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Dacian Falx test
#1




As I remember some heated enough debates from some years ago about this very subject and just came across this video Smile 

I think the handle should have been longer however (at least 2/3 or 3/4 of the blade length, the weapon had more variants however), it would have added more reach and power to the strikes (one like the Falx used to split that shield have).
The helmet is a WW 1 era one, which I think is a good substitute (surely must have a better steel than an ancient Roman one), but also the sword steel probably is better than an ancient one.

With a bit of training and a longer handle I think the effects of the strikes would have been even better shown and make an idea about how might have been in the past
Razvan A.
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#2
I notice that in his attacks on the helmet (which looks like a WWII-era civil defence helmet, not that it makes a difference!) he's only using the point of the weapon, not the blade. A heavy punching blow like this would be effective without the big blade behind it - a spike, a javelin, or a dolabra (which the Romans used against armour) would do just as well.

The kind of 'battlefield modifications' that the Romans supposedly made to their helmets to counter the falx would not have made any difference in this case.

We have the note by Fronto about the 'terrible wounds' inflicted by the falx; the second part of the video demonstrates these well enough. Any big cutting weapon is going to have that effect, more or less.

No source, as far as I know, mentions that the falx was particularly useful in cutting through armour. This video doesn't show that either. It was a big slashing blade, effective against unprotected flesh.

The Romans may have made use of manicae and greaves to counter the falx, but they appear to have used both previously (manicae on Rhineland tombstones from the mid 1st century, for example). No source suggests that the Roman army modified its equipment in response to the falx in particular.

So I don't see that this video really changes anything in terms of the numerous debates on this subject over the years!
Nathan Ross
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#3
Would agree with Nathan, the helmet looks like a civil defence or possibly an old fashioned hard hat..
The Brodie Helmet was made from maganese steell and designed to stop shrapnel a sort of long range cannister shot:

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

Typically the brodie was tested using a standard .45 military pistol at close range, I dont think a falx would even scratch it...
Ivor

"And the four bare walls stand on the seashore. a wreck a skeleton a monument of that instability and vicissitude to which all things human are subject. Not a dwelling within sight, and the farm labourer, and curious traveller, are the only persons that ever visit the scene where once so many thousands were congregated." T.Lewin 1867
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#4
You can get the same result with a gladius if you swing it overhead in two hands.

Agreed that the helmet is way too thin.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#5
(03-01-2017, 12:50 AM)Nathan Ross Wrote: I notice that in his attacks on the helmet (which looks like a WWII-era civil defence helmet, not that it makes a difference!) he's only using the point of the weapon, not the blade. A heavy punching blow like this would be effective without the big blade behind it - a spike, a javelin, or a dolabra (which the Romans used against armour) would do just as well.

The kind of 'battlefield modifications' that the Romans supposedly made to their helmets to counter the falx would not have made any difference in this case.

We have the note by Fronto about the 'terrible wounds' inflicted by the falx; the second part of the video demonstrates these well enough. Any big cutting weapon is going to have that effect, more or less.

No source, as far as I know, mentions that the falx was particularly useful in cutting through armour. This video doesn't show that either. It was a big slashing blade, effective against unprotected flesh.

The Romans may have made use of manicae and greaves to counter the falx, but they appear to have used both previously (manicae on Rhineland tombstones from the mid 1st century, for example). No source suggests that the Roman army modified its equipment in response to the falx in particular.

So I don't see that this video really changes anything in terms of the numerous debates on this subject over the years!

Yes, this is just to have a bit of a visual confirmation of the versatility of the weapon, who can be used both in a hammer like strike with the tip point used for piercing with strikes over the scutum (and even blunt force trauma seeing how the head and the neck was trembling under the hit) and as a sword or sickle/scythe for cutting/choping (alternatively I think could have been used even for hooking things in some instances). Neither a javelin, dolabra or gladius were that versatile

