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Dacian Falx vs. Roman Helmets & Armor
#1
I came across this link; http://www.legionsix.org/Equipment/Basic...helmet.htm and http://www.gk.ro/sarmizegetusa/ranistoru.../arma.html while doing some reading up on Roman helmets. There is a wikipedia page on it too, but I know how everyone feels about wikipedia... lol

I was surprised that this weapon was so effective against Roman helmets and segmentata, even more surprised to learn that that by mounting crossbars over the top of the helmet helped prevent the deadliness of the falx. Are these sites giving the falx too much credit, and the falx was really terrifying because it could lop of arms and legs. I am questioning this weapons effectiveness at slashing apart shields, and cutting through iron and bronze helmets, as well as segmentata. What are your guy's opinions?
Quintus Furius Collatinus

-Matt
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#2
Quote:Are these sites giving the falx too much credit
Yes. The falx isn't any better against armour than any other blade.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#3
Not to dispute you entirely Dan, but if that was the case, why the adaptation of cross-bars?
____________________________________________________________
Magnus/Matt
LEGIO II AVG COH VIII
It amazes me how quickly stupid people are out-breeding the smart ones.

"The greatest impediment of all is the square-jawed, flat-talking Tatum, who is so wooden he presents a fire hazard." - The Toronto Star on Channing Tatum in "The Eagle".

"I am on a drug. It\'s called Charlie Sheen. If you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body" - Charlie Sheen
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#4
I would tend to agree with Dan, with a slight modification.

It is certainly true that blades/points sharpened to the same degree are all capable of inflicting similar wounds, and therefore there was no 'magic' about the curved 'sica' blade. Similarly, any two-handed bladed weapon ( battle-axe, bill, halberd, Claymore etc) will, because of longer leverage and two-handed use, inflict a more powerful blow than single-handed blades. The two-handed 'Falx' ( which is unlikely to have been a 'Dacian' weapon, despite certain Romanian nationalistic opinions ) was most likely an agricultural implement ( a bill-hook, or hedging hook, or reed-cutter; to which it is identical)and seems to have been used by the Bastarnae tribesmen who lived in the Danube delta and lower Danube region as an extemporised weapon. There is no evidence of this agricultural implement's use in warfare after the demise of the Bastarnae tribe.

The increased force of this weapon ( two-handed, and with greater leverage) may well have led to modifications, of the sort described, to Roman armour.

It should be noted that the person wielding the falx against the helpless Roman shield in the well-known photo was a body-builder and unusually strong. Even so, it is readily apparent what would happen in the next second were a Roman legionary to be behind that shield - he'd be gutted by a Roman gladius, exactly as depicted on the Adamklissi metopes.

This highlights the point that two-handed weapon wielders have a tremendous disadvantage - their wielders are completely unprotected. In later ages, men so armed usually fought in the second rank, behind a protective front rank 'shield-wall', where they were able to wield their powerful two-handed weapons freely over the heads/shoulders of their protectors.*

If the Adamklissi monument is in any way accurate, it would suggest that when caught by surprise and unable to form a 'shield-wall', falx wielders facing up to legionaries singly, in defence of their wagons, women and children, were quickly dispatched.

Not then, by any means, a 'super weapon' and certainly not adopted by the Roman Army, who were frequently quite quick to adopt effective enemy weapons.



* At the end of the Middle Ages, men in full plate armour also frequently used two-handed weapons - 'Great'swords, bills, halberds etc and were fully protected - a very lethal combination.
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#5
Quote:* At the end of the Middle Ages, men in full plate armour also frequently used two-handed weapons - 'Great'swords, bills, halberds etc and were fully protected - a very lethal combination.
Except that none of these were particularly good at cutting through plate. They were used like prybars and can openers to get into the gaps. The chance of actually cutting through plate armour far enough to seriously injure the person underneath it with any hand-powered weapon is too low to be considered an effective means of attack.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#6
Quote:Not to dispute you entirely Dan, but if that was the case, why the adaptation of cross-bars?
Has anyone demonstrated that the crossbars were added at the same time as the Dacian campaign? Finding a helmet that dates 50 years on either side of the campaign is harldy evidence of causation or even correlation. Is there a primary source that says the Romans reinforced their helmets because of the falx?
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#7
A written, primary source? Good luck with that. I think we're relying on iconography at this point, and some (or one) dated helmets found in the area with cross bracing. There is a gallic helm with such a modification.

