The end of the Classical Era is sometimes considered the start of the Medieval Era, with nations arising out of the destroyed Western Roman Empire's borders as Germanic tribes colonized new lands. The Franks left the Rhine River in Germany to create the Merovingian Empire; the Alemanni took over Germany; the Visigoths in southern France and northern Spain; the Vandals in southern Spain and North Africa; the Sarmatians in Russia, the Ostrogoths in central Italy; the Lombardii in northern Italy; the Burgundii on the Franco-German border; the Slavs in The Balkans, and the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons in Great Britain. These tribes fought each other frequently to expand their domains, and Europe's two most-powerful empires, the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire, were both founded by the Franks, who conquered almost all of Western Europe under Charlemagne.
While Western Europe was divided into kingdoms, the Eastern Roman Empire, now known as the Byzantine Empire, maintained theri territories, but had to face their own threats: in the Near East, there lay the mighty Sasanian Empire of Persia; in North Africa, they faced the Vandals; in The Balkans, the Slavs, Kievan Rus, and Bulgars raided into their territory with impunity, and they were attacked by the Kingdom of Makuria in Sudan and the Sahara. The Byzantines were a punching bag for rising Islamic empires, who conquered their territories in Asia Minor and the Levant.
In the British Isles, the Romano-British, led by Arthurius, fought off the invading Saxons, defeating them at the Battle of Mount Badon in 509. The British indigenous forces were eventually defeated by internal rivalries at the Battle of Camlan in 537, letting Cerdic and his Saxon armies invade Britain. Some Romano-British kingdoms appeared in Wales, but these were snuffed out, and the Saxons took over all of Britain, founding the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom.
In Russia, the Rus took over Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine from the Scythians, forcing them into Persia, and founded the Kievan Rus, southern Vikings who founded the Orthodox Christian religion. They were influenced by the Byzantine Empire, whom they constantly raided, and eventually took on the form of a kingdom in the 1080s, the Duchy of Novgorod.
Style of Warfare
Until recent times medieval warfare was considered a step backward in relation to the art of war of the ]]Classical Era|Classical era]]. During the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, most historians viewed the medieval style of command as simply having been characterized by a lack of brains. It was generally believed that there was no proper generalship, no real strategy or tactics. Scholars of the history of warfare, such as the once preeminent Charles Oman, wrote in his Art of War in the Middle Ages (1884): "The commendation of the age, was in short, the need of striking feats of arms rather than of real generalship".
Oman also wrote: "Of strategy there could be little in an age when men strove to win their ends by hard fighting rather than by skilfull operations or the utilizing of extraneaous advantages." He summed up by claiming: "Strategy - the higher branch of the military art - was absolutely non-existent".
According to the scholarship of the last few decades, however, the view has come to be there was indeed long-term strategy that sought to make the most of the scarce resources available. Medieval commanders and monarchs had more brains than Victorian- and Edwardian-era historians suspected, and they used them.
The Christian rulers of Iberia understood that the military, economic and political resources available to them weren't sufficient to defeat Al Andalus in a single campaign or war. At its peak the Caliphate of Cordoba could deploy a large army formed by a core of permanent units, along with mercenaries (many of them Scandinavian, German and Slavic), and Islamic warriors serving in exchange for grands of land or money. There were also jihadi volunteers from Africa and other Islamic territories, along with local Andalusian militia. Many of the troops were cavalry. Every year, unless there was an official truce with the Christians, the whole army was assembled and paraded in front of the Caliph. In July it was sent north to burn, pillage and, above all, take slaves.
Against them the Christian kingdoms of Iberia adopted what we would now call an "indirect approach". That is, during the 11th to 13th centuries in Iberia, the conquest of territory was primarily achieved through complimentary methods: 1) the devastation of enemy territory and population, leading to the siege and conquest of cities; and 2) diplomacy.
Field battle was considered a risky third option, but it wasn't the ultimate objective of all military operations. In fact, it was avoided whenever possible. Examples of decisive battles that had been sought by both sides are rare. Historians have recently calculated that in Iberia, the Holy Land, and all of Medieval Europe, there was generally just one field battle for every 99 sieges and raids.
