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-   -   What type of sword was Excaliber/Durandal/Joyeuse?? (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=801579)

Love Rhombus 08-15-2016 07:51 PM

What type of sword was Excaliber/Durandal/Joyeuse??
 
If they had actually been made, what type of sword would these legendary weapons have been?

Lemur866 08-15-2016 08:29 PM

If you believe that "Arthur" was some sort of Romano-British warlord, then he would probably have carried a spatha.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spatha

JRDelirious 08-15-2016 09:50 PM

And Durandal and Joyeuse would have been Frankish-Carolingian swords a.k.a. Viking Sword, a pattern-welded blade.


In a "ship of Theseus" sort of development, the coronation sword of the Kings of France apparently was originaly a Carolingian or near Post-Carolingian blade which got almost or completely replaced by parts and additions over 800 years, and was attributed to have been Joyeuse (Wiki says there are allegations Napoleon I replaced the blade itself).


Of course by the time they were described in the various epics of the Matter of Britain and the Matter of France, these had morphed in description into knightly swords, with crossguards -- which was actually a modification done IRL for swords as they were passed down in families or courts over centuries. Excalibur was also as well known placed in the realm of magical swords, with special powers granted its bearer, besides having it become the basis for a system of government through its distribution by strange women lying in ponds. (Durendal was simply supposed to be indestructible)

Lumpy 08-15-2016 09:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lemur866 (Post 19557273)
If you believe that "Arthur" was some sort of Romano-British warlord, then he would probably have carried a spatha.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spatha

But going by the internal logic of the various legends, it was supposedly forged in the magical kingdom of Avalon, and may have been wielded by various Irish/Breton/Welsh hero-kings centuries before Arthur. If one assumes it was patterned after ancient Celtic swords then it could be anything from a leaf sword to a proto-gladius

smiling bandit 08-15-2016 11:55 PM

It gets a bit more complex than that, even. If you leave out all the myth and ask what kind of swords people were making in that age, there are still some pretty open questions. Is it a celtic-style sword (a style which would be functionally recreated after the Roman era for the Franks)? A late-Roman sword? A cavalry sword? Spatha and even gladius are very vague terms which cover a wide range of designs over centuries.

However, the really important bit is the technology you don't see: the metallurgy and forging techniques. Adapting foreign techniques, and the steady improvement over the years meant that Roman swords increased in length (and average).

There is one thing we know, of course. Since it was forged by the Sidhe on Avalon, it couldn't be cold-forged iron.


Edit: Almost any sword that would have been made in this period would be a reasonably long, around 800mm. It would taper gently and have an effective combat point.

Meurglys 08-16-2016 07:10 AM

Meurglys was the name of the sword owned by Count Ganelon, Roland's traitorous stepfather.
Whatever it's other characteristics, it apparently had religious relics of some sort embedded in it:

"You will swear to me that you will betray Roland.'
Ganelon replies: 'Let it be as you please.'
On the relics in his sword Murgleis
He swore the treason and committed his crime."

He meets a very sorry end, torn limb from limb by four warhorses...

Chronos 08-16-2016 12:04 PM

Religious relics of some form or another were so common that it'd be remarkable if a nobleman's sword didn't have a few embedded in it. The most important were actual bodily remains of saints, or objects of particular significance to them, but any object ever touched by a saint was also considered a relic. And of course the count gets higher yet when one includes everything that was passed off as a relic by hucksters or the gullible.

Leo Bloom 08-16-2016 04:14 PM

Nothung?
Gram? (Which I never heard of until https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gram_(mythology))

Sage Rat 08-16-2016 04:34 PM

The Arthur legend is probably a composite of a few different men, at different times. The earliest one, and the one who gave the name (if he existed), would seem to be a Briton man who lead a force fighting against the Saxons at the Battle of Badon Mound.

Whatever weapon he had during that battle would most likely have been a Spatha-like weapon, if it was of modern make.

Of course, that weapon would not have been Excalibur, since we're talking about a (potentially) real person in the real world, not a fantasy ruler with a fantasy sword.

The core Arthurian legends are from the 12th century in Northern France. While Excalibur would have come from Celtic myth, like the Mabinogion, it would probably be reasonable to assume a 12th century French look-and-feel to the tales. That would make it a Knightly Sword.

Chihuahua 08-16-2016 04:38 PM

I read that one legend claims Durandal was believed to be the sword wielded by Hector. Therefore, one might expect it to be made of bronze.

