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Late Great Donald Blake 

Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 7,566
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Location: Saint Louis, MO
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 2,489
Subj: Re: Here are two youtube channels that are both really fun and informative.
Posted: Thu Jan 13, 2022 at 10:43:28 am EST (Viewed 238 times)
Reply Subj: Re: Here are two youtube channels that are both really fun and informative.
Posted: Thu Jan 13, 2022 at 10:21:15 am EST (Viewed 247 times)

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Recently I was having a nerd-talk with a friend, and he commented how fantasy is often wrong when it depicts sword fighting as the primary combat tactic; how spear/lance fighting was the preferred method, while swords were mostly seen as sidearms. I guess it’s something I’d always assumed, but never gave it much thought.

Anyway, that’s how this whole historic-military-combat rabbit hole started for me. Thanks for the links.

Yeah I think the reason swords have the cultural predominance they do is, especially by the eleventh century, is because of their ubiquity. In large scale battles as you say they were primarily side arms. They were everywhere because (especially once they could be mass produced) they could be conveniently worn. Spears and later other polearms dominate the battlefield for a number of reasons, they're cheaper to make, easier to use, they have obvious reach.

But I think it's more important to emphasize that it's not their superiority to swords in one-on-one fights that makes them more significant in war. That's sort of debatable. It's the spears conduciveness to military formation that makes them the primary weapon of Antiquity and the Medieval battlefield. They're more useful with respect the things like the phalanx (famously) and various shield walls. Big formations of men with spears and shields could not only kill effectively, but form devastating units that could constrain and control the battlefield. But swords would come to be associated more with one-on-one combat. Especially going into the Renaissance period when dueling among civilians outside of a warfare context popularize. Swords also negan to become more prevalent (and two-handed) somewhat as the armor improved in the late Medieval period.

But yeah, so I think the principle to keep in mind is that warfare is by and large not conceptualized in a military context as a bunch of individuals fighting a bunch of individuals, but as organized units maneuvering tactically against one another, and in that case the spear is sort of a lynch pin in military battle especially before gunpowder.

--- the late great Donald Blake

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