Results 1 to 10 of 10

Thread: Historical Discussion Thread

  1. #1

    Default Historical Discussion Thread

    After consulting with TPC, I thought it would be a good idea to open up a discussion concerning some historical elements of EB.

    One topic I'd like to discuss is the representation of Central Asian cavalry using the lance two-handed during the early EB timeframe, as in the Saka Heavy Cavalry and Saka Cataphracts units. Here is the description from the Saka Heavy Cavalry:

    Historically, the Makedonian invasion of the Achaemenid Empire brought the nomads of the Central Asian steppes, peoples with a long tradition of cavalry warfare of their own, into contact with horsemen charging into contact with the enemy using long lances as done by the Makedonian Hetairoi. The nomads were quick to incorporate this innovation into their own practices, and the partnership of mounted lancers and horse archers would define warfare in the Eurasian steppes for centuries to come. Along history, mounted lancers often wore substantial amounts of armor, at times extended to their horses, as seems fitting for troops destined to engage their enemies at close quarters. However, we also have evidence contemporary with the nomad-Makedonian contact or shortly after it (a terracotta from Koi-Krylgan-Kala, modern Uzbekistan, for example) for unarmored riders atop unprotected horses, wielding long, two-handed lances.
    Firstly, it is ironic that contact with Macedonian cavalry would lead to two-handed lance use, since the Macedonians only ever used the lance one-handed in combat. Secondly, the depiction on the Koi-Krylgan-Kala fragment shows a cavalryman wielding his lance one-handed - when the depiction is observed closely, it is evident that the left arm is gripping the reins at the side of the mount's head and that the rider is not gripping the lance with both hands. I don't contest the use of lances two-handed toward the end of the EB timeframe with late units like the Late Saka Cataphracts - as evidenced by the coins of Spalirises from the first quarter of the first century BC. What I am contesting is the depiction of two-handed lance use in the first two centuries or so of EB's timeframe. It is evident from the golden bracer depicting combat between cataphracts in the Siberian collection of Peter I, dated to the 4th-2nd c. BC, that overhand spear use was the norm at this time - the central figure in the scene is spearing another fleeing rider in the back with a spear bearing a massive head held overhand.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Historical Discussion Thread

    :popcorn:

  3. #3
    Sharp/Charismatic/Languorous Member Novellus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Posts
    152

    Default Re: Historical Discussion Thread

    It is an interesting point to make that the two-handed technique with cavalry lances did not arrive until meeting the Makedonians. The reason this seems unusual is that many of the cavalry units that fought in the style of the Makedonian Hetairoi were not depicted with shields, which it can be concluded that the efficiency of the charge was emphasized by weilding with two hands rather than one hand and a shield (common sense tells us that longer lances need to be supported by more than one hand). But the fact that this hasn't been in use (as you say) seems unusual in the East. Of course, the length of the lances in other parts of the world in EB's timeframe in some locations such as Western Europe seem to lack the lengthy spears. The reason some civillizations could have them such as the Iberians could be from Carthaginian influence, which would have had contact with the Greeks and Makedonians. But as for the East, it seems strange that the development hadn't been around before then, especially with the heavy emphasis of cavalry in the steepes. I would expect the Europa Barbarorum team has information regarding this, so I will not speculate any further as I lack the historical information needed for this discussion.
    My Balloon! -Strategos Alexandros- "What to do with the Epeirotes?"

    Why did the Romans fall?

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Because everyone got sick of the Lorica Segmentata!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Historical Discussion Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Novellus View Post
    It is an interesting point to make that the two-handed technique with cavalry lances did not arrive until meeting the Makedonians. The reason this seems unusual is that many of the cavalry units that fought in the style of the Makedonian Hetairoi were not depicted with shields, which it can be concluded that the efficiency of the charge was emphasized by weilding with two hands rather than one hand and a shield
    Only every depiction of Macedonian lancers we have shows them charging while holding the lance one-handed. Charging with a long lance two-handed is very difficult to do and requires very good horsemanship. It is evident from depictions of Macedonians that they needed to hold the reins with their free left hand while charging, thus not allowing them to wield a lance two-handed properly. My point is that Central Asian peoples could not have adopted the two-handed lance charge from the Macedonians because they did not employ it.

