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Old 17th January 2018, 04:21 PM   #5
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: California
Posts: 492
Default functionality of scythes

Originally Posted by Madnumforce

I'm not familiar with the book you mention, but I'm with the concept and fact. The scythe is the worst possible tool to make a weapon from, though. A scythe is really, really thin. Like, really. I've recently found a picture of a 3th century roman scythe excavated in the South of France, and though it isn't the same fixation method as modern scythes, it's the same kind of blade: not at all fit for military use. It is known and documented that scythes were converted into makeshift weapons but... eurk... they probably didn't last long.

A scythe blade has to be thin to be able to mow hay and grass efficiently; I've used them on occasion for this job and light weight is a virtue when you have to swing it for hours on end. The L-shaped reinforce at the spine also limits the depth of a cut into anything more substantial than the vegetation it was designed to cut. As you say, this doesn't translate into great utility as a military weapon. But consider for a moment who the likely users of scythe-cum-polearms were during the Middle Ages -- peasant levies who were conscripted into feudal armies as ad hoc auxiliaries. They were in large part not equipped by their masters and had to provide whatever they could use in battle. Admittedly, scythes had their shortcomings but mounted on a longish pole they had more reach than a shovel. And as far as durability goes, yes, the thin edge gets chewed up, but perhaps that wasn't a big deal considering that the men served on a short-term basis (they had to get back to the farm eventually to feed their families) and their survival rate in battle was not all that favorable anyway. And who might these guys face in the field with their scythes, forks, and billhooks? Probably the peasant levies and lowly foot-soldiers in the ranks of the other side, who wore little or nothing in the way of real armor.

Once the inherent thinness of an agricultural scythe is designed away, it becomes a quite effective thing. It's easy to see how a more robust version effective against human or equine opponents could be made by blacksmiths and from there began its evolution into something a regular soldier or a mercenary would find usable: the glaive. By the same process the pruning-hook morphed into the roncone or the bill.
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