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Eamon Bisbee




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Sep, 2015 6:59 pm    Post subject: Pollaxes/Poleaxes in use by knights?         Reply with quote

I was discussing the use of various polearms recently, and a friend of mine said that knights didn't use pollaxes, but did use halberds. can anyone point me to specific, historical depictions of knights using pollaxes? I found a fresco of Godfrey of Bouillon, but other than that I'm having trouble tracking anything specific.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Sep, 2015 9:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Pollaxes/Poleaxes in use by knights?         Reply with quote

Eamon Bisbee wrote:
I was discussing the use of various polearms recently, and a friend of mine said that knights didn't use pollaxes, but did use halberds. can anyone point me to specific, historical depictions of knights using pollaxes? I found a fresco of Godfrey of Bouillon, but other than that I'm having trouble tracking anything specific.


The Poleaxe was very much " The Knightly " polearm, so your friend is wrong !

Knights might have use a halberd at times, but generally the various halberds where general infantry weapons or weapons used by personal or town guard.

http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_higgins_pole.html

http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_spot_poleaxe.html

Quote:
The poleaxe is generally accepted to have been the knightly weapon of choice for dismounted combat. Many surviving examples are of high quality and decoration, which supports the idea that polaxes were used mostly by well-to-do soldiers. This is not exclusive, as The Wallace Collection's A925 is an example of an unadorned poleaxe. It is commonly acknowledged that poleaxes were favorite dueling weapons as well. There is even a slightly modified type, called a hache in French, which was used primarily for duels. This weapon had a 6-7 foot long haft and a rondel guard on each side of the grip.


Quote:
Several different treatises, including Hans Talhoffer's fechtbuch of 1467 and the Codex Wallerstein, show the use of poleaxes in the context of judicial duels or tournament fights.

A number of illustrations also show the use of the poleaxe in pitched battle in the 14th and 15th centuries, including depictions of the Battle of Poitiers. The illustrations of Froissart's Chronicles, prepared in the late 15th century, feature a great variety of poleaxes.

The Trajan Tapestry from the Cathedral Treasury in Lausanne, circa 1450, prominently displays Trajan armed with a short poleaxe dispensing military justice while being guarded by a man holding a longer poleaxe. The so-called Caesar Tapestry shows an armed man taking a mighty swing with his short-hafted poleaxe.

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Tom Wolfe




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2015 7:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The poleaxe was very much the knightly weapon of choice, alongside the sword, especially in the 15th century.

I shall have a look out for some specific contemporary references to back this up for you, but in terms of this discussion in recent literature I would point you to George Goodwin's "Fatal Colours" (Battle of Towton), or Juliet Barker's "Conquest" (Hundred Years War).

Further evidence to this is to be found in accounts of jousts and tournaments where poleaxes were used. Look in Tobias Capwell's "The Real Fighting Stuff" or "Masterpieces of European Arms and Armour in the Wallace Collection" for examples of poleaxes for both the field and tournament. The quality of the arms, the provenance of their makers/ownership and the uses they were put to are all indicative of their knightly use.

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Tom Wolfe




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2015 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From the Peter Falkner Fechtbuch (fighting manual):


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FalknerAxe.jpg
From the Peter Falkner Fechtbuch (fighting manual)

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French 1400-1410.jpg
French manuscript early C15th

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From the Chroniques de France ou de St Denis, now in the British Library late C14th- early C15th [ Download ]

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2015 2:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The term is 'pollaxe" - an axe with a poll. If it doesn't have a poll then it isn't a pollaxe. Most of the above images don't show pollaxes.
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Graham Shearlaw





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PostPosted: Sun 04 Oct, 2015 2:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Really where was the line drawn separating poll axes and halberds?
There both poll weapons with an axe shaped blade and often a top spike or blade and rear spike/ hammer face.

Sure pollaxes tend to be shorter than halberds with a thicker blade profile but there no hard rules.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 04 Oct, 2015 2:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Halberds don't have polls. Most of the above so-called pollaxes are actually halberds.

The words "poll" and "pole" are not just variant spellings of the same term. They are completely unrelated. "Pole" refers to the weapon shaft - hence the term "polearm". "Poll" literally means "head" and refers to the business end of the weapon. The main problem is that the word "hammer" has changed meaning over the centuries. When describing a warhammer, it was the pointy spike that was the hammer. The flat bludgeoning part was called a "poll". Another word for warhammer is "pollhammer".

