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Spears or Swords?

Discussion of topics concerning life in the middle ages around the world, including architecture, history, and warfare.

Re: Spears or Swords?

Postby Brickninja » Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:33 am

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Re: Spears or Swords?

Postby richardanthonyc » Wed Dec 18, 2013 1:35 pm

AK_Brickster wrote:I think since the question is "Spears OR Swords", that saying "spear in hand and sword in scabbard" is kind of cheating, don't you agree? ;)

Not just kinda, full blown cheating :woo:
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Re: Spears or Swords?

Postby AmperZand » Thu Apr 03, 2014 1:14 am

Brickninja wrote:Actually,if anyone's heard of a show called deadliest warrior, they tested a Spartans battle gear on that, and the spear was much more effective. I still say I'd have a spear in my hand and a sword in a scabbard.

I haven't seen that programme, but I don't have to to know that spears are the superior weapon. I used to do historical European martial arts and even taught it a bit. Spears grant a huge reach advantage. I've seen a relatively inexperienced 15-year-old boy use a spear to fend off two very big, highly experienced swordsmen. For knights and men-at-arms in 14th and 15th centuries European battles, swords were a back-up weapon. Their main weapon was a lance or, if on foot, a pole-arm.

Can I please clarify some misconceptions about swords and spears, a few of which have appeared in this thread? These aren't directed at anyone in particular, so please don't take offence!

Misconception 1: You can't throw a sword. Actually, you can. There's a historical treatise showing how to do it. Depending on the design of your sword, you can also unscrew the pommel and throw that - another historically accurate technique.

Misconception 2: You can't use a spear at close quarters. You can if you have space behind you. One of the main ways that a spear is used is to grasp the weapon not far from the butt (or "tail") in the dominant hand, usually the right, and slide it in the off hand, usually the left. When you choke the weapon in this way, you can make the length extending from your off hand as short or shorter than a sword depending on the length of the spear and your arms.

Misconception 3: You can't use a sword from horseback like a lance. Actually, you can. There's an Italian treatise from the first half of the 15th century showing how to couch a sword just like a lance and a painting from about the same time and place showing it being done from horseback in battle.

Misconception 4: You can cut the head off a spear or pole-arm using a sword. The fact is, you probably can't. The hafts of pole-arms were made of dense, narrow grained woods such as ash that are very difficult to cut through. Also, weapon heads were often reinforced with strips of metals running part way down the side of the haft called languettes. Unless you're unfortunate enough to get your weapon lodged in the ground and have no languettes, there's no chance of a sword slicing the head off your weapon.

Misconception 5: Swords were sometimes longer than their users were tall. Although there were some ceremonial swords that were extremely long, no practical sword was that big. In the 15th century, a sword would normally be no longer than the distance from the ground to a man's sternum. In the 16th century, a few swords would just reach a man's neck. Anything much longer than that, isn't usable in combat.

Hope that helps.
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