1. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Carrying Medieval Weapons

    Discussion in 'Research' started by T.Trian, Jan 10, 2014.

    So I got a few questions regarding the issue:

    How were longswords carried? I know they were carried on the hips, but I need some more specific details:
    Were the belts set up like, say, gun belts today, i.e. tied as tightly and firmly as comfort allowed so the weapon / holster (scabbard in the case of a sword) moved as little as possible when you went for the draw, ensuring it was always in exactly the same place? Or were the belts worn looser? Why?
    Were the belts made of materials like the aforementioned gun belts; as rigid as possible to add stability, or did they prefer softer leather for flexibility (or some other reason)?
    How were the scabbards "mounted" on the belts?

    How were bows carried if you were not in the army, going into battle, but, say, traveling alone or in a small group from place A to place B? How were they carried if you were on foot? What about if you had a horse; how were bows mounted on horses / saddles when not in use? Were vines (if that's the correct term) carried on the hips or on the back?

    Come to think of it, what kind of a bow would a knight carry in the medieval / late medieval period? I'd imagine a longbow would be a tad too big since they were taller than their users... That being said, would, say, a knight or a brigand even carry a bow unless they were going to battle or hunting?

    How about shields? Were they carried on the back when on foot? How were they mounted on horses (like a hook on the saddle or some such?)?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Auxuris
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    Auxuris Member

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    Bows: It depends on the type of bow, but I believe you unstring them and fasten them to the side of a horse saddle if possible, or they are kept strung and slung over the back in case they need to be used. After all, there isn't much point carrying a bow if its going to be unstrung the whole day.

    Crossbows have been around for a long time and are powerful and easier to learn to draw/aim at short distances. Because its so easy for untrained people to just use, and knights are generally not particularly trained to use a bow, I'm thinking they mostly used those as opposed to longbows.

    Shields: Likely slung over the shoulder or back when not in use.
     
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  3. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks for the info! The character who's supposed to have the bow is someone who prefers the bow as a weapon over the sword even though it's not that big of a part of his training curriculum, so it's like a persona interest, a hobby, if you will, so that's why he's carrying it (in addition to his sword) even though he's not required to do so.

    Did, say, knights carry shields at all? Or was that a foot soldier -thing? I'm thinking about fencing here; a lot of the longsword stuff is two-handed, so I'm not sure if anyone would choose to use it with just one hand...?
     
  4. Auxuris
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    Auxuris Member

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    Ah. Usually they're trained with spears as well, throwing, using etc.

    I think most knights carried shields because it had their emblem painted on it? Like a coat of arms to show who they pledged fealty to or to identify them in tournaments because they sometimes wear their helmets down. Even if they didn't need it it was probably protocol otherwise others will find them plain weird or embarrassing or something. So its a definite thing. Longswords aren't only used with two hands so they've also got a choice to have a hand free to use a shield. Hand-and-a-half swords are typically able to be diversely used with or without shields.

    I'm not too clear about foot soldiers but I believe they attack as a whole so there are formations that need them to use their shields all together so I'd say yes they use shields. They protect archers with shields too. But then again they usually use those extreme long spears in straight battle so they don't seem to have hands to carry a shield either. It varies per army/situation I suppose.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why don't you just go to google images and search for the weapons you want info about... there you'll see for yourself how they were carried, in paintings/drawings from the era, as well as scenes from movies that may be historically accurate...
     
  6. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Good point.


    But isn't their coat of arms over that... that "sleeveless robe" they wear over their armor? Kinda like the white + red cross the crusaders wore? Damn, I should know its name...
    Though he'd probably carry a shield too. I just have a vague memory of seeing shields mounted on horses while not in use and I'm not entirely sure I haven't seen a medieval saddle with some implement for shields, like a hook...


    I know, it's just that some HEMA practitioners I've talked with in the past have been pretty confident that it was preferred to use longswords with both hands, but since they weren't professionals or even instructor-level practitioners, I can't really take their word for it (they didn't cite their sources and, stupid of me, I didn't ask).


    You're probably right about the variety of it: I think most troops had footsoldiers divided into spearmen / pikemen, shielded swordsmen, archers etc. but that a spear and a shield would've been a rare combination to say the least.


    I've done all that already, but haven't found sources I'd trust (as some painters didn't always understand the nitpicky little details and got them wrong in their paintings) and the pros I usually badger are unavailable at the moment. I almost never use movies as reference for sword stuff because almost all of them get so much of it wrong with very few exceptions like The Duellists and Captain Alatriste (and both of those are about the wrong era, i.e. no longswords or shields or anything like that).

    I've found lots of information about using these weapons, crafting them, their metallurgy and histgory etc, but I've yet to find the right way to wear / carry e.g. a longsword (except that it's uniformly agreed it was carried on the hips, never in the back). What I'm guessing is that there was a preference among experienced users on how to wear it (since I've seen people scoffing at how amateurs wear it wrong even though nobody has specified what exactly was wrong with the way they carried their blades), but I haven't found definite answers yet nor have I found reliable sources on how knights mounted their spare weapons on their saddles.
     
  7. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Actually the leather surrounding a sword belt could be quite complex. A scabbard had a "tog" in order to connect it to the belt. This might be a triangle of leather, or two separate pieces in order to keep the sword at an angle.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The leather is fairly thick and firm, though it's not as rigidly shaped as a modern gun holster.
     
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  8. Storysmith
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    Storysmith Member

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    I think the tunic you're thinking of is a tabard or more likely a surcoat. There wasn't a standard crusader design - I think you're thinking of the device of the Templar Order with the red cross on white.

    As I recall (i.e. I don't have any sources, so I suggest that you check), bows were considered a peasant's weapon, and so knights didn't use them for anything but sport.
     
  9. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks, that's definitely going into the story.