What we call a pick or spike was originally called a "hammer"
What we call a hammer was originally called a "poll"

A pollaxe is an axe with a poll on the back.

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Graham Shearlaw





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PostPosted: Mon 05 Oct, 2015 1:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I didn't know that, i all ways thought that it was just another funny medieval spelling.
So pollhammer is hammer spike in modem English, not pole as in shaft and a hammer face.

Well the name does make more sense that way defining an important part of the weapon and not that there's a shaft.
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Tom Wolfe




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Oct, 2015 3:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Halberds don't have polls. Most of the above so-called pollaxes are actually halberds.

The words "poll" and "pole" are not just variant spellings of the same term. They are completely unrelated. "Pole" refers to the weapon shaft - hence the term "polearm". "Poll" literally means "head" and refers to the business end of the weapon. The main problem is that the word "hammer" has changed meaning over the centuries. When describing a warhammer, it was the pointy spike that was the hammer. The flat bludgeoning part was called a "poll". Another word for warhammer is "pollhammer".

What we call a pick or spike was originally called a "hammer"
What we call a hammer was originally called a "poll"

A pollaxe is an axe with a poll on the back.


Interesting insight, and the photos you posted are valuable too. So is a pollaxe with a beak on the back (rather than a hammer) not a pollaxe at all then?

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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Oct, 2015 4:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom Wolfe wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
Halberds don't have polls. Most of the above so-called pollaxes are actually halberds.

The words "poll" and "pole" are not just variant spellings of the same term. They are completely unrelated. "Pole" refers to the weapon shaft - hence the term "polearm". "Poll" literally means "head" and refers to the business end of the weapon. The main problem is that the word "hammer" has changed meaning over the centuries. When describing a warhammer, it was the pointy spike that was the hammer. The flat bludgeoning part was called a "poll". Another word for warhammer is "pollhammer".

What we call a pick or spike was originally called a "hammer"
What we call a hammer was originally called a "poll"

A pollaxe is an axe with a poll on the back.



Interesting insight, and the photos you posted are valuable too. So is a pollaxe with a beak on the back (rather than a hammer) not a pollaxe at all then?



Yep, I think that would be called a war hammer.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Oct, 2015 5:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pollhammer is another term for warhammer.



The "hammer" is the pointy spike.
The "poll" is the flat bludgeoning part.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Oct, 2015 4:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom Wolfe wrote:
So is a pollaxe with a beak on the back (rather than a hammer) not a pollaxe at all then?

It can't be called a pollaxe if it doesn't have a poll. These guys are using halberds, not pollaxes. Technically it could also be called a hammer-axe, though I've never seen that word in any text.

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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Oct, 2015 9:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Note that Dan's typology here differs from other established typologies. John Waldman, for example, describes the pollaxe as having an axe blade, top-spike, and back-spike/beak, with the hammer as an alternative to the beak. I tend to follow Hugh Knight's definition here.

Hugh Knight wrote:
Pollaxes (please note the spelling) include three primary variants: Those with axes and spikes, those with hammers and spikes, and those with axes and hammers. All are "pollaxes" regardless. This is the common academic use (although many academics mistakenly spell the word "poleaxe") and it was in use in period as well.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 06 Oct, 2015 4:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Waldman didn't research the etymology of "poll" and he confused the modern definition of "hammer" with the medieval definition. If the axe doesn't have a poll then it can't be called a pollaxe. I'm not sure why it is such a difficult concept to grasp.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 06 Oct, 2015 7:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Waldman didn't research the etymology of "poll" and he confused the modern definition of "hammer" with the medieval definition. If the axe doesn't have a poll then it can't be called a pollaxe. I'm not sure why it is such a difficult concept to grasp.


The usage that Knight describes has been around for a while and comes in handy for describing an important historical weapon. Also, period texts definitely used the word axe and variations for weapons that didn't have blades at all. Talhoffer used "axst" for his hammer-&-spike pollaxe. Etc.

