Before guns dominated the battlefield, swords were the most commonly used weapon in battle. They came in many different shapes and sizes. Different time periods and different regions of the world saw unique designs for how they were intended to be used. Out of the vast number of swords that have played a role in history these are three that stand apart from the rest.
Used by the Roman Army to conquer most of Europe and into Northern Africa, the gladius was the primary arm of Rome’s foot soldiers. It was short, around 2-feet long, double-edged, lightweight, and featured a sharp triangle-tip. The gladius design has been described as “ingenious” by experts for how balanced and versatile it was. Although used primarily as a fast stabbing weapon, it could also be used to slash at enemies. This proved to be effective weapon when Rome’s legions were able to close the distance on their enemies and fight in close -quarters. The weight and versatility of the gladius made it easy for Roman soldiers to quickly maim their enemies in battle. The Romans’ unmatched military strength allowed for its empire to span 1.7 million square miles and last for hundreds of years.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable swords of all time, the katana has held onto its significance for centuries. Originating in Feudal era Japan, the katana was a warrior’s melee weapon of choice. Alongside a bow and a pole-arm, samurai would use their katana to execute a clean, swift death. With its razor-sharp edge, forged from specialized Japanese steel, a katana was said to be able to cut an adult person open with ease. What made this weapon truly special however, was the culture surrounding it. They weren’t just seen as pieces of metal used for killing, but an extension of its wielder's soul.
On the other side of the world, in modern-day Northern Europe, lived the Vikings from around 800-1000 AD. A select few of these Scandinavian warriors wielded swords that stump experts to this day. These were the Ulfberht swords. Forged from high carbon crucible steel, the sword was significantly stronger than any of the time, and seems inconceivable that it could have been created during the Middle Ages. The metal found in the Ulfberht sword, could’ve only been used during the Industrial Revolution, roughly 1000 years after the Ulfberht swords were created. The sheer strength, durability, and flexibility of the Ulfberht sword combined with its lighter weight, made the wielder seem superhuman to those carrying a more typical medieval sword. The mystery behind how the Ulfberht sword was made still remains unsolved but it is without a doubt that the craftsmanship behind the weapon is a work of art.
Many new swords have emerged since the first gladius, katana, and Ulfberht sword was invented, but in that time these three have gained vast amounts of popularity. The craftsmanship and effectiveness of these weapons have etched their place our history.