Medieval Weaponry Essay

1797 words - 7 pages

Soldiers in medieval Europe used a variety of weapons. A soldier's choice of armor depended on the time during which he lived, the type of fighting he did, and his economic situation. For hand-to-hand combat soldiers typically used swords, axes, clubs, and spears. Crossbows, bows, and javelins served as projectiles for most of the medieval period, though firearms had begun to appear toward the end of the era. Siege weapons such as catapults helped armies break into castles and towns. Many soldiers wore armor to protect them from opponents' weapons. This armor evolved from mail made of metal links to full plate armor as projectile weapons improved.

Medieval soldiers used a variety of weapons for hand-to-hand combat. All knights carried swords with them, and the best soldiers were expected to be skilled at swordplay. A sword consisted of a long blade and a handle called a hilt. Hilts could be made to accommodate one or two hands. Basic hilts were topped with a crosspiece that kept an opponent's sword from sliding down the blade and striking the soldier's hands. Some later swords had more elaborate hand guards. At the end of the hilt was a lump of metal called a pommel, which served as a counterweight to the blade. Sword blades could have one or two cutting edges, and the blades could be curved or straight, depending on how they were meant to be used. Most swords had a sharp point at the end to allow stabbing thrusts. Sword blade lengths varied greatly. The Vikings in the 800s used a sword that was about 3 feet long with a hilt that was usually held in one hand. Blades grew slightly longer during the 11th and 12th centuries. The long sword was common in the 14th through 16th centuries. It had a thinner and lighter blade than earlier swords and a long hilt that allowed the user to swing it with both hands. During the 15th century bastard swords appeared. These swords had a hilt that was short enough to be held in one hand but with a little extra space to accommodate a second hand if necessary, making them more versatile than earlier swords.

Many soldiers carried small blades called daggers in addition to their swords. A dagger had a hilt like a sword and a double-edged blade that was typically between 6 and 12 inches long. Daggers were useful as an extra stabbing weapon during hand-to-hand combat. Soldiers wore both swords and daggers in sheaths hung from their belts. Not all would-be fighters could afford swords, nor could they spend time learning the intricacies of knightly fighting. Still, there were a variety of cheaper weapons available in the medieval period. The most primitive type of weapon was a simple club, a heavy object on a handle designed to batter the enemy. Maces were blunt heavy heads mounted on long handles. They were useful for bludgeoning opponents whose armor could turn aside sword blades. The morning star was a mace with multiple points attached to its head, making it resemble a starburst. The flail was a long handle with a...

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