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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 08 Oct, 2009 10:55 am    Post subject: 13th Century Longswords         Reply with quote

Aside from tenative dates given to surviving antique swords, what evidence do we have for the existence of long swords in the 13th century? To be more precise, it appears that a number of Type XIIa and Type XIIIa swords are dated to the latter portion of the 13th century and possibly up to the mid 14th century. Is there any evidence in written sources, or effigies, or period images that unambiguously date these sorts of swords to the 13th century? Or are we just relying on speculative dates provided for artifacts?
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Oct, 2009 12:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This XIIa has arms of a landgraf of Thuringen and Hesse and it belonged to Konrad, Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, 1239/40. This gives a precise dating to it.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 08 Oct, 2009 2:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
This XIIa has arms of a landgraf of Thuringen and Hesse and it belonged to Konrad, Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, 1239/40. This gives a precise dating to it.


Playing the devil's advocate for the moment, how do we actually know that it belonged to Konrad for certain?
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Oct, 2009 2:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, we can't be 100% sure, but his coat of arms on it is one very good reason to believe in it. Happy
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 08 Oct, 2009 2:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Right, but from what I can see of the arms, it's just the imperial eagle, which suggests the sword could have belonged to any number of people. It's not like that particular set of arms was unique to the Teutonic Order.
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David E. Farrell




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Oct, 2009 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Right, but from what I can see of the arms, it's just the imperial eagle, which suggests the sword could have belonged to any number of people. It's not like that particular set of arms was unique to the Teutonic Order.


It has been my experience that the 'good' dates given to artifacts are because they are either known from documents of households, armouries, etc or a depiction of something very nearly the same in artwork. The more speculative ones are generally based on pieces that are similar that have been dated well.

the 'bad' dates can be anything from wishful thinking to legend. The sword of William Wallace is an example of this, as are some victorian era pieces found in various museums.

So to get a firm date on a particular piece generally requires several pieces of evidence, and things can change with time (I know several pieces of armour that this happened to).


In short - unless it is specifically called out in an extant and known valid document of ownership from the originating period, dates are always speculative. Just some speculation is better than others.

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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Oct, 2009 3:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Right, but from what I can see of the arms, it's just the imperial eagle, which suggests the sword could have belonged to any number of people. It's not like that particular set of arms was unique to the Teutonic Order.


On the other side of the pommel are four rampant lions, arms of a landgraf of Thuringen and Hesse. Of course the sword could be attributed to another landgraf of Thuringen and Hesse, not Konrad, I don't know in what circumstances this sword is found... But all in all I think this sword is one of the few that can be dated precisely with quite a high level of certainty.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Thu 08 Oct, 2009 8:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Please see this thread for info.

I think these swords are more great swords (a period term) than longswords (a modern term often use for swords with some decent thrusting ability), but that's splitting hairs. Happy

Happy

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Christian Henry Tobler




PostPosted: Fri 09 Oct, 2009 9:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Chad,

I'm not sure if we can document the English word 'longsword' this early, but certainly the German 'langes schwerte' is documentable to the late 14th century, if not earlier.

I believe George Silver uses the term longsword in the 16th, and Shakespeare does as well, so it is a 'period' rather than modern term.

All the best,

Christian

Christian Henry Tobler
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Oct, 2009 9:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
Hi Chad,

I'm not sure if we can document the English word 'longsword' this early, but certainly the German 'langes schwerte' is documentable to the late 14th century, if not earlier.

I believe George Silver uses the term longsword in the 16th, and Shakespeare does as well, so it is a 'period' rather than modern term.

All the best,

Christian


I stand corrected on the age of the term. Happy I still feel this isn't the best term for the swords being discussed, and also feel that the modern definition many people use is more limited than the period term.

Happy

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Christian Henry Tobler




PostPosted: Fri 09 Oct, 2009 10:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Chad,

Yes, it's hard to know exactly what fits into the term Langes Schwerte in 1389, the usual dating for the earliest record of Liechtenauer's teachings.

And, I agree that "great sword of war" is the better term for these wider-bladed, hand and a half swords of the late 13th and 14th centuries.

Best,

CHT

Christian Henry Tobler
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Fri 09 Oct, 2009 9:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
Hi Chad,

Yes, it's hard to know exactly what fits into the term Langes Schwerte in 1389, the usual dating for the earliest record of Liechtenauer's teachings.

And, I agree that "great sword of war" is the better term for these wider-bladed, hand and a half swords of the late 13th and 14th centuries.

Best,

CHT


Maybe because the great swords of war would be unsuitable for civilian or at least more casual self defence wear when travelling.

The " Longsword " may have been very big in some cases but still wearable on one's person.

A lot of " hair splitting " or arbitrary definitions seem to be in current use as people try to make some order out of what was probably a spectrum of overlapping types of " Longer " swords. For our modern use some of these definitions may be useful as shorthand when discussing sword types and use but what they where called in period is probably harder to have hard and fast, and accurate nomenclature.

As an example I tend to think of so-called hand & a half sword ( Bastard sword) as to be a longsword that one can use one handed effectively while being more wieldy when used two handed but may be period specific as basically the same sword in dimensions and handling might have been called a bastard sword at one time and place and called a Longsword at another time and place ?

Longsword seems to be a good " generic " term as long as we are not getting to fussy about proper period usage. Wink Question Big Grin Cool

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sun 11 Oct, 2009 4:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The lack of a descriptive term, and the lack of depictions, would indicate that while there are long handled swords in styles sugesting 13th or early 14th century provenance, they had not yet become a "thing."

By this I mean that they where not yet sepperated from other long bladed swords in peoples minds.
Keep in mind that by 13th century standards, a 3 ft 2" /95cm greatsword isn't really exceptionally long; Many single handed striking swords are the same length.

Also, using a sword with two hands in a battlefield context without heavy armor is a very good way to be speared, shot, javelined or stoned to death. Before the 100 years war, the people with heavy armour spent most of their time on horseback, and used their swords onehanded.
Only when these started to dismount, and figth with two handed spears and pole weapons on foot, the two handed sword would become usefull enough to form a seperate category.

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Jared Smith




PostPosted: Sun 11 Oct, 2009 9:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What Ellington said makes sense to me. Swords similar to what we generically term "longswords" likely existed earlier than when they became common. A few of the possible ranges of dates speculated for longer swords within the Features typology section seems to suggest great swords or longsword type forms earlier than 14th/15th century. Henry the Young King (late 12th century) was described as having walked out onto battlefield with his body guards carrying a large sword with an "uncommonly" long grip. He also was known for foraging or adventuring into enemy territory unarmoured. This may have been unconventional, but it seems he was known for training with all manner of weapons and sometimes trying unconventional tactics. (I would say shield and sword were the norm at this time, but he evidently experimented with different tactics, alternative armour, and perhaps uncommon forms of weapons.)
Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sun 11 Oct, 2009 4:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I read in the other thread, Oakshott seemed pretty emphatic that we are not to understand these weapons as being two handed swords, by which I believe he was referring to longswords by their English name in the 15th century. Even if many of them had grips that were equally as long as those of longswords, he seemed to suggest that they were primarily used as single handed swords. At the very least, there doesn't seem to have been a fully developed/articulated longsword system of fencing at that time.
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Lafayette C Curtis




PostPosted: Tue 27 Oct, 2009 10:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
He also was known for foraging or adventuring into enemy territory unarmoured. This may have been unconventional, but it seems he was known for training with all manner of weapons and sometimes trying unconventional tactics.


Riding out unarmored in outpost duties wasn't so unconventional, however. If I'm not mistaken, William the Bastard (Conqueror) habitually did this too.
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