Medieval Warfare Facts, Weapons, Tactics and Armor


This blog will explore the history of warfare between 500 and 1500 as well as the tactics, techniques and weapons used by warriors from this period.

Introduction to Medieval Warfare

The Middle Ages is a period in European history that lasted roughly 1,000 years. It began with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 A.D., and ended with the beginning of the Renaissance around 1300 A.D. During this time, warfare was a key part of everyday life for many people who lived during this period.

During the Middle Ages, fighting was very different from today’s warfare; there weren’t any guns or bombs to kill soldiers before they even got close to each other! Instead, knights fought on horseback using swords and shields; archers used bows and arrows instead of rifles or machine guns; spearmen had spears like modern-day police officers carry nightsticks (called halberds). You can learn more about how these weapons worked by clicking here if you’re interested!

The Dark Ages (500-1000)

The Dark Ages (500-1000) were a time of chaos in Europe when the Roman Empire fell and its lands were divided into smaller kingdoms. Vikings invaded Europe, attacking Britain, France, and Italy. The Vikings were pagans and did not respect Christianity; they terrified the people with their violence and cruelty.

High Middle Ages (1000-1250)

The battles of the high middle ages were mostly fought between Christians and Muslims, in what is known as the Crusades. These wars were fought over religious differences, but they also helped to spread trade and other economic advancements throughout Europe. The Hundred Years’ War was a battle between England and France which lasted from 1337-1453. This was one of the longest battles in history, lasting 116 years!

During this time period, gunpowder weapons began to be used more frequently on battlefields around Europe, especially during long sieges where taking down stone walls was necessary for an attack to succeed. A few notable battles include:

  • Battle of Crécy – Edward III’s English army defeats an outnumbered French force at Crécy in 1346 using longbows against Genoese crossbowmen (longbows vs shortbows).
  • Battle of Agincourt – Henry V’s English army uses archers again French knights at Agincourt in 1415 (archers vs knights). Henry won this battle due to his superior tactics but only because he had more men than his opponent who didn’t want to fight with heavy armor on hot summer days after marching all night long!
  • The Siege of Orléans – Joan d’Arc leads troops into battle against Charles VII at Orleans where she defends against Burgundian forces led by Duke John II (1428).

Late Middle Ages (1250-1500)

The Late Middle Ages was a period of time between 1250 and 1500. This was the last stage of the middle ages before the Renaissance began.

In this period, you see many changes in warfare and society, including:

  • The rise of Italian city-states like Venice, Florence and Milan as powerful economic centers that were also involved in trade with Eastern countries like Turkey (the Ottomans).
  • The rise of other large empires such as the Ottoman Empire which had control over a lot of land along with their military strength. They also had a navy that allowed them to sail into other parts of Europe without much difficulty by using sea routes instead of going through land routes which could take longer time but also be more expensive because they would have to bring food supplies with them on their journey.

How Medieval Battles were Fought

You might think that battles were fought in the open fields and that they involved lots of hand-to-hand combat. However, this wasn’t always the case.

The most common type of battle was fought between opposing armies deployed on a wide open battlefield. The battle itself would start with one side trying to outflank or encircle its enemy. This meant that there was often a lot of maneuvering by both sides before any actual fighting began (see diagram below).

Tactics and Formation

The tactics and formations used throughout history were most often the result of a certain style of warfare. The earliest forms of combat were largely unorganized and unpredictable, as soldiers fought in small groups with little to no communication or strategy. Over time, armies became more organized and began using tactics that allowed them to be more effective on the battlefield. As these tactics developed, soldiers learned how to communicate effectively with one another so they could maintain communication between units during battle. They also learned how best to keep themselves safe while fighting off their enemies while protecting themselves from harm at all times.

Medieval Weapons

Swords and sabers were the most common weapons that were used in medieval warfare. Swords were mainly used for close combat, while sabers were used for horseback combat. Axes, maces, and hammers were also popular medieval weapons as they could be used at close range against an enemy. Polearms and spears were also commonly used by soldiers as they allowed them to attack from a distance.

Swords and Sabers

Swords and sabers were used in battle, but they were also weapons of self-defense. Swords were used by knights, nobles, and soldiers, while sabers were used by cavalry (the mounted troops on horses). Both swords and sabers could be used for hand-to-hand combat.

The sword was probably the most common weapon of the medieval period. It was worn on a belt or hung from a baldric over one shoulder or across the chest at all times when not in use. The length of a sword could vary greatly depending on who made it and what purpose they wanted it to serve. Some people carried two swords: one short sword that fit easily into their belt loops for quick access in case they needed it quickly; another longer sword that wasn’t as easy to draw but which would provide more force when striking an enemy with an overhead swing or stab motion with its blade pointed downward towards ground level after being swung at someone’s head level first before coming back down again afterwards (think about how you might feel if someone tried hitting you over their head with something sharp enough such as this!).

If you’ve watched any movies set during this era then chances are good that at some point during those films’ scenes there will be at least one person holding up his/her own weapon against someone else’s while preparing themselves mentally before fighting together—or against each other!

Axes, Maces, and Hammers

Axes, maces and hammers were all weapons used in battle.

The Axe: The axe was used to chop off limbs and heads and was usually carried by soldiers who were on foot instead of horseback. This meant that it could only be effectively wielded if you were fighting someone within arm’s reach. However, with its ability to cut through thick armor (and pretty much anything else), it was still a very effective weapon for infantrymen. The axe would often be combined with other close-range weapons like swords or daggers so the soldier could attack from different angles at once with different tools.

Mace: A mace is similar to an axe but has spikes sticking out from one end rather than having two smaller blades at each end like a double-bladed sword does. They are especially effective against heavily armored opponents because they can break through metal plates easily enough—though most maces also have some sort of blunt impact feature (like spikes) so even if their opponent has no armor on him at all he’ll still feel a lot of pain when hit by one! Hammers are just bigger versions of maces used exclusively by mounted cavalry units who need something heavier than their swords can deliver when charging into battle against enemy infantry troops.”

Polearms and Spears

Polearms and spears were used by foot soldiers to attack the enemy and defend against cavalry. Pole arms were longer than normal spears, with both ends pointed. This allowed them to be used for stabbing as well as for parrying or shoving off an opponent’s weapon. They could also be used to toss a shield over the opponent’s head in order to disarm them.

Bows and Crossbows

Bows and crossbows were the most common weapons used in medieval warfare. During the dark ages, bows and crossbows were mostly used in Europe, but they were also used by Native Americans and Chinese. In the high middle ages, Europeans started to use powerful bows with long range accuracy that could shoot arrows up to 300 meters (984 feet). During this time period, English archers also began using longbows as their weapon of choice because of their superior range compared to other weapons like pikes and swords. Crossbows also became more advanced during this time period as well

The bow was a popular weapon for many centuries because it could be made easily out of wood or bone without needing any special tools or metal parts for construction like guns did. This allowed even peasants who didn’t have much money or metal tools access them because all they needed was some string from clothesline rope!

Siege Weapons, Cannons, and Gunpowder Armaments in Medieval Europe.

Siege weapons were used in medieval Europe to destroy fortifications. Cannons, guns, and gunpowder were used to destroy fortifications.

Siege weapons were used to destroy fortifications which defended castles and other buildings from attacks by sieges or assaults from enemies. The first siege weapon was a battering ram. The next siege weapon was a catapult that threw stones large enough to bring down walls or towers of defenses on top of themselves while they were being assaulted by soldiers who could then storm inside through the breach in their defenses created by this type of barrage. This would allow attackers access into defensive positions such as castles where they could more easily defeat defenders with hand-to-hand fighting rather than having artillery bombard them with arrows, rocks or other projectiles fired at them from outside their walls during offensive campaigns against those structures’ inhabitants before assaulting them directly themselves (“Medieval Warfare”).

The reader should come away from this page with a better understanding of the history of warfare throughout the Middle Ages, as well as the weapons that were used.

You’ll learn about the weapons used, like the bow and arrow, sword, mace, lance and spear. You’ll also read about tactics like siege warfare, cavalry charges and infantry formations.

You should come away from this page with a better understanding of the history of warfare throughout the Middle Ages as well as equipment used during that time period.


Medieval warfare was a brutal and violent time period that helped shape the world as we now know it. The tactics, formations, and weaponry used during this time period changed the way future wars were fought.

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