The many styles of sword design.
From the youngest age the majority of young male's pretend to be either Pirates, Knights, Gladiators, Vikings or anything else with a hint of violence. Maybe the male of the species is pre-determined to make War or maybe the society we live in programs us from a very young age to do this. Every culture has a variation on the Sword design, the swords we see used today are now mainly ceremonial and were influenced by sucessive innovations and cultural need. The Christian nations of the world from the Norman period onward's incorporated the sign of the Holy Cross into its design and this was mirrored by the Muslim/Saracen crescent shaped Scimitar. After the Crusades and the age of Knights ended the Sword in Europe became more of a Sabre style weapon, this was due to the advancement of Musket firearms and the use of Horse Cavalry.
The following Five swords are among my favourite designs from different periods of History.
(1) Samurai Katana
The culture of Japan was protected and nurtured by the Samurai, the Samurai owed their inner power and strength to their noble blade. The sword of the Samurai was the Katana, and the sword was graded by their cutting power. To make a true Samurai blade, the sword smith acted with the spiritual, physical and mental discipline of a Buddhist monk. The Japanese sword smith would pray to Buddha to make a perfect sword and would abstain from sex, to make the sword as pure in spirit as they themselves. The Katana was made by fusing a soft steel in the blades centre to give it flexibility and hard steel at the blade edges to give strength. The Steel was also mixed with charcoal, this added carbon to the steel to help prevent the blade from shattering on impact. It also allowed the Steel to be folded several times to give the Blade additional strength.
The production of Katana blades started in 900 AD and went through to the end of World War Two. Since the 1950s the production of the blades has become heavily regulated in Japan. Other countries do produce the blades but they are usually mass produced for the martial art market.
The Falcata was used by the Celtic tribes people of Modern Day Spain, in their battles with the invading Roman soldiers. The Blade's design harks back to the historic Iron Age knives that appeared around 1000BC, the weapon was used initially for ceremonial work rather than open warfare. The Falcata was not a common blade as the Sword is made from Iron, in a time when Iron was a scarce material. The blade was often heavily decorated and buried with leaders who deserved such status and honour.
The weapon we call a Falcata would not have been called a Falcata as it is a 19th century term. The Romans referred to the weapon as "machaera Hispana", what the original users called it has been confined to the abyss of History. The weapon was quickly replaced by the Roman produced weapons, as the Celt tribes became part of the Roman Empire. Although it was inferior to the more advanced Roman weapons, it was a feared and respected weapon and showed the skill of the Celt weapon smiths.
The Falcata was used by Iberian mercenaries and had the power and quickness to defeat opponents. The single edge blade meant that the Celts using the blade against a Roman formation had to open themselves up to slash down and across the Legionnaire. This left the user open to a quick thrust into the gut by the smaller and quicker Roman blade.
(3) Cavalry Sabre
The Cavalry Sabre was used extensively by Officers and other Elite mounted troops in the battle against enemy infantry, Scout units or Partizan forces. The sword was a great psychological weapon to use when on Horseback, attacking ill trained and scared soldiers within an open space. The forerunner of the Sabre's used by the Imperial powers from 1600 onward's has it's origins in the Mongol Warriors and their ancestors.The Sword is designed to slash down upon an opponent and is a single edged weapon that carves up enemies at speed.
Some of the most highly prized Sabre's originate from the time of the American Civil War, the Confederate blades are worth more than their Union counterparts. This is due to a number of reasons, firstly not many Confederate blades survived their defeat and most Confederate blades were purchased from oversea's countries such as Britain and France. This meant that a lot of the weapons were sold back to merchants after the war, the Union forces were more uniformed and issued the swords to their troops. In the modern United States the weapon has become a ceremonial weapon used with dress uniforms for those special occasions.
(4) Viking Broadsword
The Viking Broadsword was a weapon designed to Hack and Slash in a single arm, while the weaker hand was used to hold a defensive shield or weapon. The Steel Blades were lethal and expensive and cost a fortune by today's standards. Before the Viking's adopted the twin edged Broadsword from the Germanic peoples to their South, the Viking's used single edged weapons which were originally of Agricultural use. The Viking blade is thought to have evolved from the Roman Cavalry sword the Spatha, most high status Viking Blades would have been forged in the Germanic area's of Europe. The quality of the Viking's native Iron was inferior to imported ore.
The Viking swords were made to be strong and hardy, a Viking Sword was often passed down family lines and many had a legend attached to them. The Viking's also carved their language into their blades using runes, they believed this gave the swords magical abilities and their own personality. The damage a veteran Viking warrior standing over six foot tall with the Sword in his hand could do was brutal. Apart from the obvious chops, slash's and stabs, the blunt force trauma from the blow could break bones and incapacitate opponents.
The Viking Swords were carried on after the Vikings became less aggressive and became Christian. The Swords of the Norman's evolved into the Crusader swords, and they had many variations over the years.
South Europe/ N Africa
(5) The Scottish Claymore
The Scottish Claymore was a huge Sword which would intimidate an opponent on the battlefield, it's blade measured around 4 ft and had to be used in both hands due to its size and weight. The blade was sharp on both sides and was ideal for cutting down multiple enemies due to its arc of death, it was used much like a Viking or Saxon War Axe. It's size meant that it was not a close combat weapon like the Spartan Xiphos, and it would have rarely been used as a thrusting blade. A Scottish Claymore blade would have been effective against a mounted opponent and would have butchered rider and horse with it's blow.
The Claymore came into general use in 1400 AD until 1700 AD, and was a deviation from the European broadsword brought over by the Vikings many centuries previous. It was made of Steel and would have caused a great deal of damage to the link mail armour of the time and would have blunt force trauma to the early suits of armour. It was often used by the Scottish Clan's in various small scale battles among the tribal factions.
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