The 10 strangest medieval weapons

By Rob Morgan

The appearance of the top 10 medieval weapons in The Basiliscoe Mercury e-newsletter begged this second list to be written or attempted, obviously. Now it’s turned up courtesy of the medievalists.net. Lots of argument possible over this: Is the gentleman at number 10 really a medievalist? A Renaissance man surely, and numbers 7 and 8 do rather overlap. And for that matter was number 4 seen in action beyond the extremely early Byzantine period?

Anyway, worth a moment’s consideration. Here they are.

  1. Quicklime
  2. Flying Crow with fire
  3. Man catcher
  4. Plumb dart
  5. Repeating crossbow
  6. Greek Fire
  7. Conrad Keyser’s war cart
  8. Hussite war wagon
  9. Spring Bow
  10. Leonardo’s military drawings

Not as easy to assemble a “strangest” list for the medieval era, since strange weapons abounded.

Greek Fire and the Hussite wagons would find a place in any decent list, of course, but careful examination of Conrad’s cart leaves me wondering just how I’d make a 15mm model of one! Quicklime’s a good choice too, as it was quite extensively used in naval warfare; there are rules around for its use. It has its limitations though and can be double-edged, of course. As for the “flying crow” one of the two Chinese weapons in the list, well, pigs, cows, dogs and sundry other poor creatures found a place in Chinese and Mongol armouries on occasion, but making a crow fly in a straight line toward your opponent might be a little difficult! The man catcher’s intriguing. There’s one on the castle wall in Ghent, and it does look useful. If I recall one of the Fosten medieval books has an illustration of a man catcher in use. This one looks as though it could only be used on a well-armoured knight.

I’d heard of the “spring bow,” but only as an assassin’s weapon. A booby trap. It’s said that the English King Edmund Ironside was killed by one. Hm?

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