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Military Organization of Rohan

Aldarion

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If you thought that Riders of Rohan are peasants on horses, you can forget that... they are, in fact, highly professional and standardized military, based mostly on Anglo-Saxon fyrd (which also influences military of Gondor, though that one is based more on Byzantine themata).

 

Olorgando

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If you thought that Riders of Rohan are peasants on horses, you can forget that... they are, in fact, highly professional and standardized military, based mostly on Anglo-Saxon fyrd (which also influences military of Gondor, though that one is based more on Byzantine themata).
Thanks for the link, Aldarion.
But I wonder if so close a parallel between Anglo-Saxon military organization and Rohan's is really viable.
There have been comments enough about the Rohirrim being Anglo-Saxons in every respect except for horses. With the A-S having a deep aversion to their use in warfare (thus Hastings 1066).
Is it really feasible to transfer an Anglo-Saxon infantry organization to a cavalry one? The latter would seem to me to need a far greater supporting organization ...
And as to the Rohirrim cavalry being a professional military, meaning exclusively concerned with warfare and twiddling their thumbs (read patrolling the borders) in non-conflict times - this concept does not convince me. I have this notion that a better reference for the Rohirrim might be the organization of the Swiss Army. All highly trained in extended basic training (and reserves exercises held at some regular intervals), but after basic training going back home - taking their full military kit including firearms and ammunition with them! The Swiss-born (1928) Catholic theologian Hans Küng writes something about this in the first (of three) volumes of his memoirs. What good it would have done the Swiss in the face of a determined attack by the Nazis is debatable ...
 

Aldarion

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Thanks for the link, Aldarion.
But I wonder if so close a parallel between Anglo-Saxon military organization and Rohan's is really viable.
There have been comments enough about the Rohirrim being Anglo-Saxons in every respect except for horses. With the A-S having a deep aversion to their use in warfare (thus Hastings 1066).
Is it really feasible to transfer an Anglo-Saxon infantry organization to a cavalry one? The latter would seem to me to need a far greater supporting organization ...
And as to the Rohirrim cavalry being a professional military, meaning exclusively concerned with warfare and twiddling their thumbs (read patrolling the borders) in non-conflict times - this concept does not convince me. I have this notion that a better reference for the Rohirrim might be the organization of the Swiss Army. All highly trained in extended basic training (and reserves exercises held at some regular intervals), but after basic training going back home - taking their full military kit including firearms and ammunition with them! The Swiss-born (1928) Catholic theologian Hans Küng writes something about this in the first (of three) volumes of his memoirs. What good it would have done the Swiss in the face of a determined attack by the Nazis is debatable ...
Swiss were infantry as well, and more to the point, a 15th century infantry... that does not work in the Dark Ages military models used by Tolkien. That being said, infantry and cavalry organization are, on strategic level, largely interchangeable. Byzantine army went from light-cavalry-dominant in 7th/8th century to heavy-infantry-dominant in 10th/11th century without much apparent change in organization. What did change were tactics, unit composition and logistical requirements, but when it comes to basic workings of Roman/Rhomaioi/Byzantine army, they remained unchanged from Diocletian to Manzikert (at the very least...). But Swiss manner of recruitment was AFAIK completely different from that practiced during Dark Ages, though I will admit that I am more familiar with English, French and especially Croato-Hungarian systems of recruitment in 15th century than I am with Swiss one.

As I have noted in the text, "men able to afford the horse will have been rich enough not to have to work in the fields". Keep in mind, we are talking warhorses here, not ordinary plow horses - a trained war horse was several times as expensive. Medieval knights were in fact professional warriors, they just were not part of a permanent military organization (and note that my use in the article is somewhat incorrect, as professional army is not necessarily standing one - Byzantine thematic forces were part-time professionals). So Riders of Rohan would, in fact, be able to afford "twiddling their thumbs" in peacetime. Of course, this does not mean that will have been everything they did - I believe that fyrdmen did engage in economic activities in peacetime, much like Byzantine thematic soldier was also a landlord (and a rather significant one in case of kataphraktoi) who thus managed his estates. In fact, in 10th and 11th century when strategic picture improved and Arab raids largely stopped, there was a significant problem of soldiers in old themes - those in western Anatolia in particular - selling their equipment and using proceedings to improve economic activities of their estates. Whether this was a cause, a consequence, or both, of Emperors' decision to rely more and more on standing tagmata and foreign mercenaries was not entirely clear, but it caused a downwards spiral which meant that in aftermath of Manzikert and civil war there was literally nobody left to defend Anatolia... Now, it is Gondor's military system which is based on Byzantine thematic system, but my point is that a professional soldier - especially a landowning one - is not necessarily a non-entity during peacetime. And speaking of which, was Rohan ever really at peace? After all, Misty Mountains to the north were infested by soldiers, and both Mirkwood and Mordor are just across the border... country will have been open to constant raids.
 

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