How did Smaller folks fight back in the day?


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Corpral_Agarn
May 13, 2014, 01:16 PM
So I just found the Viking axe and sword thread (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=751761) and it got to me wondering...

In any kind of combat back then (sword and axes swinging about) I would expect it to be highly beneficial to be a larger combatant using larger, longer, and heavier weapons.
But based on my own Irish heritage, it is my understanding that many of my ancestors were of smaller stature.

I know they were tough as nails but how did they fight? What weapons would the smaller combatant favor? How would they go about attacking a larger opponent with larger, heavier weapons? Say, for instance, a Scandinavian Viking?

I wonder if, because of men's strength back then it didn't matter so much. I have read that the spartan warriors were not all that large of people either, yet still wielded heavy bronze shields (some 30lbs) and long spears (7-9ft).

I know the spear has forever been a popular choice, and in my limited experience of being a smaller combatant and facing off against folks with clubs and sword length sticks, the spear was a huge benefit.

Maybe the historians here can help me out, or maybe I have answered my own questions...

Thanks for reading!

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Sam1911
May 13, 2014, 01:28 PM
I read a book (http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/books/2013/10/malcolm_gladwell_s_david_and_goliath_reviewed.html) a while back that had a very interesting analysis of the Biblical David and Goliath story. The analysis explained some of the more knotty text of the passage in terms of the types of soldiers and armament prevalent in that day. And basically explained how heavy infantry was doomed when faced with light infantry, one-on-one, because they could be so easily out-maneuvered and picked to death with lighter weapons with longer reach, and range...like the sling which could kill from many times farther out that the heavy infantryman could reach with his sword, axe, or club.

So that account is really of a circumventing of convention. The tradition was for each side to send out their heavy champion, and the two men would slug it out toe-to-toe. When the battle was instead joined, not by another heavy, but by a maneuverable light warrior, the Philistines had lost.

(Also worthy of note is that there are passages which suggest strongly that Goliath suffered from some afflictions that would be commensurate with the sorts of glandular/hormonal disease that causes "giantism", probably manifested as sluggishness and poor eyesight along with his excessive height and size.)

Anyway, just as in most other periods of warfare, changing and different technologies helped one type of warrior defend another while being supported by yet another. Light, heavy, cavalry, then archers, the phalanx, pikemen, etc., etc. Each had vulnerabilities to some types of attack, each was really good against others.

Sam Cade
May 13, 2014, 01:49 PM
But based on my own Irish heritage, it is my understanding that many of my ancestors were of smaller stature.


Human height is closely tied to diet and environmental factors.
http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/medimen.htm

I'm about the same height as your "average" dark age northern European warrior. A towering five foot six. ;)


In any kind of combat back then (sword and axes swinging about) I would expect it to be highly beneficial to be a larger combatant using larger, longer, and heavier weapons.

Speed kills.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkhpqAGdZPc
dkhpqAGdZPc

Sol
May 13, 2014, 02:37 PM
Mixed unit tactics. Centurions in the front, Hoplites behind the front lines, ranged behind them.

Pardon any historical mix ups of ancient Roman/ Greek military units.

Gordon
May 13, 2014, 02:51 PM
well back then one on one the guy with the most skill usually won. If both guys were equally skilled the strongest/fastest usually won. "Northmen" of the age were bigger and tougher than the western europeans generally. When Roman tactics were not adhered to they conquered their way thru Europe until inbred into local populations.
Big men of old used heavier weapons and smaller men used lighter quicker weapons or became bowmen.

Sam Cade
May 13, 2014, 02:59 PM
Big men of old used heavier weapons and smaller men used lighter quicker weapons or became bowmen.

I figure it would be more accurate to say that folks used whatever weapon they could afford or were issued and performed whatever battlefield role they were instructed to.

rcmodel
May 13, 2014, 04:24 PM
Never under estimate a small man.

Some of them are quicker then a snake, and twice as mean.

They had to be growing up.

rc

Carl Levitian
May 13, 2014, 04:30 PM
When the other guy is bigger, stronger, and you think you're no match, then you become a cheating, low blow inflicting, sneaky sunofafemale dog. You use a light fast weapon that you learn to use with maximum effect. You get the first sucker punch/blow, stab/slash in, that then run like 'ell.

Or join his lordships army as an archer and use projectile weapons, and kill the big guys in the heavy armor like the English army did at Agincourt.

Nom de Forum
May 13, 2014, 04:34 PM
I read a book (http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/books/2013/10/malcolm_gladwell_s_david_and_goliath_reviewed.html) a while back that had a very interesting analysis of the Biblical David and Goliath story. The analysis explained some of the more knotty text of the passage in terms of the types of soldiers and armament prevalent in that day. And basically explained how heavy infantry was doomed when faced with light infantry, one-on-one, because they could be so easily out-maneuvered and picked to death with lighter weapons with longer reach, and range...like the sling which could kill from many times farther out that the heavy infantryman could reach with his sword, axe, or club.

So that account is really of a circumventing of convention. The tradition was for each side to send out their heavy champion, and the two men would slug it out toe-to-toe. When the battle was instead joined, not by another heavy, but by a maneuverable light warrior, the Philistines had lost.

(Also worthy of note is that there are passages which suggest strongly that Goliath suffered from some afflictions that would be commensurate with the sorts of glandular/hormonal disease that causes "giantism", probably manifested as sluggishness and poor eyesight along with his excessive height and size.)

Anyway, just as in most other periods of warfare, changing and different technologies helped one type of warrior defend another while being supported by yet another. Light, heavy, cavalry, then archers, the phalanx, pikemen, etc., etc. Each had vulnerabilities to some types of attack, each was really good against others.


Sam,

Respectfully I must disagree with some of your premises and conclusions.

First off, the David and Goliath story is not a historical event, it is a biblical event that may or may not be a historical event. There just is not enough supporting documentation to do anything but speculate, such as the author in your link does, why the events of the story unfold and conclude as they do. The author certainly makes as good and believable an argument as anyone else. Personally I think the David and Goliath story is the most misleading example of Sling use in warfare ever created. While it is certainly possible for a slinger to do what David supposedly did to Goliath, is not something likely to succeed against an Iron Age elite Heavy Infantryman. Armies were well acquainted with the capabilities of the sling after centuries of facing them. Slingers did not determine the outcome of battles. A Heavy Infantry Soldier using his shield properly to defend against David’s stones would have resulted in David being trapped or forced to flee. Being trapped would be fatal to David. David fleeing would be considered defeat. The term Heavy Infantry is misleading because it implies slow and ponderous soldiers. At the ranges of the David and Goliath fight, very close direct fire range for a sling, an elite Heavy Infantryman would be capable of closing the distance quickly enough to force David into retreat. If the David and Goliath story is an actual event, I doubt the range between them was more than that when a typical Roman Infantry charge occurred. Goliath was either very unlucky, a fool, or a physically impressive looking but inferior soldier.

Heavy Infantry was not “doomed” when faced with Light Infantry. The opposite was true. Light Infantry that dared to face up with Heavy Infantry was doomed. An example is Greek Hoplite versus Persian Immortal at Thermoplyae. It required maneuver, combined arms, and fatigue for the Persians to defeat the Greeks. Light Infantry cannot hold ground against Heavy Infantry. Light Infantry’s only chance against Heavy Infantry is to avoid close engagement, and even when using missile weaponry they cannot succeed against Heavy Infantry that withstands the assault until missile weaponry is exhausted. Even against the Horse Archer, primarily Heavy Infantry Armies with mixed weapon auxiliaries often prevailed. Sure there were some disastrous defeats, such as Carrhae in 53 BC, but Roman armies composed mostly of Heavy Infantry succeeded in occupying the political and economic major cities of their primarily Horse Archer opponents. Other factors, politics, logistics, etc., doomed those occupations. What dooms Heavy Infantry is attack by a combined arms Army using good tactics.

