Shields and spears vs unarmored heavy cavalry?

Oct 2014
22
USA
#1
To me this seems like a no brainer. A well formed line of shields and spears should pose an impenetrable defense against heavy cavalry that are completely unarmored.

I'm speaking more specifically of what happened on Game of Thrones season 7 when the Dothraki charged the Lannister lines and moped them up. Granted, they had a freakin' dragon on their side, but when Jamie told Cercei of how they fought, like they were "legendary warriors" unbeatable in battle, it came across as rather ridiculous to me.

The swords the Dothraki use as well are crescent shaped to the extreme. They're not penetrating weapons and don't have very long reach. With their horses being unbarded, their riders unarmored, a defense of well trained veteran soldiers with tower shields and long reaching spears should have been suicide. Yes, yes, there were a LOT of Dothraki, but still...
 
Aug 2015
1,850
Los Angeles
#2
To me this seems like a no brainer. A well formed line of shields and spears should pose an impenetrable defense against heavy cavalry that are completely unarmored.

I'm speaking more specifically of what happened on Game of Thrones season 7 when the Dothraki charged the Lannister lines and moped them up. Granted, they had a freakin' dragon on their side, but when Jamie told Cercei of how they fought, like they were "legendary warriors" unbeatable in battle, it came across as rather ridiculous to me.

The swords the Dothraki use as well are crescent shaped to the extreme. They're not penetrating weapons and don't have very long reach. With their horses being unbarded, their riders unarmored, a defense of well trained veteran soldiers with tower shields and long reaching spears should have been suicide. Yes, yes, there were a LOT of Dothraki, but still...
If we are talking about actual heavy cavalry, which the Dothraki hordes are not, then we are talking about the Macedonian, the Carthaginians, and the eventual copies of these fighting base on Philp's military revolution.
The Macedonian and Carthaginians charged with like a 9 ft spear, the Lannister's shield and spears will get shredded to pieces in one single charge. And once they break through, because that's what a 9 ft spear do, they will start carving people up with the machaira (and the Spanish Carthaginians will use falcata, blade probably around 20in), and the specific type of machaira they use is more like a machete. These cavalry is trained to penetrate phalanx, and the Spanish and Carthaginian carved up the Romans in numerous battles where the Roman formation is far more dense than the tv series depicted.

Real heavies will roll over that line, turn around, and start chopping heads off.



But the Dothraki are pretty useless.
 
Jan 2016
589
United States, MO
#3
I don't really warch game of thrones, but I also want to say that the quality of the infantry can matter a great deal. If the Dothraki have this reputation for being amazing warriors thdn the discipline oc the troops matters even more. It takes guts to stand still and face a wall of horses head on. Many times in history, the infantry probably broke rank before the cavalry even hit the line. In short, In intimidation matters. Im just throwing this idea out there, its not meant to say that cavalry could always win the day. Obviously thats not true.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,247
#4
Anything that appears on screen wether historical, fictional or fanatical about ancient-medievil warfare just as a rule annoys the crap out of me. It; very rarely done with any appreciation of what pre-gunpowder warfare was really like and what is possible, game of thrones is no exception.

Personally I am of the firm belief that steady ordered foot, just will not be run into by charging horsemen. If the foot stand firm and present a united front the horses will stop. Some combat may occur between the largely halted cavalry and the foot but unlikely to be very decisive. Yes the odd horse does collide and on occasion this has been significant, but it's not representative.

The Foot panic or a disordered (by flaming dragons, fleeing friends or whatever) cavalry can swiftly get amongst disordered infantry where they will have a large advantage and generally cause carnage.

All historical occurrences where cavalry rode down foot, can be explained by the foot panicking under the prospect of cavalry thundering towards them (which is pretty scary) or being disordered by events, artillery, friend fleeing though them etc.

NOT everyone's view of mounted v foot combat. But it is mine.
 
