I support one side more. For the bulk of this spiel, however, I’ll forget my opinion to explain this popular argument more thoroughly, or at least I’ll try to.
The plow, the ox, the roof and the fool are real sword stances from medieval treatises and historical manuals (check out the famous Solothurner Fechtbuch) and are still used by HEMA students today. These four sword positions are also similar to the basic stances used by samurai in different periods. There are many, and some would say an unlimited number of stances a swordsman can hold, especially if you do LARP or Hollywood choreography (lmao), but these four guards below are the universal, historical ones, and I believe understanding them can empower any novice sword owner. Now I will briefly explain their uses and applications from an outright amateur’s perspective.