10 Innovative Medieval Weapons: You Would Not Want To Be At The Sharp End Of These!
Long before modern warfare, there was a time of knights in shining armor atop equally armored horses fighting for the hand of a maiden or in pitched battle. However, the weapons that these knights wielded expanded far past that of an ordinary sword and shield. Listed here are ten strange and deadly weapons used in the medieval period spanning across hundreds of years and reaching across the globe. While these weapons were not used regularly, they do provide an interesting window into medieval warfare and the advances in technology that were being made at that time.
The Gun Shield
The gun shield was exactly what its name would suggest, it was a shield with a breech loading match lock pistol at its center with a small square window about the barrel as an observation port. The shield is believed to have been used by the personal body guard of Henry VIII around 1544-1547.
Gun shield. (c. 1545-1550) ( Public Domain )
Although many examples of gun shields have been found in England, they are thought to be of Italian origin and were offered to King Henry VIII in a letter from the Italian painter Giovanbattista. In this letter, they are described as, “several round shields and arm pieces with guns inside them that fire upon the enemy and pierce any armour.” The Italian version of the gun shield was more delicate and light - to be used in hand to hand combat, compared to the English version - which was typically used on a ship. This technology soon died out.
- A Flexible and Deadly Blade: The Dangerous Urumi
- Ten Diabolical Weapons and Strategies of War from the Ancient World
The Spring Loaded Triple Dagger
The Spring Loaded Triple Dagger appeared to be a normal dagger at first glance, but when the wielder pressed a release the two spring-loaded side daggers emerged - making the single dagger into a sort of trident. At the time, daggers were used as a side weapon in case the combatant had lost their primary. As such, daggers had extremely sharp points as opposed to sharpened sides, making it more effective as a stabbing weapon that could pierce armor. The usefulness of the triple dagger came in its versatility, one could use it as a simple dagger to stab, or as the triple pronged version to inflict more damage. It was effective at capturing the weapons of other opponents and parrying in exhibition combat. This weapon was used by fencers in Europe in the middle ages as it was far too expensive to ever see actual battle.
Left hand dagger with spring blades that can be opened by pressing a button, c. 1620. ( Public Domain )
The Urumi was a very flexible long sword made from either steel or brass, and was often treated as a metal whip. It was often made up of multiple fine metal blades attached to a single handle, in some cases there could be as many as 30 blades in one sword. The weapon originated in the southern states of India, being known as far back as the Mauryan Empire. While being deadly to the opponent, it was also very dangerous to the wielder. In Medieval India, only the most well-trained Rajput warriors could practice with the Urumi as it required perfect coordination, concentration, and agility. The wielders would be taught to follow and control the momentum of the weapon and the techniques included spins and other agile moves. These spins made the weapon well suited to fight against multiple opponents at once.
Fighters using urumi. ( CC BY SA )
Greek Fire was an incendiary material which could be shot from a ship and would burn on the top of water. It was said that in the 7th century a Byzantine architect by the name of Kallinikos invented Greek Fire and used it to defend Constantinople against an Arab fleet. In the west, the term “Greek Fire” was applied to incendiary weapons also used by the Mongols, Chinese, and Arabs. However, what set the Byzantine Greek Fire apart was their use of pressurized nozzles to project the liquid onto the enemy. While the composition is unknown, it has been suggested that the ingredients could be a mixture of pine resin, naphtha, quicklime, calcium, phosphide, sulfur, or niter.
Image from an illuminated manuscript, the Madrid Skylitzes, showing Greek fire in use against the fleet of the rebel Thomas the Slav. ( Public Domain )