10 Types Of Medieval Soldiers

medieval soldiers

When it came to conflict during the medieval period, various kinds of warriors arose. Soldiers differed in terms of where they originated from and how they were trained, as well as the types of weapons they employed.

Read on for information about different kinds of medieval fighters, which will give you more insight into the forces of history and the fates of nations.

1. Archers

Iconic for warriors in the Medieval period, archers were an essential part of a battlefield offensive. Candidates needed to possess great strength as well as sharp eyesight to accurately launch their arrows.

Often it was hunters who became archers, due to the skills they picked up in pursuing animal prey for food.

For self-protection, archers were outfitted with a short sword or bow and the armor was relatively light (gambeson or boiled leather) to allow them to move freely while firing their arrows.

2. Billmen

These Medieval soldiers take their name from the weapon they wielded, known as the billhook. A fierce weapon, a billhook enables a soldier to chop and carve their way with great thrusting attacks on the field of war.

Billmen went through special training to tear opponents off of their horses. Doing so would devastate the line of shields reinforcing the enemy’s forward thrusting movements.

Use of billmen reached a peak in the Late Medieval Period.

As much as 50% to 75% of a billman’s body would be shielded with strong plate armor in addition to the protection of a standard gambeson underneath.

3. Boyars

Russian fighters during the Medieval era were called boyars. They operated at the top of the ranks in the aristocracies in Russia between the 10th and 17th centuries.

A remnant of the Boyars occurs in the last names of people living in Russian and Finland (though in Finland, a variation in spelling has it as “Pajari.”). The boyars achieved high levels of power, which they preserved because they propped up princes in Kiev.

The power of boyars was predicated on their continued service to the aristocracy for the most part, but over time owning land was another source of their prestige and status.

You can compare devotion of service by boyars in the Ukraine to the same level of devotion to lords by their contemporary knights in western Europe.

4. Crossbowmen

Crossbowmen came about during the High Middle Ages. Their skills, however, come from millennia ago, as the cross bow dates back to prehistoric times.

Crossbowmen were used in lieu of archers when the battle plans called for massive defense. What’s more, when the crossbowmen neared closer to the enemy, they were skilled at raining down bows with accuracy.

This is largely due to the fact that a crossbow’s mechanism provides power to launch the bow at your opponents. The result is that crossbowmen could stand to wear heavier armor in addition to the shield they would raise to defend themselves.

5. Housecarls

Medieval soldiers in Scandinavia were known as housecarls, a kind of bodyguard or personal warrior to the lords and kings of the nation. The term “housecarl” is the English version of the Old Norse word “huskarl.”

To pay for arming and maintaining housecarls, taxes were levied in England and Scandinavia. In addition to remaining a defensive army always at the ready, the housecarls served to represent the king in times of peace.

Housecarls were outfitted with the best of weaponry (their swords had to include a hilt with inlaid gold to indicate they had sufficient financial means to buy the tools of war needed to defend the land.)

6. Knights

Sworn to defend the weakest members of society in the Medieval days, knights followed a code of chivalry. Knights were members of the upper caste, and they enjoyed land they were empowered to govern, or held a position of authority because they served to guard a king.

Kings had to spend a great deal on knights because of the years of training that went into producing them as well as to compensate them for their dutifully hard-fought battles. You would see knights fighting on horseback as well as on foot as part of the infantry.

Weapons used by knights included the hand axe, arming sword and mace. Over the gambeson they wore plated armor, making them highly defended during wars.

7. Knights Templar

Some of the most well known soldiers of the Medieval period were the Knights Templar. They persisted for about 200 years after being endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church.

Founded to provide safety to Christians who were making pilgrimages to Jerusalem (once the city was conquered during the 1096 First Crusade), their ranks grew along with their reputation.

The Knights Templar had a reputation for being excellent fighters.

Non-fighting members of this group began handling financial transactions in Christian nations, which led to the earliest forms of banking institutions.

8. Mamluks

Soldiers caught, enslaved and then forced to convert to Islam by sultans and caliphs in the Medieval period were known as mamluks. Oftentimes they received additional training in cavalry warfare.

Because of the fighting abilities they demonstrated while fighting during the Crusades, they developed a reputation for being a formidable cohort of warriors.

They developed skills in treating battle injuries and were obligated to follow a code of honor that emphasizes being generous and brave. Periodically the mamluks would wrest power from their rulers.

One such occurrence took place between 1250-1517 when the mamluks took over Egypt, forming their own sultanate.

9. Peasant Soldiers

In the earliest days of the Medieval era, before the development of specialized soldiers, commoners, also referred to as peasants were the biggest proportion of Middle Age warriors.

Obligated to fight on demand because of their low position in feudal society, these peasants often resorted to whatever implements they had on the farm or used in hunting, such as axes and knives and spears.

Farmers not outfitted by their king or the lord of the land would be motivated to used agricultural tools as weapons in order to defend the land they cherished and lived on.

10. Spearmen

Among the most common warriors of the era, Medieval soldiers who carried a spear in conjunction with a sword were known as spearmen.

It was not an enviable position, because spearmen lacked protective armor and therefore easier to injure and kill.

Relatively untrained except for being shown how to stab the enemy with the pointed end of the weapon and to defend themselves with forcefully held shield, their job was to march in a line into the enemy ranks.

Spearmen are icon representatives of Medieval warfare.

Conclusion

Given the range of soldiers waging war during the medieval era, there is a lot to learn about their ways of life, their tactics and strategies and the roles they played in different conflicts.

This introduction to various types of medieval soldiers will enrich your awareness of history and hopefully will stimulate your curiosity to learn more.

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