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Old 18th July 2005, 03:19 PM   #1
Emanuel
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Default Dacian - Romanian - Falx sword

Greeting to all

I'd like to bring everyone's attention to this particular blade native to the ancient Dacians - my own Romania - reputed to have considerably impeded the Roman conquest of 106 ad. Its power was such that it could split Roman helmets and shields, leading Emperor Trajan to order extensive modifications to Roman equipment. Its hilt and blade were of equal length, as long as three feet. Its uses varied from a slashing motion to hooking shields and opponents. These are the only graphic references I could find of this blade, as actual examples are practically nonexistent anymore. The blade's resemblance to the Burmese/Laos dha is striking. Any thoughts on this?

Manolo
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Old 18th July 2005, 06:38 PM   #2
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I think there are a excavated examples of a similar Thracian weapon called a rhomphaia which have been found in Thrace.
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Old 18th July 2005, 06:56 PM   #3
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Incredible and enlightening! Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Sounds like a formidible weapon in the hands of an expert. Reminds me also in some ways of a katana. The gladius forced the Romans to come at close range and this was able to keep them at bay while cutting them to pieces (until the modifications came). Also reminiscent of how the Moro kampilan and the dha (for you dafia out there ) would have been in effectiveness against smaller arms. Cato in his book even states that some Moros suggest that the spike on the ends of some kampilans was used to distract or strike in a similar manner as that mentioned for this Dacian weapon.
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Old 18th July 2005, 07:12 PM   #4
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As I understand so far, the romphaia was the large variant of the falx. In both cases, the blade was only sharpened on the concave side. All other curved weapons I know of generally use a convex cutting edge. Similarites therefore exist with the dha and katana type swords only in shape. This blade was apparently used through a combination of slashing and pulling motion, forcing the curved section into the victim/object. As devastating as it was, it must have been fairly unwieldy since such blades were abandoned after the 5th c. ad. It must have acted much like the huge zweihander and flamberge blades used more as pikes to break tight formations. I'd love to get my hands on one.
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Old 18th July 2005, 07:36 PM   #5
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Great to see this!

I've admired the falx and rhompaia for a long time.

One thing to point out: you can buy similar blades for less than $30 at large hardware stores: they're called bank blades (glaive in French), and they're used for clearing brush. The falx as a tool was used for coppicing (i.e. cutting trees and shrubs down), and this is simply a weaponized version of it. A similar story holds for the English Brown Bill.

Glad to see that people are making them again.

F
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Old 19th July 2005, 12:50 AM   #6
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Hello all!

I have been looking where to buy a repro falx for a while looks like I will make my own out of the modern counter parts blade! "Home Depot" here I come!!!!
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Old 19th July 2005, 01:49 PM   #7
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I find it strange that the scycle/scythe blade design was simply abandonned. The only other examples I've seen of such curvature are african weapons like zairian throwing knives and executioner swords. One question bugs me: From a functional/physics point of view how is the concave edge more or less effective than the convex? The convex focussed all cutting power at the apex of the curve, does that apply to concave as well?

My appreciation for any answers.
Manolo

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Old 19th July 2005, 04:18 PM   #8
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Manolo:

I think the sickle/scythe weapon was fairly widespread. One finds examples of their use as weapons into the early 20th C., and perhaps later, in southern India, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Others can probably contribute more examples. The areas I listed still produce these blades for agricultural and domestic use, but those same blades could be used today, if needed, as weapons.

Ian.
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Old 19th July 2005, 07:56 PM   #9
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Hi Manolo,

That's an excellent question! Here's my take on it: a convex blade is useful for slashing, and if the goal is to cut deeply, a slash (i.e. from a scimitar/shamshir), is a good way to do it. A convex weapon can do a couple of things. As you point out, it can focus a lot of power in a small spot (as with a kukri). However, the bill/scythe design actually works quite well on a pull-cut. I've got a bill-hook (actually, a woodsman's pal) that's quite good for cutting brambles and small brush. It doesn't smash them. Rather, the hook collects the branches at the sharp inner edge, and the pulling part of my stroke severs them. I suspect the same thing goes for the falx, with a different type of limb.

I suspect the reason we don't see more sickle-swords (or whatever) is twofold. One is that they tend to be tip heavy. The other is that they don't lend themselves to parrying as easily as other blade shapes do.

Other thoughts? That's just off the top of my head.

