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Christopher VaughnStrever




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep, 2011 1:52 pm    Post subject: Difference between spear and lance?         Reply with quote

The recent research I have been doing is causing some questions to arise.

Concerning the spear and lance, in the years around the 9th to early tenth century -- what exactly was different from a spear vs. a lance? everything I have found simply points out different names such as light spears and heavy spears. Was the early lance simply a longer spear? or is it all in the shape of the metal tip?

I was thinking about making a Lance for myself, and finding that I do not have the skills (tools) to make a lance that looks like what you would see in the 15th century I was thinking about earlier lances and I never have seemed to see a good picture of a 9th~10th century lance.

On another thought,
And as I have been wanting to order a flail from A&A I was wondering where some sources to use this weapon are? Or was it simply a case and point to swing it with as much momentum as possible?

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Sjors B




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep, 2011 2:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as i know there are little to no manuscripts that describe weapons such as the flail.

on lances/spears, on 10th century images such as the bayeux tapestry you often see only one type of spear: a long straight stick with a leaveshaped blade on top

(not the best image but the only one i could find on a quick search)

on the difference between a spear and a lance in the 10th century: no idea. I only know some stuff about 14 to 15th century lances for jousting wich are signifcantly different from the basic spear for combat

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep, 2011 3:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The only difference between "lance" and "spear" is modern convention. Period texts make no distinction.
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Christopher VaughnStrever




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep, 2011 3:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Dan & Sjors,

What lengths would spears be made? I Know they could be 6 or 8', but what would be the longest spear known? would the length reach 11' or more in this time period?

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Sep, 2011 9:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher VaughnStrever wrote:
Thanks Dan & Sjors,

What lengths would spears be made? I Know they could be 6 or 8', but what would be the longest spear known? would the length reach 11' or more in this time period?


Early on I think around 12' was the common maximum for a cavalry lance and I guess that 12' infantry spears may also have been in use as 12' is still manoeuvrable for individual fighting although the 7' to 9' foot length is more manoeuvrable.

12' foot spears are a good length for formation fighting.

As to maximum length of spears I guess when we start calling them " Pikes " in the late medieval period, or Sarissa for the Macedonian phalanx, the lengths can be 18' to 21' long. ( But at that length using them as an individual weapon become problematic ).

I think that cavalry or jousting lances would in later periods also be in the 18' - 21' range.

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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2011 6:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan has it down 100%. It is not until later we see specialized lances.

RPM
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Christian Henry Tobler




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2011 7:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The two words are sometimes distinct, but then imprecisely used. For instance, in Liechtenauer's prologue, he says to wield glefen sper swert vnd messer - "lance, spear, sword, and knife". However, when we get to his mounted combat, he refers to the spear, with the commentaries often then specifying 'lance'.

So at least in late medieval Germany there are separate terms, but their use is confusing.

Yours,

CHT

Christian Henry Tobler
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2011 9:46 am    Post subject: Re: Difference between spear and lance?         Reply with quote

Christopher VaughnStrever wrote:
On another thought,
And as I have been wanting to order a flail from A&A I was wondering where some sources to use this weapon are? Or was it simply a case and point to swing it with as much momentum as possible?


Christopher,

Both Mair and Sutor have sections on the usage of the flail, but they show farming flails, rather than specialized war flails. I am not sure if there are other masters who deal with this weapon.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2011 10:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
What lengths would spears be made? I Know they could be 6 or 8', but what would be the longest spear known? would the length reach 11' or more in this time period?


12th century spears used by the Flemish, Branbacons and Scottish seem to have been longer, but that's a bit after the period you are looking at.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Sep, 2011 9:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
The two words are sometimes distinct, but then imprecisely used. For instance, in Liechtenauer's prologue, he says to wield glefen sper swert vnd messer - "lance, spear, sword, and knife". However, when we get to his mounted combat, he refers to the spear, with the commentaries often then specifying 'lance'.

So at least in late medieval Germany there are separate terms, but their use is confusing.

Yours,

CHT


Oh, by the way in French there is only one word for Lance and Spear and it " LANCE " pronounced in the French way.

Pike does have a French version " Pique ".

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Gabriele A. Pini




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2011 3:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
The two words are sometimes distinct, but then imprecisely used. For instance, in Liechtenauer's prologue, he says to wield glefen sper swert vnd messer - "lance, spear, sword, and knife". However, when we get to his mounted combat, he refers to the spear, with the commentaries often then specifying 'lance'.

