Author Topic: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?  (Read 8652 times)

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Merlkir

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Re: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?
« Reply #15 on: October 05, 2008, 09:22:27 AM »
Found something similar to SMS in the Romance of Alexander. Looks more falchiony though..



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Weapons terminology tends to be a bit wacky, but to my knowledge a falx is supposed to curve like a sickle or scythe. This one does not. For the same reason, it's not a 'shortened military scythe' -it curves the wrong way. Looks like a shortened glaive to me -the head is identical to the Maciejowski glaive heads, if a bit bigger, and with a very short shaft. It probably has a fancy name somewhere, but that I don't know.

I've actually read that it was called a rhomphaia. But then, the byzantines called many things a rhomphaia, including spears and axes. It means long sword though. (and originally it was a longer brother of the dacian falx.)

doorknobdeity

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Re: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?
« Reply #16 on: November 11, 2008, 05:29:30 AM »
An update to this ancient topic:
In the Medieval Warfare Sourcebook: Christian Europe and its Neighbors, there is one interesting picture displaying two cavalrymen with glaive-like weapons fighting on horseback. The caption:

"Chinese or Chinese-style Central Asian cavalrymen, in a Perso-Transoxianan manuscript, late 14th-early 15th centuries . . . The soldiers are equipped in a Chinese manner and wield the massive double-ended staff weapons used by both cavalry and infantry in late medieval Chinese armies."

The weapons in questions look like glaives with very long big curved blades, with a spearpoint on the opposite side.

doorknobdeity

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Re: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?
« Reply #17 on: November 11, 2008, 05:35:14 AM »
I've actually read that it was called a rhomphaia. But then, the byzantines called many things a rhomphaia, including spears and axes. It means long sword though. (and originally it was a longer brother of the dacian falx.)
For real? In the Penguin Classics edition of Michael Psellos' history, a rhomphaia is defined as a curved iron sword, and supposedly referred to the Varangian Guard, though this wasn't always clear. Since the Guard were supposedly famous for wielding axes (even to contemporaries), I guess your explanation makes sense, but that sort of things makes me sooo angry.

Zilberfrid

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Re: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?
« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2008, 06:33:09 PM »
Problem is, historical sources are far from consistent, not even in one particualr book
One common use of cream pie is throwing it in people's faces. If it is rocket-propelled, it can be thrown from farther and the impact will scatter cream over a wider area.

Merlkir

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Re: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?
« Reply #19 on: November 12, 2008, 06:41:56 PM »
yeah, I've read a theory that the varangian axes (now so popular and rarely disputed) are a mistranslation also.

doorknobdeity

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Re: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?
« Reply #20 on: November 12, 2008, 07:32:12 PM »
Really? But being of primarily Saxon and Scandinavian extraction, why would they use a strangely-shaped two-handed sword as opposed to the weapon that their ethnicities were known to use?

Or am I just revealing the extent of my ignorance here?

Merlkir

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Re: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?
« Reply #21 on: November 12, 2008, 09:41:26 PM »
they could've been using spears (which was pretty common). Or byzantine swords that were gifts from their employer. Or something :) Has anyone here read Red Orm? :) I think he and his friend got their swords from a byzantine emperor and valued them a lot. (maybe it was some other ruler, I haven't read it for a long time..)

edit:
yeah, I was wrong, it was Al-Mansur, the ruler of Moorish Iberia. Anyway, quite a great book, my dad used to read it to me when I was little..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Long_Ships

anyway, the axes are a possibility, but the varangians would've probably change their customs to match the byzantian ones and also their warfare.

wiki says quite not-very-convincingly:

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Also the Byzantines used the blade as well, although it most likely was used by a few units of foot soldiers dating somewhere between Byzantium's golden age of ~900-1071, and maybe even earlier. It was not mentioned as a weapon like the falx however, and Osprey Publishing, who wrote their book about the Byzantine army 800-1118, were stumped themselves as to what this weapon was. They assumed correctly that it was falx like, but it also could have been a sabre. Now it is revealed that it was indeed a falx-like weapon.

