The Swiss degen (Schweizerdegen) was a short sword ( Degen ), an elongated version of the Swiss dagger, with the same double-crescent shape of the guard. It was used as a type of side arm in the Old Swiss Confederacy and especially by Swiss mercenaries, from the first half of the 15th century until the mid 16th century. The native term used in the 15th century for this weapon was baselard. The term Schweizerdegen (as Early New High German Schwytzertägen) is first attested in 1499.
The blade length could be anywhere between 40 cm (16 in) and 70 cm (28 in). Although there was a general trend towards longer blades over time, this development was not linear and disparate blade lengths coexisted throughout the 15th century, and only in the 16th century a more or less discrete split between the short dagger (Dolch) and the long degen becomes evident.
These weapons were widely worn both by soldiers and by civilians. They were very popular with the Swiss mercenary pikemen throughout the late 15th and early 16th century. Degen were not usually issued as ordnance weapons, but purchased privately as secondary weapons by soldiers. For this reason, there never emerged a definite standard form, and variations in hilt and blade design remained the rule from their inception in the 13th century until the weapon's decline in the 17th century.
The Cgm 558 Fechtbuch (Hugo Wittenwiler) mentions a few techniques for unarmed defense against an attack with a basler (Swiss degen). Use of the weapon has parallels to the fencing with the German Messer , and indeed the section on the basler in Wittenwiler's treatise takes the place of the Messer section in comparable German manuscripts (Wittenwiler treats basler techniques alongside the longsword, rondel dagger (tegen), Swiss dagger (kurzes messer) and unarmed ringen ).
A dagger is a knife with a very sharp point and usually two sharp edges, typically designed or capable of being used as a thrusting or stabbing weapon. Daggers have been used throughout human history for close combat confrontations, and many cultures have used adorned daggers in ritual and ceremonial contexts. The distinctive shape and historic usage of the dagger have made it iconic and symbolic. A dagger in the modern sense is a weapon designed for close-proximity combat or self-defense; due to its use in historic weapon assemblages, it has associations with assassination and murders. Double-edged knives, however, play different sorts of roles in different social contexts.
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.
A halberd is a two-handed pole weapon that came to prominent use during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. The word halberd is most likely equivalent to the German word Hellebarde, deriving from Middle High German halm (handle) and barte (battleaxe) joint to helmbarte. Troops that used the weapon are called halberdiers.
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".
A longsword is a type of European sword characterized as having a cruciform hilt with a grip for two-handed use, a straight double-edged blade of around 85 to 110 cm, and weighing approximately 1 to 1.5 kg.
A pike is a pole weapon, a very long thrusting spear formerly used extensively by infantry. Pikes were used regularly in European warfare from the Late Middle Ages to the early 18th century, and were wielded by foot soldiers deployed in close quarters, until it was replaced by rifles, which had a longer range, and to which a bayonet could be attached. The pike found extensive use with Landsknecht armies and Swiss mercenaries, who employed it as their main weapon and used it in pike square formations. A similar weapon, the sarissa, was also used by Alexander the Great's Macedonian phalanx infantry to great effect. Generally, a spear becomes a pike when it is too long to be wielded with one hand in combat.
The katar or katara is a type of push dagger from the Indian subcontinent. The weapon is characterized by its H-shaped horizontal hand grip which results in the blade sitting above the user's knuckles. Unique to the Indian subcontinent, it is the most famous and characteristic of Indian daggers. Ceremonial katars were also used in worship.
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.
A dusack is a single-edged sword of the cutlass or sabre type, in use as a side arm in Germany and the Habsburg Monarchy during the 16th to 17th centuries, as well as a practice weapon based on this weapon used in early modern German fencing.
A messer is a single-edged sword with a knife-like hilt construction. While the various names are often used synonymously, messers are divided into two types:
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.
The Swiss dagger (Schweizerdolch) is a distinctive type of dagger used in Switzerland and by Swiss mercenaries during the 16th century. It develops from similar dagger types known as basler which were in use during the 14th and 15th centuries. The characteristic mark of the Swiss dagger are two crescent-shaped, inward-bent metal bars delimiting the hilt.
The baselard is a historical type of dagger or short sword of the Late Middle Ages.
The Swiss sabre is a type of two-handed sabre design that was popular in Early Modern Switzerland.
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.
Bronze Age swords appeared from around the 17th century BC, in the Black Sea region and the Aegean, as a further development of the dagger. They were replaced by iron swords during the early part of the 1st millennium BC.
The Zweihänder, also Doppelhänder ('double-hander'), Beidhänder ('both-hander'), Bihänder or Bidenhänder, is a large two-handed sword primarily in use during the 16th century.
The parrying dagger is a category of small handheld weapons from the European late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. These weapons were used as off-hand weapons in conjunction with a single-handed sword such as a rapier. As the name implies they were designed to parry, or defend, more effectively than a simple dagger form, typically incorporating a wider guard, and often some other defensive features to better protect the hand as well. They may also be used for attack if an opportunity arises. The general category includes two more specific types, the sword breaker and trident dagger.
The basket-hilted sword is a sword type of the early modern era characterised by a basket-shaped guard that protects the hand. The basket hilt is a development of the quillons added to swords' crossguards since the Late Middle Ages. In modern times, this variety of sword is also sometimes referred to as the broadsword.
The Swiss developed a number of characteristic weapons during their period of military activity in the 15th and early 16th centuries, perfected further during the Early Modern period.