|Migration Period Sword|
Germanic type ring sword – France, 6th century
|Place of origin||Germany|
|Produced||4th century – 7th century|
|Variants||Krefeld type, Alamannic type, Frankish type|
|Length||Ca. 70 to 80 cm blade|
|Blade type||straight, smooth or with shallow fuller, double edged|
|Hilt type||short guard, large pommel, ring hilted variants|
The Migration Period sword was a type of sword popular during the Migration Period and the Merovingian period of European history (c. 4th to 7th centuries AD), particularly among the Germanic peoples and was derived from the Roman era spatha. It later gave rise to the Carolingian or Viking sword type of the 8th to 11th centuries AD.
The blade is normally smooth or shows a very shallow fuller, and often has multiple bands of pattern-welding within the central portion. The handles were often of perishable material and there are few surviving examples. Blade length measured between 28" and 32" (710 and 810 mm) in length and 1.7" to 2.4" (45 to 60 mm) in width. The tang has a length of only some 4" to 5" (100 to 130 mm) long. The blades show very little taper, usually ending in a rounded tip.
Surviving examples of these Merovingian-period swords have notably been found in the context of the Scandinavian Germanic Iron Age (Vendel period).
There is no single term that can be reconstructed as having referred specifically to the spatha in Common Germanic. There are a number of terms and epithets which refer to the sword, especially in Germanic poetry.
Terms for "blade", "point" or "edge" which pars pro toto (“part for total”) could also refer to the sword as a whole include
From the testimony of Germanic mythology and the Icelandic sagas, swords could also be given individual names. Examples include the magic sword of Högni, named Dáinnleif after the dwarf Dáinn ( Skáldskaparmál ), Skofnung and Hviting, two sword-names from the Kormáks saga , Nægling and Hrunting from Beowulf, and Mimung forged by Wayland the Smith.
The spatha was introduced to the Roman army in the early imperial period by Celtic cavalry auxiliaries who continued to wear their Celtic long swords in Roman service. The earlier gladius sword was gradually replaced by the spatha from the late 2nd to the 3rd century. From the early 3rd century, legionaries and cavalrymen began to wear their swords on the left side, perhaps because the scutum had been abandoned and the spatha had replaced the gladius.
An early find of Roman spathae in a native Germanic context (as opposed to Roman military camps in Germania) is the deposit of sixty-seven Roman swords in the Vimose bog (3rd century).
The spatha remained in use in the Byzantine Empire and its army. In the Byzantine court, spatharios (σπαθάριος), or "bearer of the spatha", was a mid-level court title. Other variants deriving from it were protospatharios , spatharokandidatos and spatharokoubikoularios, the latter reserved for eunuchs. One of the more famous spatharokandidatoi was Harald Hardrada.
An early type of recognizably Germanic sword is the so-called "Krefeld-type" (also Krefeld-Gellep), named for a find in late Roman era military burials at Gelduba castle, Krefeld (Gellep grave 43).
The military burials at Gelduba begin in the late 1st century with the establishment of a Roman camp in Germania Inferior, and they continue without interruption throughout the period of withdrawal of Roman troops and the establishment of early Frankish presence in the mid-5th century.
The Krefeld type spathae appear in graves from approximately the 430s through the 460s. In these graves, the exalted prestige of the sword is not yet fully developed, and some of them are surprisingly poor. They rather seem to still continue the tradition of military graves of the Roman period, of warriors buried with their personal weapon, the presence of a sword perhaps indicating service in the late Roman army.
Six Krefeld type swords are known from Francia, four from Alamannia, and another two from England.
A native industry producing "Germanic swords" then emerges from the 5th century, contemporary with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. The Germanic spatha did not replace the native seax, sometimes referred to as gladius or ensis "sword", but technically a single-edged weapon or knife. It rather establishes itself, by the 6th century, at the top of the scale of prestige associated with weapons. While every Germanic warrior grave of the pagan period was furnished with weapons as grave goods, the vast majority of the 6th- to 7th-century graves have a seax and/or a spear, and only the richest have swords.
Swords could often become important heirlooms. Æthelstan Ætheling, son of king Æthelred, in a will of c. 1015 bequeathed to his brother Eadmund the sword of king Offa (died 796), which at that time must have been over 200 years old.