So at least in late medieval Germany there are separate terms, but their use is confusing.

Yours,

CHT


Oh, by the way in French there is only one word for Lance and Spear and it " LANCE " pronounced in the French way.

Pike does have a French version " Pique ".


Idem for moden italian: "lancia" is used for both the infantry spear and the cavalry lance, while "picca" is normally reserved for the later and specialized pike.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2011 4:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, I have to add that " LANCE " in French is also the word " Lancer " meaning in English, to throw or to cast: So the name lance in French is closely related/associated to the action of throwing.

With the generic spears/lance of the 8' to 9' range being the most common length from early spears, ancient Greek spears, Frankish spears, Roman Pilum ( a bit shorter ), a cavalry spear under 12' etc .... the lance/spear remains at those lengths a very much throwable weapon, at least at close range. ( Or used over hand where one can stab or throw without changing grips ).

So in the French language a spear or " Lance " always has the potential for being both a hand held weapon and one that can be thrown.

When one gets into the size of a pike at 18' long, even if one can marginally use a pike as an individual weapon it becomes virtually impossible or impractical to use a pike as a missile weapon.

So In French the 6' to 12' weapon be it a spear or a lance as distinguished in English is basically the same weapon as long as the " spear head " is of reasonable size I speculate !? If one is dealing with a specialized head of much bigger size the spear may be more a glaive or some other kind of large bladed pole weapon ?

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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2011 5:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I doubt the french term has anything to do with a contemporary usage as both the word for spear and to throw come from a much more ancient latin word, which was in use 100s of years before the french language existed. In latin toward the end of the empire, lancea can be any type of lance- just as the borrowed french terms.

though that does not mean they did not throw them, only the term was in use much earlier.

RPM
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Stephane Rabier




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2011 7:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi,
Jean, please correct me (my English is rather poor) : isn't lance a "lance" and spear an "épieu" or is the difference that épieu rather means a hunting spear in French?
Epieu is generally supposed to be short, sharp and thick :
the teachers always ask the kids who spend their time sharpening their pencil (thus making it shorter and shorter) "are you trying to make an épieu"? Laughing Out Loud
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2011 4:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This thread illustrates the point. In today's English the main difference between a lance and a spear is whether it was wielded from horseback. In the past the terms had a wide variety of meanings and there is absolutely no consistency.
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Christopher VaughnStrever




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2011 5:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Darn my English (language) ways, I should have been born in Europe>< lol
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 10 Sep, 2011 10:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephane Rabier wrote:
Hi,
Jean, please correct me (my English is rather poor) : isn't lance a "lance" and spear an "épieu" or is the difference that épieu rather means a hunting spear in French?
Epieu is generally supposed to be short, sharp and thick :
the teachers always ask the kids who spend their time sharpening their pencil (thus making it shorter and shorter) "are you trying to make an épieu"? Laughing Out Loud


Well an épieu is certainly a type of spear/lance but I associate it in English to the boar spear which is a hunting spear but things get complicated or imprecise/muddled by " épieux " that are boar spears made for fighting of the same family as in winged spears and partisans.

So all " épieux " are spears but not all spears are " épieux ".

Dan said it best that in period terms where not precise and not consistent.

Randall: You are certainly right about Latin usage being way before the French usage which is just a continuation of the same point I was making but just based on an even earlier period where there was no difference in name for a foot-soldier's spear and a cavalryman's lance.

I guess we can ask the question then when does the distinction between spear and lance appear in the English language and maybe why is was thought important to use two different names when in French and Italian and Latin the same name was used without distinction ?

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Sep, 2011 8:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The description of lance or cavalry spear being called "heavy spear" is accurate for the one good source I know of near 9th century. This is how Charlemagne's grandson Nithard described it approximately 930 A.D. in the context of cavalry training drills.

An extremely similar, Roman cavalry training drill was detailed in Adrian's treatise "Tacitus" around the 2nd century A.D. I bring it up because Adrian used a different Latin phrase for the spear in cavalry context that he did elsewhere within his treatise. The translators that I know of do not equate it to his other terms for javelin, plumbata, or other possible forms of spear, and agree that there is no consistent historical vocabulary reference for determine exactly what form of spear Adrian's "cavalry spear" was.


in "Early Carolingian Warfare, Prelude to an Empire", Adrian's and Nithard's accounts of the drill are compared side by side with original Latin and translations to English, as well as discussion of the different terms each author used for spear within their own treatises.

