Today we’re looking at the halberd – basically because a conversation I had on Twitter turned to this weapon as a curiosity and remarked on its under-appreciation.
The halberd is a two-handed pole weapon which features both a spear point and an axe head – talk about bang for your buck! A hook on the opposite side of the axe head helped to balance the weapon and could be used to pull enemy soldiers from their saddles. How can you go past such versatility?
The word ‘halberd’ is believed to be German in origin and essentially boils down ‘staff axe’. Well, yeah. I can see that it literally is an axe on a staff. This puts the halberd in the ‘polearm’ category, with other weapons mounted on ‘poles’ that could vary between 4 and 14 feet in length, although generally the halberd ranged from 5 to 6 feet. I’m not sure I'd want to try and carry a weapon 14 feet long!
|Halberd for the Guard of Emperor Maximilian II|
The halberd underwent constant improvements, including the addition of steel rims around the pole to deflect swords, or lengthening the haft to better combat pikes, or improving the point to fight pikes and spears and to push back oncoming horsemen.
The weapon was that of a foot soldier and was relatively cheap to make. It was most effective as an offensive weapon, and was used most when pikes fought other pikes. When the units were increasingly used to defend others, such as artillery positions, the proportion of halberds in the pike units began to fall.
|Halberdiers from a modern |
day reenactor troupe.
Next month I’m considering looking at the Lochaber axe, the glaive, or the khopesh. What do you think I should choose? Or offer your own suggestion!
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