Fearn
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Old 19th July 2005, 08:38 PM   #10
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South Indian choppers (Adya Katti, Moplah sword and, especially, Congavellum, Kongaval) are all constructed similar to the Radu's ancestral implement. The only real difference is that they are all relatively small, like 20-30 inch at the most.
But this is likely a function of the body size. I remember Radu's posting of his granddad's picture: the guy needed a two-hand sword to cut himself a decent slice of Mamalyga!
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Old 20th July 2005, 04:08 PM   #11
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Thanks for the explanation fearn.
I'm thoroughly obsessed with this damn thing, although it was crude in its use as a tool and unrefined as a weapon. I like the shape of it, the look of being an extension of the arm via the long hilt, through the smooth curve and into the deadly tip. The Moplah blade, as well as home depot bank blades are too thick and and even more brutish, not as graceful. I'll see what it takes to have one custom-made, around 1m long. Unfortunately I am too much of an amateur to understand the weight such a blade woull imply.
I know of Salamander Armoury. Any ideas on other possible smiths and forges?
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Old 9th January 2006, 09:22 AM   #12
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To Romanian hystorians this weapon, is known more as "sica" version, and in this country is accepted that it has evolved directly from the agricultural implements, likely a sickle. Normally "sica" is accepted as being the short, or one hand falx but I think little distinction was made in size than it is paraded now.
The THRAEX, a classic type of gladiator impersonating the Thracian warrior (the Dacians were of course of Thracian familly) character from the gladiator arenas of Roman Empire was carrying a well sized sica curved dagger as main weapon. As a side note the famous Spartacus was one of these, a Thracian himself from the southern parts.
Peasant rebelions were known as far 18th century in Romania to use agricultural tools as weapons and according to sources quite succesfully from sickles to bills. Specially when serfs were not allowed to carry or own weapons.
Manolo, you should try to find lectures of Hadrian Daicoviciu or Constantin Daicoviciu, like chapters on Dacian weaponry on their books. I'll se what I can dig for you but its hard being away from the homeland's libraries and museums.
If you want more graphic (and real contemporary with the times) you should look for an album or "googlise" on Trajan's Column (known to us Romanians as the Columna lui Traian) from Rome. It is a monument in Rome erected by the Trajan himself in 113 to comemorate his conquest of Dacia and Sarmisegetusa (the capital), his great victory against local king Decebalus.
Is that you on that furious reenactment picture, taking a plunge in the poor Roman shield ? If thats you, you should grow a beard, tie some "opinci" and youre a true Dacian, my brother!

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Old 9th January 2006, 08:18 PM   #13
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Other excellent graphic sources, contemporary with those times, are the bass-relief of Tropaeum Traiani, from Adamclisi in Romania, where you can exactly see what you are looking for, I believe, scene fights with large falx between Romans and Dacians.
The sica is eventually a Dacian word, while falx (correctly "falx dacica" ) is a Latin one.
Here is a short, approximate translation from Roman work of FRONTO, named "PRINCIPIA HISTORIAE II”:
"He left for war with seasoned soldiers, him, (ann. Emperor Trajan) that hated the Parts (ann. ancient Persians), our enemies, and would not care much for their arrows, after the terrible wounds inflicted by the curved swords of the Dacians..." The translation is provided by me.
The changing in Roman armour in arder to respond the devastating blows of the falx dacica was adding transversal strips of thick metal on the shields and helmets of the Roman legionars and there are well mentioned.
The falx dacica as we know it is probably a development, so proud to say it, a Northern Dacian development, inside the Carpathians, right in the Middle of my Transylvania.
Interesting to mention, so powerful was the myth of this weapon, that after the integration of Dacians in the Roman Empire, those who would leave their homelands and die somewhere else or fight as dispatched officers would use an image of a falx next to their name and title, to mark their ethnical heritage.
Here is an excellent article on the matter, assuming you can read Romanian, if not, just enjoy the images :
http://www.gk.ro/sarmizegetusa/ranistorum/arma.html

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Old 10th January 2006, 04:01 AM   #14
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Salutari, Radu

Since I started this thread I have got my hands on whatever could be found on the net, and I did read the article you posted, thank you. I was confused as some point about the sica, as it was identified as a short sword http://www.dacia.co.ro/am.html
I will ask the family back home to look into the local libraries for good material on this.

When I was a child, I remember visiting a museum in Bucuresti -no idea which one- and seeing the copy of Trajan's Column. Although a tribute to Trajan's victory, it is indirectly a tribute to Dacia and the valour of her people. I must admit that I see this weapon as as symbol of one of the highest points of Dacia/Romania, a time when we held our own against foes like mighty Rome
My misfortune is that I was brought to Canada early in life and I did not learn the history of the Dacians, or of Romania for that matter. What I know now is but a fraction.

The man in the picture is not me , I believe he was a member of a group of smiths and historical re-enactors in the US. He had it custom made and there was talk of commercializing the replica...unfortunately nothing came of it. I contacted a smith here in Canada to forge a falx, but, estimated at 1000USD and based on a doubtful model lacking accurate dimensions and characteristics, the idea had to be scrapped.

