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The "Myth" of the "Dacian Falx" as a super weapon
#46
Quote:hello diegis
falx and sica are latin terms.
Those terms don't designate only the Dacian weapons.
The Jewish zealots were called sicarii at the rebelion in Jerusalem, 30 years before Dacians wars so the term was in use before Romans encounter the Dacians.

Salut Nina

From what i read, "sica" as a name entered in latin via greek (greeks was first who encountered the weapon), and was a term took by greeks from thracians. I read somewhere that a roman author stated that "sica" is the dacian name for such kind of dagger/short sword. Sica was a weapon of all thracians (both southern and northern ones) and was spread to other peoples too, as ilyrians, and in roman teritories, where aparently was the weapon of choice for assasins. Jews rebels liked too the weapon, it was short enough to be concealead under larger clothes, and have a devastating effect on "target". Their rebelion was anyway long after first encounters betwen romans and southern thracians, and even romans and dacians (northern thracians)
Razvan A.
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#47
Quote:Interesting discussion here.
Though I am indifferent if the two handed falx was actualy a designated weapon and what people it was used by, it is quite significant that it does not only appear on the Adamklissi metopes but is also featured on the Tropaeum base next to other implements of war.
I would find it strange if the Romans would dedicate such space in these monuments for a simple makeshift defensive tool used only once in a small skirmish.
There is however one important issue with considering this weapon to be overly effective.
I do posses a (blunt) Falx myself that I have tried to use against varouis opponents in controlled freefight bouts and I would not consider it to be a good weapon for an unarmored user to utilise.
If you look at the spectacular picture of the sharp Falx splitting the Scutum, you see that the wielder has extended himself quite far, has wedged his weapon in the Scutum of his adversary (though I doubt this would happen very often under battlefield conditions) and would not be able to react in any way to a counterattack.

First of all, i really doubt that such hits was usualy used. Second, if such hit will be done however, the roman who keep that shield will be badly hit, probably in head area, with the tip of the sword piercing the helmet, or in shoulder, and will be quite unbalanced by the hit anyway and unable to counterattack imediatly. Then the dacian can drag him even more pulling the falx from the scutum so the roman either need to leave the sheild to regain balance, either will be draged in his knees probably, and either way the dacian will be able to release the falx from the scutum before the roman be able to counterattack him with his gladius. Its just hypotheses anyway

Quote:In short even if he managed to wound his direct adversary he would be very dead by a stab form the next Roman opposing him.
The Falx is simply to shorthandled to give the reach - and thereby tactical flexibility and protection - that true polearms provide.
I doubt if a mass of unarmored shieldless combatants would be very suitable as shock infantry against ordered Roman ranks, even if these would not utilise their pila against this mass of unprotected targets.

Well, look at this picture and tell me which next roman will hit?
[Image: dacians_box_art.jpg]
Anyway, i dont think that such cutting thru scutum hits will be often done, but over the upper edge, from lateral and even against the legs. Any such hits are possible if you look at the dacian from the left.
I doubt as well that falx wearers will be the first who frontal attack romans ranks, before the pilla to be used

Quote:As for the superior cutting abilitys of curved weapons it should be noted that almost all weapons designed for an efficient cut have the outward curvate sharpend and not the inward curvate.

Yes, almost all, but not all. And i agree that falx wasnt a super weapon, but was a quite effective one .
Razvan A.
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#48
Quote:[

What?! That's a pretty bold claim! If you look at the photo I posted, you will see that the shield *stopped* the falx. It did cut pretty deep, but in a combat situation that falx-man would be down with a gladius in his guts a second or two later. While I again agree that the falx is a nasty weapon, and probably more likely than most others to penetrate shields or armor, hundreds of years of battle descriptions involving various polearms never mention that they could "tear through armoured troops like they weren't there". In fact, a quote from the Battle of Flodden springs to mind, in which an English writer notes that the Scots were so heavily armored that they kept fighting even when several bills hit them at once. Do you have any evidence that the falx was THAT effective in battle?


But note that its use did NOT lead to victory over those armored troops!