About the helmet, the man said is a WW 1 type with a 16 gage thickness steel (which is a bit over 1.5 mm) so I imagine he have some idea about the helmet characteristics as he hold it and use it. I admit however I have less to no knowlledge about British helmets from WW 1 and WW 2 period so you might be right, I do think however a helmet like that (even made of less quality steel) make a quite OK comparison with an ancient Roman helmet.
The supposition the Romans reinforced their helmets because of the falx is a supposition indeed, even if I understand (from those previous discussions) that the oldest reinforced helmet was found in Dacia (Berzovis, today Romania, incidentaly a place mentioned in one of the very few lines preserved from Trajan De bello Dacico).
Tthe clashes between Romans and Dacians were older than Trajan wars, IIRC correct they started in BC era or early in first century AD. They were also used by gladiators so its not necessary an adaptation for Trajan wars period but Romans felt the need to show them on the imperial art monuments of that era so there must have been a more widespread use during those wars.
And one reason must have been the falx and maybe even the sica (with a longer handle) seeing as well what Fronto said. Dio Cassius also said that Roman wounded soldiers were so many during the battle of Tapae from 101 AD that Trajan himself had tore his clothes apart (or his imperial toga) to make bandages for them. I assume that means lots of amputations coming from scythe like strikes, which required more bandages to stop the blood loss, way more than Romans were expecting and were prepared for.
Razvan A.
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#6
The Romans depicted Dacians with falxes for the same reason that vikings are depicted with horned helmets - because this is the stereotype. How else is the viewer supposed to know that he is looking at a Dacian? It has nothing to do with the weapon's prevalence on the battlefield.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#7
(03-01-2017, 01:09 PM)diegis Wrote: used for piercing with strikes over the scutum

The curvature of the falx would give a bit of extra reach, but not that much - if you wanted to get over the scutum you'd want something with a right-angled blade or spike - like a pickaxe or dolabra, in fact.


(03-01-2017, 01:09 PM)diegis Wrote: About the helmet, the man said is a WW 1 type with a 16 gage thickness steel

He said he was guessing the metal thickness. I think it's almost certainly a CD helmet though - they have a very distinctive deep bowl and were manufactured in large numbers in the 1940s for civilians in the UK and USA - we used to have one knocking about at home when I was a kid. Some people have used these helmets to make Roman replicas, but I have little idea of the quality of the metal compared to anything else.

Talking of which, the falx in this video appears to have been made by a quality metalsmith. The originals would perhaps have been much cruder weapons, less capable of taking, or keeping, a fine cutting edge.

But (as we've discussed before, I think) few people would have deliberately attacked an armoured opponent using a blade anyway. The best way of wounding or killing an armoured man is to use a blunt weapon - a club, mace, or pickaxe - or something with a spike on it. Otherwise your blade probably wouldn't penetrate anyway, and if it did it would quickly end up blunt, stuck or broken!



(03-01-2017, 01:09 PM)diegis Wrote: The supposition the Romans reinforced their helmets because of the falx is a supposition indeed

It is - and a crossbar helmet reinforcement wouldn't have stopped a piercing blow from the point of a weapon (unless it landed right on the bar!). The crossbars were more likely intended to protect against heavy blows on the skull from clubs or somesuch, or downward strikes from mounted opponents.


(03-01-2017, 01:09 PM)diegis Wrote: what Fronto said.

As mentioned above, he only talked of 'terrible wounds'. A falx - even if it was just a scythe blade on a stick - could have hacked off unprotected limbs, and left large gashes in flesh. Very bloody, probably.

Although to use it in this way would require two hands, meaning no shield, meaning that a properly protected armoured legionary could have made short work of the falx-man!... Which is perhaps why the Romans and others did not adopt the weapon, except as a rigging-cutting tool for shipboard actions.
Nathan Ross
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#8
Quote:As mentioned above, he only talked of 'terrible wounds'. A falx - even if it was just a scythe blade on a stick - could have hacked off unprotected limbs, and left large gashes in flesh. Very bloody, probably.

It was designed to be a pruning hook after all. These backyard tests are useless without some comparative analysis. Try the same test with a Roman gladius and you'll see that the falx isn't so special.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#9
The CD helmet in question is most likely mild steel and would at the rim appear to be thicker then the bowl due to stretch as its formed, in my experience mostly from the seventies and early eighties when these things were commonly used to make re-enactment helmets, they are at best safety helmets easy to cut with a pair of hand held tin snips... bowl thickness 18g at best but more likely thinner maybe as thin as 20g.. enough to provide rudimentary protection from spent shell fragment failling out the sky during an air-raid...
A Combat Brodie you definatly could not cut by hand either with a saw or shears I know I tried it.... and gave up....

As to Roman iron helmets does anyone have any details on metal analysis for these, I dont recall ever seeing anything?
Ivor

"And the four bare walls stand on the seashore. a wreck a skeleton a monument of that instability and vicissitude to which all things human are subject. Not a dwelling within sight, and the farm labourer, and curious traveller, are the only persons that ever visit the scene where once so many thousands were congregated." T.Lewin 1867
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