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The "Myth" of the "Dacian Falx" as a super weapon
#16
I do not believe the falx to be a super weapon, but it was effective in it's purpose. As to it causing the Romans to change their armor:
Quote:M.C. Bishop and J.C.N. Coulston-“Roman Military Equipment”-Adoption of additional limb-defenses in the face of Dacian scythe-weapons (falces), as seen on the Adamklissi metopes, would at first sight provide a clear example of short-term innovation. However, greaves and armguards were in use on other frontiers, earlier or contemporaneously, without the involvement of Dacian adversaries(see Chapter 5) Pg. 203.
There would have been no reason for the Romans to pick up this weapon nor any other two handed weapon as that would go against the tactics and formations they were using. Where you might have seen the falx would have been among Dacian auxiliaries, and I don't know how rare that would be, though it could be an indicator of how useful of a weapon it might be. Would the Dacian auxiliary give up his falx in favor of the gladius?
Thor
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#17
Quote:I do not believe the falx to be a super weapon, but it was effective in it's purpose. As to it causing the Romans to change their armor:
Quote:M.C. Bishop and J.C.N. Coulston-“Roman Military Equipment”-Adoption of additional limb-defenses in the face of Dacian scythe-weapons (falces), as seen on the Adamklissi metopes, would at first sight provide a clear example of short-term innovation. However, greaves and armguards were in use on other frontiers, earlier or contemporaneously, without the involvement of Dacian adversaries(see Chapter 5) Pg. 203.
As has already been said, there is no evidence to prove this. It is speculation based on the fact that the modifications occurred around the same time as the Dacian wars. Find a Roman source that talks about armour modifications at that time being caused by Dacian weapons. It makes no sense. Why on earth would they suddenly decide to wear arm protection because of Dacian blades and not all of the other sword types the Romans faced? In addition to Paul's arguments, if the falx was such an effective weapon the Romans would have adopted it in a heartbeat. Paul is right. The "super falx" is a "super myth".
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#18
Quote:
Sean Manning:2ipx3k6m Wrote:Ave diegis,

Two thoughts about your comments. First, the idea that Roman soldiers adapted their armour to deal with the two-handed falx is a modern hypothesis based on signs that the Romans improved their armour around the time of the Dacian Wars, and the idea that Dacian warriors used the two-handed falx which was more powerful than most ancient weapons. But they could have changed their armour for other reasons ... I don't know enough about the period to have an opinion.

And second, so-called blood channels aka. fullers just lighten a blade without weakening it (like a I-beam) and decorate it. They have nothing to do with making it easier to pull a blade out of a human body or anything like that.

Salve Sean

Yes, thats a modern hypothesis, but i think is the most logical one.

Second- i know the hypotese that blood channels are in fact useless at short blades, knives, daggers etc., since is not any evidence that help somehow to pull out quicker the blade, or have other effect in wounding, but to long blades is possible to have some efficiency
Hi Diegis,

I don't know of any evidence that fullers were intended as blood channels on any blade. As far as I know, that's a 20th century idea by people who didn't know much about smithing or stabbing things and wanted to sound gruesome. They reduce the amount of metal you need, and they look nice, and those are enough reason for a smith to use them.

Greaves and manicae would be useful against lots of weapons, and cross-braced helmets would be better at resisting stones from above. So while they could have been adopted to resist a two-handed war falx, there are lots of other explanations. Reading that Bishop and Coulston quote, they don't think the evidence shows that this armour first became common in the Dacian Wars, and they know a lot about Roman arms.

Couldn't this theta symbol on blades be just a maker's mark? I can't read that article in Romanian, but it seems like assuming it was protective and only used on weapons is just a guess.
Nullis in verba

I left this forum around the beginning of 2013, but I hope that these old posts have some value
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#19
Guys, think a little on that: the Adamclisi monument must have been rebuild on an later period. not the core, but the metopes.
so it is possible to apear a few changes on the representation.
as for the falx the super weapon - a very effective one. So effective that made the roman army to adapt again. and that made the Romans virtually invincible.
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#20
Quote:Matt wrote:
Quote:I'm also not entirely comfortable with a strict definition of how "falx" may be used in Roman literature. They used a lot of other terms loosely or interchangeably, so a narrow definition makes me a little uneasy.

