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The soldier of the mid-i 500s witnessed dramatic advances in military technology. Swords, bows and pikes were now being challenged by early artillery, hand-held guns and complex siege weapons. In response, combatants became more heavily armored. The sword evolved from being a purely slashing weapon to one that could pierce and break through plate armor. New sword types also appeared, from the huge two-handed broadsword of the Landsknecht to the handy short-bladed falchion of the ordinary infantryman.

The Estoc or Tuck Sword

Stiff, lozenge or diamond-shaped thrusting blades were now replacing the wide-bladed and cruciformhilted swords typical of the medieval period. This new type of sword was known to the French as an estoc and to the English as a tuck. The estoc featured a long, two-handed grip, enabling the bearer to achieve maximum effect as he thrust the sword downwards into armor. This sword was particularly effective at splitting chainmail and piercing gaps in armor. Due to the narrowness of the blade, it had no discernible cutting edge but a very strong point. Opponents who had lost the protection of their armor during the heat of battle were still dispatched by the traditional double-edged cutting sword, held in reserve for just such an eventuality. Versatility and a range of weapons to hand was still an important and practical factor. Downward-curving cross guard

The “hand-and-a-half” Sword

Common throughout Europe from the beginning of the 15th century, the “hand-and-a-half sword” is also referred to as a “longsword”. The contemporary term “bastard sword” derives from it being regarded as neither a one-handed nor a two-handed sword. Despite these perceived drawbacks, it possessed a reasonably long grip and shorter blade, which allowed one hand to hold the narrow grip firmly, while a couple of fingers placed strategically on the forte gave the soldier extra leverage and maneuverability when wielding. The length of these swords was around 115—145cm (45.3—57in).

The Falchion

Although the falchion’s design had originated in ancient Greece, the sword experienced a widespread revival during the Renaissance, particularly in Italy, France and Germany. This short-bladed sword had a straight or slightly curved blade, with cross guards either absent or very simple. The falchion was primarily a side-weapon and was usually carried by the infantry. Because of its short blade and ease of maneuverability, the falchion became the precursor to the hunting sword.

Two-handed (Zweihänder) Swords

Very large broadswords called Zweihänder or two- handed swords, became very popular during the 15th and 16th centuries, and are probably best known for their association with the famed Landsknechte, or mercenaries. Established during the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian 1(1459—1519), and drawn mainly from Germany and eastern Europe, Landsknechte fought in numerous battles throughout the continent, particularly during the Italian Wars of 1494—1 559.

Their Zweihänder swords had a length of up to 1 .8m (5.9ft) and weighed 2—3.5kg (4.4—7.7lb). The hilt was of massive form, with extremely large pommels and hilt guards. The sword could also be utilized as a form of short lance when gripped firmly at the blade forte. Because of its immense size, the Zweihänder would also have been extremely effective at attacking and breaking up massed ranks of infantry or pikemen.

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