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Warfare Through the Ages Roman, Greek, Japanese, etc. Topics cover all manner of pre-modern warfare and empire-building and crushing.

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  #1  
Old 18 Nov 16, 10:00
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Authors of the middle ages on how POWS should be treated

Writing during the middle ages..the 14th century Milanese lawyer Giovanni Da Legnano suggested that captured men of war should be dealt with honorably by victorious knights.

Legnano wrote that mercy "should be shown to persons captured in lawful war....unless by sparing them there is a fear of a disturbance of the people. Legnano was crystal clear by saying persons captured in lawful war... Legnano did not say that only rich and wealthy nobles were to be treated with mercy.

About 50 years after Legnano... Christine de Pisan of France suggested that a knight should not be cruell to his prisoners or tormente or make "hys prysonners to langwysshe in pryson" but he should treat them "goodly and humaynly".

A Scottish Priest of the middle ages, Gilbert of the Haye...agreed with Christine de Pisan on treatment of POWs during the middle ages

http://search.proquest.com/openview/...gsite=gscholar

Furthermore from Gilbert of the Haye,

The blind, deaf and dumb may all be held prisoners if they are implicated in the war; but by the law they are all of the class of persons to whom mercy is due.

Further from Gilbert of the Haye,

The courage, or hardiness, or steadfastness of a knight may come from several sources, but the best comes from the consciousness of a good cause. Steadfastness is the highest virtue in a Knight.

According to Gilbert of the Haye ransoms were only to be asked for in a polite manner. In other words if a Knight was to ransom his prisoner...the ransom must not financially ruin or cause distress to the side of the prisoner.

Again according to Gilbert of the Haye...if a POW was being treated unfairly, that POW had the right to attempt an escape. A proper Knight was to treat his opponents with dignity and respect. It would go against chivalry to mistreat a POW during the middle ages.

https://books.google.com/books?id=4a...soners&f=false

What is clear is that numerous authors of the middle ages provided in detail rulings that demanded a fair and righteous treatment of POWs.
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  #2  
Old 18 Nov 16, 10:14
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More on Christine de Pizan....a female who had a large influence on the middle ages.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christine_de_Pizan

In many ways....the world of the middle ages was better then todays world. The ugly hatred we see in todays world partly based on the invention of race was not a part of the middle ages. Yes indeed one can go back centuries to find females such as Christine de Pizan who had an influential role in society.

When one uses a term like dark ages it is an insult to the men and women who shaped the world we live in today. The Geneva convention and other rules of modern warfare trace their roots back to authors of the middle ages such as the lovely Christine de Pizan.
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  #3  
Old 18 Nov 16, 14:40
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Like most of the topics that this particular OP likes to oversimplify and effectively mischaracterize as a result, this topic is also very complicated and treating it with rose colored glasses is a mistake. There are several chapters in the semi-recent Strachan/Afflerbach edited book "How fighting ends : a history of surrender," that cover the topic fairly well, including one entitled "Basil II the Bulgar-slayer and the Blinding of 15,000 Bulgarians in 1014: Mutilation and Prisoners of War in the Middle Ages." Sounds just like the world the OP was describing.

Anyway, anyone who actually studied the subject at any length would find it hard to disagree with PG Manson's conclusion in his MA dissertation "Prisoners of war through the ages" that "the code's of chivalry had little to do with ordinary people and brought no transformation in Medieval Warfare, which was generally as bloody as before," and that

Quote:
there is little doubt that, in this feudal period, prisoners of war were regarded as chattels or booty and, as such, the property of their captors to be disposed of at will, notwithstanding that the Church, and some scholars advocated humane treatment, in appropriate circumstances. Generally, despite the views of writers like Gratian, Legnano, Bonet and Pisan that knights should act humanely, common soldiers were not considered yet to be human beings worthy of universal and unconditional protection and charity. In fact some would say that the dictum of these scholars was 'so often disregarded by combatants of all ranks that their words seem like cries in the wilderness.'
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Originally Posted by Stonewall_Jack View Post
In many ways....the world of the middle ages was better then todays world. The ugly hatred we see in todays world partly based on the invention of race was not a part of the middle ages.
It was sooooo much better when they slaughtered each other because of their religion???? From Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror":