The only reason to have done this would have been to prevent additional damage caused by a particular weapon, somewhat unique that the Romans encountered at a specific point. Otherwise all of their helmets would either be crossbraced, or thicker, throughout the republic/empire's history. Something was causing enough damage to the helmet to warrant extra metal on it to protect the head of the wearer.

If not the falx, then what else was encountered at that period in Roman history that would cause their helmets to change, and only for a brief time?

I think this would be more a process of elimination...if nothing else plausible can be attributed to the cross bracing, and what scant evidence there is points to the falx...then it is most likely the falx. Until evidence to the contrary is procured of course.
____________________________________________________________
Magnus/Matt
LEGIO II AVG COH VIII
It amazes me how quickly stupid people are out-breeding the smart ones.

"The greatest impediment of all is the square-jawed, flat-talking Tatum, who is so wooden he presents a fire hazard." - The Toronto Star on Channing Tatum in "The Eagle".

"I am on a drug. It\'s called Charlie Sheen. If you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body" - Charlie Sheen
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#8
If there is even a single cross-braced helmet dating decades before the Dacian campaign then the falx can hardly be the cause of the modification.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#9
Quote:Has anyone demonstrated that the crossbars were added at the same time as the Dacian campaign? Finding a helmet that dates 50 years on either side of the campaign is harldy evidence of causation or even correlation.

The Berzobis helmet (found in excavations at Berzovia in Romania) is the earliest so far known, the reinforces being crude additions, and that fortress was only occupied by IV Flavia Felix for a comparatively short period (somewhere between AD 106 and 119, but you'll find different versions of the start and end dates in different places). Probably the nearest to a smoking gun you're going to get, unless someone identifies another piece of Trajan's memoirs with the Latin word for 'cross-piece' in it.

Quote:Is there a primary source that says the Romans reinforced their helmets because of the falx?

Of course not. It's one of those pieces of speculation that morphs into a factoid and then a few years later turns up in a question along the lines of 'I read somewhere that...'. The Berzobis helmet only helped to reinforce it (pun unintended). Segmental armguards and falces are a similar factoidal association, as are no lorica seg in the East, and so on and so on. And, strangely, a lot of them have their origins in the opinions of Sir Ian Richmond.

As for the effect of the falx on an unprotected helmet, David Sim did some experiments on this and used the facilities of the weapons research centre at Shrivenham to produce high-speed film of the moment of impact (the tip of the blade turns to plasma apparently). He is working on another book on armour at the moment and I think I have persuaded him to produce a companion website with some of these weapons-testing film clips on it.

Mike Bishop
You know my method. It is founded upon the observance of trifles

Blogging, tweeting, and mapping Hadrian\'s Wall... because it\'s there
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#10
Excellent news
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#11
Quote:the tip of the blade turns to plasma apparently

I wouldn't let that kind of information loose on the internet! Dacians used plasma weapons against the Romans... Confusedhock:

Interesting that the Berzobis helmet has such a specific date range. I'd always considered that, if we follow the 'anti-falx modification' theory, these helmets more probably dated to the Domitianic Dacian wars - with one Roman army destroyed under Oppius Sabinus in c85 and another under Cornelius Fuscus the following year, legionaries in the winter camps along the Danube in 87 would be quite the ones to be welding extra bits onto their armour, knowing they'd be marching out to face the same enemy again in the spring!