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Henrik Granlid




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PostPosted: Tue 06 Oct, 2015 1:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Isn't there a text where English soldiers "polled their maces" or somesuch? I.e. Poll refering to whatever head you stick on top of a haft. Thus, a pollaxe might just as well be a headed weapon in the axe category, probably of a certain size or height if axt has been used to describe a two handed weapon.

Also, if you look at other European languages and their naming conventions, there is no reference to the hammer aspect at all in some of them, for instance, Sweden uses Spjutyxa, or, translated to English, Spearaxe. This refers to pretty much anything with a striking head (most commonly an axe) and a speartip and would be used for so called lucerne hammers, 15th century pollaxes with hammers or spiked backs etc.

I know different languages have different words for different things, but when they bother naming different styles of swords and daggers, then naming different forms of hafted weapons (if they had different names before being imported) would have been the norm, no?

It's a sidetrack. Slightly irrelevant, but my first point can stand without it.
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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Wed 07 Oct, 2015 4:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Two questions for Dan:

First, I know that the word poll originally meant a head (as in the pruning technique pollarding, or the more recent opinion or political poll, which probably originated meaning something like "headcount"), but did it necessarily refer to the head of a striking tool or weapon during the middle ages and early renaissance (rather than a generic weapon or tool head as we use it today - for example axe head, spear head or arrow head)?

Secondly, are your definitions for pollaxes and halberds intended to represent a modern classification system or one used by the people of the period of pollaxe usage? I ask becasue Fiore de Liberi refers to a pollaxe-like weapon as "azza" which I've usually seen translated from the medieval italian as "axe", even though those illustrated in his manuscript have no axe-blade, but rather a spike opposite the hammer [in the modern sense], As far as I know, he did his own illustrations, so [if that is correct] we can't blame an ignorant hired illustrator. Conversely, Paulus Hector Mair refers to his halberds as "Hellenparten" and his pollaxes as "mordagst" or murder axes, but the two are illustrated as having nearly identical heads (admittedly by hired, but probably well paid, illustrators who took considerable trouble to get other details correct). I can accept that your explanation could be for the original distinction, but if it was it seems to have blurred somewhat with the passage of time, even among the people using these weapons. So is it sensible to talk about correct definitions (unless we really narrow down the time period)? Obviously this problem goes away if the distinction is a modern convention.

Thanks in advance

Andrew
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Tom Wolfe




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PostPosted: Wed 07 Oct, 2015 10:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Andrew Gill wrote:
Two questions for Dan:

First, I know that the word poll originally meant a head (as in the pruning technique pollarding, or the more recent opinion or political poll, which probably originated meaning something like "headcount"), but did it necessarily refer to the head of a striking tool or weapon during the middle ages and early renaissance (rather than a generic weapon or tool head as we use it today - for example axe head, spear head or arrow head)?

Secondly, are your definitions for pollaxes and halberds intended to represent a modern classification system or one used by the people of the period of pollaxe usage? I ask becasue Fiore de Liberi refers to a pollaxe-like weapon as "azza" which I've usually seen translated from the medieval italian as "axe", even though those illustrated in his manuscript have no axe-blade, but rather a spike opposite the hammer [in the modern sense], As far as I know, he did his own illustrations, so [if that is correct] we can't blame an ignorant hired illustrator. Conversely, Paulus Hector Mair refers to his halberds as "Hellenparten" and his pollaxes as "mordagst" or murder axes, but the two are illustrated as having nearly identical heads (admittedly by hired, but probably well paid, illustrators who took considerable trouble to get other details correct). I can accept that your explanation could be for the original distinction, but if it was it seems to have blurred somewhat with the passage of time, even among the people using these weapons. So is it sensible to talk about correct definitions (unless we really narrow down the time period)? Obviously this problem goes away if the distinction is a modern convention.



Thanks in advance

Andrew



Andrew I would add to your comment that the pollaxes shown in Flos Duellatorum (c1410) show axes with spikes, not hammers, on the reverse of the head, and the pollaxes in "champ clos, Ordinances of Chivalry of Philip IV of France" (c1475) show bladed fronts with spiked tops and reverses of the heads, exactly as might also be called a halberd.

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 07 Oct, 2015 12:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"Poleaxe" and "pollaxe" are both largely modern designations. English sources from the period when these weapons were really popular simply called them "battle-axes," apparently including variants that didn't even have axe-heads at all.
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