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Old May 19th, 2012, 10:21 AM   #1

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Battle Axes

When did the battle axe develop as a weapon of war? I haven't come across any descriptions (that I can recall) in the Celtic world. Did any of the Germanic tribes have them or were they a later addition to Europe?
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Old May 19th, 2012, 10:46 AM   #2

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This may help:

The Minoan double-axe is said to have been used as a ritual axe. On a Minoan ritual vessel we see a young warrior bearing an axe. Not much is really known how the axe was used if in combat or only religious ritual.

However, we see the shape continue into the Greek world. The double axe in Greek Mythology and on Greek Vase iconography is used in the battlefields by the Amazons.

Battle Axe:
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Last edited by MinoanGoddess; May 19th, 2012 at 10:51 AM. Reason: correction
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Old May 19th, 2012, 10:49 AM   #3
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It seems that the Axe started out as a tool, but was not adopted by ancient civilizations as a weapon of war.

Google books censored this book, but from the 3 pages I was able to read it seems informative enough.
Weapons: A Pictorial History - Edwin Tunis - Google Livres

A new tactic was then adopted by the early Franks, who threw axes at the first charging enemy line. If the Francisca was maintained as a useful weapon by the Franks after their successful raids and settlement inside the empire is hard to say, but that's typically what they're ''known for''. That may just apply to some Frankish war parties that the Roman authors tried to pass as barbaric. Who knows.
Between the 3th-4th century and the central middle ages, I don't know anything. I hope someone knows about the Carolingian or Viking era.
Let's all enjoy a scene of the Bayeux tapestry

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Old May 19th, 2012, 10:57 AM   #4

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The sagaris was used by the Skythians and by various contingents of the Persian Army.
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Old May 20th, 2012, 01:22 AM   #5
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I would of thought the axe would go back very early. Imagine using a flint then realising that you could attatch it to a stick, that would class as an early form of axe imo.
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Old May 20th, 2012, 01:31 AM   #6

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When I saw the title of this thread - Battle Axes - my first thought was of Nora Batty.

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Old May 20th, 2012, 06:44 AM   #7

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Throwing axe

There was a series of programs on the Nat Geo channel about the most effective of the ancient weapons. They tested and explained every one. The most effective ancient weapon was the Frankish throwing axe. The 2nd was the Hun's compound bow. Why were these so effective? Because they put you some distance from your opponent. You could survive longer than a close face to face battle with a sword. The Goths found out about the Frankish throwing axe the hard way, in a battle around 507 they lost to the Franks. It also enabled the Franks to defeat the Langobards in a battle in Italy some years later.
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Old May 20th, 2012, 10:37 AM   #8

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The use of axes by the Celts has been at least mentioned by Plutarch describing how the Ambrones women fought against Marius in -102 :
Well, then, the Ambrones became separated by the stream... Here the women met them, swords and axes in their hands, and with hideous shrieks of rage tried to drive back fugitives and pursuers alike, the fugitives as traitors, and the pursuers as foes; they mixed themselves up with the combatants, with bare hands tore p517away the shields of the Romans or grasped their swords, and endured wounds and mutilations, their fierce spirits unvanquished to the end.

There are also archaelogical finds of axes in Gaulish tombs, mostly from the 2nd/1st century BC. In Acy-Romance, theses axes are supposed to have been used for human sacrifices.
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Old May 20th, 2012, 11:30 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by BrowniesRule View Post
Let's all enjoy a scene of the Bayeux tapestry

Click the image to open in full size.
This is totally off topic, but were men in the days of the Bayeux Tableau really so much taller than their horses? Or were the artists of that time very proportionately challenged?
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Old May 20th, 2012, 01:03 PM   #10
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As far as I can recall, battle axes were used already in ancient Egypt and Middle East.

Axe does not need same quality of metal as sword, therefore it is technologically much easier to produce.

One thing one should remember about battle axes is that they are not same type like woodcutting or woodworking axes. Battle axes are SMALL and LIGHT. And they are single edged. So far I did not come along any double edged axe ever used in combat (there were ceremonial ones).

So remember, these kind of pictures are completely ridiculous:

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