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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 8:43 am    Post subject: Seax         Reply with quote

When was the seax pretty well phased out - I would think it disappeared from some locations faster than others.

What was it replaced by - The arming sword? The Falchion?

One thing I also wonder. Even if Seax's were no longer being produced, I would guess that many might still he handed down to later generations, maybe with the grip replaced.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 8:53 am    Post subject: Re: Seax         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
What was it replaced by - The arming sword? The Falchion?


I suspect it was just replaced by other knives, since that is what a seax is. Perhaps the German langes messer is an evolution of the seax, though I'm not sure if we can draw a very definate lineage between them.

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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 9:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Any types of other "long knoves" found after the point where the Seax was popular?

Seems like the seax could have anywhere from a 4" blade to a 28" one.

The smallest are knoves for sure, but even a 15-20" blade seems a lot more knife than is needed for non military reasons. Even the mid-range ones are around the length of a gladius.

I guess my question was did the "shorsword" type of seax disappear from military usage replaced by longer blades (perhaps because metal became less expensive comparatively), or was there another type of "shortsword" used in europe instead of a seax or arming sword?

Any evolutionary relationship between the longer seax and the falchion?
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G Ezell
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 11:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very interesting question.
It's my theory (with no proof whatsoever to back it up) that the Scottish dirk is directly descended from saxes. The
Scandinavian puukko and leuku have barely changed form in 1000 years, one could say they are still small saxes, only the name and sheath details have changed... The bowie knife is an 18th century revival of the broken-back form.

At some point, the single-edged knife took a back seat to the double-edge for self-defense, and became a utility blade instead of a warrior's weapon. The Hurbuck-type langsax may have had some influence on later falchions and the langes messer, but was given a sword hilt, false/secondary edge, and in some cases a full/slab tang. There are a few Russian long knives that seem to show a sax influence to this day.
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Christopher Gregg




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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 11:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you look in the myArmoury archives, an excellent article on the Scottish Dirk shows very clearly it's provenance - developing from the medieval ballock knife. The seax is far older than the Scottish dirk, and other than they both sharing a single-edged blade, that's about it. They also developed from two distinct cultures in very distant time periods - several centuries separate their use.
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Eric W. Norenberg





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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 12:19 pm    Post subject: Seax         Reply with quote

I recently read (somewhere online, but I'm afraid I can't recall where - apologies to the original author if I corrupt your argument in this interpretation!) a theory that the Germanic/ Norse seax lost favor as the one-handed sword evolved from the spada form (and its increasing blade heaviness as it moved further, in time, from the Roman original) into what eventually would become Oakeshott's type X. That is to say, the long one-hander of the late Migration period was an excellent cleaver, but tighter, close-quarters combat dictated a lighter, more maneuverable weapon - the seax. The seax became somewhat redundant for the well-equipped soldier as the longer swords were refined, over time, into something with a handier point and a closer point-of-balance. The seax obviously did not disappear over night, but lost its primacy on the battle field, becoming something more of a general purpose knife with convenient combat applications.

This seems a credible theory, to me. As the seax became less a battlefield weapon, it evolved into something akin in use as in form to the American frontier Bowie knife (thanks for pointing out the lineage here, Mr. Ezell!). So I would certainly echo the sentiment that the seax really never became extinct, but was adapted for changing roles, especially in regions that were more attached to that blade shape culturally. Other, later short swords & long knives evolved from different "parentage."

Of course, y'all are welcome to set me straight on this!

Cheers,
Eric
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G Ezell
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 1:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Gregg wrote:
If you look in the myArmoury archives, an excellent article on the Scottish Dirk shows very clearly it's provenance - developing from the medieval ballock knife. The seax is far older than the Scottish dirk, and other than they both sharing a single-edged blade, that's about it. They also developed from two distinct cultures in very distant time periods - several centuries separate their use.

This is defiantly in keeping with current wisdom, and I agree that the handles were influenced by ballock and dudgeon knives. However, the blades themselves, plus the method of construction, and the intended use for the knife, has lead me to my theory. The blades of some early dirks are very close to the Frankish sax blades from a few centuries earlier. There is no doubt the two cultures clashed at one time and may have influenced one another in profound ways. What preceded the ballock knife, did the distinct handle shape come suddenly from nowhere, with no outside influences? It likely developed from an earlier form itself. What earlier form? Well, if we had more saxes with intact handles, perhaps the answer would be clear. Just a theory, as I said, perhaps it is wrong. Some middle eastern daggers bear a striking resemblance to some of the much earlier bronze Urnfield knives, but this doesn't mean they were influenced by them.

The langsax was good for chopping and thrusting, judging by the points they were quite good at thrusting. Perhaps as the double-edged swords developed finer, more thrust oriented points, the langsax took a back seat and eventually died out entirely... or morphed into true swords themselves (as in Sweden and Norway), complete with sword fittings.
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Christopher Gregg




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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2008 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

G Ezell wrote:
This is defiantly in keeping with current wisdom, and I agree that the handles were influenced by ballock and dudgeon knives. However, the blades themselves, plus the method of construction, and the intended use for the knife, has lead me to my theory. The blades of some early dirks are very close to the Frankish sax blades from a few centuries earlier. There is no doubt the two cultures clashed at one time and may have influenced one another in profound ways. What preceded the ballock knife, did the distinct handle shape come suddenly from nowhere, with no outside influences? It likely developed from an earlier form itself. What earlier form? Well, if we had more saxes with intact handles, perhaps the answer would be clear. Just a theory, as I said, perhaps it is wrong. Some middle eastern daggers bear a striking resemblance to some of the much earlier bronze Urnfield knives, but this doesn't mean they were influenced by them.