    (common sense tells us that longer lances need to be supported by more than one hand).
    And this is a good case of common sense assumptions about ancient warfare being proven wrong. From the second century BC, we have numerous depictions of Hellenistic cavalrymen wielding very long lances one-handed while holding large shields and the reins with their other hands; it appears that their lances had heavy spearbutts and they simply held them at a balanced centre point.

  5. #5
    Sharp/Charismatic/Languorous Member Novellus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Posts
    152

    Default Re: Historical Discussion Thread

    Now that I think about it, it does seem that the Makedonian depictions show one-handed lances on most every account. Now I'm annoyed that I didn't notice that earlier. But you're right about that. Didn't some of the research say that some cavalrymen held the lance with both hands the moment before impact however? It would be a way to compensate for the lack of horsemanship required to use both hands throughout the charge. Before the moment of impact, the horse would already be headed in the right direction, so steering wouldn't have been a necessity. So from what you're saying, the Hellenic cavarly were armed similarly to the Lonchophoroi (pardon the spelling) in the EB game.


    I did misunderstand where you were going with the entire conversation though. I couldn't tell whether or not you were saying that the Asian horsemen didn't adopt two-handed lances until Makedonian influence or not.

    So the question now is where did the two-handed lances come from if not from the Makedonians?
    My Balloon! -Strategos Alexandros- "What to do with the Epeirotes?"

    Why did the Romans fall?

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Because everyone got sick of the Lorica Segmentata!

  6. #6
    Marzbān-ī Jundīshāpūr Member The Persian Cataphract's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    3,170

    Default Re: Historical Discussion Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by MeinPanzer View Post
    After consulting with TPC, I thought it would be a good idea to open up a discussion concerning some historical elements of EB.

    One topic I'd like to discuss is the representation of Central Asian cavalry using the lance two-handed during the early EB timeframe, as in the Saka Heavy Cavalry and Saka Cataphracts units. Here is the description from the Saka Heavy Cavalry:

    Firstly, it is ironic that contact with Macedonian cavalry would lead to two-handed lance use, since the Macedonians only ever used the lance one-handed in combat. Secondly, the depiction on the Koi-Krylgan-Kala fragment shows a cavalryman wielding his lance one-handed - when the depiction is observed closely, it is evident that the left arm is gripping the reins at the side of the mount's head and that the rider is not gripping the lance with both hands. I don't contest the use of lances two-handed toward the end of the EB timeframe with late units like the Late Saka Cataphracts - as evidenced by the coins of Spalirises from the first quarter of the first century BC. What I am contesting is the depiction of two-handed lance use in the first two centuries or so of EB's timeframe. It is evident from the golden bracer depicting combat between cataphracts in the Siberian collection of Peter I, dated to the 4th-2nd c. BC, that overhand spear use was the norm at this time - the central figure in the scene is spearing another fleeing rider in the back with a spear bearing a massive head held overhand.
    I shall clarify what I think might have been the intended meaning of the description, emphasis high-lighted in boldface:

    Historically, the Makedonian invasion of the Achaemenid Empire brought the nomads of the Central Asian steppes, peoples with a long tradition of cavalry warfare of their own, into contact with horsemen charging into contact with the enemy using long lances as done by the Makedonian Hetairoi. The nomads were quick to incorporate this innovation into their own practices, and the partnership of mounted lancers and horse archers would define warfare in the Eurasian steppes for centuries to come. Along history, mounted lancers often wore substantial amounts of armor, at times extended to their horses, as seems fitting for troops destined to engage their enemies at close quarters. However, we also have evidence contemporary with the nomad-Makedonian contact or shortly after it (a terracotta from Koi-Krylgan-Kala, modern Uzbekistan, for example) for unarmored riders atop unprotected horses, wielding long, two-handed lances.
    Previously, Asiatic horsemen, as a generalization of Scythic and Achaemenid horsemen fought with their spears mainly overhand through a downward thrust, or in cases pertaining to smaller "palta"-type cornel-wood spears, these could have been used single-handed in a rather free-form manner. The introduction of a long fighting lance, the xyston, outside of the Macedonian armies, proliferated first during a reform of Darius III Codomannus, and later spread into the steppen equestrian culture; it implies the introduction of a fighting weapon for shock tactics, not the way to which it is applied (I personally am not aware of any Graeco-Macedonian cavalry wielding a xyston in the manner of later Parthian or Sarmatian cavalry; typically the Graeco-Macedonian usage rather evokes the imagery of the Kinch tomb) the two-handed grip as a tactical application is a completely independent concept, more associated with the kontos/contus, out of which, the artifact from Koi-Krylgan-Kala, at best, appears to be an anomaly, however with its early dating, the mention of introduced Macedonian-type lances becomes crucial. So, in order to correctly interpret the description, we must distinguish from the introduced Macedonian xyston, and its manner of application. Paraphernalia does not equal tactics.

