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Tom Fitzgerald




Location: Lismore, Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Mar, 2007 7:57 pm    Post subject: Impact Weapons         Reply with quote

I have been lurking on these forums for a while and have been considerably impressed by the general level of expertise around here. As such, I've decided to try to start some discussion about my favourite class of weapon, one much overlooked in favour of the more glamorous sharp and pointies, I am speaking of course of bludgeons.

As I see it impact weapons were very common in stone age cultures where there was not much in the way of armour to soften blows and there was no way of creating and maintaining a sharp edge. Australian Aboriginal and Polynesian cultures had a wide variety of elaborate war clubs. Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian warfare also seems to have utilised copper and stone maces but as the Iron Age really kicks in people (in Europe) seem to have abandoned impact weapons. Am I wrong or is there no real examples of Greek or Roman mace-like weapons? Where these people so enamoured of their swords and spears that they saw no reason to break the limbs and crack the skulls of there adversaries?

A kind of mace comes into use in late antiquity among (I believe) the Parthian and/or Sassanid cataphracts. An interesting weapon which I can't seem to chase up an image of right now. It's flat and has a wheel-shaped iron head.

Following this there is a long hiatus of no impact weapons until the clubs and maces start showing up in the Bayeux Tapestry. After this, through the high mediaeval and into the renaissance impact weapons have their golden age, going out of fashion with heavy armour.

What I am trying to get at here is, what was the role impact weapons played that edged weapons could not do? There is an obvious correlation between impact weapons and widespread armour use but, considering how heavily armoured some of the armies of antiquity were, why didn't some Romans use maces?

The hypothesis that I am working with is based on perhaps too brief and flippant a consideration of the evidence but here goes; The Parthians used maces because they wore heavy laminated limb armour and fought against other heavy horseman with similar armour. The maces were useful for busting wrists and elbows through iron plate -those guys were probably fairly invulnerable to swords. The infantry of the classical period were generally without limb armour making them sufficiently vulnerable to cutting weapons that impact weapons didn't need to be deployed.

Jump forward to Normandy and Bishop Odo's famous cudgel and the probable maces depicted on the Tapestry and we are returning to another era with arm defense, long-sleeve hauberks. As limb defense improves into the renaissance the prevalence of bludgeons increases until when armour is gone, bludgeons are gone.

Of cousre this neglects the arms race in asia and elsewhere in the world but is there something to what I have written? Is this already an established hypothesis written of in all the treatises on impact weapons that I can't seem to find?

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Steve Fabert





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PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2007 4:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think there may be two related practical reasons why the use of heavier armor and the use of impact weapons seem to go together in many eras. The first one you mention, the relative ineffectiveness of edged weapons on a heavily armored foe and the need for an impact weapon to defeat that armor. The second is the flip side of the same coin. Impact weapons require the user to stay in close proximity to his foe, and to commit to some directed blows that will expose the user to a variety of counterattacks. Without reliable protective armor it would be unwise to choose an impact weapon as the primary personal weapon because using it would result in too many blade injuries from counterattacks. So the defensive need for enhanced protection may have tended to limit the use of impact weapons to more heavily armored troops.

I am personally unfamiliar with the use of impact weapons by mounted warriors. Perhaps the extra mobility of a man on horseback made it reasonable to use impact weapons without relying as heavily on defensive armor. As I recall the Normans were more reliant on horsemen than their adversaries, and so it is not surprising to see them experiment with impact weapons from horseback.

In medieval Europe one additional consideration was the religious scruple of clergymen against the use of edged weapons. A bishop would choose a mace in preference to a sword to avoid criticism for bloodletting.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2007 8:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmm...actually there are some (rather doubtful) accounts of Roman forces under Aurelian hiring some Palestinian with clubs or maces, presumably for fighting against the heavily-armored Parthian horsemen. Indians (from the Asian subcontinent, that is) also seem to have used clubs and maces continuously from antiquity until quite recently. Greek hunters often used clubs because they are easy to replace when stalking beasts in the wilderness--but I don't think I know any instances of them being used in warfare.

