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Old January 6th, 2017, 09:14 AM   #1
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Were Knights so revered in the West because they saved Christianity?


I read The Art of War in the Middle Ages by Charles Oman a week ago and in the Chapter "The Early Middle Ages" Oman ends the chapter with this statement (directly taken from the book itself):

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Oman
Politically retrogressive as was that system, it had yet its day of success: the Magyar was crushed at Merseberg and the Lechfeld, and driven back across the Leith, soon to become Christianised and grow into an orderly member of the European commonwealth. The Viking was checked in his plundering forays, expelled from his strongholds at the river-mouths, and restricted to the single possession of Normandy, where he — like the Magyar — was assimilated to the rest of feudal society. The force which had won these victories, and saved Europe from a relapse into the savagery and Paganism of the North and East, was that of the mail-clad horseman. What wonder then if his contemporaries and successors glorified him into the normal type of warriorhood, and believed that no other form of military efficiency was worth cultivating ? The perpetuation of feudal chivalry for four hundred years was the reward of its triumphs in the end of the Dark Ages.
The entire chapter revolves with Oman claiming that the "Horse Warriors" defeated the Vikings, Magyar, and other enemies and thus was came the Honor of being legendary chivalrous "Knights in Shining Armor" for saving Christianity from being lost". In addition the same chapter also stated that it was the Horse Warriors expelled various foreigners that were bent on conquering Europe during the Middle Ages including the Turks,Arabs,Mongols and many others.

So practically Oman implies the reason the Knights became the stuff of Legends is because it was Warriors on Horseback who saved Christianity from being lost as Pagans waged wars on the Catholic Church and it was they who preserved Europe and saved the continent from Foreign invasions.
Can anyone here put their own input? How accurate is Oman's concluding statement to the chapter?

Last edited by Wrangler29; January 6th, 2017 at 09:36 AM.
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Old January 6th, 2017, 09:28 AM   #2

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Instead of "Horse Warriors" I prefer "Riding Warriors" [but about knights I could sound a bit biased ...].

Anyway ... Christian riding warriors impressed that much the Norsemen that they became Christian knights themselves [and the engine of the Crusades, to say all].

This said, yes, when Germanic warriors converted to Christianity, becoming the most incredible force of that time, they decided the destiny of the world. The Christian knights were in good part [the toughest part] Germanic. German, French and English Knights were Germanic [Frank and generally Germanic].
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Old January 6th, 2017, 09:44 AM   #3

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I think this is partly a result of artistic legacy.

most knights were royalty. poets/writers of the day did not have a mass market so they often did commission pieces, and many such pieces were odes to Lord Sir Goober who Slew the Wyrm of Ipswich etc., so whatever literature we have from that era focused on this sort of thing. who wants to read/write about Peasant Sydney Plows a Field?
then, nostalgia being what it is, in later times of standing armies and magazine war, writers (and not a few military people) waxed nostalgic about the good old days of Sir Goober. (think of tv shows like The Waltons in the 1970s).

what were the major historic events between the Roman Empire and the Renaissance? the crusades? the black plague? I'm no expert but there doesn't seem to have been a lot going on for a few hundred years there, so Sir Knight tales sort of fill the gap. (I can't say nothing happened, but there doesn't seem to be much taught about the era.)
that might have been the Golden Age of War Stories. not many troubadours sang the tales of the Hanseatic League.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 01:17 AM   #4

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knights were key warriors in the feudal system. Kings and higher nobles needed them to protect themselves, cities, and fight wars. For this alone, it was great prestige to be a knight, and it meant almost continuous employment, and maybe even getting an estate if one was competent and got the King's favour.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 04:49 AM   #5

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The feudal orders made sure law and civil custom supported their elite status. Anyone pretending to be a knight was not put in the pillory like the film A Knight's Tale, but hung, drawn, and quartered for his presumption. Simply riding a horse if one were not sufficiently high in social status could attract a serious sentence. As for saving Christianity, most knights were very worldly men and only paid lip service to religion.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 01:36 PM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorsam View Post
I think this is partly a result of artistic legacy.

most knights were royalty. poets/writers of the day did not have a mass market so they often did commission pieces, and many such pieces were odes to Lord Sir Goober who Slew the Wyrm of Ipswich etc., so whatever literature we have from that era focused on this sort of thing. who wants to read/write about Peasant Sydney Plows a Field?
then, nostalgia being what it is, in later times of standing armies and magazine war, writers (and not a few military people) waxed nostalgic about the good old days of Sir Goober. (think of tv shows like The Waltons in the 1970s).

what were the major historic events between the Roman Empire and the Renaissance? the crusades? the black plague? I'm no expert but there doesn't seem to have been a lot going on for a few hundred years there, so Sir Knight tales sort of fill the gap. (I can't say nothing happened, but there doesn't seem to be much taught about the era.)
that might have been the Golden Age of War Stories. not many troubadours sang the tales of the Hanseatic League.
Migration Period, Merovingian and Carolingians, Al Andalus, Viking age, Crusades, spread of feudalism, Hundreds Years War, Reconquista, Fall of Constantinople, Henry the Navigator's exploration of Africa and the discovery of the Americas.

Knights were merely high ranking soldiers, that's it. it's a misconception to say that knights were some noble and goodly class. Not all wore shining armour either, since they wore chainmail before full body armour existed.

The notion of the knight in shining armour is merely something made up, like Robin Hood or King Arthur.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 05:13 PM   #7

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More like because they enforced Christianity and beat the **** out of the people who dared to say otherwise. High rank murderers working for the government were revered, why so surprised? What is next? Samurai were revered in Japanese culture because they protected Shinto from barbaric gaijin?

Last edited by A Vietnamese; January 10th, 2017 at 05:18 PM.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 06:29 PM   #8

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In those moments where there were no lawyers to defend the rights of the European masses which were known as peasants of their time, they needed their Knights. They were their protector. They were the law and the law enforcer at the same time. They were the lawyers and the police at the same time, just like Judge Dread.

They were also those who made the Western Civilization intact and stopped the Turks and the Saracens form taking over the Christendom.
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Old January 11th, 2017, 03:29 PM   #9

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Most civilized cultures had warrior elites and priestly bureaucracy and where there were horses and land suitable to use them most warrior elites become horsemen. Less civilized cultures had mostly a warrior elite with a few mystics to advise/support their rule.

Not sure there was anything exceptional about Christian knighthood though I would say the Normans particularly seem to have been something a bit special considering their impact on the world in multiple regions.

However Magyars were gone long before Normans were around and their defeat had far less to do with pitched battles vs other cavalry than political and administration capability of their victims.

Early horse riding warriors in Europe had little conception of knighthood and nothing of Chivalry while a warrior culture with dispersed centers of power was much more important in resisting foreign encroachment than the fact the warriors happened to be riding horses much of the time just like the foreigners.
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Old January 13th, 2017, 07:36 AM   #10

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They were revered by the west because they were hollywood actors, UFC fighters, and your boss at work combined.
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