Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Carroccio

Each year, the Society of Ancients organises a day where the same battle is played using a number of different rulesets. Speakers place the battle in its historical context, and there are usually discussions about the available sources and how to portray the battle in miniature.
For 2014, the chosen battle was Montaperti, which fits my existing collection of figures rather nicely.

I put on a DBMM version of this battle which you can read about in Slingshot 296 - the magazine of the Society of Ancients.

One notable feature of the battle is the presence on each side of a carroccio - a wagon carrying a banner.
Even today, many Italian cities feature these in their festivals. 
The Mirliton 15mm Carroccio
(with Black Hat Feudal figures on the same base as escorts)
Frederick II captures the League carroccio at Cortenuova
When taken to Cremona it was hauled by Frederick's elephant. 

The carrocci and similar great standards carried on wagons were a feature of many battles, especially in the 11th to 13th centuries.

Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia summarises the origin and some details of these wagons but I thought I would bring together some of the evidence about them.

The description of Richard I's standard at Arsuf (1191) sums up much of  the appearance, and both the value and the disadvantages of the wagon standard.

"The Normans defended the standard, which we do not consider it irrelevant here to describe. It was formed of a long beam, like the mast of a ship; made of most solid ceiled work, on four wheels; put together with joints, bound with iron, and to all appearance no sword or axe could cut, or fire injure it. A chosen body of soldiers were generally appointed to guard it, especially in a combat on the plains, lest, by any hostile attack, it should be broken or thrown down; for if it fell by any accident, the army would be dispersed and put into confusion. For they are dismayed when it does not appear, and think that their general must be overcome by faint-heartedness when they do not see his standard flying; for no people have strength to resist the enemy if their chief is in alarm from the fall of his standard; but whilst it remains erect they have a certain refuge. Near it the weak are strengthened; the wounded soldiers, even those of rank and celebrity, who fall in the battle, are carried to it, and it is called “Standard,” from its standing a most compact signal to the army. It is very properly drawn on wheels, for it is advanced when the enemy yields, and drawn back if they press on, according to the state of the battle. It was surrounded by the Normans and English.

Battle of the Standard - 19th century copy from 'ancient manuscripts' 
Also known as the battle of Northallerton, where an Anglo-Norman army defeated the Scots of David I. It is possible that the standard was used in deliberate imitation of the Italians.
"Some of them soon erected in the centre of a frame which they brought, the mast of a ship to which they gave the name of the Standard.
On the top of this pole they hung a silver pyx containing the Host and the banners of St Peter the apostle, and John of Beverley and Wilfrid of Ripon, confessors and bishops. In so doing their hope was that our Lord Jesus Christ, through the efficacy of his Body, might be their leader in the struggle. They also provided for their men a sure and conspicuous rallying point, by which they might rejoin their comrades in the event of their being cut off."

The Emperor Otto's standard at Bouvines (1214)
This seems to be a 'draco' style standard.  Harold II, Henry III and David I are also described as using dragon standards though not carried on carts. See my post for an interpretation.
"Soon after, Otto, already flying his banners as if he wanted to celebrate before the fact the triumph he was so sure of, raises his standard high, surrounds himself with the supreme honors of the empire, so as to make his rays shine in the middle of such a great show and to proclaim himself the sovereign of the whole world. On a chariot, he has a pole raised around which a dragon is curled which can be seen far away from all sides, its tail and wings bloated by the winds, showing its terrifying teeth and opening its enormous mouth. Above the dragon hovers Jupiter's bird with golden wings while the whole of the surface of the chariot, resplendent with gold, rivals the sun and even boasts of shining with a brighter light."

Minifigs 15mm Carroccio.

"And to the end the Fiesolans which were come to dwell in Florence might be more faithful and loving with the Florentines, they caused the arms of the said two commonwealths to be borne in common, and made the arms to be dimidiated red and white, as still to our times they are borne upon the Carroccio and in the host of the Florentines. " (G. Villani IV.7)

"In the year of Christ 1228, when M. Andrea of 

Perugia was Podestà of Florence, the Florentines led an army against Pistoia with the Carroccio
(G. Villani VI.5)

"And the heads of the Ghibellines in Florence being banished, the people and the Guelfs who remained in the lordship of Florence, changed the arms of the commonwealth of Florence, and whereas of old they bore the field red and the lily white, they now made on the contrary the field white and the lily red; and the Ghibellines retained the former standard, but the ancient standard of the commonwealth dimidiated white and red, to wit, the standard that went with the host upon the carroccio, never was changed." 
(G. Villani VI.43)

Montaperti (1260)

The most extensive sources on the carroccio which I have found have been regarding the battle of Montaperti.

