Medieval War Tactics

Warfare evolved very significantly and rapidly during the medieval ages in Europe. Throughout the period, most of the regions all over Europe were marked in frequently warfare, leading to the necessity for the development of improved tactics, weaponry, larger armies and other advancements in combat.

Side by side with material advancements such as improvements in armour, weapons and other equipment, the medieval ages also saw an improvement in war tactics which grew more and more elaborate and thorough over the course of centuries.

Medieval War Tactics of the Infantry

The Infantry lost much of its prestige and importance with the rise of knighthood in early medieval ages. However, as the size of the armies began to grow and infantry began to play a more important role, tactics related to infantry were also honed and improved. Among early infantry tactics was the shield-wall formation which was typically used by the pre-Norman Saxon kings and Vikings.

The use of weapons such as pikes and long stakes. The positioning of these weapons could tactically vary in battles. A level pike or long spear was effective against the enemy’s cavalry while a slightly raised pike could successfully halt the cavalry’s charge.

War Tactics of the Cavalry

The most popular tactic of deploying cavalry in warfare during the medieval ages was to divide the body of mounted knights into three parts. One of these sections was then designated to launch the first foray into enemy lines and try to disrupt the frontlines. The second and the third divisions were then dispatched to exploit the disruption and break into the enemy lines.

The Cavalry was one of the most effective body of troops during the early medieval ages but towards the later medieval ages, it lost importance as infantry and other parts of the army became more important.

War Tactics of the Archers

Archers formed a vital part of medieval armies towards the High Middle Ages. When positioned right and equipped well, archers could prove as a very formidable force against the enemy. Initially, the archers used crossbows which had a large range and could pierce the enemy armour in some cases. Later, the longbow came into being and its use proved as a very important war tactic.

During the Hundred Years’ War, English longbowmen were tactically used in far smaller armies to defeat much larger French armies, with archers taking down vast numbers of knights. In most battles, the archers were tactically placed at a certain minimum distance from the enemy in tightly packed formations so that they could rain down arrows upon them. Such archers were protected by cavalry who would intervene to protect them if the enemy charged.

Medieval War Tactics Literature

Literature on war tactics in medieval Europe can be broadly categorised into two groups. One of these was widespread in Western Europe and it mainly came down from the Romans. Notable in this region was the 4th century book “On Military Matters” written by Publius Flavius Vegetius. The book was frequently printed and widely read in the Western Europe throughout the medieval ages.

In the 15th century, for instance, the book was translated into English on the orders of King Henry VII of England so that the English nobility could read about it. Later The Byzantine Empire developed its own body of literature related to war tactics.

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