Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Halberd/Bill/etc. vs Spear Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Adam M.M.





Joined: 02 Aug 2014

Posts: 54

PostPosted: Tue 02 Sep, 2014 8:52 am    Post subject: Halberd/Bill/etc. vs Spear         Reply with quote

Polearms like halberds and bills seem to have replaced spears in the late middle ages (as far as I know) but why was this?
Are they better weapons in general or were they just better under the circumstances of the time?
View user's profile Send private message
Christopher Treichel




Location: Metro D.C.
Joined: 14 Jan 2010

Posts: 268

PostPosted: Tue 02 Sep, 2014 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Spears never went away... Yes other pole arms developed as did pikes. Spears were still popularly employed even documented in martial art treatise into the 18th Century.


 Attachment: 42.48 KB
spear.jpg

View user's profile Send private message
Adam M.M.





Joined: 02 Aug 2014

Posts: 54

PostPosted: Tue 02 Sep, 2014 9:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Treichel wrote:
Spears never went away... Yes other pole arms developed as did pikes. Spears were still popularly employed even documented in martial art treatise into the 18th Century.


I see, but how come spears, halberds, bills etc. all coexisted? Was it somehow advantageous to have soldiers equipped with a variety of polearms or did they just happen to end up armed with different weapons?
View user's profile Send private message
Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
Joined: 05 Aug 2008
Likes: 23 pages

Posts: 449

PostPosted: Tue 02 Sep, 2014 10:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In most forces, spear kind of went on growth hormone therapy, instead of disappearing. Wink

In many cases it likely wouldn't be all that easy to distinguish between 'long spear' and 'proper' pike.

Certainly vocabulary of users often didn't make any strong distinctions.

Shorter spears remained in use too, particularly among all kinds of 'lighter' cavalry.
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,306

PostPosted: Tue 02 Sep, 2014 11:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We just had a similar discussion over on the Armour Archive. Spears were the rule when shields were the main defence since they can be used one-handed. When the bulk of your infantry have little or no armor, they need shields to survive, so most weapons were one-handed. After decent armor comes into general use for the grunts, they can chuck the shields and use 2-handed weapons without the threat of getting mown down too quickly.

Obviously spears still work!

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Edward Lee




Location: New York
Joined: 05 Jul 2013

Posts: 313

PostPosted: Tue 02 Sep, 2014 1:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pikes were still used by infantry in the later periods and I'm pretty sure it's a spear but longer. As for halberds, I think they can whack armors harder than spear.
View user's profile Send private message
Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

Posts: 578

PostPosted: Tue 02 Sep, 2014 2:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Edward Lee wrote:
Pikes were still used by infantry in the later periods and I'm pretty sure it's a spear but longer. As for halberds, I think they can whack armors harder than spear.


Generally there's two uses for polearms that aren't spears:

--Anti-cavalry: They're generally equipped with hooks, protrusions, and other bits that allow foot-soldiers to pull down mounted soldiers and take care of them piecemeal (in a rather literal sense).

--Anti-armour: Put a big blade with a chisel edge on a long stick. Bring it down with speed and the leverage of the stick. Armour goes crack. There's a reason you see an explosion of pole-arms, and a concurrent rapid growth in plate armour designed to withstand blows like that, in (IIRC?) the 14th century.

Really the reason pole-arms came out as they did was to fight mounted horsemen and remove them from their position of power in the medieval battlefield. Used to be that armoured cavalry could sweep infantry with relative ease (some exceptions apply), but then the infantry started getting nasty and creative...
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,191

PostPosted: Wed 03 Sep, 2014 7:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Spears were the rule when shields were the main defence since they can be used one-handed. When the bulk of your infantry have little or no armor, they need shields to survive, so most weapons were one-handed. After decent armor comes into general use for the grunts, they can chuck the shields and use 2-handed weapons without the threat of getting mown down too quickly.


While this makes sense in theory and probably explains a lot, at the same time the pike formations of the 16th century often included numerous unarmored soldiers or soldiers armed only with a helmet, etc. And targetiers - soldiers with sword and shield - in this period could wear plenty of armor.

To a significant extent I think halberds took off in the 15th and 16th centuries because the Swiss used them with such success.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
Joined: 11 Jun 2007
Likes: 7 pages

Posts: 2,229

PostPosted: Wed 03 Sep, 2014 8:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Matthew Amt wrote:
Spears were the rule when shields were the main defence since they can be used one-handed. When the bulk of your infantry have little or no armor, they need shields to survive, so most weapons were one-handed. After decent armor comes into general use for the grunts, they can chuck the shields and use 2-handed weapons without the threat of getting mown down too quickly.


While this makes sense in theory and probably explains a lot, at the same time the pike formations of the 16th century often included numerous unarmored soldiers or soldiers armed only with a helmet, etc. And targetiers - soldiers with sword and shield - in this period could wear plenty of armor.

To a significant extent I think halberds took off in the 15th and 16th centuries because the Swiss used them with such success.


