1. acrox9713
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    acrox9713 New Member

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    Medieval Creations

    Discussion in 'Research' started by acrox9713, Oct 10, 2010.

    I've decided to do a medieval fantasy sci-fi thing, I've read at least 15 books of this genre in 3 months. But theres a problem,
    I pictured what the basics of tunics are in these books, I know only a little about castles, and don't know anything about the layout
    of cities, except things such as, 'Poor Quarter' or the 'Harbour'. I've looked things up on google, but nothing give me the information I need. Help!
     
  2. Naiyn
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    Naiyn Contributing Member

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    A Google search on castles or something similar should bring up some pretty decent sites for a quick starting point. Lots of free stuff out there.

    If you want something a little more meaty, there a any number of pretty good books on the subject, a couple that I've found useful info on are: The Medieval Fortress, by J.E. Kaufmann & H.W. Kaufmann. And Life in a medieval Castle, by Joseph and Frances Gies.
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You're writing a fantasy. You're allowed to make stuff up.
     
  4. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    yayy...at last someone asks...

    ahem, I am a bit of an ancient history buff you see, and well, anything beyond say 300 AD or so to me is normally too recent for my tastes, but I do enjoy a bit of medieval history as well.:redface:


    And so, to say medieval or middle ages does us no good actually, because during the Islamic renaissance of circa 900-1100 AD, Baghdad was a center of learning where things like Algebra were being invented wile in parts of northern Europe there were inbred nobles who could barely write out their own names. The middle ages is quite a loose term (as is bronze age), for long after the European feudal period was over it continued in Japan, and while the Greeks were using bronze sub-Saharan Africans and European Celts were fashioning iron weapons.

    What you are more than likely thinking about is an idealized period setting similar to a European, feudal-type countryside with castles and such. These are usually common motifs in fantasy, with some variations in style and taste. One of my favorite ancient and middle aged city is Constantinople, capital of the eastern roman or Byzantine empire; now Istanbul turkey, once Byzantium (it gets confusing).

    [​IMG][/IMG]

    Anyway, by 300 AD or so the Roman empire was splitting into western and eastern halves and while the western half would get soon overrun by barbarian hordes the eastern roman half would truck on like good little troopers for over a millennia, until the 1400 hundreds when the Ottoman Turkish empire would use the newly invented gunpowder cannonball against the defenders of Constantinople.

    The Byzantine empire gives us an excellent place to study the transition from an ancient society to what me might call a medieval one. For example, one of the most famous classes of individuals imagined in the middle ages and often invoked in some form in high fantasy is the Knightly order.

    The knight was a social class in the feudal system of Europe, with similar classes in feudal Japan like the samurai. The basic idea is a dedicated warrior class, and because medieval Europe was also decidedly Christian with few exceptions, there was a strong emphasis in knight training and lifestyle in Christian indoctrination. We saw the foundation of the knight class beginning in the ancient world with the equestrian class of Rome, typically wealthy aristocrats, and something like minor nobility. Romans were historically not known for their strong cavalry, their cavalry was actually pretty crappy, so they often relied on foreign mercenaries and auxiliaries in their armies. But the native born Romans who took to war on a horse were part of this respected class of Equitates. By the end of the proper Roman empire and the beginning of its fracture there were these people of Asia like the Persian Parthians who had a kind of heavy cavalry called the Cataphracts. The equestrian class combined with the idea of heavily armored horses being used as shock force would evolve into the knight of feudal Europe.

    Many ancient and medieval cities would have all kinds of defensive structures built around them, because quite frankly, they were a bit paranoid and xenophobic. To be more frank and to the point, they had a good reason to be. Foreigners and barbarian hordes like the Goths, Huns, and Mongols were known for sacking cities, making slaves of the populace, and committing atrocities along the way. The Vandals, one among many barbarian hordes, because so infamous for pillaging that the word vandal is now part of the English lexicon.

    The most common defense was a wall, of which there should be big, strong, numerous ones. There were many variations, such as walls with moats, walls with stakes, and watchtowers, and often a dedicated fortress built adjacent to them. Every city would have a number of gates and roads leading to them, sometimes crawling with beggars, caravan vendors, and robber ruffians (highwaymen).

