The Sakas

October 5, 2018 by  

Part six – Michael McClain

Various ancient sources affirm that the Scythians were the inventers of a military tactic which came to be known as “feighned flight”, which consists of pretending to flee and then turn on the enemy. Though the idea is simple enough, said tactic is highly dangerous, as the “feighned flight​” may all too easily become real. Hence, “feighned flight” is a tactic which requires a great deal of instruction, practice and discipline.
As the name indicates, the Scythians were fundamentally archers. In contrast the fellow Sakas of the Scythians, the Sarmatians and Alans, used heavy cavalry as their main force, archers being secondary: one may see why many consider the Sarmatians and Alans to be the forerunners of the medieval knights. Inspite of their differences from the Scythians in their manner of making war, the Sarmatians and Alans also used the tactic of “feighned retreat’’. It was from the Sarmatians and Alans that the Goths learned the tactic of “feighned retreat”: St. Isadore of Seville mentions the tactic of feighned retreat” as being used by the Visigoths.
The Franks were originally foot soldiers who specialized in the use of the throwing axe, known in Latin as the “franciscus”, from which comes the name “Frank”. However, from the Goths the Franks learned the use of heavy cavalry.
In the early tenth century, Vikings conquered the Carolingian region of Neustria, led by Rollo or Hrolfr. Neustria became known as “Normannia”, “Land of the Norsemen”.
However, the transplanted Vikings rapidly changed their ways, becoming Christians, speaking French in place of Old Norse, adopting French names and titles, and adopting the Frankish style of war, hence the familiar image of the Norman heavy cavalry; coat of mail, helmet with fixed nose piece, long lance, and a kite-shaped shield.
In England, on January 5, 1066, King Edward the confessor died wit out leaving a direct heir. Among the claimants to the throne of England were Harold Godwineson, Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, and Duke William of Normandy.
It was Harold Godwineson who was crowned King of England after the death of Edward the Confessor, though many did not recognize the validity of said coronation…
Harold Godwineson had feared that William of Normandy would invade England to claim the throne, and kept his forces in the south. However, it was Harold Hardrada who struck first, attacking from the North. Harold Godwineson then moved his forces to the North, and defeated Harold Hardrada at Stamford Bridge. When William of Normandy heard of Harold Hardrada’s landing in the north of England, he commented: “Which Harold am I going to fight?”
William landed in the south of England while Harold Godwineson was occupied in the north. William wished to force Harold Godwineson to an open battle, rather than to take London and allow himself to be cut off from Normandy and besieged in London.
Most unwisely, Harold Godwineson Moved to attack William as soon as he had returned to London from the North, thus falling into Williams’s trap.
Harlod Godwineson selected a strong position, the crest of a hill which was steep enough to break the impetus of a cavalry charge, with his men in a position of eight files deep. To the reader familiar with the famous Thin red line” at Balaklava in the Crimean War, eight files of infantry may seem unnecessary or even excessive. However, meaning no disrespect for the gallantry of the 93rd Highland Scots, at the time of the Crimean War the British and French had recently equipped their forces with the deadly mini rifle, while the Russians were still armed with the old “brown bess” smooth bore musket. So, the Russian cavalry at Balaklava was
facing rifles of whose range and accuracy they had no idea. In 1066, there was no way that an infantry line of only two files could have stopped a charge of heavy cavalry. Remember, Anna Comnena, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexis Comnena, said that a charge of the Norman heavy cavalry could “burst through the great walls of Babylon.”
For some time, the battle around the steep hill of Hastings remained, with both sides taking heavy losses, but undecided.
The influence of the Sakas or Alanson the formation of the Arthurian Cycle in northern Great Britain has long been noted. However, the influence of the Alans in Brittany has, until very recently, gone unnoticed.
For some reason, the Saxons at the battle of Hastings Hill seem to have believed that the Bretons on William’s right flank were less formidable fighters than the Normans and attacked them fiercely. At first the Bretons appeared to take flight, but then, when the Saxons had become disorganized in the pursuit, the Bretons savagely turned on their ancient Saxon enemies, slaughtering them in large numbers. Twice more the Saxons attempted to attack the Bretons, and with the same result as the first time. The above indicates poor generalship on the part of Harold Godwineson, making one think that Stamord Bridge was not a credit for Harold Godwineson, but rather a discredit for Harold Hardrada. It also indicates a lack of discipline among the Saxons, as well as a reason for which the Normans sometimes referred to the Saxons as “rockheads”.  Finally, the above demonstrated the mastery of the tactic of “feighaned retreat” by the Bretons.
The heavy losses inflicted by the Bretons on the Saxons not only wore the position of the Saxons, but also their morale and unit cohesion. Seeing the weakening of the Saxon position, William ordered his archers to fire their arrows at a high arc so that they would fall on the Saxons from above. Harold Godwineson was killed by an arrow in the eye.
This last finally broke the morale of the Saxons, who now broke and fled, pursued and slaughters by the Norman and Breton cavalry.
It is generally agreed that Hastings was one of history’s crucial battles. Another very crucial battle was that of the River of Merv. The accounts of said battle differ somewhat, though, of course, all agree that Shaibani Khan, the “Old Fox” was outgeneraled by the very youthful Shah Ismail Safavi, and the savage Uzbeks were out f ought by the fierce “Redheads” who followed Shah Ismail Though, the accounts of the battle of the River of Merv vary somewhat, all agree that the tactic of feighned retreat” play a key role in the victory of Shah Ismail.
Certainly, the above is no surprise. Shah Ismail was on Iranian ancestry, and early in his life had contact with the Ossetians, an Iranian people of the Caucasus believed to be descendants of the Alans.
So, the military tactic known as “feighned retreat”, invented in ancient times by the Saka people known as the Scythians, continued to be used for many centuries and was crucial in a number of very important battles.n


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