Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > shortest primary blade used in battle Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Michael Brudon




Usergroups: None

Location: Europe
Posts: 68
PostPosted: Wed 09 Dec, 2015 2:42 am    Post subject: shortest primary blade used in battle         Reply with quote

Hi guys, I will try and formulate this question so it makes sense. I am interested in the shortest (knife/sword like) blades considered battle worthy.Or to make it less general that were proven to work in battle as the primary implement( or primary after the spear or whatever they carried was out of action). Something they were happy to go toe to toe with whether it was a military arm or implement.
Not including shortspears, secondary arms like daggers, very ancient battles/wierd stuff like khopeshs (and probably a variety of other things you guys have the extensive knowledge to come up with!) Happy.

Thinking more along the line of roman era forward- fighting knives, messers, gladius , short swords etc.

Thanks for any suggestions. I'd also like to know why that shortest length was arrived at and considered still effective in battle so to speak but will leave that open.
View user's profile Send private message
Spenser T.




Usergroups: None

Location: West coast, Canada
Likes: 11 pages
Posts: 49
PostPosted: Wed 09 Dec, 2015 4:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know that in the case of Irish Iron age short swords, these were valued and prestigious weapons. There's a great looking example of one of these that can be easily found here under Nathan Bell's collection, I think the blade on it is 16 ish inches long. There were some of this type both longer and shorter, but these were generally speaking, shorter than the Roman gladius. Another type of short sword would be the spartan (lakonian?) short sword, which I believe was usually even shorter. I don't know much about the spartan sword, but I can tell you that there's plenty of great information and examples to be found of this early Irish iron sword type, here at myArmoury and on kelticos.org.

Hope this helps
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Usergroups: None

Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Posts: 1,061
PostPosted: Wed 09 Dec, 2015 6:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are five small swords from Olympia in Greece, probably 5th to 4th century BC. Three are fragmentary but seem to be very similar, while the other two are complete enough to show that they had blades about 12 inches long. They look like this:



They are very similar to swords shown in several vase paintings. Short swords are often associated with the Spartans, though they don't seem to have been the only ones using them. And hoplites really don't seem to have carried "daggers" as such--you could call these daggers, but from what we can tell they were carried on a baldric like a regular sword, and were used like swords.

I haven't made one of these yet, though it's on my list! My current front-line xiphos has a 16-inch blade and is copied from an example found at Vitsa:



I've also got an older one with a 14" blade, but it's a "conversion job" so it's just a loaner piece, now.

I know there are gladius blades as short as 16" as well, but I don't have any images or specifics on hand.

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Michael Brudon




Usergroups: None

Location: Europe
Posts: 68
PostPosted: Wed 09 Dec, 2015 3:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks fellas, very interesting! Great pic of the xiphos, I had forgootten about them.

Can I ask what the advantages or disadvantages of blades this long would be.

Can you perform many fencing/1-1 manouveres against a longer sword/weapon or is it strictly a massed battle stab under the shield type thing?

Can it deflect in any way longer/heavier arms like axes?

Will it have any cutting ability at that length?

Just thinking its the ancient armies carrying these shorter swords. What changed between then and say early medieval requirements relating to length? Something to do with greater emphasis on cavalry needing longer swords in later periods ?
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Usergroups: None

Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Posts: 1,061
PostPosted: Wed 09 Dec, 2015 5:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Brudon wrote:
Thanks fellas, very interesting! Great pic of the xiphos, I had forgootten about them.

Can I ask what the advantages or disadvantages of blades this long would be.


Well, they're lightweight and easy to carry, for starters. Very easy to draw and use if things get tight in the phalanx. And shorter blades encourage aggression--no one likes a knife-fighter in his face, eh? Obviously, they don't have the reach or whallop of a longer blade.

Quote:
Can you perform many fencing/1-1 manouveres against a longer sword/weapon or is it strictly a massed battle stab under the shield type thing?

Can it deflect in any way longer/heavier arms like axes?


Swords were never meant to be used without a shield. Sure, it can be used one-on-one, like most any other weapon, in fact I'd be so bold as to say that phalanx combat was like one-on-one but with more distractions! "Heavy" weapons were extremely rare in Greek warfare, and the shield was meant to deal with blocking and protection in any case.

Quote:
Will it have any cutting ability at that length?


Not really, but it will slash just fine. Find the most evil kitchen knife in your drawer and give it a try, eh?

Quote:
Just thinking its the ancient armies carrying these shorter swords. What changed between then and say early medieval requirements relating to length? Something to do with greater emphasis on cavalry needing longer swords in later periods ?


Well, that's a huge question! Cavalry always preferred longer swords, of course. And while we tend to think of all the Vikings and Saxons and Carolingians duking it out with 32-inch blades, in actuality they mainly fought with spears, and the vast majority of the *infantry* had only an axe or--you guessed it--a big knife for backup. Something in the range of 10 to 15 inches, perhaps? Hmm, and round shields. A hoplite in a line of Vikings might get some odd looks, but he wouldn't be at any real disadvantage.

But the real details and whys and wherefores of arms and armor development over a couple millennia could get into quite a long discussion!

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Spenser T.




