Tuesday 23 November 2021

Composition of the Armies

The civil war of 714-719 is described by Contamine, in War in the Middle Ages, as a dispute between two houses, the Pippinid and Arnulfing families. Both forces were reliant on loyal supporters to close ranks and help the Neustrian or Austrasian cause, nonetheless, using the Carolingian list of III/28 to refight Compiègne, Cologne, Amblève and Vincy, will need some modification. 

Firstly, the Frisians, who fought alongside Neustria are not mentioned as allies and secondly, the armies were not as multi-racial as the army list indicates; Swabia, Bavaria, Thuringia and Gascony had yet to be subdued by Charles Martel. This left both forces to levy troops from the cities within their respective realms of Neustria and Austrasia. 

Refining the list

Looking at the two realms, Austrasia encompassed the original tribal territories of the Salian and Ripuarian Franks, which left the former Gallo-Roman territories, including Burgundy, under Neustrian control. Despite the large territories, both armies fielded relatively small forces due to the limited number of magnates supporting either side, with many viewing the conflict as a dispute between two aristocratic houses. Contamine estimates a possible troop strength nearing 1000 or 2000 men with 5,000 being an exception. These numbers would eventually increase during the reign of the Charlemagne, as military obligation would become universal for all levels of society, to include the Church. 

With a reduction in the number of supporters, we would also see a reduced number of noble cavalry, but as Contamine adds, Frankish cavalry were not averse to dismount and fight on foot. Halsall, Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West 450 – 900, also suggests the armies at the time were mounted to increase their mobility, but fought mostly on foot, a point neither DBA3 or DBMM cater for, but may be useful for a campaign. What is allowed, knights may dismount as spearmen (DBMM). 

DBMM does list Frisians as allies of Neustria, but have them using the II/78, Old Saxon, Frisian, Bavarian, Thuringian and Early Anglo-Saxon Army list. This gives Radbod a massive warband host to meet Charles before the walls of Cologne and not a mirror image of the Carolingian army. 

A modified Carolingian list for the civil war of 714 – 719 might look like this:

The Carolingian Franks 714 – 719 AD

1 x General (3Kn//Sp), 2 x caballari (3Kn), 2 x caballari (3Kn//Sp), 4 x select levies (4Bd), 1 x archers (3Bw or Ps), 1 x archers (Ps), 1 x lesser levies (7Hd). Allies of Neustria, Frisian II/78.

Using the historical scale on page 14 and reduce this by half, will produces a total of 2,375 men, not far off the suggested troop strength of Philippe Contamine. 

Recommended reading

Philippe Contamine, War in the Middle Ages.

Charles Oman, The Dark Ages, 476 – 918,

Timothy Reuter, Germany in the Early Middle Ages, 800 – 1056.

Ian Wood, The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450 – 751.

Hugh Kennedy, Muslim Spain and Portugal.

Slingshot 273, 274, 276, 279, 280

Sources often quoted in the above reading list.

Chronique de Frédégaire.

Liber Historiae Francorum.

Annales Alamannici (en).

Annales de Metz.

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