Ancient weapon choices: why swords?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by phx1138, May 10, 2019.

  1. wtw Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2010
    That and they had a tendency to snap into pieces in the East where trees were an issue.
     
    Lenwe likes this.
  2. wtw Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2010
    I find myself being able to use a bow reasonably well, which to be honest I did not expect.
     
    Lenwe likes this.
  3. RousseauX Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2011
    The primary battlefield weapon for most ancient/medieval civilizations (Rome being the notable exception) were always spears I think
     
  4. piratedude Pirate Lord of the Great Lakes

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2017
    Well in english lance reffers to spears designed for use on horseback. I've rarely, if ever, seen it used to refer to spears used on foot
     
  5. dandan_noodles Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2015
    Depends on era. For most of the medieval period, English knights used lances on foot as well as horseback, even after it did develop into a more specialized mounted weapon; before the 12th century, there was no real distinction between the lancea of the footmen and the knights.
     
    inawarminister likes this.
  6. Stephanus Meteu Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2018
    Do you have any reasoning or evidence for believing so?

    The Lindybiege test certainly doesn't agree with this.

    Nor do the basic mechanical properties of the weapons.

    Shields are certainly a huge plus, especially provides a big psych confidence boost, and like armor allows for a bit more aggressive style, and I think in formation the shield really starts to become more decisive, but in solo spar, duel, or battle if the opponents are of identical skill my bet goes on spear not sword.

    Really the elite cavalry will have BOTH lance AND sword, probably a couple other weapons, too.

    Also, the US Army was perhaps the exception and seemed able to teach any idiot to swing a saber but never trained a single competent lancer ever.

    Umm... that doesn't speak well of the troopers carrying those lances. At all. Calls the horsemanship of those into question as well, too.

    The infantry would certainly never have gotten away with that kind of mishandling of the government's property.

    Dreadful as the individual drill obviously was, one must suspect the formation drill and tactics would have been even worse, which given the frequently terrible mishandling of cavalry isn't surprising.

    The American Civil War is pretty much a case study in how to do war badly. (With some notable exceptions and with improving competency by late stages.)
     
  7. bernardz Kicked Donor

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2018
    This is in length for pikes, I say about 7 ft for line and there would be many lines behind you. I expect that once the lines crashed they would go into an extremely tight formation.


    I have used crossbows a lot so I can speak with some experience. The problem with bows it is takes time to build up muscle and it takes some time for a person to get a decent aim. How long would it take for the longbow, I am not sure? I think firing from a horse like a Mongol would take awhile.

    Interestingly I think a crossbow would not take very long at all for a reasonably strong man to learn.

    Generally yes but there are Mongols too. Most of the armies of the steppes used archer riders.

    The Romans primary weapon was the spear, the legionnaire would throw the spear and then afterwards come in with a sword although sometimes they would fight hand-to-hand combat with spears too. You may find this useful on this question.

    https://about-history.com/the-advancement-and-effectiveness-of-the-late-roman-weapons/
     
    wtw, Lenwe and RousseauX like this.
  8. Lenwe Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2015
    Location:
    Santiago
    Are you speaking of Infantry men or cavalry units the one the USA teach how to swing a saber? Because in the part of become a superb swordman or spearman the capacity of use one or the other mounted in a horse is a clear example of mastery,
    in the use of the weapons if you are speaking about cavalry units you are suporting my point
     
  9. elkarlo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2009
    Location:
    Sendai Japan
    Very true. It's also easier to stay in formation with a spear walls than with swords. But still swords up close are better, and though Spears are great, there are times when distance makes them useless.
    With a sword I wouldn't want to close with a spear and shield wall. But in that wall, I'd want a shower melee weapon too.
    Even a small axe is unevenly weighted and is probably exhausting to use for more than a fee minutes.
     
    inawarminister and kholieken like this.
  10. Zen9 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2018
    Sword of course covers a wide spectrum of shapes and sizes.

    Comparing a Egyptian Kopesh with a Japanese No-Dachi and Rapier covers different uses, different types of opponent and different fighting methods.
    Each made sense in their time and place.
    Perhaps the problem here is the word 'Sword' itself?
     
  11. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    No shields mean you are vulnerable to almost everything. Forget arrows, shields are good protection against swords and spears and maces as well.
     
    Lenwe and Fabius Maximus like this.
  12. Gannt the chartist Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2010
    Not the experience of the British in India, a Bayonet man can always beat a good sword and shield man was an article of faith, and proven elsewhere.
     
  13. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    The important thing was muskets were inaccurate and short ranged. Once the rifled musket, and worse yet the breech-loading rifle were invented melee weapons became useless, including lances.
     
  14. Richard V Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2013
    Well no wonder, Indian dhal shields are marginally larger than bucklers. Small shields are almost useless against spear thrusts. They simply don’t have the coverage to deal with quick change in thrusting direction. They are designed for convenience of carry not battlefield effectiveness. This is why I said “arming sword and a large shield”. A Highland targe or better yet a Viking shield is a whole different matter.
     
    Fabius Maximus likes this.
  15. Fabius Maximus Unus qui nobis cunctando restituit rem

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2013
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    To be fair, there are example of the opposite occurring -- e.g., the Scottish Highlanders were able to chew up multiple British armies in hand-to-hand combat.
     
  16. Kaze Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2017
    Then there are the myths behind them. The story of Gordius' knot would sound weird if Alexander suddenly drew his yo-yo and poked it until it untied. Or King Arthur drew the spear from the stone and became right-wise High-King. Or Musashi using his two ax style against a man with a fifteen feet pike. It just does not have the same ring of legend and myth.
     
  17. Zen9 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2018
    And yet....

    Wotan/Odin/Woden has the treaty with the Giants carved on a spear.
    And I seem to recall that an oath was made on a spear in the Niebelunglied.
     
    inawarminister likes this.
  18. bernardz Kicked Donor

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2018
    It largely depends on your enemy. For example, a banzai charge was very effective against Chinese National Troops in China in the 1930s, it proved to be much less effective in the Pacific against American troops.
     
  19. Gannt the chartist Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2010
    No they were able to chew up local militias. Once they faced trained troops - Culloden.

    Not really a war shield is about the same size as a targe or Viking round shield. The very small buckler types are duelling/martial arts weapons.
     
    TaronQuinn, FALightFighter and Lenwe like this.
  20. Lenwe Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2015
    Location:
    Santiago
    No, not really, in general, a battle axe is really well balanced and tend to weight less than a similar lenght sword, wood could be more resistant and ligther than most form of pre-industrial iron, and the fact a battle is weigthed in both extremes, in the axe head proper and with a counterbalnce near the handle, making his use as fast a sword, and with more weight in the strike zone that coud mean you do blunt damage even againts a heavily armored oponet,

    now if your are thinking ina typical utily axe or woodsman´s axe you are right they are cumberstone and exhausting to use in battle, but they aren´t designated or balanced to be used in battle, but will do in a pinch