The Elanthian Times
Volume Two, Issue 3 -- Fall 5100

The Armory
Page 1 of 2

On Arms and Armor by Gundelug Mithrulhammer

NOTE: As always, this series of articles is designed to educate the average Elanthian on the real world history and nature of each weapon detailed, and to place them in a better context for those who use them in the Lands.

The Khopesh

"Khopesh" is the Egyptian term for a style of Canaanite sickle sword which was adopted by the Egyptians during the New Kingdom period of that country’s history, when Upper and Lower Egypt were united under one pharaoh.

During this time a wealth of gold, ivory, gemstones and ebony flowed into Egypt. Pharaonic armies conquered the Near East, Syria and Palestine and workers from these new-established colonies, and a cultural cross-fertilization took place as artisans and intellectuals transplanted their knowledge, skills and culture onto Egyptian soil.

This fierce weapon was created and used by the ancient Egyptians. It was mainly used by the nobility -- including the Pharaoh -- and was also used by the guards who defended the temples. The weapon has approximately six inches of handle and quillons. The blade extends straight out about eighteen inches from the handle, then curved into a slight sickle shape for another two feet. In effect, this only added another eighteen inches to the overall length.

A Khopesh by Vurkanaan K'taa'viir

Its sickle-like blade could be edged either on the inside or outside curve, or both. The spine of the weapon -- the strongest part of the blade, generally opposite its edge -- was made to be heavier than the spine of most other swords. Edged to the outside, the weapon was extremely effective at creating slashing wounds, swung across the wielder's body, like a scythe reaping crops. Edged to the inside, it was used for hacking an opponent, much like a machete is used to cut through dense underbrush. In either case, the heavy spine of the weapon, with its center of gravity along the blade instead of close to the hilt, along with its ability to cleave through both armor and flesh easily, made the khopesh the most effective weapon of the period.

Given the limitation of smelting and metalworking during the early Egyptian dynasties, most of the weapons were crafted from iron or bronze. As technology progressed the materials used for crafting these weapons also improved, making them even more deadly.

The Greek kopis is the most easily recognizable descendant of the khopsh design. The falchion design of the Middle Ages also evolved from the khopesh design via the kopis. The saber, with its long, curved blade, sharpened along the outer edge of the curve, is the most recent descendant of the khopesh concept.

Greaves, Bracers, and other forms of Limb Armor

Simple Plate GreavesAlthough shin-guards of plate were in use at least as early as 1250 AD, few references to them exist in documents earlier than the end of the 13th century. From 1300 AD onward they are mentioned with increasing frequency, but illustrations of shin-guards are rare until after 1310 AD. The usual English term for the defense for the lower leg at this date was jamber, but the French term greave occurs occasionally from 1370 AD onwards and after 1400 AD, the latter term completely supplants the former. There can be little doubt that both words were frequently used to refer to both the simple shin-guard and to the type of defense that completely enclosed the leg.

As early as 1302 AD, however, the shin-guards are called demi-greaves, and after 1330 AD they are frequently referred to in English texts as schynbalds.

Schynbalds, at first worn strapped over the chausses, remained in constant use throughout the 14th century and were found occasionally in the 15th century. The normal construction, which remained in use until the 17th century, was for each greave to be made of a front and a rear plate hinged together down one side -- usually the outside -- and fastened with straps and buckles on the other. They became common after 1330 AD.

Complex Greaves and SabatonsPlate defenses for the feet, sabatons, were apparently introduced in the second decade of the 14th century. The most popular form of sabaton, however, consisted of a series of overlapping, horizontal plates of metal, shaped to the pointed shoe of the period and covering the top of the foot. The plates were presumably riveted to a leather lining and secured to the shoe by laces knotted through pairs of holes on top or by straps passing under the foot.

The development of plate defenses for the arms lagged slightly behind that of those for the legs, but followed very similar lines. The terminology used to address armor for the arms is somewhat complex. Throughout the 14th century the usual English word for the complete plate armor for the arm, generally including the shoulder-defense, was bracer, which was also a term used to define the leather wrist-guard used by archers. After 1330 AD, terms for the individual parts of the bracer are also found: viz, vambrace, rerebrace, couter, spaudler and, at the very end of the century, pauldron.

Leather VambracesThe first two words connoted the upper and lower parts of the bracer respectively, but it is difficult to determine their precise use. When the bracer was made in two separate parts, the lower one was called the vambrace and the upper one, including the shoulder-defence, the rerebrace, irrespective of where the division between the two parts came. From the last quarter of the 14th century onwards, rerebrace usually meant the shoulder-defense and vambrace the remainder of the arm-defence, including the couter. After 1450 AD rerebrace tends to disappear and thereafter pauldron is used for the shoulder-defense.

The earliest true vambrace, which appears in illustrations during the second decade of the century, consists of two gutter-shaped plates and a cup-like couter strapped over the sleeve of the hauberk. Each vambrace was often accompanied by two disc-shaped plates, secured by laces to the front of the shoulder and the outside of the elbow.

In common, every day usage, despite all this historic rambling, bracers, vambraces, and arm greaves are essentially the same thing: they protect the arm from the elbow to the wrist. Leg greaves and schynbalds, among the other forms of lower leg protection available, protect the legs of their wearers.

Editors' Note -- Thanks for your interest in this column. Feel free to let us know what weapons and armor you would like to see discussed in future editions of the Times. Drop us a line at with your requests.

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