Huh? Not sure what you mean by this - my point was that "falx' was a broad definition, not a narrow one - it literally means 'curved blade', any kind of curved blade.

DOH! Sorry, must have read that all too fast.

Quote:Rather than Phil Barker's idea, it is equally possible, maybe more so, that the 'improvised' use of a tool was a counter to troops in heavy armour - and there is an excellent precedent for this. During the revolt of Sacrovir in Gaul in AD21, the rebels included a small group of trainee gladiators of the fully-armoured 'Crupellari' type. The Roman legionaries resorted to using tools of the 'two-handed chopper' variety - their 'dolabra' (! Confusedhock: ) to deal with these! [Tacitus Annals III.43 ff].....perhaps the Bastarnae trapped with their families at the 'wagon massacre' also desperately improvised against heavily armoured Roman troops. Let us not forget too that after, this 'weapon' is never heard of again.....that surely implies it was an 'improvisation' used as a one-off rather than a newly developed formidable weapon.

*OH!* OOOoooooooohhhhhhh...... OhMyGod. Geez, you're good, I love it! Sure is something to consider...

Quote:Well, i agree that Dacians lost the war, but the impression made by them was quite big. Domitian before even paid them tribute, and Traian used the biggest army used by Romans vs a foreign enemy, and was one of the few instances when Romans had numerical superiority on the battle field (draining troops from all over the empire). Romans build the biggest bridge in the world for that invasion (biggest for around a millenium i think), a spectacular realisation for that times, and even make some engineering works on Danube course (which is one of the biggest rivers in the world as discharge of water volume and biggest in Europe-except Volga), so making a huge war effort. And even if the Dacian capital, Sarmisegetuza, was at a distance of 100-150 km from Roman border (province Moesia), Romans needed almost a year, each war, to reach there, and celebration of victory lasted 123 days at Rome. Trajan Column and Forum was build there, to always be remembered, first ever and biggest such column, and lots of statues of Dacians (some of them saw now on Constantine Arch and even Vatican Museum).

That's something to consider, too! Very good points.

Quote:Why on earth would they suddenly decide to wear arm protection because of Dacian blades and not all of the other sword types the Romans faced?

This is one possible reason:

[Image: falxcut1.jpg]

I was holding the other end of the support beam, and it was a bloody impressive demonstration even from that distance. A little more metal between me and that thing? Oh, yeah, GOOD to have! Now, obviously this test doesn't necessarily reflect battlefield conditions. The guy with the falx is a weight lifter, and it's entirely possible that his weapon is over-engineered. But it certainly showed an ability to go through or around a shield that a simple spear or sword can't match. You understand that I am in no way saying that we've proved causality, here! But I still think it's *possible* that this weapon encouraged the grunts in the front ranks to beef up their armor just a tad. I'm also always careful to present the whole issue to an audience that way: a *possibility*, not fact. So I LOVE Paul's suggestion that it was the other way around, and I can't wait to throw that into my demos, too!

Great stuff from everyone, by the way! I love going through these hot, savage debates and agreeing with everybody! And then DISagreeing with everyone, too! Too much fun.

