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The Use Of Medieval Daggers

Mar 4, 2008
Rarely do we use the term "dagger" today. Some law enforcement professionals do use this word to describe a double-edged knife, but for the most part, this word has lost use in our modern society. However, there was a time when medieval daggers were commonplace and used for both self-defense and military applications as well.

Size and Composition of Medieval Daggers

By definition, a dagger is a small handheld blade that is used for thrusting or stabbing. They are different from knives in that knives have only one blade or one sharpened side to their blade - imagine your common kitchen knife. Daggers however are sharp on both sides of the blade and are therefore a perfect weapon for close range combat or killing.

Some medieval daggers had straight blades while others had their blades designed in a zigzag or wavy pattern. This was usually more for show than for actual use, as the zigzag blade was actually less effective as a stabbing weapon than the straight blade.

Depending on the use of the dagger, some where very ornate and had their hilts designed with ornate features and may have even been encrusted with gemstones, depending on the customer and the dagger's use.

Medieval daggers were of course somewhat small so that they could be used easily and transported as well. Since some where used off the battlefield, they needed to be hidden in one's coat or leggings. Also, because they were not meant to be a fencing weapon, the hilt had nothing with which to protect the hand but was simply used for holding the weapon.

Use of Daggers

In many cultures, daggers were used in ceremonies and religious rituals. Medieval daggers were no different. Any religion that called for animal sacrifice often found that the instruments used to kill and bleed such animals were just as revered as all the other instruments and tools of their religion. Many were also crafted especially for this particular use and had hilts and handles that were made of precious metals such as gold or silver, and were encrusted with jewels and precious gems.

In combat, medieval daggers were of course what you would call a secondary weapon. Longer swords were used for most combat scenarios as one would be able to address an opponent from arm's length. Daggers were used only if one's opponent was close enough for stabbing. They made good weapons for use against one's opponent that was in armor; if you were close enough you could find an opening in the armor and stab your opponent through rather quickly and efficiently. This often happened as the armor of old was so heavy that soldiers became fatigued rather quickly, so would give way to their fatigue allowing themselves to be finished off by use of a dagger.

It wasn't long however before medieval daggers saw their popularity fall as the stiletto or pocketknife became of use. The pop-out blade of these new knives made them a perfect weapon that would be used only when the time came and not before. However, the use of daggers was soon renewed when soldiers with rifles decided to attach a blade that resembled these medieval daggers to the end of their rifles, creating a bayonet. This way their guns could be used an additional weapon even when they were out of ammunition.

Many soldiers of various armies have been issued weapons that resemble these medieval daggers as a secondary weapon to keep on their person. Slender, lightweight knives have worked their way from the religious temples of old and are still being used in certain areas of combat around the world.

There are many medieval daggers on display around the world, and any true war buff, history lover, or sword enthusiast will appreciate their place in history right along with broadswords and other such weapons. Although small in size, medieval daggers were just as deadly as their larger cousins on the battlefield.
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