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Re: War horses (was RE: How Mil Specs Live Forever)

Poster: Aelfgar GreySeas <aelfgar@access.digex.net>

Good morning, one and all.

A couple of observations, in response to some previous statements on this

First, the Romans did not rely on chariots instead of cavalry. They relied
primarily on infantry and logistics as the core of their military efforts.
Over time, the number of cavalry associated with the Roman army waxed and
waned, depending upon the fashion of the day and the availability of 
foreign horsemen for hire. But their core was always the infantry.

As Corun has pointed out, horses in medieval Europe had achieved size and
strength similar to that of modern horses, but this was not true, to the 
best of my knowledge, centuries earlier during the heyday of the Roman
legions. Smaller, more fragile horses and the lack of stirrups made the 
cavalry of the day useful primarily for scouting and for pursuit of a foe 
already broken by infantry action. Rome's lack of interest in the bow
precluded their use of mounted archers, the most effective use of cavalry 
in the ancient world.

One of my favorite 'historical myths' is the alleged effectiveness of the
war chariot as a weapon system. Hollywood not withstanding, no hero who
ever wore armour could effectively wield a sword or a bow from an unsprung
vehicle moving at any speed over unpaved ground. As a way to make a big
entrance onto the battlefield, you can't beat a chariot. But if you want to
actually fight somebody, dismount and go for it.

For an excellent and very readable treatment of these and other issues in
military history, see Robert O'Connell's _Of Arms and Men_. In addition,
that familiar work, _Cathedral, Forge, and Water Wheel_ has a nice little
section on beasts of burden and harness, and how medieval innovations made
the horse vastly more useful than it had been in Roman times.

As always, the opinions expressed are my own, and I am very fond of them.

Your servant,


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