Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Longswords in the hands of common soldiers? Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next 
Author Message
Robert Hinds




Location: Whitewater, Wisconsin USA
Joined: 15 Sep 2010
Likes: 4 pages

Posts: 243

PostPosted: Sun 02 Jan, 2011 4:26 pm    Post subject: Longswords in the hands of common soldiers?         Reply with quote

Hello,

I was wondering if there is any evidence that retainers in 1450 - 1500 used longswords as either their primary or secondary weapon? I know knights used them as such, but I can't find any information as to whether they were used by the common soldiers.

I think I remember reading that some swiss mercenarys used them but I can't remember the time period or any other information.

Any help on this subject is appreciated. Happy

"Young knight, learn to love God and revere women; thus your honor will grow. Practice knighthood and learn the Art that dignifies you, and brings you honor in wars." -Johannes Liechtenauer

"...And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one..." Luke 22:36
View user's profile Send private message
Jonathan Blair




Location: Hanover, PA
Joined: 15 Aug 2005
Likes: 3 pages
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 477

PostPosted: Sun 02 Jan, 2011 7:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If by retainer you mean what was that which was described in the ideals of bastard feudalism defined by William Stubbs in the late 19th century, namely that they are gentry retained by their lord in a retinue or affinity, then yes, retainers with a martial bent to their careers would have been trained to use the longsword as part of the gentleman's upbringing.

However, if by retainer you mean a common soldier, then things change. If memory serves, Fiore Dei Liberi warned in his manual, Flos Duellatorum, that training in the art of the longsword was to be denied to the commoner. If this restriction was somewhat universal, then most commoners would have had no idea how to properly use a longsword.

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." - The Lord Jesus Christ, from The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, chapter x, verse 34, Authorized Version of 1611
View user's profile Send private message
Robert Hinds




Location: Whitewater, Wisconsin USA
Joined: 15 Sep 2010
Likes: 4 pages

Posts: 243

PostPosted: Sun 02 Jan, 2011 9:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By retainer I meant the common soldier.

I remembered reading somewhere that said if longswords were effective, lords would have armed their retainers with them. I guess by this they meant those of the gentry.

One of my reasons for wanting to know, (other than plain curiosity) was that I was hoping I could find an excuse to wear my longsword with my 15th cent. glaiveman kit. Laughing Out Loud

Thanks for the info Jonathan. Happy

"Young knight, learn to love God and revere women; thus your honor will grow. Practice knighthood and learn the Art that dignifies you, and brings you honor in wars." -Johannes Liechtenauer

"...And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one..." Luke 22:36
View user's profile Send private message
Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,576

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 1:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It should be mentioned that Liberi's work has both a latin and italian introduction, and the mentions of "keeping the art for the knights" are only made in the latin one. Liberi was more bussiness minded than elitist, when push came to shove.

Similarly, the use of longswords by footmen would probably be more dictated by practical concerns than social class. Even if not noblemen, they where professional soldiers, who mostly paid for their own equipment.

From my experience as a glaiveman, a one handed sword is probably a better choice, as it can be drawn faster. However, a slender longsword can be used in the manner shown in some of the german armoured fighting manuals; Held in the right hand together with polearm, and rested on top hand. This lets you convert instantly, and can give charging swordsmen a nasty surprise. This reduces your polearm efficiency somewhat, so I only do it when I know that I am headed for close or single combat. I do this with a one handed sword, keeping my left hand on the the polearm.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 1,491

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 2:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:

From my experience as a glaiveman, a one handed sword is probably a better choice, as it can be drawn faster. However, a slender longsword can be used in the manner shown in some of the german armoured fighting manuals; Held in the right hand together with polearm, and rested on top hand. This lets you convert instantly, and can give charging swordsmen a nasty surprise. This reduces your polearm efficiency somewhat, so I only do it when I know that I am headed for close or single combat. I do this with a one handed sword, keeping my left hand on the the polearm.


Do you have any pics of this? (Either from said manuals or a photo of yourself would be great.) By "right hand", do you mean "butt hand"/"rear hand"?

(A detailed description of this technique, its use, effectiveness, etc., would be interesting. New thread?)

