Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/625

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583
ARMS AND ARMOUR

both sides of the blade from hilt to point. The handle-plate and blade were cast in one piece, and the handle itself was formed by side plates of bone, horn or wood, riveted through the handle-plates. There was no guard, and the weapon, though short, was well balanced, but more fitted for stabbing and thrusting than for cutting with the edge. The Scandinavian variety is not so decidedly leaf-shaped, and is longer and heavier than the common British form; and instead of a handle-plate, it was furnished with a tang on which a round, flat-topped handle was fastened, like that of the modern Highland dirk, sometimes surmounted by a crescent-like ornament of bronze. A narrow, rapier-shaped variety, tapering from hilt to point, was made without a handle-plate, and attached to the hilt by rivets like the bronze daggers already mentioned. This form is more common in the British Isles than in Scandinavia, and is most abundant in Ireland. The spear-heads of the Bronze Age present a considerable variety of form, though the leaf-shaped predominates, and barbed examples are extremely rare. Some British weapons of this form occasionally reach a length of 27 in. The larger varieties are often beautifully designed, having segmental openings on both sides of the central ridge of the blade, and elaborately ornamented with chevron patterns of chased or inlaid work both on the socket and blade. Arrow-points are much rarer in bronze than in flint. In all probability the flint arrow-point (which was equally effective and much more easily replaced when lost) continued to be used throughout the Bronze Age. Shields of bronze, circular, with hammered-up bosses, concentric ridges and rows of studs, were held in the hand by a central handle underneath the boss. The transition period between the Bronze and Iron Ages in central Europe is well defined by the occurrence of iron swords, which are simple copies of the leaf-shaped weapon, sometimes with flat handle-plate of bronze. These have been found associated with articles assigned to the 3rd or 4th century B.C.


1911 Britannica - Arms-Bronze Spear-Head.png

Fig. 3.—Bronze Spear-Head, length 19 inches.


An important distinction between the characteristic bronze swords peculiar to southern peoples and the swords both of iron and of bronze found together in the Hallstatt cemeteries (in the Salzkammergut, Austria, ancient Noricum) is Hallstatt Weapons. that whereas the former invariably have short handles (2¼ to 2½ in.), the latter are provided with handles from 3 to 3½ in. long, terminating in a round or oval pommel; the grip of one of the bronze swords even reaches a length of 4 in. The hilts are decorated with ivory, amber, wood, bronze, horn, and the decoration of blade and scabbard is often elaborate. The length of these swords is sometimes as much as 30 to 33 in. Again at La Tène on Lake Neuchâtel iron swords have been found to the number of one hundred, with handles of 4 to 7½ in. long and a total length varying from 30 to 38 in. Similar remains have been found in France at Bibracte and Alesia, and even in Ireland (cf. Munro, The Lake-dwellings of Europe, pp. 282, 383).

The occurrence at Hallstatt of bronze swords together with iron, having the characteristic long handle, has led to the hypothesis that the graves are those of an immigrant (probably Celtic) people of northern extraction which had conquered and overlaid a smaller-framed Bronze Age people, and had introduced the use of iron while continuing to use the bronze of their predecessors with the necessary modifications. This theory derived from tangible remains is corroborated by literary evidence. Thus Polybius (ii. 33, iii. 114) describes the Celtic peoples as fighting with a long pointless iron sword, which easily bent and was in any case too large to be used easily in a mêlée.

The graves at Hallstatt yielded in addition to these important swords a much larger number of spears. Of these two only were of bronze, the head of the larger being 7½ in. long. The much more numerous iron heads range up to as much as 2 ft. in length, and are all fastened to the shaft by rivets. All the arrow-heads found are of bronze, while of the axes the great majority are of iron; a few have iron edges fitted in a bed of bronze.

These examples are sufficient to show that the transition from bronze to iron was very slow. The fact that they were found in a district which is known to have been directly in the line of march pursued by invaders from the north tends to confirm the theory that the introduction of iron was the work of such invaders.

See Sir John Evans, Ancient Stone Implements (2nd. ed., 1897), Bronze Implements; W. Ridgeway, Early Age of Greece; and works quoted under Archaeology.

3. Early Greek Weapons.—The character of the weapons used by the early peoples of the Aegean in the periods known as Minoan, Mycenaean and Homeric is a problem which has given rise of recent years to much discussion. The Mycenaean and Homeric. controversy is an important part of the Homeric question as a whole, and the various theories of the weapons used in the Trojan War hinge on wider theories as to the date and authorship of the Homeric poems. One widely accepted hypothesis, based on the important monograph by Dr Wolfgang Reichel, Über homerische Waffen. Archäologische Untersuchungen (Vienna, 1894), is that the Homeric heroes, like those who created the civilization known as Mycenaean, had no defensive armour except the Mycenaean shield, and used weapons of bronze. This view is derived to a great extent from the Homeric poems themselves, in which the metal most frequently mentioned is χαλκός (bronze), and involves the assumption that all passages which describe the use of corslets, breastplates, small shields and greaves are later interpolations. It is maintained on the other hand (e.g. by Prof. W. Ridgeway, Early Age of Greece, i. chap. 3), that the Homeric Achaeans (whom he regards as the descendants of the central European peoples, the makers of the Hallstatt iron swords) were far advanced into the Iron Age, and that the use of bronze weapons is merely another instance of the fact that the introduction of a new element does not necessarily banish the older. This theory would separate the Homeric from the Mycenaean altogether, and is part of a much more comprehensive ethnological hypothesis. According to another hypothesis, the Homeric poems are true descriptions of a single age, or, in other words, the weapons of the Homeric age were far more diverse and elaborate than is supposed by Reichel.

Very few traces of iron have been found in the Mycenaean settlements, nor have any examples of body armour been found except the ceremonial gold breastplates at Mycenae. The Mycenaean soldiers carried apparently a bronze spear, a bronze sword and a bow and arrows. The arrow-heads are first of obsidian and later of bronze. It would appear that only the chief warriors used spear and shield, while the majority fought with bows. The swords found at Mycenae are two-edged, of rigid bronze, and as long as 3 ft. or even more; from representations of battles it would seem that they were perhaps used for thrusting mainly. They are highly ornamented and some have hilts of wood, bone or ivory, or even gold mounting. Later swords became shorter and of a type like that of early iron swords found in Greece. Moreover in a few cases there have been found in pre-Mycenaean (late Minoan III.) tombs a few examples of short iron swords together with bronze remains. All Mycenaean spears are of bronze and, apparently, their shafts, unlike the Homeric, had no butt-piece. In the absence of any metal helmets in the tombs we may perhaps assume that the Mycenaean helmet was a leather cap, possibly strengthened with tusks, such as appears in Homer (Iliad, x.) also. The Mycenaean shield (generally, perhaps, made of leather) has given rise to much controversy, which hinges largely on the interpretation of the evidence provided by the representation on the Warrior Vase and the Painted Stele from Mycenae and pottery found at Tiryns. Professor Ridgeway regards these as describing post-Mycenaean conditions, and maintains that the true Mycenaean shield was always long (from neck to feet), and that it was either in the form of a figure-of-eight targe, or rectangular and sometimes incurved like the section of a cylinder; whereas the Homeric shield was round (e.g. κυκλότερος, εὔκυκλος, &c.). Dr Reichel’s followers believe that the Homeric shield was long (“like a tower”) and