64 Military and Technological Developments

Image from an illuminated manuscript, the Skylitzes manuscript in Madrid, showing Greek fire in use against a fleet of enemies.
Image from an illuminated manuscript, the Skylitzes manuscript in Madrid, showing Greek fire in use against a fleet of enemies. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and edited by Amandajm | Public Domain.

During the later Roman Empire, the principal military developments had to do with attempts to create an effective cavalry force as well as the continued development of highly specialized types of troops. The creation of cataphract-type soldiers was an important feature of 5th century Roman military developments. The various invading tribes had differing emphasis on types of soldiers—ranging from the primarily infantry Anglo-Saxon invaders of Britain to the Vandals and Visigoths which had a high percentage of cavalry in their armies.

During the early invasion period, the stirrup had not been introduced into warfare, which limited the usefulness of cavalry as shock troops, but not to the extent that has generally been proclaimed. It was still possible for cavalry to use shock tactics in battle, especially when the saddle was built up in front and back to allow greater support to the rider. The greatest changes in military affairs during the invasion was the adoption of the Hunnic composite bow in place of the earlier, and weaker, Scythian composite bow. Another development of the invasion period was the increasing use of longswords and the decrease in the use of scale armor and the increasing use of mail amour and lamellar armor.

During the early Carolingian period, a decline in the importance of infantry and light cavalry began, with a corresponding dominance of military events by the elite. The use of militia-type levies of the free population declined over the Carolingian period. Although much of the Carolingian armies were mounted, a large proportion during the early period appear to have been mounted infantry, rather than true cavalry. One exception was Anglo-Saxon England, where the armies were still composed of local levies, known as the fyrd, which were led by the local elites. In military technology, one of the main change was the return of the crossbow, which had previously been known in Roman times, but reappeared as a military weapon during the last part of the Early Middle Ages. Another great change was the introduction of the stirrup, which allowed the more effective use of cavalry as shock troops. One final technological change that had implications beyond the military was the horseshoe, which allowed horses to be used in rocky terrain.[1]

  1. "The Middle Ages" by Wikipedia for Schools is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Humanities: Prehistory to the 15th Century Copyright © by Florida State College at Jacksonville is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book