About swords length

About swords length

Postby Federico on January 2nd, 2015, 3:48 pm

Hi guys and Happy New year to you all,

a few days ago, i was cleanin' my sword and like a lightin' in a blue sky, an answer escaped from my mouth.
Immage a richer noble who needs a new sword, he ask to the blacksmith to make it; well, did the blacksmith considered the arm length and the heighness of the warrior? I know that the blades founded started from 60 to 80 cm more or less, but were there some criterions for select the length?
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Re: About swords length

Postby Luka Borščak on January 4th, 2015, 3:09 pm

I think the first written evidence for selecting the size of the sword according to a person's height and arm length doesn't exist before renaissance. Of course it doesn't mean these things weren't considered. Swords were always distributed in various ways, inheritance, trade, buying an already existing sword, either used or unused, state distributing swords in an emergency or to soldiers and than taking their value of the soldier's sallary, of course, as you say, custom orders by people who could afford ordering a new sword made according to their wishes... If a noble ordered a sword made especially for him or if someone ordered a sword as a gift for someone, the smith might be given a free hand or he might get a strict guidance about what to make. When talking about stuff like this I think there are simply no rules. I don't think advices given by rennaisance masters are also applicable for all situations. Different warriors have different preferences. I am short and I have short hands, but I like to use medieval and rennaisance longswords with very long blades, and it is debatable if that is logical or not. When fighting with sword and shield I like to use big shields and mid sized singlehanders. I choose weapons according to situation I'm going to be with, not that much according to my height. Others may have different experiences.
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Re: About swords length

Postby Matthew Amt on January 5th, 2015, 10:04 am

I suspect that cultural fashion was a much larger factor for blade length. That was always a *range* of size, of course, and it should be safe to assume that personal preference and perhaps body size were considerations within that range. There is a style of Mycenaean Greek bronze swords, very early, that run 3 to 4 feet in length. A couple centuries later, and all the blades are down to 1 to 2 feet. I don't think body sizes changed THAT much! Similarly, Late Republican Roman swords have 24 to 27 inch blades, then they all shorten to 18 to 21 inches within a century. And 2 centuries after that, longer blades are back in style. You see the same sort of changes over time with Celtic swords, shorter for a while and then longer.

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Re: About swords length

Postby Federico on January 10th, 2015, 7:20 am

Ok guys, thanks for your precious advices!
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Re: About swords length

Postby Darren Raleigh on June 15th, 2015, 9:35 am

I'll agree with Matthew. As Peter Johnsson once said to me, "Celtic swords were male jewelry."
The preeminent weapon of the field was the spear. A sword was a backup weapon in extremis, but it was a status symbol all the time.
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Re: About swords length

Postby Edwin Deady on June 16th, 2015, 2:58 pm

If the spear was the pre-eminent weapon why the name Calgacus (the Swordsman) and the accounts of "Celts" swinging big pointless swords?
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Re: About swords length

Postby Darren Raleigh on June 16th, 2015, 4:32 pm

Because there was such a guy, and because there were people swinging big swords without much point.
I said "pre-eminent. I didn't say "only."
When people think of the samurai they think about the sword. Yet the spear was the pre-eminent weapon for them too.
No wait. You're right. The existence of that name and the description of the Celtic swords by foreigners completely obviate the idea of the spear being the pre-eminent weapon. I've trained with both and in a battle I can tell you which I'd use first, but what do I know?
I know that I only come here when I forget that Edwin Deady is here and what a rude pain in the ass he is.
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Re: About swords length

Postby Edwin Deady on June 16th, 2015, 4:55 pm

Sweet of you to say so X

Evidence of pre-eminence of spears would be good in order to end my ignorance.
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Re: About swords length

Postby Edwin Deady on June 16th, 2015, 5:02 pm

Interesting the mention of Samurai. I thought that the bow was the principal offensive weapon with the sword for the hand to hand period of a battle.
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Re: About swords length

Postby Darren Raleigh on June 16th, 2015, 5:10 pm

You are rude. And wrong. And cannot disagree politely.
I'm out.
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Re: About swords length

Postby Edwin Deady on June 16th, 2015, 5:23 pm

And "pain in the ass" isn't rude? Must remember that along with the evidence for the importance of spears. Oh wait, I wasn't given any.
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Re: About swords length

Postby Steven M. Peffley on June 16th, 2015, 6:20 pm

Okay, fight nice or I swear by Lugh, I'll stop this chariot right now and you both can walk home!

Seriously though, is there absolute, hard evidence for the spear being the predominant weapon? Depends on what you will accept as proof.
What I can state is that spear heads outnumber swords by a factor of about ten to one in most archaeological contexts. That and the prevalence of "magic" spears in Celtic Myth and Legend as opposed to swords is another.
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Re: About swords length

Postby Edwin Deady on June 17th, 2015, 4:04 am

Reasonable evidence Steven. Of course one could interpret the number of spears as opposed to the number of swords as spears being more disposable and thus less "pre-eminent". Among what we call Anglo-Saxons the spear was the mark of a free man. A slave would have the shaft broken across their back if they carried one. However, pretensions to status required a sword, "Gold decorated sword but still not a Thegn etc" for example.

What of the Roman accounts of "Celtic" swordsmen albeit armed with what the Romans considered swords of inferior metal maybe but armed with swords. Certainly used and not mere male jewellery.Other cultures did tend towards the spear as the weapon of choice, some African tribes and Greeks of the phalanx for example. Of course one could argue that the short stabbing assegai of the amaZulu was used more like a sword. But, and there is always a but, the short Greek sword and the knobkerrie were ever present and used.

Incidentally I don't find evidence from the use of swords and spears in reenactment very compelling. They are not sharp and people do not, generally, get cut and die during reenacted battles. Some practice sessions using systems such as Fiore can radically alter one's opinions as to how weapons might have been used and defended against. As Wilkinson, Fairbairn, Sykes and others have commented the dagger is the most lethal weapon, or maybe the trained body is whatever the weapon. Certainly the Greeks thought so and probably so did the people of iron Age Europe, fines for being fat etc.

Confusing ain't it?
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Re: About swords length

Postby Luka Borščak on June 17th, 2015, 6:57 am

Hm, I will try to find an article I remember reading which stated that early La Tene warfare (except big migrations of course) was mainly between noble warriors, duelling, small warfare, and most of these noble warriors used throwing spears and then swords, and later La Tene wars were often bigger and against outside enemies like Rome or the Germans for example and that called for larger levies of non noble warriors and these mostly used longer heavier spears for fighting in lines. Ceasar describes Helvetian lines as phalanxes fighting with spears as far as I remember. Ceasar mostly mentiones spears and javelins, not swords, at least not much.
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Re: About swords length

Postby Edwin Deady on June 17th, 2015, 12:09 pm

Odd sort of male jewellery, bit dull.
http://www.hjortspring.dk/wold/images/kaul24s16f.jpg

and of course they had spears.
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Re: About swords length

Postby Angus M on June 24th, 2015, 3:52 am

Anyhoo, it's not how big it is, it's what you do with it that counts....
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Re: About swords length

Postby Edwin Deady on June 24th, 2015, 4:31 am

Ooh! Angus, you are awful. Still. always use a scabbard.
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Re: About swords length

Postby Denis Grabow on June 24th, 2015, 3:10 pm

The length of a sword also depends on the tactics used. Or so I have learned.

Long swords are better for single fights or lose formation, whereas shorter swords are easier to draw in tight formation. Then of course there is the question of material sturdiness. Long blades break easier. So if the material is less stable, shorter swords are better because they keep in one piece for a longer time.

A spear on the other hand would be my first choice in a group fight because it has a larger range. And you don't just have to punch, you can also slash with a spear. In that case the longer range means a faster speed at the tip. And a faster speed means more power.
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Re: About swords length

Postby Edwin Deady on June 24th, 2015, 5:04 pm

First choice or use doesn't mean pre-eminent though, otherwise the sling stone or arrow or javelin might be. Perhaps we can just agree on horses for courses with the proviso that the sword was always worn with the intention of being used if necessary and was not just an item of personal decoration no matter how fancy?
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