and

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Rhomphaia was first ‘a spear’, later ‘a sword’ (Plutarch: Life of Aemilius Paulus 18; Eustathius, on Iliad verse VI 166; Hesychius; also Luke 2;35 and the Revelation of John of Patmos, several times.)
« Last Edit: November 12, 2008, 09:46:10 PM by Merlkir »

kweassa

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Re: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?
« Reply #22 on: November 16, 2008, 12:42:41 AM »
The thing about swinging polearms from horseback, is that the force of the motion, weight of the weapon itself, and resulting impact, all contribute to a very real danger of either the rider falling off from the saddle, or the horse stumbling to its side. As such, the couched lance methods which surfaced between 11th - 12th century, is by all means a significant development in regards to mounted charge tactics in the history of cavalry. The stirrup, firm saddles, and couching all contributed to a very stable method of attack where the axis of the attack is in near alignment with the momentum of the rider.

Before couched lances, three methods of horseback spears were prevalent - the overhand, underhand, and twohanded methods.


-A picture depicting the overhand, couched, and underhand spearing techniques-

The overhand method is directly derived from foot spear/javelin throwing, and a very preferred method in the light cavalries of classical ages armed with short and light spears which could be thrown on horseback. Like the motion suggests, it was primarily for throwing the spears, and allowed for quick jabs and thrusts against usually unarmoured infantry.

The underhand method was used alongside the overhand method, but far less frequently, and was usually fit for longer, heavier spears in the age where couching was not a widely used method. The serious drawback of this technique was that due to the single handed grip, there was a danger of injury to the wrists if the rider thrust too deeply with his spear - in which case the spear couldn't be prodded out as the rider passed by, and if he failed to release in time, would seriously twist his wrists.




- A Koguryo heavy cavalryman, using the two-handed technique of spearing -

Then there is the two-handed method.

This method was widely spread in the entirety of the Asian continent, ranging from Middle East, to the Far East. The two pictures above show a 5th - 6th century heavy cavalryman of the Koguryo kingdom, using a classic two-handed method, which would later evolve into horseback polearms used in the Far East, after the modes of weapons were re-established by the armies of the Chinese Song dynasty(960-1279).

The two handed method offered a firm grip on the weapon, which allowed much more faster, stronger range of motion on horseback which included strikes and swings as well as the typical thrusting. However, the drawback was that since both hands held the weapon, the horse had to be steered and controlled entirely by the riders legs alone, which took high degree of skill in horsemanship.

As more powerful cavalry forces began to appear in the Far East (due to the increase of major incursions and invasions coming from northern tribes), in time, between the periods of the Song dynasty, and upto Yuan and Ming dynasties, the cavalry spears were replaced with longer, heavier weapons which resembled a glaive.

These types of horseback polearms, usually referred to as a 'moon sword', are immortalized with the icons the ancient general Guan Yu, a historical figure deified after his death, and became to be worshipped as a god of war and righteousness in the Far East.


- Popular depiction of Guan Yu on horseback, with his 'Blue Dragon Moon Sword' -

However, it is ironic, since during the late Han dynasty, the weapons of cavalry were still plain swords and short spears. As mentioned, it is only after the 12th-13th century these horseback polearms began to appear in the Far East.

There is an excellent illustrated record concerning the use of these long, heavy horseback weapons, in the <Muyedobotongji> (1790), a Chosun dynasty illustrations on military arts, created for training purposes. In volume2 is a chapter devoted to "Horseback Moon Swords", and in volume4, "Horseback Heavy Flail".