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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Nov, 2022 3:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, I'm really going to revive a decade old post ...

In Portuguese we have the terms lança (lanza or spear) and lança-de-armas for lances (cavalry). The use is interesting because a espada is a catch-all term, generally alluding a one-handed sword when being specific, while an espada-de-armas means a longsword. I also see acha-de-armas to refer to a pollaxe or hache-de-arme; which might give a hint that the d'armes or de armas meant something for the class of man-at-arms or a two-handed / heavier category.

When reading Froissart, it gives pains as he refers to lances where he's probably talking about infantry spears: but in Aljubarrota (1385) he says the dismounted Anglo-Gascon men-at-arms were using "well steeled Bordeaux lances", which brings the question about if they were using cavalry lances on foot for their length or something or if they were simply using spears; Hawkwood was forcing his White Company's dismounted men-at-arms to use their cavalry lances, but it seems they break the shaft to make it suitable for foot combat: the Castilians at Aljubarrota are described breaking their lances after being unhorsed to attack the Portuguese front ranks.

On pikes, I think it's Heath that says that Scottish soldiers and documents call their pikes ... spears! Perhaps the name pike is a later invention, derived from the "Moorish pike" weapon or Moris-pike we see in later documents such as Henry VIII's inventories. Welsh pikes are also called spears, so it's difficult to assert when the English were using Welsh spearmen in France, they were actually using pikemen, as both pikes and normal spears appear in Welsh sources. The Portuguese foot during the 1380's interregnum was also using "spears" that could be considered pikes by medieval standards.

"It was in an attempt to rectify this dolorous situation that various Statutes of Arms were issued during the 14th and 15th centuries, the man depicted here being equipped in accordance with the first, that of Robert Bruce in 1318 which basically remained effective for the rest of the century. This statute required that a man with £10 of movable property should equip himself with an ‘acton’ (aketon), bascinet, gauntlets, sword and spear, or at slightly greater expense he could have a hooded ‘iron jack’ (i.e. a mail corselet), plate gauntlets, an iron ‘knapscall’ and so on. This statute would therefore seem to have basically confirmed current practice, since we know from the accounts of English chroniclers that the Scottish foot at Bannockburn were equipped with helmets, shields and ‘light but sword-proof armour, axe at side and spear in hand’. Statutes of the 15th century were slightly more demanding, expecting a higher proportion of plate armour.

The spear was probably about 12-14 feet in length throughout this era. Parliamentary edicts of 1471 and 1481 recommended respectively the adoption of 6 ells (18½ feet, the Scottish ell being 37") or a minimum of 5 ells (15½ feet) as a standard for Scottish spears, but presumably unsuccessfully, spears of this length seemingly only being introduced in the form of imported Swiss pikes at the time of the Flodden campaign in 1513.
"(Armies of Middle Ages, vol. 1)

Conversion:
12-14ft = 3,7m to 4,3m
18,5ft = 5,64m
15,5ft= 4,72m

Longer pikes were used in Italy and then were adopted by the Swiss in the 15th century (5 meters if I remember correctly), after the Italian wars they eventually spread to Scotland, France, Spain and such. I think by the time of the 30YW, pikes were 7 meters tall, and some legislation in Dutch Brazil was prescribing punishments for pikemen that cut part of their pikes' length to make it easier for carrying and fighting (something more suited for fighting the Portuguese and the natives, it should be said). Such legislation to keep pikes tall were also common in Europe by this time.

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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Sat 26 Nov, 2022 12:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The key point was probably made a decade ago. Medieval people were terrible at consistent nomenclature.

The cavalry lance on foot is an interesting question. It should certainly not be taken for granted that the weapon was shortened for foot combat. Certainly, the White Company held long lances between two men according to our sources. In fact the English are rarely described as shortening their lances, whereas the French often seem to. Whether this is more than an accident of the record or whether their is some significant difference in how the two sides fought , I wouldn't know.

On Scottish spear lengths, we have no evidence of their length much before an illustration of the Battle of Bannockburn in the 1440s, when they would certainly be in the 12-14ft range. Our few Scottish illustrations before that show shorter spears but contexts are not really suited to making a clear generalisation.

Anthony Clipsom
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