I'm in the process of writing a low-fantasy novel (with slight elements of magic) in which invaders from the Beyond-Sea land in the southern portion of the main continent in which this story takes place. This is a medieval setting. Warriors and warfare range widely, from knights in full plate armor to men-at-arms in gambesons and chainmail.

The Kingdom in which they land is a grey area, laden with giant boulders, and constantly plagued by cloudy skies and torrential storms (think England). For this scenario, imagine the Crusades in reverse. Multitudes of horse archers, turbaned spearmen, and great grey elephants transported in giant ships, making a great expedition, landing on the shores of this grey place. They are attempting to conquer for cultural and religious reasons, as well as the problem of famine and overpopulation in their own lands. I was wondering, would such a 'crusade' be viable? What would be some of the difficulties the invading army might face? Is there any possibility of these invaders being welcomed as liberators, an invitation of sweeping change in a land of hierarchical Medieval society?

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    $\begingroup$ Parts of this are very much opinion based, primarily the last line (Do the reasons seem cliche). I would remove it. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ How is this getting up-voted? OP makes 0 research effort, and ignored any historical basis for his low fantasy world could base itself on. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 3:38

3 Answers 3


Sure. The Normans did much the same thing to the Anglo-Saxons in the 11th Century. The Battle of Hastings was won by the Normans despite being outnumbered about 10,000 to 7,000, and the victory is commonly attributed to Duke William's use of cavalry and archers, while King Harold's army had no cavalry (horses, though not unknown, are not native to Britain) and few archers, the force primarily assembled militia-style from the men of villages on the way.

The main difficulties would be logistics, which has been a problem throughout the ages. Hannibal Barca brought a force of war elephants to Europe via Gibraltar in the Second Punic War in the Third Century BC, but by the time he'd crossed the Alps into Italy he only had one left by some accounts, mainly due to the lack of edible foliage for a long part of the journey above the treeline of the mountains.

  • $\begingroup$ I oftentimes forget to look back to history for answers. Thank you! I'm planning on having the invaders transport these elephants in ships. Just how large would they need to be? Furthermore, since the chain of supply is limited due to transport by sea, sooner or later, no doubt the invaders will have to begin looting and pillaging just to sustain themselves. Could there be problems with that (especially with the invading forces themselves), if they wish to colonize in the future? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ There are several artistic depictions of Hannibal crossing the Rhone; a quick Google search will show you a few. The basic idea is to build log barges with whatever timber is handy, of sufficient size to transport one or two elephants, and punt or row them across the body of water. The key is equal displacement to weight; the barge has to displace an equal mass of water as its own mass and that of its cargo. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ As far as supplying an army like this, in feudal times like these the peasants looked out for number one. If the local lord or knight had been defeated in a nearby battle, the remaining serfs would generally put their heads down and work for whomever came in to call the shots. Failure to do so generally got you a spear in the liver. The problems for the invaders come where there isn't anyone to bully for supplies and no natural foraging grounds (like above the treeline of the Alps) $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 21:26

So you are asking if it would be possible for your pseudo-Muslims to launch a religious crusade against psuedo-Europe... And succeed for some time, conquering much of pseudo-Europe possibly until they are stopped by a single kingdom?

Have you ever heard the story of Charles Martel (The Hammer)? First kings of all of Francia? Also referred to as the Savior of Christendom. Grandfather of the first holy roman emperor (Charlemagne)?

A long, long time before the crusades. An Islamic country (Umayyad Caliphate) set out on a war of religious conquest against Europe, they nearly succeeded. Conquered all of Iberia (Spain for you heathens) and half of Gaul (France). Its quite possible all of Europe would be Islamic to this day if not for Charles Martel. Who defeated the Caliphate forces at the Battle of Tours with an army of veteran infantry he had spent 10 years training for the purpose of taking control of Francia, and specifically to beat back the invading Arabs. He even secured a loan from the pope to help him maintain the army... Crack open a history book and read about it, it is a fascinating and apparently forgotten piece of history, you can get an overview from Wikipedia.

Enough with the history now to answer your question.

  1. Is it viable? Not only is it viable, it actually happened In fact you could say that the crusades were a reverse of the Islamic invasion of Europe.
  2. Would they be welcomed as liberators? No... As the historical precedent shows that they did exactly the same atrocities to the Europeans that the Europeans later committed during the crusades... This does not endear you to the natives.
  3. Would the crusaders liberate those poor peasants from the evil oppressive hierarchy of feudal Europe? No, if anything this invasion will reinforce it, as the peasantry will see how their feudal overlords fought and died to save them from religious oppressions and zealotry of the heathens. Prevented them from being raped, and sold into slavery, acted as the guardians of Christianity. (At least that is what happened historically, and feudalism came about as a result).
  4. Difficulties they would face:
    1. Cold weather, if they come from a hot climate, they wouldn't have cold weather clothing.
    2. Inferior armor their armor will have been designed for hot weather... The pseudo Europeans will have significantly heavier and better armor. Their man-at-arms would wear better armor then the most heavily armored foreign invader, and would be able to walk forward thru a hail of arrows to stab impale said invader thru the gut (European knights during the first crusade dressed in chainmail were shot with arrows until they looked like porcupines, and butchered anyone who fought them hand to hand).
    1. bad bows. Rainy weather, and hot weather allow for different bow technologies... If your invaders use composite bows they will slowly fall apart because of the heavy moisture.
    2. Sick elephants. Elephants (And horses) don't like ships. Elephants are also not a cold weather creature, and will probably succumb and die to disease during the winter from the cold much like Hannibal's elephants did.

Why do I say it will be like this?

In the middle ages, armies did not have supply lines. Armies had foragers.. Foragers would go to the surrounding countryside and "obtain" supplies to feed the army from it. Peasants who complained about their cows being killed and their crops stolen/ trampled underfoot were "silenced" (killed). Rapes also occurred. European armies did this when they invaded, Islamic armies did this when they invaded. That was the entire purpose of Scandinavian raiders...

It wasn't until the invention of canning (Napoleonic era) that it really became possible for armies to have supplies shipped to them over long distances. And even that was pretty limited... (Armies eat a lot).

There are some armies that are exceptions to this... For example the steppe tribes brought most of their supplies with them (Despite that, they still pillaged) in the form of horses (Meat, milk, blood)... But horses don't like travel, and that relied on the fact that grass grows on the ground, so each steppe tribesman could bring along a string of horses... Grass doesn't grow on the ocean. Which makes transporting horses across the sea much harder.


Well, the other bits have all been answered, so I'll answer the last sentence specifically:

If we're going with a society similar to actual late medieval society (given the plate armour) then it is likely that society will not be highly stratified. This was primarily a time of rich peasantry and a growing urbanite middle class; commoners could easily find themselves in high stations through trade or mercenary warfare. For example, John Hawkwood -- son of a tanner -- ended his life as an absurdly rich land-owner and martial of Florence. Assuming the invaders aren't full communists or something, it doesn't seem likely to me that they would be welcomed as liberators by anyone but greedy nobles eager to advance themselves by ingratiating themselves before this foreign conqueror.


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