- Education and Science»
- History & Archaeology
A History of Swords, B.C to A.D
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.