Valete,

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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#21
Quote: This is one possible reason:
1. The Romans wore manica on their shield arms?
2. Did you try two-handed chops with some of the other types of sword the Romans faced? I reckon that even a gladius hispaniensis could so similar damage under the conditions in that photo.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#22
Quote:I do not believe the falx to be a super weapon, but it was effective in it's purpose. As to it causing the Romans to change their armor:
Quote:M.C. Bishop and J.C.N. Coulston-“Roman Military Equipment”-Adoption of additional limb-defenses in the face of Dacian scythe-weapons (falces), as seen on the Adamklissi metopes, would at first sight provide a clear example of short-term innovation. However, greaves and armguards were in use on other frontiers, earlier or contemporaneously, without the involvement of Dacian adversaries(see Chapter 5) Pg. 203.
There would have been no reason for the Romans to pick up this weapon nor any other two handed weapon as that would go against the tactics and formations they were using. Where you might have seen the falx would have been among Dacian auxiliaries, and I don't know how rare that would be, though it could be an indicator of how useful of a weapon it might be. Would the Dacian auxiliary give up his falx in favor of the gladius?

Hi Frostwulf

A good documented post, as usual.
About Falxes used by Dacian auxiliares, i dont know, but is very possible. I remember i read somewhere, a while ago, about a representation (on a coin or other image) of a Roman emperor, i think Septimius Severus, who had Dacian bodyguards wearing Falxes (two handed swords). There is as well a representation on a tombstone of one of comanders of a Dacian auxiliar units in Britania, with a longer curved blade but a one handed handle
Razvan A.
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#23
Quote: but for piercing a top of a helmet you need to use a bigger force of a bigger sword, and that was the Falx. As well, the only one battle when they encountered Bastarnae was that from Adamclisi. I dont think the Romans will make such changes to their armour just because of that single fight, but because they constantly meet with this kind of weapons during their campaign (which was mainly against Dacians)


Would have to disagree with this, I've put an old, blunt, rusty one handed sickle head about half an inch into a shield boss before. Piercing metal with something like that one handed is fairly easy.
Stuart
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#24
Quote:
Hi Diegis,

I don't know of any evidence that fullers were intended as blood channels on any blade. As far as I know, that's a 20th century idea by people who didn't know much about smithing or stabbing things and wanted to sound gruesome. They reduce the amount of metal you need, and they look nice, and those are enough reason for a smith to use them.

Greaves and manicae would be useful against lots of weapons, and cross-braced helmets would be better at resisting stones from above. So while they could have been adopted to resist a two-handed war falx, there are lots of other explanations. Reading that Bishop and Coulston quote, they don't think the evidence shows that this armour first became common in the Dacian Wars, and they know a lot about Roman arms.

Couldn't this theta symbol on blades be just a maker's mark? I can't read that article in Romanian, but it seems like assuming it was protective and only used on weapons is just a guess.

Hi Sean

Well, since i didnt stab yet anyone, using a sword with and one without "blood channels" i dont know if make any diferences. I read about shorter blades, where the presence of such channles doesnt make any observable improvments, which i agree. But at long blades, who might go thru entire parts of a body, it might have some point. But, as i said, i dont know for sure if so, and you may be right as well.

I agree as well that "manica" at least can be used against other types of swords too, and even the greaves, against spears for example, or arrows, protecting the legionar body parts not covered by "scutum". Fact is that during Dacian wars this equipment was probably used more "on mass", and specificaly presented on imagery. And the most suitable sword to produce such damages (as easily cutting limbs) to Romans was Falx (maybe even Sica). Thats why Fronto mentioned the "terrible wounds made by Dacians curved swords".
Its an interesting idea too, the one with helmets reinforced against stones from above. I didnt think to that, but i think is possible now. Even if at a 30 kilograms stone falling from 10 or 20 meters on your head, i dont think it will make any diference if you have a cross of metal bands on your helmet or not. The fact that this change occured in the same period of this wars, and the Falx (and even smaller Sica) is very suitable for such hits over the shield is a point in the favour of this hypothese (of Falx reason), but in the same time Romans fight to conquer quite many Dacian fortresses. Dont know, maybe was a combination of reasons.

About that mark on the sword, i dont think it was a simple maker's mark, as was found on Sicas from diferent regions and even periods probably (on some Sicas apear other symbols too). And i dont think that a protective symbol is used for an agricultural tool, or for a person who go to cut trees, but is more probable to be for one who go to war and may be killed
Razvan A.
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#25
Quote:

Would have to disagree with this, I've put an old, blunt, rusty one handed sickle head about half an inch into a shield boss before. Piercing metal with something like that one handed is fairly easy.

