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Knight

equites, horse, knights, horses, country, roman, services, government and temple

KNIGHT, in military concerns. This word is an anglicism of the German word kneckt, signifying a person possessing the talents and bravery of a soldier, and re warded for some particular acts of cou rage and address by the sovereign.

Knights, or Equites, in the Roman art of war, were originally instituted by Ro mulus, who selected three hundred ath letic young men from the best families of the class of patricians, and had them trained to serve their country on horse back. This politic mode of securing the services of the most important part of the community to the existing government, was improved upon by Servius Wins, after the introduction of the census, who admitted all persons worth four hundred sestertia into the noble order of the Equites, whose conduct and morals were irreproachable, a precaution highly ho.

nourable to the Roman character, and acted upon rigidly by monarchs, consuls, and censors. Having ascertained this point, by regular scrutiny, the name of the individual approved was enrolled with those of the order, a ring was presented to him as a pledge of his acceptance into it, and he received a horse provided at the public expense : thus instituted a knight, lie was required and expected to appear at a moment's notice, ready to execute to the utmost of his ability those services which the state demanded.

There were three distinct and solemn acts performed by the government, calcu lated to impress the members with the necessity of adhering to their compact with their country ; those were termed the Probatio, the Transvectio, and the Recensio. The first may be considered an annual examination as to the moral conduct of the Equites, the state of their arms, their horses, and their own health ; the second, an universal assemblage of the knights in the forum, is thus describ ed by Dyonisius : " The sacrifices being finished, all those who are allowed horses at the expense of the state, ride along in order, as if returaing from a battle, being habited in the Toga Palmate, or the Trabze, and crowned with wreaths of olive. The procession begins at the temple of MarS, without the walls, and is carried on through all the eminent parts of the city, particularly the Forum, and the temple of Castor and Pollux. The number some times reaches to five thousand ; every man hearing the gifts and ornaments re ceived as a reward of his valour from the general. A most glorious sight, and wor thy of the Roman grandeur." According to Plutarch, this honourable body of sol diers, and the rest of the army engaged in battle with the Latins, about the two hundred and fifty-seventh year of the city, were personally assisted by Castor and Pollux, who afterwards appeafed in Rome mounted on horses foaming with exertion, near the fountain where their temple was subsequently erected ; grateful for their supernatural aid, the ltomans established the Transvectio in honour of the deified brothers.

The Recensio resembled the Probatio in some degree, except that more import ance was attached to the former, as it was an universal muster of the whole people, including the Equites, to answer the use ful military purposes of ascertaining the then state of discipline of men bearing arms, enrolling of new names, and ex punging others. The ceremony occurred every lustrum, under the superintendance of the censors.

When the Equites had accomplished the term for which their services were required, it was the established custom to lead their horses to the place where the two censors were seated in the Forum, to whom they related the circumstances at tending their various campaigns, and under whom they served ; they were then discharged either with honour or disgrace, as their conduct was approved or considered disgraceful.

It is generally admitted, that it is by no means correct to suppose that all the Ro man soldiers mounted on horses were knights. Sigonius, and others, made a distinction in the cavalry between those who served equo publics, and those who served eqno privato ; " the former," says Bennet, "they Allow to have been of the order of knights, the latter not. They demonstrate from the course of history, that from the beginning of the Roman state till the time of Marius, no other horse entered the legions but the true and proper knights, except in the midst of public confusion, when order and dis cipline were neglected." Like all other institutions, this order began to degenerate, the life and soul of •honour .which supported it died and faded away, leaving a mere shadow of its pristine importance, indolence and avarice tempt ed individuals from the pursuit of mili tary fame to the more innocent, and, per haps, more laudable occupations of agri culture, and to partake of the emoluments o be derived from places of trust under the government ; those who retained suf ficient vigour of mind to consider them selves as still belonging to the order, obtained commands, and the mass of the cavalry was at length composed of foreign mercenaries. Fully sensible of the de graded state of the Equites, who wished to receive the honours due to them when deserving of honour, and a horse from their country, when that country no longer was remunerated by their services, sub sequent princes deprived them of the horse, but suffered them to retain the golden ring.