Chivalry: This is how the knights of Charlemagne broke through the phalanx of foot soldiers

After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, a period of decline began in Western Europe, and the achievements and technical skills of the Empire were quickly lost.

Chivalry: This is how the knights of Charlemagne broke through the phalanx of foot soldiers

After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, a period of decline began in Western Europe, and the achievements and technical skills of the Empire were quickly lost. Even the ability to read and write was in jeopardy. Only the empire, which Charlemagne brought together with countless wars and raids, stopped the further decline.

The basis for this was the alliance between the church and the war prince, and he was only able to be so successful because his ancestor Karl Martell introduced a decisive military innovation to the Frankish army: the armored rider. In terms of position and function, these riders were the forerunners of later knighthood. Now, for the first time, the complete equipment of an armored horseman from the time of Charlemagne is being reconstructed in the open-air laboratory in Lorsch. The museum shows a mansion of the time, in addition to the buildings, a complete horseman is also to be exhibited. Swords, a lance, a helmet, a shield, a knife or sword scabbards and belts were made according to old models and with the tools that were common at the time. According to today's purchasing power, the complete equipment should have cost one million euros.

Before the Carolingian era, the Frankish army consisted of foot soldiers. There was no complex order and battle tactics like the Romans. The armies formed in great ranks and advanced in phalanxes under the protection of their shields until they met the enemy's formation. Then a stabbing and pushing began until the line gave way to one side. The elite armored warriors took a different approach. They pushed forward as a group, preferably as a wedge. The force of the shock cavalry's impact ripped through the enemy formation, and the advancing foot soldiers had an easy time with the now scattered opponents.

In order for this to succeed, the riders had to be protected as much as possible. An inconspicuous invention gave the riders' attacks so much violence: the stirrup and a specially shaped saddle. For the first time, the rider sat firmly anchored on the horse's back. The construction made it possible to unite the entire movement impulse of the heavy horse in the lance tip. Her thrust penetrated all armor, no man could resist it.

Traditionally, it was assumed that the house meier Karl Martell defeated the Arabs in October 732 at Poitiers with these armored riders and thus stopped the Islamic expansion. However, new research assumes that the Franks fought in a closed formation of armored foot soldiers and that the group of armored riders was only established later. Their equipment was extraordinarily expensive and the training to become a cavalry warrior was complex. The part-time soldiers of the peasant levy could not advance to this warrior rank. Charlemagne's army reform in 807 stipulated that only the nobility and wealthy free farmers could take part in military service.

The population is no longer protected by a general levy, but by a special warrior class. The open-air laboratory builds a complete mansion (curtis dominica) from around 800 AD. A rider had to receive such a good in order to perform the required military service. The manor house is the smaller edition of the large Roman farms that arose in late antiquity to supply the garrisons. On an area of ​​4.1 hectares there is an ensemble of various commercial, residential, storage and stable buildings as well as a chapel. A professional warrior had to take care of a multitude of serfs.

In the long run, this was not a good development for the protected, feudalism goes back to this separation. The free peasantry is declining, the majority of the population is reduced to the status of bondage, serfdom. They were only there to entertain the church and feudal lords with their work. They were ruled by the descendants of the Armored Riders, who had inherited people and land. Based on the basic idea of ​​serving the empire, the system collapsed after a few generations. The more powerful the feudal lords were, the less likely they were to use their power to serve the king. They sought to increase their own family's wealth.

With the collapse of Charlemagne's empire, internal peace came to an end. In the future, the normal population will be less protected from external enemies, they will fall victim to the eternal wars between the feudal lords. Contrary to the full-bodied announcements about the noble knighthood, there is an economy in which advancement is only possible through robbery and conquest. With his bloodthirsty war songs, the warrior poet Bertran de Born is regarded as a quarrelsome muddlehead of the High Middle Ages. In fact, the little country gentleman had rightly recognized that in a society where perpetual peace reigned, there could be no place for barons like himself, and they could only gain power and prominence in a time of war.

The combined attack of a group of heavy cavalry also recedes into the background in times of local small wars. The feudal knight fights alongside the men of his levy, the Glewe. Among them were riflemen and foot soldiers. Rather than the dashing cavalry charges Hollywood loves, these groups advance slowly. The heavily armored knights are accompanied by the men of their entourage. In battle they shield him and his horse, the knight himself fights from his horse and protected by his armor as if from a tower. The battle-decisive effect of the heavy cavalry could only develop in the context of the military amateurism of the epoch. The Roman legions would have dug trenches on the field and erected trellises of spears as a defense against heavy cavalry. They also knew that no horseman could break through a triple chain of heavy spears if they were supported in the ground.

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