Weird History

The Most Iconic Ancient and Medieval Weapons 

Mike Rothschild
Updated December 13, 2019 51.8k votes 6.3k voters 5.6M views 26 items

Ancient and medieval weapons reflected rapid changes in metalworking, production, and the evolving needs of soldiers. They needed to be sturdy, easy to make, powerful, light, and not rust or fall apart in bad weather. But while there are countless variations on what men-at-arms carried into battle, they mostly fall into a couple of categories.

Medieval weapons were usually either swords, spears, axes, pole-arms (essentially spears with axe heads) or hammers. They had either sharp edges for cutting, sharp points for thrusting, or heavy heads for crushing. Sometimes, they combined a few of these traits. Bows and arrows were also used, as were siege weapons, and early forms of gunpowder. But most men went into combat carrying some kind of either blunt or edged weapon.

From the Roman gladius to the English longsword, or from primitive spiked clubs to steel war hammers and maces, the evolution of these weapons didn't change their purpose - to efficiently kill enemy soldiers. And many of these weapons have since become famous for their pop culture depictions, use in video games and films, or just general awesomeness.

Vote up the items below you consider the most iconic middle ages weapons and pre-modern weapons, and vote down ones you think are overrated. Feel free to add your own to help make this list a complete and exhaustive ranking.

Longbow is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Iconic Ancient and Medieval Weapons
Photo: Metaweb/GNU Free Documentation License
A bow that stands as tall as its shooter, longbows dominated battlefields from the Bronze Age to the 1600s, firing a powerful arrow a great distance.
Is this iconic?
Longsword is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Iconic Ancient and Medieval Weapons
Photo: Søren Niedziella/Flickr
A longer-bladed sword with a bigger handle, longswords were popular in the late Medieval and Renaissance periods. They soon fell out of favor as swords became less important on the battlefield.
Is this iconic?
The famous Japanese sword carried by samurai warriors, the katana has a curved, slender, single-edged blade, and a long grip to accommodate two hands.
Is this iconic?
Spear is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Iconic Ancient and Medieval Weapons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY
Maybe the most iconic weapon in human history, crude spears were being used as far back as 400,000 years ago. A simple shaft with a pointed head, they've been made of everything from flint to steel, and used in virtually every culture under a variety of names.
Is this iconic?