Sword of the ancient Slavs

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Sword of the ancient Slavs
Sword of the ancient Slavs

Video: Sword of the ancient Slavs

Video: Sword of the ancient Slavs
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There is no single answer to the question about the origin of the word "sword". If at first it was assumed that the Proto-Slavs adopted this term from the Germans, now it is believed that in relation to the ancient Germanic language this is not a borrowing, but a parallelism. The original form for both Slavic and Germanic languages was the Celtic name mecc, meaning "to sparkle, to shine."


The Celts were at a higher stage of development in relation to the Germans and to the Proto-Slavs. Their sword became a key and cult weapon with the emergence of the La Tene aristocracy from the 5th century. BC NS. - I century. n. e., which is obviously interconnected. The Celts were skilled metallurgists and blacksmiths. The best examples of their swords were covered with symbolic designs, which, according to the Celts, gave the weapon supernatural power.

The same idea was adopted by the Germanic peoples, who entered the period of "military democracy" and the formation of leaders' squads. This is very well demonstrated by the evolution of herules, which we already wrote about in the article about shields on VO. Heruli from the category of lightly armed in the IV-V centuries. "Passed" into the category of warriors with swords and shields in the VI century. Moreover, the Herul sword has become the standard of quality in the Mediterranean region.

The magnificent Lombard swords of the 6th-7th centuries, forged using the Damascene technique, have Herulian roots. Perhaps this is due to the fact that on the Danube the Heruls occupied the territory of the former center of metallurgical production, created by the Celts. And all this was directly related to the development of the Herul society: from the early stages of the primitive system, to the pre-state period of the formation of squads. It is significant that the geruls at an early stage of development were lightly armed. This can be said not only of the Heruli.

There is a direct pattern in societies in the early stages of development. When the production forces and capabilities, the associated "technology" and social structure, do not allow the production and then use of such a complex weapon as a sword. If the sword is not the main instrument of production, as in nomadic societies of various stages of development (S. A. Pletneva). And this is a cardinal question. We have already pointed out that any weapon of early social collectives "comes" from the tools of labor. Like a bow and darts among the early Slavs, perhaps an ax, as discussed below. The Slavs, who were in the early stages of the tribal system, could not use the sword. More precisely, someone who accidentally received this weapon could fight with it. But this weapon, extremely rare for these territories, could not be massively used. Moreover, due to the lack of "war professionals" in this society, which we wrote about in previous articles on VO.

On the one hand, this was not allowed by the level of production and technological capabilities of the early Slavic society. On the other hand, the state of this very community could not form the need to use such a weapon, from the point of view of the attitude.

Of course, we can give examples of the fact that some societies in the modern world, standing at different stages of tribal organization, successfully use modern small arms, but this is more likely due to the open information system of the world, and not to the peculiarities of tribal societies.

Within the framework of the period under review, this was impossible: the sword was an expensive and high-quality weapon, inaccessible to those ethnic groups that could not master the technology of its production.

If the Proto-Slavs, presumably, learned about this type of weapon from the Celts, then a close acquaintance with it in a combat situation occurred in the IV century. The enemies of the Slavs, the Goths and the Huns, fought with swords. Beginning with the "great migration" of the early Slavs in the 6th century, swords as trophies began to fall into the hands of the Slavs, which is indirectly evidenced by historical sources. One of the Sklaven leaders, Davrit (Davrenty or Dovret), in his answer to the Avars, points to this weapon unusual for the Slavs, unless this monologue was composed by the author of the text or told to him:

“Not others of our land, but we are accustomed to possess a stranger. And we are sure of this as long as there are war and swords in the world."

However, we have rather scant information about the presence of swords among the Slavs, although, as in the case of shields, they closely interacted with various peoples-swordsmen: Gepids, Geruls. With some, as allies, for example, with the Lombard Ildiges and his Gepid squad in 547 or 549. Of course, both technologically and in price, the sword cannot be compared with a shield, but, we repeat, there should have been an acquaintance.

Swords en masse began to fall to the Slavs as trophies, starting from the end of the 6th century, but especially after the accession of the emperor-centurion Phocas, when the defense of the Byzantine possessions in the Balkans was sharply weakened. In the "Miracles of St. Dmitry of Thessaloniki" ("ChDS") it is reported that during the siege of Thessalonica around 618, the Slavs, who were on single-tree boats, were armed with swords.

The same Slavs, settling in the Balkans, began to master new technologies, both in the field of agriculture and crafts. But we can only talk about those Slavic tribes that entered the territory of Byzantium and occupied its lands in the Balkans and Greece. There is no need to talk about anything like that in relation to the rest of the tribal associations of the Slavs.

The author of the only Chronicle reporting on King Samo in the 7th century, wrote that a huge number of Avars

"Was destroyed by the sword of the Vinids."

During the siege of the Vogastisburk fortress by the Franks, the Slavs again defeat the enemy with swords. The swords of the Slavs who defeated the Avars were most likely acquired from the Franks; Samo himself was a Frankish merchant who traded goods needed there during the war. But during the new siege of Thessalonica, we read the following about the Slavs:

“One invented new unknown machines, the other made, inventing, new swords and arrows - they competed with each other, trying to seem smarter and more diligent in helping the tribal leaders … some to cut wood for the basis [of the siege machine - V. E.] others, experienced and strong, for its finishing, third, skillfully working iron, for forging, fourth as warriors and craftsmen in the manufacture of throwing weapons."

Here we see how quickly the Slavic tribes, closely colliding with civilization, master military science and everything connected with it.

We repeat, the Slavs were successful in the field of land cultivation and crafts, but lagged behind in metal processing technologies. And it was connected exclusively with the tribal organization.


In this regard, the question remains about the ability of the early Slavs to process metals and, above all, iron. The word "iron" is of proto-Slavic, not borrowed origin. The word "gland", of animal origin, like the nodule, was taken as a basis. Their closeness in appearance contributed to the transfer of the name to iron - metal (ON Trubachev).

And the linguistic analysis of the word ruda - "red, brown earth", showed that initially we were talking about a brown or swamp iron ore, which was used by the Slavs. Artisanal mining of this ore was carried out until the XX century.

Sword of the ancient Slavs
Sword of the ancient Slavs

Archaeologists discovered a number of iron-smelting centers in the territory of the early Slavs not earlier than the 7th century.

This is the settlement of Kamiya and Lebenskoe in Belarus, there are two small mine-type forges. In with. Shelekhovitsy in the Czech Republic found 25 furnaces, and in the village. Crushed woods (Cherkasy region), remains of a hearth were found.

A complex with 25 stoves was found in Horlivka (Transnistria). It is almost impossible to date him. Near Novaya Pokrovka (Kharkiv region), a 1 m high iron-smelting cone-shaped hearth was discovered, but its dating is extremely vague from the Late Scythian period to the 8th century.

But the largest center was discovered on the territory of the Penkovo culture on the unnamed island of Yu. Buga between the village. Solgutov and the town of Gaivoron (Kirovograd region). It consisted of 25 furnaces, there were 4 sintering furnaces and 21 forges, which was a complete surprise, since earlier the first such sintering furnace was discovered only in the 9th century. And here we are faced with a problem, since the archaeologists themselves could not explain or spread in time the presence of furnaces of different quality of metal processing. And artisanal iron processing in this area was carried out until the beginning of the twentieth century. There were absolutely no settlements found nearby. But there were finds that showed the upper date of the 7th-8th centuries, not earlier, but by the presence of ceramics of the 6th-7th centuries, this center of iron processing was attributed to the 6th-7th centuries.


No items were found during the excavations. Therefore, this complex is defined as a place for the production of iron only, without its further processing. Thus, we have scant information about metalworking among the early Slavs. And it began no earlier than in the 7th century. Direct archaeological finds of forges among Czechs, Slovaks, Lusatians and Bulgarians indicate that metal processing as a craft until the 8th – 9th centuries. there is no need to speak (V. V. Sedov).

Unlike the Germans, whose myths about magicians-blacksmiths are fully known, we do not have such a history among the Slavs. We have a modern reconstruction of the Slavic myth about the origin of blacksmithing. According to him, the craft was given to people by Svarog or Perun himself. Presumably, the first supplied people with blacksmith tools - pincers. The blacksmith himself (a person dealing with fire) possesses magic, acts as a sorcerer or healer, and has a special status (B. A. Rybakov).

This does not in any way make the blacksmith a representative of the elite, since, in fact, there was no nobility in this society (S. V. Alekseev).

But all this reconstruction has nothing to do with early Slavic history. This was still a time when the craft of the early Slavs remained within the community, and there was no separation from other economic activities. The seasonal nature of iron smelting in the iron-making center on the Southern Bug Island, which we discussed above, only confirms this situation. The special status of a blacksmith can be formed only during the period of division of labor activity and the disintegration of clan relations, during the formation of squads and the beginning of princely power, when his importance, primarily as a gunsmith, increases many times over. At the time under consideration, the main tools of the Slavs - the harrow and plow were created without a blacksmith.

But the modern reconstruction of the myth of the blacksmith and blacksmithing, associated with the aging of historical events, distorts the historical reality. Not any information that has come down to us in legends and epics has its origins in the early periods of Slavic history. Archaeological evidence only confirms this. The first complete set of blacksmith's tools was found in the Pastoral settlement, with an area of 3.5 hectares, which is located in the Tyasmina basin and belongs to the Penkovo culture. A small smithy was also found here, as well as knives, sickles, fragments of a scythe and a chisel. All these finds were dated back to the 6th century.


But in Zimno, the Slavic center, in which more weapons were found than in all other Slavic lands, no forge was found. There are indirect finds, pieces of iron slag, but, in fact, there is no forge.

