Middle Ages: Weapons
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Weapons and Arms in the Middle Ages
In my observations of the Medieval time period I found the weapons to be brutal, and atrocious. From war hammers to napalm to the arquebus, this was by far the most in-humane advancement in weapons apart from modern day. The Medieval time went from about the 11th century to the 14th. During this time survival depended on the power of the certain ruler people served under. The power of the ruler depended directly upon his army and the army upon their weapons. This is why we see such rapid advancement of the weapons in Medieval times. In this time "might" was right. "A knight or any other warrior is only as effective as his skills and the quality of his weapons" (Medieval Weapon Links). This paper will cover the making and use of a broad range of weapons used from about 1000-1400 A.D.
Good weapons were a necessity in the medieval times. The making of these weapons relied strongly upon the areas local blacksmith. The blacksmith was often the most skilled man in the kingdom. He made everything from nails, to shoes for horses, to weapons. The making of medieval weapons was particularly hard. Although iron was a fairly easy metal to work with, it had a fairly high melting point which meant you had to heat it quite a bit before you could do any work with it. Also the hotter the blacksmith got it the weaker it became when cooled. The atoms would not bond with their originals, making it more brittle. A skilled blacksmith was prized beyond any knight in the king's army (Martin 34).
Unlike the weapons of today, some of the most effective weapons were often the simplest. Today our weapons have many gadgets and moving parts that can break and fail in Medieval times there were often no moving parts and it was possible to train the dullest peasant to use them. These simple hand-to-hand weapons were known as Melee weapons. One of the most popular weapon of this type was the "club". It was probably the one that required the least amount of skill. It consisted of a hard piece of wood, usually with a large knot on the end of it. The club was easily made by carving a large piece of wood down to the preferred size and then fire hardened. A variation to the club was called the "quarter staff", it was much longer, about 5-6 feet long and was made of a hard wood such as ash, hawthorn, oak, or hazel. It had no lump on the end. It was simply a very hard stick. (List of Medieval Weapons)
Other sorts of Melee weapons, not developed until the early 1100's, were ones that required metal. These weapons were slightly harder to make but had an increased damage rate. They had a better chance of hurting someone through their amour than the standard wooden weapons. A "mace" is a great example of a metal Melee weapon. It was about 18-36 inches long, and the head was slightly larger than the shaft in diameter. The head also had several points attached to it to better penetrate the armour. Perhaps the most popular style of the mace was the Morning Star. It was a mace about 18 in long and tipped with a large spike, (with several more running around the diameter). The Morning Star could be used on horseback or for infantry, although the infantry's was sometimes up to six feet long. Making a mace could be difficult work for a blacksmith. The finer details like points and handles, were particularly challenging, even for a talented blacksmith (Medieval Weapon Links). Dealing with that much melted metal, one needed to make a mold and then pour the melted iron into the mold, close it and let it cool. After this, they could file down the mace to comply with the original designs. (List of Medieval Weapons)
In the book Arms and Uniforms, The Age of Chivalry Part 1 it says that every weapon was at one time a tool (Funcken 76). This was certainly true for this next particular melee weapon. The War Hammer was developed in the 14th century due to the swift rate of armour advancement. It was about the same size as a mace, but could also be mounted on a pole for infantry use. Later, a spike was added on one end of the hammer to pierce the armour. This weapon was highly effective at dealing heavy blows to horsed soldiers. It could even be used to break the horse's knees and send the rider tumbling to the ground. It was fairly easy to make depending on the quality. If it was just a wooden handle, the hammer would simply have to be fastened to the shaft of the weapon. These were easier to make but had a higher chance of failure. The all metal war hammer was more effective and had less chance of breaking on the battle field, on the other hand they took much longer to make. Much like the mace, a mold had to be made to accommodate the original design. (List of Medieval Weapons)
The sword has been thought of throughout history as a symbol of power and courage. It was prominent throughout the Bronze and Copper ages. Although, when the blacksmiths began to forge iron for weapons, the sword was second to none. The sword was used for over 5000 years, but it began to lose its military usage in the 18th century due to advances in gunpowder. However it, dominated the battlefield for so long because it was an all around good weapon. Being light, and quick wasn't its only advantage, it could also be used against cavalry to knock the riders to the ground. There were several different types of swords which had their own unique uses. The ones in Europe were: the "rapier". It was a longer sword used for one-on-one duels, the "short sword" was a small one handed blade sometimes carried as a side arm, the "long sword" had a two handed grip and was double sided and was more heavy duty than the regular sword. These were just a few. The sword was used around the globe as the primary melee weapon. This particular weapon was made by pounding out a strip of metal, shaping it and then cooling it. Lastly, the blade was sharpened on a stone grinder. (List of Medieval Weapons)
The melee weapons, though very efficient, had one major flaw, they was simply too short to be used for anything but hand-to-hand fights. This is where the polearm came into use. The polearm was used to extend the reach of a ground soldier. Here is an excerpt from The Once and Future King about polearms. " . . . every man carrying a spear or a pitchfork or a worn scythe blade on a pole (polearms)."(White145) It was simply a melee weapon mounted on the end of a large pole. The first polearm developed was the "spear". It was also used to hunt. The spear usually consisted of a sharpened metal spearhead that resembled a dagger fastened to the end of a wooden pole. This was one of the oldest polearms and was an ancestor to the lance and pike. The "lance" was a little different. It was primarily used for horse-to-horse combat tovh knock the other person off his horse. Later, it was used in jousts which were a competition in the king's courtyards. "With a blood-curdling beat of iron hoofs the mighty equestrians came together. Their spears wavered for a moment within a few inches of each other