Medieval Warfare

Learn about Medieval Warfare Tactics, Favourite Weapons, and the Golden Era of the full plated 'Knight in Shining Armour !

Discover Early Medieval Warfare Tactics deployed by the Anglo Saxons and Vicious Vikings and how Brilliant Longbowmen Formations ended the dominance of the Mighty Knight on the Battlefield.

Byzantine Warfare

The Byzantine army was a highly effective fighting force   Read more about the Byzantine Warfare >>

Carolingian Warfare

The Carolingian army had its golden years under the leadership of Charlemagne Read more about the Carolingian Warfare >>

Destrier War Horse


The Destrier was a specific type of horse used in medieval times. It was typically used as a warhorse and during jousting competitions. Read more about the Destrier War Horse >>

Famous Castle Sieges

Most medieval castle sieges were prolonged and could take up many months to reach a decisive turn Read more about the Famous Castle Sieges >>

Knights Warfare

The Medieval knight began to ascend as the most important military body around the end of the early medieval period. Read more about the Knights Warfare >>

Medieval Navy

The navy was an important force, Arabs, Venetians, French, English had powerful navy fleets Read more about the Medieval Navy >>

Overcoming a Castle Moat

A Castle Moat was one of the best defenses and it was very hard to overcome this formidable obstacle Read more about the Overcoming a Castle Moat >>

Tudor Warfare

Henry VIII was a great military man, under his guidance Tudor Warfare became very advanced, he established a well trained and equipped army Read more about the Tudor Warfare >>

Learn about the History of Medieval Warfare

During the medieval period which spanned around 1000 years medieval warfare tactics changed and evolved, the materials used for making weapons, the type of weapons used, and the role of the cavalry and infantry also changed significantly during the period.


The Knight who for long periods of medieval history was a dominant force on the battlefield began to be replaced by infantry soldiers such as Crossbowmen and longbowmen during this long period of medieval warfare.


Medieval Warfare *Castles

Castles came to be used as a central element of fortifications during wars and new techniques to lay down sieges were constantly being invented. With the development of new weapons, new methods of defense were also created.


Ballista Siege Weapon outside the medieval castle

Medieval Warfare *Weapons

In earlier medieval periods swords were cast in the Bronze, but in later times they could be forged using the iron by skilled bladesmiths, with the invention of sharp iron blades that could pierce chain mail, plate armor was created that could ricochet away the blade’s blow.



This led to the replacement of swords with axes and other weapons to effectively tackle the new improved Armour. In this way, weapons used in attack and methods used in defense both evolved side by side.


A medieval footsoldier holds a Medieval Poleaxe Weapon


The Anglo Saxons used a shield formation as a tactic on the battlefield


Medieval Warfare *Famous Battles

Battle of Tours in 732 The Battle of Tours was a battle fought between the Burgundian and Frankish forces under the leadership of Charles Martel against the Umayyad Caliphate on 10th October 732.


Hundred Years War 1337 – 1453 – 116 Years of Warfare was a series of battles between England and France over 116 years from 1137 to 1453.


The Battle of Hastings in 1066 changed the course of English history and led to Norman rule which brought the Norman Feudal system and its way of life with it.

Feudalism The Feudal Pyramid Image

Feudalism System in Europe

The medieval knight was dominant on the battlefield for a long period of medieval history, but in the latter parts foot soldiers such as crossbowmen and longbowmen began to dominate the once unrivaled full-plated knight in shining armor!



In the later Middle Ages, wars came to be heavily dependent on the infantry (foot-soldiers) with a smaller number of knights backing them.

The Battle of Agincourt

Battle of Agincourt

The switch to infantry soldiers over the once-dominant knight also happened as a result of the rising costs of warfare which meant it was cheaper to arm and operate foot soldiers such as Crossbowmen rather than the vast cost of maintaining medieval knights.

Medieval Warfare Infantry

During the early period of the Middle Ages, infantry did not have an important role during actual battles. Wars primarily depended on horse-riding warriors and later, knights.

These knights typically came from the aristocracy who made use of expensive equipment which they used to participate in battles and wars. Over time, this mode of warfare became too expensive to be affordable.

Medieval Warfare Battles Schlacht bei Dorneck

The need for a greater number of men led to the use of infantry (foot-soldiers) which comprised peasants and common men. These foot-soldiers were clad lightly and made use of cheaper weapons.

The trend caught on from the 14th century onwards and grew further as a result of the Black Death which resulted in a shortage of manpower.


Black Death

The Crusades also encouraged the use of infantry since battles fought during the Crusades required a greater number of men to match the enemies’ armies.


Medieval Warfare – Knights

Knighthood in the medieval era began with Emperor Charlemagne. Mounted warriors of the 11th and 12th centuries proved very fruitful during wars. By the 12th century, knights were already a social class and formed the backbone of the warfare of that age.

They usually served as vassals to a particular lord and bore his banner.


Charlemagne King of the Franks Carolingian Empire

Knights were typically clad in Armour, equipped with expensive and well-made weapons, and mounted on well-bred horses. In the later Middle Ages, knighthood also came to be identified with chivalry and bravery.

Crusades led to the creation of different Knight Orders which served Christianity and amassed significant powers.

