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"Proof of Anglo Saxon use of cavalry...(?)" Topic

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25 May 2020 10:51 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Proof of Anglo Saxon use of cavalry,,,(?)" to "Proof of Anglo Saxon use of cavalry...(?)"Removed from Modern Discussion (1946 to 2008) boardRemoved from Vietnam War board
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    25 May 2020 8:10 a.m. PST
    25 May 2020 8:10 a.m. PST

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Hobhood425 May 2020 7:10 a.m. PST

I had not come across this until today – I was tipped off by a response to a YouTube video by Scholar Gladiatoria. Maybe I am late to the party here, but this quote from the Anglo Saxon 'Maxims 1' seems to clearly demonstrate the use of cavalry in warfare:

'The king will be eager for authority—
hateful is he who claims the land, beloved he who offers more…

An earl must ride upon a horse's back, the cavalry must ride forth together,
the infantrymen must stand firmly. It suits a woman to be at her table—…'

The section which differentiates cavalry and infantry formations surely indicates that they existed as separate battlefield arms. To me there is also an implicit hierarchy here – Kings come first, then Earls then Cavalry, Infantry and …women last! Is this putting forward something more like continental society where horse soldiers were of higher social standing than those on foot?

The poem is from a 9th century manuscript but the style apparently dates from the eighth.



Hobhood425 May 2020 7:16 a.m. PST

The first post is not mine…bug issues?

Aethelflaeda was framed25 May 2020 7:42 a.m. PST

Mounted infantry (but highborn) might still ride to the battlefield, even if they dismount at the time of the fray. Calling them cavalry might be a description of their social class, not military unit type. Within the context of the poem, which is a Confucian-like statement of proper or harmonius roles for castes in society, I find it unlikely to be otherwise.

The tradition in Latin was to describe aristocrats and highborn gentlemen as horse-riders or owners, ie equestrians, it has less to do with their battlefield roles. Cavalry, or caballero shares this as much as Knight or Ritter.

Huscarle Supporting Member of TMP25 May 2020 8:17 a.m. PST

Earl Ralph the Timid tried using Anglo-Saxon cavalry against the Welsh; it was a failure. The only other instances that come to mind, are during various pursuits when the enemy were retreating home.

4DJones25 May 2020 9:55 a.m. PST

The Northumbrian Angles may have used the remnants of the Gododdin as cavalry allies. It's been suggested that the mounted figures depicted on the Aberlemno stone are Anglian/British cavalry rather than Picts.

GurKhan25 May 2020 11:29 a.m. PST

"Eorl sceal on eos boge, eorod sceal getrume ridan,
fæste feþa stondan."

"eorád" or "eorod" is literally something like "horse-rider"; it doesn't necessarily imply "cavalry" in the sense of "rides horse AND usually fights from it".

Prince Rupert of the Rhine25 May 2020 1:07 p.m. PST

I always thought Guy Halsall made some good points in his 2000 Wargames Illustrated articles on post roman warfare in Britain.

"Another aspect of fluidity concerns mounted and dismounted warfare. It is clear from the poetry that British warriors could fight mounted. Their method of fighting was very mobile, throwing javelins at the enemy before closing for hand-to-hand fighting; again warfare was mobile, fluid, fast and furious. But it is also clear from the poetry that these warriors were capable of fighting dismounted too. There was no rigid division between ‘cavalry' and ‘infantry'; the specialist post-Roman warrior was a master of several forms of fighting: on horse and on foot; individually and in formed bodies; at a distance and hand-to-hand. It may be that fluid mounted skirmishing between aristocrats was more common in the ‘endemic' raiding level of warfare, and that in larger scale warfare, aristocrats might dismount to stiffen the ranks of ‘levied' spearmen. Remember, though, that this was an age before the introduction of the stirrup. Although it has been shown that the stirrup was not decisive in creating ‘shock cavalry', it has also been argued that the stirrup is important in striking downward blows, and they certainly anchor a horseman more securely. In this period, dismounted warriors who got in amongst riders might more easily tip them from the saddle. The commander of mounted troops would then be concerned with keeping his troops out of the range of a sudden rush by foot-warriors, or being pressed up against an obstacle. Instead he would try to wear down an enemy by skirmishing until they were demoralized or disorganized; close combat should ideally be brought about by a charge, when the extra impact of the horse and rider could be more decisive, and the morale effect of which might break an opponent before contact. On the other hand, the commander of dismounted warriors would want to keep in good order and press forward against mounted skirmishers until they were driven off, pushed up against an obstacle, close enough to be hit by volleys of javelins or other missiles, or sufficiently near for a short rush to be able to get his spearmen in amongst the horsemen.
As was proposed in part 5, ‘Saxon' as well as ‘British' armies should be allowed to include mounted warriors. The idea that the Britons fought on horseback and the Saxons on foot is based upon an outdated view of a rigid racial/cultural binary division between two ‘peoples'. Later Old English poetry makes it fairly clear that even later ‘Anglo-Saxon' armies included mounted troops. Spurs and horse-gear are sometimes found in furnished burials in this period; mound 19 at Sutton Hoo covered a young warrior buried with his horse, and another ‘horse-burial' has recently been found. Given the nature of the burial display with its emphasis on warlike aspects, it seems that the horse was an integral – and symbolic – part of the warrior's equipment; this suggests that the horse was more than just any old nag to move a foot-sore ‘Saxon' from A to B. Later seventh-century saints' lives make the same point about the noble Anglo-Saxon warrior. The Life of Wilfrid[iv] in fact mentions King Ecgfrith of Northumbria defeating the Picts with a mounted army. Clearly ‘Saxon' warriors could fight mounted as well as on foot."

Hobhood429 May 2020 2:26 p.m. PST

Thanks for the contributions. Checking further I realise the quote is mentioned in a few books. The contributor on YouTube points out the following:

"eorl sceal on eos boge, eorod sceal getrume ridan, fæste feþa stondan
("a nobleman goes on the arched back of a war-horse, a troop of cavalry must ride in a body, the foot-soldier must stand fast")

Note that eorod here refers clearly to cavalry, since the author says it has to ride. Moreover, a clear distinction seems to be made between horsemen and footmen in battle. Maxims is a poem about common sense and truisms (for an Anglo-Saxon point of view), so there's that."

I'd agree. Why mention Infantry 'standing fast' in battle in the same section as horsemen if those horsemen weren't also being regarded as 'in battle'? There are relatively few references to any kind of Anglo Saxon organisation in battle. We have a few references to infantry only combat (The Battle of Malden, the Bayeux tapestry come to mind). We have a few references to what could be Saxon cavalry combat, including the Aberlemno stone.The Repton Stone shows a well armed warrior on horseback, although this is not obviously a battle image. The Franks casket shows Saxons fighting on foot, but the images depict an skirmish attack on a hall and a siege, neither of which would involve cavalry. I'd agree with Halsall here…

dapeters01 Jun 2020 5:53 a.m. PST

Were thees written in old English or Latin?

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