A”sword” is a general term for an edged weapon longer than a”dagger”. The distinction between a sword and a dagger is usually arbitrary, but it is normally understood that the sword originated from the dagger after technological improvements allowed the blade to extend longer. The term”sword” encompasses many types of blades like the sabre, rapier, scimitar and cutlass. The next article is a (very) short history of swords in the Western World.
The earliest swords are reportedly made of stone during the Neolithic period. These primitive weapons gave way to the first flint daggers made from copper. Primitive swords were first constructed in two parts: the blade and the handle, which were held together with rivets.
Among the most significant improvements in the construction of swords and daggers alike came after the length of the blade was extended to the heart of the handle (full-tang), thereby creating a sword from one piece of metal. Instead, if you’re planning on buying a replica sword for a re-enactment or play, make sure the sword has a”full-tang structure” to avoid embarrassing accidents during a sword fight.
During the classical period, swords were usually short, broad and straight – this style of sword is often referred to as the Imperial Gladiator Sword. The sword of selection by Roman warriors, the”gladius”, clearly exhibited such attributes. A longer Roman sword also existed (called the”spatha”) but it wasn’t as common as the gladius. Other styles of swords outside the Roman Empire were referred to as”ensis”.
The Franks, who would later rule over modern-day France, favored longer swords similar to the Roman spatha. Contrary to the Roman spatha, however, the Frankish sword was constructed out of soft-iron that made it unreliable in combat situations.
By the end of the 6th century (following the fall of the Roman Empire), Viking raiders were quickly becoming the trend-setters from the sword section. The sword styles that Viking raiders brought with them were quickly assimilated and refurbished in continental Europe. In fact, the quintessential”knight sword” design is directly derived from the Viking swords.
From the 6th century, European swords had evolved from the broad Roman style to something heavier and more lethal. By now, we can distinguish 4 discernible components in mainstream European swords:
(1) The pommel – usually a round piece of metal placed past the end of the hilt. The pommel served as a counterpoise to the blade for greater maneuverability.
(2) The grip/handle – this is where you’d catch the sword from. The trend during the Early Period and to the Middle Ages was to increase the length of the deal to allow a double-handed grip. Later on during the Renaissance and the Modern period, handle length became increasing unimportant.
(3) The crossbar – the crossbar (sometimes known as”guard”) was inserted between the grip and the blade for balance as well as for protection to the hand.
Something else that the Scandinavian Vikings brought with them was the innovation of carbon steel. Whether by accident or not, Vikings started using carbon steel through a technique known as”strip welding” in their making of swords. With strip welding, you take several packages of metal, hammer them together, cut them, bend them, and hammer them – thereby carbonizing the blade material and making it several times stronger.
All in all, medieval swords were swinging weapons to be used with tremendous force. The medieval swords used throughout the Middle Ages were a completely offensive weapons, relying on their medieval shields and body armor to protect warriors. This is a significant contrast with the Renaissance rapier which will come some centuries later, with which finesse and strategy predominate over brute force.
As civilization started afresh, medieval knights were starting to understand that their long, heavy swords were no good for close combat. At exactly the exact same time, improvements in commerce and trade also gave rise to high-quality sword craftsmanship. Much like Germany now sells us BMWs and Mercedes’, back then Germany exported their swords throughout the known world.
During the first half of the 16th century, swords experienced rapid changes across Europe. The rapier, a long, narrow blade with an intricate guard design, soon grew in popularity. It became customary for gentlemen all over Europe to wear a rapier at all times, which necessarily increased the number of duels everywhere. The civilian sword of the 16th century, along with a higher incidence of dueling completely revolutionized the art of sword fighting during the Renaissance.
In medieval times you could probably live by glancing and hacking with your huge sword, but if your opponent is a skilled swordsman, swinging your sword could leave you open to attack. From the 17th century, the civilian rapier had reduced in size even further and was now called the”smallsword”. Surprisingly, among the most prominent purposes of this smallsword was. . .fashion. Civilians would decorate their smallswords according to their taste, current fads, family tradition, etc.. .
Elsewhere, technical swords hadn’t disappeared. The broadsword was still widely utilized in German and Korean armies, and the famed Scottish claymore was used up until the 17th century. In most other militaries, the medieval sword was substituted by the sword rapier, a heavier version of the civilian rapier. Throughout the time of the English Civil War, the sword rapier was in turn replaced by the”cavalry broadsword”, which better shielded the swordsman’s knuckles by utilizing a basket guard design.
Since the mid 1700’s, the predominant kind of sword was the sabre – a straightforward single-edge blade used primarily for cutting. By 1800, civilian smallswords had all but vanished.
In the military world, the sword held its rightful location. In particular, the naval cutlass (short, slightly curved blade with heavy guard) gained in notoriety because of its usefulness in close quarters and while climbing. For as long as firearms were single-shot weapons, armies throughout the world still relied upon their loyal swords – even during the US civil war, the cavalry would still bill with their sabres. However, the invention of repeating firearms, for obvious reasons, put a quick end to the sword’s jurisdiction. There were some (very) courageous European cavalrymen utilized sabres in WWI and WWII, but their attempts turned out to be unsuccessful anachronisms.
Nowadays, swords are primarily used for ceremonial purposes and as a mark of esteem or honor. Swords are still utilised in the militaries for the sake of tradition, but for the purpose of combat, swords are virtually extinct.
THE END OF SWORDS?
The word”end” used above has two different interpretations. On one hand,”end” means judgment or conclusion. In that sense, yes – for all purposes and means swords are something of the past.
However, the alternate meaning of the word”end” provides us with additional insight. As you probably figured out already,”end” may also mean purpose. What’s the purpose of swords if they belong in a museum, you ask? Collecting swords for fun is not only a pastime, it is also a portal to our past! Swords were around for thousands of years, and their use changed the course of history countless times.