    The interpretation of two-handed application comes from Iranica Antiqua vol. 10 (Issued 1973), p. 102; and Historia 4 (Issued 1955), pages 264 - 283. Nicholas Sekunda uses the reconstruction from the Iranica Antiqua, where he agrees with the given description. Thus the interpretation finds some support, and because the "front hand" is used to aim a lance (As in releasing the lance shortly upon impact, while the "rear hand" follows through the charge and finally discards the lance), it is possible to wound the aiming hand with the reins, in order to ensure critical control of the mount (Perhaps along with coordinated pressure from the knees as inferred from the classics). In fact, such a tactical "preparation" seems rather ideal for charging, retreating, charging, retreating and so forth. Something appears to connect with the lance, and it is likely to be a hand.

    However, the anomaly notwithstanding, whether or not the fragment shows the two-handed grip, the fact is that both of the aforementioned units should be wielding the lance in a one-handed fashion; if multiple animations were permitted, some of them would be carrying them in an over-handed manner, in accordance to previous traditions (Though I am very curious about this mentioned golden bracelet and its provenance; Siberia makes me want to think Pazyryk, but that's a gap spanning more than a century, before Rudenko began any excavations in the 1920's). The two-handed grip is as correctly observed a later Sarmatian and Parthian tactical tidbit (Though far from dominant; the one-handed grip continues to be represented in late Parthian military art, one which may even be couched proper, but most famously the charge of Shāpūr I dismounting the Parthian viceroy in a joust, and the grafito of a Parthian Clibanarius of the 2nd-3rd centuries CE at Dura-Europos).

    Thus, the two-handed grip is an independent tactical development which had little to nothing to do with the Graeco-Macedonians. However, the same cannot be said about the kontos. Just so we have that clear (Of course, I cannot recall writing this description either; I am rather firm in using Latinicized variations, and I would rather write out "Companion Cavalry" than Hetairoi... So this is my interpretation of the hopefully intended meaning of the description). Essentially, there is no such thing as a "two-handed lance"; there is a lance, and there are ways of using it.

    Quote Originally Posted by MeinPanzer
    And this is a good case of common sense assumptions about ancient warfare being proven wrong. From the second century BC, we have numerous depictions of Hellenistic cavalrymen wielding very long lances one-handed while holding large shields and the reins with their other hands; it appears that their lances had heavy spearbutts and they simply held them at a balanced centre point.
    Correct. Even though the kontus was obviously a reference to its size, the two-handed grip was purely an application of precision, where emphasis was invested upon aiming. A strong person can wield a lance at balance-point with a firm grip, however aiming with such an obtuse weapon without loss in the grip itself requires the arms of a gorilla, or an incredibly sharp-sensed horse (Which is indicative of light horse, not a charger trained to amble in knee-to-knee formation with other cavalry). The two-handed grip allows this for this precision. The downside of course, that it doesn't only require excellent horsemanship, but assuming this form of stance under the pressure of encumbering armour, cold legs, and heat-loss requires an equally excellent physique. The posture by itself is a physically demanding exercise.


    "Fortunate is every man who in purity and truth recognizes valiance and prevents it from becoming bravado" - Āriōbarzanes of the Sūrźn-Pahlavān

  7. #7

    Default Re: Historical Discussion Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Novellus View Post
    Now that I think about it, it does seem that the Makedonian depictions show one-handed lances on most every account. Now I'm annoyed that I didn't notice that earlier. But you're right about that. Didn't some of the research say that some cavalrymen held the lance with both hands the moment before impact however? It would be a way to compensate for the lack of horsemanship required to use both hands throughout the charge. Before the moment of impact, the horse would already be headed in the right direction, so steering wouldn't have been a necessity.
    That claim is hypothetical at best. The depictions of the Alexander mosaic and the Kinch tomb fresco both show the moment immediately before impact, and in both those depictions the riders are only using their xusta one-handed.

    So from what you're saying, the Hellenic cavarly were armed similarly to the Lonchophoroi (pardon the spelling) in the EB game.
    Almost all Hellenistic heavy cavalry seem to have been armed like the EB Lonchophoroi Hippeis unit after around the last quarter of the 3rd c. BC. Before that they were just regular lancers without shields.

    Previously, Asiatic horsemen, as a generalization of Scythic and Achaemenid horsemen fought with their spears mainly overhand through a downward thrust, or in cases pertaining to smaller "palta"-type cornel-wood spears, these could have been used single-handed in a rather free-form manner. The introduction of a long fighting lance, the xyston, outside of the Macedonian armies, proliferated first during a reform of Darius III Codomannus, and later spread into the steppen equestrian culture; it implies the introduction of a fighting weapon for shock tactics, not the way to which it is applied (I personally am not aware of any Graeco-Macedonian cavalry wielding a xyston in the manner of later Parthian or Sarmatian cavalry; typically the Graeco-Macedonian usage rather evokes the imagery of the Kinch tomb) the two-handed grip as a tactical application is a completely independent concept, more associated with the kontos/contus, out of which, the artifact from Koi-Krylgan-Kala, at best, appears to be an anomaly, however with its early dating, the mention of introduced Macedonian-type lances becomes crucial. So, in order to correctly interpret the description, we must distinguish from the introduced Macedonian xyston, and its manner of application. Paraphernalia does not equal tactics.
    I think this just stems from a misunderstanding then, as we seem to be in agreement.

    The interpretation of two-handed application comes from Iranica Antiqua vol. 10 (Issued 1973), p. 102; and Historia 4 (Issued 1955), pages 264 - 283. Nicholas Sekunda uses the reconstruction from the Iranica Antiqua, where he agrees with the given description. Thus the interpretation finds some support, and because the "front hand" is used to aim a lance (As in releasing the lance shortly upon impact, while the "rear hand" follows through the charge and finally discards the lance), it is possible to wound the aiming hand with the reins, in order to ensure critical control of the mount (Perhaps along with coordinated pressure from the knees as inferred from the classics). In fact, such a tactical "preparation" seems rather ideal for charging, retreating, charging, retreating and so forth. Something appears to connect with the lance, and it is likely to be a hand.
    To that list can be added the study by Perevalov in Anthropology & Archeology of Eurasia 41, no. 4 (2002) pp. 7-21 about the Sarmatian use of the contus two-handed.

    On this last sentence I am a bit confused though. Are you referring to the Koi-Krylgan-kala fragment? If so, certain reproductions of it "muddle" the details, and make it looks like the reins running across the horse's neck are a continuation of the rider's left arm. The reproduction from the original 1948 publication of Tolstov clearly shows a delineation between the arm of the rider going behind the horse's neck and the thin reins.

    However, the anomaly notwithstanding, whether or not the fragment shows the two-handed grip, the fact is that both of the aforementioned units should be wielding the lance in a one-handed fashion; if multiple animations were permitted, some of them would be carrying them in an over-handed manner, in accordance to previous traditions (Though I am very curious about this mentioned golden bracelet and its provenance; Siberia makes me want to think Pazyryk, but that's a gap spanning more than a century, before Rudenko began any excavations in the 1920's).
    Like all (or most) of the collection of Peter I, it is thought to come from western Siberia. Gorelik frequently reproduces it, as in Fig. 3 e of Kushanskij dospech (1982) and Oruzie Drevnego Vostoka (1993) Fig. 53, 19a-b. It is strangely often overlooked, especially considering its importance as the only depiction of cataphract warfare from the centuries BC.

