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Infantry Flail, Swiss or German, 17th C


Contrary to popular belief and portrayal in films, the flail was not a common weapon of the mounted knight. In a different form, however, it was often used by foot soldiers. Such flails were commonly mounted on long shafts and often did not have spikes. Rather than being used directly for a killing or disabling blow to an opposing enemy, they were often used to entangle the legs of a horse and bring down the rider. The longer shaft allowed a soldier to swing the flail at the legs of a horse while staying out of the range of its riderís sword. Once an armored opponent was thrown from their horse they were at a disadvantage and could then be killed or captured more easily. Capturing an opponent of means was generally the goal of most soldiers, as this provided the opportunity to make large sums of money from ransom. The value of the armor alone was often more money than a peasant foot soldier would see in a lifetime.

This flail was made in the field using a cannon ball secured by straps to a ring at the base of the cannon ball and attached to a chain, which in turn is fastened to a ring forge-welded to a round 4 Ĺ" ferrule. This is mounted on a crudely hewn 5 foot wood shaft. It shows hand forging throughout and somewhat crude workmanship, as would be expected of a field-made piece. A very similar flail is illustrated in "Europaische Hieb-und Stichwaffen" by Muller, Kolling, and Platow on page 267. Length of chain: 18", diameter of cannon ball: 2 3/4", overall length: 5 feet.  Scarce and unique weapon.

PF1319 $1695