Human height is closely tied to diet and environmental factors.
http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/medimen.htm - Sam Cade

In addition to the effects diet would have on the size of combatants what the diet consisted of was important. A diet such as the Roman soldier ate promoted physical endurance. Roman soldiers were often of smaller stature than their opponents. Endurance often determined the outcome of battles.

With regard to the Vikings, they were pirate raiders initially and when challenged by prepared foes far less impressive. Even when the Norseman became organized armies they were not invincible. Look at the events of September/October 1066 and you will discover the defeat of one Norse Army and the near defeat of another. If the first army had not required defeat the second army may have been defeated. History would certainly be very different if that had happened.

Sam1911
May 13, 2014, 04:46 PM
Nom, I don't disagree, nor have studied the background fully enough to form an argument.

Though this...
or a physically impressive looking but inferior soldier.Was certainly part of the accounting. Hence some of the quizzical details of the tale that could be explained by various congenital problems attendant to the gigantism that would explain his stature.

Armies were well acquainted with the capabilities of the sling after centuries of facing them. Slingers did not determine the outcome of battles.I think that the author's suggestion there was that the introduction of the "wrong" party into that challenge was a bit of a dirty trick. Not expected, nor expected to succeed. Beyond that, all speculation.

However, as you suggest, the whole legend is so far distant, and so highly unlikely to be directly related to any one factual event, that little but suggestions should be drawn from it.

j1
May 13, 2014, 04:49 PM
Stab the bigger guy in the knees.

Nom de Forum
May 13, 2014, 05:00 PM
So I just found the Viking axe and sword thread (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=751761) and it got to me wondering...

In any kind of combat back then (sword and axes swinging about) I would expect it to be highly beneficial to be a larger combatant using larger, longer, and heavier weapons.
But based on my own Irish heritage, it is my understanding that many of my ancestors were of smaller stature.

I know they were tough as nails but how did they fight? What weapons would the smaller combatant favor? How would they go about attacking a larger opponent with larger, heavier weapons? Say, for instance, a Scandinavian Viking?

I wonder if, because of men's strength back then it didn't matter so much. I have read that the spartan warriors were not all that large of people either, yet still wielded heavy bronze shields (some 30lbs) and long spears (7-9ft).

I know the spear has forever been a popular choice, and in my limited experience of being a smaller combatant and facing off against folks with clubs and sword length sticks, the spear was a huge benefit.

Maybe the historians here can help me out, or maybe I have answered my own questions...

Thanks for reading!

In the age of muscle powered armies physical strength was certainly an advantage to have but only one of many. Endurance was a very important advantage. You can read about larger Celts attacking smaller Romans and quickly becoming exhausted and then slaughtered. Superior strategy and tactics used by an army composed of physically smaller soldiers with comparable and even less effective weaponry can bring victory.

Nom de Forum
May 13, 2014, 05:05 PM
Stab the bigger guy in the knees.

Very good technique. I don't recall the name, but one famous Viking named his sword "Leg Biter". Those relatively small Romans in comparison to the Celtic and Germanic warriors were famous for disemboweling their opponents with the short stabbing sword known as the Gladius.

Sol
May 13, 2014, 05:15 PM
^Hamstring-ing.... Hamstrung?

Corpral_Agarn
May 13, 2014, 05:16 PM
Never under estimate a small man.

Some of them are quicker then a snake, and twice as mean.

They had to be growing up.

rc

There is wisdom/truth here.
this has always been my experience. I am certainly not a fighter, but fights in school (or otherwise) had always ended within a few seconds. Either I got my backside beat bad, or I got my point across.

When the other guy is bigger, stronger, and you think you're no match, then you become a cheating, low blow inflicting, sneaky sunofafemale dog. You use a light fast weapon that you learn to use with maximum effect. You get the first sucker punch/blow, stab/slash in, that then run like 'ell.

Or join his lordships army as an archer and use projectile weapons, and kill the big guys in the heavy armor like the English army did at Agincourt.


First paragraph makes sense, especially the cheating. What do you think a "light fast weapon" would be? Knives? short swords? spears? How would you apply such weapons without getting killed by the larger stronger combatant, who, I assume has longer arms and more power behind his attack?
oh, and I have always been an excellent runner. :D

archery and other projectiles was always what I assumed that smaller combatants favored (David vs Goliath). I guess i was more curious on what melee or "bad breath distance" tools the smaller combatant had at his/her disposal.

Tactics and discipline (and ambush) have proven to be a winning strategy.

Nom de Forum
May 13, 2014, 05:28 PM
Nom, I don't disagree, nor have studied the background fully enough to form an argument.

Though this...
Was certainly part of the accounting. Hence some of the quizzical details of the tale that could be explained by various congenital problems attendant to the gigantism that would explain his stature.

I think that the author's suggestion there was that the introduction of the "wrong" party into that challenge was a bit of a dirty trick. Not expected, nor expected to succeed. Beyond that, all speculation.

However, as you suggest, the whole legend is so far distant, and so highly unlikely to be directly related to any one factual event, that little but suggestions should be drawn from it.


I tend to doubt the Philistines would risk all on a “paper tiger”. If I recall correctly Goliath was known to be a formidable soldier. This is were I suspect if the story is true Goliath was more likely unlucky or foolish. The Heavy Infantryman was an elite. He had to be because of the cost of his panoply. Slingers and Archers were often treated with contempt. If Goliath contemptuously dismissed David as a threat he could have gotten sloppy using his shield. The sling was primarily an indirect fire weapon. They could be used for direct fire but became increasingly vulnerable to Archers, Peltasts, and infantry charge. The biggest value of the sling was its greater effective range than the low powered bows of the ancient near and middle east. The best slingers used cast lead bullets of uniform weight that could inflict deadly head wounds and disabling body wounds at hundreds of yards if armor protection was lacking.

Nom de Forum
May 13, 2014, 05:41 PM
Something to consider about the "big" Norsemen being able to use heavier weapons is that the weapons were not heavy. The swords were light and fast for the time as were the axes. A Viking sword is light and fast at around 3lbs in weight typically and the battle axes light and almost delicate in design. Don't pay attention to the ridiculously large and heavy swords and axes you see on TV and in the movies. Where Norseman size is a benefit is during the pushing against an opposing shield wall and having a greater length of reach than smaller opponents.

Fred Fuller
May 13, 2014, 11:22 PM
Some interesting perspectives on the question at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d43qH9w5Dow and other videos

Skill and speed were as much an advantage as size and strength. Legs and feet took a beating, and everything was a weapon. Shields, pommels of swords, butts of spears, you name it.

Even back then though, TRAINING and PRACTICE were critical. :D

WestKentucky
May 14, 2014, 12:33 AM
As a believer of the book, a person could easily simply say that greater forces were at play. When looked at from a inquisitive point of view though there are great odds working against the sling-wielding man. His only hope would be to score very quickly an effective hit. After that his only option is to outrun and outmaneuver his opponent. Either way there are odds. Even if 1 in a million, in a million random attempts you could expect David to come out on top once.

To the point of the original post, I too have wondered this same thing. Simply put a man knows his strengths and weaknesses. If a man is an incredible archer then he would be a bowman. If a man were good wielding edged weapons he would do so. Likewise if a man couldn't run or move due to perhaps a leg injury he certainly wouldn't be fighting up front. So looking at smaller statured guys who are built very muscularly they would be most likely fighting in a light infantry "stick and move" type force aimed at quick strikes to the flanks and skilled in maneuvers designed to separate portions of a larger force, overtake that force and then hit the regrouping force again. I suspect their weapons would be slightly longer than the average warriors to keep them just out of reach but still give great speed and maneuverability of the weapon specifically in addition to speed and maneuverability of the fighting force as a whole. It seems the weapon of choice would be a spear or perhaps a long handled light axe, possibly even weapons similar to what was shown in braveheart where people had basically taken stag antlers and tied them to a long straight stick. Depending upon the nature of the opposition it may be better to poke through small holes in armor, or slice through from behind a shield. I suspect few shortswords were regularly employed except in fierce hand to hand large scale battles. The majority of the work would be archers, pikemen, and light infantry with light weaponry.

rcmodel
May 14, 2014, 12:52 AM
If a man is an incredible archer then he would be a bowman. If a man were good wielding edged weapons he would do so.Emmmmm?????

