- Only buildable by Castle- and Palace-Cultures
- Special Forces
- Ancient flanking unit
The Knight is one of the most powerful early land units in the game. It can travel great distances (but not over mountains) and attacks and defends better than any unit in the Ancient Age. It is eventually out-classed by the Cavalry unit.
As samurai were the warrior class of feudal Japan, so were knights during the European Middle Ages. Some knights were vassals holding lands in fief from the lords in whose armies they served. Entering knighthood was a formalized process. At around age 7, a young boy destined for a career of war would serve his father as a page. At age 12, he would join the household of his father’s lord for more advanced training in military tactics and the ways of the world. He was considered a valet until he accompanied his patron on a campaign as écuyer (French, "shieldbearer," root of the modern word esquire) or armiger (French, "weapons bearer"). When his family could afford the cost of knightly equipment and he was considered proficient, he was dubbed a knight. The dubbing ceremony could be elaborate executed on a royal feast day or a simple touching of the flat blade of a sword on each shoulder in the field of battle.
In much the same was as Japanese samurai adhered to a code of conduct known as Bushido ("the way of the warrior"), knights formulated a code of loyalty, personal integrity and Christian faith that was known as chivalry (from the French word "chevalier," meaning knight). Knights strived to a Christian ideal of courtesy, deep respect for the Church, loyalty to their superiors and preservation of personal honor. The Crusades, beginning in the 11th century, were the ultimate expression of the knight’s devotion to the Christian Church. These massive military expeditions, operating under the auspices of the church, spawned the first official orders of knights: Knights dubbed at Christ’s tomb became known as knights of the Holy Sepulchre, the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem (Knights of Malta), the Order of the Temple of Solomon (Templars) and the Order of St. Lazarus, which was charged with the special duty of defending leper hospitals. These orders were international, expressly religious institutions in purpose and form. Members took vows of celibacy and the organizations themselves operated under hierarchical structures that mimicked the church itself.
From the end of the 11th century to the middle of the 13th, the relationship of knighthood to feudalism changed. As most knights were enfeoffed landholders, obliged to give 40 days’ military service to their lords, the frequency of long-distance expeditions put a strain on the existing ranks. Lords turned to compulsory service, distraining landholders to join the knighthood. Even with this new development, knights were reduced to a minority in armies, often acting as officers, as greater numbers of mercenary soldiers were raised to fill the gap.
The traditional knighthood saw a major decline in the 14th and 15th centuries. Armies of footsoldiers and bowmen consistently defeated knightly armies, and the development of artillery further marginalized the role of the mounted, armor-clad cavalry unit. The demise of the Crusades and the rise of centralized monarchy eroded the feudal system in which knights thrived. By the 16th century, knighthood lost its martial purpose and was relegated to nothing more than an honorific status bestowed by sovereigns.