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Pawel P





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PostPosted: Tue 25 Dec, 2018 12:47 pm    Post subject: how popular were axes amongst Vikings?         Reply with quote

I often read that favourite weapon of a viking were axe. But on what is this based on?
I know that in general axe was second most common weapon on battlefields after spear regardless of nationality.[/list]
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Dec, 2018 1:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The spear was the primary weapon but everyone carried some kind of sidearm. Swords were hideously expensive so what alternative sidearm would you propose? In my mind there are only two options: knife, axe.
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Pawel P





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PostPosted: Tue 25 Dec, 2018 1:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

But this don't answer my question. Because axe were cheapest side arms then It applies to everyone not only Vikings so why axe suppose to be exactly their favourite weapons?
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Dec, 2018 1:57 pm    Post subject: Re: how popular were axes amongst Vikings?         Reply with quote

Pawel P wrote:
I often read that favourite weapon of a viking were axe. But on what is this based on?

Because Viking Age weapon graves from Scandinavia and Iceland often contain fighting axes, frequently highly decorated and of excellent metal, and because slightly later militia laws (from the 11th/12th century ish to the 17th) and the Sagas of the Icelanders present axes and swords as alternative sidearms.

Pawel P wrote:
I know that in general axe was second most common weapon on battlefields after spear regardless of nationality.[/list]
Only in a few places and times. I don't think there is a lot of evidence for small axes in Gaul or Iberia or Italy or the Greek-speaking world in the 8th/9th/10th centuries. If carrying an axe or club did not seem cool, warriors chose a big knife or a sword for their sidearm.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Dec, 2018 2:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Axes were common all over the continent. The throwing axe was so prevalent among the Franks that the Spanish called it a "francisca". Gregory of Tours names two different axes: securis and bipennis.
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Pawel P





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PostPosted: Wed 26 Dec, 2018 7:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In my contry Poland axe are second most common weapon finds in battlefield some in graves in great moravia one type of ax was very popular both in infantry and cavalry so what is so different with Vikings?

Especially with shieldwall spear is by far the best weapon.
And more sax which were somewhat popular with Vikings, no similar weapon among Slavs so theoretically Vikings have more types of side weapon.

About topic about law. Sorry but laws from 15+ have nothing to with Vikings.
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Dec, 2018 11:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pawel P wrote:
In my contry Poland axe are second most common weapon finds in battlefield some in graves in great moravia one type of ax was very popular both in infantry and cavalry so what is so different with Vikings?

Maybe the Poles liked similar weapons to the Danes and the Norwegians, but if you look at say Frankish or East Roman sources from the 8th/9th/10th century, you do not see a lot of soldiers with axes.

Pawel P wrote:
About topic about law. Sorry but laws from 15+ have nothing to with Vikings.
A series of laws on the same topic in the same region which say "axe or sword, axe or sword, axe or sword" from possibly the 10th century until definitely the 17th century certainly do! Read the other thread and the linked sources closely, Leidang is a good keyword.
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Pawel P





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PostPosted: Wed 26 Dec, 2018 12:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

https://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=32114

Ok so from this topic i got info about Scandinavian laws of 11+ to carry weapons which always consist of shield and spear then axe or sword so expensive or cheap option.

But I don't know such document from France or I don't know any exact archaeology source from batlefields which is the best source.

In Poland nobody say that axe was popular weapon but is just is in archelogical findings, and even more in great moravia where bradatica axe is very common.
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
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PostPosted: Sat 29 Dec, 2018 6:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pawel P wrote:
https://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=32114

Ok so from this topic i got info about Scandinavian laws of 11+ to carry weapons which always consist of shield and spear then axe or sword so expensive or cheap option.

But I don't know such document from France or I don't know any exact archaeology source from batlefields which is the best source.

From France we have Carolingian cartularies and poems and illuminated manuscripts. Battlefield archaeology is not a very good source for the weapons and armour used by particular types of soldiers, because weapons and clothing were precious so they were collected after the fighting. If after being gathered up they were put earth or water again, that was usually not random but a choice with its own logic (the armour at Wisby is mostly very old and there are few weapons, graves contain weapons which marked someone as a particular kind of person, not the exact weapons and armour they owned or used).

Pawel P wrote:
In Poland nobody say that axe was popular weapon but is just is in archelogical findings, and even more in great moravia where bradatica axe is very common.

Well, most people writing in English about the middle ages do not think about Poland very much. Most people's view of the middle ages is focused on their home country and one or two nearby ones (so people in the UK learn about England and France and maybe Scotland or Flanders or Norway, but not Hungary or Egypt or Lithuania even though the supply of gold in Hungary affected the wool trade and English lords went on crusade to Lithuania and bought cotton from Egypt).