Ever been in anyones big military?

If a man were an incredible archer?
The military would make him a cook.

If he was exceptionally skilled with a sword?
They would probably issue him a shovel for digging the slit trenches for all the other troops to use for going #2.

Doesn't matter who's military, or when.
Thats the way it usually works out.

rc

Ron James
May 14, 2014, 01:52 AM
Smaller folks, how did they fight the big guys, well during that era 5-2/5-4 was considered average, any smaller than that , they were trained to go for the ankle.

jahwarrior
May 14, 2014, 03:08 AM
In feudal Japan, the average samurai was between 5'2" and 5'5". They seemed to do okay. ;)

USAF_Vet
May 14, 2014, 07:00 AM
If you watched the Vikings series on History, you might be able to relate.

Ragnar is a man of average size, wielding various swords, axes and shields through the series.

Rollo, a much larger man, was often shown using a Danish war axe, a large, formidable, dangerous but slow weapon. He also used various other swords, axes and shields.

Then you have Floki, a very slender man, although tall, lacked the stature of the shorter Ragnar. He mainly used a seax and a hand axe, to very good effect.

I know the show is correographed fiction/ low fantasy, but in my admittedly limited hand weapons training and experience, the weapons used were pretty spot on.

As a bigger guy, 6'3", 225#, I can wield heavier swords and axes, but prefer to use smaller swords, large daggers, and hand axes. They may not be a devastating as the Danish war axe, but a bad swing or a miss is much easier to recover from with a smaller, lighter weapon
But, as history has shown, the more disciplined army, fighting as a unit rather than individuals, will be overwhelmingly more effective as a whole. Ragtag 'armies' of individual fighters tend to get mowed over by unit based, disciplined armies, even if/ when the disciplined fighters are outnumbered. The battle of Thermopylae has shown what a superior force can do despite being heavily outnumbered. Caesars conquest of Gaul again shows how ineffective a large army is without uniformity of battle, against a smaller but better trained force.

Physical size and stature like that of myself, or the biblical Goliath, can serve useful for intimidation, but it also makes for an easier target.
Speed indeed kills. A smaller man can get inside the range of a large sword or axe and slip a dagger between ribs. A dagger to the lungs is just as fatal as a severed head or disemboweled gut. Smaller men are harder to hit, which gives some insight to the etymology of the word 'infantry'.

Deltaboy
May 14, 2014, 08:46 AM
The key to the Legions of Rome was tactics and discipline.

Billy Shears
May 14, 2014, 09:09 AM
Well, as to the David and Goliath fight -- as has been pointed out, this is a Biblical event that may or may not have some basis in historical reality. The point of the story in the Bible was to illustrate that a man with God on his side need not fear even the most intimidating adversary, for his victory was assured. As has also been pointed out, had Goliath used all his skill, his armor, his superior physique, etc. he still should have won, because it would simply have been too difficult for David to have much chance of putting a fatal sling bullet into vital area -- Goliath wouldn't have offered him such an easy target. But, Goliath was careless and contemptuous of his opponent (no doubt filled with such a spirit by God, if you believe the Biblical account), and didn't keep his guard up.

As to Goliath's height... Well, it's interesting that in the oldest surviving manuscripts -- the Dead Sea Scrolls text of Samuel, the 4th Century Septuagint, and writings of Josephus -- his height is given as "four cubits and a span", which is 6 feet 9 inches. That would be more than big enough to get him called a "giant" surrounded by soldiers who were mostly five and half feet tall. The 6½ cubits (9 feet 7 inches) that is given in the Bibles of today (the oldest manuscripts of which are, remember, copies of copies of copies), is almost certainly a later exaggeration owing to scribal error (or a deliberate attempt to make this enemy of God seem even more intimidating). It's worth remembering that that tallest man we have real historical evidence for, Robert Pershing Wadlow, was just a quarter inch shy of nine feet when he died, and he couldn't even walk without leg braces. You can't just scale a structure, living or otherwise, up infinitely. Surface area and volume change relative to each other, some materials aren't structurally strong enough past a certain size, and so on -- this is why tiny creatures, like insects, sparrows, etc. have such small, thin legs relative to their size, while large animals like elephants, and dinosaurs have much more massive legs relative to their body size. I doubt a 9'7" Goliath could have even walked very well, let alone made a good soldier.

But size, to a certain point, is an advantage. The old saying "a good big man will beat a good little man," is true. It's why we don't put welterweights in the ring with heavyweights -- they'd get slaughtered. Things change a bit when deadly weapons are thrown in, as there's a difference between having to inflict injury with your bare hands on a tough, hard to injure opponent, and finding a vulnerable spot where you can slip a single, deadly, fight-stopping knife or sword thrust, but there's still a lot of advantage to the big man, assuming equal skill, and assuming he's smart enough to use a fighting style that takes advantage of his strengths and minimizes his weaknesses.

CWL
May 14, 2014, 06:38 PM
I actually took a history class in college that covered this!

Nobody was very big or tall prior to the industrial revolution, specifically not until after WWII.

Historically, "common" people everywhere in the world ate very little protein and calcium due to poverty. They usually lived on subsistence diets eating only enough carbs to last them the day (why big breakfasts were important). Only the wealthy & nobility got to eat meat regularly, which is why they tended to be bigger and stronger & made better fighters than commoners.

Scary did not always mean big:
For example, the vaunted Highlanders who fought at Waterloo averaged between 5'4"-5'5" tall.

Contrary to modern beliefs, in comparison, nomads like the Mongols and Huns, who lived primarily on meat & milk, were actually much taller & larger than the Middle Easterners and Europeans they faced.

A modern example would be North and South Korea who are the same ethnic people. In the South, due to economic wealth & great medical care, each generation is growing about 1" taller than their fathers; while in the North, the children born during the famine of the 1990's are about 3" shorter than their parents.

However, "smaller" did not mean weaker. If anyone has ever fought or wrestled welterweights or bantam weights can attest. Those guys are just muscle, and sinew.

Billy Shears
May 14, 2014, 07:19 PM
I actually took a history class in college that covered this!

Nobody was very big or tall prior to the industrial revolution, specifically not until after WWII.
You might want to get your money back. That's not quite true. It is true that from the late Middle Ages, until the industrial revolution, people were smaller than average today. However, at other times, they were larger. In Anglo Saxon England, for example, the average height was almost exactly the same as today -- about 5'9" for men. No surprise, most people made their living from agriculture, and while they weren't rich, they didn't eat so very badly, and they did get a lot of protein. It was much the same throughout the rest of Western Europe during that period. It was far from unknown for men to be very tall. The 11th century Norwegian king Harald Hardrada, for example, was famed for his great height (among other things), and stood about seven feet tall.

By the 17th century, average height was down to around 5'4" for men. This was because the population was much larger throughout Europe, and food was comparatively scarcer. Also a lot more people were urban dwellers, and poor city folk ate less well than poor farmers. By the 19th century, it was a bit better, and average height was up to about 5'6." That was, in fact, Napoleon's height -- the idea that he was only 5'2" comes from using the French foot, which was longer than the English foot. He might have appeared short since he was seen so much around the Imperial guard, selected for their above average height -- they were all over six feet. If the Scottish Highlanders were only 5'4" on average, it was more than likely because the Highlands were, just like all the Gaelic-speaking areas of Ireland, desperately poor regions, and people there no doubt ate less well.

Historically, "common" people everywhere in the world ate very little protein and calcium due to poverty.
Again, this is not true for all times and places.

