From the late 5th century to the 15th century, Europe was in the grip of the Middle Ages. Technological progress was stagnant, the Church dominated day-to-day life, and brutal conflicts were rampant. These conflicts were not, however, the boring, unchanging slog that is sometimes portrayed in history books. In fact, there may be no period in European history so poorly understood as the Middle Ages. Myths abound, from the notion that people never bathed to the idea that everyone thought the world was flat - neither of which is true.
This is especially true in discussions of warfare in the Middle Ages. The hundreds of brutal conflicts fought during this period have often been twisted by Hollywood to create spectacular events that never would have occurred in real life. From fanciful stories of courtly knights to dramatic scenes of troops charging at one other after a passionate speech, dozens of medieval warfare myths and clichés simply do not hold up under historical research.
So, what was warfare in the Middle Ages actually like? It was brutal, chaotic, and often disgusting. Warriors struck opportunistically and used whatever tools they could find. Some of the most remarkable stories about medieval combat are true - like troops flinging the remains of their enemies into besieged cities with catapults - but others are simply long-held misconceptions.