The perception of religious motives of warfare against non-Christian enemies in ninth-century chronicles
Within the frame of the concept of militarisation during the early Middle Ages, this chapter is focused on the hardly deniable (ideological) Christianisation of warfare by inquiring into the question of whether early medieval wars were perceived as ‘religious’ or ‘holy’ wars (as is often assumed, but more often rejected by modern research for the times before the Crusades). When we define ‘religious war’ as a war not only accompanied by religious actions or/and interpreted in theological terms – which we find throughout the period equally in wars between Christians – but in addition waged for religious motives (and thus only possible for wars against non-Christian enemies), chroniclers of the ninth century do indeed testify to such motives, although rather rarely, as two case studies on the defence of the Viking attacks in the Frankish kingdoms and the very early ‘reconquista’ in the Asturian chronicles demonstrate. In most cases, the religious description and interpretation of warfare against non-Christians does not differ from intra-Christian wars. Every war is religiously permeated, whereas ‘holy war’ is an artificial modern characterisation.
Laury Sarti, Ellora Bennett, Guido M. Berndt, and Stefan Esders
The aim of this introduction is to provide a discussion of the theoretical and methodological approaches in studying early medieval militarisation and how this concept may be used to better understand the complexity of the changes that occurred in the different societies of medieval Europe. It argues that the concept of militarisation is useful when considered as a process that is neither linear nor mono-causal, but related to a society as a whole, thus allowing us to analyse related changes without postulating a dichotomy of civil Romans and warlike barbarians. To illustrate the potentials of this concept, it discusses written and archaeological evidence by comparing some examples from Lombard Italy, Anglo-Saxon England and the Frankish world.
Some observations on the militarised frontier society of eastern Francia around 600
Starting from the fate of three central regions of the wider Rhine area in the late and post-Roman period, where the Merovingian King Childebert II had a number of laws discussed with his army and decreed shortly before 600, this chapter analyses the special character of the frontier society of the Eastern region (Austrasia) of the Frankish kingdom. As is demonstrated on the basis of further texts, such as the Ripuarian law-code and a formula to make the Austrasian people swear an oath of fidelity to their kings, military institutions and ideas formed the backbone for governing this frontier region and its heterogeneous society, which the kings sought to Christianise in order to separate it from people living beyond the frontier. The chapter addresses the question of how late-Roman substructures became integrated into the new Frankish polity, and how, in the course of this frontier society becoming profoundly transformed, male-centred military virtues and ideals such as loyalty, discipline, blood-money and honour came to dominate political and social discourse.
In late antique and early medieval burials of women, items of military equipment often appear. This is not of one overall type or a consistent phenomenon. Weapons and other military equipment vary in several respects. This chapter deals with the full range of observations and interpretations.
The understanding of the regnum Langobardorum and its society depends considerably on the military organisation, and the question of who was obliged to serve in the armies. By way of analysing the military organisation of Lombard Italy, this chapter aims to show at least one method of assessing the degree of militarisation and/or demilitarisation, and to shed some light on the mechanisms that determined these processes. In view of a 200-year history of the Lombards in Italy, it can hardly be supposed that in terms of militarisation a static and homogeneous picture emerges. Rather, different trends and developments are observable, leading to the sources depicting differing degrees of militarisation. Thus, in addition to increasing militarisation tendencies, most notably in the early years of the Lombard’s presence in Italy, demilitarisation trends are also discernible, especially in the final decades of the Lombard kingdom.
The recent increase in research on Carolingian fortifications has revealed the importance of the legacy of Roman architecture, which remains a model until the end of the first millennium. However, the ninth century was marked by the emergence of new categories of fortified sites – bridges and monasteries. The tenth century corresponds to the emergence of new forms that quickly led to the development of the classic medieval castle. The genesis of the motte, dungeon and stone walls must now be situated at this time. Between continuity with the old and new experiences, the Carolingian period saw an increasingly strong integration of the functions of defence, power and residence of the elites, which were previously often located in different places.
Researchers have accepted the militarisation of the Visigothic kingdom in Spain only since the middle of the seventh century. The purpose of this chapter is to question this point of view, providing new arguments to assess the impact of war and the military on the Visigothic political system from earlier times. To this end, this chapter focuses on the role of military determinants in the shaping of Visigothic monarchy and its administrative structures, those fields where I judge the early militarisation of Visigothic society is best reflected in sources. In this regard, I will consider the role of the military factor as one of the main legitimising mechanisms to assess the Visigothic royal power, as well as the main determinant in the highest Visigothic administrative cadres.
This chapter examines the place of soldiers in the society, economy and culture of civilian communities during the Middle Byzantine period, and the implications for the ‘militarisation’ of social relationships. It explores how the localisation and integration of provincial soldiers in towns and villages of Anatolia from the mid-seventh century, through kinship, personal associations, landownership/-holding and communal tax liabilities, affected the dynamics of soldier–civilian interactions and socio-cultural homogeneity. While legal distinctions between soldier and civilian remained clearly demarcated, insofar as military status accorded judicial privileges and fiscal immunities upon a soldier’s person, family and household, the intricacies of the Byzantine military-fiscal apparatus created significant ambiguities. In particular, the rootedness of soldiers’ in village communities, together with soldiers’ partial dependence on private or familial resources to fulfil their military service, created circumstances in which military-fiscal obligations could be transferred directly and personally onto civilian neighbours. Correspondingly, the very presence of soldiers in rural society, and especially the vulnerability of poorer soldiers to exploitation or coercion by provincial elites, could draw soldiers away from official duties and shape local power relationships.
Reflections on the emergence of the ‘Schwertmission’ in the early Middle Ages
In which respects did Christianity, or some Christians, or the Christian church, support militarisation in the Early Middle Ages? This chapter takes a closer look at the so-called ‘mission by sword’. Its main task is to analyse the letters of Gregory the Great, because in many publications he is referred to as the decisive figure who initiated new missionary activities and additionally supported using ‘missionary force’. This chapter shows that mission with sword and word could summarise Gregory’s thoughts. The inherited Christianised Rome theory, the impact of Justinian’s empire and the expectation of the fast-approaching end of the world created the background for his many commands to imperial governors and clerics to compel pagans and heretics to abandon their errors.
This chapter examines the evidence for political and economic militarisation in early Byzantine Arabia, especially in areas east and south of the Dead Sea and towards its south-west into the Negev. Drawing on a wide variety of evidence, epigraphic, faunal, floral, legal, literary, and papyrological from sites such as el-Lejjun, Nessana, Petra and Qasr el-Hallabat, Whately argues that the region was militarised in the sixth century, though the larger wars to the north in Syria, Turkey, and Armenia against Sasanid Persia and beyond had little impact on the region.