    There could have been any number of buildings and structures in a medieval city, but every proper one should have at least these things:

    1)A palace - for every proper feudal city has some kind of lord, a king or queen if possible, but at least a proper prince. And if there is, they need someplace to sleep, and they don’t like to live in small houses either. Proper palaces, the real big ones, look almost like small cities from outside and may be full of guards and servants and slaves. Most proper castles are in fact just really big, really well defended palaces. All those arrow towers and brick and mortar are there to protect him or her.

    2)A temple/church - many ancient cities had a patron god or goddess (e.g. Athena - Athens). The Parthenon was a temple built to honor Athena and was placed on the acropolis, the highest point in Athens. It would have been visible to anyone in Athens, and probably from far away even outside of the city. The Byzantine empire had no pagan goddess patrons because they were Christians and Christian converts mostly, but their piety spurred them to build large basilicas (mega churches) like the Hagia Sophia. When the invading Muslim Turks gained Constantinople they converted it into a Mosque but did not destroy it. Perhaps they were struck by its grandeur.

    3)A wall, or a moat, or a something - to protect the people and the lord from the hated barbarian hordes, they are everywhere.

    4)A land - all the castles would mean nothing if it weren’t for the land on which the people toil sweat work and till and sow and reap and work and sweat…and so on and so on. In a feudal society, the peasants would do this sort of thing for life, sometimes subsisting on little and laboring for a pittance. They had no say in how the resources got used, and the lord was sure to have his bounty of tills every year. If the people ever got out of line the knights were there to put them in check.

    5)A market - because everything cant be found or grown at home, sometimes foreign vendors, traders, and artisans would come to sell ‘exotic’ items like perfume, silk, dyes, wool, scented soaps, slaves, and several varieties of alcoholic beverages; including wine, beer, ale, and mead. The marketplace wasn’t just a place to buy stuff though…sometimes it was the perfect place to spread rumors or gossip.

    6)A furnace - someplace needs to be used to make all those shiny weapons and armor for the knights. There is no mass production or heavy manufacturing back then, everything has to be man/woman-made, even the process of painstakingly fashioning chain mail one ring at a time has to be done by hand. If there were a handful of blacksmiths in town that was good, they were sought after everywhere in all times until industry began centuries later.

    7)A coliseum, hippodrome, or circus - the peasants are merely peasants, but there are a lot of them and they can be very dangerous if angry enough. There is a reason why France has no royal family while England, Sweden, and even Canada do. The people of France got so fed up with their nobles that they killed them all. This reflects a fear that all monarchs had, namely that their own people may kill them. One Roman year (69 AD) was called the year of the four emperors because all four emperors of that particular year were either murdered, forced to commit suicide, or committed suicide in the face of impending murder. The pontic emperor Mithridates was so fearful of being poisoned that he took small quantities of poison daily to build up a tolerance to it, and he did!

    To keep the people happy, and not killing their nobles, they have to be entertained and distracted as much as possible. The Romans had a Coliseum, and like the Greeks and Israelites during the reign of Herod had at least one amphitheater to hear orators, plays, dramas, etc. The Byzantines also had a hippodrome, a horse raceway of sorts, which was often filled with a traveling circus with exotic animals and performers of all types (jugglers, acrobats, fools).

    I agree wholeheartedly, but for the sake of research it sounded like she wanted something from an actual historical context to give her inspiration. Either way, good luck on your story acrox!;)
     
  5. acrox9713
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    acrox9713 New Member

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    Thank you very, I can see you know a bit. I asked this question because (if) people will some day read my book, I would like to get the fundamentals right so people kind of believe what I right. The books I've read make me aspire to be known by book lovers, so I need to get then right.

    Any more information is always welcome :D
     
  6. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Apart from going through the impressive information that Jonathan has given you, I suggest that you look on the websites for some of the great castles like Bamburgh Castle and Dover Castle in England, and the amazing Carcassonne Fortress in France. If you have never actually visited a fortress, they will give you an idea of what it is like to be in a castle.
     
