How do you defend against the Mongols?

Nov 2018
I could definitely speak at length about the ways that the English longbow was overrated. So even if eastern composite bows were 20-40% more efficient than the longbow, I'd say that the bar is set pretty low.
The English are self-deluding pirates and are always up to this nonsense. Though one can admit they had a lot of success it is usually not due to the reasons they ascribe it! Interesting quote, too.
And again even if an archer can draw a really strong bow once, having to draw it again and again gets tiring fast. Especially on long campaigns where archers have aready been worn out from marching, sleeping out in the cold on hard ground, and don't aways have the opportunity to eat good, hearty meals each day, it apperently wasn't uncommon for many archers to be unable to draw their bows more than half way. Getting archers to draw and aim properly with each shot was especially problematic during pitched battles where there was a lot of confusion and when the enemy was often shooting back at them with actual guns and cannons.
Makes perfect sense, though obviously this would be less of a problem for the elite warriors such as the Persianids who would be riding horses, have servants, usually plenty of food and sleep, etc. Though one suspects that when the Parthian archers were doing their famous arrow showers that they were hardly drawing the bow at all, putting enough power into it so that after a drop it could injure exposed flesh but not much else.


Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
Canary Islands-Spain
IDK. My impression is that Ottomans were/are perceived more as a "classical/normal empire" (You know, French at the Gates of Moscow, Germans at the gates of Paris, aso), while the Mongols were the last "savage blood thirsty migrants" (You know, like Huns and other Magyars).

I'm not talking about history or reality, but about perceptions.
I don't think so. Through contemporary sources it is clear the "Grand Turk" was seen as a massive menace to Christedom, since the time of the Nicopolis crusade to late 16th century
Apr 2018
Makes perfect sense, though obviously this would be less of a problem for the elite warriors such as the Persianids who would be riding horses, have servants, usually plenty of food and sleep, etc. Though one suspects that when the Parthian archers were doing their famous arrow showers that they were hardly drawing the bow at all, putting enough power into it so that after a drop it could injure exposed flesh but not much else.
My belief is that most arrow casualties were typically inflicted at extremely close ranges. If an archer is shooting from say, less than 10 meters then yes he can shoot very heavy arrows with alot of force, but it also becomes much easier for him to pick out individual targets or even try to aim at unarmored limbs or faces. For a foot archer to get this close to the enemy however is extremely difficult and extremely dangerous unless he has some sort of wall or barricade in the way. The advantage of horse archers on the other is that they may quickly close to as close to the enemy as the want, and still run away if they suddenly get counter-charged, get tired, or otherwise find themselves at a disadvantage.

At Carrhae the Romans had few archers and don't seem to have protected them very well. Once the Parthians managed to wipe out most of the Romans' cavalry especially the horse archers would have been free to get very close to the infantry before rapidly shooting off a quick "burst" of arrows, and as a moving target would have still been extremely difficult to hit with a slow-moving javelin. As the day went on the thick clouds of dust kicked up obscured the horse archers' movement, small groups of infantry who found themselves isolated could be surrounded and shot in the back, and anywhere the arrows caused enough damage the horse archers could always suddenly charge home with swords.
Likes: Hipparchist
Wrong answer. The answer would be something like " Oups, I didn't know that. My bad"

None of us knows everything, and there's no shame in it. That's why we're here, after all: to learn new things.
Hmm, you just want an argument its derived from the topic , in my opinion there should be less people like you , should be more people who stays in the topic.
Nov 2018
Russian Federation
I think hunnictraveler has already contradicted his own claims. Why would the mongols or any of the horse archers that succeeded them such as the Manchu, Tatars, Bashkirs, Mughals, Safavids, ottomans, etc. have ever bothered to close with their enemy or use lances or armor at all if they had a way to defeat opponents from 200-500 meters away? Why would they need to conduct feigned retreats if they could just mow down incoming cavalry like machinegunners as they got near?

The simple answer of course is that no, they couldn't defeat enemy with far shooting alone, and it was likely only done for harrassment for the most part.
in battles between nomads hard to hit mobile experienced rider, but fire makes them tired and vulnerable for charge. Battle of Crecy showed knight's armour not a protection against longbow. composite bow stronger 1.5-2 times.
Oct 2013
I don't think so. Through contemporary sources it is clear the "Grand Turk" was seen as a massive menace to Christedom, since the time of the Nicopolis crusade to late 16th century
You are right.

But since 16c there are 5 centuries, and that changed the perceptions a lot: Hungarians were perceived as the "second Hun invasion" at they arrival in Europe, 4 centuries later they were integrant part of Europe (they became Christians, it's true). Ottomans, after taking the Balkans and Constantinopolis became "caliphs in place of caliphs". They considered themselves a bit continuation of Byzantium, not that much unlike the Franks, the Germans, the Russians considered themselves continuation of Rome. Another imperium in Europe (tho being Muslim and not Christian did had it's importance). But more important, Ottomans remained in place, the relationship continued, unlike Mongols, that practically disappeared from the (Central/West) European scene after the first invasion. So initial perception didn't evolved in time in Mongol's case. Coupled with the lack of primary sources, with the "mythology" on them perpetrated trough centuries, it's what gives so much more "bizarreries" on them even today.
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Feb 2018
Mongol bows and specific tactics are definitely tough to get a clear picture for, especially since many Mongol battles started with the enemy at a heavy strategic disadvantage, making it difficult to examine 'even fights'. It seems very likely that Mongol tactics and equipment were comparable and based on Khitan/Jurchen tactics and equipment, though perhaps further evolved given their consistent success against the Jurchen. We know from Mongol sources that they had a number of different tactical formations they could switch between during combat, which was controlled by the commander using flags and signals.

