The aim of this article has been to create a general survey of some of the seemingly most common polearms in Sweden towards the end of the middle Ages, to date their general occurrence and to compare them with the contemporary European military development. Text sources, pictorial evidence and archælogic finds are considered. Firstly, a peculiar kind of spear – the “Shaft sword” (Stavsvärd) – was a part of the infantry armament in all groups of society (i.e. noble retainers and their retinues, burgers and peasants). Archaeologic evidence suggests that these weapons were actually made from reused sword blades, just as the German landsknecht Paul von Dolnstein attests when on campaign in Sweden in 1502. Almost all of the references to this weapon are grouped around 1500-1520, which indicates a fairly narrow time span for the use of this specific type of weapon. Further, the type does not seem to have any equivalent on the continent and is assumed to be a fairly regional weapon. It is unknown whether it was also used in Norway or Denmark. Secondly, war hammers (Polyxor) seem to have been around for a longer period and there is evidence of its use from early 15th century and up to the mid-16th century. The term “Polyxa” is borrowed from the continental word pollaxe, but late medieval Swedish sources imply that the Swedish term was rather a collective name for several similar weapons – in a few cases proper pollaxes, but much more commonly the infantry war hammer, which was of similar shape but without an actual axe head – similar to the Luzern-hammer. Just like the shaft sword the war hammer was common in all groups of society, also frequently used by the peasantry. The fact that the different types of weapons were not restricted to specific social groups – and common all over late medieval society – might be explained due to the fact that a large proportion of the Swedish peasantry was allodial and took an active part in the warfare side by side with the nobles and burgers. Thirdly, the halberd (hillebard) appears in the sources around 1500 in the hands of noble retinues and burgers. Only one picture ascribes it as a peasant weapon. But there is no trace of it in the sources before 1500, and apparently it was introduced rather late in Sweden compared to the continent. Forth, the pike (spets) is not mentioned as a Swedish infantry armament before 1520, and thereafter only appears in the new royal companies – not in local society. In the 1520ies and 1530ies the king Gustav Vasa tried to adapt the Swedish forces to the German standard, arming them to an extent with halberds and pikes. During the Dacke feud in 1542–1543 this armament was largely abandoned in favour of crossbows and firearms. During the Russian war 1555-1557 halberds and pikes was reintroduced as defence against the Russian cavalry. The appearance and development of these weapons in late medieval Norway is fairly unknown to the author. Therefore, hopefully this article might encourage some Norwegian research on the matter in order to develop Scandinavian comparisons.
Oslo: Norsk Våpenhistorisk selskap , 2015. 7-39 p.