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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
Joined: 24 Jul 2011

Posts: 328

PostPosted: Tue 06 Jan, 2015 2:35 pm    Post subject: Short Swords         Reply with quote

In Oakeshott's Records you have X.12 and X.14 but it seems like short swords are rarely seen in Middle Ages collections. I have heard that short swords were somewhat more popular in Finland but there again they rarely show up in the books. Is there really a shortage of surviving examples or is this a bias like you see with antique bowie knives where the more common pieces with blades around 7 inches simply aren't as appealing to most modern collectors and enthusiasts so they tend to get left out of books in favor of larger and more impressive specimens?

Also, I've heard it said that early writings from before swords made with long grips for use in two hands were common that "long sword" referred to a single handed weapon with a long blade. Further it's been suggested that the basic convention may have been derived from Roman weaponry, the spatha being the archetype of "long sword" and the gladius being the "short sword." Anybody have information to support or refute that idea?

After the 15th c. short swords are more readily found of course, whether they take the form of messer, cinquedea, katzbalger or similar. It's just odd to me that there's such a void in the pre-15th c. era, we know such swords did exist but were they really as rare as the modern evidence seems to suggest?

ETA: for my purposes here I would consider a sword with a blade less than 28 inches to be "short."
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

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PostPosted: Sun 11 Jan, 2015 10:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oakeshott seems to believe that surviving short swords are quite rare -- in contrast to how common they were in literature -- because they were rather more utilitarian and thus more likely to get used up, in a similar way to how the number of surviving falchions is not very representative of their actual popularity in their heyday. I don't know how true his conjecture is, of course.
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Michael Beeching





Joined: 22 Jan 2014
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 158

PostPosted: Mon 12 Jan, 2015 12:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think there is a useful parallel to make to WWII aviation with regards to weapons from hundreds of years ago:

Ask yourself: how many fighter planes from the second world war survive today? There may be quite a number you know of, or have seen in person, but how many are there, really? There were over 30,000 Bf-109s produced, and a similar number of Sturmoviks... but how many survive? Not many at all.

Old and broken things get replaced or recycled. The reason you find antiques, obviously, is that either (a.) they were preserved and did not break, or (b.) they were discarded and have survived in part, as nature could not erode them before we recovered them. How many thousands of weapons of a given type existed, but that type was phased out for something else in the course of time? Especially in Europe, where technology could change to a great extent who used what and in what quantities? Moreover, how may have laws at the time affected old, used arms, such that the everyday man-at-arms weapon is not a common find?
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Sean Flynt
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Location: Birmingham, Alabama
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Jan, 2015 12:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I see many of them in German/Austrian artwork of the 15th and 16th c.: http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=267...ight=peter
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Tyler Jordan





Joined: 15 Mar 2004

Posts: 93

PostPosted: Mon 12 Jan, 2015 5:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Oakeshott seems to believe that surviving short swords are quite rare -- in contrast to how common they were in literature -- because they were rather more utilitarian and thus more likely to get used up, in a similar way to how the number of surviving falchions is not very representative of their actual popularity in their heyday. I don't know how true his conjecture is, of course.


It's plausible. Where do we find most historical swords? Burials, lake finds, royal armouries.. Whereas a short sword is, well, pedestrian, utilitarian, and not the sort of thing that was given any importance. They were likely used until they were no longer useful, and then forged into something else (because their steel is still valuable) as necessary.
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Jeremiah Swanger




Location: Hershey, PA
Joined: 20 Feb 2004
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Jan, 2015 12:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tyler Jordan wrote:
Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Oakeshott seems to believe that surviving short swords are quite rare -- in contrast to how common they were in literature -- because they were rather more utilitarian and thus more likely to get used up, in a similar way to how the number of surviving falchions is not very representative of their actual popularity in their heyday. I don't know how true his conjecture is, of course.


It's plausible. Where do we find most historical swords? Burials, lake finds, royal armouries.. Whereas a short sword is, well, pedestrian, utilitarian, and not the sort of thing that was given any importance. They were likely used until they were no longer useful, and then forged into something else (because their steel is still valuable) as necessary.


An original member of this forum once offered a rebuttal to this argument that I'll never forget. I don't think I can recite it verbatim, but it went something like this:

I don't give the above argument much merit because I can easily say that swords were made out of cheese. Why?

The best swords were made of cheese.

I like stilton cheese.

There are no surviving examples of stilton cheese swords because they were so awesome that every soldier wielded them in battle, thus they were all used up.

Therefore, the best swords were made of stilton cheese.


I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I remember getting a good laugh from the above example and frequently use it to remind myself against using the absence of something to make an assertion about it.

"Rhaegar fought nobly.
Rhaegar fought valiantly.
Rhaegar fought honorably.
And Rhaegar died."

- G.R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire
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