"And note, that the carroccio, which was led by the commonwealth and people of Florence, was a chariot on four wheels, all painted red, and two tall red masts stood up together thereupon, whereon was fastened and waved the great standard of the arms of the commune, which was dimidiated white and red, and still may be seen to-day in S. Giovanni. And it was drawn by a great pair of oxen covered with red cloth, which were set apart solely for this, and belonged to the Hospitallers of Pinti, and he who drove them was a freeman of the commonwealth. This carroccio was used by our forefathers in triumphs and solemnities, and when they went out with the host, the neighbouring
The Florentine martinella and carroccio at Montaperti
Villani's Chronicle (Wikimedia)
counts and knights brought it from the armoury of S. Giovanni and conducted it to the piazza of the Mercato Nuovo, and having halted by a landmark, which is still there, in the form of a stone carved like a chariot, they committed it to the keeping of the people, and it was led by popolani in the expeditions of war, and to guard it were chosen the best and strongest and most virtuous among the foot soldiers of the popolani, and round it gathered all the force of the people. And when the host was to be assembled, a month before the time when they were to set forth, a bell was hung upon the arch of Porte Sante Marie, which was at the head of the Mercato Nuovo, and there was rung by day and by night without ceasing. And this they did in their pride, to give opportunity to the enemy, against whom the host should go forth, to prepare themselves. And some called it Martinella, and some the Asses’ Bell. And when the Florentine host went forth, they took down the bell from the arch and put it into a wooden tower upon a car, and 
the sound thereof guided the host. By these two pomps of the carroccio and of the bell was maintained the lordly pride of the people of old and of our forefathers in their expeditions."

(G. Villani VI.76)

"Ora, preso il partito per li Fiorentini di uscire a campo, partironsi di Firenze il grande campo; e per pompa e per grandigia e per mettere spavento ai nemici, menarono il carroccio, sopra del quale era una grande an tenna in sulla quale si spiegava 1' arme del comune di Firenze, che allora era bianca e vermiglia" 

"tirato da due grossi palafreni" (drawn by two great steeds)

"Con quest' ultimo Terzo veniva il carroccio , con suvvi il gonfalone reale , eh' era tutto bianco , e  ben dava conforto che pareva il manto della Vergine Maria. " 

The white banner of Camiolla is shown on the Sienese carroccio in Ventura's paintings. Note how rustic the wagon is, with solid wheels and possibly wicker sides.

According to the headphone guide provided by the cathedral, the two wooden poles here are the masts (antennae) of the Florentine and Sienese carrocci used at Montaperti. A nineteenth century study says that they are actually votive offerings of Sienese antennae.

This rather unprepossessing
doorway is seemingly
the home of modern Siena's
carroccio. It is right next to the
Piazza del Campo

Other battles where a standard wagon is noted include

Sirmium (1167) - used by the Hungarians
Legnano (1176) - where it formed the heart of the victorious Milanese defence
Bodesine (1213) - details seem confused but a Milanese carroccio said to have been captured here still exists - in part - in Cremona
Cortenuova (1237) - the Milanese carroccio was captured and sent via Cremona to Frederick's allies in Rome.
Wörringen (1288) - used by the Archbishop of Cologne.
A 1621 picture of the standard wagon at Wörringen is here. Another, clearer, picture can be found in this modelling guide to making this wagon. The Rymkronyk can be found here. More info on the battle including a model of the wagon here.

Lewes (1264) - De Montfort left his banner with his wagon but this does not seem have been a proper standard in the manner of the others. The wagon had been used to carry him around after he was injured and during the battle seems to have incarcerated some London notables.

Please let me know if you have details of other battles where carrocci are known to have taken part.

Model Carrocci:

Mirliton 15mm or 15mm,  28mm
Minifigs 15mm
Black Hat 15mm
Essex 15mm, 28mm
Hall of Ancient Warriors 15mm (I don't know anything of this one!)
Perry 28mm - also available with just the wagon
First Corps 28mm

Let me know if you are aware of others.

Downloadable banners from Krigsspil

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Medieval Spanish

Just a quick post:
I came across a splendid collection of Medieval Spanish pictures on the Foro del Historia Militar el Gran Capitan

A great resource for painting Spanish knights including those from Touller and the newer figures from Donnington New Era.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


A long while back I said I'd put some comparisons of various Normans on here. Now that painting for Montaperti is out of the way, here are the Normans.

Two Dragons and Khurasan versions of Duke William
One of my favourite figures - Two Dragons' William Rufus figure.
He comes with a rearing horse being (barely) held by a serf.
I have used figures from three companies - from the left: Two Dragons, Donnington and Khurasan. 
They mix pretty well sizewise but the style is different enough that I would not mix them on a base. This has the advantage as well that I can tell which command each element is from. Two Dragons are the most idiosyncratic with a good variety of pose and lots of movement though there is a touch more caricature about them. The shields are rather thick but this doesn't stand out too much.
Donnington have a good range of poses though the sculpting isn't quite as sharp as the others.
Khurasan have a  bit more limited range of poses but these are designed to give the impression of a galloping mass. I'm slightly wary about the chance of some of the horses coming off their stands though. The figures are probably the easiest to pain of the three as the mail definition is very clear - this does of course mean it is exaggerated compared to real life but it helps the effect. It is also handy that the hands are ready to take the separate weapons - no drilling required.

This shows Two Dragons dismounted knights and Khurasan infantry. Again there is a difference in style but the size matches pretty well.

