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C. Gadda





Joined: 20 Aug 2007

Posts: 135

PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 5:21 pm    Post subject: Length of single handed Katzbalger swords         Reply with quote

I am trying to figure out the blade length range for a single handed Katz. Though often described as being short, the vast majority of the blades I have actually seen documented are usually around 30" long, which is really not all that short, and is in fact quite typical for most arming swords. Furthermore, the shortest length I can confirm is about 26" (on a sword shown in "Europaische Hieb- und Stich Waffen"). Based on this, then, I fail to see how Katzbalgers can be compared to a Gladius, since the latter never exceeded 19 inches.

Now, there is this sword, that is reproduced by A&A (see attached pic), and can be found in the Solingen Klingenmuseum. A&A reproduced it with a 20" long blade, which is very short indeed. However, the only documentation for this sword that I am aware of is in Haedeke's "Blankwaffen", but apparently the author could not figure out how to use a tape measure and, as a consequence, no dimensions of any kind are given. (Parenthetically this is an utterly inexcusable lapse for any sort of museum catalogue; a severe flogging, if not outright execution, is in order here...)

While A&A makes some of the very best reproductions, they aren't always exact (example: the blade of their Shifford Viking Sword is actually a couple inches longer than the original). It would be nice to confirm the actual length of the original, if possible.

Also, if anyone can provide documented lengths on other katzbalgers less than 26", I'd be most greatful.



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John Cooksey




Location: NW Ark
Joined: 15 Nov 2003

Posts: 291

PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 6:29 pm    Post subject: Re: Length of single handed Katzbalger swords         Reply with quote

C. Gadda wrote:
I am trying to figure out the blade length range for a single handed Katz. Though often described as being short, the vast majority of the blades I have actually seen documented are usually around 30" long, which is really not all that short, and is in fact quite typical for most arming swords. Furthermore, the shortest length I can confirm is about 26" (on a sword shown in "Europaische Hieb- und Stich Waffen"). Based on this, then, I fail to see how Katzbalgers can be compared to a Gladius, since the latter never exceeded 19 inches.



I don't know a heck of a lot about katzbalgers, but I do know that a great many gladii had blades with lengths in excess of 19 inches.

I didn't surrender, but they took my horse and made him surrender.
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C. Gadda





Joined: 20 Aug 2007

Posts: 135

PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 6:48 pm    Post subject: Re: Length of single handed Katzbalger swords         Reply with quote

John Cooksey wrote:
C. Gadda wrote:
I am trying to figure out the blade length range for a single handed Katz. Though often described as being short, the vast majority of the blades I have actually seen documented are usually around 30" long, which is really not all that short, and is in fact quite typical for most arming swords. Furthermore, the shortest length I can confirm is about 26" (on a sword shown in "Europaische Hieb- und Stich Waffen"). Based on this, then, I fail to see how Katzbalgers can be compared to a Gladius, since the latter never exceeded 19 inches.



I don't know a heck of a lot about katzbalgers, but I do know that a great many gladii had blades with lengths in excess of 19 inches.


Well, perhaps I should specify "Roman infantry swords" rather than gladii (since, technically, the Latin term refers to any sword, rather than specifically a short one, though in popular usage it refers to the shorter weapons). And I mispoke - in rechecking my numbers (I was going from my fallable memory based on later blades that had a maximum length of approximately 19.6") the maximum blade length is about 21.6", which I base upon a statement regarding gladii made in Bishop & Coulston's "Roman Military Equipment (2nd edition)" which flatly states that, "The blades (excluding tang" vary between 400mm and 550mm in length..." (p. 78) I will take that as gospel until someone comes up with something better.

But even 21.6" is significantly shorter than 26", so I'm still having trouble with the gladii comparisons that I have seen thrown around periodically in various places.
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John Cooksey




Location: NW Ark
Joined: 15 Nov 2003

Posts: 291

PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 7:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Okay, I understand you now, though there are some early hispaniensis blades that do exceed that length, IIRC. My memory is quite fallible, too!
I'd like to learn more about katzbalgers---I really like the fittings and the blade styles.

I didn't surrender, but they took my horse and made him surrender.
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C. Gadda





Joined: 20 Aug 2007

Posts: 135

PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 7:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

John Cooksey wrote:
Okay, I understand you now, though there are some early hispaniensis blades that do exceed that length, IIRC. My memory is quite fallible, too!
I'd like to learn more about katzbalgers---I really like the fittings and the blade styles.