Vale,

Matthew

Ofcourse that at least as much as weapon, but probably even more, counted the physical and especialy psichological abilities of the warrior who use that weapon. Since even if romans had numerical superiority in this wars (usualy was the other way around for them), quite a huge one in the second war, and had to go just some maybe 150 km from their border to the dacian capital, they need around a year each war to reach there (a roman legionar can march with all his equipment on him up to 40 km a day, maybe half the distance in this case, since was mountain terrain), so i think the Dacians and then their curved swords (Falx and even Sica) was pretty effective. It was said that during second battle of Tapae (101 AD) Traian himself rip off his toga to make bandages for wounded, and this after romans prepared few years for the war, including logistics ofcourse, and had more then probably numerical superiority on the battlefield too, so the loses was much more they where expected.
And yes, at the end Dacians lost the war, but who was able at that moment to win such a war with Romans, with or without falxes or any other swords?
Razvan A.
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#49
Hi Paullus

Quote:
The mere fact that the "wagon massacre" is the subject of the Adamklissi monument, and also shown on the Column demonstrates that it was no mere 'small skirmish', but a major battle, and probable invasion of Roman Moesia. To understand this, one needs to know a little more. The geography makes these hills a natural bridge, some 25-30 miles(40-48 km) wide avoiding what were marshy valleys, between wallachia and the rest of Europe. They are the gateway to southern Europe and a crossroads, where many roads meet - from here an invader has the choice of heading south to Greece and Byzantium/Turkey, or west into Bulgaria or Serbia and on into Europe having outflanked the Danube barrier.The area was thus of utmost strategic importance - many ancient and mediaeval battles took place in and around Adrianople, not so far south of Adamklissi.
There are in fact three monuments at Adamklissi, the first two commemorating what must have been a major Roman defeat in the 80's AD, probably the defeat of Oppius Sabinus, but perhaps that of Fuscus. First there is a great mausoleum/tomb, 125 ft(60 m) in diameter, and opposite it is a large altar 40 ft(19 m) square, with the names of the dead engraved in column after column (c.f. the U.S. Vietnam memorial). Due south of this is Trajan's great 'Tropaeum/trophy', dedicated (importantly) to Mars Ultor/Mars the avenger. Evidently Trajan trapped the "wagon people", defeated and massacred them, men women and children implying they were wiped out. (Significantly, in 179 BC, at the invitation of Philip V of Macedon, an alleged 60,000 Bastarnae, accompanied by their women and children in wagons crossed the Danube, intending to displace Philip's enemies the Dardanians, but the invasion ultimately failed when Philip died.....)
The most likely explanation is that history was repeating itself and the Peucini/Bastarnae were invading to recover their lost territories south of the Danube.....

I saw that some historians interpreted that as a monument for Oppius Sabinus and his soldiers killed in a previous Dacian invasion (Fuscus one idea was rejected, as he was said was killed north of Danube), and Traian build over other one. It is possible. However the scene with wagons from Traian Column, from what i saw, is located at the scene of another battle (not the one of Adamclisi), but one of Nicopolis ad Istrum, where Traian will found a new city. There is no kids and women in those images, just a wagon camp as is usual use for protection in case of attack. As well, there is no Bastarnae show arround, mostly Dacians. In fact from what i read is that Bastarnae didnt participate to that counterattack in Moesia, but was just Dacians, Sarmatians and probably Burii (a suposedly germanic tribe allied with Dacians, and very interesting, bearing a similar name with a Dacian tribe called Burii). So i really doubt it was any Bastarnae invasion of Roman Empire with the intent of reconquer the lands promised to them by Philip. It was a strategic move of Decebalus who tried to cut the supply lines of roman army blocked in mountains in Dacia (it was winter, and winters in mountains here are quite harsh), a move who forced Traian to retreat with large part of his troops from Dacia, and even he comeback next year after he resolved this invasions, Romans was exhausted enough to give peace to Dacians (under harsh conditions, but who was not respected by Decebalus anyway, since Traian himself started to prepare for the next war), without to accomplish the eliminating of Dacian kingdom and conquering of Dacia

Quote:Btw, you can still buy 'falxes' in their various forms as tools, as Jim Webster has pointed out to me.....as you can see, it hasn't changed much down the centuries....Here are the instructions for use, and if you look at some of the metopes they are being used in exactly this fashion !!

I dont deny that a tool might stay at the base of Falx, or such agricultural tools was used in a similar way, but in the same time is pretty clear that swords made special for battle was made as well
Razvan A.
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#50
Quote:
Thunder:33hc67uj Wrote:
Quote:2. Such a weapon would, with it's heft, momentum, weight and power, tear through armoured troops like they weren't there.

