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How big were the armies in this time period?

FossowayFossoway Posts: 1,132Registered Users
For example, how many soldiers were fielded by Alfred the Great in each battle? It must have been much smaller than the rest of european kingdoms, correct?

Would that mean that ToB would be the most accurate TW if we consider the size of armies?
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  • Stratege1981Stratege1981 Posts: 7Registered Users
    Maybe, this is also why I liked the Viking Invasions add-on of Medieval 1. One could imagine one soldier is really one soldier.

    Maybe one should google historical battles on wikipedia. Often the battle reports there contain the numbers.
  • hruzahruza Senior Member Posts: 489Registered Users
    Somehow smallish compared to Ancient period, especially Roman empire. Average was somewhere between 5000 - 20 000 people. With 20 000 being very large army for the period.

    As for examples, problem is with reliability of sources so we have only estimates. Alfred's armies are estimated somewhere between 5000 - 15 000.
  • HrafnHrafn Posts: 301Registered Users
    edited January 14
    Your average battle in this time period was about as many as the game has.

    Anything bigger was a historically significant battle, and outside the norm.

    Even the battle of Hastings was only between 12000 and 25000 men, total. The Norwegians at Stamford bridge had only around 9000; and these were considered huge armies for the isle at that time. It was even smaller in earlier times. Most historians consider the "Great" Heathen Army to have numbered in the low thousands.
  • Nortrix87Nortrix87 Senior Member Posts: 991Registered Users
    edited January 14
    Historians estimate that the "Great Heathen army" were around 1000 men when they arrived British shores if they look at Anglo-saxon chronicle. Who say every ship had crew of 30 men. So lets speculated on Anglo-saxon records(1000men):

    In 873/4 the Great Heathen Army overwintered at Repton, one of only a few places in England where a winter camp has been located. Excavations from 1974 to 1988 found their D-shaped earthwork on the river bank and identified a mass grave of some 250 individuals, covered by the kerb stone of its former cairn. The bones were dis-articulated, long bones stacked together with skulls on top. Forensic study revealed that the individuals ranged in age from their late teens to about forty, four men to every woman. Five associated pennies fit well with the overwintering date of 873/4. The absence of injury marks suggest that the party had perhaps died from some kind of contagious disease.

    This was after the conquest of Northumbria and mercia and it was recorded that the Great heathen army split in two after this winter camp. Might be because of disease as mentioned above. The current leader Halfdan took half the forces north to attack Pictland while Guthrum took leadership of the rest and moved against wessex.

    The casualties of the campaign would probably be more than the 250 berried at repton, at this point they had conquered both Northumbria, east anglia and mercia. so lets estimated casualties of 400 total of the campaign. Probably also some men were left behind in lands conquered. But as we dont know i wil not speculate there. Those 600 left split up at repton. Around 300 Vikings continue south with Guthrum.

    So there should not be a problem for the highly populated farmlands of wessex to outnumber the Vikings with they're fyrd at they're first victory "Battle of Ashdown" if the estimation of around 300 Vikings are correct.

    Seems likeley that wessex would have the superior numbers at this stage of the campaign, and might also be why Alfread the great achieved what his predecessors could not.
    "We men are the monsters now. The time of heroes is dead, Wiglaf - the Christ God has killed it, leaving humankind with nothing but weeping martyrs, fear, and shame."

