NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby jackmcauliffe on July 15th, 2010, 11:14 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=et_0Zrx7 ... re=related

This show says that the Irish around the 9th century had a short two foot sword named what sounds like "cleo?" does anyone know the real name for this or spelling. Also is it true some would carry two into battle and that they learned to use them in both hands?
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby Andrew Byrne on July 16th, 2010, 12:20 pm

The medieval Irish term for the sword was claidem pronounced like 'clod-ev' or 'clad-ev'. this later became, in modern Irish claíomh pronounced 'clee-uv' (emphasis very much on the first syllable)

I think the sources for two swords come from the heroic literature, where very few warriors re depicted as grasping two swords, one in each hand. And I mean very very few. The problem is to what extent do these tales reflect reality. The sword is considered an aristocratic, or high status, weapon, and may have only been wielded by nobles, or high status warriors (most probably also nobles). Most warriors would have had a spear and shield, at least. The sword occurs less frequently, and even in the heroic literature, is is most often as part of the weaponry of kings, or noblemen, or warriors directly associated with kings or nobles.

the use of two swords occurs very very infrequently in the tales. I'll find examples later on when I get home, and I'll post up one or two of them if I can

Edited to correct pronunciation
"Wyt ti’n ffrwtin fel gwyddel"
(you are farting like an irishman)
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby jackmcauliffe on July 16th, 2010, 5:57 pm

THANKS! i'm just happy i finally found the actual name and pronounciation. I thought two swords sounded a bit, fanciful but I could understand it being used in myth, even if it was redepictions of them
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby B Stark on July 17th, 2010, 6:00 pm

Just to clarify...the era of Brian Boru was the 10th century. The sword as described in the video would fit the description of find swords from the beginning of the Norse invasions in the late 8th century. The Irish insular swords rarely topped 24-28" OAL, were of course made from wrought iron and rarely heat treated with any real result(most seemingly were worked hardened). So you can imagine why the native Irish suffered so handily against the Norse.

These raiders would typically be armed with a spear, handaxe, large sax knife and swords of norse or continental make that avereged 35" OAL and were made from pattern welded iron/steel. Not to mention the typically armor poor factor of Irish warriors as well being a factor.
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby jackmcauliffe on July 18th, 2010, 10:33 pm

Also very good to know! thanks for bringing this up to me and clarifying
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby Edwin Deady on July 19th, 2010, 3:40 am

"The Irish insular swords rarely topped 24-28" OAL, were of course made from wrought iron and rarely heat treated with any real result(most seemingly were worked hardened). So you can imagine why the native Irish suffered so handily against the Norse. "

There seems to be a myth that quality of weaponry is the determining factor in conflict, it is not. A sharp thing will injure someone whether of bone, stone or finest steel and a club is handy also. We read that bronze or badly tempered swords were useless against more advance iron and steel and this would be true if they indulged in much later fencing styles which of course they did not. Parrying was for the shield not the sword.

Morale, tactics, strategy etc were what determined victory.

Edwin
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby jackmcauliffe on July 19th, 2010, 11:47 am

A very good point, perhaps the Irish style of fighting was effective against itself, not against the Norse which countered their style?
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby Andrew Byrne on July 19th, 2010, 12:59 pm

The Irish were not hopeless against the Norse. On many occasions, if not a large percentage, they were successful (I can;t quite remember the exact number of times the Irish defeated the Norse, but it was a high percentage). The Irish style of fighting was indeed effective against itself, and it is largely thought that the Norse brought into Ireland the idea of 'total warfare'. I.e. full on wars which may have lasted days as opposed to battles which may have lasted mere hours. It is believed that the Irish approach to warfare was almost ritualistic, where the Norse brought in a form of 'no-holds-barred' style of fighting. But this is somewhat speculative. But the Irish, over the coming centuries adapted their fighting style, and perhaps brought it closer to that of the Norse, but even then, their own style of fighting wasn't useless against the Norse.
"Wyt ti’n ffrwtin fel gwyddel"
(you are farting like an irishman)
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby ryanpoe on July 19th, 2010, 2:21 pm

Please dont discount the irish on the account of their native weaponry. Rember that the great ivar the boneless lost his life to the irish outside of dublin. battles are often won or lost by the hearts and determination of the men fighting it. this have been proven time and again throughout history.
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby B Stark on July 19th, 2010, 11:22 pm

Funny how a post will turn...mention the length of someone's weapon and they get all out of shape ;).

It wasn't the Irish weaponry suite ALONE that contributed to the immediate gains of the Norse in Ireland. It was the disunity, the culture and the fact that Ireland by the viking era was fairly peaceable than compared to the Ireland of say the 6th century as well as the fact the Irish fielded no heavy infantry on the level of the Norse. All Irish weapons of the era, including spear heads were small and made of iron or very poorly heat treated steel. The viking's weaponry was larger on average, better able to deal damage to an armored foe and made of steel and was generally fairly well tempered. It is interesting to note that Norse incursions into the interior of the island was limited to the proximity of navigable water, i.e. rivers, loughs or lochs, and of course the coastal areas.

