Something I've been thinking about....

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Something I've been thinking about....

Postby Brother Kevfael » Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:51 am

Apart from being a reenactor/historical interpreter, I've also got an interest in human psychology, (NO JOKES PLEASE!!!). And I've been wondering: It is part of human nature that when people go into combat they try and make themselves look as frightening as possible, (to frighten the opponent into fleeing, thereby reducing risk to oneself). Therefore, is it not feasible that some northmen, (and saxons come to that), could have attached horns to their helmets to achieve this effect. Yes I know that no helmets with horns attached have been found in the archaelogical record...but it's just something to think about....



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Re: Something I've been thinking about....

Postby Medicus Matt » Wed Jan 28, 2009 10:23 am

Brother Kevfael wrote:Therefore, is it not feasible that some northmen, (and saxons come to that), could have attached horns to their helmets to achieve this effect. .


For display, yes. There are images from pre Viking-age North Western Europe of men wearing helmets with various attachments, some of these could be horns. In most cases they seem to be taking part in ritual displays, like the images of the two dancing men on the Sutton Hoo helmet and the single figure on the Finglesham belt buckle. These images, combined with iron and bronze age finds of winged and horned helmets, are what gave rise to the Victorian idea of the Viking horned helmet.

But into battle? No.
You just wouldn't wear something into battle that had things sticking out of it like that, something that would make the helmet heavier, unbalanced, easy for your opponent to grab on to etc.
Fine if you're a bronze/iron age chieftan in your chariot. Not so clever for an early medieval leader who's front and center of his shield wall.

However, your right about them doing things to psych out their opponents. Face masks on helms like the Sutton Hoo and some of the Vendel/Valsgarde helms served this purpose, as did the 'barritus', the Germanic warriors' method of distorting their war cries by holding their shields in front of their faces.


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Postby WorkMonkey » Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:16 am

Even a spangen helm, while not being as directly intimidating as the likes of Sutton Hoo makes you appear taller, taller = more intimidating.

I'd love to know the actual thoughts of the man in the field when it came to warfare, for the king/chief and his hired heavies its their way of life, very much the football yobs of their time, spend all day drinking then go and kick the shite out of someone. But what about men pushed into military duty? Although its a heroic culture I think this can only really be applied to the military elite, for the man in the field who has to arm himself to serve his lord was it such a glorious task?

Was there not a study a while back that looked into US marines in combat that found that a very low number of them actually shot to kill?

Now the marine corp is pretty tough, as tough as a germanic warband? I dont know, is it to do with modern society making them softer? Were they harder back then? Or was a large part of the shield wall just trying to stay alive so they could get back to their families?

If both sides were pyched up and unhinged enough to want to go out and cut other people up then surely neither side would run.

Perfect example: Maldon. After Brythnoth is killed the majority of the Saxon force legs it, the big mans dead, theres no point us staying here to die with him, its not my fight (although granted they do think Brythnoth is legging it)

His hearthguard stay and fight to the death. Their the ones with the reputation to keep and a stake in their lords death.


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Postby Tracey » Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:21 am

Yes - its part of evolutionary psychology. The more "fierce" a person looks the less likely they are to be attacked, and so there are less competitors for food and mates, so ensuring the survival of their gene pool.

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Postby Medicus Matt » Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:37 am

WorkMonkey wrote:
Was there not a study a while back that looked into US marines in combat that found that a very low number of them actually shot to kill?



Probably less advisable when your opponent is in your face with a spear/sword/axe rather than a few hundred yards away with his eyes shut.

Read 'The Wanderer'. It's written from the point of view of a hearth-companion who didn't die with is lord and gives an insight into the mind-set of a member of the warrior elite who's older, wiser and had time to reflect on matters of honour and duty.


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Postby hermann » Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:58 am

Medicus Matt wrote:
WorkMonkey wrote:
Was there not a study a while back that looked into US marines in combat that found that a very low number of them actually shot to kill?



Probably less advisable when your opponent is in your face with a spear/sword/axe rather than a few hundred yards away with his eyes shut.

Read 'The Wanderer'. It's written from the point of view of a hearth-companion who didn't die with is lord and gives an insight into the mind-set of a member of the warrior elite who's older, wiser and had time to reflect on matters of honour and duty.

Isn't that more to do with slowing down your enemy with casualties rather than killing a faceless horde. Hence the effectiveness in Vietnam of anti personnel weapons which injured rather than killed?