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,576

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 3:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gladiatoria has pictures of this kind of "everything and the kitchen sink" kind of fighting;http://www.thearma.org/Manuals/Gladiatoria/Gladiatoria.htm

Codex Wallerstein;
http://www.thearma.org/Manuals/182.jpg

Talhofer show the same kind of fighting, but without the shields, on p. 174 in Alte Armatur und ringkunst.

On closer inspection, the manuals usually show the fighters holding the front of the sword; In my experience this is not necessary, though. Another favored way of carrying the sword is held point down in the lead hand (which I have not tried)
most illustrations show various actions where spears, shields and swords have allready been thrown around. They do however demonstrate that the longsword functioned as a integrated part of a fully armed man's equipment, rather than some separate fad.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
Robert Hinds




Location: Whitewater, Wisconsin USA
Joined: 15 Sep 2010
Likes: 4 pages

Posts: 243

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 6:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, thanks Elling that's awesome! I can't believe I've never seen that mentioned before. Finally! Period example of dual-wielding...sorta... Thank's for the picture too, that really clarafies it.

I'd have no problem going with my 1 hander, but it's not period correct (it's a 12th-13th century sword) so I was hoping to find an excuse to wear my more correct longsword with my kit.

"Young knight, learn to love God and revere women; thus your honor will grow. Practice knighthood and learn the Art that dignifies you, and brings you honor in wars." -Johannes Liechtenauer

"...And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one..." Luke 22:36
View user's profile Send private message
Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
Joined: 11 Jun 2007
Likes: 7 pages

Posts: 2,216

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 7:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In this topic you can see swiss and landsknecht foot soldiers with longswords on their belts in battle scenes:
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=21780
View user's profile Send private message
Scott Woodruff





Joined: 30 Nov 2005
Likes: 8 pages

Posts: 601

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 10:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My understanding is that most German longsword manuals were written for a middle-class audience. ART-talk on the ARMA site has a wonderful Tolkienesque watercolor showing commoners fighting with long-swords while an upper-class couple look on unconcernedly.
View user's profile Send private message
Craig Shackleton




Location: Ottawa, Canada
Joined: 20 Apr 2004
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 307

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 10:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that it was more of a shift over time. Leichtenauer's mnemonic poems were partially intended to keep the material from the hands of the common fencer. With the rise of the prosperous middle class, the wealthy commoners adopted the ways of the nobility, including a rising interest in swordplay. By the time we get to Meyer, the fechtbucher are clearly aimed at this market. In between, we get a bit of both.

With regards to Gladiatoria, while I would speculate that the sword held alongside the spear probably was also used by soldiers wielding other pole arms, those manuals are clearly depicting some sort of formal paired combat, so I would hesitate to claim that they tell us something specific about common soldiers' practices for war. It does demonstrate that the concept was available and used in a particular circumstance, which is definitely something. I've just never seen a similar image with a different pole arm, or in a battle illustration. Even in Gladiatoria it is presented as sort of a trick rather than a common practice. And bear in mind, on another page of the same manual, they suggest you unscrew the pommel from your sword and throw it at your opponent. I'm dubious that that trick applied to common soldiers.

Edit: If you are looking for historical sources for dual-weapon combat, Manciolino's Opera Nova discusses combat with swords in both hands. Tom Leoni's translation and interpretation are available from Freelance Academy Press. That is of course a renaissance source rather than medieval, but it is still very interesting.

Ottawa Swordplay


Last edited by Craig Shackleton on Mon 03 Jan, 2011 10:36 am; edited 1 time in total
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Larry Bohnham





