When people think about famous weapons, they think of fictional pieces like Excalibur or Captain America’s shield. However, there are plenty of examples of totally real, totally cool historical weapons. The ancient weapons that historical figures used often had names and stories of their own that were on par with anything from Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. Not every historical figure named his weapon, but those who did obviously had a flair for the dramatic that helped them make their marks on history.
Most of the notable named weapons in history are swords, but there are plenty of spears, daggers, guns, and cannons with monikers and their own stories to tell. We honor these long-dead warriors for having the foresight to give their trusted tools cool names and thus make them more memorable. These might not be the best weapons in history, technically speaking, but they are among the most memorable—after all, we are remembering them right now.
Disclaimer: The story of the sword Durandal probably contains more myth than actual history. The weapon was wielded by Roland, the legendary warrior and nephew of Charlemagne. Both sword and sword-wielder definitely existed, and the tales that follow them are truly worthy of legend.
Legend said the blade was given to Charlemagne by an angel and blessed to ensure the continued victory of his armies. It was supposedly indestructible, something Roland discovered when he tried to destroy it to prevent his enemies getting their hands on it. It's now allegedly wedged in the side of a cliff in Rocamadour, a small town in the Pyrenees. According to the tale, Roland threw the sword into the side of the mountain where it remains to this day.
The Goujian, named after its supposed wielder, has been described as the Chinese version of Excalibur. The sword was uncovered in a tomb on an archeological dig, and was deemed to be more than 2,000 years old. Despite its age, the sword contained no rust and was sharp enough to draw blood when an archaeologist tested its edge.
This has led people to believe the sword carries magical qualities.
Charlemagne was a revered King of the Franks, whose legacy is so fabled, it's hard to differentiate which stories about him are rooted in fact or fiction. He undoubtedly existed and made some impressive military conquests—and if the stories can be believed, he did so with a sword that allegedly shifted colors in battle. Like a deadly version of a mood ring, Joyeuse had a name that belied its fatal capabilities.
Whatever caused its weird properties, Joyeuse had a magical air about it that added to Charlemagne’s mythic legacy.
Any fan of Japanese RPGs will be familiar with the name Masamune, as the famous swordsmith is now synonymous with fantasy weaponry. The man actually existed and created a number of beautiful swords, including the lost treasure Honjo Masamune. The sword is named after a general who wielded it, and it was said to be among the most beautiful creations of sword-making’s most skilled artisan.
Its current whereabouts are under dispute, but it's possible that the weapon is in the United States after an American officer took the sword home as a trophy in WWII.