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Corey Skriletz




Location: United States
Joined: 27 May 2011

Posts: 118

PostPosted: Wed 14 Aug, 2013 5:08 pm    Post subject: 12th century flail?         Reply with quote

Hello,

The flail is a weapon that, quite honestly, I haven't seen evidenced too much in manuscripts. Perhaps I'm just missing them all. I had always thought that the flail was weapon that was used in the later middle ages, and existed solely as an agricultural tool in the earlier middle ages. While browsing through the Melisende Psalter (dated to around 1139), however, I stumbled upon this plate:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bullets4brains/9511043299/

In the upper-right-hand corner of the mob, is that not a flail. Am I misidentifying it, or is it common-knowledge that flails existed in the 12th century and I'm just some kid of schmuck? It appears that this flail doesn't have any spikes or other protrusions, and I believe it might be mounted on a long haft. Any thoughts?
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Tyler Jordan





Joined: 15 Mar 2004

Posts: 93

PostPosted: Wed 14 Aug, 2013 7:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pretty undoubtedly a flail, though whether military or agricultural in origin is much less clear. The long pole suggests a simple peasant threshing flail to me.
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

Posts: 1,281

PostPosted: Wed 14 Aug, 2013 7:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The link to the folio at the British Library;
http://molcat1.bl.uk/IllImages/Kslides/big/K004/K004821.jpg

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Corey Skriletz




Location: United States
Joined: 27 May 2011

Posts: 118

PostPosted: Wed 14 Aug, 2013 9:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wouldn't a threshing flail be more like another stick rather than a ball and chain? That way it could hit a greater amount of the wheat sheave.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 14 Aug, 2013 10:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know the Melisende Psalter is conventionally dated to the 12th century; however, a number of the weapons do not look really consistent with that time period. I have never seen a military flail before at such an early date. There's another instrument, the third from the left, which looks like an early form of poleaxe. It could be that it is just some sort of pick, and therefore a tool. Certainly, if it is a weapon, it seems to be an anachronism. The axe especially looks out of place, although I do not know what sort of axes were in use in the Middle East at this time. All in all, however, I have my doubts that this image is from the 12th century.

I'm not trying to say that the entire manuscript's dating is wrong based upon some weapons. That would be highly presumptuous, to say the least. I do wonder, however, if it could be that parts of the manuscript were produced at an earlier time, and parts later. There are certainly examples of other illustrated manuscripts which contain images from one century and then other images which date from a later period.
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

Posts: 1,281

PostPosted: Thu 15 Aug, 2013 3:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is a uniform work produced at the same time. The carved ivory cover with gems usually gets all the attention.
http://manuscriptminiatures.com/search/?manuscript=4095

http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanusc...Start=1139
Quote:
? made for Melisende (b. 1105, d. 1161), Queen of Jerusalem, wife of Fulk, count of Anjou (d. 1143) between 1131-1143, by Basilius: inscription 'Basilius me fecit' (f. 12v) in the monastery of the Holy Sepulchre: her parents, King Baldwin II (1118- 1131), third king of Jerusalem, and Queen Morphia (d. 1126/1127) are mentioned in the calendar on 21 August and 1 October, respectively, but Fulk's obit is not included (see Watson 1979, Backhouse 1997);

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
Joined: 05 Aug 2008
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PostPosted: Thu 15 Aug, 2013 4:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very interesting!

Flails were pretty commonly used in Rus, most certainly originating from the Steppe.

Those were one handed weapons though, and not quite akin to those later, 15th, 16th century ones. The head was usually connected to the stick with a rope, leather strap, or whatever.

This psalter depicts Jesus Christ in Getsemane, of course, so it's very possible, if not certain, that those characters are carrying purposely weird, alien, 'pagan' weapons. Maybe out right fantastic in some cases.

At least alien to the author of the picture, and they obviously had no easy Internet access. Laughing Out Loud

Quote:
The axe especially looks out of place, although I do not know what sort of axes were in use in the Middle East at this time. All in all, however, I have my doubts that this image is from the 12th century.


Axes similar to those were in use in Slavic lands and Byzantium, at least.

In the sense of having long, slender, pointy beards/toes and small hammer/butt on the other side.

http://znaleziska.org/wiki/index.php/Topór_z_Poznania-Lubonia

http://halla.mjollnir.pl/files/topor-czekan_xiw..jpg

I'm not very knowledgeable about Middle East, but I'm pretty sure that one could find even more similar ones to the ones depicted, dated around the same time as well.
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Corey Skriletz




Location: United States
Joined: 27 May 2011

Posts: 118

PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug, 2013 12:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here were my thoughts:

1) The thought of it being pieced together from manuscripts dating from different centuries did occur, however, all the art seems pretty uniform and the art styles themselves seem similar to other pieces from the 12th century. Understand that I haven't really studied later manuscripts the way I have 12th and early 13th century pieces, but the few that I have seen seem to possess a very different art-style.

