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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

True.
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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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Re: Spears or Swords?

Postby Frank_Lloyd_Knight » Wed Jul 30, 2014 3:18 am

Sergeant Colon of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch had a preference for pikes…
"…because the thing about a pike, the important thing, was that everything happened at the other end of it, i.e. a long way off."

From the Discworld novel MEN AT ARMS, by Terry Pratchet.
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Re: Spears or Swords?

Postby Redav » Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:58 am

Gosh, spoiler alerts please! I'm going to start reading that book tomorrow!

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Re: Spears or Swords?

Postby Brickninja » Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:07 pm

Frank_Lloyd_Knight wrote:Sergeant Colon of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch had a preference for pikes…
"…because the thing about a pike, the important thing, was that everything happened at the other end of it, i.e. a long way off."

From the Discworld novel MEN AT ARMS, by Terry Pratchet.


Exactly :eyebrows:
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Re: Spears or Swords?

Postby Sir Erathor » Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:53 pm

If I'm honest, I'd rather use a sword and a shield over a spear and/or a shield. This gives good defensive capabilities and also allows you to get in closer with the sword. In my opinion, this is a big advantage. Obviously, I've never used this in a proper fight, but as Brickninja knows I have some experience. ;)
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Re: Spears or Swords?

Postby josdu » Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:45 pm

Sir Erathor wrote:If I'm honest,

Do you have any doubts?
but as Brickninja knows I have some experience.

What, are you a couple hundred years old? When was the last time you fought in a battle with pikes and swords :woo: ?

Anyway here is what I think:

Putting aside the fact that they're made for completely different usages :spin: , I would if told I could chose one and jump into a fight at, for example, Agincourt, or just any fight around that time, I'd grab a sword. End of discussion!! No, not, really. Why would I take a sword? Because unless I go to a company with pikes/spears they (spears/pikes) would be rather useless. While I stabbed my opponent in front of me, somebody else would cut my throat :twitch: ! I couldn't stop them because my spear is sticking in my other enemy's body. In addition, if I did join the ranks with a spear I would have very few chances of distinguishing myself, which BTW is why nobles and such carried swords instead of pikes/spears. Now for the pros and cons of swords: Its the kind of weapon you would jump into the thick of the battle with and its easier, like I've said, to distinguish ones self (how selfish I and those nobles where/are :P ) . Also you can defend yourself from various opponents at once by slashing and cutting (I know its been pointed out that its possible to slash with a good spear, put in that case why not tie your sword onto a stick and viola! a spear when you want one! So lets just stick to the traditional usages :wink: !) . Lastly its more handy since rather then pull the whole thing out of your cape or whatever, just reach for your side! Anyone want to debate my opinion?
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Re: Spears or Swords?

Postby NJC » Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:29 pm

Definitely spears. Everyone used spears (a lance is essentially a spear...). The sword was your back-up option for when your spear broke. Never mind that spears are cheaper to make, and easily replaced/repaired. During a pitched battle, knights and serjeants would usually be fighting with the retinues that they likely trained with, so no need to worry about being engaged in individual duels.
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Re: Spears or Swords?

Postby richardanthonyc » Thu Jul 31, 2014 11:21 am

Gentleman may I point you in the direction of the battle of Pydna. Spears were great until uneven group and the Phalanx broke. From there the Romans slaughtered the Macedonians whilst the King fled the battle with his Cavalry without even engaging

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Pydna
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Re: Spears or Swords?

Postby josdu » Thu Jul 31, 2014 1:28 pm

I was talking about jumping into the battle with my choice of a sword or a spear. Also I think Brickninja should define his question; Whats the situation were supposed to be in when you ask us whether we prefer swords or spears? If you mean right now (meaning the person is a peaceful citizen in a large town) , only back in the 15th century, and you say "Here pick a sword or a spear for the one you want to use your whole life. Remember, you'll never be able to use the other." Then I'd pick a sword :wink: . After all, everybody walked around with a sword not a spear because they were much handier.

SO define your self a little better. If you mean we should pick one I'd still pick a sword :wink: .
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Re: Spears or Swords?

Postby Brickninja » Thu Jul 31, 2014 3:59 pm

Nice argument, Josdu. I gues what I mean is "what is the superior all-around weapon for a soldier in battle?"
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Re: Spears or Swords?

Postby josdu » Thu Jul 31, 2014 7:58 pm

Brickninja wrote:Nice argument, Josdu. I gues what I mean is "what is the superior all-around weapon for a soldier in battle?"

It still depends, :tasty: but swords are what mounted knights mostly used (once they had run down their lances) and in future times gentlemen volunteers used and the drilled (at least to a degree :tasty: ) troops and knight's retainers used Pikes and spear. Its true that for the English the latter (and the archers) bore the brunt of most battle's, it could be said that spears are better, but on the other hand, as I'd prefer being one of the former I'd rather have a sword. Also the time period matters because after a while the cavalry took the place of chivalry and they used swords.
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