Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/89

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81
THE GENESIS OF THE SWORD.

edged, and in time pointed. Finally, the Romans made the gladius—sharp, of highly-tempered steel, and strongly piercing—the first real sword (Figs. 17, 18, 19), of which only five specimens are now known to exist.

The well-tempered and well-made Saxon sword was the property only of those who had the rank of thane. As a rule, it was a straight, cut-and-thrust Made, with a double edge and a broad point, though other shapes have been found.

Of the three ways in which a sword may be used for cutting, that called chopping, in which the work is done with the shoulder and fore-arm and little play of the wrist, and the blow comes down straight with a whack, is of the most value against body-armor. The medieval swords, therefore, were stout, straight, and wide (Figs. 20 to 23), and adapted to that kind of work. The hands being clad in mail, no attempt was made to protect them, and the hilts were plain and simple, except that a groove was sometimes made in the side of the blade to diminish the weight of metal without causing a loss of strength. The character of the sword varied little except as to the fashions suggested by fancy, till armor was done away with about 1600. Then, the change

PSM V21 D089 Medieval swords and rapiers.jpg
Mediæval. Rapiers.

of the sword into the single-edged weapon or the rapier-blade began to become common. While rapiers with flat or very slightly triangular blades, and often immoderately long, were used in France, Spain, and Italy in the sixteenth century, the full development of this form of arm (Figs. 24, 25) took place in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The blades were narrow, the hilts had merely a single narrow guard for the back of the hand, with a broad base to protect the fingers in thrusting, and the rhomboidal or triangular section of the blade was altered, lightened, and stiffened by grooving (as in the group of figures, 26).