Nothung and Gram I have always imagined to be pattern welded, one-handed swords with straight blades and a minimal handguard, like other Viking swords. Perhaps they would include inlays of some other metal, like the Ulfbehrt swords.

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor 08-16-2016 05:06 PM

Quote:

What type of sword was Excaliber/Durandal/Joyeuse??
The same type as Luke Skywalker's-- fictional.

smiling bandit 08-16-2016 06:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor (Post 19559481)
The same type as Luke Skywalker's-- fictional.

I hate to be "that guy", but this is a silly statement that's just being grumpy for its own sake. And there are two big reasons for saying so.

First, it's entirely possible - even probable in the case of Durandal and Joyeuse - that these swords actually did exist. Even Excalibur (or Caliburn) may actually have been based on a real man's actually sword, even shrouded in legend. Second, we actually do know within a certain margin what kind of swords were being manufactured and used by men of a certain rank in that time period. Books have been written about such research.

Dr. Drake 08-16-2016 07:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Meurglys (Post 19558031)
Meurglys was the name of the sword owned by Count Ganelon, Roland's traitorous stepfather.
Whatever it's other characteristics, it apparently had religious relics of some sort embedded in it:

"You will swear to me that you will betray Roland.'
Ganelon replies: 'Let it be as you please.'
On the relics in his sword Murgleis
He swore the treason and committed his crime."

He meets a very sorry end, torn limb from limb by four warhorses...

Meurglys looks a lot like the Middle Breton for "big sword" (in Modern Breton the compound would be meurgleze)

engineer_comp_geek 08-16-2016 08:21 PM

Moderator Note

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor (Post 19559481)
The same type as Luke Skywalker's-- fictional.

The OP admits that they are fictional.

The question is if they had been made, what type of weapon would they have been. This boils down to basically a history question of what type of sword a king or great hero would have had during the times when these legends supposedly took place.

There's maybe some speculation and opinion involved, but I believe that the question can be answered fairly factually by citing known high-end weapons of that time period and those locations for comparison to get a general idea of the weapon types that they would most likely be.

I'm not an expert on ancient swords, but I'm guessing we can rule out lightsabers.

There's no need to attack the OP. There's a perfectly valid GQ here.

Quartz 08-17-2016 05:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chihuahua (Post 19559393)
I read that one legend claims Durandal was believed to be the sword wielded by Hector. Therefore, one might expect it to be made of bronze.

Troy was at the cusp of the Iron Age - there are references to iron objects in the text. It would be entirely appropriate for a legendary sword of that era to be of iron when lesser mortals made do with bronze weaponry.

Bill Door 08-17-2016 07:03 AM

Pulling a sword from a stone in the Arthurian legend could be looked at as a metaphor for turning iron ore into steel and forging it into a sword.

Malthus 08-17-2016 09:16 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bill Door (Post 19560605)
Pulling a sword from a stone in the Arthurian legend could be looked at as a metaphor for turning iron ore into steel and forging it into a sword.

Actually - wouldn't it be a better metaphor for casting a bronze sword?

Iron swords are beaten out on an anvil. Bronze swords are cast in a mould. That process looks a lot like "pulling a sword from a stone". Sometimes the mould was sand/clay but more often stone moulds were used. In that case, the sword is quite literally "pulled from a stone".

http://www.bronze-age-craft.com/swordcasting.htm

Of course if that is true, it has some bearing on the antiquity of the legend!

Edit: also on the type of sword. If the "pulled from a stone" legend is an echo of the Bronze Age, then Excaliber = a typical Bronze Age sword, like the ones pictured in the link above.

Lumpy 08-17-2016 12:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Malthus (Post 19560785)
Edit: also on the type of sword. If the "pulled from a stone" legend is an echo of the Bronze Age, then Excaliber = a typical Bronze Age sword, like the ones pictured in the link above.

Doubtful; the etymology of Excaliber is thought to derive from various names for steel. Which would fit internal evidence of the legends dating to the beginning of the Iron age in the British Isles ~500 BCE.

Malthus 08-17-2016 01:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lumpy (Post 19561278)
Doubtful; the etymology of Excaliber is thought to derive from various names for steel. Which would fit internal evidence of the legends dating to the beginning of the Iron age in the British Isles ~500 BCE.

That's not what this source says, so evidently that notion isn't unanimous.