Poorly armoured pikeman could expect to keep enemy on a relatively safe distance if something doesn't go wrong. Soldiers armed with shorter polearms like halberds didn't have that luxury, they were much closer to enemy, and that combined with maybe even slightly more loose formation than pike formation forced them to wear more armour... And rise of the polearms in 14th century has very little to do with 16th century pike dominated warfare anyway... And in a cavalry vs infantry fight, long pikes are more useful than halbers or poleaxes, these are much more effective against other infantry...
View user's profile Send private message
Adam M.M.





Joined: 02 Aug 2014

Posts: 54

PostPosted: Wed 03 Sep, 2014 9:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
And targetiers - soldiers with sword and shield - in this period could wear plenty of armor.


Targetiers? I've never heard of those and I couldn't really find anything googling about them, I thought the only dedicated swordsmen in this period were the Doppelsöldner and the Rodeleros.
View user's profile Send private message
T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 174

PostPosted: Wed 03 Sep, 2014 10:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Adam M.M. wrote:
Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
And targetiers - soldiers with sword and shield - in this period could wear plenty of armor.


Targetiers? I've never heard of those and I couldn't really find anything googling about them, I thought the only dedicated swordsmen in this period were the Doppelsöldner and the Rodeleros.


A targetier is basically the same thing as a rodelero - sword and shield equipped infantry, helmet, cuirass, and optionally further armour.

Named after the target, which is just a different name for fundamentally the same shield as the rotella or rodela.
View user's profile Send private message
Adam M.M.





Joined: 02 Aug 2014

Posts: 54

PostPosted: Wed 03 Sep, 2014 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

T. Kew wrote:


A targetier is basically the same thing as a rodelero - sword and shield equipped infantry, helmet, cuirass, and optionally further armour.

Named after the target, which is just a different name for fundamentally the same shield as the rotella or rodela.


But were these troops used by anyone else than the Spanish? I thought sword-and-target infantry was sort of a uniquely 16th century Spanish thing.
View user's profile Send private message
Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

Posts: 494

PostPosted: Wed 03 Sep, 2014 6:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Adam M.M. wrote:
T. Kew wrote:


A targetier is basically the same thing as a rodelero - sword and shield equipped infantry, helmet, cuirass, and optionally further armour.

Named after the target, which is just a different name for fundamentally the same shield as the rotella or rodela.


But were these troops used by anyone else than the Spanish? I thought sword-and-target infantry was sort of a uniquely 16th century Spanish thing.

Highland Scottish clans utilized sword and target men, a targe without a spike is functionally the same as a target since it around the same size and the same shape
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,191

PostPosted: Wed 03 Sep, 2014 8:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Adam M.M. wrote:
But were these troops used by anyone else than the Spanish? I thought sword-and-target infantry was sort of a uniquely 16th century Spanish thing.


Many 16th-centuries nations used shields to some extent, mostly in relatively small numbers and especially targets of proof (thick steel shields designed to resist bullets) for assaulting fortifications. Italian, French, and English military writers wanted more targetiers, though some ascribe that mostly or entirely to misguided reverence for the Romans. The Dutch under Maurice of Nassau notably used shields in large numbers in the early 17th century and probably late 16th century as well.

Going back to the question at hand, halberdiers didn't necessarily wear armor either, or at least not much of it. In the early 16th century, Machiavelli railed against the scanty arming of the Swiss and German infantry. He was perhaps exaggerating. Depending on what part of the 16th century we're talking about and which army, pikers in the front ranks typically wore at least a helmet and corselet and often more. Better and cheaper armor surely facilitated Swiss pike-&-halberd tactics, but I tend to think the same tactics could have had success with Roman-era technology.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
X Zhang





Joined: 07 Aug 2011

Posts: 40

PostPosted: Wed 03 Sep, 2014 9:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

“语云:枪为诸器之王,以诸器遇枪立败也”
Long spear is the lord of all weapons, as it bested any other

——Wu Shu, 1611~1695


PS:The great Literati, Poet and historian named Wu Shu, who was also a grand master of Martial Arts. He was known by his matery of Qiang, the Chinese long spear. Though he digged at any other martial art genres and weapons tartly in his works, no one can ever argue that he has never been defeated, no matter in duel, or slanging match.
View user's profile Send private message
Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 419

PostPosted: Thu 04 Sep, 2014 12:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Many 16th-centuries nations used shields to some extent, mostly in relatively small numbers and especially targets of proof (thick steel shields designed to resist bullets) for assaulting fortifications. Italian, French, and English military writers wanted more targetiers, though some ascribe that mostly or entirely to misguided reverence for the Romans.

And here is one documentary example. If you look through enough 16th century art you will find gentlemen with a servant carrying their round target/rotella/rodella for them in case they need it.
View user's profile Send private message
Christopher Treichel




Location: Metro D.C.
Joined: 14 Jan 2010

Posts: 268

PostPosted: Thu 04 Sep, 2014 9:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Spears are cheap, easy to make and very effective... and in the form of the bayonet and for hog hunting still used today.

As a point weapon they are almost intuitive to use. That said, the short spear as a martial art, an incredible fighting tool.