In regards to Ivar, that occurred in the last quarter of the 9th century. I would imagine that the Irish had already been assimilating norse weapons and tactic(as well as allies) for sometime. No one truly knows what killed Ivar(be it sword, spear or Osteogenesis imperfecta) and it it may be pure legend that he waskilled in battle outside of Dublin.

The Irish have always had a natural affintiy to guerilla fighting tactics and the interiror of Ireland was riddled with bogs, and expansively thick forests where the Norse would be at a significant disadvantage.

Not that any of this has anything to do with the questions put forth...
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby ryanpoe on July 20th, 2010, 12:10 am

Where are you getting that someone has gotten"bent out of shape"? as to the post turning That happens they ebb, flow and evolve. The problem with The written word is that it lacks inflection and leaves some to see what isn't there or take things as they were not intended. when one points a finger at someone they in turn have three pointing back at themselvs. You can come down off your soap box now and I shall come down from mine. *biggrin*
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby jackmcauliffe on July 20th, 2010, 11:50 am

well i'm quite glad this convorsation came from my simple question. This is all very good to know and every post is actually really helpful. Thanks guys!
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby ryanpoe on July 20th, 2010, 2:49 pm

Jack,
I,m very glad to see that you have taken an intrest in the native irish if only in a small part.sadly to few my friend, have an intrist in such a unique and splendid culture. good luck and fare thee well in all your future studies.
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby jackmcauliffe on July 21st, 2010, 12:32 pm

You too! Good luck and bring any new discussions or ideas you have in mind to me if you ever feel the need.
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby jackmcauliffe on July 22nd, 2010, 12:09 pm

Now that I started this topic, I have one more question I forgot! appart from swords, what else did the irish, around Boru's time wear. As in for war. I know they wore celtic clothing and mail but what else? is there any statues, descriptions, depictions or other that would help describe their looks. all i can find is they dressed similar to their viking enemies. not very helpful
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby Andrew Byrne on July 22nd, 2010, 12:48 pm

Information on Irish clothing at that time comes primarily from literature, mainly heroic accounts that deal with warfare, though other literary sources give some detail on clothing too. There is some pictographic evidence, some from manuscripts (though these are contentious as clothed figures in manuscripts may be influenced or borrowed from other manuscript sources outside, and hence may not reflect Irish clothing styles). Some pictographic evidence on high crosses gives some information, and cross examined with literary evidence gives a small bit of information into clothing from this time.

If you like I can send you some information regarding Irish clothing at this time (pm your email and its yours). One book to read is Máiréad Dunleavy's book on IRish clothing 'Dress in Ireland', and McCLintock's Old Irish and Highland Dress is good for information also.

The main items of clothing included the léine which is a tunic, made primarily from linen, although can also be from wool. this tunic is said to reach from between the mid thigh to the knees. It can be worn next to the skin, or over another tunic (especially if wool). Another tunic item is the ionar/inar and this is thought to be a shorter tunic, and worn over the léine. The cloak is known by a few words, but the main is the brat which is believed to be a form of square cloak and not tight fitting. A brooch was used to close this. Long trousers are nbelieved to be brought in around the Viking era, if not just later, but short trousers, reaching to around the knee are thought to have existed. These could be worn as part of the warriors outfit. Many people who portray the Irish warrior of this time wear short trousers, with the short tunic. I myself go for a knee-length tunic with the tousers from time to time, but I am working on shorter over tunic at the moment.
Some Irish, especially in and around the major towns, are believed to have dressed similarly to the Scandinavians and it is thought that their fashion would have spread out over the country too. But to what extent, it is unknown for sure. It is possible that Irish were dressing in the Scandinavain fashion, and vica versa. SO to dress as a Viking would not be wrong, essentially.


As to what they wore in war, it is relatively unknown, although we have some ideas. The standard would be normal clothing, such as tunics, and trousers (if they were worn), shoes etc.
Weapons - primarily spear and shield. It is thought that a number of javelins were also in the mix (perhaps two javelins, and one thrusting spear). There is no clue as to whether these javelins are shorter spears, or just the same but thrown. The literary evidence seems to suggest both possibilities.
Protective armour is problematic. There is literary evidence to suggest the Irish wore some form of protective clothing, but exactly what is not fully known. For example, the term lúrach is used to denote some form of pretective garment, but it is not know if this represents some form of leather armour, or some ring maille armour. The term is said to ultimately derive from the latin term lorica (?), which signifies some forms of armour. helmets were worn, but gain it is unknown what they were like. It is thought that after the Viking incursions, this term depicts ring-maille armour. Perhaps the depictions of Irish men wearing the lúrach signifies their wearing of ring maille.
The idea of armour in battle of the Irish, it is thought reflects status. So a poorer warrior would/ or may not have had armour and helmet and sword etc, but they would have used spear and shield combination. Swords it seems were signifiers of wealth, and were restricted to 'upper class' warriors and nobles. Alot of the literary evidence details the martial accoutriments of the noble warriors, but does not give much info on the lower class warriors. I will stress that the literary evidence is not a be all end all of information on this aspect of society, as the literature is full of exaggerations, and of literary licensing. But we can excavate some information on this from the literature, and attempt to see what is true or false.

