The History of the Medieval Sword
The term "Medieval Sword" evokes a feeling of power. A Medieval Sword is not just your ordinary sword.
The first swords, are generally considered to have appeared around 2,000 years BC.
For a very long time the dagger was a predominat weapon and it was a stabbing tool, although there were examples of sharpened sides. But limitations in materials made the dagger almost exclusively a stabbing weapon. It wasn't until advances in metal working that the dagger was slowly tranformed into the sword. And the sword has a long history of change that was dependent upon changes in metalworking skills and changes in other things such as armor and combat techniques. Toward the late middle ages swords were designed with other swords in mind.
The History of Medieval Swords
The Bronze Age
During the Bronze age (appx. 2,000 BC to 1,400 BC) the advent of working with bronze changed the dagger significantly. The major change was the ability to make it longer and it is in this that the Medieval Sword was born. But Bronze also has its limitations so these bronze age swords were still, like the dagger, stabbing weapons. The Chinese Bronze age sword shown here is an excellent example of the use and limitations of Bronze. Notice how very thick the blade is at the handle, and how it tapers to the point. This thickness was necessary for strength. This weapon could be used for slashing but it was first and foremost a thrusting weapon. (amazon has this replica Trademark 23-Inch Chinese Archaic Bronze Sword This sword is 23 inches long and it is a good example of the transition from dagger to sword. It is too long to be a dagger yet is a rather short sword.
The Iron Age
Around the 13th century BC Iron working skills brought forth the Iron sword. And although it is mosly inferior to the well made bronze sword it was an easier sword to make and could be produced in mass quantities. This meant that an armies could be supplied with swords. The Iron sword made a tremendous advance when it was discovered that by adding a small amount of carbon during the smelting process steel could be made. This created a sword far stronger and durable than the iron sword.
Roman Battle Sword The Best early examples of Iron Age swords are of the Roman Swords. These swords were directly derived from the designs of the early bronze age swords. Several distinct features stand out. First off, they were predominantly used for stabbing. The metal working technology of the time was not advanced enough to make a strong enough blade for slicing and hacking. Secondly there was no cross piece or handguard. These swords were often made by pouring the metal directly into stone casts then shaping them. The handles were often made of wood. This type of sword dates back 2,000 years and its predecessor the Bronze sword dates even further back.
The Development of Steel
Steel was a dramatic improvement in the advancement of the sword. With steel being much stronger than Iron the sword could now be made much longer and it could be made to hold sharp edges along both sides. Steel also has a bit of flexibility, as ironic as this sounds. A steel sword made for a very effective weapon for hacking and slashing. Steel also enabled the sword to become much longer.
For over 1,000 years there were relatively few changes in the Medieval Sword. Of course different cultures had their variations but for the most part the sword was a long dagger with sharpened sides. It was in the Middle Ages that the sword saw its first real changes. These changes were in several different aspects. Sword designs changed based on real needs in combat and in particular ways based on combat against other sword wielders.
The Early Middle Ages
Around the 11th to 13th century ad the sword had its first major change. The quillion or cross guard was added. The swords of this period were both single edged and double edged and were predominalty used as cutting weapons.
This Celtic Dress Sword is a replica of an early celtic sword. You can see that there have been some design improvements in sword technology. The blade is longer and the sides are sharpened. This Medieval Sword could be effectively used for slashing and not just stabbing. You can also see some changes in the handle. The crosspiece, made of brass, protrudes a bit from the handle. As swords became used for slashing the crosspiece became an effective defense against an opponents blade. This crosspiece would stop the opponents blade before it could slide down onto the handle and cut the holders hand.
This sword is a good example of how design in swords changed throughout the early and late middle ages. The Blade is quite long and sharpened on both edges. The crosspiece is significant in size which made it very effective at parrying an opponents blade, which protected the wielders hand. Practical Knight Sword
The Late Middle Ages After the 13th century
As Armor made advances in its abililty to protect so the sword also made advances in its ability to thwart the defenses. Some of the advances during this time are the longer handle which allowed for two handed use and a variety of specialized swords that could cut and thrust; seeking out weaknesses in armor. The sword was getting bigger, longer and stronger.
This scottish Claymore is a good example of the growth of the sword and its two-handed use.
The Middle to Late Middle Ages saw the rapid spread of the technology and techniques of metalworking and smithing and many different types of medieval swords were created all over the world. And they varied quite significantly from the highly streamlined Katanas of the Samurai to the sweeping curves of the Persian swords.
The Persian Scimitar - Is fanous for its sweeping curved blade. This weapon was sharpened on one edge and was predominantly used as a slicing weapon.
The Modern Era
One of the biggest advances in the modern era was the development of the basket that protected the hand. This first appeared in Rapiers. Advances in metal working created swords that were lighter and quicker yet stronger. The sword, once again became a weapon that was used for stabbing. This was because of advancements in armor. As weapons technology advanced the sword made the transition into a gentlemanly accoutrement used only for personal defense and then finally as sidearms became more available the sword fell from common use. Whetstone Cutlery Musketeer Rapier Sword 44 Inches ( Scabbard Included Sword)
The Medieval Sword and Today's Collector
In the modern world the art of the Medieval Sword has taken a whole new meaning. With the popularity of fantasy books and movies swords have become a statement for characters and although the designs are not something that would have actually been found in medieval times they do represent the medieval feeling very well - even taking it to a new level.
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