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Re: Swords and Pole Weapons

PostPosted: 26 Feb 2015 17:53
by mARK lEE
Lances - On horseback, lances have a longer reach than a sword. This was the case throughout history, all the way up to the end of the 19th century. As late as the Napoleonic wars, lancers were feared more than cavalry with just swords. IF, and it is a crucial IF, you could parry, dodge or otherwise cause the lance to miss on the first engagement and you got inside, the swordsman was more likely to win. But the lancer with the longer weapon always gets in the first strike.

There are plenty of accounts of knights and men-at-arms deliberately shortening their lances when they intended to fight on foot. Not breaking off the butt, taking an axe, sword or knife and cutting it down to a manageable length. Without shortening it, a lance was roughly comparable to a pike, but still shorter. More importantly, knights and men-at-arms didn't train as pikemen and training and skills is more important than the weapon.

With regards to sparring, you are forgetting the context. An army vs. one-on-one combat. Modern films love to show a line of men, in formation, seemingly about to fight as a unit. But as soon as combat is joined, they dissolve into individual combats with no formation. I'm not saying that never happened, but when it did, it was the mark of panic, lack of training, lack of discipline, etc. Formations did not generally consist of a single line of men. You had ranks, especially with weapons longer than a sword. So while you might get inside the point of one pike or one halberd, but there were other soldiers on either side and behind who were looking for their chance to strike a blow. In this context, your one-on-one sparring is meaningless.

In the Greek and Macedonian phalanxes, the spear or pike was the primary weapon, the sword was secondary. When the spear was broken or lost or lines had closed to the point that you couldn't use it. Keep in mind, your front rank might be using a sword, but the ranks behind them were still using spears and pikes.

The Roman legions were an exception in that for most of their history, the sword was the primary. Spears, pilum, javelins were preliminary weapons for inflicting some casualties, impairing shields, etc just before closing in to sword range, face to face.

As others have pointed out, the predominate useage of pole arms really required making good armor with sufficient protection universal enough that the shield could be discarded and the use of two hands on the weapon. If they were not more effective than swords, we wouldn't have seen centuries dominated by Swiss pikes and halberds, the Spanish tercios, etc.

Re: Swords and Pole Weapons

PostPosted: 03 Apr 2015 20:48
by Vasilly
mARK lEE wrote:I'm not saying that never happened, but when it did, it was the mark of panic, lack of training, lack of discipline, etc. Formations did not generally consist of a single line of men. You had ranks, especially with weapons longer than a sword. So while you might get inside the point of one pike or one halberd, but there were other soldiers on either side and behind who were looking for their chance to strike a blow. In this context, your one-on-one sparring is meaningless.

I agree if you're talking about the troops that were famous for their discipline, as already mentioned swiss for example. But when we're talking about a typical medieval army, or a bunch of dismounted knights intending to fight on foot, then I believe it was most likely that they will dissolve into individual combats with no formation since first usually lacked that type of training and latter would feel most comfortable in that type of fight. At least that's the impression I have on the typical medieval army and it seems to be widely accepted.


mARK lEE wrote:If they were not more effective than swords, we wouldn't have seen centuries dominated by Swiss pikes and halberds, the Spanish tercios, etc.

Not necessarily. You are forgetting that even during times when pike&shot formations "dominated" the battlefield the cavalry still played the decisive role on the battlefield. So I'd argue that a formation of warriors clad in armour with longswords could be more effective than a formation of pikemen or halberders but since those who usually could afford such protection were a part of the knightly class, they didn't usually dismount to fight, but I know one instance when they did and actually won against the famous swiss: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Arbedo

Though in that particular battle they had numbers advatange, so I'd agree that it doesn't prove my point. But still there are also mentions of Doppelsöldner who used longswords and two-handed swords and were used exactly against pike and halberd formations with huge success and those guys are usually depicted in plate armor: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/23 ... 4ba5a5.jpg

Re: Swords and Pole Weapons

PostPosted: 24 Aug 2015 01:43
by leanhnam220
This topic is interesting Tiny Tanks Unblocked :lol:

Re: Swords and Pole Weapons

PostPosted: 26 Aug 2015 22:36
by Dan Howard
mARK lEE wrote:The Roman legions were an exception in that for most of their history, the sword was the primary. Spears, pilum, javelins were preliminary weapons for inflicting some casualties, impairing shields, etc just before closing in to sword range, face to face.

When in rough or broken terrain the auxilliaries did the bulk of the fighting. When on the defensive the legions closed ranks and used the heavy pilum as a thrusting spear. Only when on open ground and when on the offensive did the Romans rely on the sword and, even then, they threw their pilums first. Connolly reckons that the pilum started being used as a thrusting spear when the velites were phased out.

The main problem I see with the OP is the assumption that formation fighting is the same as one-on-one duels. When in formation, pole arms are king - lances, spears, pikes, halberds, etc. It doesn't matter whether you are on horse or afoot. The sword is never going to be the optimal choice except in very limited circumstances.

Re: Swords and Pole Weapons

PostPosted: 26 Aug 2015 23:20
by Dan Howard
Vasilly wrote:I agree if you're talking about the troops that were famous for their discipline, as already mentioned swiss for example. But when we're talking about a typical medieval army, or a bunch of dismounted knights intending to fight on foot, then I believe it was most likely that they will dissolve into individual combats with no formation since first usually lacked that type of training and latter would feel most comfortable in that type of fight. At least that's the impression I have on the typical medieval army and it seems to be widely accepted.

Cohesion is everything. A battle will have been lost long before the formation devolves as you describe.

Re: Swords and Pole Weapons

PostPosted: 27 Aug 2015 17:36
by janner
Dan Howard wrote:Cohesion is everything. A battle will have been lost long before the formation devolves as you describe.


Agreed, and I do wonder why people assume that medieval foot, never mind MAA, wouldn't have known the importance of cohesion and trained to fight in teams. They certainly did in the late twelfth century.