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I Love the Golden Horde!

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I Love the Golden Horde!

Postby amadeus » Mon May 29, 2006 9:43 pm

What I love about the Mongolian army and thier Golden Horde successors is thier will to adapt and take in new forms of fighting, while still retaining mobility. Like this:

1) Army starts out as purley cavalry
2) Learn to use hunic style bows and begins a horse archer phenomenon
3) Fight Chinese, and find their fortress cities to be annoying. So they create very advanced seige weapons.
4) Go throughout the eastern world and get soldiers into their army.
5) Begin to incorporate more and more cannons and muskets.

Here's the great part about number 4. They do not train these soldiers in Mongolian cavalry tactics, but let the soldiers fight as they usually would. This added diversity and many strongpoints to the army.

And the Golden Horde was the first army to use muskets extensively. Although inaccurate and often a hassle. Their large numbers of troops firing both arrows and bullets made them nearly unstoppable.
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Postby ragnarok » Tue May 30, 2006 12:07 am

Here's the great part about number 4. They do not train these soldiers in Mongolian cavalry tactics, but let the soldiers fight as they usually would. This added diversity and many strongpoints to the army.


Most of the tribes that joined the Mongolian horde (Pecheneg, Uzi, Cumanae) actually had a similar lifestyle, meaning they were horse-people, nomads, who had no permanent settlements and lived on plunder. There are many Bulgarian medieval accounts on the Horde (or the Tartars as they are mentioned) didn't account them using tactics different to the usual for the abovementioned tribes (mainly hit-and-run), using firearms or besieging any of the nearly 50 fortresses and castles that stood in their way. The remnants of the Golden Horde kept this lifestyle till the beggining of the XIXth century when the Russian empire finally bestowed its full power over all of them.

This regarding only the Golden Horde, which inhabitted the Eastern European Plain and not the Mongol invasions in the Far East.
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Postby amadeus » Tue May 30, 2006 1:27 am

Why yes. The Hungarians, and to some extent the populations Bulgarians and the Balkan peoples were effected by the Hunic invaders one millenia earlier. So these tribes were also experienced horsemen because of the Hunic styles of mounted combat.
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Postby ragnarok » Tue May 30, 2006 7:42 am

While parts of the Bulgars and Magyars (Hungarian) participated in the Hunic invasions there were great differences among the tribes which Dark Age historians name "Huns". Part of them were Indo-European (Cumanae, Bulgar, Magyar and probably Hazzar), others Turko-Altaic (Pecheneg, Avar) or Mongolian (Uzi and later the Tartars). Rather than the usual "Hunic" tactics, the main Bulgarian strike force was the heavy cavalry - cuirassier swordsmen on horses rather than the lancers, which comprised the elite forces in Western Europe. The same in different scale was observed among Magyar and Hazzar.

This changed a lot after the formation of the Bulgarian and later respectively the Hungarian state. The first were under the influence of Byzanthine and the majority Slavic population. The Magyar on their part accepted catholicism and followed the Western European military tradition.

In comparisson, the Avar, who were the first to settle in Europe followed a lifestyle, similar to the one of the Golden Horde. Their khaganate or tribal union, survived for less than 2 centuries and was devided between Bulgaria and Charlemagne's empire around the year 800.

My piont here: the horse peoples although successful in battle were only able to maintain it if they changed their lifestyle, otherwise they were nothing else but yet another natural disaster in the life of medieval Europe - just like the plague or femine. As you see most of the abovementioned peoples are no more.
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Postby Damien » Tue May 30, 2006 10:48 am

Never really got the love for the Mongolians, myself. Their culture and tactics simply never really captured my interest. Also, I've grown a rather dislike of them due to all the hype. Similar to how I developed an incredibly hatred of samurai and katana.

I mean, the Mongolians, left pretty much to their own devices for awhile managed to freak out some people. Then they charged in with ever-increasing numbers into areas of severe unrest. Oh, big surprise that they won.

Not to devalue their capabilities. They were excellent tacticians and warriors. And they won some superb and impressive victories in their time. However, those are facts that apply equally to groups as varied as the Assyrians to the Western Europeans.

I'm ranting. Apologies.


