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8-08-2015, 16:42

Infantry Armor and Weapons

h e vast majority of medieval infantry—militia, mercenaries, and national forces alike—tended to wear less armor than knights did. h e main reason for this was a lack of money. Most foot soldiers could not af ord the extensive array of armor owned by a majority of knights. Nevertheless, some infantrymen used whatever armor they could manage to scrape together, most often comprising a simple mail jerkin, or jacket, called a byrnie. Mail, also known as chain mail, consisted of rows of iron rings attached to a leather shirt. h ose who could not af ord the metal rings made do with the plain jerkin, often reinforced with extra layers of leather. When possible, foot soldiers also wore helmets—typically wide-rimmed iron caps. h e weapons these soldiers wielded varied in type and number from region to region and from one time period to another. But overall the most common during most of the medieval period were swords, knives, spears, axes, maces (clubs), pikes (very long spears), longbows, crossbows, and shields. Many of the lower-class soldiers did not have enough money to purchase newly made weapons. Instead, they rented second- or thirdhand or even older weapons from private armories owned by well-to-do individuals. According to historian Andrew Ayton, “A sword might have the most varied ‘life story,’ passing through many hands, by purchase, bequest [legacy], gift, or seizure, its blade honed or re-hilted according to necessity and taste, perhaps coming to rest i nally in a church, a grave, or a river.”7 Some foot soldiers were so poor that they lacked the funds even to rent weapons. Typically, therefore, they resorted to carrying sickles, hoes, and other farm implements into battle. Of the more commonly used weapons, swords were the most numerous. Usually made of iron, they came in many shapes and sizes, determined by factors such as need, fashion, and personal preference. Maces were less common than swords. h e variety of maces employed across Europe was almost dizzying—with heads that could be rounded, knobbed, or spiked, and handles of diverse lengths. Battle axes also varied widely in shape and size. Slingers, individuals who used leather or cloth slings to hurl rocks, were rarer than they had been in ancient armies but still existed in some parts of medieval Europe. In skilled hands these crude devices were fairly efective up to the length of a modern football ield. he rock from a sling could cripple an arm or even kill if it hit a person in the head. Whatever ofensive weapons they used, most medieval infantrymen carried some form of the chief defensive one—the shield. As Christopher Gravett tells it, “Some infantrymen carried a circular wooden shield, often faced and perhaps backed with leather. An iron boss [protruding decoration] riveted to the center of the surface covered a hole through which the hand grasped the shield by an iron strip riveted inside. Many probably had a second strap to secure the forearm, while a third strap allowed the shield to be slung on the back or hung up, as well as preventing it being lost if dropped.”8