Joined: 20 May 2010

Posts: 98

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 10:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Let's not forget that many a medieval warrior enhanced his kit with whatever leavings he might find on the battle field. Unless there was a specific legal prohibition that might get in the way, I don't see any reason that a common soldier would hesitate to "up-arm" himself with a longsword that he came across whose former owner was taking a dirt nap and past caring about. Even if there might be some legal proscription against commoners possessing such a weapon, based on books such as "The Medieval Underworld" by Andrew McCall, it seems that many folks took the laws then more as guidelines or suggestions than actual constraints. Most likely weapon control laws were just as ineffective then as they are now. Personally, as long as it's a period correct, I wouldn't hesitate to include a longsword in my kit.
"No athlete can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows; he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack under the fist of his adversary..."
Roger of Hoveden, d.1201

a furore Normannorum libera nos Domine

"Henry, get down off that horse with that sword, you'll put someone's eye out!" Mrs. Bolingbroke's advice to her son, Henry, on the eve of the battle of Agincourt
View user's profile Send private message
Kel Rekuta




Location: Toronto, Canada
Joined: 10 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 600

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 11:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Unless your particular "common soldier" had specific training with the weapon, or some intention to gain some - it is more likely he would sell it to buy other things he needed; equipment, clothing, food, drink, female attention - not in any particular order. A sword may or may not be worth a great deal of cash but cash in hand for other purposes has always been more attractive to soldiers than collecting weapons he may or may not be familiar with. Especially since warfare wasn't a game or past time where new toys are more attractive than recreation between periods "on duty."
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,576

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 11:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig; There are a lot of funky stuff in Gladiatoria. The sword and spear together trick is also shown in other armoured fighting works. This is not to suggest that it was done all the time, but rather that it is on possibility of many.
For one, if you are headed into a close melee, drawing your sword might be challenging at best, and having it in hand is a good way to prepare. (Something which speaks in favour of a one-hander, dagger or mace.)

In modern reenactment there is a tendency that longsword fighters rarely have have spears, and focus on the manual stuff instead. This also tends to get them killed a lot on the battlefield, where spear/pole and shieldmen are very efficient, and most rule systems give little payback for armour. All to often this causes them to give up the battlefield, and focus on single combat rather than actually getting the battlefield weapons of their period and learning to use them together with their longswords.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
Fabrice Cognot
Industry Professional



Location: Dijon
Joined: 29 Sep 2004

Posts: 354

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 5:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Archers of the Burgundian armies had two-handed swords as their standard weapon (in addition to the bow, of course.....) :

"L’archer sera monté sur un cheval de 10 écus au moins, habillé d’une jaque à haut collet tenant lieu de gorgerin, avec bonnes manches ; il portera une cotte de mailles ou paletot de haubergerie dessous cette jaque qui sera de 12 toiles au moins dont 3 de toile cirée et 9 de toile commune. Il aura pour garantir sa tête une bonne salade sans visière ; il sera armé en outre d’un arc solide, d’une trousse pouvant contenir 2 douzaines et demie de flèches, d’une longue épée à deux mains, d’une dague tranchant des deux côtés et longue d’un pied et demi."

After the Abbeville ordinances, July 31, 1471.

PhD in medieval archeology.
HEMAC member
De Taille et d'Estoc director
Maker of high quality historical-inspired pieces.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,126

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 5:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fabrice Cognot wrote:
Archers of the Burgundian armies had two-handed swords as their standard weapon (in addition to the bow, of course.....) :

"L’archer sera monté sur un cheval de 10 écus au moins, habillé d’une jaque à haut collet tenant lieu de gorgerin, avec bonnes manches ; il portera une cotte de mailles ou paletot de haubergerie dessous cette jaque qui sera de 12 toiles au moins dont 3 de toile cirée et 9 de toile commune. Il aura pour garantir sa tête une bonne salade sans visière ; il sera armé en outre d’un arc solide, d’une trousse pouvant contenir 2 douzaines et demie de flèches, d’une longue épée à deux mains, d’une dague tranchant des deux côtés et longue d’un pied et demi."

After the Abbeville ordinances, July 31, 1471.


Interesting since that would mean 18" for the dagger and sort of coustille sized large dagger for close in work.