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Postby Phil the Grips » Wed Jan 28, 2009 12:30 pm

The seminal text on all this stuff is Grossman's "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society".

While it doesn't really deal with historical specifics it does cover the changes warfare required due to the change of weapons from face-to-face to dots-on-a-screen and the effect of massing crowds on psychology etc. and the training, tactics and methods of how to get people to actually hurt each other.

Essentially you have to become the really scary nutter that noone else wants to be around- or ingrain a culture of such among a section of society who bully those beneath them into doing the same out of fear of consequence.


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Postby Nigel » Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:57 pm

WorkMonkey wrote:Even a spangen helm, while not being as directly intimidating as the likes of Sutton Hoo makes you appear taller, taller = more intimidating.

I'd love to know the actual thoughts of the man in the field when it came to warfare, for the king/chief and his hired heavies its their way of life, very much the football yobs of their time, spend all day drinking then go and kick the shite out of someone. But what about men pushed into military duty? Although its a heroic culture I think this can only really be applied to the military elite, for the man in the field who has to arm himself to serve his lord was it such a glorious task?

Was there not a study a while back that looked into US marines in combat that found that a very low number of them actually shot to kill?

Now the marine corp is pretty tough, as tough as a germanic warband? I dont know, is it to do with modern society making them softer? Were they harder back then? Or was a large part of the shield wall just trying to stay alive so they could get back to their families?

If both sides were pyched up and unhinged enough to want to go out and cut other people up then surely neither side would run.

Perfect example: Maldon. After Brythnoth is killed the majority of the Saxon force legs it, the big mans dead, theres no point us staying here to die with him, its not my fight (although granted they do think Brythnoth is legging it)

His hearthguard stay and fight to the death. Their the ones with the reputation to keep and a stake in their lords death.


er actually thye are a bit soft one of my friends was seconded to them and got complaints about how he was pressuring them to do 10 mile runs


There’s a country in Europe where they treat their ex soldiers with pride no waits for medical treatment after injuries received during service, no amensia from the government. Cant for the life of me recall where it is but I know exactly where it is not.

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Postby Brother Kevfael » Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:32 am

I would tend to agree that you cannot compare societal/psycholoical pressures of today with the past. i.e. Today killing in western society is viewed as taboo, (unless you happen to belong to some gangs!) so the armed forces essentially have to desensitise a person to kill, yet in the past it was how you judged your worth, as a great warrior among some societies, so there wasn't such an inhibition. And there is no doubt that we're a lot softer than in the past...



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Postby Medicus Matt » Thu Jan 29, 2009 11:17 am

Brother Kevfael wrote:I would tend to agree that you cannot compare societal/psycholoical pressures of today with the past. i.e. Today killing in western society is viewed as taboo, (unless you happen to belong to some gangs!) so the armed forces essentially have to desensitise a person to kill, yet in the past it was how you judged your worth, as a great warrior among some societies, so there wasn't such an inhibition. And there is no doubt that we're a lot softer than in the past...


Sorry to be blunt, but cobblers.

Killing people in the early medieval period was viewed as taboo unless it was during warfare or as part of the judicial process, that's why there were very detailed laws relating to punishments for murder and maiming. Great warriors weren't allowed to just go around offing people you know?

I doubt that the non-professional warrior, called up from the fields as part of a fyrd, a levy or whatever, was any more or less predisposed towards killing than his modern counterpart.
It's the circumstances that dictate one's ability to take up arms and slaughter somebody else. Someone joining the modern armed forces in this or any other Western European armed force is doing so as a career choice, not because their homeland is under attack from foreign invaders, which was the situation and motivation faced by the non-professional warrior in the early medieval period. Find yourself in a situation where your home and your loved ones are in danger from an agressor and I think you'll find that you don't nedd much better motivation.

As for your talk of the modern army having to desensitise it's troops to killing, I find that, frankly, insulting to the many professional soldiers, both serving and retired, that I know well.
They receive professional training to be professional soldiers; I work with many soldiers from all parts of the Army on a daily basis and I have yet to meet any who have been 'desensitised' to killing. They do see it as a part of their job where necessary and are trained to protect themselves and those in their unit. That's what a lot of combat training is about, instilling a sense of cameraderie so that, under fire, you know you can rely on those around you and you'll do all you can to ensure their safety. 'Desensitising' someone doesn't make them into the sort of person who'd throw themselves onto a live grenade in order to protect their fellow soldiers. Yes they can be callous in their attitudes when discussing their enemies and many develop a dark sense of humour but that's just a normal human response to cope with some of the stuff they've seen, allowing them to carry on doing their job. It doesn't mean that they've become desensitised to it.