Quote:
The defeat [at Nicopolis] was followed by a frightful sequel. As Bajazet toured the battlefield, hoping to find the corpse of the King of Hungary—and finding that of Vienne with the banner still held by his dead hand—he was "torn by grief" at the sight of his losses, which outnumbered the Christian. He swore he would not leave their blood unavenged, and the
discovery of the massacre of the prisoners of Rachowa augmented his rage. He ordered all prisoners to be brought before him next morning. Jacques de Helly, a French knight who had seen service with Murad I, was recognized by Turkish officials and called upon to designate the leading nobles for ransom. Coucy, Bar, D'Eu, Guy de Tremoille, Jacques de la Marche, and a number of others in addition to the Count of Nevers were thus spared, as well as all those judged to be under twenty for forced service with the Turks.

The rest, an uncertain figure of several thousand, were marched naked before the Sultan, bound together in groups of three or four, with hands tied and ropes around their necks. Bajazet looked at them briefly, then signed to the executioners to set to work. They decapitated the captives group by group, in some cases cut their throats or severed their limbs until corpses and killers alike were awash in blood. Nevers, Coucy, and the rest were forced to stand by the Sultan and watch the heads of their companions fall under the scimitars and the blood spurt from their headless trunks. Boucicaut, dazed and wounded, was recognized in the line. Nevers fell on his knees before the Sultan and, by a pantomime of hands pressed together with fingers entwined, indicating that they were like brothers, capable of equal ransom, succeeded in having Boucicaut spared. The killing continued from early morning to late afternoon until Bajazet, himself sickened at the sight or, as some say, persuaded by his ministers that too much rage III in Christendom would be raised against him, called off the executioners. Estimates of the number killed range—aside from the wilder figures—from 300 to 3,000.
ps-
The study of "race" in the Middle Ages is fairly hot topic. Someone like MarkV probably is more informed on the matter than I am. But for those interested, Geraldine Heng at University of Texas wrote a survey article a few years ago discussing the modern scholarship. Suffice to say, the OP's suggestion that race wasn't a factor in the Middle Ages is too simplistic - race was just defined differently than today. Its online at Academia I believe.
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Old 18 Nov 16, 15:17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Ibis View Post
Like most of the topics that this particular OP likes to oversimplify and effectively mischaracterize as a result, this topic is also very complicated and treating it with rose colored glasses is a mistake. There are several chapters in the semi-recent Strachan/Afflerbach edited book "How fighting ends : a history of surrender," that cover the topic fairly well, including one entitled "Basil II the Bulgar-slayer and the Blinding of 15,000 Bulgarians in 1014: Mutilation and Prisoners of War in the Middle Ages." Sounds just like the world the OP was describing.

Anyway, anyone who actually studied the subject at any length would find it hard to disagree with PG Manson's conclusion in his MA dissertation "Prisoners of war through the ages" that "the code's of chivalry had little to do with ordinary people and brought no transformation in Medieval Warfare, which was generally as bloody as before," and that





It was sooooo much better when they slaughtered each other because of their religion???? From Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror":
Oh come off it.
]Like most of the topics that this particular OP likes to oversimplify and effectively mischaracterize as a result, this topic is also very complicated and treating it with rose colored glasses is a mistake.

Nowhere in my post did I attack anyone, I don't deserve the above treatment. And let me make this crystal clear...I am not oversimplifying. Im not some sort of Harvard University Professor. Hey Im doing the best I can here Now you got me worried that your going to ban me. Look all I did was provide information from authors of the middle ages..I did not at all say oh the middle ages were a golden age.

Your thoughts on the following,

About 50 years after Legnano... Christine de Pisan of France suggested that a knight should not be cruell to his prisoners or tormente or make "hys prysonners to langwysshe in pryson" but he should treat them "goodly and humaynly".
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Old 18 Nov 16, 15:28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stonewall_Jack View Post
Oh come off it.
]Like most of the topics that this particular OP likes to oversimplify and effectively mischaracterize as a result, this topic is also very complicated and treating it with rose colored glasses is a mistake.

