During the Dark Ages did people carry swords frequently?

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
3,810
Australia
#51
For those of you who don't know the old English values of coins:

12 pence (d) to a shilling (s)

20 shillings to a pound

a mark was 2/3 of a pound, 160 d, or 13 s 4 d.

A thatcher might make 2 - 4d a day and a common laborer might make a max of 2 pounds a year based on the medieval price listed posted
This thread is about the Dark Ages. The prices being produced in this thread are irrelevant because they are way too late. Go back a few centuries and look at those documents.

The Lex Ribuaria (Carolingian, 800AD) lists the cost of a cow as 1 solidii. An ox as 2 solidii. A mare was worth 3 solidii. A mail byrnie was worth 12 solidii. A sword with a scabbard was worth 7 solidii. So a sword was worth 7 cows. A little later, during Charles the Bald’s reign, a sword with a scabbard was worth 5 solidii. Swords were so expensive that only Charlemagne's cavalry (men who had the wealth to maintain a horse) were required to own one.

At the same time (800AD) in the Netherlands, the Ewa ad Amorem lists the cost of a horse at 7 solidii. A slave was 7 solidii. A pack animal was 4 solidii. An ox was 2 solidii. A milch cow was worth 1 solidii. A sword was 7 solidii. Again we have a sword worth 7 cows.

The Gesta sanctorum Rotonensium (Brittany, 851AD) lists the cost of a warhorse at 20 solidii and a sword at 5 solidii.

The Will of King Alfred (England, late 9th C) gives a sword worth 100 mancuses to Ealdorman Ehtelred. A mancus is a golden coin worth 30 silver pennies, so this sword was worth 3000 pennies. An ox was worth 30 pennies.

The Will of Ælfgar (England, mid 10th C) said that King Edmund gave him a sword worth a hundred and twenty mancuses of gold or 3,600 silver pennies.

In the Laxdæla Saga (Norway, 938AD), the king gives a sword worth half a mark of gold to Hoskuld. A mark of gold contained eight ounces, and each ounce was worth a mark of silver. A mark of silver could buy 4 milch cows so this sword was worth 16 cows. What percentage of society had the wealth to buy 16 cows?
 
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Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#52
This thread is about the Dark Ages. The prices being produced in this thread are irrelevant because they are way too late. Go back a few centuries and look at those documents.

The Lex Ribuaria (Carolingian, 800AD) lists the cost of a cow as 1 solidii. An ox as 2 solidii. A mare was worth 3 solidii. A mail byrnie was worth 12 solidii. A sword with a scabbard was worth 7 solidii. So a sword was worth 7 cows. A little later, during Charles the Bald’s reign, a sword with a scabbard was worth 5 solidii. Swords were so expensive that only Charlemagne's cavalry (men who had the wealth to maintain a horse) were required to own one. 

At the same time (800AD) in the Netherlands, the Ewa ad Amorem lists the cost of a horse at 7 solidii. A slave was 7 solidii. A pack animal was 4 solidii. An ox was 2 solidii. A milch cow was worth 1 solidii. A sword was 7 solidii. Again we have a sword worth 7 cows.

The Gesta sanctorum Rotonensium (Brittany, 851AD) lists the cost of a warhorse at 20 solidii and a sword at 5 solidii.
That does show pretty conclusively that sworss were expensive in the early middle ages.

The Will of King Alfred (England, late 9th C) gives a sword worth 100 mancuses to Ealdorman Ehtelred. A mancus is a golden coin worth 30 silver pennies, so this sword was worth 3000 pennies. An ox was worth 30 pennies. 

The Will of Ælfgar (England, mid 10th C) said that King Edmund gave him a sword worth a hundred and twenty mancuses of gold or 3,600 silver pennies.

In the Laxdæla Saga (Norway, 938AD), the king gives a sword worth half a mark of gold to Hoskuld. A mark of gold contained eight ounces, and each ounce was worth a mark of silver. A mark of silver could buy 4 milch cows so this sword was worth 16 cows. What percentage of society had the wealth to buy 16 cows?
Those examples do not prove your point, since a king's sword would not be cheap, nor would a king give a cheap sword as a gift! We know there was a wide range in sword quality and prices in the later middle ages, and citing examples of what would be the most expensive swords does not prove that cheaper swords did not exist. While your previous examples proves your point, these do not.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
3,810
Australia
#54
That does show pretty conclusively that sworss were expensive in the early middle ages.



Those examples do not prove your point, since a king's sword would not be cheap, nor would a king give a cheap sword as a gift! We know there was a wide range in sword quality and prices in the later middle ages, and citing examples of what would be the most expensive swords does not prove that cheaper swords did not exist. While your previous examples proves your point, these do not.
So provide a counter example. What evidence do you have that some swords at that time were cheap? If you think that these king's gifts were more expensive than regular swords, you have to prove it. We have had more than enough baseless speculation in this thread already.
 
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Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
3,810
Australia
#55
I would say it differed vastly from one society to another, during the early dark ages i'd say Celts were more likely too have swords.
Adding even more speculation is not helpful. What makes you think that Celtic swords were any different to everyone elses? What gives you the idea that they were cheaper or more widely available?
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,587
Sydney
#57
not only were sword expensive to make , but unless they were of very good quality they would be near useless and bend
this could only be achieved by a very good smith , of which there were not so many
the Sword production was limited by the number of smiths who could make them

for a middling warrior ,an axe was a better bet , it always work even if the metal is less than outstanding
 
Jan 2015
2,812
MD, USA
#58
not only were sword expensive to make , but unless they were of very good quality they would be near useless and bend
this could only be achieved by a very good smith , of which there were not so many
the Sword production was limited by the number of smiths who could make them

for a middling warrior ,an axe was a better bet , it always work even if the metal is less than outstanding
In other words, swords were expensive because they could only be made by experienced smiths, so there would *not* be swords that would be "near useless and bend". Because no one made a sword unless he knew how to make a proper sword, right?

Axes were common for men who were not wealthy enough for a sword, because axes were cheaper. Pretty simple, really. Fear of getting a "bad" sword was never a factor, since there weren't any.

Matthew
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,587
Sydney
#59
in his "Gallic wars" Caesar mentioned the very bad quality of Gaulish swords ,
they were very thick and heavy simply to have a minimum of functionality but often would bend
 
Aug 2014
3,810
Australia
#60
We have an entire book with metallurgical analyses of dozens of extant Celtic swords
(https://www.amazon.com/Celtic-Sword-Radomír-Pleiner/dp/0198134118).
IIRC Pleiner said that around 30% of those tested were of poor enough steel to bend as described by Polybius. It should hardly be a surprise since the same thing is observed in every sword-making culture. Most swords are good functional tools, a few are exceptional, and the rest are poor quality. The specific percentages of each depend largely on the skill of the maker and the quality of the steel.
 
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