What?! That's a pretty bold claim! If you look at the photo I posted, you will see that the shield *stopped* the falx. It did cut pretty deep, but in a combat situation that falx-man would be down with a gladius in his guts a second or two later. While I again agree that the falx is a nasty weapon, and probably more likely than most others to penetrate shields or armor, hundreds of years of battle descriptions involving various polearms never mention that they could "tear through armoured troops like they weren't there". In fact, a quote from the Battle of Flodden springs to mind, in which an English writer notes that the Scots were so heavily armored that they kept fighting even when several bills hit them at once. Do you have any evidence that the falx was THAT effective in battle?

1. I didn't mention the shield in any context. Obviously, a shield improves survivability significantly - particularly one like the scutum.
2. Glancing hits will tend to glance off any armoured foe, in particular one wearing plate, but what I meant to say is that a good, clean hit from such a weapon will cleave through flesh, bone and armour, unlike, say, a sword, which will glance off the armour no matter how clean the hit (even if it bruises the man beneath!)
Alexander Hunt, Mercenary Economist-for-hire, modeller, amateur historian, debater and amateur wargames designer. May have been involved in the conquest of Baktria.
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#51
Quote:Well, look at this picture and tell me which next roman will hit?
[Image: dacians_box_art.jpg]
How about the one right behind that very same shield? :|
Todd Franks

"The whole race is madly fond of war, high spirited and quick to battle, but otherwise straightforward and not of evil character." - Strabo on the Celts
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#52
Quote:...what I meant to say is that a good, clean hit from such a weapon will cleave through flesh, bone and armour, unlike, say, a sword, which will glance off the armour no matter how clean the hit (even if it bruises the man beneath!)

I still think you are overestimating the penetrating power of this weapon. It will absolutely cleave flesh and bone! And it will do that even if the stroke is relatively weak, even casual. But that's the point--there is no reason to suspect that most blows in combat were full-force full-swing two-handed home-run smashes. You didn't have to exert yourself that much, risking quick exhaustion, sudden counter-moves, and the problems of follow-through whether you hit or miss, when all you had to do was connect lightly to lay a guy open. In any case, while I also agree that a hard, solid blow from the point of a falx is more likely to penetrate armor than most other weapons, I still do not believe that it is going to "cleave" it significantly, slicing right through to besect the guy inside. And even if you think you *might* get through it, why bet your life on it? Go for the soft parts!

You can't ignore the shield, either, since that was virtually always a factor.

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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#53
The cuvate (inward or outward) of a weapon does provide more cutting leverage then a straight blade against soft targets, but hardly improves penetration against armor in any kind.
The "beak" at the point of the falx might actually help in penetrating a helmet or shoulder armor, but you have to keep in mind how near you would have to be to your adversary to actually reach that far with a weapon that has such a short handle.
My Falx is about 1m in length overal, with about 60cm of this length being the blade - not measuring the curvate:
[Image: _u33.jpg]
Though I am the first to admit taht this si not an accurate replica of any blade found, it is meant to be an approximation of the Falxes depicted on the Adamklissi monument. Actually the first thing I might change would be to lengthen the grip to a length shown in the picture on first page of this thread.
Still it is claer from the surviving blades and the depictions of the flax, that it was not a polearm, so it was not suitable to fighting an opponent at more then arms length.
And here the next weakness of this weapon is quite obvious as we also see in the drawing posted here.
The Falx, especially those with a highly pronounced curvate, can not be used to thrust or stab an opponent. Slashing with a weapon however makes it neccessary to fight in a very open formation so you do not hit your own people and also takes a lot more time to carry out and recover from.
Romans new this weakness, as we know they were trained to stab rather then slash with the Gladius.
So if we take the drawing as a battlefield scene - which it is not, unless those falxwielders are uterly desperate or suicidal - the right and left falx wielders are dead from a simple straight thrust of their romans opponents in the next few milliseconds. The middel one might have actually managed to wound or unbalance his opponent slightly, but if his weapon is now stuck in the Scutum so he know has no way of defending or attacking anymore. The wounded Roman would most probaly drop his shield making it even more difficult for the falxwielder to get his weapon out of it while the next Roman in line would just step forward and deliver the killing blow.

Still I do not doubt that the Romans did consider the Falx as an exotic weapon, as the would not feature in on a Thropheum - a dedication to the gods of victory and war - otherwise.
Olaf Küppers - Histotainment, Event und Promotion - Germany
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#54
Quote: But that's the point--there is no reason to suspect that most blows in combat were full-force full-swing two-handed home-run smashes.

In fact there is evidence that initial blows were light to set up the coup de grace. The bodies recovered from Wisby 1361 indicate that initial blows were aimed at legs & arms as these showed up as light cuts to the bone with more traumatic blows when the opponent was felled by these. This was indicated by the positioning of cuts given from above or when the victim was likely to have been supine.