Nowhere in my post did I attack anyone, I don't deserve the above treatment. And let me make this crystal clear...I am not oversimplifying. Im not some sort of Harvard University Professor. Hey Im doing the best I can here Now you got me worried that your going to ban me. Look all I did was provide information from authors of the middle ages..I did not at all say oh the middle ages were a golden age.
You did imply that the authors that you cited were very influential at the time. You did imply that prisoners of war were treated differently than they were. You did say that in some respects (and forgive a reader for assuming that the particular respect deals with the topic you started a thread about) was better than the current age. In short, you did oversimplify. Don't worry about being a Harvard professor. Keep bringing the topics. They're usually interesting enough. But if you're really interested, dig in a bit before offering judgments that are too easy to poke holes in. FWIW.

And don't worry about me banning you. I can't do that and wouldn't do that if even I could just because I believe a post is historically inaccurate. We've all been called out for being wrong. If the subject is one that we care about, we take that as an invitation to learn more.

Quote:
Your thoughts on the following,

About 50 years after Legnano... Christine de Pisan of France suggested that a knight should not be cruell to his prisoners or tormente or make "hys prysonners to langwysshe in pryson" but he should treat them "goodly and humaynly".
Too bad not enough people were listening, both then and now.

-ps
The OP does certainly deserve credit for bringing attention to de Pisan. I think her influence is greater in other respects than the one discussed here, but either way, she was someone of note even then.
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Old 18 Nov 16, 15:47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Ibis View Post
You did imply that the authors that you cited were very influential at the time.
Well implied you say. But let me say that I was providing historical material to show that indeed some authors of the middle ages argued for better treatment of POWS. I did not say anywhere that POWS were treated with the utmost respect...that one would require further research.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Ibis View Post
You did imply that prisoners of war were treated differently than they were. You did say that in some respects (and forgive a reader for assuming that the particular respect deals with the topic you started a thread about) was better than the current age. In short, you did oversimplify. Don't worry about being a Harvard professor. Keep bringing the topics. They're usually interesting enough. But if you're really interested, dig in a bit before offering judgments that are too easy to poke holes in. FWIW.
Its my own personal viewpoint that in many ways...the middle ages were better then the present times. I happen to love studying the Euro and Arab Knights of the middle ages...I guess you can say I'm in love with the topic. But I know full well that not everything about the middle ages was roses. So I apologize if my post threw you off in any way.

I asked a historian friend of mine(hes an Arab Muslim) about POW treatment of the middle ages and he said that for the most part...POWS in Europe were treated poorly. Now interestingly enough he said that the Arabs(before and after Islam) treated POWS better then how Euros treated POWS...Do you think this might have been a biased viewpoint? Now the same guy also told me that Korea, Japan, and Chinese treatment of POWS during the middle ages was better then that of the European treatment of POWS during the middle ages.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Ibis View Post
And don't worry about me banning you. I can't do that and wouldn't do that if even I could just because a post is historically inaccurate. We've all been called out for being wrong. If the subject is one that we care about, we take that as an invitation to learn more.



Too bad not enough people were listening, both then and now.
Thank you and let me say you and Mark V are much smarter then I am...I sincerely mean that. I'm just a regular joe interested in history.
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Old 18 Nov 16, 16:46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stonewall_Jack View Post
I asked a historian friend of mine(hes an Arab Muslim) about POW treatment of the middle ages and he said that for the most part...POWS in Europe were treated poorly. Now interestingly enough he said that the Arabs(before and after Islam) treated POWS better then how Euros treated POWS...Do you think this might have been a biased viewpoint? Now the same guy also told me that Korea, Japan, and Chinese treatment of POWS during the middle ages was better then that of the European treatment of POWS during the middle ages.
My reading says its basically a matter of degree. If a captive was someone that might fetch a fair ransom, chances were good in Europe or the Middle East that the captive would be ransomed. If not, the captive's fate had as much (or perhaps more some suggest) to do with whether they were captured in the field or via a siege. There were a number of other factors, too, obviously.