Well, this may add an even more points to the theory of Romans reinforcing their helmets (and armour) because of Dacians curved swords. Sica was a as well a shorter curved sword (some said possible inspired or developed from sickles), some types looking exactly like bigger Falx, and due to their shape can be used for such hits over (or around) the shield, even if not to that extent or amplitude of the bigger Falx
Razvan A.
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#26
Quote:
Matthew Amt:1j1cjn5r Wrote:This is one possible reason:
1. The Romans wore manica on their shield arms?
2. Did you try two-handed chops with some of the other types of sword the Romans faced? I reckon that even a gladius hispaniensis could so similar damage under the conditions in that photo.

I dont think any other sword can be used in a similar way as the Falx (or sometimes even the Sica). Due to its curved shape (like a claw/sickle/schyte) it can be used for piercing, slashing and cutting/severing/dismembering, and can hit someone behind that scutum even without cutting thru it, just bypassing it from above. I dont know if you ever used a schyte, especialy a sharp one, to see how easy is to cut using just a small circular move. The shape is made for improving cutting abilities, much better then any right type of blade (as Gladius) and a stronger, thicker blade used for a sword with a hard tip, can easily pierce even thru metal

Romans didnt adopted such types of curved swords, because their already old and prouved fighting style worked well, they was use to it, and they didnt had any enemy against who to use them. This swords was good especialy against opponents protected by large shields and fighting in close ranks, and Romans doesnt had anyone like that at that point. However, they adapted a Falx like blade to a siege machine, used for penetrate betwen 2 stone blocks, to dislodge them. I remember i saw one depicted, on Trajan Column i think, but i dont remember how was called, on what part of Column was. Maybe someone know more about (possible to be have a name as "Falces ....")
Razvan A.
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#27
Quote:I dont think any other sword can be used in a similar way as the Falx (or sometimes even the Sica).
No. Some swords are actually suited for use on the battlefield.

Quote:Due to its curved shape (like a claw/sickle/schyte) it can be used for piercing, slashing and cutting/severing/dismembering
All swords are used for these things.

Quote: and can hit someone behind that scutum even without cutting thru it, just bypassing it from above.
This is probably the only real advantage of the falx.

Quote: I dont know if you ever used a schyte, especialy a sharp one, to see how easy is to cut using just a small circular move.
plenty of blades can cut easily with just a small move

Quote: The shape is made for improving cutting abilities, much better then any right type of blade (as Gladius) and a stronger, thicker blade used for a sword with a hard tip, can easily pierce even thru metal
Pure speculation. Where are the imperical tests that demonstrate this?

Quote:Romans didnt adopted such types of curved swords, because their already old and prouved fighting style worked well, they was use to it, and they didnt had any enemy against who to use them. This swords was good especialy against opponents protected by large shields and fighting in close ranks, and Romans doesnt had anyone like that at that point.
Romans faced both Gallic and German shield walls with full height shields.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#28
Quote:
Matthew Amt:1o88hu6h Wrote:This is one possible reason:
1. The Romans wore manica on their shield arms?
2. Did you try two-handed chops with some of the other types of sword the Romans faced? I reckon that even a gladius hispaniensis could so similar damage under the conditions in that photo.
I wouldn't go that far. A lot of ancient swords have hilts which are only suited for a one-handed grip, and with any staff weapon or long-hilted sword you can get a powerful lever action by pushing with one hand and pulling with the other. I don't have a problem with the idea that a two-handed falx would be a very powerful cutting weapon ... but I agree with you and Paullus that there isn't a lot of evidence that these were purpose-made weapons in common use.

