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in ancient and medieval history, a noble who did military service as a mounted warrior.

The Knight in Ancient History

In ancient history, as in Athens and Rome, the knight was a noble of the second class who in military service had to furnish his own mount and equipment. In Roman society, the knights (Latin equites) ranked below the senatorial class and above ordinary citizens. A knight forfeited his status if the assessed value of his fortune sank below 400,000 sesterces.

The Knight in Medieval History

In medieval history, the knight was an armed and mounted warrior belonging to the nobility. The incessant private warfare that characterized medieval times brought about a permanent military class, and by the 10th cent. the institution of knighthood was well established. The knight was essentially a military officer, although with the growth of feudalismfeudalism
, form of political and social organization typical of Western Europe from the dissolution of Charlemagne's empire to the rise of the absolute monarchies. The term feudalism is derived from the Latin feodum,
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 the term tended to denote the holder of not only a position in the ranks of nobility but also in the ranks of landholders. The knight generally held his lands by military tenure; thus knight service was a military service, usually 40 days a year, normally expected by an overlord in exchange for each fief held by a knight. All military service was measured in terms of knight service, and a vassal might owe any number of knight services.

Although all nobles of military age were necessarily knights, knighthood had to be earned through some exploit involving the use of arms. In the late Middle Ages the son of a noble would serve first as page, then as squire, before being made a knight. Knighthood was conferred by the overlord with the accolade (a blow, usually with the flat of the sword, on the neck or shoulder); in the later period of feudalism, the ceremony was preceded by the religious ceremony of a vigil before an altar. A knight fighting under another's banner was called a knight bachelor; a knight fighting under his own banner was a knight banneret. Knights were ordinarily accompanied in battle by personal attendants (squires and pages) and by vassals (see yeomanyeoman
, class in English society. The term has always been ill-defined, but generally it means a freeholder of a lower status than gentleman who cultivates his own land.
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) and servants.

After c.1100 military tenure was generally subject to the law of primogenitureprimogeniture,
in law, the rule of inheritance whereby land descends to the oldest son. Under the feudal system of medieval Europe, primogeniture generally governed the inheritance of land held in military tenure (see feudalism; knight).
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, which resulted in a class of landless knights; at the time of the Crusades those landless knights formed the great military orders of knighthood, which were religious as well as military bodies. Important among these were the Knights TemplarsKnights Templars
, in medieval history, members of the military and religious order of the Poor Knights of Christ, called the Knights of the Temple of Solomon from their house in Jerusalem.
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, Knights HospitalersKnights Hospitalers,
members of the military and religious Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, sometimes called the Knights of St. John and the Knights of Jerusalem. The symbol of the Order of St.
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, Teutonic KnightsTeutonic Knights
or Teutonic Order
, German military religious order founded (1190–91) during the siege of Acre in the Third Crusade. It was originally known as the Order of the Knights of the Hospital of St. Mary of the Teutons in Jerusalem.
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, Livonian Brothers of the SwordLivonian Brothers of the Sword
or Livonian Knights
, German military and religious order, founded in 1202 by Bishop Albert of Livonia for the purpose of conquest and Christianization in the Baltic lands.
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, Knights of Calatrava, and Knights of AvizAviz
, village, Portalegre dist., central Portugal, in Alto Alentejo. The Castilian order of the Knights of Calatrava assisted in driving the Moors from Portugal and in 1166 settled at Évora.
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Secular orders, patterned loosely on the religious ones, but not limited to landless knights, also grew up, principally as honorary establishments by the kings or great nobles. Examples in England were the Order of the Garter and in Burgundy the Order of the Golden Fleece. The most important of these orders have survived and many more have been added (e.g., the orders of the Bath, of Victoria, and of the British Empire in Great Britain and the Legion of Honor in France; see decorations, civil and militarydecorations, civil and military,
honors bestowed by a government to reward services or achievements, particularly those implying valor. The practice of bestowing such decorations dates back at least to the laurel wreaths of the ancient Greeks and Romans and gained prevalence
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See also chivalrychivalry
, system of ethical ideals that arose from feudalism and had its highest development in the 12th and 13th cent.

Chivalric ethics originated chiefly in France and Spain and spread rapidly to the rest of the Continent and to England.
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; courtly lovecourtly love,
philosophy of love and code of lovemaking that flourished in France and England during the Middle Ages. Although its origins are obscure, it probably derived from the works of Ovid, various Middle Eastern ideas popular at the time, and the songs of the troubadours.
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Since the Middle Ages