Summary: Mongols had some interesting achievements, but are largely overhyped.
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Postby Glencaer » Tue May 30, 2006 12:33 pm

Damien wrote:Not to devalue their capabilities. They were excellent tacticians and warriors. And they won some superb and impressive victories in their time. However, those are facts that apply equally to groups as varied as the Assyrians to the Western Europeans.


I think you devalue the Steppe Nomads(1) a little bit. Western Europeans didn't match Nomad tactical superiority until the advent of cannon and didn't become the preeminent power in the world until the development of breech loading rifles. The Nomad rider was the highest trained, most effective horsemen in the ancient and medieval worlds.

Europeans and Americans tend to discount their power because, after the Hun and Hungarian invasions, they never had to deal with nomad attack. The Mongols never invaded western Europe the same way they took over Russia, Iran, and China.

But overall, I tend to agree. I dislike it when certain medieval warriors are treated as if they are more powerful than they really were. Samurai are an excellent example of this - people tend to think they were the greatest swordsmen ever, but that comparison is unwarranted. For nomad horsemen it is important to keep them in perspective, but for what they were, they were the greatest light cavalry the world has known.

-Lenny

PS. This happens to be my area of historical study, so I love talking about it ;).

(1)= A generic term for Mongols, Turks, and anyone else living on the steppe and taking part in empire building.
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Postby ragnarok » Tue May 30, 2006 1:50 pm

(1)= A generic term for Mongols, Turks, and anyone else living on the steppe and taking part in empire building.


Do you mean Ghingis Khan's empire, Tamerlan's empire or the Mamay's tribal union known as the Golden Horde? And I think under the term Turk you don't include Seldjuk (not sure about the English spelling) Turks and later the Ottoman Turks which quite differ in comparison to the Turkish peoples from the former USSR? The Ottomans in fact were crushed by the Mongols during the reign of one of their great early rulers Bayazid Ildarum (the Lightning).

The Nomad rider was the highest trained, most effective horsemen in the ancient and medieval worlds.


One can hardly doubt that. The Roman and early Byzantine riders had no saddles and stirrups and used the gladius-type broadswords which cannot be used for slashing thus becoming easy prey for the nomads.
Here I would like to add the Arabian cavalry, especially because of their excellent breeds of horses and state of the art weaponry.

BTW, Are there active cavalry regiments in your countries and what they do? Ours were finally discharged somewhere in the 1950s.
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Postby Glencaer » Tue May 30, 2006 4:19 pm

ragnarok wrote:
(1)= A generic term for Mongols, Turks, and anyone else living on the steppe and taking part in empire building.


Do you mean Ghingis Khan's empire, Tamerlan's empire or the Mamay's tribal union known as the Golden Horde? And I think under the term Turk you don't include Seldjuk (not sure about the English spelling) Turks and later the Ottoman Turks which quite differ in comparison to the Turkish peoples from the former USSR? The Ottomans in fact were crushed by the Mongols during the reign of one of their great early rulers Bayazid Ildarum (the Lightning).


I meant anyone who lived on the steppes. "Turks" is meant to be a generic term for any steppe nomad who spoke a variant of the turkic language. It would include Khitai, Uighurs, Kazaks, Turkmen, as well as the medieval Gok Turks, etc. But if you read my post again, keep in mind that I'm talking about the generic not the specific. So I'm not comparing Timur's armies against Baburs or Chingiss or whoever.

BTW, Are there active cavalry regiments in your countries and what they do? Ours were finally discharged somewhere in the 1950s.


Here, cavalry exists, but they ride tanks and helicopters.

;)

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Postby Bruce N H » Tue May 30, 2006 4:31 pm

ragnarok wrote:BTW, Are there active cavalry regiments in your countries and what they do? Ours were finally discharged somewhere in the 1950s.


Cavalry (the horse kind) were an important part of the US army up until WW1, when the trench warfare made them pretty useless, and motor vehicles were becoming more important. I suppose there might still be some for purely ceremonial purposes. In some US cities there are mounted police, and elements of the Park Rangers use horses in wilderness areas. BTW, there's a good article on cavalry on Wikipedia.

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Postby ragnarok » Tue May 30, 2006 5:27 pm

I suppose there might still be some for purely ceremonial purposes. In some US cities there are mounted police, and elements of the Park Rangers use horses in wilderness areas.


