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Knights vs. soldiers

Discussion of topics concerning life in the middle ages around the world, including architecture, history, and warfare.

Knights vs. soldiers

Postby ragnarok » Tue Apr 25, 2006 10:50 pm

Ever since the KKI TLC creations are full of characters who have their personality - kings, heroes and vilains who actually have to rely in warfare on noone but themselves and a couple of friends. Being an army officer myslef I am well aware that this means nothing but a certain defeat in battle.
To prove it here is a little historic refference. Following the capture of Constantinopolis (the capital of the Byzantian empire) the knights of the Fourth Crusade turned northwards against Bulgaria in 1207 AD (although they were expected to fight muslims in Holly Lands not Christian states in Eastern Europe). The Crusader army was fearsome with its heavy cavalry composed of feudal knights - the "tanks" of the middle ages. On the contrary the Bulgarian army was structured like the modern armies where numerous soldiers were devided into different units with hierarchial command. As a result in the very begining of the battle the crusaders rushed against the Bulgarian lines in search of personal glory and were either captured or slaughtered by the light armoured but disciplined platoons composed of peasants and craftsmen. Most of the leaders of the Fourth Crusade died that day and their emperor was taken prisoner and spent the rest of his life in captivity serving as a war trophy.
That's how important the generic soldier is and why many people on this forum feel the absence of the sturdy nameless warrior no matter how many jellybeans there are.
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Postby TwoTonic Knight » Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:59 am

I'm not fully sure of how you are using the word "soldier", because knights were soldiers. Do you mean Infantry (foot soldiers)? Disciplined soldiers? Not all soldiers were disciplined, especially during the medieval period. Knights rode down any number of non-knights on any number of occasions, though during the Crusades, the odds against them were pretty unforgiving of any slopiness.
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Postby Slobey » Wed Apr 26, 2006 10:05 am

TwoTonic Knight wrote:I'm not fully sure of how you are using the word "soldier", because knights were soldiers. Do you mean Infantry (foot soldiers)? Disciplined soldiers? Not all soldiers were disciplined, especially during the medieval period. Knights rode down any number of non-knights on any number of occasions, though during the Crusades, the odds against them were pretty unforgiving of any slopiness.


I think what ragnarok is trying to get at - in a roundabout way - is the fact that lego needs more generic footsoldiers rather than just 4 characters fighting against a hoard of shadow knights. KK2-year three is looking the goods for this though
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Postby ragnarok » Wed Apr 26, 2006 10:23 am

Exactly!
Please ecxuse me but translating certain terms may be confusing sometimes. I mean common infantry (spearmen, archers, swordsmen).
I must point out that TwoTonic is not exactly right about knights winning against any even number of non-knights as shows the battle of Lake Lagoda where the Russian Great Prince Alexander Nevsky defeated the Teutonic Knights (no offence :D ) and both armies were almost even in numbers. You can watch a show about it on Discovery Civilisation, it's quite accurate.
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Postby HenrytheV » Wed Apr 26, 2006 2:41 pm

Whasn't that also why Switzerland was never conquered, because of their pikmen and stuff? And no, I'm not looking for the word "pocketknife". :wink:
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Postby TwoTonic Knight » Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:59 pm

ragnarok wrote:Exactly!
Please ecxuse me but translating certain terms may be confusing sometimes. I mean common infantry (spearmen, archers, swordsmen).


This is what I suspected you meant - knights had difficulties against english longbowmen, and Scottish/Lowlands/Swiss pikemen on a regular basis once these were developed. There were other successes, but much more isolated.

I must point out that TwoTonic is not exactly right about knights winning against any even number of non-knights as shows the battle of Lake Lagoda where the Russian Great Prince Alexander Nevsky defeated the Teutonic Knights (no offence :D ) and both armies were almost even in numbers. You can watch a show about it on Discovery Civilisation, it's quite accurate.


