OTTONIAN HEAVY CAVALRYMEN

An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath


[Based on the Leiden I Maccabees manuscript] [Based on the Elfenbeinsitula, Lotharingia, c.1000 or c.1024AD, in the Cathedral of Aachen]
59 & 60.      OTTONIAN HEAVY CAVALRYMEN

These figures, dating to the mid-10th century and c. 1000 respectively, wear mail corselets with short baggy sleeves and loose coifs. The coif ultimately gave its name to the complete mail body-armour, having evolved from the halsberge (see note 49), a word which became in time 'hauberk'. It was sometimes worn without a helmet. Similar figures are to be found illustrated and described in late Carolingian sources.

The oval shield of 60 is unusual, others in the same source having no boss.

The greater number of horsemen would still have been of the less well-equipped type described under 54. Under the Ottonians these were supplied by Old Saxons, Thuringians and Wends and other Slav auxiliaries. Except for their nobility none of these wore armour, and even helmets were uncommon; Old Saxon troops described on campaign in 946 wore only straw hats. The spear was their principal weapon, both for thrusting and throwing, while their shields were often only of leather and were easily pierced. In the 9th and early-10th centuries Old Saxons were frequently placed before the main battle-line to act as skirmishers.

In fact despite a number of attempts to encourage their use of cavalry from the 9th century onwards the Old Saxons and Thuringians continued to often fight on foot, freemen and chieftains alike. Cavalry were principally Franconians and Bavarians, though by the mid to late-10th century even the Old Saxon nobility had acquired a reputation as excellent cavalrymen.



Next: 61, 62. OTTONIAN HEAVY INFANTRYMAN by Ian Heath