As the feudal system disintegrated, knight service was with growing frequency commuted into cash payments. In England the payment was known as scutagescutage
, feudal payment, usually in cash, given in lieu of actual military service due from a vassal to an overlord. It applied especially to the vassals of the king. Scutage collection increased noticeably in the later 12th cent.
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. Many landowners found the duties of knighthood too onerous for their meager resources and contented themselves with the rank of squire. This was particularly true in England, where gentlemen landowners are still termed squires. The military value of a cavalry consisting of heavily armored knights lessened with the rise of the infantry, artillery, and mercenary armies. In Germany, where the institution of knighthood persisted somewhat longer than in Britain and France, knighthood in its feudal meaning may be said to have come to an end in the early 16th cent. with the defeat of Franz von SickingenSickingen, Franz von
, 1481–1523, German knight. Placed under the ban of the Holy Roman Empire because of his profitable forays along the Rhine, he served King Francis I of France and then made peace with Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, whose service he entered.
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The title knight (Ger. Ritter, Fr. chevalier) was later used as a noble title in Germany and France. In the French hierarchy of nobles the title chevalier was borne by a younger son of a duke, marquis, or count. In modern Britain, knighthood is not a title of nobility, but is conferred by the royal sovereign (upon recommendation of the government) on commoners and nobles alike for civil or military achievements. A knight is addressed with the title Sir (e.g., Sir John); a woman, if knighted in her own right, is addressed as Dame.


See G. Duby, The Chivalrous Society (1978).



in Western and Central Europe during the Middle Ages, a feudal lord and heavily armed mounted warrior. Among the knights there developed concepts of nobility, honor, and duty, which idealized knighthood. Hence, the metaphorical meaning of “knight” as a selfless, noble person, or a leading figure in some walk of life.

What does it mean when you dream about a knight?

A knight in a dream can mean that the dreamer is looking for a “knight in shining armor” as a mate or a savior. It can also mean that the dreamer possesses the sterling qualities revealed in the dream.


1. in medieval Europe
a. (originally) a person who served his lord as a mounted and heavily armed soldier
b. (later) a gentleman invested by a king or other lord with the military and social standing of this rank
2. (in modern times) a person invested by a sovereign with a nonhereditary rank and dignity usually in recognition of personal services, achievements, etc. A British knight bears the title Sir placed before his name, as in Sir Winston Churchill
3. a chess piece, usually shaped like a horse's head, that moves either two squares horizontally and one square vertically or one square horizontally and two squares vertically
4. History a member of the Roman class of the equites


Dame Laura. 1887--1970, British painter, noted for her paintings of Gypsies, the ballet, and the circus
References in periodicals archive ?
Similarly, Mak investigates the versions of the Controversia de nobilitate published by the Royal Library of Belgium in the e-Librairie des dues de Baurgogne (eLDB).
Un' orazione 'De nobilitate utilitate et origine legum' attribuita a Coluccio Salutati.
Another of Edward IV's courtiers, John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, argued in Declamacion of Noblesse (a translation of the Controversia de Nobilitate of the Florentine jurist, Buonaccorso da Montemagno) that the nobility of England had to cease being warriors fighting for their families and become educated servants of the state.
quandoquidem oratores illos antiquos & insignes, quantum ego ab illis non dicendi solum, sed & loquendi facultate, (in extranea praesertim, qua utor necessario, lingua, & persaepe mihi nequaquam satisfacio) haud dubie vincor, tantum omnes omnium aetatum, materiae nobilitate & argumento vincam.
Hanc aliae gentes, ut eam vel semper amarunt, / Ausae sunt scriptis nobilitate suis.
To read this digression as a political attack on the |nobility' would be naive: on the contrary, Sallust explicitly describes the Gracchi as themselves |noble' (|the first nobles to prefer true glory to the unjust exercise of power', |primi ex nobilitate .
E il libro del Cortegiano registra il mutamento avvenuto riguardo ai bellatores medievali, per cui le antiche virtu militari devono essere integrate e, soprattutto, nobilitate dalle lettere, utili a sbrigare i compiti che lo Stato del Rinascimento impone.
Guimaraes Pinto sobre Jeronimo Osorio: "Ao publicar, em 1542, com o titulo de De nobilitate ciuili et christiana, o seu primeiro livro, aquele que viria a consagrar-se como o autor portugues mais editado no seculo XVI e a merecer, pela pureza do latim que manejava, o epiteto de Cicero lusitano, pretendeu provar, entre outras coisas, que Maquiavel nao tinha razao, quando dizia que o espirito cristao era culpado pelo entibiamento de carater e pelo desaparecimento de intrepidez militar que estiveram na genese da decadencia do imperio romano.
Cluentius Habitus fuit, pater huiusce, iudices, homo non solum municipi Larinatis, ex quo erat, sed etiam regionis illius et vicinitatis virtute, existimatione, nobilitate facile princeps e C.
Kolsky's inclusion of Agrippa's De nobilitate et prcecellentia foemini sexus (1529) remains puzzling for the absence of a convincing direct link to Boccaccio's founding text and for the different intellectual audience for which Agrippa was writing, namely fellow humanists.
Vieri's tomb marker on the floor of the nave of the Cathedral is a later addition, made at the time of the paving of the floor with marble: "VERIUS MEDICIS AEQUES OPIBUS ET GENTIS NOBILITATE / CLARUS SED ET PROBITATE ET PUB.
19) An early Catholic book containing an attack on Machiavelli, Jeronimo Osorio's De nobilitate Christiana, first published at Lisbon in 1542, was translated into English in 1576, and reprinted at London in Latin in 1580.