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Medieval battles remain one of the most popular images to show in modern media. However, most depictions of large battles get the time frame wrong by about 20-60% of the total time. This is because if they were to show an accurate medieval battle it would be rather boring for the audience. This article goes over exactly how long the average medieval battle between two armies would last.
Most medieval battles would only last a couple hours at the most. Unlike modern media depictions most medieval battles would be fought with skirmishing forces which would be replenished by the main army. Because of this most medieval battles would last under 10 hours before both sides were exhausted.
It is important to remember that not all medieval battles were similar. However, the fighting styles across Europe tended to focus upon the same style of engagements during a battle. This was because of the type of equipment the common levy soldier would have access to along with supply lines for the medieval army.
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Without further ado, here is an entire article going over how long medieval battles would be fought between two armies.
Why The Average Time Length Of A Medieval Battle Was Under 5 Hours
Most medieval battles would last under 5 hours of direct fighting. There are a couple outlying examples that I will touch on but for a vast majority of medieval battles the time length was under 5 hours.
Most medieval battles were fast and quick. This was because of the composition and fighting style of the medieval army. When a noble would raise a medieval army they would conscript peasants who lived on their land. These peasants were not trained soldiers but famers, smiths, or even in some situations the local clergy.
As such, the composition of a medieval army was a few professionally trained knights with a massive amount of conscripted soldiers. These conscripted soldiers had little to no training and even less equipment. Harold the local blacksmith would not be able to fight for an extended period of time.
Because of this medieval armies would meet on a battlefield and send individual skirmishing parties towards each other. Depending on the time period and location these skirmishing parties would be primarily ill-equipped infantry with supporting archers and some knights.
When the two skirmishing parties met in the field they would take turns fighting with each other. Even the best trained and equipped infantry troops would only fight for around 5 minutes before being completely exhausted. These tired conscripted soldiers would then retreat behind the next line of infantry and rest before returning to battle.
After about 2-3 hours of doing this both armies would be exhausted from fighting. This was when the knights would enter the field and route the opposing force.
Historians know of this method of medieval fighting from the surviving copies of De Re Militari which was the de-facto guide on medieval warfare in Europe. This book explains how medieval tactics were based around demoralizing the enemy force and striking quickly.
It is because of how medieval armies fought that battles were over in only a couple hours. Even the best trained troops would only last a couple hours of direct fighting before becoming tired.
Examples Of Famous Medieval Battles And Their Time Lengths
It was rare to see a medieval battle where both sides fought directly. If you were in a medieval army you would spend a majority of your time marching to out maneuver your opponent with only a tiny amount of time fighting.
Below are some of the most famous medieval battles and their time lengths to show you that most medieval battles were over in a couple hours.
The Battle of Tours 732 AD: Lasted Between 3-4 hours
According to the surviving account of Isidore of Beja’s Chronicle the battle of Tours was over in about 3-4 hours.
Isadore details how for 7 days the two armies of the Umayyad Caliph and the Kingdom of the Franks tried to outmaneuver each other. In the evening of the 10th of October, 732 the two armies finally fought and the battle was over before the sun set.
Both sides were exhausted by the end of the day. The Umayyad Caliphate retreated back to Spain and the Franks ended up securing enough land to create the Carolingian Empire.
The Battle of Agincourt 1415 AD: Lasted 1.5-3 Hours
One of the most famous battles of the Hundred Years War between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France took place on the 25th of October, 1415.
The Battle of Agincourt was a stunning defeat for the French army which consisted of a massive amount of cavalry knights. The English army on the other hand had more archers equipped with heavy arrows and longbows.
The battle itself was over in only a couple hours. The estimate varies but from the account given by Jean de Wavrin and archeological evidence historians estimate the battle only took about 1.5-3 hours in total.
The Battle of Hastings 1066 AD: Lasted 4-7 Hours
On the 14th of October 1066 AD Norman forces seized control over England with the defeat of the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson.
This battle lasted about 4-7 hours of direct fighting. However, after about the 3rd hour the battle was over and the next 3 hours were spent by the Normans finishing off the pockets of soldiers left still loyal to King Harold.
The Battle of Hastings is considered an exceptionally long battle by medieval standards. Outside of some crusader battles such as the battle of Dorylaeum this medieval battle is one of the longest.
There you have it; an entire article going over how long medieval battles would be fought between two armies.
Most medieval battles were over in only a couple hours. This was because the soldiers would get exhausted after only a couple engagements. Towards the end of the medieval era battles would start to get longer as technology improved and supply lines got better.
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