    - Beowulf
  • norseaxenorseaxe Posts: 378Registered Users
    Historians might be write about great heathen army I don't know but I personally think there army had to be much larger than 1000 men but I'm not a historian and I wasn't there I personally think it had to of been around 10,000 lowest 5000 I personally i know some people may think I'm crazy but I'd rather fight smaller battles but hopefully they last longer
  • FranzSaxonFranzSaxon Posts: 2,170Registered Users
    A simple bit of research could answer this question Lol. Idk what id do if I wasn't interested enough in the worlds history to know this, and only care about a vampire counts regeneration abilities (NOT saying this about you OP just stating my love for history)...the warfare was endemic but tiny for the most part. The few large engagements are sourced at 5-15000 men but 15000 is highly unusual and even disputed by historians. There was constant small skirmishing and battling and like was said the great heathen army was considered huge and ended up being 3000 men. So the mindset on armies during this time had to be much different than ancient times where armies routinely numbered 20-60000 men
  • FossowayFossoway Posts: 1,132Registered Users
    Thanks for the answers. It's harder than you think to find this information, most sources I've looked up (wikipedia included) just says "Forces unknown/Casualties unknown" for every battle of this time period.
  • MattzoMattzo Member United KingdomPosts: 1,432Registered Users
    Yes... it's more than a simple bit of research. Frankly we have no more than educated guesses.

    The numbers already posted in the thread match my reading. So the normal Total War size armies are likely to be particularly realistic.
    "Everything in war is simple. But the simplest thing is difficult."
  • FranzSaxonFranzSaxon Posts: 2,170Registered Users
    Lol, its not more than a simple bit of research, Barnes and nobles' first book on saxon and Viking warfare will have the numbers. And you can decide if the source is reliable. But I wouldn't know that if I didn't try it. I thought the same thing then I realized there are more sources than I thought. Besides the Anglo saxon chronicle. Anyway, fossoway grab a good book on the period like this one I just bought it https://www.amazon.com/Alfreds-Wars-Sources-Interpretations-Anglo-Saxon/dp/1843837390
  • MattzoMattzo Member United KingdomPosts: 1,432Registered Users
    I have read plenty of books on the time period, including the one you just linked, and I stand by my point that finding out numbers is far from simple. We have educated guesses.

    Ship numbers given in the primary sources are no guarantee of accuracy. Some are similar to numbers given in other sources, so seem likely, but others can vary widely.

    The Anglo-Saxon chronicle gives a figure of 23 ships that land in Devonshire in 878. It says the leader was slain and 800 men with him. Does 800 refer to just Danes, or both sides? How big a percentage of the Danish force does this represent. If they're all Danes, that's roughly 35 men per ship. In 877 the Chronicle claims 120 Danish ships were sunk of Sandwich in a storm. At 35 men per ship that's 4,200. If they're smaller ships of 20 men on average, that's a force of 2,400. Some claim 60 men per ship, which would be 7,200. That's quite a large range. We know some viking ships could fit 100 or more men, albeit these are clearly rarities. In 893 the Chronicle claims 250 ships land in England. If we assume average crew numbers were between 20 and 60, we have a range of 5,000 - 15,000. Not very useful, and based on many assumptions.

    Many mentions deal with smaller numbers of ships, say between 5 and 20. If we assume 20-30 men per ship, that's a range of 100-600, which seems a reasonable range for most small raiding forces.

    King Ine of Wessex published a law code in the late 7th century that defined an army as anything over 35 men. By the 9th century, the Burghal Hideage indicates a requirement for around 27,000 men would be required to garrison the burhs, which is a huge number. How many are thegns, how many fyrd, and how many commoners roped him when required? I've seen estimates of the number of thegns at 2-3,000. But how many men formed the fyrd of Hampshire? We don't know.

    In 1008 King Athelred required a helmet and byrnie (mailcoat) from every 8 hides, which would represent about 10,000 mailcoats in all. In 1016 a German bishop claims he has heard there are 24,000 mail coats in London, which he thought was astonishing. At Hastings we reckon the Normans had approximately 7,000 men, and the English estimates range from 5,000 to 13,000.


    So, to conclude, many battles were probably fought on the scale of hundreds on either side. Larger battles could have anything from 2-3,000 involved to 15,000 in exceptional cases according to some estimates. It clearly varied hugely, from bands of thegns a few hundred strong to the fyrd of multiple shires.

    But as to how many men were with Alfred at the Battle of Eddington? Who knows?