Usergroups: None

Location: West coast, Canada
Likes: 11 pages
Posts: 49
PostPosted: Wed 09 Dec, 2015 9:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

(This is my opinion, it may be incorrect)

Regarding the statement about only earlier armies using short blades, I don't think it's entirely true that shorter blades were put out of use in later armies (later meaning post Early middle ages, or dark ages). Looking at the warriors in medieval Ireland for example, we see the use of a 'scian', or long Irish war knife, used as a primary side arm. It is true that many Gaelic warriors in the middle ages had swords, and used these knives as well as these swords, but I believe it true that more of them had only these knives as a primary sidearm. As armor became more common in European warfare, it didn't make as much sense to produce broader smaller blades, as opposed to a long thin blade. I think that these short swords may have 'evolved' into long daggers or knives. Katzbalgers ( I'm unsure of the spelling) are a shorter sword which were used by the landsknecht (spelling?). These were, IIRC about the length of a Roman spatha, so perhaps not quite as short as the blades you are interested in.
View user's profile Send private message
Timo Nieminen




Usergroups: 
Donating Members

Location: Brisbane, Australia
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book
Posts: 1,297
PostPosted: Wed 09 Dec, 2015 9:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In modern times, the primary close quarter combat edged weapon is often short. Daggers, trench knives, sharpened shovels, tomahawks, various 6" knives. For trench raids, these could be the primary weapon (rifles and pistols not taken).

In SE Asia (Indonesia and the Philippines especially), the main non-spear hand-to-hand weapon was often 12" to 20" of blade. Kris, barong, various bolos and parangs.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Michael Brudon




Usergroups: None

Location: Europe
Posts: 68
PostPosted: Thu 10 Dec, 2015 5:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies all. Some realities of close quarters fighting versus the perception of long swords to the uninitiated like myself. Would anyone know what the heaviest/thickest of the short blade types would be? Did any fulfil utalitarian functions like axes did? I know people sometime make this claim for falchions but then heard this may be a myth.
View user's profile Send private message
Lafayette C Curtis




Usergroups: None

Location: Indonesia
Reading list: 7 books
Posts: 2,446
PostPosted: Thu 10 Dec, 2015 8:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Falchions, by and large, would have been too thin and light for utility use. The few surviving examples look like dedicated fighting implements. If you want something that works as a tool, then get something that's primarily intended for use as a tool (like a machete).
View user's profile Send private message
Philip Dyer




Usergroups: None


Posts: 312
PostPosted: Thu 10 Dec, 2015 8:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Falchions, by and large, would have been too thin and light for utility use. The few surviving examples look like dedicated fighting implements. If you want something that works as a tool, then get something that's primarily intended for use as a tool (like a machete).

Unless the tool you want is for carving , cutting, and sectioning off meat, like dear, boar, etc. Tool use doesn't automatically mean chopping wood or similarly rigid material. Also, allot of axes had heads that were to thin for chopping wood to.
View user's profile Send private message
Sean Flynt
myArmoury Team


myArmoury Team

PostPosted: Thu 10 Dec, 2015 10:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Many Confederate bowies were short-sword length
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
David Cooper




Usergroups: 
Donating Members

Location: UK
Likes: 1 page
Posts: 77
PostPosted: Thu 10 Dec, 2015 12:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You might like to consider the Khyber Knife as the primary weapon of tribesmen in the Afgan wars of th 19th century.


 Attachment: 172.79 KB, Viewed: 810 times
vs.jpg


The journey not the destination
View user's profile Send private message
Timo Nieminen




Usergroups: 
Donating Members

Location: Brisbane, Australia
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book
Posts: 1,297
PostPosted: Thu 10 Dec, 2015 1:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Brudon wrote:
Would anyone know what the heaviest/thickest of the short blade types would be? Did any fulfil utalitarian functions like axes did? I know people sometime make this claim for falchions but then heard this may be a myth.


Possibly kukris, if asking about weight compared to blade length. A military-issue kukri with a 14" blade could easily be 800g. Heavy for a knife of that size. Also used for some of the tasks of an axe. Artillery swords and fascine knives could be over 1kg (but would usually then be longer than 14"). These were primarily issued as tools, but could be used as primary close-quarter weapons if things go wrong and the artillery is over-run.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Jeffrey Faulk




Usergroups: None

Location: Georgia
Posts: 455
PostPosted: Thu 10 Dec, 2015 1:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Flynt wrote:
Many Confederate bowies were short-sword length


As seen in this modern reproduction from Windlass, supposedly modeled after an antique (but more likely, I think, intended to evoke a generic impression rather than reproduce a specific piece):



Obviously the scabbard extends its length a bit, but OAL is supposedly ~23", blade is ~18". Whole thing is about one and a quarter pounds, standard Windlass 3/16" stock. By comparison, an Albion Roman gladius (the Aquilifier) is ~20" in blade.

There was a tendency towards short-sword or extra-large knives for carry by enlisted men in roughly the middle of the 19th century towards the end of the neoclassical period, generally intended for self-defense in extremity but commonly they ended up being used for utility purposes far more as evinced by a French slang term for their short-swords, "coupe-choux" or "cabbage cutter".
View user's profile Send private message
Michael Brudon




Usergroups: None

Location: Europe
Posts: 68
PostPosted: Sun 13 Dec, 2015 4:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks all, have started researching the other items mentioned- kukris, aghan knives and longer bowies.
View user's profile Send private message
Tyler Jordan




PostPosted: Sun 13 Dec, 2015 5:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm all but certain that the Spartans have the win, they at times used Lakonian/Xiphos type swords as short as 12 inches. I can't find much mention of anyone going shorter for a primary arm.
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > shortest primary blade used in battle
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 2003-2016 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum