Before guns became a thing, humanity’s main weapon of choice was swords. More than just slicing and stabbing the enemies, we have developed numerous designs throughout history to make these actions more efficient, effective, and legendary. Just like firearms, there have been numerous sword designs through the ages as armies tried to increase their utility and lethality on the battlefield.
Said to have evolved from farm implements or battle axes, a khopesh is an Egyptian sickle-shaped sword around 20–24 inches long. It was made from bronze but was later on changed to iron. The curve was designed to trap the opponent’s arm or pull their shield out of the way, which is pretty clever. The earliest record of this sword was King Eannatum of Lagash wielding the weapon at around 2500 BCE. During the New Kingdom period, khopesh became a common military weapon. It was also a symbol of authority with ceremonial value. In fact, Tutankhamun and Ramses II were both entombed with these sickles.
General Hannibal of Carthage(modern Tunisia) had a great deal of respect for the Falcata which came from Spain. He even equipped his Carthaginian troops with it during the Second Punic War. Some historians credit the sword’s effectiveness in close combat for Hannibal’s crushing victory over the Romans at the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC. The Falcata is a sword with a single-edged blade near the hilt and transforms into a double-edged near the point. It was designed to distribute weight so that it could deliver a blow with a momentum of an ax while also having the longer cutting edge of a sword that you could stab and slash an enemy with. Its hook-shaped grip was often designed in the shape of a horse or a bird. The hilt and the hooked butt were also often connected with a thin chain.
These floppy swords were visibly unique because they weren’t just somewhat flexible but downright limp. Urumi (called ethunu kaduwa in Sinhalese) has a whip-like double-edged blade and is treated like a whip. It is said that it emerged during the Sangam Period of ancient Tamil Nadu, Kerala, as well as parts of Sri Lanka. This sword greatly depends on the centrifugal force, so its wielder has to master how to follow and control the blade’s momentum with each swing, thus including spins and maneuvers as part of the techniques. This was also the reason why Urumi was not so user-friendly, as a wrong whip might end up with you accidentally slicing yourself up too.
The word literally translates to “two-hander” from German and was called so because it was large that it would require the wielder to use both his hands to use it. Zweihänder was primarily used in the 16th century and later became a signature weapon of the Germanic mercenaries called Landsknechte during the time of Maximilian I and the Italian Wars. It typically weighs over 4.4 pounds and is at least 4 feet, 7 inches long. The grip should be at least 9.8 inches, making it impossible to wield in one hand. Because of its size, it was not carried in a sheath but across the shoulder like a halberd. Its wavy version was called Flammenshwert. According to the story of Grutte Pier, a Frisian rebel leader and pirate, he was once able to decapitate seven enemy soldiers with one swing of his Zweihänder. By the 17th century, this sword was only used as a ceremonial weapon due to its impracticality. Nonetheless, it was still pretty badass.
These are just a few of the unique swords in history. Know other badass swords like these? Share them with us!
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