Hastiludes were medieval sports with a martial element that kept warriors in fighting shape. They included tournaments, quintanas, combat trials, jousting, archery, and pas d’armes. Nobles competed and awarded honors for victories and bravery. Today, military war games continue the tradition.
Hastiludes are medieval sports that have a martial element. In addition to being a source of friendly and fun competition, hastiludes were designed to keep warriors fit and in fighting shape. Competitors used such events to demonstrate their skills, connect with other warriors in their community, and compete for various honors. Various hastiludes are often displayed at Renaissance fairs, allowing visitors to get a taste of medieval warfare.
The term “hastilude” comes from the Latin hastiludium, which literally means “spear game”. A number of medieval sports are classified as hastiludes, ranging from tournaments to quintanas, and often several sports were featured in one meeting. Competitors included knights, their horses, squires, and other support personnel, and typically large audiences watched the proceedings. Honors were awarded by nobility, recognizing feats on the playing field such as victories and unusual bravery.
One of the best known hastiludes is probably the tournament, a medieval sport that involved dividing into teams and meeting on the field for a mock battle. In a tournament, people might be mounted or on foot and often engaged in close quarters combat. Tournaments could also be quite dangerous, as people often used live weapons. A related form of fighting, melee, has also been demonstrated in hastilude contests; in a melee, while people theoretically fight as teams, they work in such close quarters that they are forced to act as individuals.
People might also compete in quintana, which involves hitting a wooden target on foot or on horseback, as well as combat trials and jousting. Demonstrations of archery skill also sometimes appeared to the hastiludes. Often nobles would take the field to defend their honour, or delegate specific knights as their champions to represent them in the hastiludes, and while the hastiludes were all fun, defeating a noble or champion would be cause for comment.
In another form of hastilude, the pas d’armes, a group of knights would take control of a specific place such as a gate or bridge, and undertake to defend it against all comers. Anyone who wanted to pass would have to fight the knights for the privilege; women were generally admitted as an act of courtesy, although traditionally many ladies left marks, which knights would return to them after successfully defeating challengers.
While the nature of warfare has changed, the hastilude in one form or another certainly survives. Many militaries play war games and often sponsor friendly competitions between different nations and military branches, allowing people to showcase their prowess.