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Halberds and other polearms.

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578402.  Fri Jul 03, 2009 5:23 pm Reply with quote

Sadurian Mike wrote:
Or, as the Chinese call it, Heavenly Semaphorist Meet Ancestors.

(Those are hook swords, by the way).

Hmm, they look a bit Klingon to me.

578411.  Fri Jul 03, 2009 5:29 pm Reply with quote

Ideal for that scratch you just can't reach.

Sadurian Mike
578412.  Fri Jul 03, 2009 5:29 pm Reply with quote

Well they can cling-on to an opponent's weapon....

Sadurian Mike
578416.  Fri Jul 03, 2009 5:30 pm Reply with quote

The Chinese seemed to have a far bigger range of defensive weapons than did the West. From polearms to swords and other miscellaneous weaponry, they had plenty of weapons designed from the outset to parry and disarm.

Sadurian Mike
578527.  Fri Jul 03, 2009 8:49 pm Reply with quote

One of the earliest polearms seems to have been the "dagger-axe", which pretty much describes itself in that it is a dagger-like head attacked to a pole and swung like an axe.

Known from archaeology, the weapon was a development of a simple concept; if thrusting a dagger causes damage, then attaching the dagger to a long stick and swinging it will cause more damage. The narrow head of the dagger-axe meant that it was far better at piercing armour than was a broader head, although the smaller impact area also made the weapon require more accuracy to use properly.

Interestingly, early neolithic axes bear more resemblance to a dagger on a stick than to our later interpretation of an axe (a broad-bladed weapon).

Known users of the dagger-axe style of weapon are China, where it was called the "Ge" and is most well known from the famous Terracotta Arm, and Ancient Egypt where it is primarily known through tomb illustrations. It is entirely possibly that similar weapons were used elsewhere but left little evidence for archaeologists, in particular finds from the late stone age/early bronze age in Europe show axe heads that are tapered and thin rather than broad, as shown below in the reconstructed axe found with "Oetzi", the mummified Neolithic man found in Northern Italy.

In the following illustration, the dagger-axe is being carried by the chap on the left, annotated as "spearman".

587458.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:53 am Reply with quote

You should add your factlet about polearm vs. pollarm to this thread Mike, just to make sure everyone realises that neither of us knew that previously!

Sadurian Mike
587513.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 2:06 pm Reply with quote

Ah, okay, that's a good point.

"Polearm" is a weapon mounted on a long (generally 4'+) pole, usually not including the spear or pike, although they certainly fit the definition.

A "pollaxe", however, is a specific polearm. Its name derives from the word "poll" meaning "head", and is the same derivation as poll tax. Although the word is often written "poleaxe", this is technically wrong, although there could be an argument for it being correct by popular usage.

587631.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 4:43 pm Reply with quote

Oh, right... I guess... maybe.

So a halberd is different from a pollaxe but both are still polearms?

The heads of some halberds look a bit like axe blades but aren't. A pollaxe head really is an axe head on a pole but we call it a pollaxe because the axe head is put on the head, or poll, of the pole.

Glad we've cleared that up.

That picture appears to be a halberdish type of arm because it has that long spike on it but the whole thing is very vague.


Fairly standard axe head

A "poleaxe" or, more probably, a pollaxe

Sadurian Mike
587644.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 5:01 pm Reply with quote

Also, a pollaxe head might be more of a hammer or pick than an axe.

Just for clarity you understand....

When the head becomes more spike than axe or hammer, it is known as a bec-de-corbin (lit. "raven's beak").

So a pollaxe might not even have an axehead (although the term is usually taken to mean one with such a head).

Sadurian Mike
587647.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 5:04 pm Reply with quote

The halberd was a longer wepoan than the pollaxe and generally carried a larger axe-blade. Techniques for using each weapon would be different, with the pollaxe much better for individual combat than the halderd.

Indeed, the pollaxe was often used in early duels and trials by combat because it was a peculiarly flexible weapon in regards to methods of attack.

Sadurian Mike
587652.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 5:10 pm Reply with quote

Just to confuse things further, what the French called a bec-de-corbin and the English a pollaxe, is also known as a Lucerne Hammer.

A large number of pollaxes/bec-de-corbins with flanged heads were found near Lucerne in Switzerland. The Victorians promptly named the weapon a Lucerne Hammer but it is almost certainly the same weapon as the bec-de-corbin or pollaxe.

587654.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 5:14 pm Reply with quote

I noticed all those Lucerne hammer/bec de corbin things coming up when trying to find pollaxe images but figured I'd settle for pollaxes being just, er, axes on the poll of a pole.

The image you posted with the armour crushing head on the reverse of the blade like this

is visibly a pollaxe, the defining character as far as I'm concerned being, call me picky if you will, that it has something resembling an axe head on it.

Last edited by Celebaelin on Tue Jul 21, 2009 5:15 pm; edited 1 time in total

587655.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 5:15 pm Reply with quote


I thought that actually meant crow's beak, but on further research the French don't seem to discriminate between a raven and a crow and both are referred to as corbeau, not too interested in birds the French unless they can shoot 'em or shag 'em, explains the heritage of a lot of our gentry. Corbin is the Old French for corbeau. The only reason I'm interested in this is that the old (should that be auld, perhaps not) Scots for Raven is Corbie, but it is also used for the hooded crow, both of which are fearsome birds with equally fearsome beaks.

Sadurian Mike
587666.  Tue Jul 21, 2009 5:28 pm Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
The image you posted with the armour crushing head on the reverse of the blade like this... is visibly a pollaxe, the defining character as far as I'm concerned being, call me picky if you will, that it has something resembling an axe head on it.

The head on the reverse seems to have been fairly optional. Generally some sort of armour puncturing or denting head is seen (the hammer or pick heads) which adds to the weapon's flexibility of use.

Another advantage of a hammerhead is that the extra weight adds to the power of a full-on swing should you have tripped your opponent and are now looking to do some serious damage to him while he is down.

Yes, I tend to use the term "pollaxe" for an axe-headed version, and the bec-de-corbin or Lucerne hammer for the others, but although it is fairly Anglo-centric to call them all pollaxes, it is not technically wrong; the English favoured the axe-head and so called all such polearms pollaxes, even though they may have a hammer or pick instead.

697348.  Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:08 pm Reply with quote

....which all reminded me of the Battle of the Golden Spurs.
Featured prominently in my school history book. Our teacher was a bit of a connaisseur of ancient weaponry, and told quite vivid tales about the damage that the peasants wreaked with their hellebaarden that cleaved straight through chainmail, horse and rider.


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