-Nathan
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#12
Matt C.H., if you dig back a few weeks in the "Enemies and Allies" section, you'll find at least 2 long and frothing debates on the falx. There are indeed those who consider it a Roman-cleaving super-weapon, devastating legion after legion and dominating the battlefield for years. There are others who point out that the Dacians *lost*... The Dacian campaigns do seem to have been at least a little tougher than cake-walks, and it is *possible* that the Romans modified their armor to adapt to the falx. But then, adapting is what the Romans did best!

My gut reaction is that a lorica segmentata would be a better defense against the impact of a falx, but it's *shorter* than a shirt of mail or scale armor. That could be why we don't see segmentata in the Adamklissi reliefs. Having been the guy at the end of the support beam holding a shield while it was chopped by a falx, I can tell you that there is indeed a creepy feeling of "I want more armor..." Doesn't matter if it is scientifically not more likely to *penetrate* armor, the shape of it is just a little more likely to go licking around the shield and snag bare flesh. But as others have pointed out, you only have to survive that first strike to have a free shot at the unarmored wielder.

Let's hope this doesn't turn into another of those threads...

Matthew
Matthew Amt (Quintus)
Legio XX, USA
<a class="postlink" href="http://www.larp.com/legioxx/">http://www.larp.com/legioxx/
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#13
Quote: Similarly, any two-handed bladed weapon ( battle-axe, bill, halberd, Claymore etc) will, because of longer leverage and two-handed use, inflict a more powerful blow than single-handed blades.


:grin: very correct

Quote:The two-handed 'Falx' ( which is unlikely to have been a 'Dacian' weapon, despite certain Romanian nationalistic opinions ) was most likely an agricultural implement ( a bill-hook, or hedging hook, or reed-cutter; to which it is identical)and seems to have been used by the Bastarnae tribesmen who lived in the Danube delta and lower Danube region as an extemporised weapon. There is no evidence of this agricultural implement's use in warfare after the demise of the Bastarnae tribe.

:roll: Good God, not again this weird theory of you, already debunked in few previous threads. Falx at the moment of Trajan Dacian wars at least, was a true sword (archeology find several blades, one engraved with a solar symbol find on many Sica as well, and one still having parts of fossilized leather from its scabard/sheat). All was found in Dacia teritory, usualy in or near the capital, Sarmizegetusa) and Romans themselves say that are Dacian weapons. It was on the same family with Romphaia (Thracian sister sword, much less curved) and resemble the (Dacian and Thracian curved short sword) Sica shape, just on a larger scale.

Quote:The increased force of this weapon ( two-handed, and with greater leverage) may well have led to modifications, of the sort described, to Roman armour.

Again, correct and common sense asumption

Quote:It should be noted that the person wielding the falx against the helpless Roman shield in the well-known photo was a body-builder and unusually strong. Even so, it is readily apparent what would happen in the next second were a Roman legionary to be behind that shield - he'd be gutted by a Roman gladius, exactly as depicted on the Adamklissi metopes.

This highlights the point that two-handed weapon wielders have a tremendous disadvantage - their wielders are completely unprotected. In later ages, men so armed usually fought in the second rank, behind a protective front rank 'shield-wall', where they were able to wield their powerful two-handed weapons freely over the heads/shoulders of their protectors.*

Well, first, about the person who use the Falx, imagine that a warrior in his 30's, who lived in the ancient times, going up in the mountains each day to cut trees in the forest, almost since his childhood, have a very good stamina and force, and can achieve easily the same results as in that test.
And acording with Dacian religion he consider himself he is immortal, that the eternal life will start soon after he leave this one, and on the otherworld the best warriors have the best life, so is very eager to kill some enemies and is hardly afraid to die

As well, if a legionar wear that shield and he is hit like that, either the tip of the sword will pierce his helmet or hit him hard on shoulder or so, either if he keep the shield more distanced from the body he will be heavy unbalanced and draged even in his knees if the supposed Dacian enemy will make a pull move after the hit. Either way the legionar will not be able to imediatly stab him with his Gladius

Quote:Not then, by any means, a 'super weapon' and certainly not adopted by the Roman Army, who were frequently quite quick to adopt effective enemy weapons.

