The Greatsword or grete Swerd is referenced today mostly as an extremely large or powerful weapon, like the "
Zweihänder", in comparison with less sizable weapons like the falchion. In history, the sword had the same relative use as a comparative term between one smaller weapon and another considerably larger. In this case, the comparison was not between longswords and the even longer " Bihänder" as is the modern one, but between the smaller single handed variants of the " spatha", the so-called "transition swords" [Oakeshott, Ewart. "The Sword in the Age of Chivalry". Boydell Press 1994. Page 155.] , and larger variants thereof, with longer blades and hilts. For comparison, single handed transitional swords of Type XII have a grip about convert|4.5|in|cm|0 in length, [Oakeshott, Ewart. "The Sword in the Age of Chivalry". Boydell Press 1994. Page 37.] while the larger subtype XIIIa sword has a grip approximately in to cm|6.5|9|convtype=range long.Oakeshott, Ewart. "The Sword in the Age of Chivalry". Boydell Press 1994. Page 42.] A similarly long grip is found on the XIIa, another early great sword. The XIIa was originally a part of the XIIIa classification, but was decided to "taper too strongly" and to be "too acutely pointed" to fit appropriately. [Oakeshott, Ewart. "Records of the Medieval Sword". Boydell Press 1991. Page 89.]
In his book "The Sword in the Age of Chivalry",
Ewart Oakeshotttakes time to explain the concept of these great swords, most specifically the Type XIIIa, and their manifestation in history. The weapons fall between the line of the 16th century two-handed swords wielded by the landsknechtand the shorter arming swordof the knightsand the spathaof the Romans and Vikings. The greatsword, and perhaps longswords in this manner, were not a form of "specialized weapon" as much as they were "outsize(d) specimens". Indeed, the weapons were referred to by a variety of names none of which, however, related to "espée deuz mains", or "twahandswerd", both meaning the huge Renaissance two-handed sword. Instead, the weapons were referred to as simply notably large weapons as in "Grans espées d'Allemagne" or "big swords of Germany". [Oakeshott, Ewart. "The Sword in the Age of Chivalry". Boydell Press 1994. Page 43.] As time went on and swords on the whole increased in length, these swords remained among the largest, even losing their ability to be handled with ease on horseback leaving smaller longswords to the taskClements, John. [http://www.thearma.org/terms4.htm "Sword Forms"] ] . Like most swords, great swords began, as is shown in Oakeshotte's sketches of the XIIa and XIIIa subtypes, with a long broad blade accompanied by a rather obtuse point. Over time, however, the great sword followed the general evolution of the sword in becoming thicker and more profoundly tapered.
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