I'm well aware about that. There're mounted police units and forest rangers here as well. Just asked if s.o. wanted to share something interesting about the existing cavalry units and their traditions.

10x for the link. Found something quite useful there.
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Postby Damien » Tue May 30, 2006 6:20 pm

and used the gladius-type broadswords which cannot be used for slashing


Both the gladius and the spatha (the gladius-like longer sword used by cavalry and later replacing the gladius entirely) are -excellent- cutting swords.


think you devalue the Steppe Nomads(1) a little bit.


Not to be argumentative. . . but I prefer to think that I just see the value and merits of all different types of warriors. The Steppe nomads were impressive. I don't attempt to claim otherwise. But, like any group, they had their area of expertise.

The Mamluks were quite accomplished horse-archers as well. Who was technically better is a matter two people could debate for their entire lives.

But the Steppe nomads had no effective heavy cavalry. The Western Europeans did. They also had no truly effective crossbowmen. The Western Europeans did. I'm not saying, by any stretch, that Western Europeans were superior.

What I'm saying is that each group had strengths and weaknesses, and the victories and defeats of all cultures and military groups is often as much a matter of circumstance as of skill.


I also think comments like this:

Western Europeans didn't match Nomad tactical superiority until the advent of cannon and didn't become the preeminent power in the world until the development of breech loading rifles.


. . . do great injustice to the Western Europeans. Western Europeans certainly were a power in the world - maintaining powerful states in the Middle East for a good few centuries. And proving their military prowess, usually against each other, for a thousand years. To simply dismiss them out of hand is certainly no better than dismissing the Steppe peoples out of hand as barbaric raiders.

The Western Europeans were as much a power in the world as the various Steppe peoples ever were. The simple fact of the matter is just that they were largely separated -- East and West. The Western Europeans were more prominent in the West, while the Easterners were obviously more prominent in the East. The reason people devalue Western Europeans is -because- they all get lumped together. Western Europeans against Western Europeans. . . it becomes easy to overlook their accomplishments and worldly might.

That's harder to do with the Mongols and similar groups because they fought more varied enemies.

(If you can't tell, Western Europe is my main course of study. ;))

Anyway, don't mean to ramble. Just suffice to say that it wasn't my intention to denigrate the Steppe peoples, but I also don't think one should denigrate the Western Europeans just because they largely fought other Western Europeans.
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Postby Glencaer » Tue May 30, 2006 7:45 pm

Damien wrote:
think you devalue the Steppe Nomads(1) a little bit.


Not to be argumentative. . . but I prefer to think that I just see the value and merits of all different types of warriors. The Steppe nomads were impressive. I don't attempt to claim otherwise. But, like any group, they had their area of expertise.


Obviously. Steppe Nomads were extremely effective on the steppe. Get away from the steppe and their effectiveness drops dramatically. That's why the Mongol Empire's borders were what they were - when the grasslands ended, the nomads couldn't continue their expansionism.

Also, Nomads didn't have the political stability that the sedentary populations had. Each empire would generally last the lifetime of the founder or maybe his successor, and break apart after that.

I also think comments like this:

Western Europeans didn't match Nomad tactical superiority until the advent of cannon and didn't become the preeminent power in the world until the development of breech loading rifles.


-snip-

Anyway, don't mean to ramble. Just suffice to say that it wasn't my intention to denigrate the Steppe peoples, but I also don't think one should denigrate the Western Europeans just because they largely fought other Western Europeans.


Well, to be argumentative for a moment - you are supposing why I am denigrating West Europeans. And unfairly, too. I denigrate West Europeans because I think, given warfare on a plain, that nomads would destroy them (and did, during the shortlived invasion). But I get ahead of myself...

But we're talking about two issues here. One is world power, the other is tactical superiority. Tactical superiority is all about situation and circumstance, yes. The nomads have been defeated at times because they were out-witted, out-matched, or out-tacticed (if thats a word). But, on a whole, nomad tactics, which emphasized mobility and adaptability, combined with their training and horsemanship, made them typically better than sedentary land forces.