I would very much enjoy chatting with you on this topic, especially as few people - Romanians included - seem to know of this weapon.
Ragards.
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Old 10th January 2006, 08:16 AM   #15
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Good to see you understand Romanian, because I have a gift for you in regards to your nostalgic wish on Trajan's Column. The museum you saw it in is actually part of "crème de la crème”: Muzeul National de Istorie Bucuresti (The National History Museum of Bucharest, like no one can understand that ) and I have the perfect link for you if you have lots of patience: the museum has documented every sequel of the column on their website in serial imagery.
Fair warning: their server is pretty slow due to traffic.
As for your information the copy that is in the museum now has been executed in 1938 by Italian artists contracted by Romanian government at the time ... sweet Monarchy times, boy, wish that was still the case... not bad though still right now, the country is exploding with a passionate frenzy rediscovering its colorful and interesting history... Old castles and fortresses have never seem more restoration mobilized... Anyhow, back to your link:
http://www.mnir.ro/expozit/columna/columna2.htm
Just click on the little numbers...

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Old 12th January 2006, 11:28 AM   #16
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I once bought a Thai sword from a Ayuhdya. A real life size war sword, which seems to have some kind of tar coating on it above the sharp edge, except it was sharpened slightly. This thing was kindda heavy, so I guess you had to train to get fit inorder to use that thing well! The handle was rounded and tapered towards the end, and it has a very thick brass guard. It comes with black, painted wooden scabbard, and red rope (unfortunately, I lost it). My dad burrowed my sword and had it sharpened at a cutlery store, so he could cut the tree branches in the front yard. It worked extremely well.

But one day I decided to sell it for $ 100 because I wanted the money to buy a bearded dragon, or a tortoise (I've always been an animal fanatic, especially the tarantulas and reptiles). Anyway, I wanted to show off to this 18 year old kid, David, I'm selling it, to (bear in mind that I didn't have that much knowledge about swords, just enough). So I asked him if he had anything I can test cut the sword, and ran to his other friend named Tommy, that was working on the car, and grabbed an empty plastic, engine oil bottle for me. I wanted to copy what they did in the movie, I think, "Kill Bill", and tossed the bottle up in air, and swung it as hard as I can, making slashing movement as soon as the edge hit it. The bottle was made from very tough plastic, but despite it it cut quite a deep gash in it...about half inch long, more or less! And when I examine the sword for the oil stain to see where the blade had made contact there was a lot of oil stain on the edge. However, I did hit the bottle where there was some angle to it, but it was a good sword despite the fact my dad had used it to cut down the tree branches way earlier.

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Old 12th January 2006, 12:46 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Titus Pullo
I once bought a Thai sword from a Ayuhdya. A real life size war sword, which seems to have some kind of tar coating on it above the sharp edge, except it was sharpened slightly. This thing was kindda heavy, so I guess you had to train to get fit inorder to use that thing well! The handle was rounded and tapered towards the end, and it has a very thick brass guard. It comes with black, painted wooden scabbard, and red rope (unfortunately, I lost it). My dad burrowed my sword and had it sharpened at a cutlery store, so he could cut the tree branches in the front yard. It worked extremely well.

But one day I decided to sell it for $ 100 because I wanted the money to buy a bearded dragon, or a tortoise (I've always been an animal fanatic, especially the tarantulas and reptiles). Anyway, I wanted to show off to this 18 year old kid, David, I'm selling it, to (bear in mind that I didn't have that much knowledge about swords, just enough). So I asked him if he had anything I can test cut the sword, and ran to his other friend named Tommy, that was working on the car, and grabbed an empty plastic, engine oil bottle for me. I wanted to copy what they did in the movie, I think, "Kill Bill", and tossed the bottle up in air, and swung it as hard as I can, making slashing movement as soon as the edge hit it. The bottle was made from very tough plastic, but despite it it cut quite a deep gash in it...about half inch long, more or less! And when I examine the sword for the oil stain to see where the blade had made contact there was a lot of oil stain on the edge. However, I did hit the bottle where there was some angle to it, but it was a good sword despite the fact my dad had used it to cut down the tree branches way earlier.



Welcome, Pullo. Interesting story. You'll find many members here are Thai sword enthusiasts. Try a search for "dha" or "darb" of the archives, and you'll come up with a fair amount of information, if you're interested.

By the way, great user name. I love that show. (but your avatar isn't Pullo, it's Voremus. ).
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Old 13th January 2006, 04:26 AM   #18
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How great! What an unexpected pleasure! By the way, I'm a Thai, borned in Bangkok. I came here when I was 11; then went back in the 1990, and after a year, went to live in Penang, Malaysia for 2 years, and finally, came back here at the end of 1993., and I'm still here.
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