Its very dangerous to use western or Islamic examples (i,e Carrhae or Manzikert) to relate to Mongol battles, because Mongol and Manchurian-style battles seemed to have developed very differently than the more skirmishing style that is represented in western works, such as the Frankish knights and infantry in the first crusade being impervious to Turkish arrows. Specifically, the Mongols fought very aggressively, and the battles were often over very quickly. The Rus army at the Kalka in 1223 was routed almost upon contact [all but the front ranks would have been in marching formation], with the Mongols immediately delivering a lance charge. The Jin army at Yehuling was in 1211 routed by noon with a lance charge, Liegnitz (though terribly unreliable) does not appear to have been a particularly drawn out battle, the battle of the Indus was decided by a powerful charge by the keshig midday, the Seljuks were easily routed at Kose Dag in 1243, as with Dai Viet at No Nguyên in 1257, and the Xi Xia army was shattered in several battles with devastating charges in 1209 and 1227. The battle versus the Georgian army in the Mughan plain in 1221 may have been more drawn out and lengthy, as the Georgian army was surrounded and seems to have been slowly isolated and picked apart. A couple other battles where the Mongols were heavily outnumbered are known to have been long and drawn out: the Quyli River in 1219 and Parwan in 1211 being the two main examples that come to mind. Clearly the Mongols were consistently doing something to violently rout their foes, instead of wearing them down.

For equipment, Thomas of Spalato did state that Mongol bows pierced Hungarian armor, and that the reverse was not true. Hayton of Armenia noted that their shooting "commonly pierce all kinds of armour." Neither specified any kind of range where that was the case - some modern historians have estimated 50-200m, usually on the lower end, being the kill range. Still, it is notable that the only battle the Mongols routed the enemy just with firepower seems to have been at Mohi, where the Hungarians were trapped in a camp and may have been bombarded with incendiary gunpowder weapons. Muqali also used dismounted cavalry archers to break the impetus of a Jin attack in I believe 1219, but I'm not sure if firepower alone won the day. Otherwise, cavalry charges were an instrumental part of Mongol battles. Mongol bows also used a thumb ring, which seems to have been better than holding the arrow with 2 fingers as was common in Europe. Importantly, they used multiple types of arrows, presumably for different purposes and ranges. Carpini also noted that Mongols ideally were supposed to have had 2-3 bows along with other melee weapons, which the Liao Shi concurs with, specifying 9 pieces of armor and weapons.

As for tactics, Carpini mentions (from hearsay) that the Mongol subgroups would launch 3-4 waves of arrows before retreating back to their lines if resistance seemed tough. The tactics for ordo units in the Liao Shi indicate that the army attacked in a series of waves, with the lighter units firing arrows to pin and wear down the enemy and being replaced by units behind them to rest, while the heavier units waited until the enemy lines showed weakness. Chris Peers theorized that these waves were launched in echelon to prevent friendly units from running into each other. At the battle of Mount Yu in 1232, the Mongols attacked and retreated in 3 successive waves of fire, and then maneuvered their entire army behind the Jin position to attack their rear, mid-battle. The Jin managed to hold their ground and had a superior position, so neither side committed heavily. This noncomittal approach of advancing with fire and some light melee combat was also used against the Song in 1234 during their invasion of Henan: the Song managed to form squares/circles, so the Mongols did not commit to the attack and merely harassed them into starvation.

The best detailed firsthand account, to my knowledge, is from Babur's memoirs, which unfortunately is from some 300 years after Genghis Khan but with experience fighting in the same style in Central Asia. For the battles of Sar-I-Pul and Kandahar, he noted that both his men and horses were armored, his vanguard was assigned to men experienced with the sword, mentions arrow volleys/rains multiple times, and that spears were deployed in attacking a weakened part of the enemy line. The point of launching an all out melee charge when a section of the enemy formation looks ready to break is also mentioned in the report by Song envoy Peng Daya from his observations of the Mongols. Peng Daya also notes that 30% of the Mongol army consisted of heavily armored cavalry (though not all Mongol armies would have been uniform, particularly as the bulk of troops would have been from their subjects).

My hypothesis based on the scanty evidence of Song/Jurchen battles in the 12th century is that if the enemy army did not present a threat of quickly attacking, the Jurchen cavalry would circle up and deliver point blank shots with deadly impact or hack at the front lines with melee weapons, then wheel away for a new wave. The Song under Yue Fei managed to rout them by counterattacking with their zhanmadao blades, presumably because the more mobile Jurchen cavalry had already closed the distance either to fire point blank, harass with melee weapons, or commit to a charge.Ilkhanate/Mamluk battles have the best accounts for set piece action, and these describe the Mongols as attacking very aggressively, even when heavily outnumbered, and the Mamluks trying to absorb the Mongol combination of fire and shock, and counterattacking. However, its tricky to conclude too much because all but Ain Jalut and First Homs were post-dissolution armies, which may have fought differently.

The one intra-Mongol battle we have a good deal of info on is the battle of Herat in 1270, though this was between the post-dissolution Chaghatai and Ilkhanate armies. The Chaghatai army started the battle with a dense barrage of arrows, which apparently wounded a lot of people, and turned into a melee battle. The Chaghatai's heavily armored division attacked in multiple waves until the lkhanate left was routed. The Ilkhanate reserves, which included their heavy cavalry counterattacked, but it took three attacks before they succeeded - the Chaghatai division tried to retreat, but was surrounded by an ambushing Ilkhanate force that cut off its retreat back to the main body. The Chaghatai army supposedly lost 40,000 men, or most of their army, while the Ilkhanate lost around 5,000 of their larger army. The Ilkhanate arrows did manage to wound Chaghatai divisions, kill one of their key subcommanders, and loosen the enemy enough for melee attacks.