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A History of the Early Medieval Siege, c.450-1200

A History of the Early Medieval Siege, c.450-1200

Peter Purton
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 566
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  • Book Info
    A History of the Early Medieval Siege, c.450-1200
    Book Description:

    Medieval warfare was dominated by the attack and defence of fortified places, and siege methods and technology developed alongside improvements in defences. This book uses both original historical sources and evidence from archaeology to analyse this relationship as part of a comprehensive view of the whole subject, tracing links across three continents. It considers the most important questions raised by siege warfare: who designed, built and operated siege equipment? How did medieval commanders gain their knowledge? What were the roles of theoretical texts and the developing science of siege warfare? How did nomadic peoples learn to conduct sieges? How far did castles and town walls serve a military purpose, and how far did they act as symbols of lordship? The volume begins with the replacement of the western Roman empire by barbarian successor states, but also examines the development of the Byzantine Empire, the Muslim Caliphate and its successors, and the links with China, through to the early thirteenth century. The companion volume, A History of the Late Medieval Siege, continues the story to 1500.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-803-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of maps
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. List of plates
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  8. Maps
    (pp. xv-xxviii)
  9. 1 After “Rome”
    (pp. 1-36)

    The western Roman empire had been disintegrating from a combination of external pressure and internal shrinkage for a long time before the last western emperor was deposed in ad 476. The leaders of the many “barbarian” peoples who had, in reality, exercised power in the provinces for a long time, continued to rule there. Continuity with the greatness identified with Rome was maintained in two institutions : the Christian Church, and the survival of the eastern section of the empire, ruled by emperors based in Constantinople. The subject of this chapter is the extent to which Roman traditions in the...

  10. Plates
    (pp. None)
  11. 2 The Arab conquests
    (pp. 37-64)

    As the great empires of Persia and Rome (Byzantium) fought each other to a standstill in the Middle East, and “barbarian” successor states began to carve out their spheres of influence in Europe, a new force emerged unseen by any of these. Within a few years starting in the fourth decade of the seventh century, the now Muslim Arabs were to create a vast new power that swept the Byzantines from provinces they had held for seven hundred years, and utterly destroyed the Persian kingdom. Pressing on, the Muslim armies were to reach deep into central Asia in one direction,...

  12. 3 The age of the Carolingian empire
    (pp. 65-108)

    Western Europe in the two centuries after 476 had entered what used to be called the dark Ages. The darkness of the time was as much to do with the shortage of surviving information as to the reality of the time itself, and certainly archaeology has cast more light than before on the sixth and seventh centuries. For all the revisions, though, the kingdoms of the Franks and Visigoths, the Anglo-Saxons and Lombards, still appear as poor, backward and little developed. Whereas the view that siege warfare had little place in any of these new realms has been challenged,¹ it...

  13. 4 The tenth century
    (pp. 109-154)

    The political shape and social systems of Europe underwent substantial changes during the tenth century. The Carolingian dynasty was replaced in France by the Capetians. But the land over which they reigned had seen power decentralised to such an extent that rulers in the provinces exercised as much real power as the king, and Normandy, Anjou and Flanders in particular were effectively independent powers, following their own domestic and foreign policy agendas. Below the level of these local princes, powerful families fought and feuded and schemed to increase their own powers. In every case, control of fortifications was to be...

  14. 5 Shifting balances: the eleventh century
    (pp. 155-208)

    If at the end of the first millennium of the Christian calendar the state of the known world did not appear fundamentally different from its condition a hundred years before, with the greatest threat at Rome, Aachen, León or Constantinople appearing still to lie with Islam, by the year 1100 the balance had changed perceptibly. The disintegration of the splendid caliphate of Córdoba into numerous squabbling petty kingdoms created the opportunity for a significant expansion of the Christian states. By the end of the century the Muslim cities of central Spain had fallen into Christian hands. At the same time,...

  15. 6 Franks and Saracens : the early crusades
    (pp. 209-250)

    The armed pilgrimage that later generations would call the First Crusade unleashed a massive movement in the west, and fascinated both contemporary annalists and later historians. With the exception of a period of persecution by the Egyptian Fatimid Caliph al-Hākim in the early eleventh century, Christians had, in fact, been able to visit Jerusalem without hindrance, and Muslim, Jewish and Christian peoples lived side by side under a tolerant Muslim rule, although the situation became more difficult during the periodic Seljuk incursions. In Europe, however, the pope and emperor had been in armed conflict for a generation, and in Francia...

  16. 7 The twelfth century in northern and central Europe and Byzantium
    (pp. 251-298)

    International travel and international contacts were commonplace for the ruling élites of medieval Europe, and inherent dangers and risks were accepted hazards. The first years of the twelfth century saw thousands of returning crusaders bringing back what they had learnt from the east, while thousands more went in the opposite direction.

    This enhanced exchange of experiences between east and west was accompanied by various important fundamental changes taking place in society, some of which would have long-term consequences for the map and history of Europe. National identities were slowly becoming established, apparent in the comments of the chroniclers. It may...

  17. 8 Consolidation and centralisation
    (pp. 299-356)

    By the third quarter of the twelfth century, the same methods of building, defending and attacking fortifications held good from the Anglo– scottish border to the river Ganges and the China Sea. During the next half century, there would be significant developments that would turn the balance of advantage firmly in favour of the attacker, in response to which the builders of fortifications had to make very substantial changes in the design and construction of their fortresses. By the early thirteenth century, neither the old roman walls (except for those of Constantinople) nor (in the west) the earthwork castles and...

  18. Plates
    (pp. None)
  19. 9 The developing technology of attack and the response of the defence
    (pp. 357-388)

    Many studies have addressed the social and economic developments of the Middle Ages that underpinned political, religious and cultural developments. We have surveyed the evolution of the single most important form of warfare throughout this epoch, the attack or defence of fortified places. Few indeed were battles in the open field throughout the whole period, and fewer still of those that did occur were “decisive” in the modern sense of the word. At the other end of the spectrum, innumerable examples of warfare in the form of raiding featured, with extremely unpleasant effects on the territories directly affected, but rarely...

  20. Time line
    (pp. 389-406)
  21. Glossary
    (pp. 407-412)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 413-484)
  23. Index
    (pp. 485-506)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 507-507)