There certainly were different legal constructs between cultures and religions as it relates to prisoners during this time period. James Brodman has done some work here (some of it online) with respect to Christians and Muslims. Apparently the Japanese did not ransom captives as was common in Europe or the Middle East. Some of Karl Friday's work on Japan is also on the net. And, of course, there is a great deal about the Mongols readily available.

Quote:
Thank you and let me say you and Mark V are much smarter then I am...I sincerely mean that. I'm just a regular joe interested in history.
I don't know who is smarter than who. It doesn't matter. This is a place to discuss history, so that's what we do. If we weren't interested, we'd be doing something else.
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Old 18 Nov 16, 17:04
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I think self-interest was the main motivator, ransom monies could be substantial.
Besides societies; at least in Europe, were divided more horizontally rather than vertically,so to speak.The nobility of France, for example, would see themselves having far more in common with their opposite numbers in England (say) than their own peasantry. Vivid nationalism -and the evils arising therefrom- didn't arrive until later.
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Old 18 Nov 16, 18:59
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Related to the discussion,

Labeling idleness a crime may have been a bit strict, but the justice system in medieval England should never be considered backwards.

Punishments for offenses in those days were perhaps even more sensible and humane than they are now, say some historians. [Medieval Torture's 10 Biggest Myths]

"The common view of the medieval justice system as cruel and based around torture and execution is often unfair and inaccurate," said University of Cambridge historian Helen Mary Carrel. Most criminals received gentle sentences merely meant to shame them, Carrel said, with the punishments often carried out in the open so townspeople could bring them charity.



http://www.livescience.com/927-medie...-medieval.html

Executions: Left, Right and Center?
Hollywood would have us believe that medieval evil-doers were killed on whim and often in public squares for everything from slapping a soldier to stealing the king's chickens. In truth, capital punishment was sentenced only in the most serious of cases, which included murder, treason and arson. Perpetrators were most often hanged.



Oh, Those Strict Church Types?
The pious Middle Ages were serious about their religious offenses, and each town's church generally ran its own kind of court to investigate everything from bad attendance to heresy. However, the church was also a place where criminals could avoid sentencing or punishment: the concept of sanctuary was well known in medieval times and let offenders hang out, and even escape the country, without fear of being followed.


http://www.livescience.com/11338-med...est-myths.html
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I think self-interest was the main motivator, ransom monies could be substantial.
Besides societies; at least in Europe, were divided more horizontally rather than vertically,so to speak.The nobility of France, for example, would see themselves having far more in common with their opposite numbers in England (say) than their own peasantry. Vivid nationalism -and the evils arising therefrom- didn't arrive until later.
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Old 28 Nov 16, 06:48
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May I just deal with this element.
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Originally Posted by Stonewall_Jack View Post
......Its my own personal viewpoint that in many ways...the middle ages were better then the present times. I happen to love studying the Euro and Arab Knights of the middle ages...I guess you can say I'm in love with the topic. But I know full well that not everything about the middle ages was roses. So I apologize if my post threw you off in any way.............
If you extremely rich your lifestyle might be very comfortable, but healthcare issues meant I would rather live now in the West than in any other time period or location.

For example, the Medieval rich (in Britain at least) had finely ground flour to make their bread, beacause soft white bread was a sign of status. Unfortunately, it also meant powdered stone was within the flour, which would grind down the teeth, leading to all sorts of painful problems.

In addition, while rich Ancient Greeks and Romans had a reasonable chance to live until they were 70, few Western Medieval individuals did so. The Medieval period was not a good place to live, although it could be more interesting than you might want it to be at times.

Further, you wouldn't want to be a woman either, childbirth being a real killer.
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Old 28 Nov 16, 10:34
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May I just deal with this element.
If you extremely rich your lifestyle might be very comfortable, but healthcare issues meant I would rather live now in the West than in any other time period or location.

For example, the Medieval rich (in Britain at least) had finely ground flour to make their bread, beacause soft white bread was a sign of status. Unfortunately, it also meant powdered stone was within the flour, which would grind down the teeth, leading to all sorts of painful problems.

