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E.F. Magnuson




Location: Minnesota, USA
Joined: 14 Jul 2010

Posts: 6

PostPosted: Tue 06 Jan, 2015 12:14 pm    Post subject: Seeking input on a new Typology         Reply with quote

Greeting fellow enthusiasts!

I have a project I've been working on just for my own entertainment that I thought you may appreciate. Or, more correctly, I’m looking to start a discussion on alternate typologies that look at the European Sword from a different perspective—namely one of utility and intended use.

This project came about when I was looking for a way to provide names for groups of swords that would be used in a similar fashion. The problem with the existing typologies is that while they are good at describing individual weapons and relating them by appearance and construction what they fail to do is consider the human aspect of the sword, namely the skill required to use it. Granted most European swords of the straight, two-edged variety can be used in a largely similar fashion there is still enough difference in the ideal use between a transitional Type X and cut-and-thrust XVIIIa to—in my opinion—make the case that the methods used to properly fight with such weapons would not be wholly inclusive of each other. On the same token, however, it is a pretty easy case to make than anyone familiar with Type X could pick up any of the Peterson Types (I – IX) and switch between them with little notice.

So, the question came to me: how would one go about grouping these weapons in such a manner to reflect the similarity of function? Secondary to that question was, by what name would we call each Type that would be defined and descriptive while leaving room for inclusion of the names and definitions of existing Typologies. In this way, my new Typology is supportive or supplemental to existing Typologies rather than fully replacing them.

First I had to define a sword. After researching extant samples I settled on a compromise minimum blade length of 45cm (about 18 inches) and the following complete definition:
Quote:
“A sword is (a) a weapon (b) with a blade that is (c) over 45 cm (or about 18 inches) in length, (d) extending from a hilt consisting of a grip secured to a tang, and (e) is more than half the total length of the weapon.”