Dacians who joined the Roman Army as auxiliars still used curved swords, and there is an image posted by another forumist in another topic, with a bodyguard of a Roman emperor (Septimius Severus if i am not wrong) wearing a huge Falx. I think is possible that even Varangian guard in Byzantine empire was armed with some similar sword (Falx/Romphaia related).
Roman legions didnt adopt Falx (or Sica) because their fighting style, formations and training was already set in some way, and work very well. Romans was practical peoples, and probably consider is not necessary to fix something that it work, and if is necessary they can rely on auxiliars as even Dacians for using diferent weapons

Quote:* At the end of the Middle Ages, men in full plate armour also frequently used two-handed weapons - 'Great'swords, bills, halberds etc and were fully protected - a very lethal combination.

It is not impossible for Dacians who fight armed with Falxes to wear armoures as well. On the Trajan Column the enemies (with exception of couple images, when some Sarmatian cavalry apear clearly separated from others) apear without armoures, so probably the viewers in Rome (mostly civilians) to not confuse who is who there, so Dacian are represented wearing their "national day by day" clothes

But among the trophies on the Column are presented few armour and helmet types, and ancient writers and archeological discoveries show that Dacians used armoures, quite on large scale
Razvan A.
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#14
Quote:
The Berzobis helmet (found in excavations at Berzovia in Romania) is the earliest so far known, the reinforces being crude additions, and that fortress was only occupied by IV Flavia Felix for a comparatively short period (somewhere between AD 106 and 119, but you'll find different versions of the start and end dates in different places). Probably the nearest to a smoking gun you're going to get, unless someone identifies another piece of Trajan's memoirs with the Latin word for 'cross-piece' in it.

Actualy the only phrase find from Trajan "De bello Dacico" (unfortunately lost) mention that he, after pass over the Danube in Dacia followed the road thru Berzobis (this is the first war, 101-102 AD)

Quote:As for the effect of the falx on an unprotected helmet, David Sim did some experiments on this and used the facilities of the weapons research centre at Shrivenham to produce high-speed film of the moment of impact (the tip of the blade turns to plasma apparently). He is working on another book on armour at the moment and I think I have persuaded him to produce a companion website with some of these weapons-testing film clips on it.

Mike Bishop

Cool Big Grin , Dacian plasma swords, i knew it Tongue
Just kidding, but Romans themsleves was quite impressed by the effect of Dacian curved swords

<<Trajan engaged the war with hardened soldiers, who despised the Parthians, our enemy, and who didn't care of their arrow blows, after the terrible wounds inflicted by the curved swords of the Dacians.>>

"Fronto, Principia Historiae, II"
Razvan A.
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#15
Quote:Well, first, about the person who use the Falx, imagine that a warrior in his 30's
Um no. Imagine a warrior in his teens. By the time anyone in these cultures entered their thirties they would be reaching the end of their ability to perform these kinds of physical chores. And this is completely irrelevant since plenty of Roman troops had similar backgrounds and were just as physically capable.

Quote: And acording with Dacian religion he consider himself he is immortal, that the eternal life will start soon after he leave this one, and on the otherworld the best warriors have the best life, so is very eager to kill some enemies and is hardly afraid to die
I'd like to see anything indicating that a Dacian solider is any more prepared to die than a Celtic, Germanic, or even a Roman one. This nationalistic chestbeating does nothing to advance this type of discussion.

Quote:As well, if a legionar wear that shield and he is hit like that, either the tip of the sword will pierce his helmet or hit him hard on shoulder or so, either if he keep the shield more distanced from the body he will be heavy unbalanced and draged even in his knees if the supposed Dacian enemy will make a pull move after the hit. Either way the legionar will not be able to imediatly stab him with his Gladius
If a Dacian tried a strike like this he would be gutted like a pig before he finished the upswing.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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