ANST - Nasty Ballista in A&S

Dennis Grace amazing at
Wed Aug 27 00:49:15 PDT 1997

Salut, Cosyns,

Lyonel aisai.

Wolf responds to my--
>> No no no no no.  You're making a lot of broad assumptions.  Mine wasn't a
>> question of function, it was a question of adornment.  


>and mine was a question of putting artistic sentiment over 
>functionality and applying it to something that would probably have 
>never been so ornamented ... a war-engine.  (i've never seen any 
>illustrations or come on references that would lead me to believe 
>that they were so ornamented ).  

Perhaps Lord Wolf's intent was to offer a question, but what he said was,
a siege engine is concerned, i would focus on the science aspects ... 
ie: how effective is it as the thing it represents, ie: a war-engine."  This
statement is certainly no question.  What's more, in describing this
so-called question as one of "putting artistic sentiment over functionality"
he again restates the very same incorrect assumption mis-ascribing *my*
motives in first asking the question that began this particular thread on
whether seige engines would have been adorned.  

Thank you, Wolf, for also answering that question (mine) in part by noting
that you have never seen any illustrations or come on references that would
lead you to believe seige engines were so adorned.  Unfortunately, your
further reference to seige engines as "something that would probably have
never been so ornamented ... a war-engine" begs the question.  Lord Gnith
and Sir Kief have both posted reasons for believing that ornamentation was,
in some cases at least, likely.

Wolf further notes,
>a lot of the references i've run into over the years seem to suggest 
>that in many cases they were designed to be broken down into 
>component system for ease of transport and re-assembled at point of 
>use - often with basic frameworks (that require less skill to 
>construct) re-built into working configurations at that site ... 
>especially for the heavier and less mobile engines (such as 
>trebuchets).  hauling complete engines of this class around would 
>produce a logisitics nightmare (not to mention that such slow moving 
>trains would be very tempting targets and would require large 
>expeditures of troops to screen.

All of which is fascinating but completely off-topic.

Wolf also notes my certainly condescending remark:
>> ... Where do modern Texans get this ludicrous assumptions that an
>> object can't be both effective and attractive? 

and says

>speaking of "broad assumptions", do you really want to annoy that 
>many people (grin w/fangs).  

An interesting question, and one I'd like to answer in two parts.

First, no I really shouldn't have made such a remark, fitting so many people
into an uncomfortable stereotype.  I have no excuse. I apologize if my
remark offended anyone. Bad knight--no cookie. (Incidentally, I'm one of
those "modern Texans" myself--I may have lived elsewhere for a while, but
I'm from Ft. Worth.)

Second, as to the fangs--are you threatening me or just boasting about your
remodeled dentures?  If it was a threat, I suggest you take it off list and
threaten me in your name alone rather than as part of "that many people."
There's really nothing noble or courageous about saying, "There's more of us
than of you."

Wolf then establishes personal experience as support for his position with:
>being a "warrior-type" by nature, i've got a lot of gear - both 
>archaic and modern that's both "effective" and "attractive" (though 
>some would dissagree) ... my harley, HK's, body armour, lots of 
>blades.  if something serves it purpose well, it is attractive to my 
>eyes and my artistic sensibilities.  some of the *ugliest* bikes i've 
>seen are ones that the owner put image first and function second.

Being a warrior type by disposition and desire, I've got a lot of training
and spend a great deal of time reading and exercising.  Gear is cool, but
all it proves is that you can shop.  Incidentally, I love hawgs, but you
seem to be drifting off-topic again.  Moreover, your reference to bikes in
which "the owner put image first and function second" again demonstrates
that you're not paying attention to the initial argument.  At no time have I
advocated putting image ahead of functionality.  I asked how seige engines
should be tested, and I asked if anyone had any documentation that suggested
adornment of seige engines might be a period practice.  Function and
adornment are not an either/or proposition.

Wolf then opines:
>i guess it all comes down to how you see the world around ... and 
>everyone see's it though differrent eye's with opinions based on 
>individual experience.

To some degree, I agree with this claim.  We are, however, at least
*ostensibly* a medieval re-creation group.  As such, ideally, the eyes
through which we want to view artifacts like armor and mangonels are those
of medieval people.  Clearly, we can never do this--not entirely.  We can't
go back in time and imagine that Rene Descartes never demonstrated his
_cogito ergo sum_.  We can, however, look at the way things were done in the
Middle Ages and attempt to duplicate the work and philosophy they followed.

Wolf further responds to my disagreement:
> >... Sorry, Wolf, but your claims here show little understanding of
>> medieval economics.  


