The Hattin Campaign and the Triumph of Saladin in 1187

Medieval politics make modern politics look like child’s play.  If any act from medieval times highlights this it is the Hattin Campaign of 1187 in which the entire military might of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem was destroyed because the Christians themselves collectively acted stupidly due to internal political factors in the face of an existential external threat.  The final campaign of the Kingdom of Jerusalem is best seen as an object lesson of what happens when you let internal politics direct external actions. In 1186 Guy de Lusignan became king of Jerusalem through his wife Sibylla after the death of Baldwin V while in his minority.  The coronation was … Read more…

Book Review: The Medieval Fortress by J.E. & H.W. Kaufmann

The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts, And Walled Cities Of The Middle Ages is a good study of the art and methods of fortifications and castles built in Eastern and Western Europe during the Middle Ages from the fall of Rome to the early modern period. The book is right around 300 pages long and includes many illustrations.  It also includes a glossary, which is very helpful to those that are not familiar with the technical terms for elements of castles and fortifications. It is separated into 5 chapters, the first deals with the elements of fortification, the next three are chronological about the development of castles and the final chapter covers … Read more…

Book Review: Castles and Fortified Cities of Medieval Europe: An Illustrated History by Jean-Denis G. G. Lepage

Castles and Fortified Cities of Medieval Europe: An Illustrated History is a very interesting book.  I picked it up because we had a three hour bus ride to get to my son’s football game and my wife was using my Kindle.  I am certainly glad I did. This is a well written 330 page book.  It includes an index and bibliography, both unfortunately short.  The book is organized chronologically in five chapters covering fortification and castles from the 5th to the 16th century A.D.  Each chapter is further subdivided geographically and covers both eastern and Western Europe and the Middle East. There are many illustrations, both ground plans and sketches that help to illuminate the … Read more…

How to Build and Fire a Medieval Trebuchet

Who would not want to build their own Trebuchet and rain down destruction on various targets in their backyard? I know I did. Luckily, I got a Trebuchet kit from my wife for Christmas. The below video is the result of that and one I put together for a class I am currently taking on Desktop Video Production. The assignment was to make a five minute video on a topic of our choice. It had to have x-number of transitions, background music, narration and video effects. That is why there are so many crazy transitions in the video. Believe me, shooting it is way more fun that watching me shoot it. That doesn’t bother me because … Read more…

Book Review: Anatomy of the Castle by John Gibson

Anatomy of the Castle by John Gibson is perhaps the best book describing Castles aimed at the general reader that I have ever read.  The author manages to make the somewhat technical and dry language of describing castles and their construction lovely and entertaining. It is a coffee table sized book that is jam packed with beautiful color photos of castles from all over Europe and the Middle East.  There are 200 pages with a glossary, index, and bibliography.  It is divided into 6 chronological chapters with a lengthy introduction that describes the development of the art of fortification up to the development of the first castles.  He also includes a chapter describing what living in a castle must have truly been like.  The glossary is … Read more…

Burg Waldeck in Waldeck, Germany

Below is a series of photos I took recently when my family and I visited the castle ruins of Burg Waldeck in Waldeck, Germany.  The top photo is a screen shot from Google Earth showing the layout of the castle as it appears today. Burg Waldeck is a typical Keep and Bailey type castle.  There is a rounded keep at the center of the complex with a small courtyard and various outbuildings.  It is surrounded by a curtain wall that is currently about 10-15 foot high with rounded turrets defending the most vulnerable parts of the wall.  It sits on top of fairly steep hill that rises about 300-350 feet … Read more…

Medieval Swordsmanship

Found a really interesting website today about a society aiming to recreate medieval and renaissance sword-fighting methods based on the instructions produced during the period.  It is the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts.  They have a fairly extensive website with plenty of interesting discussion of medieval fighting styles.  They also rightly point out that what we see in movies is about as far removed from reality as The Hobbit.  Very interesting site and worth checking out.

