Saturday, October 26, 2019

Leiden Maccabees & Vegetius

Salvete Omnes,

Some years ago I cited Vegetius' writing on the Hun horses (you can get there by clicking on labels).
Today, with the series of medieval illuminations from the Leiden Maccabees X century manuscript that includes book IV of Vetegius military work, followed by the several fragments dedicated especially to the horse soldiers taken from his De re miltiari treatise - version by Lieutenant John Clarke  his translation published in 1767AD.


 From De re miltiari of Vegetius about the late Roman cavalry - Clarke's version can be read here.

 Vaulting the wooden horse:
The ancients strictly obliged both the veteran soldiers and recruits to a constant 
practice of vaulting. It has indeed reached our times, although little regard is 
paid to it at present. They had wooden horses for that purpose placed in winter 
under cover and in summer in the field. The young soldiers were taught to vault 
on them at first without arms, afterwards completely armed. And such was their 
attention to this exercise that they were accustomed to mount and dismount 
on either side indifferently, with their drawn swords or lances in their hands. 
By assiduous practice in the leisure of peace, their cavalry was brought to such 
perfection of discipline that they mounted their horses in an instant even 
amidst the confusion of sudden and unexpected alarms.

Legionary Cavalry:
As the divisions of the infantry are called centuries, so those of the cavalry are called 
troops. A troop consists of thirty-two men and is commanded by a Decurion. 
Every century has its ensign and every troop its Standard. 
The centurion in the infantry is chosen for his size, strength and dexterity 
in throwing his missile weapons and for his skill in the use of his sword and shield;
 in short for his expertness in all the exercises. He is to be vigilant, temperate, active 
and readier to execute the orders he receives than to talk; Strict in exercising and 
keeping up proper discipline among his soldiers, in obliging them to appear clean 
and well-dressed and to have their arms constantly rubbed and bright.

In like manner the Decurion is to be preferred to the command of a troop for 
his activity and address in mounting his horse completely armed; for his skill in 
riding and in the use of the lance and bow; for his attention in forming his men to
all the evolutions of the cavalry; and for his care in obliging them to keep their
cuirasses, lances and helmets always bright and in good order. The splendor of the 
arms has no inconsiderable effect in striking terror into an enemy. 
Can that man be reckoned a good soldier who through negligence suffers his arms to 
be spoiled by dirt and rust? 
In short, it is the duty of the Decurion to be attentive to whatever concerns the 
health or discipline of the men or horses in his troop.

Disposition of cavalry in the battle array :

The line of infantry being formed, the cavalry are drawn up in the wings. 
The heavy horse, that is, the cuirassiers and troopers armed with lances, 
should join the infantry. The light cavalry, consisting of the archers and those 
who have no cuirasses, should be placed at a greater distance. 
The best and heaviest horse are to cover the flanks of the foot, and 
the light horse are posted as abovementioned to surround and disorder 
the enemy's wings. A general should know what part of his own cavalry 
is most proper to oppose any particular squadrons or troops of the enemy. 
For from some causes not to be accounted for some particular corps fight 
better against others, and those who have defeated superior enemies are 
often overcome by an inferior force.
If your cavalry is not equal to the enemy's it is proper, after the ancient 
custom, to intermingle it with light infantry armed with small shields and 
trained to this kind of service. By observing this method, even though the
 flower of the enemy's cavalry should attack you, they will never be able 
to cope with this mixed disposition. This was the only resource of the old 
generals to supply the defects of their cavalry, and they intermingled the 
men, used to running and armed for this purpose with light shields, 
swords and darts, among the horse, placing one of them between 
two troopers.

M. P. Milner's translation - taken from here - on the cavalry armor:
Armoured cavalry[cataphracti equites] are safe from being wounded on account 
of the armour they wear, but because they are hampered by the weight of their 
arms are easily taken prisoner and often vulnerable to lassos. 
They are better in battle against loose-order infantry 
than against cavalry, but posted in front of legionaries or mixed with legionaries 
they often break the enemy line when it comes to comminus
that is, hand-to-hand, fighting.

and I am enjoying miltiry history books and articles written by prof. Ilkaa Syvanne.

1 comment:

Dario T. W. said...

interesting articles: