Misconceptions People Have About Historical Weapons

Warfare, no matter if it’s on a large or small scale, is something that just about every human civilization has engaged in. This led to the creation of a number of impressive weapons, some more dangerous than others. Of course, we know what many of those weapons look like but thanks to fantasy video games and movies, many people have some skewed perceptions about what they actually were. Below are just five of the many misconceptions sprung from our imaginations.

1. Archers Did Not Carry Quivers of Arrows on Their Backs

From Robin Hood to Legolas and Oliver Queen (let’s not forget about Hawkeye), there are plenty of fictional characters who are seen carrying quivers of arrows on their backs. Many of us don’t see anything wrong with that, but medieval archers would have laughed at the thought of it. Instead, historical evidence points to archers keeping their arrows in front of them, hanging from their belt and sometimes without a quiver. This sounds way more practical as it would be a lot easier to reach for the arrows and actually keep track of them.

2. War Hammers Were Probably Nothing Like You Think

Thanks to the media and Thor, many people picture war hammers as oversized, long-handled hammers with gigantic heads the size of a human’s. Many of you will be disappointed to know that this wasn’t the case as they were only slightly larger than regular hammers with a piercing end on the back instead of a prying end. Our idea of a war hammer would be really impractical in combat – the weight of the head and the long handle would be more of a nuisance than a help.

3. The Whip Was Probably Never Used In Combat

The idea of fending off your enemies with a whip sounds legit to many people, especially Indiana Jones fans. But history indicates that it was actually never used as a weapon and if it were, not much damage would have been done. In fact, there’s only one historical record of a whip being anywhere near a battlefield. No, not the common bullwhip but the Chinese chain whip which was basically a long chain with a handle. This whip was only used at the last moment as a ceremonial weapon for important officials.

4. Biological Warfare May Have Started Far Earlier Than Most People Believe

Using deadly diseases to decimate your enemies is not a recent development, though we are better able to execute it. Ancient people were very much aware of this and used it to their full advantage. One such example is the first known case of bioterrorism by the Hittite empire during the 14th century Anatolian War. They sent rams infected with tularemia (a rare infectious disease that attacks the skin, eyes, lungs and lymph nodes) towards a nearby city with the goal of weakening them. It worked, but maybe a little too well as the disease quickly spread to neighboring lands including their very own.

5. The Flail Probably Never Existed at All

When it comes to medieval-inspired video games, it is not uncommon to see a weapon that consists of a handle with a chain and a spiked ball at the end of it. This is called a flail, and many historians are convinced it never existed. For one, it is seriously dangerous and really impractical to use, as you could end up hurting yourself just as badly as your intended target. They also believe that their depictions in artwork are purely fantasy and definitely don’t count as proof of the weapon’s existence.


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