I think you are misunderstanding me (you certainly misquote me). I was indicating that ill-disciplined knights on a large number of occasions won quite handily against infantry through most of the middle ages, often heavily outnumbered. I did not say they won every battle. I was trying to make the point that is was not foot soldiers that made a difference, but highly trained and disciplined foot soldiers that did.

At the Ice Slaughter, Nevsky's cavalry, including knights, made a flank charge that saved the day. It was not exclusively the infantry (Nevsky's center actually gave way). The completeness of the victory was not due to cavalry or infantry directly, in any case, but the cataclismic retreat across thin ice.
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Postby TwoTonic Knight » Wed Apr 26, 2006 4:23 pm

HenrytheV wrote:Whasn't that also why Switzerland was never conquered, because of their pikmen and stuff? And no, I'm not looking for the word "pocketknife". :wink:


Switzerland was under the control of Austria at one time, so one can't say that they were never conquered. But once the forest cantons united and tossed out the austrians in some brutal battles, that was pretty much it for being conquered. They did it with high morale and formationally disciplined foot soldiers. It should be noted that while highly disciplined as a unit, they were often extremely undisciplined in terms of following any battle plan or paying the slightest attention to chain of command. The vanguard (vorhut) would tend to engage the enemy regardless of the proximity of the following columns (center and rearguard, Gewalthut and Nachhut, respectively), and often get itself into deep trouble. At the same time, that very ferocity is a large part of what made them successful.

Multi-pronged pocketknife isn't that far off since they were originally much more reliant on voulges and their latter refinement, halberds, than pikes initially.
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Postby ragnarok » Thu Apr 27, 2006 12:48 pm

I'm really pleased to find that you are so aware of military history and I must appologize for not pointing out the truth about what you correctly called "cataclismic retreat". :oops: But I'm also able to give other examples such as the battles of Agincourt and Crecy during the Hundred Years War - the latter marks, according to some historians, the end of chivalry.

Anyway, the main reason for starting this discussion (although I find it quite interesting) is to turn the attention towards the lack of generic soldiers (footsoldiers, etc.) in TLC products during recent years. I hope that most of you who had started collecting LEGOs in the 80's share the same oppinion.
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Postby Slobey » Thu Apr 27, 2006 1:45 pm

I'm actually really looking forward to this years kk2 line to come out for this reason. I only started getting lego together again late last year after selling all my previous collection years ago during my dark ages.

Needlesss to say I'm lacking quality foot soldiers, although the viking torsos-which I have a lot of-
together with bricklink ordered helmets and sheilds are a great, albeit complicated way to build an army of generic footsoldiers
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Postby TwoTonic Knight » Thu Apr 27, 2006 9:21 pm

ragnarok wrote:I'm really pleased to find that you are so aware of military history and I must appologize for not pointing out the truth about what you correctly called "cataclismic retreat". :oops: But I'm also able to give other examples such as the battles of Agincourt and Crecy during the Hundred Years War - the latter marks, according to some historians, the end of chivalry.


You don't really need to note any further battles, because they don't change the accuracy of what I said (I suspect that this is more a language problem than anything).

But....since you mention Agincourt, let me note that it was knights that won the day, not common soldiers (it seems to be a popular myth to give the credit to the archers, but military historians discount that). .

Anyway, the main reason for starting this discussion (although I find it quite interesting) is to turn the attention towards the lack of generic soldiers (footsoldiers, etc.) in TLC products during recent years. I hope that most of you who had started collecting LEGOs in the 80's share the same oppinion.


Then this would be about LEGO and not medieval life (i.e. wrong forum). In any case, I doubt you will many here that wouldn't prefer more generic soldiers and less specific characters here on C-C.
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Postby The Hordesman » Fri Apr 28, 2006 9:52 am

Actually, very heavy armor was quite common for the rich nations of the late middleages (also called early reinassance). For example, there is a medieval painting showing off two armies of longbowmen wearing full armor, visored helmets of various sorts, tabard and so on- practically knights with bows. I do know somethings on the art of that age is very unrealistic and inaccurate (like archers standing two meters from eachother and cavalry behind) but I do think plate armor was common towards the end, and Ive heard about Emperor Maximillian having a nearly indestructible armor design used by his armies, but Im no expert.

