[based on an illumination from the Chronica Majora by Matthew Paris]
An extract from Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291
by Ian Heath


Illustrations in Paris' chronicles and some other 13th century sources tend to depict Moslem warriors in equipment that makes them almost if not totally indistinguishable from the Frankish knights they fight, and the tendency in the past has usually been to dismiss these as the products of artists ignorant of the appearance of 'real' Saracen armour. However, one need only look at a few of the contemporary chronicles to see that this is not an altogether justifiable conclusion. It is a well-recorded fact that much Frankish equipment was reused by Moslems after capture, including shields, lances, swords, helmets and corselets (see 31, 42 and 43) we read, for example, of Arab horsemen at Ramla in 1101 who 'took up the shields, lances and shining helmets of the slain and proudly adorned themselves', and one Ayyubid warrior at Acre in 1191 similarly put on the armour of a Frankish knight he had killed certainly figure 32 above needs only to substitute a helmet for his turban to become a 'Frankish' knight. The St Denis windows too show some Moslems in armour which resembles very closely that of the crusaders they fight.

At the same time Matthew Paris' illustrations also depict Moslems in more distinctive forms of armour, of which this particular figure, based on his drawings of the battles of Arsouf and Bahr Ashmun, is one. He wears a stiff, sleeveless scale corselet (probably based on a leather foundation) over a short coat-of-mail with a coif, and apparently also wears quilted cuisses. Whether or not such equipment was ever actually worn by Egyptian or Syrian Moslems is open to debate, but it certainly was worn by the Moslems of Andalusian Spain as explained under figures 75 and 76 in 'Armies of Feudal Europe'.

One point that should be noted, however, is that according to L. A. Mayer the flat-topped variety of kite-shield depicted here was never actually adopted by the Saracens (though again captured shields would have almost certainly been thus used). 46a and b show 2 more typical shields of the Turs variety from other illustrations by Paris.

Next: 47. AYYUBID MAMLUK c. 1240 in Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291 by Ian Heath

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