The absence of a number of types of weapons can be explained precisely by the weak production and extremely low material base (stucco ceramics) within the framework of the generic organization. Therefore, the main weapons of the early Slavs were short spears and bows.

Other melee weapons

Information about hand-to-hand fights, in which the Slavs participate, testifies, according to researchers, to the presence of another type of weapon, simple and natural for people who lived in the forests. We are talking about clubs (A. S. Polyakov). Procopius of Caesarea mentions clubs or sticks (depending on the translation) used by the Slavs in the massacre of captured Romans. And the conclusions from the analysis of the tale of the Eastern Slavs about Pokati-Goh are directly related to our research. The teenage hero Pokati-Pea acted with a club or club. His club is forged from pieces of iron, while the Serpent has iron in abundance. This suggests a parallel with the situation in metalworking among the Slavs and their enemies.


The serpent of East Slavic tales is a reflection of the image of nomads.

B. A. Rybakov wrote:

"It seems that we can relate this tale to the very first conflicts between the plowmen-Slavs and herders-nomads, which took place in the era of replacement of copper by iron, when the southern neighbors of the Slavs had an indisputable advantage in the manufacture of iron and iron weapons."

B. A. Rybakov's tendency to delve deeper into the layers of history and to aggravate historical institutions is well known and has been criticized more than once, but a number of archaic details to which he drew attention point to the ancient layers of the tale, although the range can be quite wide from the 4th to the 11th century, inclusive … It seems important to us that the protagonist of the tale still uses a cudgel in battle, or, in a more modern interpretation, a club.

We cannot just assert on the basis of logical conjecture that since there is a forest, then there is also a club, as would be done in pseudo-scientific literature. But an indirect confirmation that the club was an important weapon and was actively used is the fact that the "collective unconscious" armed the god Perun with a club or club.

We saw that initially his weapons were arrows-stones, then arrows-lightning, but at some period in the development of Slavic society, Perun was "armed" with a club. The fact that he continued to be so armed until the fall of paganism testifies to the importance of this melee weapon among the early Slavs.

Ambassador S. Herberstein recounted the version of the Pskov First Chronicle:

“When, however, the Novgorodians were baptized and became Christians, they threw the idol at Volkhov. As they say, the idol swam against the current, and when he approached the bridge, a voice rang out: "Here, Novgorodians, in memory of me," and a club was thrown onto the bridge. This voice of Perun was also heard later on certain days of the year, and then the inhabitants came running in crowds and brutally beat each other with clubs, so that the voivode had a lot of work to separate them."

In 1652, the Novgorod Metropolitan Nikon burned some of the clubs of Perun, which were kept in the Borisoglebsk Church of the Novgorod Detinets. They were made of wood with "heavy tin tips."

And if clubs (namely, clubs, not clubs) or their varieties were actively used throughout the Middle Ages, then it can be assumed that during the period of Slavic migration history they were in service.

In the Middle Ages, an ax or an ax was a popular melee weapon among some ethnic groups. The national weapon of the Franks in the V-VII centuries. there was Francisca, a small throwing hatchet. Other Germanic ethnic groups also borrowed it. The battle ax was a popular weapon of the Scandinavian bonds in the 10th – 11th centuries.

This, in fact, limits the massive use of battle axes. Household axes could be used in need and in war. But contrary to popular belief, the sources do not report at all about the early Slavs using axes. And on the basis of a few archaeological finds, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between a battle ax and a worker.

In this case, relying on archeology, one must understand that within the framework of the materially poor world of the early Slavs, the ax was a rather rare and expensive tool. Perhaps that is why we do not see information about him among the weapons of the Slavs. The family (or clan) valued him too much in economic activities to risk in the war. Which is consistent with the mentality of the period under review: the interests of the genus are more important than the personal safety of an individual.

In 586, the Slavs under the leadership of the Avars during the siege of Thessalonica used standard entrenching tools: axes and crowbars. Pavel the Deacon said that the Slavs in 705 in Friule, with the help of stones, spears and axes, first repulsed the attack, and then defeated the army of the Lombards. This is the first time that the Slavs used battle axes in battle.

After analyzing the data of sources (documents), we can say that the early Slavs poorly used melee weapons such as a sword and an ax. The use of clubs is only speculative.


This was due, first of all, to the stage at which the Slavic society and its mentality were. The same conclusions can be drawn for the entire range of weapons of the Slavs at the end of the 5th - beginning of the 8th centuries. In conditions when the test structures were in their infancy, it is difficult to talk about the use of complex and expensive types of weapons. Periodic pressure from nomads prevented these institutions from crystallizing.

Attention is drawn to the fact that Slavinia, as early potestary associations or tribal unions, in the conditions of the weakening of the Avar threat and the weakness of the imperial army of Byzantium, were able not only to occupy the cultivated territories with a favorable climate for agriculture, but also massively arm themselves with those types of weapons, which were previously inaccessible to them. This situation could not last long, as we have already written about in the articles of VO.