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Weaponry of Medieval Times


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Table Of contents

Introduction……………………………………………………………………. Hand-and-a-half sword…………………………………………………… Rapier…………………………………………………………………………….. Small sword………………………………………………………………………. Parrying Dagger…………………………………………………………………. Baselard…………………………………………………………………………….. Ballock Dagger/Dirk…………………………………………………………… Rondel/Roundel Dagger…………………………………………………. Stiletto………………………………………………………………………………. Quarterstaff………………………………………………………………………. Flail……………………………………………………………………………………. Mace………………………………………………………………………………….. Halberd………………………………………………………………………………. Lance…………………………………………………………………………………. Pike………………………………………………………………………………….. Spear…………………………………………………………………………………. Trident………………………………………………………………………………. Glaive………………………………………………………………………………… Armor………………………………………………………………………………… Glossary…………………………………………………………………………….. Pictures Cited……………………………………………………………………. About the Authors……………………………………………………………..

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introduction The Middle Ages were a time of war. The quest for wealth and power, driven by greedy kings, queens, and aristocrats, led to conquests and invasions. Countries began to assemble larger armies than ever before. The weapons used by the soldiers of these armies varied greatly. The variations of simple weapons, such as the sword, and the spear, produced new, specialized weapons that were unique. Some weapons were designed to excel in one specific way, while others were engineered to be versatile and have multiple uses. Each weapon had strengths and weaknesses. Every weapon was popular and used by most armies of the world at one time and was at some later time replaced by a new weapon.


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Hand and a Half Sword The hand and a half sword was a very useful weapon during the Middle Ages. Weighing anywhere from just under three pounds to four and a half pounds, this sword was light enough to be wielded by one hand, but long enough (thirty-five inches) to be a two-handed sword. Thus, it is named the hand and a half sword. These were often made of steel. The hand and a half sword was double edged, and the blade was flattened into a hexagonal shape in cross-section. The blade tapers as well, meaning that near the handle the width is the widest, and it slowly narrows down to a point at the end. The sharp edges made it ideal for cutting, although the point on the end made for effective thrusting as well. The hand and a half sword was one of the most versatile weapons of the Middle Ages.


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Rapier The rapier was a very popular weapon in the seventeenth century. It was a thin and light sword, weighing slightly over two pounds on average. At the time, the rapier was the smallest sword could be used by itself, with no additional weapon. During the seventeenth century, the thrusting style of fighting was becoming more popular. Swords were not being used to cut the opponent, but rather to thrust into the opponent. This meant that the top of the hand needed to be protected, rather than the side of the hand. The rapier was ideal for this, as it supplied protection from blade thrusts by protecting the top of the hand. Also, rapiers were longer than the average sword (forty inches) and had a very sharp point at the end. However, since they were designed solely for thrusting, most rapiers did not have sharp edges. The rapier was designed for thrusting, and so, when the thrusting style of fighting became obsolete, so did the rapier.


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Small Sword The small sword derived from the rapier. The small sword first became popular in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It was even lighter (just one pound) and thinner than the rapier, but was typically significantly shorter as well, being only just over thirty inches in length. The light weight allowed for the small sword to be very maneuverable, and not tiring to the arm of the user. This weapon was also designed for thrusting. Because of this, numerous small swords had a triangular blade with an extremely sharp point. However, some had flattened diamond blades. The small sword could make cuts, but was not very effective at it. Still, many people who used the small sword found it to be easy to wield and effective to thrust with.


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Parrying Dagger The parrying dagger was used in Europe during the late Middle Ages. It was made from steel, iron and wood and weighed about fourteen ounces. It was an off-hand weapon used in conjunction with a rapier or small sword. As the name implies, it was a dagger specializing in parrying, or defending against attacks. It had a wider guard and other defensive attributes for the hand. There were two specific kinds of parrying daggers: sword breakers and trident daggers. Sword breakers were sturdy and had teeth on one side of the blade to catch the blade of the sword. Trident daggers were built so that a portion of the blade on each side would spring outwards. This created a dagger capable of trapping blades more securely and more easily.


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Baselard The Baselard is also known as the Swiss dagger. Its name comes from Basel in Switzerland, where it originated. This powerful dagger spread through Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The pommel and cross guard were often crescent-shaped in Swiss designs, but not imitated in other countries. The blade itself was characteristically forged out of double-edged steel, lending strength that was useful for piercing armor. The average blade was forty centimeters long, but no standard form was developed as they were purchased privately by soldiers. Numerous variations in hilt and blade design emerged until it declined in use during the seventeenth century.