A comparison all-out cut with different patterns of gladius and spatha would be interesting to see.
Nullis in verba

I left this forum around the beginning of 2013, but I hope that these old posts have some value
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#29
Diegis wrote:
Quote:Hmm, that area wasnt ocupied by Peucini. It was always a Getae(Dacian) area, incorporated previously in Roman Empire, first under the name Schytia Minor, then was included in Moesia. Peucini was located north of Danube Delta, and was part of Dacian kingdom/empire of Burebista. North of them was Bastarnae, and north east the Dacian tribe of Tyragetae. See this map

I am sorry to say this is not accurate at all. The kingdom of the Getae briefly extended to the Black sea in the reign of Burebista - but after his death split into several parts, and the outlying areas were all lost. We are not precisely told where the borders of Decebalus' kingdom lay, but the borders of the subsequent Roman province provide a good guide.(see attached map). The area east of Dacia and north of the Danube was occupied by the Sarmatian Roxalani (Dacian allies), and to the east of them, extending to the Danube delta was the territory of the Peucini, who occupied it down to Gothic times. To the east of Dacia proper, the pink area north of the river was at the time of the Dacian wars occupied by the Sarmatian Iazyges ( who were Roman allies).

Strabo describes the Bastarnae territory vaguely as "between the Ister (river Danube) and the Borysthenes (river Dnieper)". He identifies three sub-tribes of the Bastarnae: the Atmoni, Sidoni and Peucini. The latter derived their name from Peuce, a large island in the Danube delta which they had colonised.(Strabo III.17) The 2nd century geographer Ptolemy states that the Carpiani or Carpi (believed to have occupied Moldavia) separated the Peucini from the other Bastarnae "above Dacia".] The consensus among modern scholars is that the Bastarnae were, in the 2nd century, divided into two main groups. The larger group inhabited the north-eastern slopes of the Carpathians and the area between the Prut and Dnieper rivers (Moldova Republic/Western Ukraine), while a separate smaller group (the Peucini) dwelt in and North of the Danube delta region ( and south of it too, until the creation of the Roman province of Moesia.) Only the Peucini, therefore, were situated on the extreme northern border of the Roman province of Moesia Inferior, which ran along the southernmost branch of the Danube delta - not that far from Adamklissi.
Quote:...and the ones with a cap (the phrygian cap) or bare head are the Dacians....
We have had this debate before - NO 'Phrygian'/Dacian caps are shown, only skull caps, and quite clearly these are the Bastarnae people, all bare to the waist ( no Dacian is ever thus depicted) with in some cases ( like your second example) a 'paenula' over it, most with Suebic/Germanic hair knot, some with skull caps, which might even be simple bowl helmets, though probably not. NOT ONE 'chopper wielder' is dressed in 'Dacian dress'.

Quote:On the first is clearly saw the Falx, with a handle as long as the blade aproximatevly and clearly a two handed one (you can see even the blood channel in the middle, similar with the Falx tip from image 4). In the second is a bit harder to distinguish, it can be saw just the half upper part of the blade i think.

The first coin is not a warrior at all - it is in fact the female personification of Dacia as a Roman province, and like other coins of it's type, it shows "Abundant Dacia" and what you see as a two handed chopper is most likely to be a sheaf of wheat, or several stems at least ( more clearly shown on other coins), not a blade with a fuller!

The second is of the type copying the 'trophy' base of Trajan's column - and is thus a jumble of Dacian, Roxalani and Bastarnae arms.

The real 'Dacia Capta' type is shown in the attachment, a denarius issued by Trajan. The captive Dacian warrior/chief sits on his shield ( interestingly shown as 'hexagonal, or perhaps it is meant to be oval but limited by the medium), and quite clearly next to him is the "Dacian Falx" - an obvious single handed weapon, like all those shown on Trajan's column, and on the Birdoswald inscription of the 'First Cohort of Dacians', and another from Britain.
"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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#30
For those who are not familiar with the Adamklissi metopes , here are some examples - note that none wear "Dacian dress" - tight trousers, knee-length tunic, belted, and phrygian caps for chiefs - see left hand figure from earlier post....but compare them to the middle figure....
"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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