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Bob Haynes




Location: Mount Perry, Ohio
Joined: 06 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jun, 2012 6:25 pm    Post subject: The seax         Reply with quote

Before I'm linked to it, yes I've read the article here about the seax.

But still, this is perhaps my favorite knife or sword weapon, if not overall, of all. The broken back design I find to be the most interesting. And I would like to know more about it, so I thought I'd make an attempt at striking a conversation here.

Front and foremost what comes to mind is the functionality of this weapon family. Who here has experience with the scramasax family, like how do they handle, and if possible, how do they perform in cutting and thrusting? I am aware there is quite a variety to the weapon, as there often is for most in history, and these changes are more often than not made out necessity of one sort or the other.

Is the broken back design superior to its cousins in thrust capability? I'm becoming more and more intrigued in how it may have been more suitable against mail clad opponents than the sword of the era. (Haha, almost posted "ear", as in "sword of the ear")
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jun, 2012 7:33 pm    Post subject: Re: The seax         Reply with quote

Bob Haynes wrote:
Before I'm linked to it, yes I've read the article here about the seax.

But still, this is perhaps my favorite knife or sword weapon, if not overall, of all. The broken back design I find to be the most interesting. And I would like to know more about it, so I thought I'd make an attempt at striking a conversation here.

Front and foremost what comes to mind is the functionality of this weapon family. Who here has experience with the scramasax family, like how do they handle, and if possible, how do they perform in cutting and thrusting? I am aware there is quite a variety to the weapon, as there often is for most in history, and these changes are more often than not made out necessity of one sort or the other.

Is the broken back design superior to its cousins in thrust capability? I'm becoming more and more intrigued in how it may have been more suitable against mail clad opponents than the sword of the era. (Haha, almost posted "ear", as in "sword of the ear")


Hi Bob, and welcome!

I have a fondness of the Anglo-Saxon, broken-back Seax myself.

I really can't see how this seax could be any more effective than a sword against mail- meaning not especially effective. I see the larger broke-back examples as being very effective in dealing with lightly armoured opponents. Though the spines of such seaxes can be rather thick, creating a shorter weapon with some real "punch" in the strike, the point sections are not reinforced so simply couldn't damage maille in a thrust. The point sections of broken-back seaxes tend to be quite acute but not especially robust. Perfect for lightly armoured or non-armoured opponents.

Now the blunt force of a well placed strike or thrust may break bone or perhaps injure internal organs when facing maille; I don't feel this is the optimum martial use of the weapon.

Certainly facing fabric defenses or against bare flesh would be another matter. Wink
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R. Kolick





Joined: 04 Feb 2012

Posts: 111

PostPosted: Sun 24 Jun, 2012 7:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

it seems that the brocken-back seax would be good against mail because it seems like it could get between the links and force them apart simalar to the needle nose bodkin arrow
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jun, 2012 8:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Aside from this conversation, check out this spotlight topic from a long time ago: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=1039
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G Ezell
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Location: North Alabama
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Jun, 2012 1:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A forum search comes up with a wealth of information on this subject.

A few notes on handling... broken-back seaxes generally had thick blades with lightweight handles. This is not really a factor with the smaller ones, but once the blade reaches 7"+ the point-heavy balance becomes noteworthy. In some ways a large broken-back seax handles more like an axe than a sword... I suspect the method they were used took this into account. The long handle many of these had makes the axe comparison even more distinct, as one can grip the very end of the handle and generate tremendous chopping power considering the overall size of the knife. Add to this the fine point (far finer than one finds on swords of the same period), and you have a very dangerous weapon in the right hands...

" I have found that it is very often the case that if you state some absolute rule of history, there will be an example, however extremely unusual, to break it."
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Bob Haynes




Location: Mount Perry, Ohio
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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jul, 2012 4:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
Aside from this conversation, check out this spotlight topic from a long time ago: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=1039


Thanks for the link, Mr. Robinson! Along with the said "wealth of knowledge", I don't mean to sound like I'm mocking this, as this is my error for not searching deeper, but most of what I found were either links to the article I linked, and threads that I didn't find too informative- no offense to them-.
That link I found very informative, as well as what you had to share, Mr Eznell.

Yes if I were in that situation, I would try to defeat an opponents armor by finding places of exposure. Its just that I like the thought of a weapon that has that capability in the situation that one would either need to try piercing through the mail, or be able to cause effect or least hold durability if the strike were to miss and make contact with it.

