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Military Flail

Military Flail
Middle Ages Saturday, 18. May 2024

The flail as an agricultural tool has been known since the Ancient history era. The peasants who were used to working with it were thus able to use it as an improvised weapon. The earliest documented use of the flail in combat by a European is associated with the siege of Damietta during the 5th Crusade in 1218. However, the mass use of the flail in combat did not enter European military history until the late Middle Ages during the Hussite Wars. At first, the peasants who joined the Hussite armies brought with them their common flails, but as the pictorial sources from the decades after the Hussite Wars began attest, very soon flails began to be modified for combat purposes – at least by driving iron spikes or nails into the wooden flail butt.

During the 15th century in the Kingdom of Bohemia, it did not take a long time and flails intended for purely combat use began to be produced, as evidenced by other illustrations of the period and some surviving examples in museum collections. These flails were already fitted with reinforcing iron bars on purpose which, together with the spikes, were intended to increase the crushing and wounding effect of the weapon.

Military flails enjoyed nearly a hundred years of fame in the late Middle Ages, but after 1500 they were abandoned along with the wagon fort tactic and regained the character of a popular rural weapon associated with peasant rebellions. Nevertheless, the memory of the military flails did not simply disappear from common knowledge, for as late as the 16th century treatises on the weapon appeared in fencing manuals such as that of the German fencing master Paul Hector Mair.

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