    "Everything in war is simple. But the simplest thing is difficult."
  • FranzSaxonFranzSaxon Posts: 2,170Registered Users
    ^exactly and who cares. You just got wayyy to specific. For reading , the specifics are amazing but for a game we dont need to think that specifically which u already know. U were just proving ur point I get it. Obviously we will never know those exact numbers. The point is which we have all already said anyway is that the numbers were probably around a few thiysand average for large armies and hundreds for most armies. Plus tonsof small scale raiding. Smoke as that. **** the specific numbers. This game will be perfect in terms of battle feel and actually feel historical, I.e. if u want a 3000 man any that will actyalky FEEL like a real invasion force from the period, and it will run smooth as butter on our systems. No need to lag out ur system with 10000 men to feel accurate for this game like u have to do rome2. Even though most of us didn't do that. Full stacks always felt pathetic. Now I run 2v2 minimum for my Rome battles cuz its so well optimized
  • kieran12kieran12 Senior Member Posts: 314Registered Users
    Battle of Clontarf in Ireland in 1014, about 100 years after when the Vikings TV series takes place. The recorded battle there was 6,000 men there on each side. This figures can go higher depending on who you reference.

    The Irish side: 3 to 4 thousand Munster men, and 2,000 Connacht men.

    Opposing
    Irish and Viking alliance. Roughly about 7,000 men with 3,000 of them being Vikings who arrived in Longboats to battle.
  • FranzSaxonFranzSaxon Posts: 2,170Registered Users
    kieran12 said:

    Battle of Clontarf in Ireland in 1014, about 100 years after when the Vikings TV series takes place. The recorded battle there was 6,000 men there on each side. This figures can go higher depending on who you reference.

    The Irish side: 3 to 4 thousand Munster men, and 2,000 Connacht men.

    Opposing
    Irish and Viking alliance. Roughly about 7,000 men with 3,000 of them being Vikings who arrived in Longboats to battle.

    This is the best average for large battles in the period def. 3-7 thousand. Plus the countless small fighting and raiding
  • HrafnHrafn Posts: 301Registered Users
    The battle of Clontarf was anything but average. Just saying.

    Your "Average" battle in this period fits nicely with the in-game 1v1's we'll have. Clontarf was more of a multiplayer 3v3.

    Either way, the scale of the game will be perfect for this period.
  • kieran12kieran12 Senior Member Posts: 314Registered Users
    Hrafn said:

    The battle of Clontarf was anything but average. Just saying.

    Your "Average" battle in this period fits nicely with the in-game 1v1's we'll have. Clontarf was more of a multiplayer 3v3.

    Either way, the scale of the game will be perfect for this period.

    Historians claim it was one of largest Viking battles ever fought against a native population. Some people have said the battle involved 20,000 to 30,000 men on each side, I think those numbers are too high for the time period personally. Ireland in those times was rich because of the relics and gold the Christen church had. Somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 men on each side is probably an accurate representation of the battle?
  • kieran12kieran12 Senior Member Posts: 314Registered Users

    kieran12 said:

    Battle of Clontarf in Ireland in 1014, about 100 years after when the Vikings TV series takes place. The recorded battle there was 6,000 men there on each side. This figures can go higher depending on who you reference.

    The Irish side: 3 to 4 thousand Munster men, and 2,000 Connacht men.

    Opposing
    Irish and Viking alliance. Roughly about 7,000 men with 3,000 of them being Vikings who arrived in Longboats to battle.

    This is the best average for large battles in the period def. 3-7 thousand. Plus the countless small fighting and raiding
    There are countless recorded skirmishes happening over a 200 years period, As far as I know, the battle of Clontarf was the largest battle to take place in Ireland during the Viking age. Olaf a Viking Chieftain or King was invading Ireland when Ivar the Boneless was attacking England. Legend has they ruled together. Olaf seems to be a powerful Viking if he was ruling jointly with Ivar across the British Isles.
  • FranzSaxonFranzSaxon Posts: 2,170Registered Users
    I said the average of large battles is like 3-7 thousand men, not that the battle of clontarf was average loll. The average large battle in this period a few thousand men. That's from source material. Clontarf and the great battle ect. are obviously exceptions. that's why I didn't mention clontarf in that post lol
  • RodentofDoomRodentofDoom Posts: 447Registered Users
    Early in the period a group of up to around 30 people could be classed as an army, which was roughly the crew capacity of 1 Viking Longship.