    The two-handed grip is as correctly observed a later Sarmatian and Parthian tactical tidbit (Though far from dominant; the one-handed grip continues to be represented in late Parthian military art, one which may even be couched proper, but most famously the charge of Shāpūr I dismounting the Parthian viceroy in a joust, and the grafito of a Parthian Clibanarius of the 2nd-3rd centuries CE at Dura-Europos).

    Thus, the two-handed grip is an independent tactical development which had little to nothing to do with the Graeco-Macedonians. However, the same cannot be said about the kontos. Just so we have that clear (Of course, I cannot recall writing this description either; I am rather firm in using Latinicized variations, and I would rather write out "Companion Cavalry" than Hetairoi... So this is my interpretation of the hopefully intended meaning of the description). Essentially, there is no such thing as a "two-handed lance"; there is a lance, and there are ways of using it.
    I think we are in total agreement, then. I still think that based on the depiction of the gold bracer, the Saka Cataphract unit should wield its lance overhand, better reflecting the general method of employment at the beginning of the EB timeframe.

  8. #8
    Ming the Merciless is my idol Senior Member Watchman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Helsinki, Finland
    Posts
    7,967

    Default Re: Historical Discussion Thread

    Just wondering, but could that last be depicting a cataphract wielding a long two-handed lance (kontos or proto-such) not braced for the impact of the charge, but in a "hanging guard" for close-combat "lance-fencing" ? AFAIK that kind of guard is a common enough all-purpose "ready" position for two-handed staff-weapons, especially when held in the kind of "reverse grip" typical of the kontos.
    "Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. --- Proof of the existence of the FSM, if needed, can be found in the recent uptick of global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Apparently His Pastaness is to be worshipped in full pirate regalia. The decline in worldwide pirate population over the past 200 years directly corresponds with the increase in global temperature. Here is a graph to illustrate the point."

    -Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

  9. #9

    Default Re: Historical Discussion Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Watchman View Post
    Just wondering, but could that last be depicting a cataphract wielding a long two-handed lance (kontos or proto-such) not braced for the impact of the charge, but in a "hanging guard" for close-combat "lance-fencing" ? AFAIK that kind of guard is a common enough all-purpose "ready" position for two-handed staff-weapons, especially when held in the kind of "reverse grip" typical of the kontos.
    I don't quite understand what you mean by this, but the man holds the lance overhand in his right hand with his left hand down at his side (presumably holding the reins, but the artist has not rendered them beyond the harness around the head). What is interesting about this depiction is that a) the scene is one of three victorious cataphracts (the two rear ones shooting their bows while the foremost one lances the rearmost enemy rider) chasing four fleeing cataphracts (two of whom are tumbling from their saddles, presumably after being shot), meaning that this doesn't depict a direct charge per se, and b) that the spearing cataphract actually seems to have broken off his lance in the speared enemy's body: the man stabs it into his enemy's back at a 30 degree angle downward and the enormous lancehead emerges from his chest at the same angle pointing upward! This may not be the way the lance was held during the standard charge, but it is our only source of information on how cataphracts held their lances during the EB timeframe, so it is worth something in that regard.

  10. #10
    Ni dieu ni maītre! Senior Member a completely inoffensive name's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    I live on the org, feeding off of what few thanks are tossed at my posts. It is up to you to make sure I don't starve.
    Posts
    8,248
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Historical Discussion Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Basileos ton Ellenon View Post
    :popcorn:
    I totally agree.
    In all these papers we see a love of honest work, an aversion to shams, a caution in the enunciation of conclusions, a distrust of rash generalizations and speculations based on uncertain premises. He was never anxious to add one more guess on doubtful matters in the hope of hitting the truth, or what might pass as such for a time, but was always ready to take infinite pains in the most careful testing of every theory. With these qualities was united a modesty which forbade the pushing of his own claims and desired no reputation except the unsought tribute of competent judges.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Single Sign On provided by vBSSO