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An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath


Both these figures date to c. 850 and are armed with spear and sword.

Frankish swords were the best in Europe at this time, pattern-welded and well-balanced with a broad fuller down the centre. This groove is often referred to in Scandinavian sagas as a 'blood-channel', but its real purpose was to lighten the blade without weakening it. These swords were principally intended as cutting weapons, sword fighting being a matter of heavy blows with the edge of the blade, which had to be parried with the flat if a dented cutting edge or shattered blade was to be avoided. Scabbards are recorded as covered with white linen hardened with shining wax. They were usually wooden throughout this period and lined with wool or fur. Other cover materials included leather and parchment. The scabbard could he suspended from either the waist-belt or a baldric.

49 has a slightly Roman look, possibly as a result of artistic licence on the part of the illuminator, though the source adheres mainly to Carolingian styles for shields, weapons and general clothing, with the exception on many figures of knee-breeches and Roman-style sandals (which we know were still being worn in Carolingian times - Charlemagne himself wore short breeches and sandals). He wears a sleeveless scale corselet over a pattern-edged leather jerkin. The aventail of his helmet, the halsberge or 'neck-protection' of written sources, is of mail. The same source shows scale and leather aventails and coifs, and helmets similar to that of 50.
Carolingian soldiers from Prudentius' Psychomachia late 9th century.
Carolingian soldiers from the Golden Psalter of St. Gallen late 9th century.

Next: 50. CAROLINGIAN HEAVY ARCHER in Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 by Ian Heath