By so, I believe that if you make something that is meant to be of the 1400's, it is okay giving knight armor to footsoldiers who arent ranked as knights, in real life, I guess the difference is that a soldier has his masters shield (or a variation), while a knight has his own heraldry.

But then again, Im more of a norse-person, Im no medieval expert.
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Postby Damien » Thu May 04, 2006 10:36 pm

But then again, Im more of a norse-person, Im no medieval expert.


The Norse are a culture, not a time period. And they survived and prospered well into the medieval era. ;) So if you know something about the Norse - you probably know a fair bit about the medieval period. At least its early stages where the 'Norse' will still clumped together as one generic people by their neighbors.


Whenever talking about the effectiveness of knights versus massed -trained- infantry, it's important to point out that knights, like infantry, came in a variety of types. Just because a mass of undisciplined, glory-hungry knights got themselves smashed to dust by a line of disciplined infantry, one should not presume that infantry carried the battle. Because, of course, a mass of disciplined knights could easily smash to dust a much larger mass of undisciplined infantry.

Until the advent of drilled, disciplined infantry formations (like the Schiltron [sp?]), infantry didn't stand too much of a chance against cavalry, which is shown time and again in historical battles. And to point a fact, throughout the majority of the medieval period, drilled, disciplined infantry formations were not the norm.

It's also worth noting that knights could, would, and did dismount, thus becoming 'infantry' for all intents and purposes. It seems William knew the importance of this even in the late 11th century and kept a reserve of dismounted knights when he attacked Harold.

But yeah - infantry were a mainstay of medieval warfare and the exclusion of the 'common soldier' from newer LEGO castle runs has been noted and disliked by virtually everyone. But that's not a topic for the medieval life forum - rather one of the actual LEGO forums.
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Postby Lord Nev » Sat May 06, 2006 7:20 pm

Indeed indeed. I liked the common soldier in the lego lines because it gave the kings and heroes people to lead and distinguish themselves from. There must have been a kid or something designing KK2 'cause (I hope) no person with castle knowledge would do that, at least no one I know of. Oh well. :roll:
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Postby amadeus » Fri May 26, 2006 3:03 am

In the Medivel Balkan armies. The knights of the Serbians and Coratian armies were little more than an inspirationi and a moral booster for the troops. The Serbs and Croats together for centuries held off the Ottomans, with their brothers Bulgarians and Rumanians to the north.

The armies of the Balkans relied on methods of small brigades stroming down from thier mountain citadels, and the Ottomans were not prepared for this. So the actuall defense of the lands from the Ottomans was almost soley in part by the common soldier.

But, I the crusades, in the wide open expanses of the desert, knights were used extensively.

My point is, knights were usefull in the crusades just because they were elite cavalry soldiers, and masses of infantry could not survive long in the desert. But, when the crusades ended, and the christian republics were suppose to defend thier borders, they massed infantry and very few kngihts were implimented. For the geography of the region was suitable for masses of infantry, and the mountainous terrains of the balkans were resevred for arhcers and seige weapons.
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Postby amadeus » Fri May 26, 2006 3:09 am

HenrytheV wrote:Whasn't that also why Switzerland was never conquered, because of their pikmen and stuff? And no, I'm not looking for the word "pocketknife". :wink:


There is a rumor they were supplied by renegade templars, and this is theory be came widely popular.

Anyway, mysteriously, the peasents of th swiss farmlands were armed with modern weapons. And were able to successfully defend their borders, becasue they didn't use cavalry, at all (besides scouting). And when the Austrian Prince sent his finest cavalry soldeirs to take over the revolting swiss lands, they swiss peasent infanrty (outnumbered 3 to 1 by cavalry soldiers) prevailed and defended.

This is yet again, and example of the foot soldier prevailing over over whelming odds.
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