There was a lot of armour recovered as they were burried in a hurry due to weather being hot causing decomposition early. It appears that shots were made to limbs to defang the snake before a killing blow was made.
Conal Moran

Do or do not, there is no try!
Yoda
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#55
That is mnost likely all the chance you get when fighting a well armed and armoured opponent.
Makes sense.
Visne partem mei capere? Comminus agamus! * Me semper rogo, Quid faceret Iulius Caesar? * Confidence is a good thing! Overconfidence is too much of a good thing.
[b]Legio XIIII GMV. (Q. Magivs)RMRS Remember Atuatuca! Vengence will be ours!
Titus Flavius Germanus
Batavian Coh I
Byron Angel
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#56
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. 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 ....")

There is a depiction of siege machines on Trajan's column that appear to have a curved falx type blade attached to the end of one axle. The idea that they were used to dislodge stones from a wall is from J.H.Pollen’s 1874 theory about these weapons. He, like many others, assumes that these machines are Roman in origin and use. Conrad Cichorius seems to have shared my view that they were actually Dacian weapons being used aganst the besigers. My views can be found on this forum <!-- l <a class="postlink-local" href="http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=25535&p=249790&hilit=dacian+reaper#p228028">viewtopic.php?f=17&t=25535&p=249790&hilit=dacian+reaper#p228028<!-- l if anyone is interested. I have built a model of the the weapon and done limited testing on it's possible function and effects. It is seen below photo-shopped into the attached image.
P. Clodius Secundus (Randi Richert), Legio III Cyrenaica
"Caesar\'s Conquerors"
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#57
Quote:
diegis:qgcjdmmt Wrote:Well, look at this picture and tell me which next roman will hit?
[Image: dacians_box_art.jpg]
How about the one right behind that very same shield? :|

Well, my opinion is that after such a hit (which i dont think anyway was a common one), the roman will be unbalanced, his hand who keep the scutum will be lowered by the force of the hit and his body will lean forward as well. And, if the tip of the falx wouldnt pierce his helmet or at least shoulder (unlikely to not reach him), the Dacian will simply pull the blade toward him, unbalancing even more the legionar before to be able to regain balance and hit with the gladius. The legionar either will be dragged and fall maybe on knees, if he dont release the shield, or, if he let it go (not quite easy) he will remain without the shield, in front of a dacian who maybe, or maybe not, already released his falx, and in front of other dacians, either armed with falxes, so with longer swords then his gladius, either with a shorter sword (Sica or even Gladius type) and a shield, so not a good moment for him in anyway.

Its just a hypothese however, unfortunately most of the writings about Dacian Wars was lost, including "De Bello Dacico" of Traian, and is not sure how exactly such fights occured
Razvan A.
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#58
Hi Olaf
Quote:The cuvate (inward or outward) of a weapon does provide more cutting leverage then a straight blade against soft targets, but hardly improves penetration against armor in any kind.
The "beak" at the point of the falx might actually help in penetrating a helmet or shoulder armor, but you have to keep in mind how near you would have to be to your adversary to actually reach that far with a weapon that has such a short handle.
My Falx is about 1m in length overal, with about 60cm of this length being the blade - not measuring the curvate:
[Image: _u33.jpg]
Though I am the first to admit taht this si not an accurate replica of any blade found, it is meant to be an approximation of the Falxes depicted on the Adamklissi monument. Actually the first thing I might change would be to lengthen the grip to a length shown in the picture on first page of this thread.
Still it is claer from the surviving blades and the depictions of the flax, that it was not a polearm, so it was not suitable to fighting an opponent at more then arms length.

Interesting Falx indeed, but the handle i think need to be more longer, around the same lenght of the blade, as well to have a bit more pronounced curvature (now it looks like a combo betwen Falx and Romphaia). Most common falx blades look like this (there was just few discovered however)
http://htmlimg1.scribdassets.com/2hese9 ... 22/000.jpg
Some images show a smaller blade (maybe with dimensions of a Sica), but with a much longer handle.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... tope32.jpg
About the blades find until now, the lenght of the blade is around 45-50 cm long, and the handle is supposed to be around the same dimension (or even a bit longer), so the total lenght might by somewhere around 1 meter (as you said is your sword too), obviously longer then a gladius. And yes, it is harder to stab with a falx, but is much easy to pierce thru an armour (due to momentum and the shape who make all the force and heavy to be concentrated in the tip), as well to cut