But while I'm here, another question about the Anglo-Saxon broken-back blade:
Now I wouldn't have it reversed, its what gives such a blade more characteristic charm. I just would like to get to know the weapon better.
But how might it affect the cut if it were flipped to have the angle in the front? Would thrusts be the same?
Again as much as I adore the angle on the back, one might think that if it were on the front like most knives, that it would aid in the slice. But then again, it was a popular design back then, now wasn't it?
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David Huggins




Location: UK
Joined: 25 Jul 2007

Posts: 490

PostPosted: Thu 12 Jul, 2012 12:18 am    Post subject: Seax         Reply with quote

I'm not a great fan of the broken back seax mainly because I find is asthete unappealing and rather ugly but of course that does not measure against its effectivenes of intended use. Which is wear I would like to just interject and add a note that it has been suggested that the seax was not primarily a martial weapon but used in the hunt, perhaps to finish of a large game animal. As the hunt was primarily a sport of the upper structures of society who had the idle time for such a sport it has been further suggested the seax is an indication of status. How much this holds water I'm not sure, especially if one considers that the hunt could have been considered training for war in some aspects. Anyway just a thought.

regards
Dave

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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2012 6:41 am    Post subject: Re: Seax         Reply with quote

David Huggins wrote:
it has been suggested that the seax was not primarily a martial weapon but used in the hunt, perhaps to finish of a large game animal. As the hunt was primarily a sport of the upper structures of society who had the idle time for such a sport it has been further suggested the seax is an indication of status.


I guess it's not impossible to say that some saxes were specifically intended for hunting rather than warfare. But there is a great deal of variation in saxes and I find it hard to believe that all of them are used solely for hunting...

The notion of the hunt as a sport for the upper class is, I think, something that originated from the high to late middle ages. I think that in large parts of Germania at least, and also in those parts of the (former) Roman Empire that were up to a point depopulated by the Migrations, the population density was low enough to allow hunting as a food gathering method rather than as a sport. This is only an opinion without research to back it up, but anyway I don't believe that hunting would be a privilege of the aristocracy.

Anyway, saxes are found in a very wide range of graves, from the fabulously wealthy to your standard farmer/warrior type. If anything, I'd say that that sax was a good secondary weapon after a spear, and that it would replace the sword in the armory of those who couldn't afford a spatha. For those who could afford a spatha, the sax may have been a good weapon for close-in fighting. The combination of a longer cutting weapon (spatha) and a shorter one (sax or short spatha in the 5th-6th C.) seems to have been very popular in the Migration Age.
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John Wills




Location: Northamptonshire UK
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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jul, 2012 8:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dave, your theory/suggestion of the seax representing status fits nicely with the very richly decorated golden seax handle found in the Staffordshire Hoard. However there are a lot of smaller "seaxes" of a 3"-6" length in more common graves. One could argue that these represent two distinct groups of knives; the utility blade carried by almost everyone and the "ceremonial seax" similar to a modern army officer's sword which is a badge of rank. A potentially very interesting line of research I think.
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David Huggins




Location: UK
Joined: 25 Jul 2007

Posts: 490

PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2012 12:13 am    Post subject: The Seax         Reply with quote

John

see the paper on the seax in : 'Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England (Monograph (University of Oxford. Committee for Archaeology), No. 21.)'.

best
Dave

and he who stands and sheds blood with us, shall be as a brother.
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David Huggins




Location: UK
Joined: 25 Jul 2007

Posts: 490

PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2012 12:44 am    Post subject: Re: Seax         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
David Huggins wrote:
it has been suggested that the seax was not primarily a martial weapon but used in the hunt, perhaps to finish of a large game animal. As the hunt was primarily a sport of the upper structures of society who had the idle time for such a sport it has been further suggested the seax is an indication of status.


I guess it's not impossible to say that some saxes were specifically intended for hunting rather than warfare. But there is a great deal of variation in saxes and I find it hard to believe that all of them are used solely for hunting...

The notion of the hunt as a sport for the upper class is, I think, something that originated from the high to late middle ages. I think that in large parts of Germania at least, and also in those parts of the (former) Roman Empire that were up to a point depopulated by the Migrations, the population density was low enough to allow hunting as a food gathering method rather than as a sport. This is only an opinion without research to back it up, but anyway I don't believe that hunting would be a privilege of the aristocracy.

Anyway, saxes are found in a very wide range of graves, from the fabulously wealthy to your standard farmer/warrior type. If anything, I'd say that that sax was a good secondary weapon after a spear, and that it would replace the sword in the armory of those who couldn't afford a spatha. For those who could afford a spatha, the sax may have been a good weapon for close-in fighting. The combination of a longer cutting weapon (spatha) and a shorter one (sax or short spatha in the 5the-6the C.) seems to have been very popular in the Migration Age.


Hi Pete

The Late Roman Army issued the spatha and employed it in close combat without any apparent need to issue the seax as well.

The combination of spatha and seax may have been a mortuary practice perhaps and not necessarily an indication of combined use in combat.

The hunt is often depicted in Classical and Late Antiquity art and would appear to be a high status past time, and perhaps one enjoyed by the Late Roman officership which would be inkeeping with status and training.

No doubt the freeman spent some time hunting, when other tasks and season permitted, but like his right to carry a spear a seax for the hunt could also be indicative of status and rank. and perhaps the higher your station as is usual during this period the more likely it is to be embellished. Some types of seax also lend themselves as good general purpose tools around the farmstead that a smaller seax would not be good for.

Of course all hypothesis, as indicated in the title I posted in reply to John.

best
Dave

and he who stands and sheds blood with us, shall be as a brother.
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