As far as being a world power - I'd define it as playing a political/military role outside one's own region. And West Europe definately did that, especially after the advances in sailing and gunpowder. But fighting amongst themselves does not make into advancing power outside your region. It also doesn't help the rating on culture or science. During most of the middle ages, it was the Middle East or China who led in military might, cultural, and scientific achievements.

Now, having said all that, Europe wasn't a giant outhouse. Don't think I hate European medieval history or that Europeans were all backwards. When China and the Mid East stagnated (in part because they were dealing with nomad invaders), it was Europe who grabbed the ball and ran with it to global dominance.

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Postby ragnarok » Tue May 30, 2006 8:40 pm

The nomads have been defeated at times because they were out-witted, out-matched, or out-tacticed (if thats a word). But, on a whole, nomad tactics, which emphasized mobility and adaptability, combined with their training and horsemanship, made them typically better than sedentary land forces.


You are right about them being out-witted, out-matched and out-tacticed but after all that's the essence of combat superiority and the path to victory.

I would have to side with Damien not only regarding Western Europeans but all European States at the time. The feudal divisions and the increasing hostilities between catholics and orthodox after the Great Schizm in 1054, which reached their peak with the capture of Constantinopolis by the knights of the IV-th Crusade, combined let to the emergence of numerous states and principalities all over Europe. There were non-stop hostilities which paved the way for the Tartars. The latter often sided with one fraction against the other and then turned on their allies devastating everything on their way. If the Horde had to face any of the great forces from the IX-X century A.D. (Bizanthia, The Arabian Hallifat, Bulgaria or Charlemagne's empire) they would probably inflict some serious damage but I doubt they would have achieved an overall victory.

So, as long as I'm concerned, the success of the Golden Horde is due to "being in the right place, at the right time".

P.S. You both have quite interesting fields of study. Accept my regards.
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Postby Damien » Wed May 31, 2006 6:17 pm

you are supposing why I am denigrating West Europeans. And unfairly, too. I denigrate West Europeans because I think, given warfare on a plain, that nomads would destroy them (and did, during the shortlived invasion).


Your reasoning here is faulty, I think. Obviously if you give the field advantage to one side, then it's reasonable to say that the other side would lose. It's no different from saying; "the Saxons would have beaten the Normans if Senlac had been a marsh instead of a hill."

To continue with the marsh example, if you throw Genoese crossbowmen and Italian infantry (the sword-and-buckler variety) against Mongolians in a marsh, guess who will win. It's unfair to denigrate a culture based on the fact that they would lose a battle in which the odds are against them. Not to mention the fact that you're basing your denigration on unprovable supposition.


out-tacticed (if thats a word).


I don't think it is, but I like it, so let's use it anyway.


But, on a whole, nomad tactics, which emphasized mobility and adaptability, combined with their training and horsemanship, made them typically better than sedentary land forces.


I disagree. It makes them different. Besides, Western Europeans also practiced 'adaptability.' Most military organizations did. That's why a huge portion of Europe made lasting use of mercenaries from other areas - to maintain a tactical edge via adaptable armies.

As a matter of fact, the Mongolians and other Steppe peoples were quite -unadaptable- in their beginnings. They only gained military adaptability by securing different types of troops and styles of warfare from defeated enemies. The Europeans did the same thing via contact with the Middle East (though they never really picked up on horse archery, for unknown reasons).

Who was the -better- army is a matter of bias and not fact. You being biased in favour of the Mongolians and Steppe peoples does not factually make them a better force (I mean no offense by the word bias here). And since the Mongolians, at strength, never took on a serious European army, at strength, it will only ever be supposition to try to prove one military culture better than the other; no different from the various Samurai vs. Knight arguments.




As far as being a world power - I'd define it as playing a political/military role outside one's own region. And West Europe definately did that, especially after the advances in sailing and gunpowder. But fighting amongst themselves does not make into advancing power outside your region. It also doesn't help the rating on culture or science. During most of the middle ages, it was the Middle East or China who led in military might, cultural, and scientific achievements.


I'm confused by this. First you state that the Western Europeans "definitely did that" in reference to being a world power - and then the rest of the paragraph seems to imply a different viewpoint? Again - not trying to be negative, I just honestly am confused by this paragraph.

