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Matthew P. Adams




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PostPosted: Sat 15 Sep, 2012 3:33 pm    Post subject: Why no early XV or XVa?         Reply with quote

If the XV family of swords were developed to seek gaps in armor, and defeat mail voiders than why don't we see them being developed during the time of chain mail as the only armor? I would imagine an XVa like The Black Prince would pose a serious threat to a combatant clad exclusively in mail.

I know you can't prove a negative, but I am interested to hear your thoughts.

Slainte,
Matthew

"We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training" Archilochus, Greek Soldier, Poet, c. 650 BC
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Sat 15 Sep, 2012 6:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My guess would be that for one, the swords of the era worked well enough. It wasn't until plate defense's came along that something else was needed. If it ain't broke, don't fix it... Secondly, the sword is really a back up weapon and this is the age of mounted combat. Hitting your opponent with a swing would be much easier on horse back than a thrust I'd imagine.

Plus, and this is the most important, Type X-XII are just much cooler and better looking.. They knew this, and didn't want to have to resort to swords like the XV until forced to. Laughing Out Loud Razz

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Sat 15 Sep, 2012 9:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A better question would be why did thrusting swords go out of use for so long? Thrusting swords were used from 350BC (Hjortspring) into Roman iron age (Nydam as an example) to combat mail armor and then fell out of use for at least a thousand years. I too am interested to hear peoples thoughts.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sat 15 Sep, 2012 9:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Broad bladed swords clearly excel at cutting, while being able to thrust as well. Since this was what swords during the age of mail were like, it stands to reason that these were the functions that warriors wanted most and what they valued at that era. This is an important point: the swords made were undoubtedly a direct reflection of what warriors during this period wanted for use in the field. The question that you've posed is why is this so.

The most obvious thing that comes to mind is the difference in cutting efficacy between a cutting sword and an XV blade. A Type XV blade may thrust well, but the thinness of the point section means that it is difficult to cut effectively with it. Against a man in mail armour, an XV blade can thrust well, but that's really all that it can do. A cutting blade, by contrast, can deliver blows with tremendous force. Even though the armoured man's body is protected by mail and perhaps some sort of cloth padding, a powerful blow can cause blunt force trauma to the wearer. It simply is not possible to do this with a XV sword. Further, the idea of mail armour being completely invulnerable to hewing and hacking sword blows is misleading. Chivalric literature mentions that mail links might fall out from the armour as a result of being struck. There is more than one instant of medieval author mention how mail is torn off from the ferocity of the blows being delivered. So evidently, powerful blows could be and were effective against mail armour.

The other aspect of the equation is the capacity for cutting bladed swords to thrust, and here too the results are different than one might expect. Modern people tend to be obsessed with the idea of blade shape and form as the crucial factor for thrusting, thus the shape of the blade is the paramount factor to consider in whether or not a sword could thrust effectively. But, as my recent experiences have demonstrated to me, the most important factor prior to the advent of plate is the quality of the thrust. Even a broad bladed weapon, like an XIIIb, can deliver a thrust that impacts with a surprising force if one thrusts well.

Imagery from contemporary manuscripts indicate that knights often delivered vertical, downward thrusts gripping the sword with two hands for extra force and stability. In other cases, a well-delivered thrust is shown penetrating the mail from the middle thrusting guard. We know that the cutting swords were capable of thrusting between the eye slots of the early great helms, because there's mention of a nobleman who was slain in this manner in the 13th century Battle of Lincoln. Prior to that, when nasal helmets were common, the face would be exposed and vulnerable to thrusts, and it would also be exposed to some degree to a powerful cutting blow.

In actual fact, broad bladed cutting swords are perfectly appropriate for the age of mail, and in some ways are more effective and useful than a narrow blade like an XV. It is largely with the changes in armour, as Robin indicated, that narrower, more rigid blades become of greater value.
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Sat 15 Sep, 2012 10:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin Smith wrote:
Plus, and this is the most important, Type X-XII are just much cooler and better looking.. They knew this, and didn't want to have to resort to swords like the XV until forced to. Laughing Out Loud Razz


LOL! Good one Robin!

As for the actual topic, you have to take into account the style of combat and the fact that their was just less armor in general at the time. If you were in a shieldwall you wouldn't likely get much opportunity to thrust. If you were attacking lightly armored or unarmored opponents you would want a slashing weapon since it would be very effective against them.
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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Sep, 2012 5:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If we assume some direct connection between the swords build and armor on the battlefield, then type XV appearing towards the end of 13th century would in fact fit perfectly well - more and more coat of plates and similar defenses, and full mail hauberks being more and more 'standard' among professional warriors of all kind, sometimes even infantry ones.

So no longer many unarmored spots to cut.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Sep, 2012 5:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

End of 13th and early 14th century definitely saw the rise of thrusting sword even if not exactly type XV. XIV and XVI are great thrusters too...
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Sep, 2012 8:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scott Woodruff wrote:
A better question would be why did thrusting swords go out of use for so long? Thrusting swords were used from 350BC (Hjortspring) into Roman iron age (Nydam as an example) to combat mail armor and then fell out of use for at least a thousand years. I too am interested to hear peoples thoughts.