The ballock knife would most likely have been preceded by daggers such as the rondell and the misericord, or whittle. The handles were simple dowel shapes with long single or double edges, meant primarily for stabbing (a self-defense knife). Seaxes of the Langsax style you refer to, which you say could chop, are much heavier-bladed knives than dirks, ballocks or their ancestors. The long, straight-bladed self defense knife/dagger was a development of the early to late Medieval period in Western Europe (in general), and a distinct weapon from earlier multi-purpose seax style knives, designed for daily chores as well as defense/offense. Ballocks, rondells, misericords and dirks are all pretty much weapons only, albeit could be utilitarian in a pinch. Seaxes are best thought of as the Northern ancestors of our daily kitchen/camping knives - good for cutting of meats and foods, as well as the occasional brigand.

It would be romantic to think that Scottish dirks were somehow connected to the side arms of the Nordic and Saxon invaders/settlers of the UK, but perhaps it's better to think of them as the everyday tools of a culture outside of, but still linked to the culture of the Gaels. I'm sure there were some early Scots in Scottish Dalriada who adopted (or used) a Norse/Saxon seax, but we'll never know for sure. Wink

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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Nov, 2008 1:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

With saxes, you have to consider that there are different lines of developement. On one hand, you've got the broadsax, frequently as side arm next to the double edged sword in continental Europe. This evolves into the langsax, which is usually the single weapon. This langsax disappears around 800, after which only double edged swords are used. In Norway, you've got single edged swords, that from around 800 or so get identical hilts as the double edged swords. What happens to these eventually is unclear to me. Then you have the broken back style saxes, in use from roughly 800-1100. These evolve around 1100 in smaller versions, which evolves into the late medieval eating knives. The broken back style blade continues to be used, from then on, but other designs become more common. I doubt that the later broken back style blades are a continious tradition, rather just a handy shape that gets repeated until today.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Wed 26 Nov, 2008 7:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The one thing that I find interesting is that the short swords seem pretty lacking from period illustrations after 1000-1100 AD, after this a side arm is usually represented as an arming type sword, short swords don't seem to come back into play again for a few hundred years.

There are some period illustrations from western europe in this time showing short sword type weapons, but usually these are from troops in Spain or Ireland for the most part. These don't appear to be seax types anyway, they look more like the older Greek Xiphos as much as anything else.
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Doug Lester




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Nov, 2008 8:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I take by your question that you mean by "seax" a long bladed weapon used as a sword in combat. I tend to think that it evolved into other weapons, such as the falcion, rather than being replaced by something else. From the reading that I have done and contemporary pictures seen that the single edged weapon was use far more commonly than they are represented and archeological finds. The seax is also a very basic knife design and, whether handed down in a society or redeveloped over periods of time, the "seax" keeps reappearing. Also remember that all the word "seax" means is knife and takes in a lot of design variants in both shape and size.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Wed 26 Nov, 2008 1:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, I'm meaning the ones over 15" or so in length - the rest are knives IMO, I'm not as concerned as to what happened to the shorter ones.

It's more the idea of a shorter sword type device for combat and if that was something that "went away". The knight would carry his dagger, but that was a shorter length weapon.

I'm curious if with metal becoming more prevalent in armour for instance (more mail, more complete coverage also), if this "wealth" of metal had to do with sidearms becoming commonly the length of an arming sword.

A falchion I guess could be a descendant - they were a bit longer than the mid length Seax, and were not very well designed for thrusting.

But there seems to be a period of time, maybe from the mid 11th century til sometime in the later 13th where the use of these intermediate weapons seemed to go away. Not sure if this is entirely true, or if so why.
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Bjorn Hagstrom




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Nov, 2008 12:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know there is a rather military/combat-oriented crowd here, and rightly so. But I would like to introduce into the discussion the fact that a lot of seaxes (in the shorter single edged form at least) was not primarily a specialized military weapon but a farming implement that was convenient to bring along when conflicts arose.

I have little hard facts and literature to back this at the moment, only discussions with archaeologist friends. But from their accounts, as well as experimental archaeology and modern use I can say that a front-heavy short and thick-backed blade is very useful as a machete for clearing saplings, coppicing and clearing your way through thick undergrowth that in areas without chainsaws, lawnmowers and weedwhackers can be surprisingly thick. Really a great multi-purpose tool that would be carried along anywhere. Great as a back-up weapon for close quarters when your spear gets broken and the enemy to close as well.

The seax lives on as a dedicated "leaf-knife" (sv. lövkniv) for cutting saplings for winter-feed for cattle up until modern times. So why does it disappear from the warriors toolbelt around the time Scandinavia is thoroughly christianized and viking raids ceases? Many changes happens at the same time here, but the dominance of cavalry would play its part. A mounted knight would be wealthy enough to afford more sspecializedweapons, and a short blade would be less useful from horseback. The foot-soldier as well would probably have use for either longer more effective or shorter more practical blades.

An interesting note is that I have actually done some research on 12th century daggers and there are virtually none to find. There are swords, there are small knives but very little in between...the dagger does not appear until the plate armour arrives. I suppose that thorough maille coverage makes the knife superflous. The sword and the speaer will do the same job better. When plate armour proves very effeective though, you need something small to slip between the gaps..my theory is that the seax gets left at home as the warrior gets more proffessional and specialised. The seax returns to its former life as a mundane tool, and the dagger appears with a vengeance when plate armour turns up.

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