Though these swords did not provide a full two-hand grip they allowed their wielders to hold a shield or parrying dagger in their off hand, or to use it as a two-handed sword for a more powerful blow. In the Middle Ages, the sword was often used as a symbol of the word of God. The names given to many swords in mythology , literature , and history reflected the high prestige of the weapon and the wealth of the owner. The earliest evidence of curved swords, or scimitars and other regional variants as the Arabian saif , the Persian shamshir and the Turkic kilij is from the 9th century, when it was used among soldiers in the Khurasan region of Persia.
As steel technology improved, single-edged weapons became popular throughout Asia. Derived from the Chinese Jian or dao , the Korean hwandudaedo are known from the early medieval Three Kingdoms. Production of the Japanese tachi , a precursor to the katana , is recorded from c.
AD see Japanese sword. Japan was famous for the swords it forged in the early 13th century for the class of warrior-nobility known as the Samurai. Western historians have said that Japanese katana were among the finest cutting weapons in world military history. In Indonesia , the images of Indian style swords can be found in Hindu gods statues from ancient Java circa 8th to 10th century. However the native types of blade known as kris , parang , klewang and golok were more popular as weapons. These daggers are shorter than sword but longer than common dagger. In The Philippines , traditional large swords known as the Kampilan and the Panabas were used in combat by the natives.
A notable wielder of the kampilan was Lapu-Lapu , the king of Mactan and his warriors who defeated the Spaniards and killed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan at the Battle of Mactan on 27 April But because of the banning, Filipinos were forced to use swords that were disguised as farm tools. Bolos and baliswords were used during the revolutions against the colonialists not only because ammunition for guns was scarce, but also for concealability while walking in crowded streets and homes. Bolos were also used by young boys who joined their parents in the revolution and by young girls and their mothers in defending the town while the men were on the battlefields.
During the Philippine—American War in events such as the Balangiga Massacre , most of an American company was hacked to death or seriously injured by bolo -wielding guerillas in Balangiga, Samar. The Khanda is a double-edge straight sword.
It is often featured in religious iconography, theatre and art depicting the ancient history of India. Some communities venerate the weapon as a symbol of Shiva. It is a common weapon in the martial arts in the Indian subcontinent. This gave the blade a very hard cutting edge and beautiful patterns. For these reasons it became a very popular trading material.
Originating in the country's southern states, it is thought to have existed as far back as the Maurya dynasty — BC. The urumi is considered one of the most difficult weapons to master due to the risk of injuring oneself. It is treated as a steel whip,  and therefore requires prior knowledge of that weapon. Because of its length the firangi is usually regarded as primarily a cavalry weapon.
The sword has been especially associated with the Marathas , who were famed for their cavalry. However, the firangi was also widely used by Sikhs and Rajputs. It became more widespread in the medieval era. There are several state swords of the Ashanti people in West Africa , the most important of which being the keteanofena lit. The akrafena is to be held in the right hand, representing its wielder's kra soul , while the bosomfena is to be held in the left hand, representing its wielder's sunsum ego.
These swords often have ornate designs, including Ashanti symbolism on their blade and hilt. They are still used today in ceremonies, such as the Odwira festival. The takoba is a type of broadsword originating in the Sahel , descended from the various Byzantine and Islamic swords used across North Africa. Strongly associated with the Tuaregs , it has a straight double-edged blade measuring about 1 meter in length, usually imported from Europe. The hilt has a short, usually simple crossguard either covered in leather or decorative metal plates typically brass and a large pommel.
The smiths of these swords formed a separate caste , with their own language, and did not intermarry with the Tuaregs. In Egypt , the khopesh , commonly called the "sickle-sword", was the symbol of Egyptian authority. Known for its distinct hook-shaped blade, its sharper outside edge could cut enemies, while its duller inner edge could trap an enemy's arm or pull away his shield.
The khopesh was cast in one metal piece, and it often measured 50—60 cm 20—24 inches in length, though shorter ones do exist. One type of curved sword was the shotel , originating in Abyssinia Ethiopia. Since its long blade was so extremely curved, it was difficult to intercept a blow from it, as it could strike from the side; however, its top-heavy weight made it difficult to direct a blow with it. From around to , in concert with improved armour , innovative sword designs evolved more and more rapidly.
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The main transition was the lengthening of the grip, allowing two-handed use, and a longer blade. Another variant was the specialized armour -piercing swords of the estoc type. The longsword became popular due to its extreme reach and its cutting and thrusting abilities. The estoc became popular because of its ability to thrust into the gaps between plates of armour.
A number of manuscripts covering longsword combat and techniques dating from the 13th—16th centuries exist in German,  Italian, and English,  providing extensive information on longsword combatives as used throughout this period. Many of these are now readily available online. The katzbalger's S-shaped guard and 2-foot-long 0. Civilian use of swords became increasingly common during the late Renaissance, with duels being a preferred way to honourably settle disputes. The side-sword was a type of war sword used by infantry during the Renaissance of Europe. This sword was a direct descendant of the arming sword.
