ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A History of Swords, B.C to A.D

Updated on January 12, 2013

The sword throughout history has been a symbol of power, courage and skill; able to capture the imagination of all us in the modern world. The sword is a weapon that has served warriors of all nations for thousands of years. Even today the military elite are still given an officers sabre as a sign of power and authority.

The first swords

The first historical record of swords is within the Greek legends. These first swords were from around 1000 BC, the late bronze age. The metal of the blade ran all the way through the handle; this allowed the user to put the force in the actual blade rather than just the handle. If the handle and blade are made separately the weapon would often break at the joining point. It was both a thrusting and a chopping weapon.

The Roman/Greek swords

These swords were first developed by the Romans in around 600-700 BC, they were adopted by the Greeks in 500 BC. It had a single edge and was weighted at the top so it could gain its own momentum as it was slung; this made it primarily a chopping weapon. Earlier versions were even weightier at the top; this made the swords more like meat cleavers.

Roman/Greek sword looked something like this
Roman/Greek sword looked something like this

The Gladius Hispaniensis

This sword was a hybrid of the Spanish swords and the roman swords of around 200 BC. The blade had two very effective cutting edges and a pong point. It was best suited for thrusting but could be used to slash. It was used until the fall of the Roman Empire in 400 AD.

Gladius Hispaniensis
Gladius Hispaniensis

The swords of the barbarians

The barbarians who followed preferred longer slashing swords. They viewed their swords with a sort of spiritual or religious significance. They often named their swords.

‘Any Viking worth his salt had a sword’

Viking blades were definitely more for cutting that stabbing, in fact many were not even sharp but relied on the force of the blow to rip flesh and break bone.

barbarian sword
barbarian sword

Medieval swords

But not all sword crafts died out with ancient civilisations. The medieval knights also lived and died by the world. To the medieval knight the sword showed status, honour and skill.

By the 15th century most swords were made with sharp points to thrust and cut. Many were made for use with two hands.

Two handed swords

These swords were dangerous weapons. They weighed around 5 pounds and some were up to four and a half feet long. These swords, in the right hands, were both fast and powerful. Cleverly designed so the long blade was balanced with a long grip with a counter weight at the end of the handle.

two handed sword
two handed sword
English Broadsword
English Broadsword

The broad sword/rapier development

In the late 16th century England the broad bladed sword was still in fashion and young gentlemen trained in their use, both cuts and thrusts.

The new sword, know as the rapier was long and ‘stylish’. This new style of sword combat relied entirely on thrusts with the point of the weapon; an Italian technique. Criticised as only attacking and no defending.

a Rapier
a Rapier
an 18th/19th century Cavalry sword
an 18th/19th century Cavalry sword

Cavalry swords

Even in the early 20th century swords were still used. In the military the Cavalry still believed that the most effect weapon was cold steel.  The earlier curved cavalry swords were excellent for both cutting and stabbing. By the time of the Crimean war straight swords were in use, a stabbing sword.

By 1908 the new cavalry swords were long, narrow and stiff; excellent for thrusting.

1908 model
1908 model

The Japanese samurai sword

 

The sword making craft is considered one of the highest arts by the Japanese people. For over a thousand years the sword has held a deep spiritual place in the Japanese culture. Swordplay, as it is know in the western world, is virtually unheard of in the east. Often the killing blow was made from the draw. The cutting edge of a Japanese sword is to too weak to use to block so the back to face or the sword has to be used.

The sword and the sword making craft has been passed down for a thousand years and has remained the same.

It is a cutting not a thrusting one; it is the single most deadly close quarters killing machine ever created.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Devin 

      2 years ago

      Is no one gonna call this guy out for claiming that the sword from 300 is a historical sword? Or any other of this articles gross inaccuracies?

    • EJ Lambert profile image

      EJ Lambert 

      5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Everyone will usually reference the katana or the broadsword and the most recognizable in history, but to me there was no better weapon than the gladius. Short, compact, light weight and deadly in close quarters. In the hands of a proper soldier it was irreplaceable. There is a reason they call it the "sword that won an Empire."

    • jaskar profile imageAUTHOR

      jaskar 

      6 years ago from England

      hi uddin, interesting question but that's a very limited area of my knowledge.

      pretty much all i know is the Egyptian sickle sword. an interesting weapon, although wasn't heavy enough. proved useful in small melee on 1v1 engagements because of its disarming and close quarter ability. however, rank n file armed with it were not as effective as say the Gladius Hispaniensis.

      hope that was at least interesting for you, if no totally irrelevant.

    • profile image

      uddin 

      6 years ago

      what's your opinion on early middle eastern swords from Babylon Assyria Egypt.

    • jaskar profile imageAUTHOR

      jaskar 

      7 years ago from England

      thanks ruffridyer.

      Rapier comes from the european (french, spanish or italian im not really sure) word for small sword. but when the british adopted they started using it for the classification instead of the name.

      my friend seems to think the word rape comes from a latin word that means to take. but don't quote me on that.

    • profile image

      ruffridyer 

      7 years ago from Dayton, ohio

      It is facinanting to see the evolution of swords, from the clumsy bronze age to the elegaint rapier. The purpose remains the same, to kill.

      I wonder is the rapier where we get the word rape from? Just a thought.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)