Here are some books you can check out that are fairly useful, with regards to actual artefacts:

Dufty, Arthur Richard. European Swords and Daggers in the Tower of London. H. M. S. O. London. 1974.
Edge, David & Paddock, John Miles. Arms & Armour of the Medieval Knight. 1996.
Haedeke, Hanns-Ulrich. Blankwaffen. Deutsches Klingenmuseum Solingen. Rheinland-Verlag. Köln. 1982.
Hefner-Alteneck, J. H. Medieval Arms and Armor - A Pictorial Archive. Dover. Mineola. 2004.
Müller, Heinrich & Kölling, Hartmut. Europäische Hieb-und Stichwaffen. Aus der Sammlung des Museums für Deutsche Geschichte. Militärverlag der DDR. Berlin. 1981.
Schöbel, Johannes. Prunkwaffen und Rüstungen – aus dem Historischen Museum Dresden. Leipzig. 1976.
Seitz, Heribert. Blankwaffen I: Geschichte und Typenentwicklung im europäischen Kulturbereich von der prähistorischen Zeit bis zum Ende des 16. Jahrhunderts. Klinkhardt & Biermann GMBH. Munich. 1981.
Wilkinson, Frederick. Swords & Daggers. Ward, Lock, & Co., Ltd. London. 1967.
Ypey, Jaap. Drei neuerworbene Waffen im Rijksmuseum van Oudheden: ein Ulfberht-Schwert, ein Katzbalger und ein Linkhanddolch. 1986.

Sadly, most of these books are now hard to come by, and often very expensive when you can find them. Note that the above references exclude more general works, including the Osprey books, etc.; I listed these in particular since they are the only ones with decent pix, dimensions, or both. Really, though, there isn't a lot out there, which is unfortunate.

In terms of one handed Katz's, where I've been able to assemble data, their overall lengths tend to cluster right around 34-36" (figure the hilt is usually about 5", give or take), which is why I'm left scratching my head w.r.t. comparisons with the Roman infantry swords.

If I get a chance, I publish more of the details, but right now they're in a table format in a Word doc, and I don't think that'll directly paste into this post all that well.
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John Cooksey




Location: NW Ark
Joined: 15 Nov 2003

Posts: 291

PostPosted: Fri 12 Sep, 2008 8:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My German is slow and poor, but I'll definitely see what I can get hold of.
Thank you for the references!

I didn't surrender, but they took my horse and made him surrender.
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Craig Shira




Location: California
Joined: 02 Feb 2007

Posts: 38

PostPosted: Sat 13 Sep, 2008 12:05 am    Post subject: Katzbalger Length         Reply with quote

.

Hello there! As a Landsknecht reenactor, I have encountered this discussion many times. To make a long story short, Katzbalgers were of various, inconsistent lengths; however, the most common Katzbalger was a short sword.

Katzbalgers were short, though long ones existed too. Also, many two-handed swords (bidenhänder or zweihänder, depending on your translation) that were not Katzbalgers have the same hilt design as a Katzbalger; similarly, there are longswords that are not Katzbalgers that also have the characteristic Katzbalger hilt design. In other words, a figure-8 or an S-shaped quillon does not automatically make it a Katzbalger. It was simply a popular hilt design for swords of all sizes in that time period.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the Katzbalger was a side-arm to a pike-man, who fought in very close formation. Being in close-formation would prohibit a great amount of range-of-motion required of a longer sword. When pike lines came together and pikes broke, what resulted was called the "Bad War," a violent mêlée. Basically, it was a brawl, which inspired the name Katzbalger, which many people translate as "Cat Brawler." (Another translation is "Cat Gutter.")

The use of a short weapon is reflected in the cutlass, a very short saber which saw success in the cramped confines of shipboard maritime combat.

Another thing to keep in mind is the cost of a longer weapon. Allow me to elaborate: a noble would fund a campaign by giving money to a commander to raise and equip an army. The commander would raise an army, but would not equip it, keeping that money for himself. He would require that those who had been mustered supply their own arms or become indebted to the commander who would loan money to the would-be Landsknecht to purchase the weapon. Now, the Landsknecht is in debt to the commander and is unable to leave the army until the debt has been paid, making him an indentured servant, a slave to war until the debt is repaid. Thus, the commander collects money from the lord and money from the soldiers.

Money being an issue, a shorter weapon would be cheaper to the soldier required to procure his own side-arm. Also, being lower-class (tradesmen and farmers), he would be more familiar with shorter weapons such as the common Messer or even more common Bauernwehr. It is something he already knows how to use before he is sent out with minimal training. After all, he's being paid to push a pike in a giant block of men, not to sword fight.

A veteran Landsknecht, such as an officer or a Döppelsoldner (who is more experienced and better paid) would probably have a longer Katzbalger for status, because he could afford a longer Katzbalger or a longsword with a Katzbalger-style hilt, being the fashion of the time, and, if he was a commanding officer, because he is not engaged in the "Bad War."

