Long swords, falchions, zweihanders, scimitars, maces, flails… If you have interacted with any medieval and/or fantasy inspired media, be it books, games, movies (and honestly, who hasn’t nowadays? Thank you Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones!) there is a very large chance you have heard these terms thrown around, among hundreds of others. The development of weapons has accompanied humans since the Stone Age, and as a consequence, weapons are often crucial points to our stories, both historical and fiction, and by extension games. Where would King Arthur be without Excalibur? How much fun would Dark Souls be if all you could do is punch enemies? This series will dive into the amazingly diverse world of weapons, spanning cultures all across the globe over thousands of years of history. Each article will focus on a unique culture or time period, exploring the looks, features, uses and cultural significance of their armaments, hopefully providing useful information, reference, and inspiration to all you designers and artists out there. If all goes well, by the end of the series you will not only know the difference between an arming sword, a great sword and a long sword, but also be fluent in exotic terms such as “Maquahuitl”, “Falcata”, and “Scramaseax”, among many others.
The first section will examine the world of Antiquity and be split into two articles, taking a look at the military technologies of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, as well as the so called “Barbarians” of the era.
We begin our journey roughly 4000 years ago, in the lands around the Nile River. Over the course of its long history, the ancient Egyptian military was primarily composed of archers and infantry, generally unarmoured other than a light shield due to the baking desert heat. The most common armaments for these units were bows and spears, both of which were devastating against equally unarmored foes.
Even though not as widely used as the previous weapons, a new weapon emerged during the New Kingdom period (1550-1077 BCE), which would go on to become one of the most iconic weapons of the Egyptian time.