Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More on the "Knightly Arts"

I've done a bit more research and come up with more refinement for the "knightly arts." One could view them as strictly martial arts, but that is very narrow. And in a swords & sorcery game, everyone will want to have them (because hitting things is more common than giving speeches) so there should be a broader pool.

I've found some really interesting stuff in my research. Here is one list of the seven "probitates" (virtues or marks of integrity) from Petrus Alfonsus (b. 1062), a Jew that converted to Christianity (and as a side note, was probably one of the most theologically significant anti-Semites to upset the Augustinian heritage of tolerance in Christianity -- acknowledge and understand the bias).

Probitates haec sunt, equitare, natare, sagittare, cestibus certare, aucupari, scaccis ludere, versificare.

These things are desirable:
  • riding
  • swimming
  • archery
  • fencing
  • hunting (or falconry)
  • chess playing
  • poetry (or music)
These were skills that were seen as essential for a ruler or knight. In order to reach true nobility in the Aristotlean sense, it was also necessary to be trained in the seven liberal arts and true to the seven virtues. Thus, the ideal king would be full of integrity, the arts of a free man, and virtuous.

Johannes Rothe (b. 1360) wrote an instructional text for knights called Der Ritterspiegel, outlining their necessary training, equipment, qualities, etc. He highlight seven skills as well:
  • Riding
  • Swimming
  • Shooting
  • Climbing
  • Dancing
  • Tilting/Jousting (as in tournament)
  • Fighting (wrestling, fencing, leaping)
A word on dancing. At first, it seems out of place. However, there were good social and physical reasons to include it. Socially, dancing was a catchall for many physical skills a courtier needed; remember, the ideal knight also had training in the liberal arts which covered rhetoric, debate, music, etc, but it was also just as important to have training in physical manners such as dancing.

There are also good physical reasons to encourage dancing. Just like some modern football players learn to dance ballet, the medieval knight needed to develop a nimble step and agility. Graceful leaps or precise footwork at a ball might translate directly to the battlefield. A sword dance allows one to demonstrate the manual of arms with a weapon, working in a tightly knit formation, in a socially impressive manner.

And of course, Catholic Encyclopedia provides (from an uncited source):

  • Riding
  • Tilting
  • Fencing
  • Wrestling
  • Running
  • Leaping
  • Spear-Throwing
There is some definite overlap between these lists. Riding appears on all three. Hand to hand combat, or fencing, is included in all three in one form or another as well. So is proficiency with missile weapons (archery, shooting, or spear-throwing).

Alfonsus' list is perhaps the broadest including strategy (chess playing) and tactics/stalking (hunting). It also includes what could be broadly termed as courtly manners (poetry/music, or Rothe's dancing).

I like Alfonsus' list best as it is broadest and provides the most useful adventuring skills. I do not see a need to seperate "riding" and "jousting." A character who is adept at horsemanship and weaponry should also be adept at the joust. However, some of the items step on the toes of other categories; poetry and music steal the thunder from the liberal arts, and hunting might interfere with the mechanical arts. All sources for the mechanical arts stress the necessity of "Militia and venatoria," i.e., warfare and hunting. Plus, I want even a martial character to have to take some picks from the mechanical arts and liberal arts (so, a archetypal knight would be interested in "Militia and Venatoria" as well as "Rhetoric").

So, my list of "Septum Probitates," drawing from all of the above, would look like this:
  • Riding
  • Swimming
  • Shooting (including archery, spear throwing, crossbows, etc)
  • Fencing (including all hand to hand combat, including unarmed)
  • Dancing (which includes leaping as well as courtly dancing)
That leaves two slots open. One could:
  • Split Riding and Jousting
  • Split Fencing and Wrestling
  • Add "climbing."
  • Add "running."
  • Add "Strategy" (chess playing) and limit the Mechanical Arts to "Hunting" (stalking/tactics)
I am most inclined to split armed and unarmed combat, and to add climbing, I think.

1 comment:

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