    The term army was very fluid.
  • kieran12kieran12 Senior Member Posts: 314Registered Users
    They say roughly a quarter of the population is at the right age to fight in an army. Even back then this was true. Ireland population was roughly 500,000 or just above it in 800AD and increased to about 700,000 thousand in 900 AD.

    So roughly 150,000 men for the whole island. England I think was 1.5 million in 800AD i have to look this up as awhile I looked into this. About 300,000 men of fighting age.
  • kieran12kieran12 Senior Member Posts: 314Registered Users

    I said the average of large battles is like 3-7 thousand men, not that the battle of clontarf was average loll. The average large battle in this period a few thousand men. That's from source material. Clontarf and the great battle ect. are obviously exceptions. that's why I didn't mention clontarf in that post lol

    Nobody knows for sure what the number was. Lowball number is 12,000 on both sides. Highest is 30,000 to 40,000. There were many big battles in Ireland with the Vikings. The Majority of which the Irish won. Does not mean the Vikings sucked in battle it could be they could not match the Irish numbers in battle. Nobody can for sure what but the Vikings definitely had the advantage with mobility. They had a strong navy.
  • KrunchKrunch Junior Member Posts: 3,024Registered Users
    "Of Fighting age" is a lot different from "able or willing to fight". "of fighting age" often also is equivalent to being a new independent member of society, forming your own family and practicing either farming or whatever your trade may be.

    Based on everything I'd say the typical full army in TW, which is usually about 2000 men on large(max 2400, lower due to cavalry and archers though) and up to around 2600+ on Ultra (due to cavalry and all that guff, could be 3200 if you only got 160 man units), that would be considered a large army indeed.

    As such if you got a 2 stack v 2 stack battle in ToB it would as it should be be a very massive and legendary battle worth remembering.
  • kieran12kieran12 Senior Member Posts: 314Registered Users
    Krunch said:

    "Of Fighting age" is a lot different from "able or willing to fight". "of fighting age" often also is equivalent to being a new independent member of society, forming your own family and practicing either farming or whatever your trade may be.

    Based on everything I'd say the typical full army in TW, which is usually about 2000 men on large(max 2400, lower due to cavalry and archers though) and up to around 2600+ on Ultra (due to cavalry and all that guff, could be 3200 if you only got 160 man units), that would be considered a large army indeed.

    As such if you got a 2 stack v 2 stack battle in ToB it would as it should be be a very massive and legendary battle worth remembering.

    I agree, but we can get a rough estimate of how many men are available to fight and can fight. I think Clontarf was probably a big fight. Brian Boru had united most of the South of Ireland under his banner. And was joined by Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill ( this name is so cool) of Mide in Leinster. Clontarf battle was likely above average for the time.
  • MortatoMortato Posts: 150Registered Users
    From a few hundred to a few thousand. 10 thousand was a massive army and 100 000 was unimaginable.
  • Total_War_VeteranTotal_War_Veteran Posts: 273Registered Users
    a thousands to few thousands seems to be the most common, with anything over 10,000 could be a time of great emergency and levied all the available able bodied men. Only a fraction of that number are elite professional force, the rest are usually untrained rabble farmer with few weapons, or even farming tools. They will flee in the first sign of danger though.
    Full support for CA and CA_Ella
  • FranzSaxonFranzSaxon Posts: 2,170Registered Users
    kieran12 said:

    I said the average of large battles is like 3-7 thousand men, not that the battle of clontarf was average loll. The average large battle in this period a few thousand men. That's from source material. Clontarf and the great battle ect. are obviously exceptions. that's why I didn't mention clontarf in that post lol

