The First Knight

Feb 2012
Shangri-La, California, USA
Armored horse and rider formations were called "cataphract" or "clibanarii", and were instituted in the West as early as Emperor Gallienus Augustus (253-268 AD)

If you look at the qualifications and experience of John Morris, there is no one more qualified to write on sub Roman Britain.


Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
Clibanarii were not common, there were never any in Britain. Warfare in Britain is unlikley to produce them (lack of archers which is what normally leads to there development ).

Morris is qualified, but so are is critics. From my breathtakingly quick research he seems more of the romantic school of historians he want to believe in Arthur and Knights. The Evidence does not support it. Morris appears to have been totally discredited in serious history circles.

Anglo Saxons did not use cavalry. fighting men often rode horses which they then dismounted from to fight. They were not cavalry. Their horses were not armoured. Sub Roman Britians most likely would have included some cavalry but they were not numerous or Clibanarii. Britons were not great horsemen.(Even in later periods English Knights were among the first to begin to dismount to fight regularly )
Feb 2012
Shangri-La, California, USA
Morris clearly states that there is no knowledge of Arthur. His book is about the culture and history and archeology and context of the period.

Someone provided significant leadership and cast long shadows, but we do not know who they were.

The evidence we have for a heavy armored cavalry is circumstantial from dozens of odd facts.

For instance, from archeology we see that after retreating on a large scale, the outnumbered British suddenly threw the Anglo Saxons far back. A dirt berm marked the new boundary between the cultures, and there was no noticeable trade or exchange across those berms for a generation.
Depends what you mean, knight obviously doesn't predate the 11th century, knighthood can not exist before the invention of heraldry and all that entails, what you are arguing about is troop types.

I don't think there was a first knight in the sense some one got out of bed one morning and decided to be the first knight ever, it's probably an evolved system. and yes Anglo-Saxon Huscarls have as much claim to be the precursors as anyone else. Cavalier (the frank term) may have horse connections, but the word knight and miles don't seem too especially, the root of those words originates from what they were, retained thugs.
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Feb 2012
Shangri-La, California, USA
If the definition of a knight depends on the concept that it is the duty of the strong to protect the weak, then we cannot examine any culture that predates Christianity.

To find such concepts we are drawn to the theology of Pelagius. Which brings us back to Dark Age Britain, as this is where he was educated and got his ideas.


Ad Honorem
Apr 2010
Perth, Western Australia. or....hickville.
I always thought that the Housecarls and Thegns were at least in part predecessors of the Knights of later times, in rank and responsibilities at least.


Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
The Duty of the Strong to protect the weak is part of of the romantic chivalry that become popular in the later Medieval period, just as Knights were just pretty much over.

There is the Knight in Military Terms (man on horse with lance and armour) and the Social construct (Nobility owning military service to lord for land) and the Romantic Tradition (Chivalry) these are actually distinct things that evolved separately at times and there is no particular automatic linking.

Knights as the Evolved in Europe there was a lot of Robber Barons, the Strong getting loot off the Weak. Kings spent a lot of time quelling Robber Barons, destroying "illegal" castles. Most of the Chivalry, Courtly, Importance of Honor was romantic movement the mostly emerged in court/literature when the days of Knights were mostly over being replaced by full time mercenaries (mainly because Kings found money a more reliable motivator than concepts of honor or Feudal obligation)

Saxon England there was no cavalry. Knight like combat was imported with William and the Normans (who were still evolving into true cavalry, the lance was still mostly used in overarm thrusting in 1066 (Ok it's a matter of some hot debate but it's the interpretation of the Bayrex tapestry I'm famailar with, but there is a lot of debate) by the first Crusade the Normans pretty much had evolved into hard charging lance armed heavy cavalry that we can call Knights (but just mail, and horse unarmored) )

Dark Age Britain as the underpinning of the Knight as a Miitary/Social/Romantic construct No I dont accept that, my instinct is that it's not right. We have no Real Evidence of Armored Cavalry in Sub Roman Britain, and and it was entirely absent in the Saxon period. The Social customs as Political structures were just totally removed during the conquest. The Dark Age semi Celtic British Religious developments were almost totally purged later. I just cant see have anything pre conquest would have survived as far as social/political constructs.

The Conquest with it's immediate and much more rigid definition of political / social classes is something that resonates with the creation pf separate social order and the Evolution of a Fighting Man on a Horse into a separate social caste with it's own rules and traditions separate from general society.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
I believe that the concept of chivalry was more a construct of minstrels than an actual code of conduct. Where such a code did exist it applied only to members of the same social class, not to the general peasantry. It's not too much of a stretch to compare a lord and his knightly retainers to a modern day criminal gang in the way they went about their business.
Likes: Druid


Forum Staff
Oct 2011
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Just some thoughts.

As said there is a difference between a "riding warrior" and a knight in the proper sense. The knight was a member of a social class growing around the period of the Crusades, we can indicate XI century as the period of the birth of the Knighthood in the traditional sense.

Regarding the rule, the code of conduct of a knight we have to keep in mind the substantial diversity among lay and religious orders.

The great religious orders [Hospitallers, Templars, Teutons ...] had a rule which had canonical legal value, so that the knights of those orders tent to respect those rules with great attention. Even if, we know very well that in some circumstances they forced the rules.

For the lay knights there was this social code of the knighthood which had a certain civil value, but actually it was more about the control of the lords who knighted the warriors to grant a certain [just a certain] stability in the behaviors of the lay knights.

At the end, the moment in which "knights" appeared on history, was just when the first ones were "knighted" by lords, kings, dukes ... To be knighted meant the generation of a particular linkage with the lord of reference [while riding warriors of the past were members of regular army units, or clans, or tribes ...]. This linkage with the lord was the "key factor" to create the "Knight" in the traditional sense.


Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
Britain a wealthy Roman Province? What piffle. Ti say Britain developed Knights first because it was the only Roman province with the wealth is piffle. It was not a "wealthy" province.

What evidence for Armored Horses in post roman Britain does anyone care to have?
That's not what I said. Our modern knight descends from latin culture, niot british, and in any case the Persians developed a medievalesque 'knight' before the Romans got there, and perhaps more importantly, a knight is a social position, not an armoured horse, which is irrelevant to the point since armoured horses are circumstantial and plenty of knights never owned (pr considered) horse armour.