In medieval warfare conquering a city brought control of the surrounding region: each city was also the economic, political, and administrative center of its area. Without the city, no effective control could be exerted over its outlying territory. Therefore, the larger and more important the city, the larger the region its seizure would also yield. In contrast, winning or losing a field battle wasn't generally decisive by itself. For instance, after the Christian defeat in the field at Zallaqa (1086), the frontier didn't change because the Almohads proved unable to go on from there to take Toledo an important nearby city.
Conquering cities was difficult because the rulers of the era generally couldn't afford to deploy professional armies large and well prepared enough to conduct sieges that might have to last months or even years. Direct assault was also generally out of the question. Only Almeria and Lisbon (both in 1147) were taken by direct assault throughout the entire Reconquista. That was because storming a fortified city required exceptionally large concentrations of military and technical resources.
Conquering a icty, then, required a siege to force surrender. To soften up the defense, the best possible strategy was to devastate the surrounding countryside: "to burn and harry the land" as Oman put it. Thus, before laying siege to a key city, the Christians launcehd raiding expeditions year after year that burnt crops and woodland, destroyed housing, and captured or killed as much of the outlying populace as possible. That gradually worked to weaken the city's defense, as the amount of food and troops available to support it declined.
That was the main objective of the Chevauchee of the Hundred Years' War as well as the aceifa (raids) of medieval Spain. The fall of Toledo in 1085, for instance, was preceded by years of devastation across the surrounding countryside.
Castles, fortified cities and towns thus dominated the landscape of medieval Iberia. Their primary role was to shelter the local population, because that population was itself a military resource: the serfs produced food and other items needed to resist sieges and, in emergencies, they could be mobilized into militias. Upon successful completion of a siege, the enemy population would usually be eliminated or driven out and the territory repopulated by friendly colonists.
The second strategic approach available to medieval rulers was diplomacy: fomenting and exploiting internal conflict among their enemies. The Reconquista advanced most easily when Islamic Iberia was divided among a large number of petty realms. When the North African counter-invasions unified the Muslims under a single rule, the process was delayed, if not stopped altogether.
Politcal differences: from Start to End
The Medieval Ages oversaw the fall and forge of several empires, as castles fell to other realms and the Known World fell into chaos.
These nations were created by the struggle:
- Kingdom of Denmark, 940-present
- Kingdom of France, France, 814-1789
- Holy Roman Empire, Germany and Austria, 814-1806
- Kingdom of England, Great Britain, 1066-1708
- Chagatai Khanate, Asia, 1294-1687
These nations were destroyed by the medieval era, that existed beforehand:
- The Byzantine Empire, Europe and Asia, 330-1453
- Vandalic Kingdom, North Africa, 476-533
- Ostrogoth Kingdom of Italy, Italy, 476-489
- Visigoth Kingdom of Toulouse, France, 476-507
- Merovingian Empire, France, 457-754
- Al Andalus, Spain, 711-750
- Carolingian Empire, France, 754-814
- Emirate of Cordoba, 756-929
- Kievan Rus, Russia, 800s-1080
- Caliphate of Cordoba, Spain, 929-1091
- Kingdom of Poland, 960-1569
- Seljuk Empire, Middle East, 1037-1194
- Sultanate of Rum, Turkey, 1077-1307
- Duchy of Novgorod, Russia, 1080-1478
- Almoravid Empire, Africa and Spain, 1091-1147
- Almohad Empire, Africa and Spain, 1147-1269
- Emirate of Granada, Spain, 1269-1492
- Mongol Empire, Europe and Asia, 1206-1294
- Golden Horde, Asia, 1294-1502
- Empire of the Great Khan, Asia, 1294-1368
- Il-Khanate, Asia, 1294-1335
- Timurid Empire, Asia, 1370-1507
|476 AD-1500 AD||Succeeded by:|
Early Modern Era