Maces, hammers, and axes are also (if I remember correctly) present in the Steppes throughout the ages.
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John Cooksey




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2007 11:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Parthians, Sassanians, and their medieval Muslim martial descendants used a variety of different types of maces: solid and round, solid and disc-shaped, flanged, spiked, horned----all quite common.
I believe that one reason that the mace was never a popular weapon in "classical" cultures was that it's used required a significant "swinging" motion that necessarily exposed the body from behind the large shield. These guys all fought in dense formations, essentially shield to shield (at least in the opening order)---leaving no room to swing a substantially-sized weapon. They used weapons that, ideally, minimized the bodies' exposure from behind the shield line----thrusting weapons like the spear and the short-sword.

At the same time, there is no reason that a stone-age culture couldn't create practical padded/quilted armors to soften the blows of impact weapons----and some did. Not to say that nice stiff metal plate over the padding isn't even better . . . .

Also, it really isn't all that difficult, per se, to have an exceedingly sharp and relatively maintainable weapon of "stone age" materials. The famous macahuitl of the Mexica Aztecs being one example----a wooden sword with its edges lined with obsidian or chert flakes. You break a few flakes off, no problem----take your core out of your "pocket" and strike off a few replacements. Of course, that takes quite a bit of skill and knowledge to maintain one's weapon, but the real impracticality of stone edged weapons is the expense---the really good stuff, like obsidian (which is both super sharp and relatively easy to work) is quite rare and thus increasingly expensive as one moves away from the source.

Good topic.

I didn't surrender, but they took my horse and made him surrender.
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Tom Fitzgerald




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2007 5:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steve Fabert wrote:
I think there may be two related practical reasons why the use of heavier armor and the use of impact weapons seem to go together in many eras. The first one you mention, the relative ineffectiveness of edged weapons on a heavily armored foe and the need for an impact weapon to defeat that armor. The second is the flip side of the same coin. Impact weapons require the user to stay in close proximity to his foe, and to commit to some directed blows that will expose the user to a variety of counterattacks. Without reliable protective armor it would be unwise to choose an impact weapon as the primary personal weapon because using it would result in too many blade injuries from counterattacks. So the defensive need for enhanced protection may have tended to limit the use of impact weapons to more heavily armored troops.


This is an intriguing hypothesis, that the use of limb armour not only created a need for impact weapons but actually allowed their use.

Quote:
Parthians, Sassanians, and their medieval Muslim martial descendants used a variety of different types of maces: solid and round, solid and disc-shaped, flanged, spiked, horned----all quite common.


I must say that I am intrigued, the only Parthian or Sassanian Mace I have seen is the previously mentioned flat one. Did the use of impact weapons continue uninterrupted in the Middle East from Parthian times to the Renaissance? For most of this time impact weapons seem to have been out of fashion in western Europe.

Quote:
I believe that one reason that the mace was never a popular weapon in "classical" cultures was that it's used required a significant "swinging" motion that necessarily exposed the body from behind the large shield. These guys all fought in dense formations, essentially shield to shield (at least in the opening order)---leaving no room to swing a substantially-sized weapon. They used weapons that, ideally, minimized the bodies' exposure from behind the shield line----thrusting weapons like the spear and the short-sword.


This makes sense to a certain extent and correlates with the association between impact weapons and limb armour but leads me to the question of axes. Granted they weren't used by Greeks or Romans but did find a place among the shield-wall tactics of the Germanic cultures of the Migration period, as a secondary weapon, sure, but axes require a very similar style of action to a mace. It is certainly possible that clubs were used and not much mentioned because they weren't especially prestigious.

Quote:
Maces, hammers, and axes are also (if I remember correctly) present in the Steppes throughout the ages.


I think this gives a clue to another characteristic of impact weapons (particularly maces) that makes them very handy and that is the fact that they are not so reliant upon accurate edge alignment. I would hazard a guess that would be a particularly useful characteristic when fighting from horseback (particularly against infantry with vulnerable skulls). What does a Steppe hammer look like? I have only ever seen the highly specialised armour-busting hammers of renaissance Europe and perhaps some Indian weapons.

Also, when do flails first come into military use? Articulated impact weapons seem to be another thing characteristic of the high medieval and renaissance and under-utilised elsewhere. That's an entire class of weapons that doesn't turn up in Europe 'til the 2nd millenium. Or is it? How long has the agricultural tool been used? I know there are historical examples of articulated impact weapons from Asia. Perhaps the idea filtered from Asia to Europe or vice-versa.
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John Cooksey




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2007 6:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

At least in Iran, maces have been in use from the Late Bronze Age all the way up into the Qajar period (late 18th/ 19th centuries CE). The mace("gurz") was an important "cultural" weapon, used by some of the major heroes of the Shahnameh cycle of mythic stories.

The shield-wall formation of the Germanic tribes tended to be a much "shallower" formation than the phalanx-derived formations of the classical world (certainly shallower than Classical Greek formations)-----a long-hafted axe could be used, even if somewhat ineffectually, from behind the front rank. Not sure of that explains the disparity, tho. Could have just been a difference in military philosophy. Or it could have been a matter of cost---axes are much cheaper than swords. Even in medieval Europe, a culture very much derived (in certain ways) from the Germanic, the axe was rarely a favored weapon among the elites. There are historic examples of its use, but it never attained anywhere near the popularity in iconography and "mythology" as did the sword.

The only steppe hammers that I have seen have been the small Scythian ones, but I am sure there must be other examples. The scythian hammers were usually small-headed, of cast bronze, usually highly decorated.

As far as limb armor "allowing" impact weapons---I would have to disagree. At least generically, if that makes sense. Plenty of impact weapons (maces, clubs, stone-headed axes and warclubs) were in use throughout the world, in cultural areas that saw very little use of armor. Certainly the mace was used during the Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods in Egypt, a cultural context that saw the use of almost *no* armor. A more recent example would be the widespread use of axes and warclubs in Late Prehistoric and Contact-period North America. In their favor, impact weapons like clubs, maces, and certain kinds of hammers/axes tend to be relatively cheap and easy to make. A simple weighted club or stone-headed mace can be made from a wide variety of commonly available materials in a very short time, and is quite the effective weapon against unarmored targets. As metal-working becomes more advanced or widespread, and metal armors develop, there might be a change in the relative effectiveness of impact weapons, however. If everyone has stone (or bronze, or whatever) maces and spears and axes, the ground is a level-playing field. If I, however, have a short-hafted simple mace, and you have a longsword, the field would not be very level at all (based simple on weapon characteristics).

I didn't surrender, but they took my horse and made him surrender.
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Tom Fitzgerald




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 12:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
As far as limb armor "allowing" impact weapons---I would have to disagree. At least generically, if that makes sense. Plenty of impact weapons (maces, clubs, stone-headed axes and warclubs) were in use throughout the world, in cultural areas that saw very little use of armor. Certainly the mace was used during the Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods in Egypt, a cultural context that saw the use of almost *no* armor. A more recent example would be the widespread use of axes and warclubs in Late Prehistoric and Contact-period North America. In their favor, impact weapons like clubs, maces, and certain kinds of hammers/axes tend to be relatively cheap and easy to make. A simple weighted club or stone-headed mace can be made from a wide variety of commonly available materials in a very short time, and is quite the effective weapon against unarmored targets.


I wholeheartedly agree. This is where impact weapons are intitially highly utilitarian, in situations where no-one is wearing much in the way of armour but there is limited technology for the creation of more effective, specifically lighter and faster, edged weapons. This would certainly be the case in Old Kingdom Egypt where military technology was really not far ahead of the stone age tech that produced war clubs and stone axes all over the world - I think the advantage they had over their neighbours was the social organisation to mass together lots of men with spears and stone or copper maces and point them in the right direction. After the use of axes and khopeshes and bronze spearheads (and possibly those little bronze shortswords) becomes widespread, maces and clubs go out of fashion. A stone mace will bust up a guy in a loincloth just fine, but naked bodies are especially vulnerable to edged metal weapons. I am pretty sure that's why the copper age superseded the stone age and the bronze age superseded the copper age. Big Grin It all makes much more sense to me now.

Brief research of the gurz indicates to me that it was predominantly used by heavily armoured horsemen in much the same kind of scenario as with the cataphract or knight -as specialised armour busting weaponry.

btw here's an image from the Osprey Parthians and Sassanids book of a Sassanian Cataphract with the peculiar mace.



