After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the lack of centralized power, Europe saw an increase in local disputes, the result of which was constant fighting and battles between landowners who claimed power over neighbouring territories. Therefore, given this context, it does not come as a surprise that, during the Middle Ages, weaponry had such a central place in craftsmanship. Many types of weapons were employed in battle for different purposes. A weapon’s popularity depended on a number of differing factors, including effectiveness, cost and status, but the ultimate feature that made a weapon favourable and valuable was its impact on the opponent in battle.
The Middle Ages was the era of fortified castles and long, bloody sieges that took place across Europe. Special siege weaponry was inherited by ancient civilizations, like the Greeks and Romans, and was adapted to become even more effective. The Trebuchet, the Ballista, the Battering Ram and various types of Siege Towers were all employed during the conquest of a castle.
The most important piece of weaponry during the Middle Ages was undoubtedly the sword, not only for its effectiveness in battle, as it was able to stab as well as slice, but also for the social status that it endowed upon its owner. Swords were in fact the prerogative of Knights and other affluent members of society, as they were very costly. Furthermore, swords were not only used in battle, but also worn to complement the armour in non-military contexts, as a way to show rank.
Lances and Spears
Another high status weapon was the lance, used by the cavalry, mounted men, during battle. It usually consisted of a long wooden shaft with a sharp metal point. Lances were stronger than both swords and axes, but not very easy to handle, due to their extended length. Spears, thin and long wooden shafts with a metal tip used for thrusting, were the cheaper and smaller alternative to lances and were heavily employed by armies to stop charging cavalry. They were cheap to make and usually shattered within the first use.
Archery and Close Combat Weaponry
Archery was fundamental in warfare and various bows were used to achieve different effects. Alongside the classic bow, longbows and crossbows were used to achieve a further or more precise shot. Arrowheads with different shaped and designs were crafted in order to obtain the desired effect on the opponent, whether it be greater harm or augmented aerodynamics to reach further distances. For closer combat, axes, clubs and maces, along with daggers, were normally used.