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Sub-Roman Britain (Cavalry etc)
#1
Researching the potential for Sub-Roman Britain cavalry, I find more hints than facts. Perhaps you can help me.

The Roman Army apparently used of mailed and mounted horsemen called cataphractarii and clibanarii in late Roman Britannia. Gildas documents “Upon this, the Romans … send forward, like eagles in their flight, their unexpected bands of cavalry by land …â€
"Fugit irreparabile tempus" (Irrecoverable time glides away) Virgil

Ron Andrea
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#2
I would want to hae very ironclad evidence for such assertions before basing a reconstruction on them.

Germany is not prime horse country, but Germanic peoples did use horses. In fact, many Saxon nobles particularly were buried with them. Of cpourse the arriving Saxons likely lacked cavalry simply because they came by ship, but they are unlikely victims for superstitious shock and awe. Caesar's mounted German bodyguard and the horsemen of the Gothic nation make this amply clear IMO.

Sarmatians with stirrups are a very contentious subject, and I would want good evidence not only that they had them, but also that they transmitted them to Britain. To my knowledge the earliest archeological eidence for stirrups in Western Europe comes from the 8th century, and, oddly enough, from Saxony. As to Roman cavalry dismounting to fight, they could but that was not their purpose, with the possible exception of the mixed 'cohortes equitatae'.

As to Celtic horseshoes, I know of a few isolated finds, but how good is the evidence? There are equally a few Roman isolates, but these are usually interpreted as medieval find contamination - to my mkind credibly. Also, unshod horses would not preclude cavalry using Roman roads. They could travel on the soft shoulders, with carts carrying supplies using the metalled surface.
Der Kessel ist voll Bärks!

Volker Bach
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#3
Charlton,

Thank you. Just what I need. Yes, there is great uncertainty when the stirrup appeared. The well-known third century graffito of a Roman clibanarius in Dura Europus, shows the rider helmeted and mailed (the horse as well!), but shows no recognizable stirrup.

An alternate theory, which I didn't want to clutter my original original submission with, suggests that the stirrup and mounted warfare arrived with the Alans (also from the east) who settled in heavy numbers in Armorica (Brittany) about the time the Western Empire broke up. Since many Britons fleeing the Anglo-Saxons settled there--hence the name--they could have absorbed cavalry technology and tactics from the Alans, and perhaps even sent them, as they are recorded sending horses, back to the remnant of Britannia.

Armorica was not completely subdued by the Franks for several centuries either. The Alans are also credited with the equipment and tactics which figured in William of Normandy's conquest of Angland, ironically, some centuries later. Harold's lack of answering cavalry is often mentioned as one in a long list of factors in his loss to William at Hastings.

Many sources attest to the Anglo-Saxons not being horsemen. I may have overreached in connecting that with Tacitus's Germania. Tacitus wrote several hundred years earlier, so things may have changed. Since it took the Anglo-Saxons centuries to conquer Britannia, never subduing what is now Wales, they certainly could have picked up horses--and mounted tactics--in that time.

Not looking for a closed case, I suspect such impossible, just probability. You're arguing "improbable", right?
"Fugit irreparabile tempus" (Irrecoverable time glides away) Virgil

Ron Andrea
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#4
Welcome to RAT! The timing and importance of stirrups have been discussed at some length previously; a search on this site should show some threads. In summary, it seems unlikely that any horsemen in the late Roman world used or needed stirrups; well trained horsemen would have been reasonably effective without them. I agree that effective cavalry may have been very important for a post Roman British army.
Felix Wang
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#5
Quote: First, because the Sarmatians used stirrups, unknown to older Roman usage, they and their successors would have fought more effectively from horseback than Roman cavalry who often moved mounted but dismounted to fight.
Second, because the Celts already shod their horses, later Sub-Roman Britons could have taken advantage of the network of Roman roads in Britannia as unshod horses could not. As a result, sub-Roman cavalry could have ranged far and wide over the island, as attested to by the dispersal of Arthur’s twelve victories recorded in the Tenth Century Annales Cambriae.

Hi Ron,

Well, the second point has already been answered. Cavalry did not ride on the road but along it, as I heard the infantry did as well – the Roman roads mainly facilitate transport.