  7. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    In my course on Medieval society I picked up enough to help you with smaller towns/cities, and I'm just a geek for castles. :p Constantinople is a freakish place, since it had a population of over a million in the time when most other places were like, I dunno, 10,000 people in London and that was the biggest city anyone could imagine who hadn't been to Turkey. :p Use it as your model teeming metropolis, it's perfect for that, but don't use it as a basic city template in any other context.

    Basically, a town grows up around a few key things:

    A river (so the main road will feature bridges, and everything will over-look the river)

    A market (most important feature to the common people. The street would be enormously wide, and close to the centre of town. If it wasn't a local market, travelling ones would frequently come by with more exotic goods, so generally a busy place. A new town was formed when it was given permission to have a market. You were only a village if you had no market - in Medieval England you needed a license to have one. Off from the market, shops and houses would go in one direction, and usually the important stuff in the other. A Cathedral would take up like, a 3rd of the land in a small city (and they were all small) and a church would still be very prominent. Usually if a local lord was living in the city itself, he'd have a house near the Cathedral/church, since it's cleaner and greener, and away from the scruffy townsfolk)

    or Cathederals (which I already mentioned, but yeah - they pointed east, and had lots of accompanying buildings. I live in the city of Chichester, which is split into a compass shape within its walls, and the Cathedral takes up land a five minute walk down either South street or West Street.

    [​IMG]

    You can see the round-ish shape of the city, which is where the walls were/are (some of them are still standing) and also the streets on the north west, north east and south east segments, and the total lack of streets through the south west segment, because all of that is just one big park/Bishop's palace complex, Cathedral, etc etc)

    Which brings me to the walls - which were big, though usually with open gates during the day, and encircled the city completely, and even if people lived outside them, had a very firm sense of "this is inside the city, this is outside".

    People DID keep animals and have farms within the walls - even in London up until surprisingly modern times people would keep an animal or three in their property, though obviously farms weren't so common. So it won't just be a market that has your characters an excuse for tripping over sheep and pigs.



    Right, castles! I find Bodiam Castle the best example, since I've studied it pretty intensively. :p

    [​IMG]

    It was fairly lucky with the moat since it was in low ground near a river, and in fact the back bridge (the straight one) would have lead right to the river at times. It's always important to consider what your castle is defending. Bodiam Castle was a river defence - others are in hills because they were guarding over the land, and some are in the middle of towns because they were places of retreat in case of invasion.

    Some little things:

    Most castles have courtyards - they're not solid. They're actually mostly made up of fairly reasonable sized rooms all bunched together around the courtyard.

    The kitchen was pretty far from the dining room in Bodiam (I think a reasonably common thing, though maybe it was just because of where was a good place to put a well) and food was carried in procession from place to place, so usually went cold. :p

    castles almost all have a barbican or first defence on the way up to the main doors, with its own portcullis and similar defensive mechanisms. remember: oil holes (or ones you can drop rocks through, etc) keyhole windows for archers (later with big round holes built in at the bottom for cannons), and, er, those holes under the crennelations that you could also tip hot things through much more effectively that heaving up a cauldron ONTO the top of the defences and tipping it. The holes were in the floor, so you just had to tip it over.

    Oh, and the towers with spiral stairs twisted upwards in a clockwise direction so invaders who'd breached the castle and were running up to the battlements (where most of the soliders would have been) were at a disadvantage, since they'd all expect to be right-handed. The tight turns would have made it impossible for them to stab effectively upwards.


    Okay, I'm all out for now. :p
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you need to learn how to google creatively/effectively... all the info you need is out there... you might want to start with 'medieval life in [wherever]'...
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    You need to give me more information than medieval. The term medival covers at least a 1000 years of archaeology and history, which country etc? Takes you from before King Arthur right through to just before the Tudor era in England.