They usually lived on subsistence diets eating only enough carbs to last them the day (why big breakfasts were important). Only the wealthy & nobility got to eat meat regularly, which is why they tended to be bigger and stronger & made better fighters than commoners.

Scary did not always mean big:
For example, the vaunted Highlanders who fought at Waterloo averaged between 5'4"-5'5" tall.

Contrary to modern beliefs, in comparison, nomads like the Mongols and Huns, who lived primarily on meat & milk, were actually much taller & larger than the Middle Easterners and Europeans they faced.

A modern example would be North and South Korea who are the same ethnic people. In the South, due to economic wealth & great medical care, each generation is growing about 1" taller than their fathers; while in the North, the children born during the famine of the 1990's are about 3" shorter than their parents.

However, "smaller" did not mean weaker. If anyone has ever fought or wrestled welterweights or bantam weights can attest. Those guys are just muscle, and sinew.
Along those same lines, Japanese officers during WWII stood, on average, about 3 inches shorter than their men. This is due to the officer's training schools they entered in their early teens, and which were brutally hard, in addition to offering only a subsistence diet. So, they came to adulthood tough as hell, but with their growth stunted.

Nom de Forum
May 14, 2014, 09:45 PM
+1 on what Billy Shears posted.

BTW, the very tall Viking King Billy mentioned is the one defeated in that first battle I mentioned occurring in September/October 1066 in my previous post.

splattergun
May 14, 2014, 09:58 PM
Being smaller is not an automatic disadvantage any more than being larger is automatically an advantage. More than inherent size or power, intelligence and technique wins most fights. If the big guy is the one with more skill than the small guy, he is likely to win. If the small guy is more skilled at fighting, he will likely win.
In other words, the old timey short guys learned to fight well, or they died.

hso
May 14, 2014, 10:06 PM
How would they go about attacking a larger opponent

What makes you think there were many larger opponents to attack? Height was pretty well fixed for a group and that meant that you mostly fought people of your own stature. Those larger opponenets were rare enough to be called "giants of men", but were typically not large by our standards.

Bexar
May 14, 2014, 10:12 PM
Corpral...

Tactics my friend...tactics and training. Courage doesn't hurt either.

Sports history, a similar analogy, is replete with smaller teams winning conference championships.

Bexar
May 14, 2014, 10:24 PM
Presented for your viewing pleasure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sq-uMIZGETs

Or even better:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2t197zczkJM

CWL
May 15, 2014, 12:33 AM
I guess I wasted all those years at Berkeley then...

Look, there are always exceptions to the norm but I'm trying to generalize over millenia and continents that small didn't = weak. In general, when everyone is of similar height, nobody thinks they are short. Tall people? We still marvel at professional basketball players, don't we? You think they are "average" in height to the general population?

Northern Europeans tended to be taller, particularly the Scandinavians, and their diet was a big part of this. The Anglo Saxons lived well in Britain, not that the commoners were treated any better by the nobility/warrior class -who tended to be a few inches taller than the commoners. So better diet does make people bigger and taller. And, the information you use about Saxon height is from burial diggings, diggings I may add, of nobles and warriors, not commoners.

As for Napoleon's Old Guard, Grenadiers in his army had to be at least 6' tall (or was it 6'1"?), but men of smaller stature were welcomed as Tiralleurs and Voltigeurs - the light infantry. They formed the skirmish screens that all his forces used and numbered more than the grenadiers. These smaller men fought in every battle while the Grenadiers didn't. They also formed units of Napoleon's Young and Middle Guard.

Radagast
May 15, 2014, 01:37 AM
Bite their legs off.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eMkth8FWno

On a more serious note, it would be a case of fight in formation, so height and reach was less important, use pole arms for the same reason, train to be better. Or get red shirted.

rcmodel
May 15, 2014, 01:03 PM
I have a feeling 'getting red-shirted' had a totally different meaning in those days!
And you didn't want to do that! :D

rc

Corpral_Agarn
May 15, 2014, 01:10 PM
This has been really interesting for me to read all the responses, Thanks Everyone!

Personally I find the strategies, tactics, and techniques of old to be fascinating!
The video of the Scandinavian sword and shield fighting was most enlightening. I could see a fight with a skilled fighter and a novice fighter ending very quickly. I do think that an earnest fight (not sport like fencing) between two highly skilled combatants with training weapons would be very interesting to watch. Kinda like the duel scene in Ivanhoe (1950's one) but with trained combatants.

It seems that tools really do help to level the playing field (just as the firearm is the equalizer today). My favorite movie quote of all time is from The Rocketeer when the big giant guy starts getting restless and the thug charged with watching him says "Easy, Frankenstein, you ain't bullet proof." I suppose the same would go for Puncture-Proof back in the day of swords and spears.

What makes you think there were many larger opponents to attack? Height was pretty well fixed for a group and that meant that you mostly fought people of your own stature. Those larger opponenets were rare enough to be called "giants of men", but were typically not large by our standards.

You probably have something here. I must admit that I was using my own situation (stature/weight) as a reference for the inquiry. I suppose that if everybody was about my same size, I wouldn't even notice. In America we truly have some almighty big bruisers (compared to me, anyway), but I suppose even they would be brought down fairly quickly with a cut or thrust in the right place. I wouldn't think a toe-to-toe hand fight would go all that well but when tools are introduced the advantages/disadvantages change quickly.

This video is one I found featuring Doug Marcaida:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4Ar2xkf5kQ
He talks a little bit about the use of weapons being the basis for the techniques.

Oh, and does anyone know of any other David and Goliath stories? That remains one of my favorite and inspiring Bible passages and I find that the details of stories like that are pretty darn interesting.

I forever remain the student. Thanks again Everyone!

Sam Cade
May 15, 2014, 01:18 PM
I do think that an earnest fight (not sport like fencing) between two highly skilled combatants with training weapons would be very interesting to watch.
Well, Western sword martial arts sport-combat is a "thing" these days.


Umi_HUoLdl0

Remember, Point! equals DEAD!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Umi_HUoLdl0

Note the height difference between the competitors at the end.

Corpral_Agarn
May 15, 2014, 01:35 PM
Well, Western sword martial arts sport-combat is a "thing" these days.


Umi_HUoLdl0

Remember, Point! equals DEAD!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Umi_HUoLdl0

Note the height difference between the competitors at the end.
That really gets me to thinking, if "Point means Dead" then how the heck did anybody survive back then!?
I assume that the two in the video are skilled fighters and they are getting points left and right. Must have been a crazy time back then.

One thing I do note, however, is that these guys are not necessarily trying to kill one another. It is my understanding that Sports and earnest battle are a little bit different (kinda like how IDPA is good practice but not necessarily training).
In my very, very limited experience and observation, savagery and brutality often tip the scales in a fight. It would be very interesting to know how the fight in the video would change (if at all) if the combatants were earnestly trying to hurt/incapacitate one another.

Thoughts?

Sam Cade
May 15, 2014, 02:37 PM
That really gets me to thinking, if "Point means Dead" then how the heck did anybody survive back then!?

By avoiding fair fights whenever possible.

Something to think about:

Battle of Falkirk in 1298. 21,000 total combatants with 4,000 killed.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Falkirk


Total Coalition casualties in Afghanistan since 2001:
3,435
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalition_casualties_in_Afghanistan

Sam1911
May 15, 2014, 02:44 PM
21,000 total combatants with 4,000 killed.4,000 killed on the field of battle.

Probably many more died of their wounds or infection shortly after.

And many, many, many lived out their days (well, until their 30-40 year life expectancy anyway) with grave impairments from ghastly wounds.