As to the first point, I must vehemently deny that. First of all, Roman cavalry did not dismount to fight. I don’t know where you found that but it’s absolutely untrue. It was to the contrary a Germanic thing, ride to battle but fight on foot.
Sarmatians are also not known to have used stirrups. The earliest evidence we have of their use is post-Roman. However, leather may well have been used during Roman times and before, but just as a stabilising aid. Besides, I have heard that stirrups don’t make a whole lot of difference.

Mobility of cavalry is only superior on the battlefield. Horses don’t walk faster than men over long distances – after the 3rd day the infantry catches up and moves ahead. It’s extremely important to have cavalry, but it does not much improve your strategic position outside a small area.

As an aside:
Can we forget about these Sarmatians? Some from Pannonia (Pannolonia?) were introduced into Britain during the 2nd century (but we don’t know where) and one unit is still found in Lancashire - Ribchester during the 4th, but to claim the last as descendants is already guessing. These Sarmatians have began to add a new myth to the Arthurian Cycle, and suddenly everybody sees Sarmatian Knights everywhere.
There was no Sarmatian cavalry present in post-Roman Britain that we have any evidence of. I have discussed this issue at length with the author of this theory, but she could never make a believable point that somehow these Sarmatians escaped the usual process of foreign groups inside the Roman empire. There are 300400 years between the move of Sarmatians to Britain and the ‘Age of Arthur’. All other groups assimilated, including Sarmatians and other peoples we know of. Why would these British Sarmatians remain unchanged?

Stilicho can’t have sent a second rescue in 418 AD, he was dead by August 22, 408.
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Robert Vermaat
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#6
Quote:I offer two propositions for your consideration in evaluating whether Briton residual mounted horsemen, if they existed at all, may have been more effective than their Roman Army predecessors:

If you mean more effective than the late Roman cavalry then I'd say: nope, they would have been equally effective. They would have been very much like other late Roman horsemen and they would have used the same tactics.

Quote:Well, the second point has already been answered. Cavalry did not ride on the road but along it, as I heard the infantry did as well – the Roman roads mainly facilitate transport.

Cavalry during marches was used for screening the flanks of the baggage train and to do reconnaissance missions etc. Infantry didn't use roads during marches?? Never heard of that one before... Then what happened with the baggage train?

Quote:Mobility of cavalry is only superior on the battlefield. Horses don’t walk faster than men over long distances – after the 3rd day the infantry catches up and moves ahead. It’s extremely important to have cavalry, but it does not much improve your strategic position outside a small area.

Very true but... what about remounts? Didn't the Romans make use of them?

Quote:All other groups assimilated, including Sarmatians and other peoples we know of. Why would these British Sarmatians remain unchanged?

I agree. Perhaps this Sarmatian horsemen cavalry has something to do with the movie 'King Arthur' (ughbadmovieugh Smile )?
Thijs Koelewijn
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#7
Quote: Infantry didn't use roads during marches?? Never heard of that one before... Then what happened with the baggage train?
Ever walked on cobbled roads with rivets on your soles? Auch! I meant that the infantry (as the posted before me indicated about cavalry), also probably walked along the soft shoulder of the road, not directly on the stone surface itself (I did not mean they walked cross country!!). But that's speculating due to practicality.

Quote:Very true but... what about remounts? Didn't the Romans make use of them?
I never heard of cavalry units that brought remounts with them. Remounts were used by the postal service, not by regular units I think.

Quote:Perhaps this Sarmatian horsemen cavalry has something to do with the movie 'King Arthur' (ughbadmovieugh Smile
Oh yes, absolutely.. Worst film ever and we still get the flak from those 'popular' books..[/quote]
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Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR: Forum rules
FECTIO Late Roman Society
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#8
Most mainstream histories tout the construction of roads as key to Rome's ability to converge lage numbers of widely garrisoned troops to one location fast. Hard to imagine building such a network, only to walk next to it. But I've seen samples of those hob-nailed sandals; I can't imagine walking all day across soft grass in them.

Most cavalries--from the steppes of Asia through "modern" Nineteenth Century--brought remounts with them. In fact, a favorite target was the enemy's remounts.

Early on the stirrup discussion concentrated on "hard" stirrups, after acknowledging "soft" stirrups--I assume in the form of a simple leather loop--left few artifacts. Does that mean the soft stirrups didn't exist or that we have let the potential availability of artifacts drive our scholarship? (Or were they just useless; that's a question for the stirrup forum.)

At any rate, I think I have my answer. I am writing a historical fiction series on Sixth Century Britannia and didn't want to go too far from the best scholarship available. Believe me, you folks are the best I've found. Thank you very much.