Then it was a matter of picking the features that really determine their ideal use. I’m no expert, so I’m sure most of you will be provide better insight into this, but I settled on the following:
  1. Primary method of use (cutting, thrusting, combination)
    Handedness (1, 1 ½, 2)
  2. Weapon weight (light or heavy)
  3. Blade geometry (cross-section, point type, features, etc.)
  4. Blade length (short, medium, long)
  5. Blade shape (straight, curved, re-curved)
Then there was the issue of naming the Types and Groups (or Families as I called them). Some of the names are self-explanatory for students of the European Sword while others may need a little clarification. The trick here was to avoid ambiguity and terms that can apply to multiple groups (such as “Cut and Thrust” or “Bastard Sword”). I have a full document with the explanations for all of the names but the ones that may present the most questions I’ll briefly describe below.
  • Bearing Sword: So called because they were often everyday wear in most any occasion including while riding or in the Hall when it would be rude or impractical to wear longer swords.
  • Passing Sword: Also, “Passot,” From the French épée de passot which was described as a sword which passed the length of the short sword but was not so long as the long sword and synonymous with Joseph Swetnam’s use of bastard sweorde. In this case, it is specific to one-handed cut-and-thrust type swords which these contemporary terms would likely have been describing (Swetnam used the term two hande sworde to describe the standard length sword wielded in both hands or the hand-and-half sword which today is commonly called the Bastard Sword, which is why I wanted to avoid using that latter term altogether).
  • Great Sword: Longer two handed and hand-and-a-half variety of double-edged cutting swords.
  • Longsword: Used in the German sense as a sword of longer length usually used with both hands on the grip but within the group hand-and-half varieties are also included. I differentiate the Longsword from the Great Sword in that the Longsword are cut-and-thrust types rather than just cutting types. This does not include the sword types referred to as Longswords in modern Roleplaying Games.
  • Raspers: a generic name for the light swords of the Renaissance civilian. So called because of the (possibly false) etymology of Rapier from raspiére, a poker.
  • Broadsword: used in the late Renaissance/Early-Modern sense of a sword broader than a Rapier or Small Sword but specific to sword of the types found during that period usually with a basket hilt or similar.
So, without further ado, I present my proposed (work in progress) taxonomical typology of the European Sword. There will be a forthcoming third Super-Family for curved swords which I’m still struggling with but will share once I get a potential framework figured out.
  1. Super-Family 1: War Swords – Swords designed for primary use on the battlefield against armored opponents, and those directly derived from these designs.
    1. Family A: Short Swords – Swords with straight, double-edged broad (> 4 cm) blades of short length (45 cm – 65 cm) intended for use in one hand.
      • Type I: Xiphos – As family + blades flare out to Center of Percussion then taper back in to a long and sturdy point—a “Leaf Blade.” Suitable for either thrusting or cutting. Subtypes include Xiphos, Gladius Hispaniensis, Mainz Gladius, Le Tene & Hallstadt Short Swords.
      • Type II: Bearing Sword – As family + blades do not display any significant flaring being rather straight edged or tapered to varying point designs. Intended largely for the thrust but some varieties may retain limited cutting ability. Subtypes include Fulham Gladius, Pompeii Gladius, Kalzbalger, Long Cinqueda, Riding Swords.
    2. Family B: True Swords – Swords with straight, double-edged broad (> 4 cm) blades of medium length (65 cm – 95 cm) intended for use in a single hand.
      • Type I: Spatha – As family + blades are between 65 cm and 85 cm in length with edges that are nearly always parallel and ending in abrupt, rounded, or spatulate point. Usually of lenticular cross-section and often with broad full-length fullers present and simple guards. Intended exclusively for cutting. Subtypes include Celtic kladimos, Roman spatha, Migration Period and Viking swords (Peterson Types I-IX), & Transitional Swords (Oakeshott Types X and Xa).
      • Type II: Arming Sword – As family + blades are between 80 cm and 95 cm in length with edges that are usually parallel but may display slight tapering toward the point ending in a long convex point. Of lenticular cross-section with fullers absent or narrow of varying length. Intended primarily for cutting, but capable of effective thrusts into soft or flexible armors. Subtypes include Oakeshott Types XI, XIa, XII, XIIIb, & XIV.
      • Type III: Passing Sword – As family + blades are between 65 cm and 95 cm in length with edges that commonly display steady or convex tapers and ending in a long point. Of flattened diamond or hexagonal cross-section with fullers of any variety. Intended to balance thrust and cut against heavy (plate) armors. Subtypes include Oakeshott Types XV, XVI, XVIII, XVIIIa, XVIIId, XIX, & XXI.
    3. Family C: Great Swords – Swords with straight, double-edged broad (> 4 cm) blades of medium or longer length (> 70 cm) intended for use in two hands.
      • Type I: Great Sword – As family + blades are between 70 cm and 120 cm in length edges that are usually parallel but may display slight tapering toward the point ending in a spatulate or long convex point. Of lenticular cross-section with fullers absent or narrow of varying length. Intended primarily for cutting. Subtypes include the Scottish Highland Claymore, Oakeshott Types XIIa, XIII, XIIIa, & XX
      • Type II: Longsword – As family + blades are between 70 cm and 120 cm in length with edges that commonly display steady or convex tapers and ending in a long point. Of flattened diamond or hexagonal cross-section with fullers of any variety. Intended to balance thrust and cut against heavy (plate) armors. Subtypes include Oakeshott Types XVa, XVIa, XVII, XVIIIb, XVIIIc, & XXa.
      • Type III: Two-hander – As family + blades are greater than 90 cm in length of any design and geometry but always having a long ricasso and often with complex guards and parrying hooks below the ricasso. Used in a variety of manners. Subtypes include the Swiss and German Bidenhänder, Flamenschwert, & Oakeshott Type XVIIIe (also known as the Danish Two-hander).
      • Type IV: Tuck – As family + blades are between 70 cm and 140 cm in length and edgeless with diamond (square), triangular, or circular cross-section. Intended for the thrust only. No known Subtypes.
  2. Super-Family 2: Parrying Swords – Swords designed around a defensive posture or method of use usually for civilian use.
    1. Family D: Raspers/Rasping Swords – Swords with straight, double-edged or edgeless narrow (< 2.5 cm) blades of medium to long length (45 cm – 120 cm) intended for thrusting with a single hand.
      • Type I: Rapier – Rasper with a blade longer than 90cm. Subtypes include Swept Hilt, Cup Hilt, Pappenheimer.
      • Type II: Small Sword – Rasper with a blade shorter than 90 cm. Subtypes include épee, and colichemarde.
    2. Family E: Roperas – Swords with a straight medium to broad blade (2.5 cm to 5 cm) between 70 cm and 130 cm in length with defensive hilts and capable of both cut and thrust..
      • Type I: Sidesword – Blade 90cm to 120 cm long. Favoring thrust and often resembling broader edged Rapiers. Subtypes include espada ropera, spada da lato, and the sword-rapier
      • Sub-Family (1): Basket-Hilted Swords – Broad bladed Roperas with fully enclosed or mostly enclosed hilts. Subtypes include Walloon sword, Schiavonas, Sinclair hilted swords, Mortuary swords, and Basket-hilted Claymores.
        • Type II: Backsword – Single-edged straight blade 3.5 cm to 5.5 cm in width. Often acutely tapered.
        • Type III: Broadsword – Double-edged straight blade 3cm to 6 cm in width. Usually parallel to Center of Percussion then tapering to fine point.
Please feel free to comment and rip this proposed classification apart. I am sharing it here in an effort to improve it and expand it with help from those who know far more on the subject of using the sword than I.