There could be cultural factors. It has been noted that one's first instinct with a long sword is to slash. Roman legionaires were discplined professionals taught to thrust. Contemporary writers described Gauls and Germans slashing in an undisciplined manner. These cultures admired heroic, passionate fighting over discipline. Since they inhereted the Northern Roman world and eventually became the knights of 12/13th century, they may have carried these tendancies with them.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 16 Sep, 2012 8:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oakeshott mentions a difference made in Norse literature about swords for the cut and those for the thrust. There were different terms for each. I forget what they were, so I'm working from memory, but thrusting oriented swords were at least discussed prior to the introduction of the XV family. They probably weren't diamond-sectioned, though, like a XV.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Sep, 2012 3:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Svaerd is broad, cutting blade and maekir is narrow, thrust oriented.
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Mon 17 Sep, 2012 10:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also, biljo for cutting sword and sedg for thrusting sword. I have always doubted Oakshott's interpretation of Maekir. It is obviously derived from the Greek machaira and more likely denoted the riveted-grip single-edge swords, which came in both thrust-oriented and cut-oriented versions. Sedg probably refers to the Nydam type octagonal-section thrusting swords. IIRC, the Romans simultaneously abandoned the Nydam type thrusters and the use of armor and the rectangular scutum in favor of oval shields and more cut-oriented swords in the mid-4th century.
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Sep, 2012 1:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J.D. Crawford wrote:
There could be cultural factors. It has been noted that one's first instinct with a long sword is to slash. Roman legionaires were discplined professionals taught to thrust. Contemporary writers described Gauls and Germans slashing in an undisciplined manner. These cultures admired heroic, passionate fighting over discipline. Since they inhereted the Northern Roman world and eventually became the knights of 12/13th century, they may have carried these tendancies with them.
I agree with this, although I think the "slashing in an undisciplined manner" is not the correct wording. As a warrior culture, the Celts and Germanics must have known how to use swords properly, even if they did it differently than Greeks or Romans. But the cultural aspects cannot be overlooked.

Scott Woodruff wrote:
IIRC, the Romans simultaneously abandoned the Nydam type thrusters and the use of armor and the rectangular scutum in favor of oval shields and more cut-oriented swords in the mid-4th century.
Yes. Quite possibly to the ever increasing percentage of Germanics in the Roman army.

Another thing to consider is the actual percentage of opponents actually wearing any form or armor. I think that in Free Germania, this percentage was quite low, again partly for cultural reasons.

If only 1% of the opponents wear any armor, then does it make more sense to optimise your sword for the 99% who don't or for the 1% who does? (Note: percentages used for the sake of argument only, actual percentages are a different discussion)
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William P




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Sep, 2012 5:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

thats the thing that i reckon it is with regards to the viking age at least i.e the fact a very large number of people had no armour, even those who did have armour had at best at the very best a knee length hauberk, most would have had just a shirt of maile that reached only the upper thigh..

the viking man had lots of spots to slice at since there was no leg armour, no gauntlets, maile shirts only went to just past the elbow for the most part. some were longer though.

also. everyone except archers and guys with the daneaxe, will have a spear of some sort mounted or not, and a spear is arguably your best chance ever of penetrating maile, far more than a sword will ever be able to.

if the spear isnt usable, pull out your dagger or hand axe a handaxe wont puncture the maile but itll hurt you pretty severely underneath it. also in the early eras there were still lots of gaps only by the middle to late 13th century do we see the extremeties of knights being armoured as a RULE as opposod to being that 1 guy in the battle line with limb armour.

fast forwarrd and compare that to middle of the 14th century onwards, we have often fully encloased greaves and vambraces, besagaws, coats of plates helmets with aventails or even plate neck defenses i.e bascinet. bythe gothic knight era there was precious few spots not covered by maile or plate, one of the only spots was the back of the thighs and inside of the arm, everywhere else will have some sort of defense.

slashing is a waste of time.

my understanding is also that essentially, viking spears got more needle like as the viking age ended.

here is a article showing the weapons of the kievan rus from the 9th to the 14-15th centuries this is every weapon except swords and sabres (as well as bows/ crossbows)
warning its very big, 181 pages, the relevent image is on page 6, you can see how spears of different 'types existed yet also changed as the centuries rolled by
http://www.arheolog-ck.ru/Drevneruss_orugie_2.pdf

you can see that by the 13th century, we have much more needle like spearheads among the rus at least.

you can also see how, in russia at least, after the 11th century, maces and flails became much more common, though admittedly the kievan rus adopted lamellar as the standard armour by about the 11th-12th century.

its also not like they didnt have needle pointed weapons, the viking broken back seax gould be extremely point as stiff pointed,

later onn we have rondel, ballok and quillon daggers, which all rapidly became anti armour weapons.

so im going to vote for the fact as ive told other people the vikings used slashing swords because most people 90% had no armour and therefore could be sliced up with impunity.

the byzantine infantry had gambesons as standard equipment, but that was the exception noone else had that system of mass issuence.
in anycase a slashing sword is your best chance against a gambeson regardless.
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