Knights Templar

Medieval Warfare Weapons

Different weapons were used in warfare during different eras of the Middle Ages. Usually, an army carried three types of weapons.

One of them was wielded by the lords, nobles, and knights who fought on horseback.

The second type was used by the foot soldiers and archers. The third type of weaponry was used to lay siege to a city or a fort.

Medieval Knight Close Combat weapons

A selection of knights’ ground fighting weapons including a mace and morning star

Axes & Clubbing Weapons

  • Battle Axes
  • Lochaber – Poleaxe
  • Clubs
  • Flails
  • Maces
  • Flanged Maces
  • Pernach *type of Flanged Maces
  • Short Staff Hammers
  • Morning stars
  • Bec de Corbin *type of polearm & Warhammer
  • Bludgeon (Mace Weapon)
  • Horseman pick *type of Warhammer

viking weapons crossed

Polearm Weapons

  • Bardiche * European polearm weapon *1400 – 1700
  • Bec de Corbin *type of polearm and war hammer
  • Bill *Billhook – European polearm weapon similar to a halberd
  • Glaive * European polearm weapon
  • Halberd – European polearm weapon 1400- 1600
  • Guisarmes *polearm weapon 1000 – 1400
  • Lances *Spear
  • Lucerne – European polearm weapon – 1500
  • Military forks – European polearm weapon 1500 – 1900
  • Pikes – European polearm *very long shaft
  • Swordstaffs – Scandinavian polearm
  • Warhammer (Maul) *The Long war hammer was a pole weapon


Ranged Weapons

  • Longbow
  • Crossbows
  • Arbalest
  • Ballista
  • Repeating crossbows


English enemy fire their arrow bolts at French Enemy

English longbowmen

Siege Weapons

  • Battering Rams
  • Ballistas
  • Bombards
  • Cannons
  • Catapults
  • Siege Towers
  • Mortars and Catapults
  • Mangonel
  • Onager
  • Petrary
  • Trebuchets.
Trebuchet Siege Weapon

Trebuchet Siege Weapon

Siege Warfare

A number of siege techniques were used during the medieval era to affect the collapse of a besieged enemy city or fortification.

A Trebuchet Catapult Siege Attack on a Castle

These included the mining of the walls which was attempted to damage them enough to bring about their collapse. As a result, defense mechanisms to thwart sieges also improved.

Siege orleans canon

Siege Warfare


Catapult Siege Weapon

This led to the creation of concentric castles for fortifications, constructions such as moats, drawbridges, portcullises, and Barbicans were added to a castle, and arrow slits were dedicated to allowing defense from the castle walls.

Beaumaris Concentric Castle

Medieval Castles Defences Moat

Medieval Castle’s defenses include the wide moat that stops horses and soldiers and siege weapons such as the battering ram.

Naval Warfare

Ships were primarily used for transporting troops to the site of a battle during the early medieval period. In later times, galleys were used to throw missiles on enemy ships, and attempts were made to board enemy vessels for hand-to-hand combat.

Towards the end of the medieval period, ships with increasingly grander fortifications were used. These warships had towers at both the bow and the stern.

Tudor Naval Ships Mary Rose1


Greek Fire Naval Warfare


Early medieval wars were fought by nobles mounted on horseback. As time passed, the need for a greater number of men and the expensive nature of a horseback fighter became obvious.

This led to the creation of larger armies, relying also on foot soldiers.

Initially, nobles were required to bring a certain number of troops to the battlefield, including knights and foot soldiers as part of the Vassal overlord relationship.

Medieval Nobility and Medieval Nobles

Within the medieval feudal system, a Vassal was usually a high ranking noble who provided a service ‘commonly military services’ such as a standing army ready to fight for the king, in return the king would allow the noble to use huge areas of his land, this area of land was called a fief or fiefdom.

Feudal system


The noble would then become a Vassal of the king, commonly a personal ceremony would take place in which the lord would pledge his homage and fealty to the King in his new role as his Vassal.

Over time, permanent and paid armies were created for the sake of conquests and campaigns. This also led to the rise of mercenaries who would fight for an army in return for payment.

Feudal Manor

Medieval Warfare Summary

Medieval warfare was a period during which every aspect of warfare evolved rapidly. A countless number of wars were fought during the Middle Ages and many invaders raided Europe, including the Vikings, Mongols, Turks, and Muslims.

The intensity of warfare led to the creation of newer weapons, better armors, new siege techniques, and better fortification methods.

viking warrior berserker 1

The use of the battering ram began during the Middle Ages and it coincided with the construction of large stone castles and fortifications that were built to withstand the sieges.

Roman Siege Tower

Roman Siege Tower

Battlefield combat also rapidly evolved. Initial medieval wars were fought by horseback riders, mostly noblemen. This later led to the creation of knighthood as a designated social rank.

knight defending castle

During this period, cavalry was considered the most important part of an army. In later medieval periods, infantry came to play an increasingly greater role. It comprised of foot soldiers who were lightly equipped but far greater in number.

A Medieval army attacks

Medieval Warfare: A History Illustrated Edition

Medieval Warfare: History of the Art of War, Volume III Revised ed. Edition

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