The gold hilt spatha was a very rare and prestigious type of sword in the later 5th century. Specimens are known mostly from Alemannia (Pleidelsheim, Villingendorf), but also as far afield as Moravia (Blučina).
An "Alamannic type" is distinguished from a "Franconian type" based on scabbard mounts and hilt design by Quast (1993). A total of 20 examples are known, ten of each type.
One of the "Franconian" examples is the sword of Childeric I (died 481), recovered from his tomb at Tournai. Some authors have suggested that Childeric's sword was a "ceremonial sword" not intended for combat, perhaps produced for the occasion of his burial.
The ring-sword (also ring-spatha, ring-hilt spatha) is a particular variant of the Germanic migration period swords. Ring-swords are characterized by a small ring fixed to the hilt (not to be confused are Late Medieval to Renaissance Irish swords with ring-shaped pommels, also known as "ring-swords").
Ring-swords came into fashion in the last phase of the Migration period (or the beginning of the Early Middle Ages, in the 6th and 7th centuries. They were found in Vendel era Scandinavia, Finland and in Anglo-Saxon England as well as on the Continent (Saxony, Francia, Alemannia, Langobardia).These swords were prestigious, prized possessions, probably reserved for kings and high nobility. The ring is interpreted as a symbolic "oath ring".
The design appears to have originated in the late 5th century, possibly with the early Merovingians, and quickly spread to England (from the earliest phase of Anglo-Saxon presence) and Scandinavia. The Beowulf poem uses the term hring-mæl, literally "ring-sword" or "ring-ornament", [ citation needed ]and scholars who interpret this as referring to this type of sword can point to it as one indication that the Beowulf poet was still drawing from an unbroken tradition of the pagan period, as ring-swords disappeared from the archaeological record with Christianization, by the late 7th century.
In the 8th century, Frankish sword smiths increasingly gained access to high quality steel imported from Central Asia, where a crucible steel industry began to establish itself.The earliest types of "Viking swords" according to the typology of Petersen (1919) are dated to the second half of the 8th century, while the "Viking sword" proper (and notably the Ulfberht type) emerges by the turn of the 9th century.
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A sword is a bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographic region under consideration. The blade can be straight or curved. Thrusting swords have a pointed tip on the blade, and tend to be straighter; slashing swords have a sharpened cutting edge on one or both sides of the blade, and are more likely to be curved. Many swords are designed for both thrusting and slashing.
Gladius is a Latin word meaning "sword", but in its narrow sense, it refers to the sword of Ancient Roman foot soldiers. Early ancient Roman swords were similar to those of the Greeks, called xiphe. From the 3rd century BC, however, the Romans adopted a sword similar to the one used by the Celtiberians and others late into the Second Punic War, known in Latin as the gladius hispaniensis, or "Hispanic sword".
Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge, in Suffolk, England, is the site of two early medieval cemeteries that date from the 6th to 7th centuries. Archaeologists have been excavating the area since 1939. One cemetery had an undisturbed ship burial with a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts; most of these objects are now held by the British Museum. Scholars believe Rædwald of East Anglia the most likely person to be buried in the ship. The site is important in understanding the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia and the early Anglo-Saxon period, as it illuminates a period that lacks historical documentation.
The spatha was a type of straight and long sword, measuring between 0.5 and 1 m, with a handle length between 18 and 20 cm, in use in the territory of the Roman Empire during the 1st to 6th centuries AD. Later swords, from the 7th to 10th centuries, like the Viking swords, are recognizable derivatives and sometimes subsumed under the term spatha.
Swordsmanship or sword fighting refers to the skills of a swordsman, a person versed in the art of the sword. The term is modern, and as such was mainly used to refer to smallsword fencing, but by extension it can also be applied to any martial art involving the use of a sword. The formation of the English word "swordsman" is parallel to the Latin word gladiator, a term for the professional fighters who fought against each other and a variety of other foes for the entertainment of spectators in the Roman Empire. The word gladiator itself comes from the Latin word gladius, which is a type of sword.
The English language terminology used in the classification of swords is imprecise and has varied widely over time. There is no historical dictionary for the universal names, classification or terminology of swords; A sword was simply a double edged knife.
Knowledge about military technology of the Viking Age is based on relatively sparse archaeological finds, pictorial representation, and to some extent on the accounts in the Norse sagas and laws recorded in the 14th century.