Although not mentioned in the French text, add in a small buckler and with the long dagger one has a weapon for all ranges: The bow for long range, the long sword as the principle backup weapon and the dagger for bad breath distance in a close and dense meeley where the longsword might be difficult to use.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Fabrice Cognot
Industry Professional



Location: Dijon
Joined: 29 Sep 2004

Posts: 354

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 6:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Carfeul, because the old Burgundian foot was slightly longer than the Imperial foot : about 33 cm Wink.
PhD in medieval archeology.
HEMAC member
De Taille et d'Estoc director
Maker of high quality historical-inspired pieces.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Bill Grandy
myArmoury Team


myArmoury Team

Location: Alexandria, VA USA
Joined: 25 Aug 2003
Reading list: 43 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 4,136

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 7:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
Craig; There are a lot of funky stuff in Gladiatoria. The sword and spear together trick is also shown in other armoured fighting works. This is not to suggest that it was done all the time, but rather that it is on possibility of many.


It isn't a trick, nor is it warfare. It is the requirements of that armored judicial duel, and it was very common for armored judicial duels from the 15th century in the Germanic areas to mandate sword, spear and dagger. The Gladiatoria fechtbuch isn't really any more "funky" than any other fechtbuch dealing with judicial dueling.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Craig Shackleton




Location: Ottawa, Canada
Joined: 20 Apr 2004
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 307

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 8:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:
Elling Polden wrote:
Craig; There are a lot of funky stuff in Gladiatoria. The sword and spear together trick is also shown in other armoured fighting works. This is not to suggest that it was done all the time, but rather that it is on possibility of many.


It isn't a trick, nor is it warfare. It is the requirements of that armored judicial duel, and it was very common for armored judicial duels from the 15th century in the Germanic areas to mandate sword, spear and dagger. The Gladiatoria fechtbuch isn't really any more "funky" than any other fechtbuch dealing with judicial dueling.


Bill, I am speaking specifically of holding both weapons in the hands simultaneously. This is not a requirement of the judicial duel. The duel requires that you have all of these weapons on your person, but the sword is much more often shown carried in the scabbard until after the spear is thrown or dropped. "Trick" may not be the best word, but it is a particular adaptation of the system to a particular situation that offers specific advantages and disadvantages that must be balanced by the particular combatant.

Personally I find a lot of the Judicial duelling manuals funky, but I mean that as a compliment and am not sure if you do. I certainly get incredulous expressions when I present things like duelling shields and the man-woman fight from Talhoffer's and similar manuals to people who've never seen them before. Gladiatoria, though has it's own unique character (in my experience), such as the thrown pommel, the Hungarian shields (iirc), the sword gripped together with the spear, the variety of armour, etc. Perhaps not more funky than many other fechtbucher, but definitely many features not expected by modern audiences, some of which afaik are only in Gladiatoria.

But yeah, definitely not warfare.

Ottawa Swordplay
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Kel Rekuta




Location: Toronto, Canada
Joined: 10 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 600

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 8:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You guys need to understand more about the legal requirements of the armoured duel both over time and by regional tradition. One of my colleagues, Ariella Elema, is wrapping up her doctoral thesis on this very topic. (I hope it gets published quickly.) There is no pan-Germanic tradition to cite - its a hodge-podge. The Gladiatoria treatise may describe one particular tradition where the spear, sword and dagger must be carried into the list, a weapon must be cast by the accuser to open the trial and particular protocols must be followed during the fight - on pain of forfeiture of the trial. There is A LOT more to it than simple techniques!

Judicial duels are legal proceedings argued by physical contest within strictly described parameters. They are not anything like warfare, tournaments or civil disturbances; nor can they be discussed as another "flavour" of medieval combat. Many of the things we see in treatises are not yet clearly understood from a legal, cultural or symbolic perspective. One little tidbit though.... casting a sword pommel completes the requirement for an opening "cast" by the accuser. The accuser still gets to use the sword. Cool
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Craig Shackleton




Location: Ottawa, Canada
Joined: 20 Apr 2004
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 307

PostPosted: Mon 03 Jan, 2011 8:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do know some of that... but just enough to know that I totally don't know enough about judicial combat! Wink Actually, I had heard that the thrown pommel was to fulfill the required throw, but I only understood it in the context of the rules of the fight rather than the casting of accusations.

I'd love to know more about that stuff! Thanks!

Ottawa Swordplay
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Longswords in the hands of common soldiers?
Page 1 of 4 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum