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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 6:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Samuel D R wrote:
Quote:
Looking at the very brief collection of Migration Era swords shown in Records of the Medieval Sword, I disagree with your contention that thrusts wouldn't be very effective.


Well, you could also thrust an axe into someone's face and kill them instantly. Or a mace.
They're not nimble with the point, they're not made to thrust, just like an axe or a mace. It doesn't mean you couldn't, but they wouldn't be effective from a combat standpoint, not actual damage.
I mean, you could also drop every weapon you had and rip the enemy's throat out with your teeth. That's physically effective, you've killed him, but absolutely idiotic on a battlefield.


Sam,

Out of curiosity, how often have you used broad bladed swords to thrust against targets of different thicknesses? Is this something you have done frequently?

The reason I ask is that it is very easily to make lots of theoretical arguments one way or another. However, what is far more persuasive and valuable is gaining experience in terms of using actual swords and knowing how they function. Having used very broad bladed swords like Albion's Tritonia, I know from experience that you can penetrate very thick media with them using a thrust. In light of this, I do not think you have a strong argument here.

Quote:
To use your own terms, the burden of proof is on you for that one. Everyone in history has had some form of armour. We know from Procopius and Jordanes the Franks used boiled leather armour, fur armour (otter fur), and even cloth armour. The poorer Saxons were similarily equipped against Charlemagne a few centuries later.
There's no reason that other Germans didn't either. The Romans had the subarmalis, which is easy enough to make. No sane person would have gone into battle without any armour at all. While a gambeson could stop a throwing spear quite neatly, probably sparing any internal organs, just having a tunic on would mean you being fully impaled.


Not everyone would have been able to afford these armours. You might argue that anyone could make them, but I'm not sure that's true. And even if many combatants had textile armour, that would not necessarily be enough to stop a determined thrust with one of these weapons. Would textile armour help? Yes, absolutely- it would turn aside many thrusts, particularly attacks that were glancing. However, this does not mean that the points were not very effective (the words you used). So long as a particular attack can kill or maim a person, it is effective- and the points on Migration Era swords are more than adequate to do that.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 6:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Samuel D R wrote:
Past your own shield, not the enemy's.


Unless you are *skilled*, eh?

Quote:
Migration period shields are a good metre in diameter, you can't go around it, only make it break/fall and kill the enemy after.


Sure, that's why shields were used, and why most killing happened after one side broke.

Quote:
The point of having spears at all were to chuck them at the enemy, who would be forced to block with their shields, ruining them, and then having to fight without the shield (i.e die catastrophically).


Hoo, that sounds poetic to me! But I haven't studied the original accounts like you have. Shields *ruined* by only 3 spear hits?? Fighting without shields as a matter of course? Sounds very odd to me.

Matthew
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 6:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is impossible to properly hold a shield with a single throwing spear in it. Three would have you dragging it on the ground.

The Sutton-Hoo shield weighed about 3 kg. The Roman Pilum in the Late Roman era weighed about five kilograms. You'd go from a 3 kilogram heavy shield to holding 18 kilograms in one hand. Even only one spear almost triples the weight.

Quote:
Fighting without shields


It's not odd. There weren't exactly storage cases of extra shields. You could loot one off the ground (if they were dead they probably already had a wrecked shield, so not very useful) or resort to fighting without one. Just running off would mean you deserted whatever warlord you follow. If you had an oath to him, that could mean exile or death.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 6:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:

The reason I ask is that it is very easily to make lots of theoretical arguments one way or another. However, what is far more persuasive and valuable is gaining experience in terms of using actual swords and knowing how they function. Having used very broad bladed swords like Albion's Tritonia, I know from experience that you can penetrate very thick media with them using a thrust. In light of this, I do not think you have a strong argument here.


That's not really an argument. You used a 14th century longsword to pierce things. That doesn't have any links to a 6th century migration period spatha. Not to mention the dimensions, heft and usage (not to mention point) of the blades were different.
I'm not theorising, I'm building off what real martial artists have said (Matt Easton, etc...) from their own experiences.

Quote:
Not everyone would have been able to afford these armours.


Yes, everyone could. People at the very least owned animals (or they'd have no food and die). If one of those was a pig or sheep/goat they could shear it and use the wool to stuff a subarmalis*. If one was a cow, they could make leather.
Someone who didn't own anything wouldn't be able to pay his taxes and would be enslaved. Slaves didn't fight except in defensive situations.
Literally anyone who wasn't a slave could afford that sort of armour.

*Or a tunic. Women's only job in society, rather sadly literally their only job, was to weave. If someone had a wife, daughters, sisters, a mother, an aunt-even just a friendly female neighbour, they could get something sewn up.

Not to mention they were expected to fight. So armour was something vital to them and their life.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 10:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think I may have used "skill" in a misleading way, and if so I apologise. I'm not suggesting any old Eadwulf could pick up a broadsword and win a 5 vs 1 fight. Obviously better warriors were more skilled. I suppose the word I should have used is dexterity, which I unfairly conflated with skill.

It seems unlikely to me dexterity was used. In the very tight formation of the Shield Wall, the aim seems to have been to batter down the enemy shield (axe, club, at a stretch a broad seax), to go around the shield and stab him in the eyes and legs (broadsword, langseax, a spear if you still happen to have one), or for back line troops with spears to make precise stabs at the enemy (the front lines having thrown their spears, as I mentioned).
Given the tight nature of the formation, it seems most fighting was done forwards, with little moving about. More like a rugby match with both sides pushing at each other, except here they have blades and are trying to kill each other. There's no "dancing around" like these reconstructed Early Modern period fights 1 2 (if these are wildly inaccurate, please tell me, since they seemed good to me).

That is not to say I wasn't wrong, of course. It seems to me migration period broadswords were far more complex than just "butcher weapons" like axes, and did require at least decent "dexterity", though not really as much as recent centuries. Thank you.

As to being better-than-average (worth it) at stabbing, I'm looking into it.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 10:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Samuel D R wrote:
To use your own terms, the burden of proof is on you for that one. Everyone in history has had some form of armour. We know from Procopius and Jordanes the Franks used boiled leather armour, fur armour (otter fur), and even cloth armour. The poorer Saxons were similarily equipped against Charlemagne a few centuries later.


What??? "Everyone"??? No chance. The vast majority of early medieval warriors, and most men in ancient times, had no body armor. Zippo. The shield was the only protection for the average commoner infantryman, *maybe* a helmet. That's what is mentioned in a number of militia requirements, it's what's shown in any number of historical depictions. Armor was rare.

I'd also like to know what documentation there is for this "boiled leather" armor you mention, since that has never been brought up in any of the numerous discussions on medieval leather armor! Why does no one else know of this? Ditto for cloth armor--the first mention anyone's heard for that (post-Roman) is the 12th century.

Granted, those are Byzantine sources, I suspect they might get neglected! Or are these "Franks" the 12th or 13th centuries, perhaps? I don't know the dates for Procopius or Jordanes.

Quote:
There's no reason that other Germans didn't either.


Except that all the evidence I've seen for a long time agrees that the few wealthiest men on the battlefield had armor, and perhaps some of their retainers. The rest, just shields.

Quote:
The Romans had the subarmalis, which is easy enough to make.


The subarmalis is (at best) a garment worn *under* armor, and we know next to nothing about its construction. There is not a shred of evidence that it was any kind of stand-alone organic armor.

Quote:
No sane person would have gone into battle without any armour at all.


Well, then most warriors and soldiers were insane. Which explains a lot, really. Remember, though, they had *shields*, which are excellent protection.

Quote:
While a gambeson could stop a throwing spear quite neatly, probably sparing any internal organs, just having a tunic on would mean you being fully impaled.


Lethal weapons don't kill with every hit. There are any number of ways you can be wounded by a thrown spear, even if hit in the torso. VERY few throws are going to be a square hit on a vital organ.

Quote:
It is impossible to properly hold a shield with a single throwing spear in it. Three would have you dragging it on the ground.

The Sutton-Hoo shield weighed about 3 kg. The Roman Pilum in the Late Roman era weighed about five kilograms. You'd go from a 3 kilogram heavy shield to holding 18 kilograms in one hand. Even only one spear almost triples the weight.


Okay, I see where you're coming from. But it wouldn't be quite that bad. Most spearmen had only the one spear for combat, so they'd use that as long as possible, not throwing it. If you only have a hatchet or big knife for a backup, stick with the spear. Sure, lots of spears and javelins would be flying, but not every one will stick in a shield. Especially if the shieldmen *know* that a spear stuck in their shield is bad, they'll do their best to deflect or duck a spear, rather than catching it squarely. I certainly agree that a spear or javelin stuck in the shield is bad! (Been doing that Roman thing for 26 years, now...) But even the Romans couldn't strip *all* their opponents of their shields with 2 volleys of pila.

Oh, and no, the pilum never weighed as much as 5kg! You just can't throw something like that. *Maybe* 2kg. And most spears and javelins were less than that. Still a lot of leverage, but not nearly that much dead weight.

Quote:
It's not odd. There weren't exactly storage cases of extra shields. You could loot one off the ground (if they were dead they probably already had a wrecked shield, so not very useful) or resort to fighting without one. Just running off would mean you deserted whatever warlord you follow. If you had an oath to him, that could mean exile or death.


I'm just saying that it wasn't that easy to destroy a shield. Even if a guy has to drop one with 3 spears in it, he or someone else could pretty easily yank those spears out and use the shield. Something *barbed* like an angon would be harder to extract, true! But the shield itself isn't wrecked, just out of commission for a minute or two. And while sworn followers would certainly be less likely to break and run, most of the grunts were just levied militia, quite famous for running away to live another day. Even housecarls and aristocrats broke and fled in battle, and I don't recall that they were always exiled or executed. It was just one of the hazards of war.

Quote:
Yes, everyone could. People at the very least owned animals (or they'd have no food and die). If one of those was a pig or sheep/goat they could shear it and use the wool to stuff a subarmalis*. If one was a cow, they could make leather.
Someone who didn't own anything wouldn't be able to pay his taxes and would be enslaved. Slaves didn't fight except in defensive situations.
Literally anyone who wasn't a slave could afford that sort of armour.


Wow, that's just contrary to every discussion I've ever seen on the subject. The arms and armor required of a man were always legislated according to his wealth. In some societies, if you could afford spear and shield, you went to war with spear and shield. If you could afford armor (and the wealth or income level was always explicitly stated), then you had to show up with armor. There are surviving Scandinavian records showing this sort of thing for ship crews, for instance. Anyone who could not afford even the minimum gear was not required to serve, and there were certainly free men in that category. Fyrd laws in Saxon England had households pooling resources to equip a man (one man per five hides, one hide being enough land to support one family).

Yes, people had animals of various sorts, though they rarely had herds of cattle to conveniently skin for leather armor (even if we had any evidence for common use of leather armor, which we don't). If you have a few chickens and an ox for ploughing, you eat eggs and grains and vegetables, because if you skin the ox you starve. Some families shared plough teams. Some people merely tended animals that belonged to other people. You may have enough sheep to provide clothing for your family and pay your taxes, which may not leave enough for stuffing a gambeson.

Quote:
Women's only job in society, rather sadly literally their only job, was to weave.


Sure, along with cooking, cleaning, tending to animals, gardening, raising children, etc., etc. Don't get me wrong, it has been said that textile production was by far the largest industry in ancient times, and it was a huge part of a woman's life. Kids and many men, too! But it certainly was not the *only* thing women did.

Granted, even if we stick to just Migration era/Early middle ages, we have a HUGE span of time and space, here! There was a ton of variation in economics and such.

If you have more evidence for the universal use of armor, please share! Because no one else has ever revealed it.

Matthew
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 11:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I said job, not the only thing they did. Children or cooking for your family are not professions.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 11:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You cannot prove they had no armour when textual and archeological evidence prove you wrong. What are you basing that on? The five graves from each country for the period?
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 11:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Most spearmen had only the one spear for combat, so they'd use that as long as possible, not throwing it.


Almost literally every single source ever written disagrees with you completely. People had 2-4 spears. Never just one. Never.

Quote:
Oh, and no, the pilum never weighed as much as 5kg! You just can't throw something like that.


That's just denying an archaeological fact.

"The total weight of a pilum was between 2 and 5 kilograms (4.4 and 11.0 lb), with the versions produced during the earlier Republican era being slightly heavier than those produced in the later Empire era. The iron shank was the key to the function of the pilum."

Quote:
But even the Romans couldn't strip *all* their opponents of their shields with 2 volleys of pila.


Never claimed that.

Quote:
If you have more evidence for the universal use of armor, please share! Because no one else has ever revealed it.


Is the condescending tone really necessary?
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 12:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

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Granted, those are Byzantine sources, I suspect they might get neglected! Or are these "Franks" the 12th or 13th centuries, perhaps? I don't know the dates for Procopius or Jordanes.


You're off by 700 years. And sure, here you go.

"At this time the Franks, hearing that both the Goths and Romans had suffered severely by the war ... forgetting for the moment their oaths and treaties ... (for this nation in matters of trust is the most treacherous in the world), they straightway gathered to the number of one hundred thousand under the leadership of Theudebert I and marched into Italy: they had a small body of cavalry about their leader, and these were the only ones armed with spears, while all the rest were foot soldiers having neither bows nor spears, but each man carried a sword and shield and one axe. Now the iron head of this weapon was thick and exceedingly sharp on both sides, while the wooden handle was very short. And they are accustomed always to throw these axes at a signal in the first charge and thus to shatter the shields of the enemy and kill the men."
-Procopius

"The dress of a Frankish noble was a narrow tunica of soft material. it reached just above the knees, was striped or plain, with a bright colour as a border. Over this would be worn sometimes a short jacket of fur, without sleeves. A belt with a buckle was fastenedr ound the waist, set with precious stones and studs of gold, and from it was suspended as mall sword on the right side. A larger sword hung on the left side, by a baldric of leather, ornamented with studs, crossing the breast."
-Merovingian costume history


5th century Frankish warlord

5th century Frankish warrior

Old English contains words like lešerhelm.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 1:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Samuel D R wrote:
I think I may have used "skill" in a misleading way, and if so I apologise. I'm not suggesting any old Eadwulf could pick up a broadsword and win a 5 vs 1 fight. Obviously better warriors were more skilled. I suppose the word I should have used is dexterity, which I unfairly conflated with skill.

It seems unlikely to me dexterity was used.


Perhaps some more explanation of what you mean by "dexterity" would be useful?

What do you need to do with the sword in a fight?

- You need to be able to move it, quickly, to attack your target of choice, without letting your opponent know what that target is too far in advance (i.e., without being too telegraphic). Your weapon needs to be agile. Using brute strength to try to move the sword around leads to being telegraphic and overcommitted. Not only do you give your opponent too much warning, you tend to leave yourself exposed to their retaliation afterwards. Skill (dexterity?) will let you move that sword around efficiently, non-telegraphically.

- You need to be able to cut effectively. Skill/dexterity certainly lets you do that. IMO, it's more important for effective cutting than strength.

- You say that you need to destroy shields in a fight. Strength probably contributes a lot to this (but one needs to be careful - strength will also contribute to getting your sword stuck in your opponent's shield, leading to a quick death). This will be useful in some fights (not all), and it isn't as necessary as the first two things above.

That's just the basic things with moving the sword around, not getting into the other "skill" things like timing, judgment of distance, tactics, deception, reading your opponent, etc. Strength doesn't help with any of those, but your change from "skill" to "dexterity" takes those out of the comparison.

Even with shield-breaking included above, I'd still say "dexterity" matters more than brute strength. If your opponent was just an unthinking shield, then strength would matter more. It's the reaction of your opponent that makes skill/dexterity very important. You need to move quickly, move deceptively, cut quickly and efficiently. Strength will help in all those, when used skillfully. But the skill/dexterity is more important than the strength.

Samuel D R wrote:
In the very tight formation of the Shield Wall, the aim seems to have been to batter down the enemy shield (axe, club, at a stretch a broad seax), to go around the shield and stab him in the eyes and legs (broadsword, langseax, a spear if you still happen to have one), or for back line troops with spears to make precise stabs at the enemy (the front lines having thrown their spears, as I mentioned).


The shield-wall that we have the most sources for is the Greek phalanx, but even for that we know very little about how they actually fought in detail. The Greeks don't appear to have significantly tried to batter down each other's shield, but to have gone around them with spears and swords (or in some cases, straight through them). Even more important than either strength or dexterity was discipline and courage.

For Dark Ages shield walls, we're guessing about the details. What we know is that they used thrown spears, thrust spears, swords, archery. We know that shields broke, we know that spears broke. The rest?

A nice source for shield-wall battle: The Battle of Maldon: http://www.lightspill.com/poetry/oe/maldon.html

Samuel D R wrote:
Given the tight nature of the formation, it seems most fighting was done forwards, with little moving about. More like a rugby match with both sides pushing at each other, except here they have blades and are trying to kill each other. There's no "dancing around" like these reconstructed Early Modern period fights 1 2 (if these are wildly inaccurate, please tell me, since they seemed good to me).


The sword is not a single-purpose weapon - it's a general-purpose weapon. It isn't just for fighting in the shield wall (and one might find that a spear is much better for that), but also for duels, for self-defence when ambushed, etc. Outside the shield wall, "dancing around" will be very useful.

Samuel D R wrote:
That is not to say I wasn't wrong, of course. It seems to me migration period broadswords were far more complex than just "butcher weapons" like axes,


Battle-axes are not just for crude hacking - that isn't a very efficient way to use them. Skill/dexterity also matters with them.

Samuel D R wrote:
and did require at least decent "dexterity", though not really as much as recent centuries.


Getting rid of shields means that the sword has to do more work. Still, there are swords of recent centuries with similar weight and balance to Migration Era swords. They often have reputations as crude hacking tools, but IMO they still reward dexterity/skill more than strength. Even if they're used nothing like a smallsword.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 1:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Have you read my posts? I posted the Battle of Maldon as evidence for the very thing you're trying to refute o.o.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 1:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
(and one might find that a spear is much better for that)


Primary sources (Battle of Maldon included) strongly suggest that the front lines didn't fight with a spear. Just from a logical standpoint it's a very bad idea.
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Bram Verbeek





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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 1:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Coincidentally, I don't consider rapier and smallsword fencing very complicated.

Compared to sword and buckler, there is so little to consider, just stick the other guy with the pointy end, while with sword and buckler, you'd be choosing between cuts, thrusts, draw cuts, grappling, grabbing the other's sword, nudging with the buckler, and striking with it. Each choice needs to be made in a split second and in reaction to the other's stance and movement.

While it certainly is swift, it's just one guy being a bit quicker than the other, with mutual strikes being very common.
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Andrew W




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 1:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd urge caution in applying the Battle of Maldon to the Migration Age -- roughly half a millennium separate the two time periods, and weapons and presumably also the tactics with which they were used changed significantly in the interim. (I would urge the same caution to the person who brought up the Staffordshire Hoard on the previous page, though that find is only about 150-200 years after the period under discussion.) The archaeology of the late fifth / early sixth century in England is very different than the later periods, and this likely corresponds to socio-cultural differences and differences in military practice. Consequently, I'm personally of the opinion that later written sources have limited use for understanding Migration period warfare. Archaeology needs to be our guide on this one.

The spears of the early 6th century were light, nimble, graceful weapons which were much better suited for the kind of dexterous fencing that would be difficult with a contemporary sword. I think it would be hasty to write them off as weapons reserved for the second rank, or only for throwing (most would have served well in both roles, and many surviving artefacts appear to have been designed for this versatility). This doesn't mean that swords weren't useful weapons wielded with skill, of course, and sword wounds appear with some frequency in the archaeology. Yet spears are much more common in the archaeology (by a factor of 10 to 1), and were effective weapons in their own right without being relegated to a support role.
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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 1:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Samuel D R wrote:
Quote:
(and one might find that a spear is much better for that)


Primary sources (Battle of Maldon included) strongly suggest that the front lines didn't fight with a spear. Just from a logical standpoint it's a very bad idea.

How the hell from a logical point of view it is a very bad idea? Ancient Greek hoplites were very successful with front lines of one handed spearmen. With a spear and shield against a hand axe and shield or sword and shield, you out range him by quite a bit and since the Migration area and late shield weren't full body shields, but left the lower legs exposed, you shift between attacking the legs and attacking the in loose formation and shield hook at long distances.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 1:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:
Samuel D R wrote:
Quote:
(and one might find that a spear is much better for that)


Primary sources (Battle of Maldon included) strongly suggest that the front lines didn't fight with a spear. Just from a logical standpoint it's a very bad idea.

How the hell from a logical point of view it is a very bad idea? Ancient Greek hoplites were very successful with front lines of one handed spearmen. With a spear and shield against a hand axe and shield or sword and shield, you out range him by quite a bit and since the Migration area and late shield weren't full body shields, but left the lower legs exposed, you shift between attacking the legs and attacking the in loose formation and shield hook at long distances.


Enemy grabs spear
Yanks it
You die.
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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 2:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Samuel D R wrote:
Philip Dyer wrote:
Samuel D R wrote:
Quote:
(and one might find that a spear is much better for that)


Primary sources (Battle of Maldon included) strongly suggest that the front lines didn't fight with a spear. Just from a logical standpoint it's a very bad idea.

How the hell from a logical point of view it is a very bad idea? Ancient Greek hoplites were very successful with front lines of one handed spearmen. With a spear and shield against a hand axe and shield or sword and shield, you out range him by quite a bit and since the Migration area and late shield weren't full body shields, but left the lower legs exposed, you shift between attacking the legs and attacking the in loose formation and shield hook at long distances.


Enemy grabs spear
Yanks it
You die.

If your enemy as a bare hand and a shield, he can't attack you , you out range him by quite a bit, and you could have a shield and a axe, club, seax, langseax or sword if you are wealthy enough and use that, so even if he grab your spear and yank it away, you just draw your sidearm and rush him. You are acting off the frankly insane assumption that spears can't be one handed weapons, which is utter flipping nonsense.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 2:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Samuel D R wrote:
Have you read my posts? I posted the Battle of Maldon as evidence for the very thing you're trying to refute o.o.


What am I trying to refute?

From the text of Maldon, they threw spears, and they used them as hand-to-hand weapons. Don't cherry-pick; read the whole thing. Don't ignore the many cases of spears being used as hand-to-hand weapons rather than throwing weapons! (Lines 77, 124 (using spears in the shield wall), 138, 226, 262, 296 (spears in the shield wall again), 322 (probably).)

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 2:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I didn't. The primary sources show people in the front lines discarding their spears to fight with their sidearms in a shield wall.

Plenty of civilisations have used the spear one-handed.
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