"Non scholae sed vitae discimus" (Seneca), We learn not for school but for life
"Fugit irreparabile tempus" (Irrecoverable time glides away) Virgil

Ron Andrea
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#9
Quote:Most mainstream histories tout the construction of roads as key to Rome's ability to converge lage numbers of widely garrisoned troops to one location fast. Hard to imagine building such a network, only to walk next to it. But I've seen samples of those hob-nailed sandals; I can't imagine walking all day across soft grass in them.
The roads make it possible for the baggage train to be moved quickly. Next to the road won't be soft grass, but a 'soft' shoulder of well-trodden earth. I would rather walk there than across that hard stone road. But with rain I assume all used the stone surface, slippery as it might be.
I think they all prayed for the speedy invention of the mechanised army! Big Grin
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Robert Vermaat
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THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
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#10
Britons relied heavily on cavalry, as reported in Welsh poems such as "Y Gododdin". This cavalry was probably near of the late roman cavalry, main weapons beeing sword and javelins, probably few true "heavy cavalry" with lance.

The Aberlemno stone shows an interesting battle scene:
http://www.ancient-scotland.co.uk/pics/aberk1.jpg

This is often said to be representing the battle of Dunnichen, with Picts (infantry and some unarmoured riders) and Northumbrian cavalry, but its more likely to be a battle between Picts and Strathclyde Britons, around 720 AD.

BTW, Im leading a project of mod for Rome: Total War (just released, I worked with Robert and Razor), called Arthurian: TW (check here for more info http://www.twcenter.net/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=107 ). I work also on it with an irish historian and linguist, Ranika. He got access to lot of sources, and there is mention of interesting things:
- a theory about Sarmatians that settled in Ireland, and eventually beeing the origin of the Dal Riadans (but its only a theory)
- a record of welsh horse archers in the high middle age.
"O niurt Ambrois ri Frangc ocus Brethan Letha."
"By the strenght of Ambrosius, king of the Franks and the Armorican Bretons."
Lebor Bretnach, Irish manuscript of the Historia Brittonum.
[Image: 955d308995.jpg]
Agraes / Morcant map Conmail / Benjamin Franckaert
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#11
On the use of roads by infantry, I don´t know of direct evidence for the period, but for later periods in which we have more information, like XVII-XIX centuries in Europe it was standard procedure to leave the road for the wagons, infantry walking along the road. The strategic movement of cavalry, even with remounts (that of course they cariied, 3 horses per cavalrymen was tradionally considered the ideal proportion to keep a unit operational in campaign) was limited by its bagage train, that is true even for the armies of nomadic peoples, OTOH cavalry could leave the bagagge train behind and make swift raids of some days, they coimng back to their train, that was used as a mobile base. Those trains could be quite large, sometimes including the whole court, like in the case of Indian Mughal armies.
AKA Inaki
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#12
Quote:(but its only a theory)
meaning there's no evidence ! Big Grin
** Vincula/Lucy **
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#13
Quote:Early on the stirrup discussion concentrated on "hard" stirrups, after acknowledging "soft" stirrups--I assume in the form of a simple leather loop--left few artifacts. Does that mean the soft stirrups didn't exist or that we have let the potential availability of artifacts drive our scholarship? (Or were they just useless; that's a question for the stirrup forum.)

Where's the discussion on "soft" stirrups? I can't see a use for them. You can't use them for mounting, they aren't going to help you brace in the saddle and if you fall off, they are likely to get tangled around your foot and leg so you get dragged.

The other thing about stirrups is that they aren't going to be useful unless the saddle is reenforced where they attach and you have enough of a tree on the saddle to keep it on the horse, esp. if you are making tight turns and sudden stops and starts or trying to keep yourself on the horse when someone is trying to knock you off of it.
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Deb
Sulpicia Lepdinia
Legio XX
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#14
If this is moving away from post-Roman Britain, shall we set up (or continue) the stirrup debate in another thread?
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Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR: Forum rules
FECTIO Late Roman Society
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#15
A separate thread would be fine, though my interest is in the capabilities of sub-Roman Briton horse-mounted warriors.

All those comments about stirrups and saddles seem speculative. What do we really know vis-avis Britannia?
"Fugit irreparabile tempus" (Irrecoverable time glides away) Virgil

Ron Andrea
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