Quote:And here the next weakness of this weapon is quite obvious as we also see in the drawing posted here.
The Falx, especially those with a highly pronounced curvate, can not be used to thrust or stab an opponent. Slashing with a weapon however makes it neccessary to fight in a very open formation so you do not hit your own people and also takes a lot more time to carry out and recover from.
Romans new this weakness, as we know they were trained to stab rather then slash with the Gladius.
So if we take the drawing as a battlefield scene - which it is not, unless those falxwielders are uterly desperate or suicidal - the right and left falx wielders are dead from a simple straight thrust of their romans opponents in the next few milliseconds. The middel one might have actually managed to wound or unbalance his opponent slightly, but if his weapon is now stuck in the Scutum so he know has no way of defending or attacking anymore. The wounded Roman would most probaly drop his shield making it even more difficult for the falxwielder to get his weapon out of it while the next Roman in line would just step forward and deliver the killing blow.

Still I do not doubt that the Romans did consider the Falx as an exotic weapon, as the would not feature in on a Thropheum - a dedication to the gods of victory and war - otherwise.

About the battle scene, i say that right and left falxmen are in offensive positions, and the legionars are in defensive, how i saw the things, romans try to keep their scutums in such position to cover from a blow, and the dacians can hit either over the scutum, targeting the head, either lateraly against the arms, and even against the legs if the roman rise the shield. If the dacian keep the good distance, he keep the initiave as well, since his sword is longer then gladius, and can hit the enemy even if that is covered by a shield. Ofcourse this required great skill and great courage, thats why i said the warrior count too, not just the weapon (maybe close to crazzynes as you said, but Dacian religion was anyway centered around the idea of war and death, who was saw just as a journey to the other world, an eternal happy place where brave warriors have the best life, this world was seen as just a temporary home), since they are not protected by a shield and in the mess of the battle they can easily come to close to an enemy who can stab them. Probably they acted in groups, covering eachother, and was used in the first moments of battle, when they need to make breaks in roman lines, and in moments when enemy breake and flee, or in flank attacks.
Falx wasnt anyway a widespread sword, the most common equipment of a dacian soldier was a shield and a shorter sword, either a curved Sica (or smaller one handed variant of falx) either a gladius type.
This is another variant of curved weapon, a large, huge curved battle knife attached to a long handle (it looks like a giant claw)

[Image: 000.jpg]
As it seen it is used by a dacian noble (tarabostes) who was able to have any weapon he desire, but he chose this one so probably had a very good efficiensy too
It looks similar with this one, just this have an even longer handle
[Image: 000.jpg]
Razvan A.
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#59
Quote:
Matthew Amt:3v4hr2pl Wrote:But that's the point--there is no reason to suspect that most blows in combat were full-force full-swing two-handed home-run smashes.

In fact there is evidence that initial blows were light to set up the coup de grace. The bodies recovered from Wisby 1361 indicate that initial blows were aimed at legs & arms as these showed up as light cuts to the bone with more traumatic blows when the opponent was felled by these. This was indicated by the positioning of cuts given from above or when the victim was likely to have been supine.

There was a lot of armour recovered as they were burried in a hurry due to weather being hot causing decomposition early. It appears that shots were made to limbs to defang the snake before a killing blow was made.

Thats a very good assumption
Razvan A.
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#60
Quote:

There is a depiction of siege machines on Trajan's column that appear to have a curved falx type blade attached to the end of one axle. The idea that they were used to dislodge stones from a wall is from J.H.Pollen’s 1874 theory about these weapons. He, like many others, assumes that these machines are Roman in origin and use. Conrad Cichorius seems to have shared my view that they were actually Dacian weapons being used aganst the besigers. My views can be found on this forum <!-- l <a class="postlink-local" href="http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=25535&p=249790&hilit=dacian+reaper#p228028">viewtopic.php?f=17&t=25535&p=249790&hilit=dacian+reaper#p228028<!-- l if anyone is interested. I have built a model of the the weapon and done limited testing on it's possible function and effects. It is seen below photo-shopped into the attached image.

Salve Clodius

Thats a quite very interesting view. I saw those "machines" arent in roman hands, or used by them, so it is quite possible to be as you say, some dacian weapons. Most of the Dacian fortress was in mountain areas, and running down hill with such "weapon system" can cause lots of damages to tight groups of attackers, especialy in some small or confined areas and places where the attackers are forced to go due the terrain and fortifications. Very good idea of you, indeed (even if you say you was inspired by other authors too)
Razvan A.
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