Book Review: The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle by Michael Stephenson

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the publisher for purposes of reviewing it. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Michael Stephenson’s work The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle follows somewhat in the tradition of classics such a Keegan’s The Face of Battle and Victor David Hanson’s The Western Way of War. Where it differs from these two works as that while Keegan and Hanson focus on specific battles or time periods this book aims to be a more general description of the experience of combat throughout recorded history.  In that, the book is amazingly … Read more…

De Re Militari is back up

Just a quick info post.

Anybody who has tried to follow the link to DeReMilitari on the sidebar of the blog in the past few weeks has discovered that Google says it is a malware hosting site.  They were hacked at the beginning of the month but are now back up.  They are having to completely rebuild their site because apparently the malware got them good.  So far they have their review section up because it was not affected by the hack.  The rest of their site should come back up over the next few weeks or months.

Glad to see them back they are an invaluable starting point for Medieval research.

The Combat of the Thirty

Here is an interesting episode that occurred in March, 1351 during the Hundred Years War.  It occurred during the Hundred Years War but was only really a peripheral part of it.  The combat occurred between the French garrison of Josselin Castle and the English garrison of Ploërmel Castle Brittany, part of modern day France. It was instigated because the English were not abiding by the terms a truce that had been made locally. The challenge to combat was issued by the French commander Jean de Beaumanoir to Robert Bramborough. On 26 or 27 March, 1351 the challengers met each other midway between the two castles with 29 retainers giving each … Read more…

Medieval Armor was heavy; Is this a Surprise?

I ran across this article on discovery news today: Heavy Armor Led to French Knights’ Loss.The article immediately irritated me. Perhaps it was the way the article was written or perhaps it was the content of the interviews with the guys who did the study. The gist of the story is that some English researchers had some medieval reenactor volunteers don period medieval armor and do various exercises on a treadmill while their various bodily functions were measured such as breathing, heart rate, etc. The article makes out as if it is a surprise that one, medieval suits of plate mail were heavy and two, that knights tire rapidly while … Read more…

Book Review: The Face of Battle by John Keegan

I have to caveat this review somewhat.  I wrote this book review for an undergrad military history course I took almost six-years ago.  I still think that the The Face of Battle is an excellent book.  I have modified my opinion of Keegan as a historian somewhat though.  I think he is somewhat overrated and he tends to simplistic British-centric judgements in his analysis of military history.  He is a good historian, but sometimes his interpretations of events are not all they could be. “The Face of Battle” by John Keegan has become a classic in the thirty years since it was published.  The book is an attempt to examine … Read more…

The Preparedness of the First Crusade

The First Crusade was arguably the most successful of the various numbered crusades; however, they were not particularly well equipped for a campaign in Asia Minor.  It is no surprise that they were not, as the climate in Anatolia is completely different from Europe.  What is amazing is the way in which the crusaders persevered in spite of the hardships they had to endure throughout the march across Asia Minor. The main crusader army seems to have had an appreciation for the difficulties involved in a march across Anatolia; no doubt; the counsel of the Byzantine emperor, Alexius I Comnenus (1081–1118) was helpful in their choice of march route.  Prior … Read more…

Book Review: On Roman Military Matters by Vegetius

This little tome by the Roman scholar Flavius Vegetius Renatus was written sometime in the 5th Century A.D. and is known by several titles, the original Latin title is De re Militari but is variously known as the Epitome of Military Science and On Roman Military Matters, the copy I have uses the latter title. This is one of the few works that survived from antiquity in continuous publication, if you will. It was used as a text on military operations throughout the Middle Ages and has survived to this day. Just about every king, noble, and military leader of the Middle Ages had a copy of this book and … Read more…

Photo Essay: Geichberg Castle

Geichberg Castle from the North with NW Tower and Schoss

I got a chance to visit the Geichberg Castle yesterday and decided to post a picture esay of the castle and a brief description of the fortifications and discuss the strong and weak points of the fortifications. The Geichberg is a castle located about 10km west of Bamberg Germany in Unter Franken or Lower Franconia in English.  The castle was completed no later than 1125 as that is the first time it was recorded in documents.  It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times in in its history.  The current incarnation originally dates from 1390 but was extensively renovate in the early 17th century. According to the history piece at … Read more…