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How big were the armies in this time period?

FossowayFossoway Posts: 396Registered 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?


  • Stratege1981Stratege1981 Posts: 3Registered 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: 193Registered 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: 937Registered 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: 50Registered 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: 1,099Registered 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: 396Registered 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: 976Registered 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: 1,099Registered 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: 976Registered 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: 1,099Registered 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
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