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By the end of the 10th century, European magnates had realised that a man on horseback with a spear moves faster than one on foot, making him far more useful, and soon heavily armed horsemen began to take precedence over elite footmen. Even the Viking kingdoms soon learnt to use cavalry to their advantage, with their Gallicised Norman descendents soon learning to transport horses by ship to where they were needed. The cost of raising horse and rider and then arming them however was problematic to the extreme in the mostly agrarian societies of Dark Age Europe, and so it was that only people of means could furnish cavalry units to fight for their kings, meaning the ruling aristocracy (and in more modern times, yeomen as well).

These aristocrats were often landowners and in good time evolved into the warrior known to us as the knight, and were often found in the most warlike of societies. The French, Russians and Hungarians had good lands that allowed for the rise of an efficient feudal society to sustain a heavy cavalry tradition, a system that was soon adopted by the increasingly strapped-for-cash Byzantines, whose lands covered present-day Italy and the Balkans. Although knights were often expected to be landowners, not all of them were always sufficiently rich to do so, much less afford the sums required for maintenance of their equipment and mounts — the very embodiment of their own livelihoods. Towards the Modern Era, feudalism increasingly fell out of favour, and many knights, especially in Germany, were soon forced into becoming bandits or selling their services as mercenaries.

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