The sagas tell a different tale. Ownership of a sword required money or daring. Not nobility.
Originally Posted by A.M.
Every army needs ordinary foot soldiers though and everybody can't be rich. So the majority of warriors probably didn't own swords.
The importance of swordsmenship on the ancient/medieval battlefields is overblown and combat on the battlefield was less individualistic then it has been portrayed. The Vikings wouldn't have been as successful as they were if their armies relied on the prowess of individual warriors alone.
However swords were still the preferred weapon when it came to duels. Although fighting with a shield and a sword is different then fighting with a shield and a spear.
I don't mean to sound like a jerk if I do but I just think that swords are overly mythologized in general. Although from a sparring stand point they are a lot more fun then spears.
Last edited by A.M.; 6/17/2009 4:16pm at .
Originally Posted by DdlR
This is supposedly the way they arranged their troops on the battlefield.
It's called Svinefylking, literally the Swine Formation, a it ended in a swine's snout/wedge where the best warriors where ready to punch a hole in enemy lines.
Couldn't find a better source though, sorry.
The svinfylking formation is well-established, but I was thinking more in terms of how/whether the shields were interlocked in various ways, etc.
On the topic of swords, yes, nobles were more likely to be able to afford them, but the ownership of swords was not restricted to the nobility by custom.
Let me just state at the outset, this is not my area of expertise, but I've read a handful of decent -- if entry level -- books...
Originally Posted by A.M.
First, we're talking about a span of time. It was my understanding that ownership swords became more prevalent as the "Viking Age" progressed. The travel and raiding brought more opportunities for the rank and file to procure swords either as spoils or by purchase at home or abroad. So I think we've been generalizing when we should be identifying a particular point in time. In the early years of the Viking Age, as the first raids left Scandinavia, I would expect swords to be fairly uncommon.
I would expect -- but this is just my musing -- that the availability of swords had an effect on the sophistication and dispersion of sword fighting technique. As swords became more common, so did effective sword fighting technique. I would appreciate any more knowledgable expertise as to whether this is true or not.
Regarding the point about mythologizing swords... I got a better understanding of how the people of the Dark Age must've viewed swords while watching the Viking episode of the History Channel's Warriors series. They showed how a sword began with peat smelting -- which literally produced usable iron ore from a clump of dirt. Then the time consuming process of pattern welding the steel into a sword. Even now it looked like magic to me. Clearly the Viking sword was the result of several of their highest technologies working in concert, and lavished with artistic attention. Then if you add the function of the sword and the precise art of wielding it, it is no wonder to me why swords were mythologized and treated as mystic objects. Obviously these were not weapons every warrior could own in the early Viking Age.
A question on the sheild techniques shown so far.
All the techniques shown apply to Sword 'n board type fights/duels. Is there actually information that the majority of the troops used swords?? (as this seems to be a topic of debate here,i.e swords for the rich). I can understand developing/reverse engineering technique for sword duels,but shield walls etc etc would be dependant on weapon type as well wouldn't it?? i.e you (AFAIK) don't "thrust" with an axe so need to have more room?? does the shield wall concept allow for that?? if so,what weapon was the dominant troop weapon?
As for the side-on type of shield use?? Very interesting and the first time i've seen it.However now that i've seen it?? it just seems obvious,especially using it in a "jamming their weapon" type application,so thanx once again. Really enjoy alot of the material in this forum.
Last edited by KiwiPhil889; 6/17/2009 11:56pm at .
Reason: added in a question
As far as I can recall (it's been about 20 years since I was really into Viking stuff) swords were a minority weapon, with spears (and other polearms), axes and various knives being much more common. Spear fighting and archery appear to have been the baseline skills for formation battles.
Until the 12 th century sword were quite expensive across Europe. After the 12th century sword were made of crucible steel, and were shipped by the barrel…
Scandinavia sword were highly valued in Byzantium, but really the sword making process was very similar across Europe, saxon Carolingian etc..
They were basically pattern welded, basically it is the same concept as a Japanese blade the difference being that Japanese did use differential tempering and the European sword used forge welding. Regardless both use folded steel; hence the expensive as it is time and resource consuming.
Like in japan, they were king of revered and valued item, usually given a name.
And the vast majority of those societies, Europe wise, common people were expected to fight and were supposed to maintain minimum equipment. The Saxon Fryd is a good example of that. Swords were not very common and that was the vast majority of the troops.
As well you had a limited number of “professional” like the scalds , husCarls or any retinue/body guard of a potentate, and sword were very common, in most of the case it was the symbol of that social function.
Actually?? i just re-read the title,and the "....individual combat" should have given me some hints.But i'm still wondering,does/would the technique alter for what would likely be rank 'n file?? those that weren't,as a general rule,armed with swords or am i pushing the "..individual combat" senario too much?? Where the reality was rank 'n file didn't predominantly get involved in that and therefore relied on a totally different set of skills??
I still enjoyed watching the demos though,and hope i'm not derailing the thread,i'm just a bit of a nosey bastard that sometimes goes off on tangents lol.
Insofar as individual combat would have happened by default if/when the formations broke down, fighters would probably have used whatever worked for them under those conditions. IIRC most Viking warriors carried several weapons into battle, to accommodate the various ranges. If the edge-forward guard position is versatile enough to be adapted to, say, hand-axes and long knives, you'd probably see similar techniques to those shown in the video clips.
Originally Posted by KiwiPhil889
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