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Ballock Dagger/ Dirk The ballock (or bollock) dagger is one with a distinctively shaped shaft, with two oval swellings at the guard. The wooden grip and the guard are often in one piece and reinforced with a metal washer. It was popular in England and Scotland between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries and was commonly carried as a back-up weapon for the lance and the sword. It was similar in use to the Scottish dirk, which was often held in the left arm behind a shield.


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Roundel Dagger The roundel (or rondel) dagger evolved in fourteenth and fifteenth century Europe. Used by merchants and knights alike, the steel, twelve inch blade was diamond-shaped, lenticular, or triangular. The handle was cylindrical (from rondel meaning round) and crafted from wood or bone. They were designed for stabbing opponents, underarm or overarm, and for cutting. Ideally used to puncture chainmail, rondel daggers could not puncture heavy armor. However, they could be forced between the joints in the armor and helmets.


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Stiletto A stiletto was a short knife or dagger with a long, slender blade of various designs. It was primarily designed as a stabbing weapon: a narrow shape, ending in a rigid pointed end, allowed it to penetrate armor deeply. However, it was not suited for cutting. A typical stiletto was a one-piece cast-metal handle and blade. Used by artillerymen as a defense, cannonball measurements were often engraved on one edge of the blade. The weapon is most associated with assassins due to small size and light weight (about nine ounces). Because of that, it could easily be used to thrust through clothing without much difficulty or attracting attention.


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Quarterstaff A quarterstaff was a medieval English weapon consisting of a hardwood shaft, sometimes with metal-reinforced tips. It may be made from many kinds of wood, commonly ash, oak, hazel, or hawthorn. The length of the staff varied, typically ranging from two to three meters. The quarterstaff was effectively a long two-handed club, although its weight distribution was generally even throughout its entire length. However, some forms did have weighted tips. It was used both to deliver crushing blows, and to thrust like a spear. The art of using the staff was closely related to that of other polearms, and it was often employed as a training weapon.


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Flail The flail is a heavy weight, often with spikes, which is attached to the end of a handle by a chain. When swung, it generates a tremendous amount of force to slam into opponents, and it even has the ability to reach over or around armor and shields. In medieval times, knights regarded the sword with such high esteem that the flail was not widely used. Besides being used in war, the flail was also used to torture and punish those who commited crimes against the state or the church. It is a common misconception that a flail and a mace are the same, but they are in fact quite different. The mace has a fixed head while the flail has a head (or heads) that can be moved separately from the handle.


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Mace A mace is a simple weapon that uses a heavy head on the end of a handle to deliver powerful blows. It is a development of the club that is with a symmetrical head so a blow could be delivered with equal effectiveness with either side. A mace consists of a strong, heavy, wooden or metal shaft, with a head made of stone, copper, bronze, iron or steel. The shapes and knobs on the head are designed to penetrate various types of armor. Maces were approximately two to three feet in length for foot soldiers, while those used by cavalry were longer better designed for blows from horseback. However, a mace is not a flail. The head of a mace is fixed onto the handle, whereas the flail can be swung.


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Halberd The halberd was a variation of the spear that was first used by the Swiss army in the fifteenth century. A halberd was not very light and so was a two handed pole weapon. The halberd was usually at least five feet long, but no more than eight feet long. The halberd had four main parts. The first was the shaft, which was used for thrusting. The second was the axe, which was used to cut. The third was the hook, which was used for grappling up walls and for dismounting opposing horsemen. The final part is the handle. The halberd was not used in all countries and was not used for a very long time. However, several armies used them, and they were very effective due to their versatility.


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Lance The term lance refers to several different pole weapons based on the spear. In the original sense it describes a javelinlike weapon meant for throwing. But by the seventeenth century, the term referred specifically to spears not thrown, but ones used for thrusting. In medieval times, infantry lances were more often referred to as pikes and lances were more commonly used by cavalry, especially in jousting. The wooden pole was about two to three meters in length, and the spearhead was made of iron or steel. These weapons could apply tremendous force and significantly injure a knight wearing even the heaviest armor.


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Pike The pike was an elongated, two-handed spear. This weapon was used in battle from the fourteenth century until the eighteenth century, when the bayonet was invented, which effectively turned the musket into a combination of gun and pike. The pike was used by almost every army in the world during the Middle Ages. The pike could be up to twenty feet long, but was more often ten to fourteen feet in length, but often weighed less than six pounds due to the thinness of the shaft. The pike was effective because of the tip, which was usually a triangular or quadrangular blade honed to an extremely sharp point. The pike was used for both stabbing and throwing. Pikes were made of wood, specifically ash, and later on they were manufactured from steel and brass.