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Postby Brother Kevfael » Thu Jan 29, 2009 1:37 pm

It was never my intention to insult anyone. However, I am talking about on the battlefield, (i don't recall mentioning going around murdering anybody willy-nilly). However, you do underline my point, the societal and psychologiocal motivations of the past are very different from today:

It's the circumstances that dictate one's ability to take up arms and slaughter somebody else. Someone joining the modern armed forces in this or any other Western European armed force is doing so as a career choice, not because their homeland is under attack from foreign invaders, which was the situation and motivation faced by the non-professional warrior in the early medieval period. Find yourself in a situation where your home and your loved ones are in danger from an agressor and I think you'll find that you don't nedd much better motivation.

I agree it is circumstantial. Otherwise, you could start questioning whether there are psychological difference beteween those who go into the armed forces and those who don't....and I really don't want to get into that one,(I'm waiting for the "well you brought it up").

I tend to think that often people disassociate themselves from our ancestors. We have the same motivations and emotions as they did, they were as intelligent as we are. And this is forgotten.



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Postby Brother Kevfael » Thu Jan 29, 2009 1:38 pm

Sorry, medicus, your quote got mixed up with my views :oops:



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Postby Phil the Grips » Thu Jan 29, 2009 1:38 pm

However it must also be borne in mind that death and unpleasantness was a more everyday occurence than it is now where even food has to be clean and perfectly formed to be seen as edible.

Hangings, mutilation and injury were common as results of criminal punishment, illness or accidents and even simple things like butchery and death in the home would be an integrated part of life.

Part of the horror of modern warfare is the increase of amputees coming back who would, pre-explosives and modern medicine, have simply died relatively intactus whereas they are now surviving and returning to society with body parts missing and being more visible in society that has become unused and distant from such things.


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Postby Medicus Matt » Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:24 pm

Brother Kevfael wrote:
I tend to think that often people disassociate themselves from our ancestors. We have the same motivations and emotions as they did, they were as intelligent as we are. And this is forgotten.


By some people, yes.

But, for the most part, they're stupid people so I tend to ignore them.
:wink:

Anyway, I thought your point was that you thought that Vikings might have put horns on their helmets?

(And I still think that you're suggestion that soldiers are trained to become desensitised to killing is cobblers. What do you think they do, show recruits in basic training a load of images of mangled bodies whilst playing 'Ride of the Valkyries' to them until they get used to it?)


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Postby Brother Kevfael » Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:35 pm

Your opinion, and you are entitled to it, medicus. So did some vikings put horns on their helmets.....? it's given me food for thought, a couple probably did, then got told to take the damn things off because they were more of a menace to their own side.... But, nevertheless, it's been a damn good discussion.



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Postby Medicus Matt » Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:47 pm

Brother Kevfael wrote:a couple probably did, then got told to take the damn things off because they were more of a menace to their own side.... .


Now you're just being silly.

You are just mucking about now...aren't you? :?

Actually, if we work on the assumption that our ancestors brains worked the same way as ours then I suppose you could be right. It's the sort of daft thing that somebody might have done because he thought it made him look hard.

After all, the modern age does not have the monopoly on f*ckwittery.


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Postby Brother Kevfael » Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:57 pm

Tongue in cheek remark, actually, (although it could have happened humans being humans!).
With serious consideration, I think if going on a raid, some "could" have stuck horns on to terrify their victims, for psychological effect etc., (they could have stuck anything on really as long as it gave an effect), but given your earlier remarks, Medicus, regarding how problematic they could be in battle, I think its improbable such decoration would have been worn in battle.



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Postby Aelfric » Thu Jan 29, 2009 10:43 pm

Brother Kevfael wrote: I think if going on a raid, some "could" have stuck horns on to terrify their victims, for psychological effect etc.,.


Or more likely they'd just have thought "who's the tw*t with the horns stuck to his helmet?" To a soft target like a monastery a couple of shiploads of heavily armed killers is terrifying enough without the need to add ludicrous embellishments.



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Postby Hobbitstomper » Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:29 am

You'd act as an arrow magnet.



