History of medieval sword
Travel back in time with the history of medieval swords
Medieval swords are like leaves. They spring forth from different branches, but they belong to only one tree. In the same way, swords from the Middle Ages came from different countries and small kingdoms. Their number and origin are so vast that some of them are now forgotten. The art of their making, as well as the craftsmanship required, are also lost. But they sprung forth for only one need: to kill.
Copper, Bronze, and Iron Swords
What are medieval swords? The swords that were forged in Medieval Ages were distant cousins from crude daggers used in 3000 B.C. Copper was already mined as far as 3700B.C. and was therefore the metal used for short and long daggers. They found their weapons from pure copper frustrating, as these were not long enough to be used for slashing and thrusting.
Smiths in ancient Egypt and Asia made an alloy called bronze by melting copper and tin in 2500 B.C. When the smiths lengthened daggers to make swords, the metal bronze becomes ductile and bends. They had to wait for other substances that would improve the strength of bronze, or a good substitute to it, to be discovered.
The metal iron was mined by the ancient people – the Hittites – of Turkey at the same time as they did with copper. However, the method of forging swords out of iron was devised only at around 1400 B.C. Iron swords were longer, bolder, and bigger to be potent weapons for hand-to-hand combat.
Iron Swords around the Ancient World
In Europe, medieval age swords were descendants primarily from the iron swords of the Roman Empire. Other European tribes like the Vikings and Saxons were also skilled in ironworking at those times, but the Romans had the greater influence on middle age kingdoms and their method of medieval sword making. The sword used at that time, called spatha, was used by gladiators and Roman foot soldiers. It was straight, long-pointed, and double-edged of about a meter in length.
In Asia, the Chinese forged the then bronze double-edged jian sword and its close relative, the single-edged dao, in 3000B.C. The Chinese then use the metal iron to improve their weaponry. The Japanese and Koreans used these Chinese iron swords long before 800AD. Southwest Asian countries like Persia and India forged swords made from iron and they called them scimitars, a curved sword that can be seen in the Coat of Arms of Saudi Arabia.
The rise of Steel Swords
At the turn of 10th century, iron and iron-alloy swords became insufficient. The armor used by knights and soldiers became very heavy, impenetrable, and hard. The swords were easily broken and the edges jarred, providing more pressure for ancient smiths to improve the craft. The concern was not only about how to make a medieval sword, but how to improve them.
In Europe, steel became the alloy of choice. Steel was produced by combining carbon and iron. Not only did it make the swords fatal, they also made them heavy and sharp. The heaviest and the largest medieval sword belonged to a giant Dutch rebel. It weighed fifteen pounds and is seven feet long.
In Japan, the production of samurai sword set started. They were built according to a complex hammering, inlaying, and molding of iron ores, carbon, anvil water, and steel fibers. The scimitars also underwent the same improvement, although of a different process.
Medieval Swords as Angels of Death
The result of advanced sword-making process and use of better substances produced an array of stunning and fatal medieval swords, weapons strong enough to slice metals into shreds. The grip, or the handle, was given more area so that knights, samurai, and soldiers can hold their weapons with two hands. With sharpness, more weight, and momentum, the weapons were transformed into lethal Angels of Death.
The Zulqifar, the scimitar of Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali, became legendary after it cut an enemy into two. European medieval swords were renowned too for their ability to cut through any object, metal, or rock.
But the best of all medieval swords are the samurai in Japan. Here sword-making was not only a matter of production, but an art-form. It has been said that when ancient samurai swords were tested during the World War II, they were able to cut through the barrel of a machine gun in one slash.