Quite popular between the 16th and 17th centuries, they were ideal for handling the mix of armoured and unarmoured opponents of that time. A new technique of placing one's finger on the ricasso to improve the grip a practice that would continue in the rapier led to the production of hilts with a guard for the finger. This sword design eventually led to the development of the civilian rapier , but it was not replaced by it, and the side-sword continued to be used during the rapier's lifetime. As it could be used for both cutting and thrusting, the term cut and thrust sword is sometimes used interchangeably with side-sword.
These are still considered side-swords and are sometimes labeled sword rapier or cutting rapier by modern collectors. Side-swords used in conjunction with bucklers became so popular that it caused the term swashbuckler to be coined.
This word stems from the new fighting style of the side-sword and buckler which was filled with much "swashing and making a noise on the buckler". Within the Ottoman Empire , the use of a curved sabre called the Yatagan started in the midth century. It would become the weapon of choice for many in Turkey and the Balkans. The sword in this time period was the most personal weapon, the most prestigious, and the most versatile for close combat, but it came to decline in military use as technology, such as the crossbow and firearms changed warfare. However, it maintained a key role in civilian self-defence.
The cut-and-thrust mortuary sword was used after by cavalry during the English Civil War. Later in the 17th century, the swords used by cavalry became predominantly single-edged. The rapier is believed to have evolved either from the Spanish espada ropera or from the swords of the Italian nobility somewhere in the later part of the 16th century. Both the rapier and the Italian schiavona developed the crossguard into a basket-shaped guard for hand protection.
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Both the smallsword and the rapier remained popular dueling swords well into the 18th century. As the wearing of swords fell out of fashion, canes took their place in a gentleman's wardrobe. This developed to the gentlemen in the Victorian era to use the umbrella. Some examples of canes—those known as sword canes or swordsticks —incorporate a concealed blade. The French martial art la canne developed to fight with canes and swordsticks and has now evolved into a sport.
The English martial art singlestick is very similar. With the rise of the pistol duel , the duelling sword fell out of fashion long before the practice of duelling itself. By about , English duelists enthusiastically adopted the pistol, and sword duels dwindled. Such modern duels were not fought to the death, the duellists' aim was instead merely to draw blood from the opponent's sword arm.
Towards the end of its useful life, the sword served more as a weapon of self-defence than for use on the battlefield, and the military importance of swords steadily decreased during the Modern Age. Even as a personal sidearm, the sword began to lose its preeminence in the early 19th century, reflecting the development of reliable handguns.
However, swords were still used in combat , especially in Colonial Wars between native populations and Colonial Empires. For example, during the Aceh War the Acehnese Klewangs , a sword similar to the machete , proved very effective in close quarters combat with Dutch troops, leading the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army to adopt a heavy cutlass , also called klewang very similar in appearance to the US Navy Model Cutlass to counter it.
Mobile troops armed with carbines and klewangs succeeded in suppressing Aceh resistance where traditional infantry with rifle and bayonet had failed. Swords continued in general peacetime use by cavalry of most armies during the years prior to World War I. The British Army formally adopted a completely new design of cavalry sword in , almost the last change in British Army weapons before the outbreak of the war.
On mobilization in August all serving British Army officers were required to have their swords sharpened as the only peacetime use of the weapon had been for saluting on parade. It was not until the late s and early s that this historic weapon was finally discarded for all but ceremonial purposes by most remaining horse mounted regiments of Europe and the Americas.
The last units of British heavy cavalry switched to using armoured vehicles as late as Swords and other dedicated melee weapons were used occasionally by many countries during World War II , but typically as a secondary weapon as they were outclassed by coexisting firearms. Swords are commonly worn as a ceremonial item by officers in many military and naval services throughout the world. Occasions to wear swords include any event in dress uniforms where the rank-and-file carry arms: parades , reviews, courts-martial , tattoos , and changes of command.
They are also commonly worn for officers' weddings, and when wearing dress uniforms to church—although they are rarely actually worn in the church itself. In the British forces they are also worn for any appearance at Court. In the United States , every Naval officer at or above the rank of Lieutenant Commander is required to own a sword, which can be prescribed for any formal outdoor ceremonial occasion; they are normally worn for changes of command and parades. In the U. Marine Corps every officer must own a sword, which is prescribed for formal parades and other ceremonies where dress uniforms are worn and the rank-and-file are under arms.
On these occasions depending on their billet, Marine Non-Commissioned Officers E-6 and above may also be required to carry swords, which have hilts of a pattern similar to U. Naval officers' swords but are actually sabres. The Marine officer swords are of the Mameluke pattern which was adopted in in recognition of the Marines' key role in the capture of the Tripolitan city of Derna during the First Barbary War.
The production of replicas of historical swords originates with 19th-century historicism. Some kinds of swords are still commonly used today as weapons, often as a side arm for military infantry. The Japanese katana, wakizashi and tanto are carried by some infantry and officers in Japan and other parts of Asia and the kukri is the official melee weapon for Nepal.
Other swords in use today are the sabre , the scimitar , the shortsword and the machete. The sword consists of the blade and the hilt. The term scabbard applies to the cover for the sword blade when not in use. There is considerable variation in the detailed design of sword blades. The diagram opposite shows a typical Medieval European sword. Early iron blades have rounded points due to the limited metallurgy of the time. These were still effective for thrusting against lightly armoured opponents. As armour advanced, blades were made narrower, stiffer and sharply pointed to defeat the armour by thrusting.
Dedicated cutting blades are wide and thin, and often have grooves known as fullers which lighten the blade at the cost of some of the blade's stiffness. The edges of a cutting sword are almost parallel. Blades oriented for the thrust have thicker blades, sometimes with a distinct midrib for increased stiffness, with a strong taper and an acute point. The geometry of a cutting sword blade allows for acute edge angles. It should be noted, however, that an edge with an acuter angle is more inclined to degrade quickly in combat situations than an edge with a more obtuse angle. Also, an acute edge angle is not the primary factor of a blade's sharpness.
The part of the blade between the center of percussion CoP and the point is called the foible weak of the blade, and that between the center of balance CoB and the hilt is the forte strong. The section in between the CoP and the CoB is the middle. The ricasso or shoulder identifies a short section of blade immediately below the guard that is left completely unsharpened.
Many swords have no ricasso. The tang is the extension of the blade to which the hilt is fitted. On Japanese blades, the maker's mark appears on the tang under the grip. The hilt is the collective term for the parts allowing for the handling and control of the blade; these consist of the grip , the pommel , and a simple or elaborate guard , which in post- Viking Age swords could consist of only a crossguard called a cruciform hilt or quillons. The pommel was originally designed as a stop to prevent the sword slipping from the hand.
From around the 11th century onward it became a counterbalance to the blade, allowing a more fluid style of fighting. In later times a sword knot or tassel was sometimes added. By the 17th century, with the growing use of firearms and the accompanying decline in the use of armour , many rapiers and dueling swords had developed elaborate basket hilts, which protect the palm of the wielder and rendered the gauntlet obsolete.
In late medieval and Renaissance era European swords, a flap of leather called the chappe or rain guard was attached to a sword's crossguard at the base of the hilt to protect the mouth of the scabbard and prevent water from entering. Common accessories to the sword include the scabbard , as well as the 'sword belt'. Sword typology is based on morphological criteria on one hand blade shape cross-section, taper, and length , shape and size of the hilt and pommel and age and place of origin on the other Bronze Age , Iron Age , European medieval, early modern, modern , Asian.
The relatively comprehensive Oakeshott typology was created by historian and illustrator Ewart Oakeshott as a way to define and catalogue European swords of the medieval period based on physical form, including blade shape and hilt configuration. The typology also focuses on the smaller, and in some cases contemporary, single-handed swords such as the arming sword. As noted above, the terms longsword , broad sword , great sword , and Gaelic claymore are used relative to the era under consideration, and each term designates a particular type of sword.
In Sikh history, the sword is held in very high esteem. A single-edged sword is called a kirpan, and its double-edged counterpart a khanda or tega. The South Indian churika is a handheld double-edged sword traditionally used in the Malabar region of Kerala. It is also worshipped as the weapon of Vettakkorumakan , the hunter god in Hinduism. European terminology does give generic names for single-edged and double-edged blades but refers to specific types with the term 'sword' covering them all.
For example, the backsword may be so called because it is single-edged but the falchion which is also single-edged is given its own specific name. Two-handed sword may be used to refer to any sword that usually requires two hands to wield. However, in its proper sense it should be used only to refer to the very large swords of the 16th century.
Cash Author John Albright Author Coltman Clephan Author Corbett Author Phillips Translator Indian and Oriental Arms and The Influence of Sea Power Mahan Author Warfare in the Roman Empire Castles and Warfare in the Macdermott Translator Cairnes Editor Greene Editor The Story of the Malakand Required Cookies These cookies allow you to explore OverDrive services and use our core features.
Performance and reliability cookies These cookies allow us to monitor OverDrive's performance and reliability. Research and analytics cookies These cookies help us understand user behavior within our services. Dramatic anecdotes recount duels arising from disagreements over religion, women, gambling, and other volatile subjects. Includes factual accounts of events from BC to , with illustrated descriptions of swords, helmets, daggers, shields, sabers, matchlock guns, and much more.
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