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Excalibur

Quote:

Excalibur (n.) Look up Excalibur at Dictionary.comKing Arthur's sword, c. 1300, from Old French Escalibor, corruption of Caliburn, in Geoffrey of Monmouth (c.1140) Caliburnus, apparently from Welsh Caledvwlch probably a variant of the legendary Irish sword name Caladbolg which might mean literally "hard-belly," i.e. "voracious." For first element, see callus; for second, see belly (n.).
Wikipedia, for what its worth, says as follows:

Quote:

The name Excalibur ultimately comes from the ancestor of Welsh Caledfwlch (and Breton Kaledvoulc'h, Middle Cornish Calesvol) which is a compound of caled "hard" and bwlch "breach, cleft".[1] Caledfwlch appears in several early Welsh works, including the poem Preiddeu Annwfn (though it is not directly named - but only alluded to - here) and the prose tale Culhwch and Olwen, a work associated with the Mabinogion and written perhaps around 1100. The name was later used in Welsh adaptations of foreign material such as the Bruts (chronicles), which were based on Geoffrey of Monmouth. It is often considered to be related to the phonetically similar Caladbolg, a sword borne by several figures from Irish mythology, although a borrowing of Caledfwlch from Irish Caladbolg has been considered unlikely by Rachel Bromwich and D. Simon Evans. They suggest instead that both names "may have similarly arisen at a very early date as generic names for a sword"; this sword then became exclusively the property of Arthur in the British tradition.[1][2]

Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his Historia Regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain, c. 1136), Latinised the name of Arthur's sword as Caliburnus (potentially influenced by the Medieval Latin spelling calibs of Classical Latin chalybs, from Greek chályps [χάλυψ] "steel") and states that it was forged in the Isle of Avalon. Most Celticists consider Geoffrey's Caliburnus to be derivative of a lost Old Welsh text in which bwlch had not yet been lenited to fwlch.[3][4][1] In Old French sources this then became Escalibor, Excalibor and finally the familiar Excalibur.

Geoffrey Gaimar, in his Old French L'Estoire des Engles (1134-1140), mentions Arthur and his sword: "this Constantine was the nephew of Arthur, who had the sword Caliburc" ("Cil Costentin li niès Artur, Ki out l'espée Caliburc").[5][6]

In Wace's Roman de Brut (c. 1150-1155), an Old French translation and versification of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, the sword is called Calabrum, Callibourc, Chalabrun, and Calabrun (with alternate spellings such as Chalabrum, Calibore, Callibor, Caliborne, Calliborc, and Escaliborc, found in various manuscripts of the Brut).[7]

In Chrétien de Troyes' late 12th century Old French Perceval, Gawain carries the sword Escalibor and it is stated, "for at his belt hung Excalibor, the finest sword that there was, which sliced through iron as through wood"[8] ("Qu'il avoit cainte Escalibor, la meillor espee qui fust, qu'ele trenche fer come fust"[9]). This statement was probably picked up by the author of the Estoire Merlin, or Vulgate Merlin, where the author (who was fond of fanciful folk etymologies) asserts that Escalibor "is a Hebrew name which means in French 'cuts iron, steel, and wood'"[10] ("c'est non Ebrieu qui dist en franchois trenche fer & achier et fust"; note that the word for "steel" here, achier, also means "blade" or "sword" and comes from medieval Latin aciarium, a derivative of acies "sharp", so there is no direct connection with Latin chalybs in this etymology). It is from this fanciful etymological musing that Thomas Malory got the notion that Excalibur meant "cut steel"[11] ("'the name of it,' said the lady, 'is Excalibur, that is as moche to say, as Cut stele'").
[Emphasis added]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excali...nd_etymologies

Conclusion: the etymology of "Excaliber" as "steel" dates back no further than Geoffrey of Monmouth, and so cannot be useful in dating or describing the type of sword that may have inspired the legend, as the legend dates back further than that.

MacLir 08-17-2016 07:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bill Door (Post 19560605)
Pulling a sword from a stone in the Arthurian legend could be looked at as a metaphor for turning iron ore into steel and forging it into a sword.

"He who draweth the sword from this stone …"

To a smith the process of turning a lump or ingot into a bar or other long object is drawing. I had speculated on the events of the legend, with the meteor, and that Arthur was fostered to an armorer, to think that Excalibur could have been made of meteoric iron, which is sometimes close in alloy to stainless steel, and is certainly better than the bog iron common to that period.

An author named Jack Whyte wrote a series of books, retelling the Arthurian Legend which uses the same concept.


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