- From the top left: horseback spearmanship, horseback dual swords, polo, horseback moon swords, horseback flail, and horseback acrobatics -

There is also a 3D-rendered recreation of the 24 basic test categories required to pass to become a military officer in the Chosun army, among which 6 of them are cavalry tests. Among them is the use of heavy flails and moon swords on horseback:


- Close up of the use of the horseback moonsword -


Horseback Moon Swords (http://yjc.culturecontent.com/sub_03_02_b.asp?code=21)
Horseback Heavy Flail (http://yjc.culturecontent.com/sub_03_02_b.asp?code=22)


The videos are short, since they've only recreated what is directly illustrated by the <Muyedobotongji>, but it should be sufficient to see that swinging stuff from horseback required a short, fast, and precise swings, rather than a long and powerful swing as one might think. <Muyedobotongji> also mentions horseback polearms must be trained continuously to get a feel of how different weapons may effect the horse and the rider, and recommends a training of 3 different types of moon swords according to length and weight.



ps) Unfortunately, didn't have the time or resources to look into contemporary Chinese, or Japanese scriptures.







« Last Edit: November 16, 2008, 12:51:23 AM by kweassa »

doorknobdeity

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Re: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?
« Reply #23 on: November 16, 2008, 03:59:10 AM »
Goodness gracious, that's a lot. Thank you.

Ingolifs

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Re: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?
« Reply #24 on: December 19, 2008, 08:39:43 AM »

(click to show/hide)
- Popular depiction of Guan Yu on horseback, with his 'Blue Dragon Moon Sword' -


Is that the dude whom legends say wielded a 100 kg heavy polearm?

Zilberfrid

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Re: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?
« Reply #25 on: December 19, 2008, 10:23:56 AM »
edited into oblivion, I was being stupid and relying to page one
One common use of cream pie is throwing it in people's faces. If it is rocket-propelled, it can be thrown from farther and the impact will scatter cream over a wider area.

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Re: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?
« Reply #26 on: December 20, 2008, 04:12:57 AM »
[ It probably has a fancy name somewhere, but that I don't know.
It's a warbrand, that's how I found it on wikipedia before suggesting it. :D

Since no one has addressed this, I thought it worth mentioning that "Warbrand" was the name given to a reproduction of the Maciejowski chopper by Museum Replicas Limited, a "swords 'n stuff" dealer of questionable repute.  This is one of the problems with Wikipedia -although I'm a *huge* fan of all wiki projects, it can lead to incorrect or misleading information.

There was no -repeat, NO- weapon known historically as a warbrand.  I will not say the word was never used at the time even as a poetic descriptor, although I do strongly doubt it. 


Incidentally to the conversation, "Rhompia" are -as far as weapons archaeologists are concerned- iron-age Thracian weapons, ranging from three to five feet in length, two handed and curved, with a cutting edge on one curve.  Both inward and outward curving blades have been found, with inward curving blades being the more common.  This *predated* the Dacian Falx, a shorter, broader-bladed two handed weapon (looking much like a bill or modern brush hook) used against the Romans in both Dacian campaigns; although given the geography involved (Dacia was immediately north of Thrace, across the Danube) the two weapons were almost undoubtedly related.

kweassa

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Re: Could glaive/naginatas be "swung" from horseback?
« Reply #27 on: December 27, 2008, 05:28:19 PM »
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Is that the dude whom legends say wielded a 100 kg heavy polearm?

More like 16 ~ 25kgs.

Although (as mentioned) the "moon sword" polearms have never formally entered the Chinese miliatry system before the Song dynasty, popular depection of Guan Yu as according to the historical novelization by <Romance of the Three Kingdoms>, tells us his 'Blue Dragon Moon Sword' weighed 82 jin.

Modern day measurement of 'jin' is around either 400g ~ 600g (which actually differs according to which material is being weighed; ie. 1 jin meat = 600g,  1 jin fish = 400g) , which gave rise to the misconception that Guan Yu's weapon of choice weighed around 50kg.

But in the Yuan era, the measurement of 'jin' weighed far less, and is estimated to be around 200~300g.

Ofcourse, 16 - 25kgs is still far heavy to be considered practical, and most certainly a fictional additive to emphasize the great strength and prowess of Guan Yu.