Thanks!

Eric F. Magnuson

In omnibus requiem quaesivi et nusquam inveni, nisi in angulo cum libro.
--Thomas a Kempis
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Shahril Dzulkifli




Location: Malaysia
Joined: 13 Dec 2007
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 1,265

PostPosted: Thu 16 Apr, 2015 1:01 am    Post subject: Seeking input on a new Typology         Reply with quote

Your description on various types of swords looks very detailed, Eric.
Anyway, you are quite excellent in sword typology, I guess. Wink

“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”

- Marcus Aurelius
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 16 Apr, 2015 2:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Spathae are longer Roman cavalry swords. Swords from the Carolingian age onwards are not normally termed as spathae.

Also, where are seaxes, falchions, grosse messers and kriegsmessers?

The whole "passing" sword terminology seems like a bit of an anachronism, insofar that you're using a term from the 16th century for many medieval swords.
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E.F. Magnuson




Location: Minnesota, USA
Joined: 14 Jul 2010

Posts: 6

PostPosted: Wed 22 Apr, 2015 8:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Shahril Dzulkifli wrote:
Your description on various types of swords looks very detailed, Eric.
Anyway, you are quite excellent in sword typology, I guess. Wink

Thanks! I would hardly consider myself an expert--which is why I wanted to share this here to get imput from people who are experts. I'm just an enthusiast that is trying to find a way to improve my own understanding...but then, aren't we all?

Craig Peters wrote:
Spathae are longer Roman cavalry swords. Swords from the Carolingian age onwards are not normally termed as spathae.

Yes, I considered that. I used the name as a convenience because if you remove the weapons from their location and time-period and simply compare them side-by-side and examine their effective use they are very similar. The Migration Period and Viking style swords share common length, width, and general function with late spathae and are either directly derived from the Roman sword or from the common Celtic long sword ancestor. If we consider spathae as the genus (Type in the OP) then the proper spatha, the celtic long sword (kladimos), the Peterson Types I-IX and Oakeshott X and Xa would be species within the genus, or as I called them in the OP "sub-types."

Craig Peters continued... wrote:
Also, where are seaxes, falchions, grosse messers and kriegsmessers?

These will fall under the single-edged and curved sword Super-Family which I haven't finalized as yet. The ones mentioned are all derived from what I would call long-knives and share a common ancestral bond distinct from the saber/sabre family which will include scimitars and their ilk by extension.

Craig Peters also added wrote:
The whole "passing" sword terminology seems like a bit of an anachronism, insofar that you're using a term from the 16th century for many medieval swords.

I found Passing Sword to be less anachronistic than the modern "Cut-and-Thrust" as épée de passot is contemporary for those sword types in French sources and avoids the contentious and sometimes ambiguous "bastard sword" (which you'll notice, I completely avoided all together leaving it up to individual interpretation to describe what is and what is not considered a bastard sword). I have a more detailed write-up of how I came to that term which I can provide if you're interested. The key thing with this typology is that I am attempting to focus on similarity of function and use over their location in time and place. If we were focuses purely on a particular weapon's appellation at their origination most of these would simply be "sword" or the equivalent word in the local language and dialect. Even adjectival definitions changed with time which is how a Broadsword in the 12th - 13th centuries is what we would recognize as a Great Sword today while a Broadsword of the 18th century is a basket-hilted sword with a blade broader than the civilian rapier or smallsword. This is why typologies exist in the first place--we need a way as students, scholars, and enthusiasts to differentiate between the minor variations of "sword."

In omnibus requiem quaesivi et nusquam inveni, nisi in angulo cum libro.
--Thomas a Kempis
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