    Nobody knows for sure what the number was. Lowball number is 12,000 on both sides. Highest is 30,000 to 40,000. There were many big battles in Ireland with the Vikings. The Majority of which the Irish won. Does not mean the Vikings sucked in battle it could be they could not match the Irish numbers in battle. Nobody can for sure what but the Vikings definitely had the advantage with mobility. They had a strong navy.
    Yeah I agree and the Irish eventually did hold back the nortnmen, sadly it culminated in brians death, but oh his men got revenge...I love the early medieval Irish and scottish
  • kieran12kieran12 Senior Member Posts: 314Registered Users

    kieran12 said:

    I said the average of large battles is like 3-7 thousand men, not that the battle of clontarf was average loll. The average large battle in this period a few thousand men. That's from source material. Clontarf and the great battle ect. are obviously exceptions. that's why I didn't mention clontarf in that post lol

    Nobody knows for sure what the number was. Lowball number is 12,000 on both sides. Highest is 30,000 to 40,000. There were many big battles in Ireland with the Vikings. The Majority of which the Irish won. Does not mean the Vikings sucked in battle it could be they could not match the Irish numbers in battle. Nobody can for sure what but the Vikings definitely had the advantage with mobility. They had a strong navy.
    Yeah I agree and the Irish eventually did hold back the nortnmen, sadly it culminated in brians death, but oh his men got revenge...I love the early medieval Irish and scottish
    There was talk about a Hollywood movie being made about Brian Boru in 2014, but so far it not got the green light. I think this story would be better on Netflix as a TV series personally?

    Vikings TV show could cover Ireland and Vikings attacks there eventually? Brian Boru life is hundred years + thereabouts after England attacked by the Vikings.
  • wingren013wingren013 Posts: 849Registered Users
    kieran12 said:

    They say roughly a quarter of the population is at the right age to fight in an army. Even back then this was true. Ireland population was roughly 500,000 or just above it in 800AD and increased to about 700,000 thousand in 900 AD.

    So roughly 150,000 men for the whole island. England I think was 1.5 million in 800AD i have to look this up as awhile I looked into this. About 300,000 men of fighting age.

    100% mobilization was. Um not really ever a thing. Think like 7-12% of the fighting age population being mobilized at the most. Probably much less in practice.
  • Dinogig1Dinogig1 Posts: 70Registered Users
    With limited population an army which could hurt you population and recruitment pool if it died was aroud 6,000-12,000 men.
  • CnConradCnConrad Senior Member Posts: 3,074Registered Users
    Guys throwing g out silly numbers like 150000 based on 25% of the population.



    The USA has roughly 320,000,000 it has the one of the largest militaries in the world.
    It's number is 1.2million with 800k in reserves.

    That means a total of 2,000,000 out of 320,000,000 or 0.6% of the population of the US are in the military of the largest empire on Earth.

    Granted different times and places but 25% of the Pop being in the military is just silly.
  • kieran12kieran12 Senior Member Posts: 314Registered Users
    edited February 22
    CnConrad said:

    Guys throwing g out silly numbers like 150000 based on 25% of the population.



    The USA has roughly 320,000,000 it has the one of the largest militaries in the world.
    It's number is 1.2million with 800k in reserves.

    That means a total of 2,000,000 out of 320,000,000 or 0.6% of the population of the US are in the military of the largest empire on Earth.

    Granted different times and places but 25% of the Pop being in the military is just silly.

    25% of the population are men of fighting age does mean the entire 25 percent all went to war.

    First of all, America is at peace with itself, people they're not fighting each other, for land, conquest and keeping the enemy out. 800AD men in Ireland, are more likely to join a war or battle to defend their land and province and Vikings are constantly attacking, towns, villages and monasteries, so the men of this time likely learned how to defend themselves against attack by sword and axe to stay alive, very early on





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