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sassanian_heavy_cavalry.jpg
Cataphract with mace
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Tom Fitzgerald




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 1:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Hmm...actually there are some (rather doubtful) accounts of Roman forces under Aurelian hiring some Palestinian with clubs or maces, presumably for fighting against the heavily-armored Parthian horsemen. Indians (from the Asian subcontinent, that is) also seem to have used clubs and maces continuously from antiquity until quite recently. Greek hunters often used clubs because they are easy to replace when stalking beasts in the wilderness--but I don't think I know any instances of them being used in warfare.


Do you know what the Indian maces were like and in what scenarios they were used, i.e. against what kind of armour? If I'm not wrong it'll be thes ame scenario of: 1) Couldn't access edged weapons or 2) edged weapons won't work too well against those heavily armoured guys with *limb* armour Big Grin

I wonder what form those Palestinian's clubs/maces took. Here's another image from the Osprey book with what may or may not be a conjectural iron-bound club in a cataphract's possession.



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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 9:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom Fitzgerald wrote:
I must say that I am intrigued, the only Parthian or Sassanian Mace I have seen is the previously mentioned flat one. Did the use of impact weapons continue uninterrupted in the Middle East from Parthian times to the Renaissance? For most of this time impact weapons seem to have been out of fashion in western Europe.


Er...the mace had begun to gain popularity among the European elites from the 13th century, and I believe yo uemntioned this in your original post in this thread. The French and Burgundian Ordonnances that required a man-at-arms to possess a mace if he wanted to keep his wage and status came from the mid-15th century, which is Renaissance and medieval at the same time.

Quote:
This makes sense to a certain extent and correlates with the association between impact weapons and limb armour but leads me to the question of axes. Granted they weren't used by Greeks or Romans but did find a place among the shield-wall tactics of the Germanic cultures of the Migration period, as a secondary weapon, sure, but axes require a very similar style of action to a mace.


Not really. The axe has some important differences--it is less flexible in one aspect (because it requires edge alignment) but more flexible in another (because its head can usually be used for hooking motions against the enemy's weapon, limbs, or body). And, speaking of the Greeks and Romans, the Romans did use axes against elephants. These axes seemed to have been camp tools, however, not specially designed items that had no usefulness outside combat.

Quote:
(particularly maces) that makes them very handy and that is the fact that they are not so reliant upon accurate edge alignment. I would hazard a guess that would be a particularly useful characteristic when fighting from horseback (particularly against infantry with vulnerable skulls). What does a Steppe hammer look like?


On the first statement: yes. Having a weapon that doesn't require good edge alignment is very handy in mounted combat, though even a largely edgeless weapon like a mace would not deliver its blow optimally without a good sense of "edge alignment" since, after all, edge alignment also means that the muscles are aligned in the optimal configuration for delivering the force of the blow into the enemy. As for the axes and hammers of the steppe, I'd suggest going to this page:

http://www.geocities.com/kaganate/axehung.html

While for maces this place has a lot of information as well as close-up pictures of both Asian and European maces:

http://otlichnik.tripod.com/medmace0.html

Tom Fitzgerald wrote:
Do you know what the Indian maces were like and in what scenarios they were used, i.e. against what kind of armour? If I'm not wrong it'll be thes ame scenario of: 1) Couldn't access edged weapons or 2) edged weapons won't work too well against those heavily armoured guys with *limb* armour


Their shape was quite simple--imagine a straight shaft, then a round bulbous head with several shallow grooves that makes it look very much like a garlic, topped with a short, stubby spike. The "spike" is often not a spike at all, since sometimes it's just a roudned protrusion. Both one- and two-handed versions are known to exist, differing in the size of the head as wel las the length of the shaft. The largest ones are quite imposing but not at all like the grotesque things you see in cheap TV renditions of mythological stories like the Mahabharata or the Ramayana.

In earlier times they were used both by the chariot-driving nobility and the common foot troops. Later on, their use varied from region to region but I don't see any trends that can correlate their use (or lack of use) with the presence or absence of armor. Of course, since the majority of Indian infantry before the advent of gunpowder seemed to have been massed missile formations armed primarily with bows, this might not have been a particularly important issue.

What's funny is that in Indonesia (where I live), there are some pictorial and textual evidences from the empire-building era (approx. 9th to 15th centuries) that can be interpreted to mean that Indian-type maces were used in the local armies as weapons of command, borne by the commander's attendant who acted both as a personal bodyguard and as an aide tasked with passing orders to the troops. This conclusion is far from certain, though, and it is still hotly debated among historical circles.

BTW, it's not true that medieval clergy chose the mace because of compunctions against shedding blood. The martial bishops tended to use the most prevalent weapon--usually the lance--while on the other hand a good hit from a blunt weapon can still break skin and cause a lot of blleding.
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Felix Wang




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 3:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Classical record is also a little complicated. The Archaic Greeks did know about limb armour, although the greave was the only piece to survive into the classic hoplite period. Tubular arm and thigh pieces did exist, and gradually went out of use. Similarly, the Romans did know about arm armour. The legions specifically were issued arm armour (manicas) when fighting in the Dacian Wars of Trajan, apparently as a defense against the Dacian falx. Of course, various gladiator types had been using arm armour for centuries.

While the Roman legions may not have used clubs, there is a well known figure of an auxiliary on Trajan's column that is clearly wielding a club. The legionaries did have a pickaxe-type device, the dolabra, which apparently wasn't used as a weapon.
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Tom Fitzgerald




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 6:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
The Classical record is also a little complicated. The Archaic Greeks did know about limb armour, although the greave was the only piece to survive into the classic hoplite period. Tubular arm and thigh pieces did exist, and gradually went out of use.


This I find very intriguing. Is this in any way related to the (possibly Mycenaean) Dendra panoply. I know that particular armour is a torso defense but your reference to tubular arm and thigh defenses leads me to imagine an era of comprehensive bronze plate armour preceding the hoplite era of cuirass and greaves. Was this the case?

Quote:
Similarly, the Romans did know about arm armour. The legions specifically were issued arm armour (manicas) when fighting in the Dacian Wars of Trajan, apparently as a defense against the Dacian falx. Of course, various gladiator types had been using arm armour for centuries.


The roman example really stands out as the only one I can think of where classical-era infantry used arm armour. Cataphracts used very similar laminated arm defenses but infantry in those days always seemed to have highly vulnerable limbs (except when wearing greaves). Maybe that's why their shields were so damn huge. Or maybe the other way around, their arms were bare because their shields were huge.[i]



Quote:
While for maces this place has a lot of information as well as close-up pictures of both Asian and European maces:

http://otlichnik.tripod.com/medmace0.html


Thanks Lafayette, this is a very interesting site that shows there are people out there with a passion for blunt instruments. Cool The history of maces included tends to correlate with what I've already surmised, that bludgeons are intially adopted as technologically simple weapons, then abandoned, and taken up again when an anti-armour device is needed.

Quote:
What's funny is that in Indonesia (where I live), there are some pictorial and textual evidences from the empire-building era (approx. 9th to 15th centuries) that can be interpreted to mean that Indian-type maces were used in the local armies as weapons of command, borne by the commander's attendant who acted both as a personal bodyguard and as an aide tasked with passing orders to the troops. This conclusion is far from certain, though, and it is still hotly debated among historical circles.


The association with maces as symbols of authority (sceptres) is more widespread than I thought. Maybe it's a phallic thing or, as with a centurion's knobbly vine-stick cudgel (bacellus?) a means of non-lethal punishment.

Any ideas?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Mar, 2007 4:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom Fitzgerald wrote:
This I find very intriguing. Is this in any way related to the (possibly Mycenaean) Dendra panoply. I know that particular armour is a torso defense but your reference to tubular arm and thigh defenses leads me to imagine an era of comprehensive bronze plate armour preceding the hoplite era of cuirass and greaves. Was this the case?

The Dendra panoply is comprehensive because its primary purpose was to be worn by a person (charioteer) who could not carry a shield and needed protection from arrows. Middle Bronze Age Greek elites were chariot archers just like every other major culture at the time. He did not need to worry about encumbrance or mobility. The Dendra Panoply is not particularly practical for foot combat, nor it is useful in formation fighting. Both of which were dominant in the Classical era. Armour becomes lighter when the elite discarded thair chariots and fought on foot.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Mar, 2007 6:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From: WARFARE in the CLASSICAL WORLD, by John Warry, St. Martin's Press, page 13 illustration caption.