    Until you can pin point what medieval era you want google is not going to be too helpful - in the days of Arthur the castle was probably wooden in later medieval history it was stone etc I suspect a Motte and Bailey castle will work better for what you want. Are you wanting before or after the Norman invasion? Cadfael is a good series of books to read if you can about medieval life (a detective monk).
     
  10. acrox9713
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    acrox9713 New Member

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    I've read 15 of Raymond E. Feist's books, and a few other books by other authors, all are based around the same era. There are castles, forts, large cities with palaces for King's Queens and Dukes. Priests, High Priests, Knights, and armies of 30,000 men. Houses with thatch rooves . All this has given me a taste of what I think is medieval, and so I am writing a book from around that era. My book which I am writing will consist most of these things. I have used these books to help me, but I have had to guess some words, now what I want to do is to describe them properly. Describe them how they are supposed to be described as.
     
  11. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you wanna post some of the bits which contain a lot of factual information parts, I'd happily look over them. :) Or if you think it's a bit too much all over the place and don't want to post the whole thing online, you could send me bits of it. :D
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    yes but which era there is a huge difference between an Anglo Saxon round house to what was being built in 1450s. Scotland, |Wales were very differento England. In England we still have knights - however I don't think Paul McCartney or Elton John are what you are after.

    When you are looking at some of the castles mentioned it is worth checking when they were actually built often the castle maybe medieval in origin but what you are looking at is not all even at all the original building. For example with one of the main castles here (i live in the area most densely populated by castles lol) was originally built in 11000s but the current ruin was built in 1300s so quite late medieval. A castle built in 600s would be wooden more often than anything and i don't know if any survived. The most impressive would be I think it is the white tower at the tower of London that was built by William the Conquerer. Most societies were feudal.

    Google can't help you get something coherent until you narrow down where and when you want to research - put in medieval and you could end up with very inaccurate information.
     
  13. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    To me it sounds like what you're after is England anno 1200. It's where all the most stereotypical medieval conceptions are derived from.
     
  14. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    same here, we've got your back!:)
     
  15. Gingerbiscuit
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    Gingerbiscuit Senior Member

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    Aside from using Google I find it's a good idea to build up your own reference library. There are a number of good quick reference guides to the era you're looking for. The most useful one that I have in my possession is A companion to Medieval England by Nigel Saul. It's an A-Z of pretty much everything from the Norman Conquest to the Wars of the Roses and if there's anything I'm ever unsure of I can usually find a detailed explanation in there.

    I'm assuming as well that if you're writing the swords 'n' sorcery brand of fantasy there will be a certain amount of conflict involved in which case A Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour by David Nicolle could also be a useful tome to add to your library.

    On another note, I wouldn't get too bogged down in trying to make things too consistent with the time. For example Lord of the Rings which is arguably the best novel in the genre you're looking at, seems to span several different eras, with technologies and architecture being largely inconsistent with other technologies and architecture of the same time. As has already been mentioned, it's fantasy so it's ok to make stuff up!
     
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  16. IVIilitarus
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    IVIilitarus Member

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    Odds are, what you mostly want is between 1100-1400 England and France. France was all about chivalry and elan. England was all about shooting damned Frenchies.

    Your idea of Medieval culture is pretty stereotyped. There's a lot going on in an odd 500 years, so it's best to research. Revealing more about your plot may help. Consider basing your factions on real factions with Nords, Noble Knight types and Shoot-the-Bastard-Noble-Knight-in-the-Face types.
     
  17. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    ...best advice so far, hands down...

    we got so obsessed with the little bits that we lost sight of the big picture - but hopefully all of this is helping you imagine what your fantasy city may look like?:)
     
  18. acrox9713
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    acrox9713 New Member

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    Yes, certainly.
     
  19. OmegaPhish
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    OmegaPhish New Member

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    This could be because I'm a complete nerd and play D&D as well, but I recently found a book on building fantasy worlds. It's Gary Gygax's Living Fantasy and I am finding it MOST helpful. It goes over what most buildings would be made of, how roads are laid out, city defenses, governments, healthcare, technology, travel... everything.

    I'm enjoying it muchly and I'd suggest it to anyone who is working in a fantasy environment. :-D
     
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