I also seriously disagree with China being any kind of world power in the Medieval period. China had more internal conflict than Van Halen, and never really maintained any kind of anything outside of their own area.

As a matter of fact, the Western Europeans and the Steppe peoples are the only two groups at all (in the Medieval period) that can be said to have exerted serious influence and military power outside their normal 'sphere.'


Don't think I hate European medieval history or that Europeans were all backwards.


I don't. I do think, however, that you don't fully appreciate them. I assume that's just because it isn't your primary area of interest. That's fully understandable.
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Postby Glencaer » Wed May 31, 2006 7:11 pm

Damien wrote:It's unfair to denigrate a culture based on the fact that they would lose a battle in which the odds are against them. Not to mention the fact that you're basing your denigration on unprovable supposition.[.quote]

Careful, I am not denigrating a culture, but instead, a cultural military. But, the Mongols decisively defeated the Russians, Polish, Teutonic Knights, and the Hungarians. I don't think it is a giant assumption to say that they'd defeat the French and English too. The only reason why they didn't was internal Mongolian politics.

This also ignores earlier steppe nomads who invaded Europe - like the Huns, Avars, and Hungarians. All of whom had stunning successes against sedentary armies.

I disagree. It makes them different. Besides, Western Europeans also practiced 'adaptability.' Most military organizations did. That's why a huge portion of Europe made lasting use of mercenaries from other areas - to maintain a tactical edge via adaptable armies.


I'm not sure the assumption that mercenary=adaptable is sound. Mercenaries can be just as rigid as non-mercenaries, it depends on their individual tactics, strategy, etc.

Who was the -better- army is a matter of bias and not fact. You being biased in favour of the Mongolians and Steppe peoples does not factually make them a better force (I mean no offense by the word bias here).


It is certainly not a factual issue, since the Mongols never bothered invading western europe, but it isn't 100% bias either. The Mongols were able to defeat a wide variety of powerful militaries, and the Europeans they did fight, the Mongols defeated them decisively. It isn't a huge leap to say that the Mongols could have beaten the Western Europeans. And it isn't an insult to the Europeans either.

By the time the Mongols had reached the west, they had conquered the Abbassids and Song China, as well as every nomadic kingdom inbetween. They had heavy cavalry, seige engines, trebuchets, and were very experienced in large scale invasions. They had a modern style system of organization and military planning and the speed of their attacks were not matched until the German Blitzkrieg in 1939. Without an actual battle fought, I'd have to say the Mongols would have won easily.

I'm confused by this. First you state that the Western Europeans "definitely did that" in reference to being a world power - and then the rest of the paragraph seems to imply a different viewpoint? Again - not trying to be negative, I just honestly am confused by this paragraph.


It isn't whether Europe is a world power or not, but when it was. By your own admission, Europe in the medieval period was mired in internal conflicts. The Seljuqs (a nomadic empire) were a serious threat in the south east, and the Almoravids were a serious threat in the south west (Spain).

I also seriously disagree with China being any kind of world power in the Medieval period. China had more internal conflict than Van Halen, and never really maintained any kind of anything outside of their own area.


Song China played an important role in Mongolia and Turkestan in an effort to control the nomad threat. They recieved tribute from Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Tibet, and other smaller kingdoms. To say the Song China was less of a world power than England or France is illadvised, at best.

Don't think I hate European medieval history or that Europeans were all backwards.


I don't. I do think, however, that you don't fully appreciate them. I assume that's just because it isn't your primary area of interest. That's fully understandable.


Not entirely. I have a lot of interest in medieval Europe. But I try to take a globalist approach to history, and learn as much as I can about as many different places as I can.

From a large perspective, world history can be seen as a conflict between nomads and sedentaries. This conflict has waged from the time the Greeks encountered Scythians, Romans fought Parthians, Goths, and Huns, and Chinese fought Turks and Mongols. Nomads have tended to be predatory, and the sedentary peoples have been victims. Of course, this isn't always the case, because a large, well equiped and trained sedentary force could take down nomad archers.

But Nomads had a lot of weaknesses. Perhaps #1 was the lack of important resources, such as iron. Europe, as compared to Japan and China, had lots more iron and steel.

-Lenny

PS. I hope this has been fun for you. A real historical discussion is rare for me, and this is lots of fun!
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