>damn, you mean i wasted all that time and study getting the 
>history degree for nothing and all those special military history 
>courses were wasted .... harrumphh.  good thing i have computers and 
>system work to fall back on.

(OFF-TOPIC:  I should hope the time was not wasted, but such may be the
case.  My first degree was in Medieval Studies, and they tell me it
qualifies me to flip burgers or wash windows in many fine establishments.
What portion of history was your area of emphasis?)

>> ... For every 2-3 "ugly" seige engines you could field, the Duc de
>> Britagne could more likely field a couple dozen "pretty" mangonels--and his
>> would be designed and built by the best engineers in Europe to boot.  
>the point was "all things being equal" ... political position, funds, 

This last statement clearly demonstrates that I was mistaken in attributing
your erroneous claims to simple ignorance.  The problems were in your
rhetoric (your failure to add "all things being equal"; I didn't know you
were presuming to be a Duc for this argument) and in the logic which
suggests that any adornment of the Duc's armaments would necessarily consume
funds and artisans that could better be spent building still more seige

Sorry if that sounds smug or dismissive.  Please don't think I'm trying to
dismiss your argument entirely, Wolf.  I think part of your argument is
well-founded.  The English defeated the French again and again in battles of
the Hundred Years War by virtue of strategic deployment of what the French
considered ignoble and inelegant methods (yeomen with longbows and welsh

Wolf says as much with:
>in the realm of massed warfare, he who can handle logistics and 
>production better has a definite advantage ... if the choice comes 
>down to fielding a dozen unadorned, but well constructed machines 
>quickly over a lesser number (due to added cost) of ornamented 
>machines over a longer period (due to extra work to pretiffy them) 
>... which makes more sense to a professional commander / soldier.  
>the professional soldier / commander was (and still is) a pragmatist 
>who puts more stock in functionality than artistic concerns. 

Here's where we part company on this one.  The professional soldiers /
commanders weren't always primarily concerned with expedient warfare.  The
medieval European knight was typically just as concerned with looking good
as he was with winning the battles.  That's part of the reason the French
kept getting their butts kicked for so long by English bowmen. They didn't
want to "stoop" to the level the English were so proudly deploying.  The
chevalier ahorse had long been the mainstay of their military might--this
icon was so deeply rooted that the French nobility simply couldn't surrender
their belief that, eventually, they would defeat their "unchivalrous"
cousins from across the channel.

Wolf quotes my:
>> I agree, in part, with your claim that *some* late medieval art allowed
>> aesthetic concerns to displace functional or production concerns, but look
>> at the digs at Sutton Hoo and all over Sweden and England if you believe
>> only late medieval warriors gilded and adorned their armor. Aesthetics and
>> functionality need not be mutually exclusive.  To the medieval mind, they
>> were linked.

and corrects me with:

>i was talking about the resverse where the need was to arm and armour 
>a great number of soldiers quickly gave rise to the "munitions" grade 
>armour ... simpler, less finished, form over function, designed to be 
>mass-produced to cope with immediate threats (the Turkish invasions 
>for one ...).  

I see what you meant.  You're talking about examples such as John Hawkwood's
White Army and Robert Knolly's band.  Their troops used munitions grade,
functional armor.  True.  They punched out a lot of suits in a short time.
Also true.  They were effective en masse.  Also true.  The phrase I believe
you're seeking in this case, however, is "function over form."  "Form over
function" would put aesthetic concerns (form) first.  Incidentally, the
White Army tactic didn't catch on too well, at least not right away.
Despite their efficacy, they were generally considered brigands and thieves.
Thus, the efficacy of munitions armor as an argument against adornment of
A&S entries seems rather self-defeating.  

If, however, you can show examples of, say, Medieval kings, commanders, and
knights who eschewed ornamental armor and adornment in favor of the cheap
munitions armor of their lowborn troops, you might have an interesting
research source for an A&S entry.

My thanks to Lord Gnith and Sir Kief for their considered responses on the
question of adornment of seige engines.  How about the other question?  Once
we get these critters to A&S, how we gonna test 'em?

Also, Gnith says he's found no surviving examples or clear illustrations of
period seige weaponry.  What about models or maquettes?  Have any of these

And, weren't mangonel bowls cast of metal?  You'd think at least one of
those things would still be around somewhere.

lo vostre por vos servir

Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace
Dennis Grace
University of Texas at Austin
English Department
Recovering Medievalist
amazing at

Micel yfel deth se unwritere.
                           AElfric of York


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