I don't think we can well imagine what it was really like to fight in an enormous melee battle. It would have put the most gory horror films of today in quite a dim light. You think our veterans have psychological repercussions from what they experienced in warfare now? Egad.

twofifty
May 15, 2014, 03:43 PM
Something to consider about the "big" Norsemen being able to use heavier weapons is that the weapons were not heavy. The swords were light and fast for the time as were the axes. A Viking sword is light and fast at around 3lbs in weight typically and the battle axes light and almost delicate in design. Don't pay attention to the ridiculously large and heavy swords and axes you see on TV and in the movies. Where Norseman size is a benefit is during the pushing against an opposing shield wall and having a greater length of reach than smaller opponents.
I wondered about the weight of those old swords, what it would be like to wield one during a battle. Still, a 2 hour engagement with a 4# sword or axe has got to bring out a bit of lactic acid...let alone an 8 hour shift. At some point, a guy would inevitably slow right down and immediately be left staring down at his bowels. Yikes.

Sam Cade
May 15, 2014, 03:57 PM
with a 4# sword

More like two pounds and a bit for something like your typical "Viking" sword depending on blade shape and fittings.

A shortish stabbing sword similar to a Roman gladius could be lighter than a pound and a half.

twofifty
May 15, 2014, 04:23 PM
Something else that would affect endurance is whether each army had a proper breakfast that morning. Hard to imagine going into battle on an empty stomach (or feeling nauseous from drinking contaminated water) while your opponent is fed and hydrated.

Having a full night's sleep in a safe well supplied bivouac close to clean drinking water was probably a determining factor in more battles than we realize.

iirc from twice visiting the Gettysburg battlefield, the South spent all day under a hot July sun before a few reached the Angle. Many had not had breakfast. There was very little drinking water....

Billy Shears
May 15, 2014, 06:39 PM
Along those lines... I remember reading somewhere that a few days after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, once the Normans had drank all the wine they'd brought with them, and started drinking the local water, the local amoebic lifeforms began to do their evil work... Given that the Normans had been waiting a while, establishing their foothold, while Harold Godwinsson marched down from Stamford Bridge (where he'd earlier defeated and killed the same Harald Hardrada I mentioned earlier), think what it could have meant had the Normans began suffering in large numbers from dysentery earlier.

Food and drink has remarkable effects that seldom make it into the history books. To take another example... do you know that the humble potato was perhaps the key element that made the large armies of the Napoleonic period possible? In previous centuries, armies tended to strip the land they marched through of food. Take too much, and the peasants starve -- something that happened more than once in history, but the subsequent effect that had on a territory's population tended to put an upper limit on the size of army a place could field (bearing in mind that nobody in Europe had the logistical capabilities of the Roman Empire until well into the modern era). However, potatoes, which could be left in the ground, provided peasants with something to eat, even if armies tore through an area and stripped it of all the grain and most of the livestock. And you can live exclusively on milk and potatoes for a surprisingly long time.

Nom de Forum
May 15, 2014, 06:43 PM
Along those lines... I remember reading somewhere that a few days after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, once the Normans had drank all the wine they'd brought with them, and started drinking the local water, the local amoebic lifeforms began to do their evil work... Given that the Normans had been waiting a while, establishing their foothold, while Harold Godwinsson marched down from Stamford Bridge (where he'd earlier defeated and killed the same Harald Hardrada I mentioned earlier), think what it could have meant had the Normans began suffering in large numbers from dysentery earlier.

Food and drink has remarkable effects that seldom make it into the history books. To take another example... do you know that the humble potato was perhaps the key element that made the large armies of the Napoleonic period possible? In previous centuries, armies tended to strip the land they marched through of food. Take too much, and the peasants starve -- something that happened more than once in history, but the subsequent effect that had on a territory's population tended to put an upper limit on the size of army a place could field (bearing in mind that nobody in Europe had the logistical capabilities of the Roman Empire until well into the modern era). However, potatoes, which could be left in the ground, provided peasants with something to eat, even if armies tore through an area and stripped it of all the grain and most of the livestock. And you can live exclusively on milk and potatoes for a surprisingly long time.

Napoleonic Armies also had access to some of the first canned/jarred food that was sterilized when sealed.

Nom de Forum
May 15, 2014, 06:48 PM
I wondered about the weight of those old swords, what it would be like to wield one during a battle. Still, a 2 hour engagement with a 4# sword or axe has got to bring out a bit of lactic acid...let alone an 8 hour shift. At some point, a guy would inevitably slow right down and immediately be left staring down at his bowels. Yikes.
Soldiers did not wield weapons continuously for hours. Battle lines would engage and disengage repeatedly during a battle. In disciplined armies arrayed in ranks the rear ranks would relieve front ranks after only minutes of combat.

Swords intended for use with one hand almost never weighed more than 3 pounds. The vast majority of single handed swords were closer to 2 pounds, with short swords just under 2 pounds.

Jim Watson
May 15, 2014, 08:28 PM
How much does your S&W M&P (The blue steel .38 Special, not the plastic automatic.) weigh? About two pounds.
How much does your 1911 weigh?
About two and a half pounds.

The pistol is a sidearm, the sword is a sidearm.
I'm not pulling either until my rifle ammo/arrows are shot away, or my rocket launcher/spear is broken.

Bexar
May 15, 2014, 08:41 PM
How much does your S&W M&P (The blue steel .38 Special, not the plastic automatic.) weigh? About two pounds.
How much does your 1911 weigh?
About two and a half pounds.

The pistol is a sidearm, the sword is a sidearm.
I'm not pulling either until my rifle ammo/arrows are shot away, or my rocket launcher/spear is broken.
A pistol is a weapon that is used by combatants to fight their way to a long gun.

Sam1911
May 15, 2014, 09:03 PM
A pistol is a weapon that is used by combatants to fight their way to a long gun.Jeeez...that old saw AGAIN?

Nom de Forum
May 15, 2014, 09:50 PM
How much does your S&W M&P (The blue steel .38 Special, not the plastic automatic.) weigh? About two pounds.
How much does your 1911 weigh?
About two and a half pounds.

The pistol is a sidearm, the sword is a sidearm.
I'm not pulling either until my rifle ammo/arrows are shot away, or my rocket launcher/spear is broken.


The sword is not a sidearm if it is the primary weapon of a soldier.

Swords are the most expensive of the individual weapons of the pre-gun powder era.

IlikeSA
May 15, 2014, 10:00 PM
In the ancient world, it was more about skill and tactics than sheer power. You can utilize tactics to take advantage of power, but in the end it comes down to skill.

Think about modern machete fights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OzAlCCa3xU

The action starts about 1:45. If we correlate these fights with ancient blade fights, I don't think there is too much difference. If you notice, at 1:50 one opponent runs away. The fight continues with another opponent but breaks off even after some fairly heavy hits.

Here is another: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbJ2YZv1yGY

What do these have in common? Even unarmored, the human body is capable of taking multiple cut from a sharp object. The men who go into battle will more than likely be armored. Weaponry from that age was made of inferior metal and tempering. More than likely, wounds from arrows were far more dangerous than cuts from swords and knives, not only because of piercing but sepsis.

With regard to the David and Goliath argument, David could have had enough power from the sling to kill Goliath. It takes 3 kilo-newtons spread over an area of 30mm to kill someone. It has been proven that it is difficult, but not impossible.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cK5lqNhk3bI

As far as my conclusion: it's not the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog.

Jim Watson
May 15, 2014, 10:04 PM
The sword is not a sidearm if it is the primary weapon of a soldier.

But how often was the one-handed sword a primary weapon?
Was sword and shield a common military form after the Romans?

rcmodel
May 15, 2014, 10:09 PM
Those who would never pull a knife or pistol as long as your spear or rocket launcher isn't broken?

Guessing you never had to sleep with a cocked & locked 1911, or a KaBar under you in the dirt, mud, or bunk at night?


The Roman Gladius was a one-hand sword.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gladius

And perhaps one of the most successful sword designs ever invented.
Perhaps due to the tactics employed by the Romans, rather then the hack & slash free-for-all tactics employed before & after, until swords died out after the American civil war.

rc

Nom de Forum
May 15, 2014, 10:36 PM
But how often was the one-handed sword a primary weapon?
Was sword and shield a common military form after the Romans?

