“ The daughter of Yoshioka Ichimisa, O-sono” (circa 1845), Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861)
Appearing in the “Hiko-san Gongen chikai no sukedachi” kabuki play, O-sono is a young woman determined to avenge the death of her father, a sword instructor. She travels disguised as a nun. By looking for the son of her deceased sister, she encounters her future husband along the way. Here, she is fending off the attack of a ruffian.
would a war axe actually be an effective weapon at all, or has it just been made flashy for appeal? how strong would you need to be to be able to use one if so?
certain which axe you’re thinking of, but axes have been used
extensively in warfare, including specialized designs intended specifically for
combat. These range from simple hatchets that function in roughly the same
capacity as a dagger up through the Danish axe. It’s also worth remembering
there are entire families of polearms that are, basically, very long axes.
mentioned axes a couple times when discussing historical sidearms. They were,
frequently, used as backup weapons in medieval infantry. In part, because battleaxes
were, generally, cheaper to produce than swords, and (in theory) easier to
train on, so it was easier to arm infantry with battleaxes than swords.
combat tactics with the axe involve generating inertia, and then once the
weapon is up to speed you connect. The examples I’ve seen were figure eight
patterns, though I assume there are others.
cultures also developed axe variants for use as thrown weapons. We’re usually
pretty critical of throwing knives as a combat skill, but historically, some warriors
did carry extra axes to throw at foes.
As for strength,
the axe is like nearly every other melee weapon. It’s useful, but anyone of
roughly average strength should be able to use these things. Historical
battleaxes weighed somewhere between one to six pounds, so we’re not talking
about some massive Berserk style
chunk of steel. And, yes, this includes two handed designs. Compared to swords,
axes were lighter, (probably because there was less metal involved.) As with
any weapon, training and experience is far more important than strength. Put
another way, a battleaxe weighs less than your average housecat. Remember, axes
were light enough to bring extras for sharing with the crowd.
harp on this a bit for a second, but it is
worth remembering that most weapons are pretty light. There are outliers, but
if you’re bringing a weapon to a battle, then you can expect to be swinging it
all day. A heavy weapon would wear you out, and leave you vulnerable.
weight is important for an axe, but the
distribution is what matters. The weight behind the blade will do the work for
you, when striking, you just need to get that weight moving, and then direct it
into the target. To make this work, you don’t need a lot of weight, and the
more you add, the harder it becomes to get the weapon moving and control it, so
you’re looking for a sweet spot of mass and control. Historically that appears
to have been somewhere around two or three pounds.
if you’re looking for a weapon that actually
required a lot of strength to use, that’s the longbow. Drawing one could
require the archer to pull anywhere from forty to sixty pounds, (or more in
some rare cases.) Or, in other words, your mental image of how medieval
combatants looked is on its head, the front line infantry were (in some cases)
scrawny little guys, and the archers were stacked.
Boudica Warlord and queen of the British Iceni, an ancient Celtic tribe, Boudica led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire. Boudica’s husband Prasutagus was ruler of the Iceni tribe, and enjoyed autonomy under a treaty with the Romans. However, when he died, the kingdom was annexed as if conquered. Boudica was flogged, her daughters were raped, and Roman financiers called in their loans. In AD 60 or 61, Boudica waited until the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was leading a campaign on the island of Anglesey off the northwest coast of Wales. She then launched a massive assault leading the Iceni, Trinovantes and other Britons in revolt against Roman population centers. She destroyed Camulodunum (modern Colchester), and while the out-manned Roman garrisons attempted to flee, Boudica’s army of 100,000 engaged the Legio IX Hispana, decimating them, then burned and destroyed Londinium, and Verulamium (modern-day St. Albans). An estimated 70,000–80,000 Romans and British were killed in the three cities by Boudica’s armies. Despite these early gains, Suetonius regrouped his forces in the West Midlands, and though heavily outnumbered, defeated Boudica’s advancing Britons in the Battle of Watling Street. The crisis caused the Emperor Nero to consider withdrawing all Roman forces from Britain, but Suetonius’s eventual victory over Boudica confirmed Roman control of the province. Boudica then killed herself so she would not be captured. She has since remained an important cultural symbol in the United Kingdom, and is renown for her tactical use of the chariot on the battlefield by employing shock-combat to break enemy formations.