Samurai and Knights

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For six centuries the medieval knight dominated the battlefield and influenced the Western world greatly. The armored, mounted warrior, born in Middle Ages, revolutionized warfare and became the foundation of the new political structure known as feudalism. The Church put the medieval knight to the ultimate test-the First Crusade of 1095. The Church, which Christianized almost all of the knights, gave them a very high status in society, one that was sought after even by kings and princes. In the end, the legendary knights of the Middle Ages were lost in a world in which there was gunpowder, muskets, cannons, national states and so on.

No soldier or warrior has ever been around as long as the knight. They fought on the battlefields in Europe for over six to eight hundred years. Slowly, the knight rose his social status from that of the peasant to nobility. They were supposed to follow a code of honor and rules for a knight known as chivalry, which was actually not very well followed.

In England and in America, the popular image of the knight is mostly English, thanks mostly to the story of king Arthur. Real knights, though, first originated in France and weren’t even known in England for a long time. The king Arthur tale was about the political countryside of post-Roman Britain.

Basically, there were three main stages of the knight: first, the emergence of the armored, mounted soldier in the ninth and tenth centuries; second, the development of knighthood in the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries as an institution, and the age of the makers of the King Arthur legend; and third, the fall of knighthood as a result of the rise of new social forces in the late Middle Ages and early modern times-like colonization in the new world, and the discovery of guns, cannons, and bombs.

The early knights lived in castles like the early fortress that was built in Rudesheim in Germany during the 11 th-century. In the fifth century, the Western half of the Roman Empire was destroyed by the invading Germanic tribes. Powerful local lords and war chiefs offered protection to the peasants in return for service, which gave rise to a feudal society.

In the late eight century, the Holy Roman Empire was created by Charlemagne, king of the Franks. To build and defend his new empire, he needed thousands of well trained and prepared soldiers. At the top of his army were armored cavalry men which were pretty much the first knights of Medieval Europe. The armies led by Charlemagne and his allies were the only ones who were able to stop the invading Vikings who raided northwest Europe in the ninth and tenth centuries. The heavily armored cavalry of Charlemagne’s Empire led his armies to victory against the Carolingian and Ottoman emperors; they were also able to move quickly and easily. The early knights fought with spears, swords, and sometimes a bow and arrows. Their armor was usually an iron helmet, body armor, and a large wooden shield. These equipments were so effective that they hardly changed for 300 years! However, all the things that a knight had were very expensive to make and to acquire. The knights had to live all over Western Europe if they wanted to defend every area from invaders. Only they alone could defend the people of Europe from people like the Vikings, Magyar Hungarians, Saracans and Muslims from the south , and others who almost destroyed the huge and wealthy empire that Charlemagne made.

The development of feudalism helped sustain the knight class. A local lord, noble, or other leader would grant land to a knight in return for his military service and loyalty. Peasants, then, would get protection from the knights and local lords, but they had to work hard to serve them by feeding them with their crops and by paying them a lot of taxes. This kind of feudal system raised the role of the knight from mere soldiers to members of a new and powerful ruling class.

The Normans are known by many historians as the...
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