They were for those who could afford them. Single handed axes and spears were not as balanced a weapon as a sword but they were relatively cheap.

Nom de Forum
May 15, 2014, 10:55 PM
Roman heavy infantry using pilum, gladius and scutum defeated the successors to Alexander the Great who were using the the very long (20' approximately) spear called a Sarrisa a.k.a. the Pike. The Romans could have used any type of weapons they wanted for their heavy infantry but realized that pilum (javelin), gladius (short sword), and scutum (curved rectangular/oval body shield) were the most effective. The Vikings also used javelins, a little longer swords, and a little smaller round flat shields. The flat round shield of the Vikings were more practical for infantry, cavalry, and use on ship. The large and curved scutum more effective defensively and offensively for infantry. Eventually the curved Kite Shield which was somewhat a compromise between the scutum and flat round shield was developed.

Nom de Forum
May 15, 2014, 11:14 PM
.....until swords died out after the American civil war.

rc

The should have died out at the end of the American Civil War. Despite Nathan Bedford Forrest, the greatest cavalry man of that era, demonstrating the superiority of carrying multiple revolvers, the U.S. persisted in creating new swords for combat right up to the M1913 Patton Cavalry Saber.

Jim Watson
May 15, 2014, 11:22 PM
Didn't figure I would deplete my main weapon while asleep. Of course a pistol, knife, or pillow sword is a reasonable defense for one's rest. I was talking about looking for a fight, or a battle.

I once read a discussion of the gladius that concluded that the prominent guard and pommel, combined with the short grip section, often depicted as finger grooved, promoted a hatchet grip that would set the blade up for chopping and slashing more than thrusting.

rcmodel
May 16, 2014, 12:18 AM
But, supposedly, thrusting from under the combined shield wall of a disciplined Roman force with the one-hand Gladius was the thing that made them so effective in combat.

I bet its just Real Hard to fight while you are getting stabbed or slashed in the groin, bare legs,, and belly under your armor with a Gladius from under a shield wall.

While getting jabbed in the eye sockets with bristling spears from the second line behind the front line shield wall.

And those guys in the third line back?
STOP PUSHING!!
You'll get your turn!

And watch who you are slapping up side the head with the Pikes!
O.K?


Me in a situation like that?
Schru you guys!
I'm taking my toys and going home!

I think I heard my mother calling me for supper!

rc

Nom de Forum
May 16, 2014, 01:33 AM
I once read a discussion of the gladius that concluded that the prominent guard and pommel, combined with the short grip section, often depicted as finger grooved, promoted a hatchet grip that would set the blade up for chopping and slashing more than thrusting.

Where did you read this and what psychotropic drug was the author using when he wrote that? The Gladius is a short "Cut and Thrust" sword intended to primarily be used for thrusting. The Romans did not thrust the Gladius like a Rapier. If that had been their technique the grip would have been different. Take note of the smooth curved guard on the Gladius; it aids comfort when thrusting. The smooth rounded pommel is also for comfortable weapon retention. The grip can be held with a "hatchet grip" but it can also be held with a modified hatchet grip that aids thrusting. While "chopping and slashing" was used by the legionaries, the thrust was absolutely the primary means of attack. The reason why thrusting was so effective was because a very shallow penetration of the thorax incapacitates the enemy faster, is deadlier, and when delivered presents the smallest target to the opponent. Romans stabbing foes who lifted their swords for a cut was very common. Fifteen centuries after the fall of Rome the Zulu nation would revolutionize african tribal warfare with the underhanded use of a short stabbing spear and body shield technique very much like that of the Roman Legions. If you ever see a modern practice duel between someone armed with a Katana and someone with a Rapier you will quickly be disillusioned that the cutting power of the Katana or any Cutting Sword for that matter makes it a wonder weapon. When full plate armor became the norm in North Western Europe the sword lost most of its cutting effectiveness and increasingly was designed for thrusting.

198404

198405

rcmodel
May 16, 2014, 01:48 AM
Yea!

I don't think you can read as much into Ergonimic Grip Design then as you can now either!

The Gladius was first and foremost a thrusting weapon designed for use in one hand while holding a shielded line with the other.

Not to say nobody ever hacked or chopped with one.
Because they most certainly often did.

But the grip design did not elvolve for that.
And what made the Gladius go down in history as one of the most formidable swords was thrusting from low behind your shield wall next to the guys shield next to you.

Tactics, Training, & thrusting, not hacking in a hatchet grip.

rc

Nom de Forum
May 16, 2014, 02:23 AM
In the ancient world, it was more about skill and tactics than sheer power. You can utilize tactics to take advantage of power, but in the end it comes down to skill.

Think about modern machete fights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OzAlCCa3xU

The action starts about 1:45. If we correlate these fights with ancient blade fights, I don't think there is too much difference. If you notice, at 1:50 one opponent runs away. The fight continues with another opponent but breaks off even after some fairly heavy hits.

Here is another: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbJ2YZv1yGY

What do these have in common? Even unarmored, the human body is capable of taking multiple cut from a sharp object. The men who go into battle will more than likely be armored. Weaponry from that age was made of inferior metal and tempering. More than likely, wounds from arrows were far more dangerous than cuts from swords and knives, not only because of piercing but sepsis.

With regard to the David and Goliath argument, David could have had enough power from the sling to kill Goliath. It takes 3 kilo-newtons spread over an area of 30mm to kill someone. It has been proven that it is difficult, but not impossible.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cK5lqNhk3bI

As far as my conclusion: it's not the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog.

There is a big difference between a couple of untrained guys hacking away with machetes and someone trained to use a cutting sword. A skilled swordsman with a cutting sword, cut and thrust sword, or thrusting sword would quickly dispatch those machete hackers. That being said swords thrusts are every bit as deadly as arrows and in fact more deadly because of the size of the wound. Because of the small diameter of arrow wounds, if a non-vital area was wounded, proper extraction technique and disinfection with things like raw honey, boiled linseed oil, etc. could save the patient from death through infection. Large stab wounds from swords were much more serious. The silk shirt worn by some asian horse archers was intended to make arrow extraction much easier and reduce infection from foreign material.

The doubt about David defeating Goliath is not from David's weapon lacking lethality. The doubt arises from the difficulty of delivering that lethality. Philistine and most ancient helmets protected the forehead. Goliath would have body armor and a shield. Goliath would be very familiar with Slingers capabilities. Goliath would have to be very unlucky or a fool to not be capable of deflecting/defeating sling stones with his shield, helmet, or armor. Remember David was using stones not the much denser=deadlier lead projectiles of professional military slingers.

Deltaboy
May 17, 2014, 09:43 AM
http://slinging.org/index.php?page=david-s-sling-a-piece-of-history---ludwik-siedlecki
http://www.christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-slingsforkids.html

(link removed)

Here some links about the killing power of a sling.

Radagast
May 17, 2014, 10:33 AM
Deltaboy's third link is being blocked by both Avast & Webroot as malware. It is not a youtube address.

Nom de Forum
May 17, 2014, 02:16 PM
http://slinging.org/index.php?page=david-s-sling-a-piece-of-history---ludwik-siedlecki
http://www.christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-slingsforkids.html



Here some links about the killing power of a sling.


Those are interesting links. I skipped the third one based on Radagast's warning. Thanks Radagast.

One the link mentions David using an overhand delivery from within 15 yards while running. Elsewhere it mentions the 60 mile per hour speed of sling stones. There is also mention of slingers hitting within in a “hairs breadth” and parts of the face at will. Citation of archeological evidence of widespread use of the sling. There are also numerous mentions of the effectiveness of slings in battle. All of this is superficially impressive but under scrutiny less so.

People routinely dodge 90 mile per hour fastballs from an overhand delivery.