Early Hoplite armour 600 B.C. showing full arm armour on legs and right arm, the left arm being bare because it is protected by the shield.

This armour looks in the illustration like greaves for the forearms, upper arms, thighs: They seem to work like the lower leg bronze greaves that old on to the limb by the spring tension of the metal.

Also a groin protector in the illustration and I've seen and read about top of the foot protection also.

Seems like this more complete armour was known and in use but I don't know how " popular " and in general use the extra pieces of armour would have been.

Later on in the Classical period mobility took priority and less and less armour seems to have been used.

The large shield plus helm and greaves should have given adequate coverage and the fuller armour may have been more popular early on when fighting would have been more localized and close to one's city state I assume. Individual duels and the use of chariots by nobles making more complete armour useful and prestigious maybe.

When one gets into the Persian wars and the Peloponnesian Wars the use of lighter and more mobile troops ( Peltast ) and fighting far from home would make lighter armour more practical.( At least that is what I understand from the books I have read and what I remember as a general impression )

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Mar, 2007 7:26 am    Post subject: Re: Impact Weapons         Reply with quote

Really interesting thread guys,

Tom Fitzgerald wrote:
I have been lurking on these forums for a while and have been considerably impressed by the general level of expertise around here. As such, I've decided to try to start some discussion about my favourite class of weapon, one much overlooked in favour of the more glamorous sharp and pointies, I am speaking of course of bludgeons.


The use of war clubs may be far more widespread than you think. The Celts and Germans used all sorts of clubs, probably kind of like club-axes such as those you see in the Americas and Pacific Islands. For example consider this speech by Germanicus to his troops before the battle of Idistaviso:

"The Germans wear no breastplates or helmets. Even their shields are not reinforced with iron or leather, but are merely plaited wicker-work or flimsy painted boards. Spears, of a sort, are limited to their front rank.The rest only have clubs burnt at the end, or with short metal points. Physically they look formidable and are good for a short rush, but they cannot stand being hurt. They quit and run unashamedly, regardless of their commanders"

http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache:kiDlDAtQ...&gl=us

Interesting that he says the clubs were 'burnt at the end'. I'm not sure of that translation but I bet he really meant fire-hardened, which implies a sort of blade like shape.

Weapons like this have been found all over continental Europe and in Ireland, including what look like wooden swords and axes. In fact something hard and flat with a sort of a blade like shape seems to be more common than the rounded or bulbous ended weapons. The kind of "baseball bat" shape we often think of when we hear the word 'club' seemed rarest of all. Many weapons had some kind of 'cutting' or breaking edge rather like a flanged mace later on.

You actually can see the predecessors of all the later more 'modern' metal based weapons in these wooden (usually heavy hardwood) versions including.

Axe-like


Mace-like


Warhammer


And sword-like or protosword.


Sir Richard Burton talks a gret deal about these 'proto-swords' and proto axes in his excellent (though unfinished) Book of the Sword

http://www.amazon.com/Book-Sword-293-Illustra...amp;sr=8-3

He shows numerous examples from far antiquity through modern times among indiginous people.

Lafayette Curtiss wrote:
What's funny is that in Indonesia (where I live), there are some pictorial and textual evidences from the empire-building era (approx. 9th to 15th centuries) that can be interpreted to mean that Indian-type maces were used in the local armies as weapons of command, borne by the commander's attendant who acted both as a personal bodyguard and as an aide tasked with passing orders to the troops. This conclusion is far from certain, though, and it is still hotly debated among historical circles.


This brings up another really interesting issue. Has anyone wondered why maces seem to be the weapon of choice, and often symbol of office, of kings all around the world, from India to England? Thats what a 'scepter' really is, a fancy ornamental mace. I have a theory that maces are used because, the ultimate enemy of a Monarch or Emperor is often his own nobility. Those are the top rivals and threats to his office. Leaders from Julius Caesar to the Kings of France got their support directly from the mob and suppressed the power of the aristocracy to elevate their own. If you are going to kill a naked commoner, a slashing or piercing weapon is ideal. But a noble probably has armor or at least a helmet. Therefore a mace might be more efficient....

J

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Mar, 2007 8:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
When one gets into the Persian wars and the Peloponnesian Wars the use of lighter and more mobile troops ( Peltast ) and fighting far from home would make lighter armour more practical.( At least that is what I understand from the books I have read and what I remember as a general impression )


I'm rather more in favor of the thesis of quantity rather than mobility--that the more comprehensive suits of armor went out of fashion because more people were now able to fight in the phalanx and therefore it's no longer financially feasible to require all of them to have the older, more complete models. When the number of people qualified to be hoplites fell again in later centuries, the standard of armor became somewhat higher too.


Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
Lafayette Curtiss wrote:
What's funny is that in Indonesia (where I live), there are some pictorial and textual evidences from the empire-building era (approx. 9th to 15th centuries) that can be interpreted to mean that Indian-type maces were used in the local armies as weapons of command, borne by the commander's attendant who acted both as a personal bodyguard and as an aide tasked with passing orders to the troops. This conclusion is far from certain, though, and it is still hotly debated among historical circles.


This brings up another really interesting issue. Has anyone wondered why maces seem to be the weapon of choice, and often symbol of office, of kings all around the world, from India to England? Thats what a 'scepter' really is, a fancy ornamental mace. I have a theory that maces are used because, the ultimate enemy of a monarch or emperor is often his nobility. Those are the top rivals. Leaders from Julius Caesar to the Kings of France got support directly from the mob and suppressed the power of the aristocracy to elevate their own. If you are going to kill a naked commoner, a slashing weapon is idea. But a noble probably has armor or at least a helmet. Therefore a mace might be more efficient....


The funny thing is that in the Indonesian (or at least Javanese) context, armor seems to have been very rare even amongst the nobility. The tropical heat and humidity was one reason, fashion probably another, and the expense of procuring any decent kind of armor might be a third.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Mar, 2007 8:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

The funny thing is that in the Indonesian (or at least Javanese) context, armor seems to have been very rare even amongst the nobility. The tropical heat and humidity was one reason, fashion probably another, and the expense of procuring any decent kind of armor might be a third.


Yeah it's not 100% universal, but I think if you look at it, this does seem to be a widespread trend. But there very well could be other completely different reasons why a monarch or leader might carry a mace. I wouldn't be surprised if there were several overlapping influences on this. And I could of course be completely wrong in my theory Happy

I wonder if Indonesia may have inherited a cultural tradition with office-holders carrying maces that came already developed and intact from India, where armor was certainly used. I mean today a dictator or someone claiming to be a monarch and trying to create some suitible regalia might use a sceptor simply because it's considered "kingly", without having necessarily any idea of the origins (i.e. that a sceptor is really a mace)


J

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Tom Fitzgerald




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Mar, 2007 7:30 pm    Post subject: Re: Impact Weapons         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
Really interesting thread guys,

The use of war clubs may be far more widespread than you think. The Celts and Germans used all sorts of clubs, probably kind of like club-axes such as those you see in the Americas and Pacific Islands. For example consider this speech by Germanicus to his troops before the battle of Idistaviso:

"The Germans wear no breastplates or helmets. Even their shields are not reinforced with iron or leather, but are merely plaited wicker-work or flimsy painted boards. Spears, of a sort, are limited to their front rank.The rest only have clubs burnt at the end, or with short metal points. Physically they look formidable and are good for a short rush, but they cannot stand being hurt. They quit and run unashamedly, regardless of their commanders"

http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache:kiDlDAtQ...&gl=us

Interesting that he says the clubs were 'burnt at the end'. I'm not sure of that translation but I bet he really meant fire-hardened, which implies a sort of blade like shape.



This quote is familiar to me. I cannot help but wonder what "short metal points" means. Does it mean spiked all over like a morning star or furnished with something like an axehead or pick head. Admittedly if it was an axehead Germanicus would probably have called them axes but there is a kind of bronze age axe that looks like a whopping great club with a little metal point. I have included an example below.

I always assumed they just burnt them at the end bacause that was appropriate for a bunch of grubby barbarians who if they couldn't kill their well dressed Roman enemies could at least leave dirty black marks on their tunics Big Grin. But, you're probably right, they probably did fire-harden them.

Quote:
Weapons like this have been found all over continental Europe and in Ireland, including what look like wooden swords and axes. In fact something hard and flat with a sort of a blade like shape seems to be more common than the rounded or bulbous ended weapons. The kind of "baseball bat" shape we often think of when we hear the word 'club' seemed rarest of all. Many weapons had some kind of 'cutting' or breaking edge rather like a flanged mace later on.


