Tuesday, 31 March 2015

arsenal and armoury

Though medieval times are known—particularly in Europe, for violence and brutality and tactical sophistication does not exactly leap out, there were a few rather interesting innovations that were given exposure during the Crusades and contributed to the arsenal of exchange of destructive play-things among the East and West—arsenal itself coming from the Arabic word, dār as-sināça, a workshop.
The mainstay of the European Crusaders was the siege engine or the catapult (battering rams and siege towers included), which although refined and improved, was a technology already known and utilised during antiquity—and that was really the West’s best game. They were skilled at building secure fortifications that would repel attacks but were also good an undermining defenses. The Seljuk Turks were highly skilled archers and were more mobile than European warhorses at staging ambushes however they were also in possession of a secret weapon, inspired by the so called Greek fire of the Byzantines.  Still a mystery as to the exact formula, this was an incendiary substance, and like napalm, once aflame it was impossible to extinguish and would burn even across the surface of water or could be used like a flame-thrower.

The Muslims also expertly utilised messenger pigeons to quickly relay reports and commands across vast distances, a sorcery that the Europeans had never seen before and could not hope to compete with. It was, however, the armies of the khan from the far distant Mongolian steppe encroaching on Persia and on Transylvania to the north that brought to the battlefield the most volatile new weapon. The Mongols were able to ransack Baghdad and suppress nearly an entire continent through gun-powder, but once witnessing the power of explosives, the Muslims and then the Europeans alchemists were quick to harness it for themselves.