Where is the evidence of lines of slingers stopping lines of charging heavy infantry? Slingers may harass, weaken, and delay, but they don’t stop charging heavy infantry from 15 yards. Slingers were protected from heavy infantry by their own heavy infantry.

People 2000 to 3000 years ago were not stupid. If the sling was such an accurate and deadly weapon for attacking and defending against charging heavy infantry at close range, slingers would have been the dominant type of soldier on the battle field.

All the Celtic hill forts of Britain were well stocked with sling stones for defense. The slingers in those forts were within range to attack the Romans operating their small siege engines and of course the Roman infantry attempting to breach the walls. None of the hill forts were successfully defended for long and it was not because the Celts ran out of sling stone ammunition as evidenced by the piles of remaining sling stones found within the ruins of those hill forts.

The outcome of the David and Goliath duel analyzed without considering the help of Divine Intervention is best explained as resulting from Goliath being either a poorly trained heavy infantry man (doubtful if he was chosen as a Champion), arrogantly foolish in contemptuously dismissing the danger from his opponent and dropping his guard (possible based on historical accounts of attitudes about missile troops) or being very unlucky and David having great skill and very good luck.

Sam Cade
May 17, 2014, 02:33 PM
OK. Zapped the link, verified as phishy.
Folks that clicked on it should probably run a mal-ware/virus scan.

Nom de Forum
May 17, 2014, 10:07 PM
This link has comments that raise doubt about the accuracy of slingers. If the commentator is correct the probability of of David hitting Goliath becomes very small.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGSsbCPeocU

This is just one of several commentaries on slings from the same guy.

rcmodel
May 17, 2014, 10:40 PM
I saw this guy on TV about a year ago.

He doesn't miss much at a little closer range!

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IJa7FhVjSHI

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ELYea2UDfeY

rc

Nom de Forum
May 18, 2014, 12:38 AM
I saw this guy on TV about a year ago.

He doesn't miss much at a little closer range!

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IJa7FhVjSHI

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ELYea2UDfeY

rc


Those are great videos that demonstrate just how hard it would be for David to make the fatal shot.

In the second video the slinger is not moving toward the target and the stationary target is not bobbing and weaving while charging the slinger. The slinger releases at suicidal range at the target. The range is suicidal because if the slinger missed, the heavy infantryman would close to killing range before the slinger recovered. At the end of the video comment is make at how hard it was for the champion slinger to create accuracy with power and how difficult it was to make the shot.

In the first video of Balearic Island Slinger competition the stationary target is at the non-suicidal distance of 19.5 meter = 64 feet. To score one point it is only necessary to hit the over 1 meter = 39 inches wide target and to score two points it is only necessary to hit the 50 centimeter = 19.5 inches wide bullseye. The Balearic Islands are historically known for producing the World’s greatest slingers. You would think they would sling at a bullseye the size of a man’s head if that was a realistic target. It is doubtful Goliath had a 19.5 inch wide head.

The religious have reasons of biblical faith and possibility to believe David made the shot.
The non-religious have reasons of testable fact and improbability to believe David did not make the shot.

Sebastian the Ibis
May 19, 2014, 03:54 AM
While dramatic, swinging a weapon is only a small part of warfare. Destroying an enemies food/water source/shelter/family is probably more effective that trying to take on them on mano a mano. A small guy can burn a barn in November as well as a big guy.

With respect to David v. Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell had a great TedTalk on this:

http://www.npr.org/2013/11/15/243294593/what-s-the-real-lesson-of-david-and-goliath

Sam1911
May 19, 2014, 06:40 AM
Yup, Gladwell is the author of the book I mentioned. Nom probably should have helped him get the technical points right. :)

Readyrod
May 19, 2014, 11:02 AM
Just a few comments. I work at a Japanese High School. The younger generation are a lot taller than their parents and a lot taller than their grandparents. Must be better nutrition. Funny thing is there are a lot of complaints that they are getting overweight cause of the American diet they are changing to. It sure is making them tall tho. I figure it's volume of food at the critical growth period.
If you think about it, some big dude with a longsword is going to take up a lot of space on the battle line. You could prob fit three legionnaires with their shields interlocked stabbing away (which I read once was their style) in the same space. My bet would go with the legionnaires.
Finally, I was in one of those big Samurai battle reenactments once and since it was just civilians it was a real free for all, no discipline. I killed a lot of enemy by stabbing them in the back. Dirty fighting but effective.

Nom de Forum
May 19, 2014, 11:54 AM
While dramatic, swinging a weapon is only a small part of warfare. Destroying an enemies food/water source/shelter/family is probably more effective that trying to take on them on mano a mano. A small guy can burn a barn in November as well as a big guy.

With respect to David v. Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell had a great TedTalk on this:

http://www.npr.org/2013/11/15/243294593/what-s-the-real-lesson-of-david-and-goliath


Sam1911 - Yup, Gladwell is the author of the book I mentioned. Nom probably should have helped him get the technical points right.


Wow! I watched the video. I don't have time now, but later today I will reply in detail. Here is a hint of the direction of that reply:

Like another very intelligent and educated man, Issac Newton, Malcolm Gladwell is not immune to enormous self-deception. For Newton it was Alchemy, for Gladwell it is obviously David versus Goliath. There are so many assumptions and historical misinterpretations in Malcolms analysis and conclusion it qualifies as a classic case of a man seeing hoof prints, assuming zebras must have passed by, constructing elaborate apparently rational explanations how zebras could have made the hoof prints, but never having any experience with zebras, and living where horses are plentiful and zebras very rare. This is going to be fun. It it a rare opportunity to be able to so easily refute the assumptions of a man famous for his thinking outside the box. I'll be back later today.:D

Sam1911
May 19, 2014, 11:56 AM
Wow, Gladwell is like a modern Newton! High praise indeed! :D

(Wonder if he's ever tried Sir Issac's experiment with the bodkin?)

Nom de Forum
May 20, 2014, 12:30 AM
Wow, Gladwell is like a modern Newton! High praise indeed! :D

(Wonder if he's ever tried Sir Issac's experiment with the bodkin?)

Unfortunately my earlier belief I would be back later today to reply in detail to Gladwell's nonsense is not going to happen. Perhaps tomorrow or the next day. Other plans are conflicting with time for a proper reply. But I can reply with this: Gladwell is not a Newton and I did not mean to imply he was an intellectual equal. It should be noted though, that like Gladwell, Newton is lesser known for his time spent on trying to understand the sybolic and literal truths, choronology, and possible secret codes within The Bible. The time Newton wasted on this and alchemy was equally wrong headed as Gladwell's analysis and conclusions about David and Goliath. I will reply in more detail as soon as I have solved my greater than I was led to believe mother-in-law problems.:mad:

Sam1911
May 20, 2014, 08:50 AM
Gladwell is not a NewtonHumor, my man. A joke. :)

The expression I've heard about the other half of Newton's work was along the lines of, "...wayward religious pursuits."

Best of luck with the MIL.

Valkman
May 20, 2014, 03:43 PM
If "the day" is the 1980's they generally drank enough until they felt like Superman then they would challenge me, the biggest guy in the bar. Then they'd find themselves 10 feet away on their back wondering what happened and with a sore jaw.

That's my experience with Smaller folks. :)

Corpral_Agarn
May 20, 2014, 04:36 PM
If "the day" is the 1980's they generally drank enough until they felt like Superman then they would challenge me, the biggest guy in the bar. Then they'd find themselves 10 feet away on their back wondering what happened and with a sore jaw.

That's my experience with Smaller folks. :)
Right, but do you think that completely sober guy a smaller guy, armed with say, a knife/sword/spear of some kind who was determined to end you life would have been defeated as easily?
I would bet that a small person could defeat a drunk just as you did. In fact, I am a smaller person and found that I could handle the big guy drunk fairly easily as well.

This thread has been really fun for me to read, especially the sword fighting techniques and the history aspects on people's sizes back in the day.