By the time the Normans arrived (1169-1172) the Irish were seen to have used axes in warfare, similar in nature to the Scandinavians, from whom they derived this from. So perhaps they were using axes by the end of the 9th century.

I know this is a very general guide, and if you want more accurate info, just pm me, and I can dish out more then.
"Wyt ti’n ffrwtin fel gwyddel"
(you are farting like an irishman)
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby Andrew Byrne on July 22nd, 2010, 12:50 pm

Oh, I meant to ad, take a visit to www.livinghistory.ie, where discussions over this topic had been dealt with many times before.
"Wyt ti’n ffrwtin fel gwyddel"
(you are farting like an irishman)
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby ryanpoe on July 22nd, 2010, 3:39 pm

Andrew,
You are indeed a wellspring of information. With your permission I would like to pm you sometime. I was thinking of putting together an Irish fian impression of the second-first cent bc. I am quite sure you would have the information I need. I am of Irish decent and want to honour my ancient ancestors, but information is very scant.

Jack, If you ever want to do something along thoes same lines contact me and perhaps we could help eachother out.
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby B Stark on July 22nd, 2010, 9:23 pm

I don't use a soapbox i use lifts in my shoes...and I was making a joke...duh. I quote...
"Funny how a post will turn...mention the length of someone's weapon and they get all out of shape ;)."

Notice the TYPED emoticon. Perhaps the subtlety of my wit is too subtle? *wink*
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby ryanpoe on July 22nd, 2010, 9:59 pm

Perhaps, like I said The written word lacks inflection.... It might not have been misunderstood if perhaps a smiley was used instead. sarchasm is indeed a fine line to walk it has turned many a lighthearted conversation into a pissing match, especially with thoes whom are very direct in their communications. all aside, I do like your opening responce. I however prefer a white very tall horse, failing that a soapbox will have to do.
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby jackmcauliffe on July 22nd, 2010, 11:04 pm

Andrew that was so helpful! again and as usuall that will be well used and it's good to know there can be some form of creativity to look into as far as irish armour would go. having some form of a basis for what I should look to is a great start. Also I would like that Book so I will PM you.

And Ryan, I would love to exchange info gathered. What I am looking to depict is a 8th-10th century Irish warrior ( yes I know they went through big changes in those years) but having the before and after is my goal.
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby jackmcauliffe on August 5th, 2010, 11:57 am

ok wait, I kinda forgot to mention. what does the sword actually look like!? that was going to be my point and i got side tracked. sorry but does anyone have any pictures or descriptions of these types of blades??
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby B Stark on August 7th, 2010, 5:37 pm

To my knowledge no hilt components have survived from just pior to the Pre-Norse incursions in the Ireland. Some blades and blade fragments have survived. These more or less represent what is referred to as 'sub-roman' in their appearance(most sport the profile of a spatha but once agian they are shorter than true Roamn spatha). They appear to have been the longest used right up to the Norse invasions. Organic hilt, most sporting some sort of campanulate guard. There are also the expanded-end/crannog swords that date from the 7th-8th centuries. Those blades that have survived must have used entirely organic hilts as no metal hilt componenets have survived as well. It is not known how quickly Norse swords were adopted by the Irish as far as a general pattern.
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby jackmcauliffe on August 7th, 2010, 6:27 pm

is this a good reproduction of one? I assume this fits your description including the fact it mentions hilt components that were found.

http://www.ironagearmoury.com/lisnacrogher.html
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Re: NATIVE IRISH SWORD?

Postby B Stark on August 9th, 2010, 12:39 pm

Shane did a respectable representation of this sword. The only thing I would say is off in his reproduction is the thickness of the hilt components, other than that, it is about the right dimensions and overall feel. Unfortunately, it is from about the 1st century BC by all accounts or at least no later than the 1st cent. AD. This is not what would be considered a 'sub roman' sword. This sword falls along the 'Ultimate La tene' design tradition. Her is a pic of a blade from a Dutch? museum of an Irish blade from the 8th cent. It very much resembles some earlier Roman spatha other than the tang and the overall length.
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Irish sword 8th century.jpg

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