Hello all, for too long my blog has lain dormant so I have come up with an exciting idea for a new series of posts. So without further ado, I present:
Historic Military Leaders from the Ancient and Medieval West
As long as there has been war, there has been a chance for men to gain fame and glory through success in war either through their fighting prowess or their tactical brilliance, or sometimes both. Sometimes these figures gain semi-mythological status as stories of their exploits are spread and passed down through time. These figures are heralded as gods of war and men who revolutionised the art of war. But do these men necessarily deserve this status? Are these men as good as the stories of their exploits would make them seem?
Well this series of posts will examine them, using chosen criteria. Both their battle (and siege) and campaign tactics will be analysed. Their own fighting ability, their personality, intelligence and charisma and of course, their success rate will also be scrutinised. Each of these criteria will be marked out of 5, giving a total out of 25 (think of it a bit like Deadliest Warrior). Then the reputation of these figures involved (including Hannibal, Caesar, Alexander the Great, Richard the Lionheart and Edward I) could be similarly analysed and rated, allowing for a simple comparison that will allow us to see whether or not these figures live up to their famed reputations. After a few entries, a league table will start and we will be able to see how these men compare to each other as well. Obviously, due to the shortened nature required for a blog post, this may not be the most thorough analysis, though it should be an accurate one (hopefully).
By way of a quick example, let us have a quick look at everyone’s favourite mythical king – King Arthur.
(Sorry couldn’t resist)
Battle (and Siege) Tactics
In the legends Arthur is undefeated, but there is little in the way of detailed explanation of the tactics used and what information we do have has been passed down through literature and as such may not be the most reliable of information. However using this information, combined with the examples of other military systems in place in Northern and Western Europe at this time, we could probably assume that Arthur’s forces would have fought in formations similar to the shield-walls of the Nordic peoples and the similar formations of the Romans and the traditional British armies. Arthur’s cavalry, his “knights”, were probably his strongest arm, and at the time heavy cavalry was the dominant force of the battlefields of the day and he used his knights to great effect. It is likely that any battle would have been a series of straightforward charges and a clash of shield-walls.- 3.5
Again, we don’t have much information on Arthur’s campaigns, as his histories are focused on singular pitched battles. However, given that he defeated the Saxons and pushed them back, it could be assumed that there was a successful campaign involved. – 4
Arthur’s prowess as a warrior is part of his legend. – 5
Personality, Intelligence and Charisma
Arthur’s leadership was legendary. Men were drawn to him and were very loyal – the many deeds of the knights of the round table, such as the quest for the holy grail, required a great deal of personal risk and suffering. Equally, a great number of men die in service to him, either on quests such as the Holy Grail or falling in battle defending Arthur. This suggests the man they are sworn to is a man worth these actions, and such a man would have to be very charismatic amongst other things. – 5
Arthur was undefeated, even in the great battle against Mordred that saw him mortally wounded. 100% success rate equals the maximum score. – 5.
(Unfortunately as there is no completely solid historical fact in the Arthurian legend, this analysis will not have a comparison between reputation and historical fact)
Total – 22.5/25. A pretty strong score for the Mythical British King (Not that I imagine that that is much solace to him in the below picture, “The Death of King Arthur” by James Archer).