It sounds to me like shot placement, training and speed are still the most important factors in fights even to this day.

I do not think that the David and Goliath story is so far fetched. When paired so (seemingly) unevenly, I have seen better athletes/fighters/etc try to show off and make a horrible mistake. Many times they underestimated their opposition to the point of losing the match.
Also, there was a time in my youth where I got pretty good slinging golf ball sized rocks with incredible speed.
I never was never very good at swinging the stone over my head like is done in the movies. What I preferred instead was an overhand throw with the sling at rest (perpendicular to the ground). I take a step forward and hurl the stone towards my target. It really was just a baseball style throw but my arm becomes about 4 feet longer adding leverage to the throw.

Impact on trees and boards was enough to convince me that this could be deadly.

Am looking forward to other evidence/opinions, though.
Oh and I was thinking that if slings were defeating giants everyday, there wouldn't be much cause to call it miraculous or to put in the Bible. I would suspect that this was a rare event.

Nom de Forum
May 21, 2014, 06:20 PM
While dramatic, swinging a weapon is only a small part of warfare. Destroying an enemies food/water source/shelter/family is probably more effective that trying to take on them on mano a mano. A small guy can burn a barn in November as well as a big guy.

With respect to David v. Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell had a great TedTalk on this:

http://www.npr.org/2013/11/15/243294593/what-s-the-real-lesson-of-david-and-goliath

Sam1911 - Yup, Gladwell is the author of the book I mentioned. Nom probably should have helped him get the technical points right.

Nom de Forum - Like another very intelligent and educated man, Issac Newton, Malcolm Gladwell is not immune to enormous self-deception. For Newton it was Alchemy, for Gladwell it is obviously David versus Goliath. There are so many assumptions and historical misinterpretations in Malcolms analysis and conclusion it qualifies as a classic case of a man seeing hoof prints, assuming zebras must have passed by, constructing elaborate apparently rational explanations how zebras could have made the hoof prints, but never having any experience with zebras, and living where horses are plentiful and zebras very rare.


Please correct me if I am wrong but a reasonably accurate summary of what Malcolm Gladwell says in his video is as follows:

The Philistines challenged the Hebrews with a 6’9” tall man named Goliath that for 40 days they kept the Hebrews from discovering was nearly blind and a weakling. Then on the 40th day, just like the previous 39 days, Goliath has to be led to the battlefield by an attendant because he is a nearly blind weakling, physical characteristics that the Hebrews still have not discovered over the previous 40 days, and a Hebrew boy slings a very dense stone, at the speed a junior high school pitcher throws baseball, that Goliath cannot move his forehead 6” out of the way to dodge or deflect with his shield.

Please consider the following:

The Philistines and Hebrews had a long history of cultural contact before Goliath and David battled. Both sides would be very knowledgeable about each other.

These people were not naive fools. We know from the Bible that the Hebrews long before the time of David were experienced in espionage and unconventional warfare. They would not have been kept from knowing about Goliath’s abilities and disabilities. There is also no reason to believe a culture as sophisticated as the Philistines would not know this about their enemy.

There is no way the Philistines would attempt to deceive the Hebrews with the nearly blind weakling giant Gladwell describes Goliath as being. It would be impossible to keep secret. Someone so unusual in appearance as Goliath would have been well known by the Hebrews long before 40 days of Goliath issuing challenges occurred.

Gladwell considers the quality of the stones David used as projectiles being very significant. He claims they were made of very dense Barium Sulfate and when launched by David’s sling at 35 meters per second = 78 miles per hour = 115 feet per second they had the stopping power of a 45mm (sic) hand gun. When you stop laughing about the “45 mm handgun” comment google barium sulfate for another good laugh. Here’s the thing, at 115 feet per second you don’t need anything but a common river rock to have a deadly projectile. In my previous post I mentioned that 90 mile per hour = 132 feet per second fastballs are routinely dodged. Also routinely dodged are 205 mile per hour = 300 feet per second tennis ball serves.

Gladwell mentions that slingers were time and time again the decisive factor in battles. For decades I have been reading about many of the most famous and decisive ancient battles and slingers are not mention as being the decisive factor on the battlefield. If I recall correctly Xenophon mentions in the Anabasis that slingers were useful during the retreat to the sea to reply to attack from harassing enemy slingers and archers.

Gladwell supports his argument that Goliath was nearly blind and a weakling because he was led to the battlefield by someone. There is nothing unusual about Goliath, an elite heavy infantryman being accompanied by a shield bearer. It is the equivalent of a knight 2000 years later being accompanied by a squire. Gladwell’s statement about how slow Goliath moved does not mean Goliath was incapable of moving faster. There was no need to move fast on to the field. Saving energy to move fast once combat has begun is important. According to Gladwell, Goliath was supposedly a 6’9’ tall, near blind weakling carrying 100lbs of armor and thus capable of only moving very slowly. How was Goliath even able to carry 100lbs of armor if he was so weak? Knights 2000 years later could run in full plate armor. In the U.S. Army I have seen 5’9” men sprint while carrying 100lbs of gear. Roman heavy infantryman routinely began a running charge from approximately 20 yards and there is no reason to not believe Goliath would not have done the same.

I am not going to comment on Gladwell’s analysis of the language and actions The Bible says Goliath used other than to say he is wrong in his conclusions about “sticks” and Goliath needing to call for David to approach as indicating vision problems.

Much more could be written pointing out how silly Gladwell’s analysis and conclusions are. I have no doubt it was possible, even if improbable for David to defeat Goliath without any of the handicaps Gladwell thinks Goliath had. Gladwell has essentially insulted the intelligence and skill of David, Goliath, the Hebrews, and the Philistines. It is amazing a guy like Gladwell can make money spewing his nonsense about David and Goliath. At the beginning of the video Gladwell says everything he thought he knew about David and Goliath was wrong. That did not change after he made the video.

SeekHer
June 15, 2014, 10:06 AM
Gladwell is a fool! David did not kill Goliath with a stone but by stabbing him and then cutting his head off with a sword.
Samuel 17:51
David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran

Slingers were nothing more then an annoyance during a battle as the sling thrown rock at those great distances did not have sufficient energy to kill...They were used to reduce the number of attackers by having them unconscious (if possible) or with bleeding head wounds (hopefully a destroyed eye) that would require them leaving the formation for medical treatment...If the opponent died all the better but that wasn't their first purpose...They didn't become deadly until the attackers got very close and then, due to helmets, even the higher velocity thrown rocks, for the most part, would still only stun then kill...Then again, a stunned warrior in a shield wall was easily killed by sword, axe or spear.

When my daughter was about six years old she looks up at all 6' of me and says that I'm a giant whereas, I look up at a 7'2" basketball player with the same degree of size deficiency.

Until the industrial revolution everyone was short and died by age 50ish--due to lack of sufficient food and health care...Exceptions to the norm were singled out whether due to height, strength or age...Social mores at the time considered that a youth was marriageable when they reached puberty and a female was considered an old maid when she reached 21 or 22.

The Norse/Norge/Northmen or Danes--there has never been a race of Vikings--were taller and bigger due to a heavy diet of fish and meat which was proven by examining skeletal remains; but how much bigger? Results are that they were in the 5'10" to 6' range whereas the Saxons etc. were in the 5'3" to 5'6" range with some nobility acquiring the great height of 5"9".

For an interesting read try:
The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer
also by him is
The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England
Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Royal Conspiracies
Edward III: The Perfect King
Henry IV: The Righteous King
The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England's Self-Made King
1415: Henry V's Year of Glory
Henry V: The Warrior King of 1415
The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, Ruler of England 1327-1330,
The Dying and the Doctors: The Medical Revolution in Seventeenth-Century England

4v50 Gary
June 15, 2014, 11:12 AM
Of course, there's always the axe and golf ball launcher like 25Schaefer made at school. :D http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=753336&highlight=axe

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