Feb 2011
6,453
#5
The show depicts the infantry to be vastly outnumbered by the cavalry. If they had long pikes it probably wouldn't have helped. Long pikes can deter cavalry if the infantry outnumbers the enemy cavalry, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Qi Jiguang was a famous Chinese General who also adapted long pikes, SUCCESSFULLY, against Wokou pirates:



Despite using long pikes incredibly successfully against the Wokou, Qi Jiguang still advocated that they would not be useful against Mongol cavalry:

中原之地,兼防内盗贼,可用长枪与敌战,则长枪难用何也?敌马万众齐冲,势如风雨而来,枪身细 长惟有一戳, 彼众马一拥,枪便断折,是一枪仅可伤一马,则不复可用矣。惟有双手长刀藤牌,但北方无藤,而以 轻便木为之, 重不过十斤,亦可用。以牌蔽身牌内,单 刀滚去,只是低头砍马足,此步兵最利者也。

Transation: Within the Central Plains, when countering bandits, we can use long pikes to battle the enemy, then how is the long pike difficult to use? It is when 10,000 enemy cavalry are charging with a power like that of a rainstorm. A pike's long thin body can only be used to stab, and upon contact with a horse, the pike will break. This is having one pike only injuring one horse, hence the pike is not reusable. We have ChangDao and rattan shields wielded by a pair of hands, but the north have no rattan, but light wood that weighs no more than 10 jin. These can also be used. When the body is concealed behind the shield, and with head downcast [the soldiers] roll forward with the Changdao to cut the horse's leg, this is how infantry becomes victorious.

So Qi JiGuang wasn't just any general. He was a general who used long pikes successfully, was famed for never losing a battle by relying on his pike formation, and attained very lopsided casualty ratios in his favor. But he still advocated AGAINST using long pikes when fighting the Mongols. Instead, he advocated using laagers, just like what Eastern Europe did (or in the case of the above quote, shields and long sabers). Coincidence? Or convergent evolution?

Now in the show, the spear men didn't have long pikes, so they're not going to encounter the problem Qi Jiguang described. However, they only have two rows of infantry (I'm not counting the archers). This is a very thin line by historical standards. I recall that Gustavus Adolphus, after eschewing the long pike for a shorter spear, had 5 to 6 rows for an infantry line.
 
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Aug 2016
338
Poland
#7
Heavy cavalry is armoured by definition. If it is not armoured it is light cavalry.
You can solve this issue by:
- putting horse armour
- sacrifice some riders (difficult) to make breakthrough
- have longer lance then enemy infantry; here is picture of Polish winged hussar against Swedish pikeman:
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,606
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#8
I have never watched that TV series, so I comment what I read here.

Sometime in history reality is odd, anyway, generally trained infantry was able to prevent a charge of such a light cavalry [that was light cavalry, as someone else has already pointed out]. Light cavalry, usually preferred not to charge in that way. They got close to the infantry formation, they hit and they run. And it was heavy infantry to solve the battle.

But, as I was saying, absurd facts have happened in history [included infantry breaking the ranks because of panic facing a light cavalry charge].

Anyway, a TV series needs to follow a script and it needs to give emotions to keep the audience high. What's more emotional of a victorious charge of cavalry? Of course if the hero is on the other side, the infantry will stand that charge ...
 
Apr 2017
707
Lemuria
#9
Heavy cavalry is armoured by definition. If it is not armoured it is light cavalry.
You can solve this issue by:
- putting horse armour
- sacrifice some riders (difficult) to make breakthrough
- have longer lance then enemy infantry; here is picture of Polish winged hussar against Swedish pikeman:
No way carrying a lance that long around a battlefield was practical (image below would be the practical length). The Infantry usually put a lot of obstacles in front of them as well to break the charge. Cavalry worked best against infantry when flanking or when the infantry is moving. This is why cavalry was usually deployed on the flanks. They usually also browsed the enemy formation for gaps they could exploit. Above all, the cavalry (light) was crucial to make sure a rout turned into a total massacre.

 
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