A fellow reenactor from my group visited the armory in Graz and noticed that there were quite a few short Katzbalgers. A lot of them had square tips and rounded tips. There are people who suggest that many Katzbalgers were made from swords that were longer and hand been broken in war--a sword recycling program.


It is for these reasons, being best suited for close-quarters combat, being affordable, being familiar in size to peasant knives, and being recycled from older, broken blades, that the most common Katzbalger was of a shorter length. Like I mentioned, longer Katzbalgers did exist and bigger swords were fitted with Katzbalger hilts. But the working man's Katzbalger was on the shorter end of the sword spectrum. Museums like to display the extravagant swords of the wealthy while the swords that were actually used wore out and were not preserved and have been lost to their brutal and destructive purpose (else they were turned into plows or used for more utilitarian purposes, as to not waste the metal).


The blade of my Katzbalger is 18 inches long with a rounded tip. The overall length of the sword is 23" long. It is short, but it never tangles up in other pikemen when we are in close formation, it is very quick to draw, I can use it effectively when bodies are pressed against me, and it handles beautifully.


I hope this has helped.

.
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Craig Shira




Location: California
Joined: 02 Feb 2007

Posts: 38

PostPosted: Sat 13 Sep, 2008 12:10 am    Post subject: Katzbalger Images         Reply with quote

.

Another good resource that shows that most Katzbalgers were short would be the woodcuts of the period. Below is a collection of woodcuts of Landsknechte that was taken from a collection of German Single Leaf woodcuts. The focus year is around 1536.

http://www.st-max.org/images-people.htm

You will see an occasional long Katzbalger, but most of them are fairly short.

.
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C. Gadda





Joined: 20 Aug 2007

Posts: 135

PostPosted: Sat 13 Sep, 2008 10:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, Craig!

This is certainly very helpful. Understand, though, that I am really fishing for hard data - I'd like to find documentation that says, basically, "Yea, verily, I brought forth my Holy measuring tape and verified with mine eyes that this sword is XX" (or cm, or whatever) long..." And this sort of data is very hard to come by - Seitz, Muller, Dufty, and Ypey are really the only good sources (though Wilkinson thoughtfully provides the length of the sole Katz illustrated in his book). Muller does provide a pretty thorough description of the three Katz's in his work (one of which is two handed), but I consider Ypey to be the best, in that he provides very detailed dimensions and side views, which is almost unheard of. I wish other so called "scholars" out there would do even half as good a job as he does - were that so, many outstanding questions in our community would have been long ago settled.

Indeed, Ypey might provide a good deal more. When I first got that off-print, I merely looked at the pictures and didn't pay much attention to the German text. But in skimming it more closely last night, he does seem to talk to this very subject of the length range of the Katzbalgers, though I need to translate in detail to make sure I'm not misunderstanding something. With my main computer down, that may take a bit, but I'll see if I can't make some progress this weekend.
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C. Gadda





Joined: 20 Aug 2007

Posts: 135

PostPosted: Sat 13 Sep, 2008 3:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Katzbalger Length         Reply with quote

Craig Shira wrote:
.
Katzbalgers were short, though long ones existed too. Also, many two-handed swords (bidenhänder or zweihänder, depending on your translation) that were not Katzbalgers have the same hilt design as a Katzbalger; similarly, there are longswords that are not Katzbalgers that also have the characteristic Katzbalger hilt design. In other words, a figure-8 or an S-shaped quillon does not automatically make it a Katzbalger. It was simply a popular hilt design for swords of all sizes in that time period.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the Katzbalger was a side-arm to a pike-man, who fought in very close formation. Being in close-formation would prohibit a great amount of range-of-motion required of a longer sword. When pike lines came together and pikes broke, what resulted was called the "Bad War," a violent mêlée. Basically, it was a brawl, which inspired the name Katzbalger, which many people translate as "Cat Brawler." (Another translation is "Cat Gutter.")


This is a very, very good point - almost worth starting its own thread on, really. Namely, how does one really define a Katzbalger? Your approach is the best, by focusing on function over appearance. Couple of questions:

1. Do you have a source for this view? I am in full accord with what you have stated, and will happily cite your response in this thread, but if there is a book that you got this from I'd like to know.

2. Given this definition that a katzbalger, proper, is a short sword suitable for close formation fighting, that happens to have a closed "S" or figure 8 style guard (else, one could just as easily call it a gladius instead...), at what point, based on your experience, does a blade become too long to be suitable for this type of combat, and thus more properly be considered, say, an "arming sword with a katzbalger style hilt"?
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