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An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath


This figure, based on late Roman and Byzantine descriptions, depicts a Frank as they probably appeared at the very beginning of this period. He carries an iron-rimmed shield with a prominent boss, sword, angon (a barbed thrusting or throwing spear with an iron-covered shaft) and francisca, a throwing-axe with a short wooden handle. The latter seems to have actually dropped from use by the 7th century, Gregory of Tours only once mentioning an axe in a throwing context and only mentioning axes 5 times at all. Bows are not recorded in the classical sources, though Gregory records the bow to have been introduced in the 4th century.

Likewise, although Gregory mentions both helmets and mail corselets the other sources record the absence of body-armour and rarity of helmets. Probably only chieftains and their retinues were thus equipped anyway.

Procopius records in the mid-6th century that even at that early date the Franks had a few spear-armed cavalry, though Agathias of Myrna says c. 570 that they only appeared on rare occasions.

Sidonius Apollinaris, writing c. 470, describes Franks wearing 'many-coloured', probably striped, short-sleeved and close-fitting tunics, and red-embroidered green cloaks. Legs at that date were apparently bare, though Agathias speaks of linen or leather trousers. Agathias, incidentally, says that the shield was hung at the left hip, which could mean it was slung from a shoulder-strap or alternatively implies that it was small.

Next: 46 & 47. 8TH-10TH CENTURY CAROLINGIAN INFANTRYMEN in Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 by Ian Heath