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Warfare in Tenth-Century Germany

Warfare in Tenth-Century Germany

David S. Bachrach
Volume: 37
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 328
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt1x7355
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  • Book Info
    Warfare in Tenth-Century Germany
    Book Description:

    Over the course of half a century, the first two kings of the Saxon dynasty, Henry I (919-936) and Otto I (936-973), waged war across the length and breadth of Europe. Ottonian armies campaigned from the banks of the Oder in the east to the Seine in the west, and from the shores of the Baltic Sea in the north, to the Adriatic and Mediterranean in the south. In the course of scores of military operations, accompanied by diligent diplomatic efforts, Henry and Otto recreated the empire of Charlemagne, and established themselves as the hegemonic rulers in Western Europe. This book shows how Henry I and Otto I achieved this remarkable feat, and provides a comprehensive analysis of the organization, training, morale, tactics, and strategy of Ottonian armies over a long half century. Drawing on a vast array of sources, including exceptionally important information developed through archaeological excavations, it demonstrates that the Ottonian kings commanded very large armies in military operations that focused primarily on the capture of fortifications, including many fortress cities of Roman origin. This long-term military success shows that Henry I and Otto I, building upon the inheritance of their Carolingian predecessors, and ultimately that of the late Roman empire, possessed an extensive and well-organized administration, and indeed, bureaucracy, which mobilized the resources that were necessary for the successful conduct of war. David S. Bachrach is Associate Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-043-9
    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 Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. x-xiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    Over the course of half a century, the first two kings of the Saxon dynasty, Henry I (919–936) and Otto I (936–973), waged war across the length and breadth of Europe. Ottonian armies campaigned from the banks of the Oder in the east to the Seine in the west, and from the shores of the Baltic Sea in the north, to the Adriatic and Mediterranean in the south. In the course of scores of military operations, accompanied by diligent diplomatic efforts, Henry and Otto defeated Lotharingians, West Franks, Danes, Obodrites, Weleti, Sorbs, Bohemians, Hungarians, Lombards, and Byzantines, as...

  8. 1 Restoring Francia Orientalis: Henry I’s Long Term Strategy
    (pp. 14-38)

    When he took up his quill in 967 or 968 and considered the events of the past fifty years, the Saxon monk and historian Widukind expressed pride at the success of the first two kings of the Saxon dynasty, Henry I (919–936) and Otto I (936–973).¹ According to Widukind, Henry restored unity to the eastern kingdom, expanded his territory eastwards from the Saale to the Elbe river, established hegemony over the Danes, the trans-Elben Slavs, and the Bohemians, and also dominated affairs in the West Frankish kingdom as well as in the kingdom of Burgundy.² His son Otto,...

  9. 2 Forging a New Empire
    (pp. 39-69)

    When Otto I succeeded his father in 936, the horizon for conceptualizing his political and military policies was far broader than it had been for Henry. As a result of his father’s conquests, the young king inherited an East Frankish/German realm that was larger and more powerful than any kingdom since the division of the Carolingian empire following the death of Louis the Pious in 840. Indeed, from the very beginning of his reign, Otto made clear that he saw himself as the natural successor of the great Charles, not least by having himself crowned at Aachen.¹

    When Otto formulated...

  10. 3 Military Organization
    (pp. 70-101)

    The military campaigns of Henry I and Otto I, which focused largely on the capture and defense of fortifications, required the deployment of large armies over long periods. Concomitantly, protecting both the frontiers and internal regions with extensive networks of strongholds, including many fortress cities of Roman origin, required the mobilization of very large numbers of men for local defense. The core of the Ottonian armies on campaign consisted of the royal military household, and professional fighting men provided by lay and ecclesiastical magnates. However, the numerically preponderant element of these armies on campaign was provided by men of the...

  11. 4 Military Education
    (pp. 102-134)

    Warfare was one of the major occupations and preoccupations of the secular elite in the Ottonian kingdom, as it had been under the Carolingians.¹ More surplus resources were devoted to the preparation for war, the conduct of war, and war’s aftermath than to any other activity during the tenth century.² As a consequence, the formal education of would-be military commanders proceeded in a manner consistent with the training of other professionals whose occupations similarly benefitted from extensive expenditures by the royal government and magnates, including both secular and ecclesiastical seniores. Those receiving substantial support included master architects, surveyors, engineers, notaries,...

  12. 5 Arms and Training
    (pp. 135-168)

    Ottonian military commanders understood very well that effective military operations depended fundamentally on deploying men who had been trained in both combat techniques and tactics. The Bible, which formed a central part of education of men destined for service in either high ecclesiastical or secular office, provided numerous reminders that systematic and ongoing training was crucial for the conduct of war.¹ A number of psalms speak directly to the question of military training. Thus, for example, Psalm 18, echoing 2 Samuel 22:35, presents King David as thanking God for training his hands for battle so that he has the strength...

  13. 6 Morale
    (pp. 169-192)

    Ottonian military commanders understood quite well that maintaining a high level of morale was crucial for success in combat.¹ From their first introduction to the Bible, stories such as those of Gideon and his 300 men in Judges 7 made clear that the side that is more confident and committed to victory would have an advantage in battle. But there were many challenges to maintaining high morale in an army. Early medieval warfare, like its ancient and modern counterparts, was characterized by long spans of tedium and drudgery interspersed with short periods of intense emotion, most notably fear. A lengthy...

  14. 7 Tactics on the Battlefield
    (pp. 193-225)

    The preparation of men for battle and their deployment on the field for combat are the focus of tactics. The successful military commander is one who is able to use most effectively knowledge of the tactics that are appropriate in a given situation and has available soldiers who have been trained to carry out his orders. As Frontinus explained in his well appreciated Strategemata, the proper education of commanders is one that allows them to apply on contemporary battlefields models of troop deployments that were derived from examples taken from history.¹ The education of Ottonian military commanders and the training...

  15. 8 Campaign Strategy: The Civil War of 953—954
    (pp. 226-253)

    Fundamental to Ottonian campaign strategy over the long term, particularly in the context of territorial conquest, was the capture and defense of fortifications. Of the dozens of major military operations undertaken by Henry I, Otto I, and their commanders over a period of half a century, a bare handful took place outside the context of a siege.¹ The civil war of 953–954 is particularly illuminating regarding the strategic thinking of Ottonian leaders because the leaders on both sides shared a common understanding of the nature of warfare. In particular, a close analysis of the campaigns over this two-year period...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 254-256)

    During their combined fifty-four years of rule, Henry I and Otto I used war as a basic tool of government in the pursuit of their medium and long-term policy objectives. War, for the early Ottonian kings, was not a pastime, nor was it primarily a means to provide their magnates with access to booty and plunder. The consistent, although not absolute, success of Ottonian armies against the West Franks, Danes, Slavic polities east of the Saale and Elbe rivers, Bohemians, Hungarians, Lombards, Byzantines, and within East Francia/Germany itself led to a fundamental reorientation of political authority throughout the Latin West....

  17. Appendix: Major Military Operations by Henry I, Otto I, and Their Commanders
    (pp. 257-261)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 262-297)
  19. Index
    (pp. 298-308)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 309-311)