Lots of variety in the Two Dragons range

Two Dragons Scouts
Some more of my favourite figures from any range.

In DBMM, the Normans are allowed to dismount so it is handy to have the mounts ready.
More characterful figures from Two Dragons.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Way of the Horse and Bow

...or the Early Samurai in DBMM.

It has been rather too long since my last blog post, though much of that time was spent with this project.

One of the first armies I ever painted was a Samurai period Japanese army but that was for a friend to use with WRG 6th edition a long time ago. Since then, I haven't been particularly interested in them. When I started researching the Mongols, I used the Invasion Scroll for some ideas and that put the germ of an idea for doing a Samurai army into my head.

I was put off by the thought of doing the lacing for the Mongol invasion period and eventually started to do an early 16th century army, the lacing being less prominent. A few of the Old Glory figures had a look which lent themselves to be painted wearing the older style armour and after doing them I thought it might be manageable after all.

Sometimes, an idle thought like this can lead to a lot of work...

Anyway, I'd already researched the available 15mm ranges and there aren't many which are intended for the 12th and 13th centuries, the time of the Gempei war, the Mongol invasion and the beginning of the shogunate.

This shows the two ranges I chose. Those on the left are Eureka, available in the UK from Fighting 15s.
Those to the right are Essex. I liked each range for different reasons and so had one command's cavalry from Eureka with the remainder by Essex.

During the writing of the DBMM lists for the Samurai, the evidence was interpreted as there being very close co-operation between the mounted and foot. This has been reproduced by having a compulsory double base of cavalry and auxillia (representing the followers). This gives a number of disadvantages - slower movement, less able to exploit gaps, less easy to interpenetrate as many other troop types - but gives some advantages - a bonus in combat being the most important.

When it came down to it, the main reason I decided to do them was that the big base allowed more of a diorama look than a normal size.

These are more of the Eureka figures. Some of the cavalry are supported by monks, just for variety.
The banner is made from wire and paper.

Below are some of the Eureka foot. There is a nice degree of variety with the dismounted Samurai but only two rather similar poses for the followers. The banners - hata-jirushi - are moulded on the figures.

They are a bit pricier than most ranges but the mounted archers in particular are fine figures, with a 'breakwaist' allowing multiple positions. A couple of other poses would have been nice, such as the distinctive position as the bow is about to be drawn. There are also some cavalry carrying swords and naginata though these poses are less impressive.

Eureka also do this command scene. They provide screens though I actually used some from Peter Pig. They are painted with the Hojo kamon.

More Eureka figures.
I started doing the binding on a the bows in red but switched to a light buff as it was more noticeable.

These are Essex figures. I don't often use Essex but these have a much broader ranger of poses and are pretty accurate. The banners are more paper and wire creations. Neither Eureka nor Essex do a mounted banner bearer even though they are shown in the original scrolls - in fact one of the bearers on foot is only unmounted because his horse was killed.

These are some of the hata-jirushi shown on the invasion scroll. Going by the numbers from some contingents, there were a lot of these banners carried in an army. To make things a little easier, the generals have two banners per base, one carried by a foot soldier.

You can also see the quivers. Some of them have a separate quiver which needs to be glued on, as does the sword scabbard. The quivers which are moulded on are probably a bit high but they don't spoil the figure.

The DBMM list allows one command of cavalry to be single based, which gives a bit of flexibility. The figure brandishing a sword has this to replace the naginata he came with. It is, though, extremely unusual to see a cavalryman in scrolls from this period with anything other than a bow in his hand. In the histories, the sword tends to get used once the arrows are expended - I wasn't about the carve them off this figure though. The sword is simply a spare tachi  as supplied by Essex for gluing on in its scabbard. They are thin enough for this and I rather wish I'd replaced them on the Eureka figures as well.

A mix of infantry from Essex. It is possible to have archers (psiloi in DBMM) supporting some of the naginata armed foot (auxillia in 'MM) which mostly helps against mounted attacks. However, these are unusually a compulsory double base. This makes them a bit cheaper but gives less flexibility. The pavises to the rear are simply plastic card with a brass wire support.

There is a good range of variation in the Essex foot.

Here are some more, with the odd head from Peter Pig.

And more, with the peasants carrying sharpened bamboo in the background.

For inspiration and info:
Online - 
The Heiji Scroll
The Invasion Scroll
Going by the scrolls, most samurai had single colour lacing (other than the top couple of rows which were often pale), Some, especially in the Heiji scroll, appear to have leather covering each row. However, for the showier forms of lacing see Lacing patterns. Also see this for the range of colours used.

Books -
 In Little Need of Divine Intervention, Takezaki Suenaga's Scrolls of the Mongol Invasion of Japan (Conlan) (includes line drawings, a translation of the text and a discussion of the invasions).
Warriors of Japan as portrayed in the War Tales (Varley) - mostly about behaviour rather than appearance
Samurai, Warfare and State in Early Medieval Japan (Friday)
There is a handy thread on TMP with more suggested reading matter for the Samurai era, including this early period, here.
Various Turnbull books are handy but most of his stuff covers the Sengoku.