An extract from Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 1
by Ian Heath


This figure, from a painted sculpture of 1370 in Basle, is one of the earliest representations of a Swiss pikeman that we have. At this early date and into the early-15th century pikes were in fact heavily outnumbered by halberds in Swiss forces, and even at the Battle of Arbedo in 1422 only about a quarter of the Swiss army were pikemen. It was undoubtedly the Swiss defeat on that occasion that prompted the subsequent switch to a higher ratio of pikes. The figure shown here wears an apparently leather aketon over a sleeveless mail corselet, plus iron gauntlets and a bascinet with camail. His sleeves and hose are red, as is his spiess (pike).

Bearing in mind the mountainous nature of their country, it is worth noting the comment of a 14th century chronicler who records of the Battle of Morgarten that 'the Swiss as usual wore shoes with special metal soles that permitted them to walk up steep slopes'.

Next: 103. SWISS HALBERDIER, 15th CENTURY, in Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 1 by Ian Heath
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