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SPEAR The spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually made of wood, and a sharpened head (made of either the same material as the shaft or another material) fastened onto the shaft. The spear is the predecessor of the pike, halberd, and lance. The spear was used commonly in combat during the Middle Ages. This is because the spear was made typically of wood or iron, which made it inexpensive to make. The length and weight of different spears varied greatly, and the spear could be wielded by one or two hands. These weapons could also be used by foot soldiers or by horsemen. These numerous variations led to more specific weapons, such as the javelin (spear for horsemen) and the pike (elongated spear).


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Trident A trident was a three-pronged spear prized for its long reach and ability to trap swords between the prongs to disarm an opponent. Often made from steel and a leather-bound handle, over two hundred variations have been discovered, including the bident. The design may represent that of a pitchfork, but the trident is a separate piece of equipment. A pitchfork has two to six prongs shaped such that they can be used to lift and throw loose material. It was not used in combat, where the trident excelled.


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Glaive The glaive is a steel, polearm weapon that has a singleedged blade on the end of a pole. Similar to spears, they were often used for dismounting horsemen. The long, elegant blades had a reverse spike, known as a gisarme, to help catch these riders. The design and method of construction was developed by peasants of the time period. Common hand tools, such as the pruning hook, were attached to long poles and used as weapons. The glaive-gisarme was used primarily between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries.


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Armor During the Middle Ages, new weapons were always being developed. Each unique design could penetrate armor differently. In order to protect the soldiers, armor had to advance as well. As time went on, armor had to allow for free movement during combat. Slowly, armor lost its weight and full protection, only covering the essential areas of the body (chest, upper legs and shoulders). Eventually, however, weapons like the sword, lance, etc. became less useful as muskets and firearms were produced. Chain mail, which could protect knights from high-speed projectiles, was used more frequently. After the Middle Ages had passed, armor had become obsolete. In modern times, soldiers mainly need protection from firearms, so bullet-proof vests and tanks are used to attack opponents while maintaining a defense. However, even now, more weapons, such as anti-armor grenades that can pierce even the most heavily armored tanks, are being produced and that safety is almost impossible to keep.


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Glossary Bayonet: a knife that can be fixed to the end of a rifle and used as a weapon Crossguard: bar of metal at right angles to the blade, placed between the blade and the hilt that stops the wielder from punching shields while swinging the weapon Gisarme: a weapon such as the glaive that had a reverse spike to better dismount horsemen and knights Lenticular: resembling a lens, convex on both sides Off-Hand Weapon: when wielding a one-handed weapon, the off-hand weapon was held in the other hand as an extra defense/offense Polearm: a group of pole-mounted weapons usually featuring a cutting or slashing weapon on one end. Pommel: a rounded protrusion on the handle of a sword or dagger which prevents the hand from slipping Pruning Hook: a long-handled edge tool with a curved blade at the end


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picture credits title: taken from http://travel.webshots.com/photo/1223462840054228433NCmgdM page 2: taken from http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medievalweapons/siege-weapon-design.htm page 3: Higgins Armory Online page 4: Higgins Armory Online page 5: taken from http://images.coldsteelknives.com/Lg/3292_1/88SMS_Cold_Steel_Small_Sword.jpg page 6: taken from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/decw/ho_26.145.94.htm page 7: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/decw/ho_26.145.94.htm page 8: taken from http://www.powning.com/jake/images/0ballock1.jpg page 9: taken from http://antoinemarcal.wordpress.com/2006/12/10/dague-arouelle-rondell-dagger/ page 10: Higgins Armory Online page 11: taken from http://www.practice-swords.com/european-wooden-practiceweapons.shtml page 12: taken from http://www.digitalapoptosis.com/archives/lightbox/000760.html page 13: Higgins Armory Online page 14: Higgins Armory Online page 15: Higgins Armory Online page 16: Higgins Armory Online page 17: Higgins Armory Online page 18: Higgins Armory Online page 19: Higgins Armory Online page 20: taken from http://z.about.com/d/gonewengland/1/0/H/I/armor1.jpg


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About the authors Nick Frongillo is a senior at the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI. He is a huge sports fan, playing several himself, such as baseball and basketball. When he is not playing sports, he is sleeping. He will be attending WPI in the fall and likes going to the beach and other fun places. He resides in Dudley, Massachusetts.

Nick Moisan is a senior at the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science at WPI. He enjoys sleeping late, playing video games and having swordfights with his friends. He is never found in public without his headphones, jamming out to music, and he is learning to play the guitar so that eventually he can play his favorite songs.

Weaponry of Medieval Times  

Medieval warfare is the warfare of the Middle Ages. In Europe, technological, cultural, and social developments had forced a dramatic transf...

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