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Tord Grasmo





Joined: 05 Feb 2007

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PostPosted: Sun 30 Dec, 2018 1:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not sure we can claim fighting axes to be super popular among vikings. We have found an insane amount of swords in Norway from the viking era, so swords were most certainly common. What we do have, however, is a connection between Norwegian nationalism in the 19th century (when in union with Sweden), fighting axes and Vikings. Vikings were seen as the mythical and glorious ancestors, and since Norway was the last place still using fighting axes in a military context (so, not including axes as tools), Norwegian nationalists figured that vikings had to use a lot of axes. It was simply a question about national pride and identity. I believe a lot of what makes vikings popular today is born from the mythical status they gained then.

Axes in general was a very important part of the Norwegian/west Scandinavian society for a long time. All the way from the Bronze age until the industrialization axes has been important as tools, currency or weapons. In the viking era, and earlier, we exported iron in the form of stylised axes as well as specialized tools. So axes was certainly an important cultural object. But whether it was more common than the sword on the battlefield among Norwegian Vikings, I'm not so certain.

Do note, I am talking primarily about Norway and Norwegian Vikings. It is where I'm from and what I know most about. It is by no means certain it carries over for Swedish, Danish or Icelandic early medieval people.
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Pawel P





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PostPosted: Sun 30 Dec, 2018 4:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

But even in Poland nobody say that axe was favourite weapon.
In Poland we also have findings of stylesied iron/silver in shape of axe used as form of currency.
And we know of big number of axes from findings in lake lednickie, so its a lot equipment which just fell to water so its much more good example of weapon used in battles.

And about france how we know that they don't use axes?
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M. Nordlund




Location: Sweden
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PostPosted: Sat 05 Jan, 2019 6:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From Norwegian 13th century law on militias quoted from user Baard H and his post in the following thread:
http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.32114.html
Already mentioned by Pawel P

"5. But when a working man takes his first service for full wages, then he shall the first summer buy an axe, the second a shield and the third a spear. But if he lacks any of these three weapons, then he shall pay fine to the king of one øre for every one he lacks. But if he lacks them all, then he shall pay fine of one øre to the king and have only half-rights until he get hold of weapons. "

All earlier Norwegian law tend to go something like :bring shield, spear and either sword or axe also one bow per bench (every 2 people) with some difference in weapons and armor depending on the person's wealth. Read the thread linked above for more info.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Tue 08 Jan, 2019 11:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tord Grasmo wrote:
I'm not sure we can claim fighting axes to be super popular among vikings. We have found an insane amount of swords in Norway from the viking era, so swords were most certainly common.

Swords were expensive at the time. A common farmer definitely couldn't afford one.

The Lex Ribuaria (Carolingian, 800AD) lists the cost of a cow as 1 solidii. An ox as 2 solidii. A mare was worth 3 solidii. A mail byrnie was worth 12 solidii. A sword with a scabbard was worth 7 solidii. So a sword was worth 7 cows.

Swords were so expensive that only Charlemagne's cavalry (men who had the wealth to maintain a horse) were required to own one.

During Charles the Bald’s reign (843-877AD), a sword with a scabbard was worth 5 solidii.

The Ewa ad Amorem (Netherlands, 800AD) lists the cost of a horse at 7 solidii. A slave was 7 solidii. A pack animal was 4 solidii. An ox was 2 solidii. A milch cow was worth 1 solidii. A sword was 7 solidii. Again we have a sword worth 7 cows.

The Gesta Sanctorum Rotonensium (Brittany, 851AD) lists the cost of a warhorse at 20 solidii and a sword at 5 solidii.

The Will of King Alfred (England, late 9th C) gives a sword worth 100 mancuses to Ealdorman Ehtelred. A mancus is a golden coin worth 30 silver pennies, so this sword was worth 3000 pennies. An ox was worth 30 pennies.

The Will of Ælfgar (England, mid 10th C) said that King Edmund gave him a sword worth a hundred and twenty mancuses of gold or 3,600 silver pennies.

In the Laxdæla Saga (Norway, 938AD), the king gives a sword worth half a mark of gold to Hoskuld. A mark of gold contained eight ounces, and each ounce was worth a mark of silver. A mark of silver could buy 4 milch cows so this sword was worth 16 cows.

The cheapest sword from the available documents is worth 5 cows.

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Last edited by Dan Howard on Wed 09 Jan, 2019 4:34 am; edited 1 time in total
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Graham Shearlaw





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PostPosted: Wed 09 Jan, 2019 3:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Swords can be seen the early period as a luxury weapon, as they need more skill, and better metal supply to make.
And they don't really do anything other weapons don't do, a sword is the sports car of the day so to speak.
Where as you basically need a spear and shield to fight in a battle line and a small hand axe/ large knife gives you a back up.
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