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Postby Stavros » Mon Apr 06, 2009 1:19 pm

Later C17th Persians had horned (khula khud) helmets, but then different culture, different period and they were cavalry.........sorry..........will shut up now :oops:


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Postby Gary » Thu Apr 16, 2009 3:28 pm

Death was also a economic transaction. 'Death price' being a legitimate recompense for killing someone. Now, imagine someone walking towards you, covered in silver jewellery and other finery (think Sutton Hoo belt buckle). That is a lot of wealth right there. How much are you worth?

Now, granted it was not a perfect system and feuds would go on anyway, but still, seeing your death price holding together someone's cloak or such like, who is walking towards you with a glint in his eye and his hand at his sword is going to put the willies up most people!

Not the be all and end all by any means, just another angle.



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Postby Aelfric » Thu Apr 16, 2009 4:59 pm

Gary wrote:Death was also a economic transaction. 'Death price' being a legitimate recompense for killing someone. Now, imagine someone walking towards you, covered in silver jewellery and other finery (think Sutton Hoo belt buckle). That is a lot of wealth right there. How much are you worth?

Now, granted it was not a perfect system and feuds would go on anyway, but still, seeing your death price holding together someone's cloak or such like, who is walking towards you with a glint in his eye and his hand at his sword is going to put the willies up most people!

Not the be all and end all by any means, just another angle.


As the bullion value of the entire Sutton Hoo treasure wouldn't have paid the wergeld of a single Kentish ceorl I'd guess he'd think twice.



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Postby Gary » Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:51 am

Really that little? Could you elaborate?



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Postby Medicus Matt » Fri Apr 17, 2009 9:31 am

Aelfric wrote:
As the bullion value of the entire Sutton Hoo treasure wouldn't have paid the wergeld of a single Kentish ceorl I'd guess he'd think twice.


Cough <cobblers> cough. :wink:

Using the early 7th century laws of Ethelbert, the weregild for a ceorl is 100 shillings, which equates to, what, about £10,000 today, in terms of comparative purchasing power.

The Sutton Hoo belt buckle weighs 15 ounces which, with gold trading at a smidge under £600 an ounce, means that the buckle alone is worth the thick end of £9000. Chuck in a dozen of the 37 gold shillings and you've got more than enough to pay for one dead freeman.

Half that to top a landless Welsh bloke though. Bargain.


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Postby Hobbitstomper » Fri Apr 17, 2009 9:57 am

Like Matt said.

I’ve got enough silver to pay a weregeld for a poor theign and the Sutton Hoo hoard looks like it has far more silver in it than I’ve got. Silver dishes are really heavy. Then you add in the gold which would have been worth 10-50 times as much (I bet Dave the Monier knows the relative values)

That said, murder is still murder, a sin, and what happens if the family doesn't want the money?



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Postby Medicus Matt » Fri Apr 17, 2009 10:18 am

Hobbitstomper wrote:
That said, murder is still murder, a sin, and what happens if the family doesn't want the money?


BLOODFEUD! :D


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Postby Hobbitstomper » Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:26 pm

These Saxons come cheap. The fine for murdering a Norman ranged between £36 and £44 of silver.



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Postby Medicus Matt » Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:37 pm

Hobbitstomper wrote:These Saxons come cheap. The fine for murdering a Norman ranged between £36 and £44 of silver.


Weeeeell, there were fewer of them and they were easy targets, what with being all enormous and/or ginger.
Had to discourage the trade somehow.


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Postby Aelfric » Fri Apr 17, 2009 5:28 pm

The direct quote is ‘there was not enough gold in the Sutton Hoo burial to have paid the wergeld of one West Saxon or Kentish ceorl’ is from Campbells ‘The Anglo Saxon State’ and is put in as part of a quite well argued case based on relative values which I lack the time to type out in its entirety, it is on page 71 though if anyone is interested, of course he could be wrong but I’d hesitate to write it off as cobblers. :wink:



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Postby Daniel Ezra » Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:24 pm

Aelfric: Any chance you could quote the next paragraph, which discusses how the Sutton Hoo treasure represents the concentration of scarce precious metals.

"What about the workmanship" (p72)

"The particular point is, of course, highly speculative" (p75). I'll say! The whole piece is unconvincing, in my view.

One only has to look at the workmanship to realise that this stuff is very high status indeed, and that your average Kentish Cheorl would not be able to get close.




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