Early medieval polearms

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Julia
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Early medieval polearms

Postby Julia » Sun Nov 11, 2012 5:25 am

I'm interested in expanding my armoury's pole arm section beyond the basic single and two handed spears, and am pondering what the options available are in terms on pole arms suitable to the 12th century and early 13th century. I find references to glaives, guisarme etc... But most seem to relate to later versions of the weapons. I found one find of a guisarme in one of the Osprey books on the crusades, but this is the only information relating to a find that I've been able to track down.

Can anyone recommend any good sources for early medieval pole arm finds?

Thanks

J



cloudy-cola-corp
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Re: Early medieval polearms

Postby cloudy-cola-corp » Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:45 pm

how about a spetum i was told they where 13th century although i have no refernces but you might be able to find some somewhere



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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Early medieval polearms

Postby Brother Ranulf » Sun Nov 11, 2012 2:28 pm

I did some extensive research into 12th century pole arms a few years back. The outcome was that simple spears were by far the most commonly used both by knights and troops on foot, with some rare and exotic late 12th century exceptions in England.

These include the glaive, fouchard and voulge (all are Anglo-Norman French terms and all have variable spellings).

The glaive is a general term for any edged weapon including the sword, but sometimes means a long,single-edged straight socketed blade attached to a pole - presumably derived from some agricultural tool (as this things mainly were).

The fouchard is similar but has the distinction of a curved socketed blade, often quite wide and sometimes looking much like a medieval butcher's knife on a long pole; some have a straight back, others have a curved back in the same direction as the sharp edge (so convex edge, concave back, if that makes sense). These might be single-edged or double-edged.

The voulge is very similar to the much later lochaber axe, being a simple subrectangular blade mounted via two arms to the side of a pole. It has no spikes, hooks or other features. It appears in the Copenhagen Psalter, produced in northern England around 1175.

I would emphasise that these weapons only appear towards the end of the 12th century, perhaps 1170 onwards - and they were quite rare. They only appear in a very few manuscript illustrations (mainly showing the authorities seizing Christ for trial) and have a few mentions in literature.

Here's a rough sketch I produced (please ask me before you use it anywhere yourself):

polearms - Copy.jpg


Brother Ranulf

"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

Normannis
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Re: Early medieval polearms

Postby Normannis » Mon Nov 12, 2012 2:10 pm

The depiction of such items is indeed rare, however one can assume given the depiction of lower-ranking combatants is in itself rare in 12th-13th century manuscripts, the relative 'rarity' of the items is more a question of convention rather than real-life reflection- for instance, it is unusual to find 'militia' types outside of the arrest of Christ, and in those depictions items such as these are indeed quite common- suggesting they were considered weapons of the poorer men (modified agricultural instruments used for war). Most 'soldiers' are given certain equipment/poses to give a good basic visual cue to laity studying the illumination, and this usually means the men are mailled and carrying swords. However, those images of the arrest of Christ do show us the non-proffessional element (arguably the largest numerically) of 12th century armies, and teir equipment.
They include-
Reaping hooks/scythes
Various axeheads (usually one socket only, with long either flat-section or curved blades)
Single-edged curved blades that you'd commonly associate with the word 'glaive'

A good example of the 'reaping hook' type head can be found on the pillar carving of St. Nectaire which depict the arrest of christ;
http://www.sacred-destinations.com/fran ... 086pls.jpg

I've got a personal archive of other images, usually French or English 12th-early 13thC- e-mail me at historianormannis@gmail.com if you're interested I can send you some copies.
-Dan



Julia
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Re: Early medieval polearms

Postby Julia » Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:25 am

Thank you both for your helpful replies, they have given me much to ponder.

Reading the Assize of arms from 1181 (atleast the version on wikipedia), it talks about every Knight/freeman/etc... owning a Lance.

Now to me a Lance is something wielded from horse back. But am I right in thinking that in the context of the Assize that it's actually referring to a weapon on a stick in it's many and varied form?

J



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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Early medieval polearms

Postby Brother Ranulf » Sat Nov 17, 2012 7:12 am

The Assize of 1181 specifies lancea as the only weapon to be carried by freemen, most of whom fought on foot; it was mainly professional military serjantz (also of the freeman class) who fought on horseback.

The words hasta and lancea in Classical Latin can only mean a spear such as those used by auxiliary infantry cohorts or auxiliary and Guard cavalrymen - there were specific terms for other weapons such as falx. In 12th century Latin lancea still means specifically a spear used either by mounted or dismounted troops. In Anglo-Norman French the terms espiet, muserat, hanste and lance were used for spears in general (translating the Latin lancea). They do not mean any other kind of pole arm.

It is very difficult to reconcile the 1181 Assize with the use of any other pole arms - or indeed with crossbows and plain bows which were certainly used by some freemen; there are frequent mentions of crossbowmen and archers forming part of castle guard garrisons fulfilling their obligations under the feudal system. This is not the only paradox associated with the Assize, which must have been interpreted fairly loosely despite its very specific injunctions.


Brother Ranulf



"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

Anthony of the MSS
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Re: Early medieval polearms

Postby Anthony of the MSS » Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:03 am

You should also be careful about context, as Lance can refer to a unit of men under someone's command, as well as the weapon. There is a good article about this by Historian Mike Ingram here:

http://harringtoncompanye.wordpress.com/combat/

Also a nice bit about accurate lengths for hafted weapons, don't fall into the trap of putting 16thC+ shafts on them because we don't do head shots - total re-enactorism



Normannis
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Re: Early medieval polearms

Postby Normannis » Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:54 pm

Brother Ranulf wrote:The Assize of 1181 specifies lancea as the only weapon to be carried by freemen, most of whom fought on foot; it was mainly professional military serjantz (also of the freeman class) who fought on horseback.


The assize of arms was also constantly re-issued by successive medieval kings with stiffer legal penalties because of its lack of effectiveness in overhauling the military turnout of the levied classes; sources as late as the 13thC complain about the turnout of some levied men, explaining why the reality and the ideal were so wide of one another.

The use of latin is a difficult issue as medieval use is not always as clear as the classical counterpart; I would be very interested to see how much corroboration of sources there is to be certain that archaic terms were not being more widely applied, given that other Latin terms evolve across the 12th century to completely morph in meaning, especially contextually (miles, for example).

To also take the Assize of Arms at it's word no freeman could carry a weapon OTHER than his spear with him to battle- neither his splitting axe, his bow, his skinning knife or an improvised cudgel- despite the mention of such weapons in many other sources. Equally however, it also does not specify a knight carry a sword or hand weapon, so I would label it more a concept of 'base level expectation' rather than a complete and exhaustive regulation- and one that never fully took hold, given that at Myton some men were noted to be carrying; "...staves or reaping-hooks''.



Julia
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Re: Early medieval polearms

Postby Julia » Fri Nov 23, 2012 2:26 am

More high quality detailed responses, this is turning out to be a really interesting thread. Thank you to everyone for your responses. You have given me much to consider. I can see that there is going to be a blacksmith somewhere parting me from my beer tokens soon.

J



guthrie
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Re: Early medieval polearms

Postby guthrie » Fri Nov 23, 2012 12:55 pm

Ah but I read in a book by Bernard Knight of someone armed with a pike! So they had pikes then!!!!
:wasntme:




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