    I'm actually looking for the names of two things: this and this.
    In the first picture, the white cloth is fairly thin and flows easily while in the second picture, the woman in green and red, has a similar garment but of thicker, sturdier material. Are they just two variants of the same thing or do they have their own names?


    That's how I've understood it as well; the bow is the character's favorite weapon, but it's just a hobby (though he does carry it with him in addition to the required weapons... which would be the longsword, the dagger, the shield, and... the spear?).
     
  10. Auxuris
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    Auxuris Member

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    Hmm well, its a person's choice really. If they are fast on their feet and want to strike powerful blows, two hands. Using a shield generally lets a user use a wider range of attacks and moves etc. Sometimes they start off with a shield and then when it gets too damaged, they drop it and use two hands.

    Nuh they definitely had some sort of insignia over their shield. Unless they're freelance and want to keep anonymity. And then again if they were famous for doing/repesenting something or they had a special title they'd still have something over their shield. For knights and nobility mostly, not the low ranked sergeants. Its probably how all the shield badges and brooches and coat of arms on coins we currently use came from. I mean, why suddenly put them on shields? Why not buttons? Or scarves?

    Though if you're making your own world in the novel, even if its on earth, you can actually change the rules a little - it doesn't have to strictly follow the old. It should be okay so long it makes sense. I have a feeling people customised their equipment too, like how we wear our caps or where we put our phones. Its different for different parts of the world. Romans and Japanese and Germans all used different ways of fighting, had different preferences (trends etc) and so had unique ways of storing equipment.

    I think to carry a spear around might be a little overkill. He doesn't need it to protect himself if he has a dagger and a sword. They're easy to manufacture so I think he can get one wherever he goes.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2014
  11. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    The thing that Gram Chapman is wearing is a tabard. It's basically an outer armor shirt. It's also the same thing as a surcoat. The woman in the second picture is also wearing a surcoat, it's just thicker.
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If it were me researching something like this, I'd google and contact a few medieval re-enactment societies. There are quite a few of them in the UK. These people are usually VERY picky about detail.

    I watched a programme recently containing a segment about longbows, and the re-enactors were very proficient with them, and forthcoming about the kind of cotton-stuffed armour that footsoldiers wore to attempt to protect themselves. (Which worked, but could kill the wearer if he fell in water while wearing it.) The programme showed just how much damage one of these longbows could do.

    This was a programme connected to the Battle of Bannockburn, so that was the focus, but I got the impression that re-enactor people really know their stuff, and are delighted to share knowledge. You could probably ask them very specific questions pertinent to your characters, and they'd be able to answer them for you.

    There would be no problem finding re-enactors with swords and other kinds of bows as well.
     
  13. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It takes place in a fictional world modeled after medieval Europe (think western Europe and Scandinavia), so yeah, I have some leeway, but I want everything to make sense from a... "technical" standpoint.


    Thanks, finally I have a word for it.


    I've actually done that; one is an advanced student, another a teacher of HEMA, and another a champion swords(wo)man, but they're all unavailable right now. I'll be bugging them again with my questions soon enough. :D Wouldn't hurt to find a few more trustworthy HEMA experts though...
     
  14. Auxuris
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    Auxuris Member

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    All the best for your story! c:
     
  15. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I haven't read all the posts here, but I want to make the point that swords were normally cross drawn. So they were worn on the hip opposite whatever was the strong hand.
     
  16. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Auxuris, thank you! :)

    @Lewdog, I'm under the impression that you're right at least when it comes to longswords. Some sources say that at least some of those carrying shields (footsoldiers at least, not sure about cavalry) carried their swords on their strong side (the side of their sword arm) so they could hold up the shield and pull their sword out without fouling the draw or having to move the shield, but if I recall correctly, that article discussed Romans and their gladius swords + shield tactics in formation fighting, but I saw a video of a guy demonstrating that he could draw even a longsword off his strong side.

    I'd still favor the crossdraw, hence that's what I'll write into the story for those donning longswords (still a bit undecided when it comes to footsoldiers carrying shortswords; gotta do some more research of how they carried them in medieval Europe).
     
  17. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Well some soldiers that carried short swords wore them on their back so that it angled to their strong side and they drew it from over their shoulder. They also wore their shields like a back pack using the same straps they used to hold it in front of them.
     
  18. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Lewdog, from what I've heard, carrying swords on the back is mostly a Hollywood trope because the sword has to be really quite short for you to be able to draw it quickly and reliably that way (as demoed by some dude in a YT vid). If you notice, in most movies where people carry their blades on their backs, the camera cuts away after the beginning of their draw, there's the compulsory *zing*, and the camera cuts back to them with their swords in their hands. I know some ninjas used to carry their swords on their backs when they had to crawl through narrow tunnels / chutes / whatever, but even then it was usually only for the duration of the crawl / the time before it.

    Do you know of any historical works where it's indicated that soldiers carrying shortswords carried them on their backs? I'm not disputing the possibility that they did this, just wondering what kind of swords (how short) they carried and how common it was if it did happen.
     
  19. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Well if you are talking about guys that are fighting on the front lines of a battle they would be carrying pikes and shields most of the time in order to dismount attackers on horses or even kill the horses. Your second line will have swords. I'm looking for the length of a short sword to clarify that it would be possible to pull it out of a sheath on the back...but no website even lists short swords. I did find this site that seems quite interesting: http://www.lordsandladies.org/medieval-swords.htm

    From what the website says, instead of a short sword, it would be a short broad sword at 30 inches. If the sheath was mid back, there would be no problem of drawing it from the back.
     
  20. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, 30 inches would be short enough. I guess a lot of it depends on the exact era and location. That site listed the medieval broadsword being up to 5lbs in weight; that's a pretty heavy swinger.
     

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