In addition, while rich Ancient Greeks and Romans had a reasonable chance to live until they were 70, few Western Medieval individuals did so. The Medieval period was not a good place to live, although it could be more interesting than you might want it to be at times.

Further, you wouldn't want to be a woman either, childbirth being a real killer.
Yes many more people died very young during the middle ages when compared to today. That said if you could survive your childhood during the middle ages chances are you made it into your 60s/70s. On lifespan during the middle ages.

10. That people did not live past 30 years old in the Middle Ages
It has long been stated the life-expectancy for a medieval person was about 30 years old. This does not mean that a person was considered old or about to die when they turned 30. If a medieval person survived to adulthood, he would likely live into his 60s or 70s, and they would not be considered to be old until at least the age of 50. Life-expectancy rates were lower in the Middle Ages because there was a much greater chance that an infant or child would die because of illness or disease than in modern times.


http://www.medievalists.net/2014/06/...s-middle-ages/




I would say that so called medievalists have put forth reasonable arguments to showcase the benefits of living during the middle ages compared to the present times. For example it has been suggested that in England often a criminal would be put on public display for a few days to be publicly mocked instead of throwing the guy in a jail cell like we do in the present times. Execution was reserved for the worst sorts of criminals.

Police corruption around the world is a serious issue. Well in the middle ages commoners would police their own village and things worked out pretty well,

The lack of police patrols and maximum-security penitentiaries didn't translate into a lawless society, however. Murder rates per capita in 14th-century England were a fifth that of Washington D.C. in the 1990s, according to estimates by the British government.


http://www.livescience.com/927-medie...-medieval.html

I agree that certain advancements in technology makes the 21st century a fun place...that said there are certain aspects of the middle ages that I find we can utilize today such as having more of a localized police force....we need to find out how prisoners are being treated so we can get that recidivist rate down.
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Old 28 Nov 16, 10:41
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Once again a grossly misunderstood concept - the only men taken prisoner would be of gentle birth and possibly ransomable and it is only to the treatment of them that these authors refer the rest would either be killed out of hand or sold as slaves. All else is delusional

See Montesquieu and J J Rousseau on the subject
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Once again a grossly misunderstood concept - the only men taken prisoner would be of gentle birth and possibly ransomable and it is only to the treatment of them that these authors refer the rest would either be killed out of hand or sold as slaves. All else is delusional
Who are you addressing this to....the authors of the middle ages as discussed in the OP or the posts made a few weeks ago?

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See Montesquieu and J J Rousseau on the subject
The last few posts have us talking about life in the middle ages, not so much treatment of pows.
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Old 28 Nov 16, 11:35
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the only men taken prisoner would be of gentle birth and possibly ransomable and it is only to the treatment of them that these authors refer the rest would either be killed out of hand or sold as slaves.

Are you arguing that in the history of the middle ages, that not a single non wealthy pow was taken? Surely you mean to say that some pows were killed outright or sold as slaves? Mark what about the Ottoman Empire and Roman Empire which did indeed turn some POWs into fighting units...and indeed in the Ottoman Empire a # of Christian slaves turned Muslim and went on to become some of the most respected members of society.

From my op,

Furthermore from Gilbert of the Haye,

The blind, deaf and dumb may all be held prisoners if they are implicated in the war; but by the law they are all of the class of persons to whom mercy is due.




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See Montesquieu and J J Rousseau on the subject


Can you further elaborate on what your saying?

Just to clarify .... I'm not arguing that POWS were always treated positively during the middle ages...but its true that not all POWS were always treated poorly during the middle ages.

There are no gross misunderstandings going on here, we are having a polite conversation and I have shown itt present day scholars who argue that certain social aspects of the middle ages were better then what we see today. So in fact what I am arguing is not even inline with what actual scholars on this subject have to say. Just incase mark you think I am suggesting the middle ages were a golden era...I am not doing this. That said the medievalists I have discussed itt and in other threads have brought forth a convincing argument to show us that certain aspects of life were better during the middle ages when compared to today.
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