The pugio was a dagger used by Roman soldiers as a sidearm. It seems likely that the pugio was intended as an auxiliary weapon, but its exact purpose to the soldier remains unknown. Officials of the empire took to wearing ornate daggers in the performance of their offices, and some would wear concealed daggers as a defense against contingencies. The dagger was a common weapon of assassination and suicide; for example, the conspirators who stabbed Julius Caesar used pugiones. The pugio was descended from the daggers used by the Cantabarians.
Seax is an Old English word for "knife". In modern archaeology, the term seax is used specifically for a type of small sword, knife or dagger typical of the Germanic peoples of the Migration period and the Early Middle Ages, especially the Saxons, whose name derives from the weapon. These vary considerably in size, but are mostly all-purpose tools and weapons, often carried by women as well as men.
The Viking Age sword or Carolingian sword is the type of sword prevalent in Western and Northern Europe during the Early Middle Ages.
A runic inscription is an inscription made in one of the various runic alphabets. They generally contained practical information or memorials instead of magic or mythic stories. The body of runic inscriptions falls into the three categories of Elder Futhark, Anglo-Frisian Futhorc and Younger Futhark.
Swords made of iron appear from the Early Iron Age, but do not become widespread before the 8th century BC.
Early Germanic warfare was the warfare of early Germanic peoples. It was a important element of early Germanic culture.
The Seax of Beagnoth is a 10th-century Anglo-Saxon seax. It was found in the River Thames in 1857, and is now at the British Museum in London. It is a prestige weapon, decorated with elaborate patterns of inlaid copper, brass and silver wire. On one side of the blade is the only known complete inscription of the twenty-eight letter Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet, as well as the name "Beagnoth" in runic letters. It is thought that the runic alphabet had a magical function, and that the name Beagnoth is that of either the owner of the weapon or the smith who forged it. Although many Anglo-Saxon and Viking swords and knives have inscriptions in the Latin alphabet on their blades, or have runic inscriptions on the hilt or scabbard, the Seax of Beagnoth is one of only a handful of finds with a runic inscription on its blade.
The Blučina burial is a Migration Period princely burial at Blučina, near Brno, Moravia, Czech Republic, excavated in 1953 by Karel Tihelka (1898-1973).
In the European High Middle Ages, the typical sword was a straight, double-edged weapon with a single-handed, cruciform hilt and a blade length of about 70 to 80 centimetres. This type is frequently depicted in period artwork, and numerous examples have been preserved archaeologically.
Trewhiddle style is a distinctive style in Anglo-Saxon art that takes its name from the Trewhiddle Hoard, discovered in Trewhiddle, Cornwall in 1770. The most outstanding metalwork produced in ninth century England was decorated in the animated, complex style. Trewhiddle ornamentation includes the use of silver, niello inlay, and zoomorphic, plant and geometric designs, often interlaced and intricately carved into small panels. Famous examples are: the Pentney Hoard, The Abingdon Sword, the Fuller Brooch, and the Strickland Brooch.
The Shorwell helmet is an Anglo-Saxon helmet from the early to mid-sixth century AD found near Shorwell on the Isle of Wight in southern England. It was one of the grave goods of a high-status Anglo-Saxon warrior, and was found with other objects such as a pattern-welded sword and hanging bowl. One of only six known Anglo-Saxon helmets, alongside those from Benty Grange, Sutton Hoo, Coppergate, Wollaston, and Staffordshire, it is the sole example to derive from the continental Frankish style rather than the contemporaneous Northern "crested helmets" used in England and Scandinavia.
Many different weapons were created and used in Anglo-Saxon England between the fifth and eleventh centuries. Spears, used for piercing and throwing, were the most common weapon. Other commonplace weapons included the sword, axe, and knife—bows and arrows, as well as slings, were not frequently used by the Anglo-Saxons. For defensive purposes, the shield was the most common item used by warriors, although mail and helmets were sometimes used.
These swords were used by the Turkic nomads of the Eurasian steppes primarily between the 9th and 14th centuries. One of the earliest recorded sabres of this type was recovered from an Avar grave in Romania dating to the mid 7th century. Although minor variations occur in size and hilt, they are common enough in design across 5 centuries that individual blades are difficult to date when discovered without other context.