Looking for references to spearfighting

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valen
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Looking for references to spearfighting

Postby valen » Tue Nov 04, 2008 3:34 pm

Hey guys. I'm lookging for any references to how people fought with short spears, specifically Irish, 6th-12thC, but anything will do as it seems a neglected topic.

Personally, I fight with two spears; a spare in my shield hand, but I don't have much evidence to justify it, other than descriptions in the "Expugnatio Hibernia" of Irish carrying three spears into battle - but no mention of what they did with them when they got there.

This is an example of me; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mB3c40rv9pk

The Roman Hasati carried multiple javelins into battle, I believe...

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Postby Hobbitstomper » Tue Nov 04, 2008 5:21 pm

As far as I knoe there aren't any. There are plenty of pictures in the classic spear above head position but that it is. Spears are mentioned in the Viking sagas but they don't say how people fought.

About 20 years ago a book on Okinowan martial arts gave their very short spear and small shield kata but you'd be lucky to find it and need to understand karate for it to make much sense.



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Postby WorkMonkey » Sat Nov 08, 2008 11:03 am

Carrying multiple spears is well attested, there's alot of English depictions of this period showing warriors with multiple spears grasped in their shield hand, presumably then the majority of them were used for throwing as the lines closed, then one reserved for the clash of shield walls. How they were used in combat? carefully I would imagine, you're aiming for soft spots, bits that stick out from the shield, arms, legs, face if you're lucky. The shield is the absoloutely worst thing you can hit because if the spear head gets stuck in the enemys shield you're abit stumped. It's not like a sword or axe where you can hack at things, you've only got the point that you can do anything with, so making sure the point connects with a target is imperitive! In films you see armies running into each other and kicking hell out of each other, but untrained men dont act like this, I think armies would advance slowly, closing through missle distance, then stepping up to each other, taking sniping shots with spears, then as holes appears one side either legs it, or short arms start coming out as the fighting disintegrates although the spear can be very useful in one on one combat, even against someone with a short arm, a good sweeping shot, even one handed with a sharp spear against someones leg, I am sure, would put them on the floor in a fit of blood and swearing! When used two handed the force you can put behind a spear would be devastating for taking peoples legs out! :x

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Postby Aelfric » Sat Nov 08, 2008 2:02 pm

As the Monkey says plenty of illustrations of warriors carrying multiple spears in their shield hand. Great weapon in a line fight and (with practice) also very good in single combat. Main advantage is that a spear allows you to attack from a shield wall without overly exposing your arm to a counter attack (when compared to a sword or axe and allows much more attacking on the angles due to it's greater range.



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Postby Phil the Grips » Sat Nov 08, 2008 2:51 pm

The King's Mirror also suggests the carrying of multiple spears- a few to cast as you close then one big un to keep hold of and stab with.

If you want to know how to use it then do the exact opposite of reenactment combat- hold in one had above your head, stab at the face, feet, hands, swipe, thrust and batter and then move forcefully through the gaps as you make a breach.

Once the line is broken it is down to, effectively, individual combat and that's when the use of the shield changes form a "wall" to stand behind to being a "door" to open and close defensive lines with.

Stephen Hand has done some interesting extrapolations on this matter.


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Postby WorkMonkey » Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:13 pm

Aelfric wrote: Main advantage is that a spear allows you to attack from a shield wall without overly exposing your arm to a counter attack (when compared to a sword or axe and allows much more attacking on the angles due to it's greater range.


As I noted at Hastings 06, Naughty Normans closing in with short arms were easy targets against our spear block, we were on a slight rise, so even that tiny height advantage made slapping them on the shoulder, upper-arm and even the back a doddle, shame they weren't taking hits 8) to close in they had to expose themselves to atleast one angle, if it had been "real" I can easily see how the arms and legs were your prime target.


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Postby nathan » Thu Nov 13, 2008 1:10 pm

Aelfric wrote:As the Monkey says plenty of illustrations of warriors carrying multiple spears in their shield hand.


IIRC Alfred's law code (the same one that mentions helmets being a requirement for the fyrd) mentions 3 spears as part of the basic kit expected when you turn up for your fyrd duty.


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Postby Medicus Matt » Thu Nov 13, 2008 4:43 pm

nathan wrote:
IIRC Alfred's law code (the same one that mentions helmets being a requirement for the fyrd) mentions 3 spears as part of the basic kit expected when you turn up for your fyrd duty.


I think that the only thing that we know thatAlfred specified was that a thegn had to have a spear, shield, helmet and mail shirt.

Multiple spears do get mentions in other laws. Two spears certainly seems to be the norm for military equipment to be given to the king in death duties when you get to the heriots in Canute's Dooms.

And let the heriots be as it is fitting to the degree. An eorl's such as thereto belongs, that is, eight horses, four saddled and four unsaddled, and four helmets and four coats of mail, and eight spears and as many shields, and four swords and 200 mancuses of gold. And after that, a king's thegn's, of those who are nearest to him; four horses, two saddled and two undo saddled, and two swords and four spears and as many shields, and a helmet and a coat of mail and fifty mancuses of gold....And the heriot of a king's thegn among the Danes, who has his soken, four pounds. And if he have further relation to the king, two horses, one saddled and the other unsaddled, and one sword and two spears and two shields and fifty mancuses of gold; and he who is of less means, two pounds.


Although if you assume that both of these were carried into battle then you presumably have to assume that both shields were too. :wink:

Written laws like this might just bear out what many of us who've used spears in shield walls already know...that (like shields) they take a bit of a battering and need replacing more often than swords, helmets and coats of mail.
<Cue for Monkeyboy to go off on one about spear damage at Hastings 2006 again>


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Postby Marghec » Thu Nov 13, 2008 5:55 pm

They don't like it upem.

Sorry, could not resist that particular silly comment.



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Postby WorkMonkey » Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:56 pm

NORMANS ARE RENOWNED FOR THEIR SPEAR-HEAD CHOPPING OFF ABILITIES !!!!!!!!!!!!111111111111


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Postby Hobbitstomper » Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:08 am

Depends which Normans you are talking about.

Sounds like a silly thing to do when an upset Saxon might just bury the broken end in your leg to make a point.



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Postby WorkMonkey » Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:57 pm

Normans are not renowned for their logical thinking. :wink:


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Postby WorkMonkey » Wed Nov 26, 2008 11:32 am

Interesting that my post that "Normans werent renowned for their logical thinking" was modded but the "Normans are renowned for their spear head chopping-off abilities" wasn't. :roll:


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Postby Freebeard » Fri Jun 26, 2009 1:38 am

Hello there,
this is my first post here.
I guess I might be able to help here.
I am currently writing an M.A. thesis on the spear as it appears in some of the medieval Irish literature, most notably the narrative culture.
Looking at what I've come across so far, the short spear seems to have been used mainly as a missile weapon. In much of the literature, we are told that the vast majority of warriors are in possession of at least one, if not two spears. These, as seen in alot of narrative tales, are cast at the enemy, and they either hit, or they do not. The main terms for the spear are sleg, gae and foga. All these are said, at some point, to be cast at the enemy. In a few cases, I have come across the notion of thrusting a spear at the opposing warrior, where the thrust has gone through the thigh, or upper leg.
In some cases, once the warrior managed to get his enemy to drop his shield the spear was seen to have been thrust into the breast. This shows that there was an obvious necessity to try and work the spear around the shield. There have even been references to thrusts to the face.
In most cased of thrusting, the spear is said to be projecting through the other side of the body, so some serious thrusting may have being going on.
Spears described as thrown are slender, while thrusting are often described as thick.

Some of the tales even refer to the clashing or clamour of spears, so this could mean that there was a system of checking, or blocking, or parrying going on with spears.



Now, there is a problem that can be raised with this. Does the narrative lore reflect the truth? it can do. Obviously in some cases there is going to be exaggeration. It is a story after all, the audience needs to be captivated. Perhaps the idea of the spear protruding from the far side of the body is a narrative technique, but the rest does seem to hold an element of reality. It is now up to you to accept these or not.


Now that is all I will say for the moment, as the thesis is currently in progress.
If you do wish to find out exact references, pm me and I'll send them on as soon as I can.
And once the thesis is finished I'l look to make it available for general reading.

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Postby WorkMonkey » Fri Jun 26, 2009 12:05 pm

Freebeard wrote:
Now, there is a problem that can be raised with this. Does the narrative lore reflect the truth? it can do. Obviously in some cases there is going to be exaggeration. It is a story after all, the audience needs to be captivated. Perhaps the idea of the spear protruding from the far side of the body is a narrative technique, but the rest does seem to hold an element of reality. It is now up to you to accept these or not.




Nothing seems to be out of the ordinary with what you said, small slim spears for throwing, long thick ones for thrusting all makes sense. But then you could throw a heavy spear for even more devastating close range effect. Romans used heavy and light pilums for different ranges?

Clashing with spears, again yes, you have to use it offensively to parry and disarm your opponent.

As for putting a spear clean through someone, well those leaf shaped blades might be abit difficult to get all the way through, maybe they were designed to be easily retrieved, but the smaller needle and angular shaped blades would easily go through unarmoured flesh with abit of force behind them.


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Postby Freebeard » Thu Jul 02, 2009 4:44 pm

There have been instances where the long thick ones were thrown also. Or at least that is what it seems as there is often a spear described as being long and thick and then it appears in teh air going for someone's face!
I think it is down to personal theories as to what was used for what, in my opinion. And i think it the case that all spears can be used in any way, with little distinction, yet there most likely was a breakdown, or veriety in the spear for particualr purposes. I guess by this I mean that there most likely were spears designed for certain purposes and usages, but that they did not always have to adhere to those usages.


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