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5 Famous Historical and Mythical Swords

Updated on February 23, 2018

King Arthur’s Excalibur

As per Arthurian legends, Excalibur is the sword that King Arthur pulled out from a stone, making him a legendary king. It was forged by the breath of The Great Dragon at the behest of the sorcerer Merlin, so predictably it had mystical powers, such as being able to destroy both mortal and magical beings. Before dying, Arthur ordered the sword to be thrown into the lake where the Lady of the Lake’s hand caught it and took it underwater. However, there are several versions of this story, some of which state that the sword pulled from the stone and the Excalibur were two different weapons.


Charlemagne’s Joyeuse

The sword of Joyeuse, which you can find in the Louvre Museum, is among the most celebrated in history. It is linked to Charlemagne the Great, King of the Franks, who reigned some twelve centuries ago. If this were true, the sword of Joyeuse has been used in countless coronation ceremonies. This sword is tied with mystique and legend. It was believed to be so bright that it could outshine the sun and blinded foes in the battlefield. Also, the person wielding the sword could not be poisoned.


The sword Durandal belonged to the Paladin Roland, a historical figure in medieval European tales. Roland is believed to be the nephew of the Roman Emperor, Charlemagne. The sword, which contained a number of sacred Christian relics, was deemed to have been gifted to Charlemagne by an angel of God. Another origin states that Durandal once belonged to the Trojan hero Hector. Regardless of the origins, this sword was valuable and powerful and believed to be devastating in the wrong hands. According to one account, once Ronald tried and failed to destroy the sword and so he hid it under his body before dying. Another account states that Roland flung the sword into the air and it landed in a rock in Rocamadour, a pilgrimage site in France.


Zulfiqar is the name of the sword that Ali ibn Abi Talib wielded. It is said to have been given to him by his father-in-law Muhammad in the Battle of Uhud. As per Islamic tradition, the sword was brought by the angel Jibraeel upon Allah’s orders. Historically depicted as a double-bladed sword, Zulfiqar is frequently shown in the Shi'ite depictions of Ali and also in the form of jewelry. You can find Middle Eastern weapons inscribed with a quote mentioning Zulfiqar, and these swords are at times forged with a split tip as a tribute to the weapon. Zulfiqar is an Arabic word meaning “cleaver of spine.” It was the only double-edged sword of that period.



In 1965, an unusual sword was discovered in a tomb in China. It was the sword Goujian. Despite being over two millennia old, the sword did not have any trace of rust. It is said that the blade drew blood when an archeologist ran his finger on its edge. This fascinating quality aside, the craftsmanship was also amazingly detailed for a sword that old. Today, it is regarded as a state treasure in China, a Chinese version of King Arthur's Excalibur if you will.


© 2018 James Will


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