Friday, August 21, 2015

The Craftsmanship of a Viking Sword

Throughout the period called the "Dark Ages", the seafaring warriors of the North, the Vikings, struck fear into the peoples of Europe. Daring the waters of many seas these fearless men of Scandinavia alternately raided and explored. The Vikings were not just raiders but farmers and merchants. As merchants their travels extended into the Middle East. Here's where the Viking sword came into being.

Swords in Europe were made of ferrous iron. It held a great deal of slag which when forged into weapons such as swords it could be brittle. The warrior of Europe tried to get the best sword possible. The swordsmith was a valued trade and the life of the man at arms was in his hands. A sword that broke was a death stroke. If the warrior survived, woe to the smith who had forged the broken blade.

The Vikings were trading with Persia where crucible steel was devised. This steel had elements which gave a combination of strength and flexibility that the ferrous iron swords of Europe lacked.A family of swordsmiths, Ulfbert, began forging swords from crucible steel.

Swords excavated and now in museums in Britain and Europe testify to the metallurgic superiority of the Ulfbert blade. The general style of the sword is based on the Roman spatha. The spatha was a variation on the Legionary's gladius.The gladius was a short two edged sword made to be used as part of a forward moving company or line of soldiers. It was to be used in stabbing motion.The spatha was similar in design but much longer, intended for cavalry use where a longer weapon was needed.

The Viking sword was based on the spatha and with the use of crucible steel's strength and resiliency, became an all around weapon and deadly force in the hands of an experienced fighter. Defenders of villages and towns saw their inferior weapons fail against the Norsemen whose confidence grew at the expense of their foes. When the Norsemen were raiding the mere mention of heir name caused panic.

Even today, the relics of the Viking sword move scholars and students of this period to amazement and respect.

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