2) I do believe this is meant to be a military weapon in itself, and not an agricultural version of the flail pressed into service. Now I've never threshed wheat, but a ball-and-chain seem very ineffective when compared to two sticks chained together. The stick that's being swung would cover a lot more of the wheat when it struck, thus it would separate more of the grain. I feel like a steel ball would just tear right through the pile. Here is an example of a agricultural flail from about 1270:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Battage_%C3%A0_Fl%C3%A9au.jpg

3) I think that's just a pick and not a early form of pole-ax or warhammer. Although if it is a warhammer, and this plate is from the 12th century, that could well be evidence for the early existence of that weapon as well. But that's a discussion for another thread.

4) The concept of it being a weird or alien weapon could be exactly the case, especially with lack of evidence of anything like it in any other manuscripts. As I understand it, this manuscript was commissioned in the Middle East. Perhaps Crusaders reported to the illustrators some sort of odd weapon that they saw the Saracens using.

5) What's starting to seem curiouser, and curiouser, is the construction of the mace. Are all these weapons on long three-foot+ shafts? Or is this just a one-handed item? Is the ball on the end of the chain, a steel ball, or a led weight, like this one?
http://www.kultofathena.com/product.asp?item=...tary+Flail
And what about the chain? How was a chain made in the middle ages? Was forge welding involved? And if that's the case, were all chains flattened and the connecting point? Were they riveted together? Or were chain ends just left butted? The latter of those three choices seems to be rather dangerous for the user of the weapon.
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

Posts: 1,281

PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug, 2013 8:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:
This psalter depicts Jesus Christ in Getsemane, of course, so it's very possible, if not certain, that those characters are carrying purposely weird, alien, 'pagan' weapons. Maybe out right fantastic in some cases.


Since the manuscript was made in Jerusalem by a fellow named Basil, the "alien" or "other" would likely be French! Looking at the corpus of manuscript miniatures, there is little to support the idea that most pre-Renaissance Biblical scenes depict the ancient, Jew, or pagan in anything besides contemporary fashion and armor.

The Skylitzes Chronicle of 12th century dating likely shows the sorts of weapons and armor seen in Byzantine influenced regions.
http://manuscriptminiatures.com/search/?manuscript=4203




12th century Betrayal of Christ image in the Uffizi with a variety of polearms.


Betrayal of Christ, late 11th century, Cathedral of San Marco, Venice showing a couple of flails

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Corey Skriletz




Location: United States
Joined: 27 May 2011

Posts: 118

PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug, 2013 12:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fascinating. There at the end appears to be a double-headed flail (interestingly enough, each head is attached to different parts of the shaft) and the heads appear to be connected by rope, or leather straps, as was mentioned by Mr. Strojek.


The image before that one seems to depict the war sickle and war fork (although that could just be a civilian fork pressed into service). And those appear to be double-bitted axe heads on the last image, which I wasn't sure existed in the middle ages, much less the 11th century.

These are great images. Thanks for posting, Mr. Shearer.
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Ron Reimer




Location: Australia
Joined: 16 Aug 2010

Posts: 54

PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug, 2013 8:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Note also, the Uffizi Betrayal of Christ has a Bill with an "L" shaped spike on the back of the blade.
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Corey Skriletz




Location: United States
Joined: 27 May 2011

Posts: 118

PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug, 2013 8:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I noticed that as well. Whenever I thought of an early bill, I imagined simply a billhook on a shaft, without a spike of any sort.

Very interesting.
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Gabriele A. Pini




Location: Olgiate Comasco, Como
Joined: 02 Sep 2008

Posts: 239

PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug, 2013 10:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The war fork is clearly in metal, like the others weapons. I would think that a farming one would have been totally in wood, no?
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 16 Aug, 2013 11:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gabriele A. Pini wrote:
The war fork is clearly in metal, like the others weapons. I would think that a farming one would have been totally in wood, no?


My understanding is that metal farming bills have been around since the Roman times.
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Corey Skriletz




Location: United States
Joined: 27 May 2011

Posts: 118

PostPosted: Sat 17 Aug, 2013 1:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think he's talking about the pitch fork. While I have seen several all-wood pitchforks in manuscripts, I have also seen metal-headed forks used in a civilian capacity. See here, in this manuscript dating from the time of King Henry I of England, or shortly after his reign. The three panels represent the three classes of British society (the peasantry, the knights, and the church) who could easily turn on Henry if he did not serve them well. The peasants on top are armed with a scythe, a spade, and a metal-headed pitch fork.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Worcester.dream.jpg
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