The penetrating power of a spear is something to behold as the mass of the entire weapon is focused upon one spot which can defeat many types of armour.

A formation of long spears in the form of an organized pike formation became the epitome of European armies from about 1490's onward with an ever increasing integration with firearms until the firearms integrated the spear (bayonets).
View user's profile Send private message
Daniel Gorringe




Location: United States
Joined: 27 Aug 2014

Posts: 8

PostPosted: Thu 04 Sep, 2014 12:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pet theory:

Pre-industrial warfare follows not so much an arms-race paradigm, where competing bureaux of armaments try and optimise gear against their rivals, than a fashion paradigm, where people make choices on 1) what the more successful people are doing 2) what's practical 3) what seems prestigious 4) what arms makers prefer to make.
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,191

PostPosted: Thu 04 Sep, 2014 7:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Gorringe wrote:
Pet theory:

Pre-industrial warfare follows not so much an arms-race paradigm, where competing bureaux of armaments try and optimise gear against their rivals, than a fashion paradigm, where people make choices on 1) what the more successful people are doing 2) what's practical 3) what seems prestigious 4) what arms makers prefer to make.


I'd say it's a bit of both paradigms, at least in the 16th century. Various military manuals from this period indicate that folks - including many experienced commanders such as Raimond de Fourquevaux and Sir John Smythe - did think long and hard about the relative advantages of different armaments and force compositions. The kits and armies they suggested may have been impractical for various reasons - for example, Fourquevaux wanted considerable armor for every single soldier if possible while probably recognizing that economics made that option unlikely - but they conceived of the matter in simple terms of what would work best.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Lafayette C Curtis




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

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Mon 08 Sep, 2014 8:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Adam M.M. wrote:
T. Kew wrote:


A targetier is basically the same thing as a rodelero - sword and shield equipped infantry, helmet, cuirass, and optionally further armour.

Named after the target, which is just a different name for fundamentally the same shield as the rotella or rodela.


But were these troops used by anyone else than the Spanish? I thought sword-and-target infantry was sort of a uniquely 16th century Spanish thing.


Nope. We're not even sure where this troop type came from. Some have pointed out to a possible Spanish origin since sword and target made a particularly good combination for assaulting or defending fortified positions and for fighting in broken terrain (and Spain and Portugal presented no end of opportunities for such fighting), while others indicate an Italian origin with references to how the landscape of medieval Italy -- dotted with fortifications large and small, and criscrossed by hedges and irrigation canals -- made excellent ground for such troops to thrive in small-scale raids and skirmishes (there's some mention of Uguccione della Faggiuola too somewhere, though I forgot what his exact link to the development of this troop type was). Things get more complicated when we remember that Sicily and Naples were under the Aragonese crown for much of the Late Middle Ages, so it'd be even more difficult to trace the origins of this troop type if it developed somewhere in this area.

In any case, troop types didn't just come up out of nowhere. There's no evidence whatsoever that the Imperials invented the rodeleros for the war in Italy, and it's much safer to assume that -- like most other troop types -- they were a preexisting troop type that was repurposed to face the French and their Swiss mercenaries.


To return to the original question, it'd probably be helpful to not consider halberds and bills as being entirely different weapons from spears. Sure, they had chopping/hooking appendages on their heads, but they also had a spearlike point that was considered to be a very important part of their design. So they didn't exactly replace the spear -- they added something to the spear, though at the same time they made it rather less practical to use the weapon in conjunction with a shield (but not necessarily impossible -- some Ottoman troops might have used a halberd-like polearm along with a shield, and I remember seeing a Swiss or South German image of a battle where some halberdiers were poking and hacking with their weapons over the top of a bizarre giant pavise.

And, while we're at it . . .

Jeffrey Faulk wrote:
Really the reason pole-arms came out as they did was to fight mounted horsemen and remove them from their position of power in the medieval battlefield. Used to be that armoured cavalry could sweep infantry with relative ease (some exceptions apply), but then the infantry started getting nasty and creative...


I'm not sure that's really the case. This hypothesis is usually based on the notion that the Swiss used halberds to dispatch Habsburg cavalrymen at Morgarten, Laupen, and Sempach, but Morgarten was a near-perfect ambush (where the rolled logs and stones would have done enough damage and disorganisation to the Habsburg troops that it wouldn't have mattered what weapons the Swiss brought to finish them off); the Swiss halberdiers ran into trouble against cavalry at Laupen and had to be rescued by allied Bernese pikemen; and Sempach was mostly fought on foot by both sides. Later in the 16th century, the Swiss seemed to have used their halberdiers as flying columns/mobile assault detachments against enemy infantry, not cavalry.

It's also worth remembering that the Swiss towns and villages fought each other like nobody's business before they banded up to kick the Habsburgs out (and sometimes still went back to fighting each other in the lulls between foreign wars). Most of them mustered infantry, so it's more likely that the halberd was (at least originally) developed out of spears and the cutting polearms that had been around in infantry warfare since the12th century or so.
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Halberd/Bill/etc. vs Spear
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum