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Thread: Did Vikings use swords, or just wave them around?

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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Did Vikings use swords, or just wave them around?

    Interesting article on the metallurgical analysis of a few Viking swords:

    I found this interesting. I tried checking the original scholarly article, but I can only read the abstract, and the abstract says nothing about the usability of the weapons.

    Abstract
    Vikings (800–1050 CE) are famous for being fearsome seafarers and their weapons represented an indispensable tool in their plundering raids. Sword from the Viking age often showed pattern-welding, made by welding together thin strips of iron and steel that were twisted and forged in various ways, producing a decorative pattern on the surface. In this work we present a neutron diffraction study of three swords from the Viking age belonging to the National Museum of Denmark. This non-invasive approach was used to allow us to characterize the blades in terms of composition and manufacturing processes involved. The study shows how the effects of past conservation treatments can either help or obstruct the extraction of archaeological information.
    The article is correct in stating that the BEST way to take advantage of the different qualities of iron and steel is to steel line an iron core (as the Japanese did, and some higher quality European swordsmiths did), but that requires a hugely advanced metal technology that may not have been available to the Vikings of (at least) the earlier period. The second best - often used when highly refined iron/steel is not available - is to twist steel of differing carbon content together, as these Viking swordsmiths did.

    Anyway, for what it's worth...
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    Re: Did Vikings use swords, or just wave them around?

    Swords, IIRC, were frequently a secondary weapon instead of a major killer on the battlefield anyway (pikes are cheaper to make and train) so viking swords not being their primary tools of killing wouldn't shock me. I'd expect that there were.swords designed for battle floating around and either they haven't made it to present day or simply haven't been examined yet but they were probably sidearms in most* cases.

    * There was a nation that employed elite units packing great swords but I don't remember who. Vikings may have pulled similar.
    "It is not simply enough to know the light…a Jedi must feel the tension between the two sides of the Force…in himself and in the universe."
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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Did Vikings use swords, or just wave them around?

    Yeah - swords would have been enormously expensive because they are very complicated to make correctly, and not the best battlefield weapon - when compared to a pole arm or an ax - so I wouldn't be surprised that few Vikings actually used them.

    (the guys with the huge swords were the German Landsknecht. They used them to break up the formations and chop the poles of the Swiss Pikesmen who were acting as mercenaries all over Europe)
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    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Did Vikings use swords, or just wave them around?

    This might be of interest then to this discussion http://gladius.revistas.csic.es/inde...ewFile/218/222

    - - - Updated - - -

    Personal opinion I think it would depend upon who they were fighting and where regarding whether they used swords or not. Figure they raided into Russia and such probably did use them up close. In Northern Europe and England maybe, maybe not as the landscape and defenses would dictate weapon choices. Pikes and such no to effective against walled cities or castles but good in open fields or mounted defenders. But admit my history is sort of cloudy though most viking raids I recall seem to occur at night or early / late in the day not in middle of the day when defenders are wide awake and well prepared. Again not times favoring the usage of the pike or other long staved weapons.
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    Re: Did Vikings use swords, or just wave them around?

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    This might be of interest then to this discussion http://gladius.revistas.csic.es/inde...ewFile/218/222

    - - - Updated - - -

    Personal opinion I think it would depend upon who they were fighting and where regarding whether they used swords or not. Figure they raided into Russia and such probably did use them up close. In Northern Europe and England maybe, maybe not as the landscape and defenses would dictate weapon choices. Pikes and such no to effective against walled cities or castles but good in open fields or mounted defenders. But admit my history is sort of cloudy though most viking raids I recall seem to occur at night or early / late in the day not in middle of the day when defenders are wide awake and well prepared. Again not times favoring the usage of the pike or other long staved weapons.
    Forgive my ignorance on this but when we talk "viking raiders", are we talking about small, light forces with a goal of hit soft targets fast and then move on to new targets or head home before any serious response comes or are we talking about armies? The former has no business screwing with castles or walled cities. I'm in full agreement that circumstances and doctrine influence weapon choice. I just want to be sure I've got the right idea of what we're talking about here because one of these has almost as much business screwing with a walled city as somali pirates do charging a carrier strike group.
    "It is not simply enough to know the light…a Jedi must feel the tension between the two sides of the Force…in himself and in the universe."
    ―Thon

    "When to the Force you truly give yourself, all you do expresses the truth of who you are,"

    Yoda

    Yoda told stories, and ate, and cried, and laughed: and the Padawans saw that life itself was a lightsaber in his hands; even in the face of treachery and death and hopes gone cold, he burned like a candle in the darkness. Like a star shining in the black eternity of space.

    Yoda: Dark Rendezvous

    "But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law, or the white burning of the sun." Suddenly his voice sounded to Will very strong, and very Welsh. "At the very heart, that is. Other things, like humanity, and mercy, and charity, that most good men hold more precious than all else, they do not come first for the Light. Oh, sometimes they are there; often, indeed. But in the very long run the concern of you people is with the absolute good, ahead of all else..."

    John Rowlands, The Grey King by Susan Cooper

    "You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve", said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; be content."

    Aslan, Prince Caspian by CS Lewis



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    Re: Did Vikings use swords, or just wave them around?

    The Vikings fought in larger armies as well. The Danes raided England in the 800's and eventually the raiders formed a larger force and invaded England. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle called it "The Great Heathen Army". Though most of their operations even in that time period constituted mostly raiding.

    In those larger battles they generally used axes and shields. Swords were not commonly used.

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    Re: Did Vikings use swords, or just wave them around?

    Quote Originally Posted by ThePaganMafia View Post
    The Vikings fought in larger armies as well. The Danes raided England in the 800's and eventually the raiders formed a larger force and invaded England. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle called it "The Great Heathen Army". Though most of their operations even in that time period constituted mostly raiding.

    In those larger battles they generally used axes and shields. Swords were not commonly used.
    Cool, thanks for the info. Any idea why they went for the specific combo of axe and shield? Axes as weapons aren't something I'm particularly familiar with and I'm curious if they specifically liked the pair or if axe and shield was just cheaper than sword and shield.
    "It is not simply enough to know the light…a Jedi must feel the tension between the two sides of the Force…in himself and in the universe."
    ―Thon

    "When to the Force you truly give yourself, all you do expresses the truth of who you are,"

    Yoda

    Yoda told stories, and ate, and cried, and laughed: and the Padawans saw that life itself was a lightsaber in his hands; even in the face of treachery and death and hopes gone cold, he burned like a candle in the darkness. Like a star shining in the black eternity of space.

    Yoda: Dark Rendezvous

    "But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law, or the white burning of the sun." Suddenly his voice sounded to Will very strong, and very Welsh. "At the very heart, that is. Other things, like humanity, and mercy, and charity, that most good men hold more precious than all else, they do not come first for the Light. Oh, sometimes they are there; often, indeed. But in the very long run the concern of you people is with the absolute good, ahead of all else..."

    John Rowlands, The Grey King by Susan Cooper

    "You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve", said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; be content."

    Aslan, Prince Caspian by CS Lewis



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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Did Vikings use swords, or just wave them around?

    Quote Originally Posted by MaskedOne View Post
    Forgive my ignorance on this but when we talk "viking raiders", are we talking about small, light forces with a goal of hit soft targets fast and then move on to new targets or head home before any serious response comes or are we talking about armies? The former has no business screwing with castles or walled cities. I'm in full agreement that circumstances and doctrine influence weapon choice. I just want to be sure I've got the right idea of what we're talking about here because one of these has almost as much business screwing with a walled city as somali pirates do charging a carrier strike group.
    There's actually no good hand weapon to attack fortifications, anyway.

    That's a long-term dig-in-and-starve-em-out situation. Seige engines would be nice, though -generally when used they're built on site.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by MaskedOne View Post
    Cool, thanks for the info. Any idea why they went for the specific combo of axe and shield? Axes as weapons aren't something I'm particularly familiar with and I'm curious if they specifically liked the pair or if axe and shield was just cheaper than sword and shield.
    Much cheaper. Any aprentice 'smith can make an ax, but a sword requires special training.

    Aside from that, an ax is easier to use and learn. It's a simple fake high, chop low, or fake low, chop high movement. Also, in a melee, swords actually get in the way. They require space to use, and the methods of using one are intended for one-on-one or judicial combat.

    Or you're on a horse and use shock tactics...

    Added, 'cause I'm a weapons nerd: when the fighting gets close, pole arms get tossed. The back-up weapon is going to be an ax, hammer, mace, or very short sword. Something like a big knife.
    Last edited by B. de Corbin; 18 Apr 2017 at 13:23.
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    PF Ordo Hereticus MaskedOne's Avatar
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    Re: Did Vikings use swords, or just wave them around?

    Or a Roman shield wall but I've seen some interesting arguments that the iconic Roman forces were actually primarily close range missile troops and stabby time didn't start till the enemy morale broke. Also Roman blades were rather specialized to the role of stabbing in confined space if memory serves.

    Thanks.
    "It is not simply enough to know the light…a Jedi must feel the tension between the two sides of the Force…in himself and in the universe."
    ―Thon

    "When to the Force you truly give yourself, all you do expresses the truth of who you are,"

    Yoda

    Yoda told stories, and ate, and cried, and laughed: and the Padawans saw that life itself was a lightsaber in his hands; even in the face of treachery and death and hopes gone cold, he burned like a candle in the darkness. Like a star shining in the black eternity of space.

    Yoda: Dark Rendezvous

    "But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law, or the white burning of the sun." Suddenly his voice sounded to Will very strong, and very Welsh. "At the very heart, that is. Other things, like humanity, and mercy, and charity, that most good men hold more precious than all else, they do not come first for the Light. Oh, sometimes they are there; often, indeed. But in the very long run the concern of you people is with the absolute good, ahead of all else..."

    John Rowlands, The Grey King by Susan Cooper

    "You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve", said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; be content."

    Aslan, Prince Caspian by CS Lewis



  10. #10
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Did Vikings use swords, or just wave them around?

    As I recall (not an area of specific interest, execpt regarding regarding tactics) the Roman throwing javelin (pillum?) had a two foot long soft iron shaft ahead of the wooden shaft. The idea was to begin by throwing the spears. If they struck anything, like a sheild, the iron shaft would bend making it impossible to manuver the sheild effectively, or to pull the spear, or to toss it back at the legionare.

    For the Romans, warfare was a pretty industrial procedure.
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

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