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7TH-8TH CENTURY MEROVINGIAN CAVALRYMEN

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



[Based on a Germanic or Slavic Cavalryman on a Gravestone, Magdeburg region, Germany, c.700AD] [Based on the Gellone Sacramentary
c.790-95, BnF Ms. Lat. 12048, f.229v
]
52 & 53.      7TH-8TH CENTURY MEROVINGIAN CAVALRYMEN

Although their occasional use is recorded from the mid-6th century, the first decisive use of cavalry by the Franks was against the Old Saxons in 626.

52 is based on a funerary stele of c. 700. The helmet is similar to that described under 64c. A late-7th century source lists the equipment of a member of a warband as mail corselet, helmet, shield, lance, sword, and bow and arrows. Gregory of Tours mentions that the quiver was suspended from the waist-belt. However, there is no evidence that Frankish cavalry were ever intended to fight as horse-archers or ever did, though on very rare occasions continental mss. shows bows used by horsemen (one even appears towards the end of the later Bayeux Tapestry, though this is fairly certainly a mistake introduced during its 19th century restoration); as mentioned above, perhaps figures such as those described under 50 represent dismounted cavalrymen. An alternative solution that has been occasionally put forward is that the bow was given to a foot-slogging retainer. Interestingly a source of 792 lists arms as comprising only lance, shield, sword and semispathum anyway and makes no mention of bows.

52a shows a spangenhelm of c. 600, typical of early Frankish helmets. It has plume, mail aventail and short nasal. Cheek-guards were of iron or sometimes horn.

53, dating to the 8th century, also wears a mail corselet, though scale could be substituted for either (see note 55). He wears spurs but stirrups had not yet been adopted.



Next: 54. 8TH-10TH CENTURY CAROLINGIAN MEDIUM CAVALRYMAN in Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 by Ian Heath