I'd be very interested to see some indigenous European clubs. I can't recall seeing an original (except shillelaghs), which is not surprising given that they were made of perishable wood. Interestingly the baseball bat style and similarly simple shapes were quite common in Australian Aboriginal cultures, but they too had more axe like and sword like shapes. I remember seeing a couple from North Queensland (Tropical North Australia) that were like wooden longswords. They looked particularly sharp and pointy and would have been capable of producing effective lacerations in addition to the usual bone breaking.

Here are some Interesting bludgeons;



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club-axe with short metal point from www.bronze-age-reenactment.com/ page2.htm

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Complex Polynesian style from Hawaii

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Generic "Club", Nulla-nulla

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Morning-Star like Nulla-nulla

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Nulla-nulla from Australia

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Simple Polynesian style from Marshall Islands [ Download ]
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Tom Fitzgerald




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Mar, 2007 7:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I forgot to include the famous Zulu club, the Knobkerrie. I have seen similar African knob-ended clubs as long as staves.


 Attachment: 24.01 KB
com255a.jpg
Reproduction Zulu Knobkerrie
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Mar, 2007 6:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Transference of ideas from India is certainly possible, but the existence of such a paradigm of the mace as a weapon of command in Javanese armies isn't even certain--so I suppose it's still to early to take a guess at its provenance in the Indonesian case.
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Jack Yang




Location: maryland
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PostPosted: Sun 25 Mar, 2007 7:01 pm    Post subject: replying to the original topic         Reply with quote

Seem's like you guys all did a lot of nice researches before you answered, and I've really impressed by that O.o (and to be honest, I didn't read all of that =P I'll read them all later, after I share my little bit of chattering =D )

But in answer to the original message:
Why didn't Romans use impact weapons?
As mentioned earlier by some one else, the Romans fought in a shield-to-shield tank-like formation. In this formation, spears and short swords were used because of their thrusting abilities. Also, the Romans were famous for their sturdy scutum shields. The scutums allowed them to maneuver in the Testudo formation. In this formation, soldier would be pretty much invulnerable to impact weapons, since their shields would protect them from direct damage and their comrades behind them would provide them support to keep them from being "pushed over".

Armour relating to Impact weapons?
I thought heavy amour would encourage the use of impact weapons (and by armour I don't mean shields)... Impact weapons are good for sending their "message" through chest plates and helmets, they also defy the existence of chain mails. I think the reason why people stopped using impact weapons for a while is because of their clumsiness. Think about it, hammers and maces are pretty easy to dodge compares to a much lighter sword, and in order to attack with a impact weapon, you need to first pull your weapon to the side (which leaves you open to your enemy) to allow you to swing (and if you missed, you'll be open again). So, in times when people used relatively lighter armour, it'd make sense to use lighter weapons (greeks?) because you don't need to chop through a lot to get the kill (also note that earlier armoury had a lot of holes in them that swords can slip past). And in times of heavier armoury, swords would have difficulties getting through with all that metal in the way, people could pick up their hammers. With thick amour to protect them, the soldiers can worry less about getting slashed to bits while preparing for a swing, and their impact weapons would leave a deeper impression on their enemies than swords could.
I think that's why people started picking up big weapons during the medieval times. medieval amour was much better than greek or roman amour. The Greeks and Roman had things like simple breast plates and helmets that swords could easily get around, so hammers were not needed and would only provide risk for the user. In the Mediveal times, they had plates and chail mail, and some times plates with chail mail underneath, hard to get around, so raw force is needed, and the weapons that provided the greatest amount of raw force was "teh smashies".

So yeah... whew that's a long one....
summary:
heavy armour=heavy weapons (hammers, maces, two handed swords, etc and later, of course, muskets and cannons)
light armour=light weapons (short swords, daggers, etc)

As for the part about the stone age...
well, although people didn't wear a lot of armour during the stone age, sharp stuff could be difficult and expansive for them to maintain, and they were harder to make than impact weapons... so yeah, that would be the only exception to my theory... =P

Now i'll go wash dishes... and when i come back i shall read all ur comments
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