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A Battle Between Bloodthirsty Warriors.
These two ancient warriors from European History are in my opinion unmatched in ferocity and legend. I rate them both highly and admire their ability, weapons, tactics and achievements. Both warriors were hugely influential in changing the course of European and World History. The deeds of these warriors has been put into spoken, lyrical and written word and has been celebrated through the years. For cultures that have been effectively extinct for generations, they are still able to capture the imagination and inspire different emotions to people in the Modern Age.
After my Deadliest Warrior inspired "Spartan Warrior versus Roman Legionnaire " comparison, I thought it was about time I pitted my two personal favourite warriors against each other. I decided to compare them in a similar fashion to the last comparison that I made. Given that both warriors are well skilled in battle, I would believe that the results will be pretty close. The Spartan civilization was extinct long before the Vikings of Scandinavia burst onto the pages of history, so there will be a thousand year technological gap to factor into the final result.
A Spartan Warrior
The Combatants Held Similar Views.
Both the Viking and Spartan warriors were forged in a hostile culture where battle defined their destinies. Defeat was acceptable as long as the warrior was able to face his gods with his sword in hand and honour in tact. It was better to die in battle than to survive the battle injured and succumb to injury later. Both warriors would not want to be a burden to their people. Both cultures would abandon their newborns if they did not fit the required criteria to become a self sufficient members of their society.
Those Vikings or Spartans who were not worthy of becoming the elite warrior or hero that their society craved where often be employed as weapon smiths and other trades that would be crucial to their societies success.
Five Spartan Weapons
- Xiphos - This was a short sword that had two sharp edges.
- Aspis - This was their large Bronze Shield.
- Javelin. - The Javelin was a sharp metal tip on a wooden shaft.
- Dory Spear - This was a 9 ft long spear
- Kopis - This was a single edged curved sword.
The Spartans where a people of Ancient Greece who were militaristic and elitist in their approach to much of their way of life. Having conquered a neighbouring state, they used the defeated peoples as a servant class to their own cause. The Spartan military was taken from the elite of society and the recruits were brutalized into becoming well drilled and fearless warriors. The new recruits were taken from their families at a young age and went through a gruelling training regime. This was so they might be judged worthy enough to wear the scarlet red that their elite warriors.wore upon the field of battle.
Weapons of the Vikings
The Five Viking Weapons
- Langs Seax - This was a single edged blade.
- Linden Wood Shield - A wooden shield.
- Link Mail - Steel links formed into a mail shirt
- War Axe - A brutally sharp steel head on a six foot shaft
- Seax - A short single edged knife.
The Vikings of Scandinavia.
Fearsome and wild the Vikings spread through Dark Age Europe, where they raided foreign lands and honoured their heathen gods. The Huscarl class were the elite of the Viking Age. These warriors were rewarded for their loyalty with silver, weapons and land by their war leader or clan chief. From the age of eight the children of the Scandinavia were taught to use their blade for defence. The climate in these northern lands was brutal and only the strong survived into adulthood.
Owing to a lack of living space and lands to farm. The younger sons of the Scandinavian people had few choices open to them. They either became soldiers, Christian monks or went away from their homelands to earn their fortune as Viking raiders.
The Kopis Versus the Lang Seax
The Kopis is a long single bladed weapon, which although not overly useful in the Spartan line formation fighting had its uses in war. The Spartan warriors were able to use the longer blade weapon in formation, but it was not as effective as the Xiphos for the quick thrusting, hacking and stabbing of the battle line. The Kopis had a curve to its blade which would have been ideal for a fight against mounted enemies. In a one on one battle, the Kopis would have given the Spartan warrior a greater range than that of the Xiphos.
The Lang seax was a weapon used by the Vikings before they embraced the Germanic Broadsword weapons of the early eighth century. The Lang seax was a versatile tool for use in battle and around the homestead. The single edged blade would usually lend itself to been a hacking and slashing tool. Due to its broken back profile and savage point, it was a good weapon for causing blunt force trauma, loss of limbs and severe puncture wounds to the torso. The Lang seax was a weapon made from steel, but due to a shortage of the raw materials in Scandinavia. It was not the Vikings primary weapon of battle.
The Linden Wood Shield Versus The Bronze Shield
The large circular Viking shields were made from Linden wood which is a member of the Lime tree family. They were boarded together with a steel shield boss in the centre to protect the hand of the wielder. The Shields were covered in a Hessian or hide material. The outside of the shield would have been edged with rawhide or spare leather. Both the Vikings and Spartan warriors would have used the shield as an offensive weapon as well as a defensive weapon.
The Spartan heavy shield or "Aspis" as it was called, was a large circular shield which was designed to protect the wielder and lock into a defensive wall with other Spartan shields. The wooden frame was then covered by a bronze exterior to protect the wood. The shields were robust and able to take a lot of damage, when combined with other shields they protected the main body of the Spartan fighters. The shield was often used to ram and shove enemies in battle, at the very least the strikes from the shield would have knocked opponents off balance.
Link Mail Versus the Javelin
The Huscarls of the Viking Age had the best weapons that the time period could provide. The Viking warriors tied up their wealth in weaponry and defensive armour. Link mail had existed in the Roman period and many Vikings bought link mail from the weapons traders of Central Europe. The link mail offered a good deal of protection when the links were hit with a slashing blow from a sword. But they could be penetrated by thrusts through the links by opposing steel. The links were made of steel and it took thousands of them to make one armoured vest.
The javelin had been used for thousands of years and even the Vikings had used it as part of their arsenal. The majority of the weapon's length is made of wood, with only the tip requiring any expensive material or craftsmanship. The Spartans used the javelin in their close order fighting so the Spartans used a shorter length javelin that most other warriors as they had to negotiate the giant bronze shield. The javelin could also be thrown into an on coming enemy, causing an injury that removed the opponent from the battlefield.
The Seax versus the Xiphos
The Seax was a steel single edged blade used by the Vikings in everyday life and upon the battlefield, every Viking no matter gender or station had a Seax. The everyday use for this tool was skinning and butchering animals, carving wood and numerous other domestic chores. On the battlefield historical sources tell of its use to dispatch injured enemies, or even put their own mortally wounded warriors out of their misery. The Vikings used the weapon in battle when their primary weapons were lost/damaged in a One versus One encounter. Or when they fought with a weapon in each hand. The Seax lacked the longer reach of a sword, but it was a quick hidden weapon that could surprise an unaware opponent.
The Xiphos short sword was a weapon often underrated by the rest of the known world, in the hands of the Spartans it was an instrument of pain and death. The hardened iron blade was capable of removing limbs and opening up the belly of their enemy. The sword was twin edged and constructed in a way that made the weapon an extension of the warrior. The sword was used in conjunction with the Spartan's shield wall as a thrusting and jabbing weapon once the spears and Javelins where broken or lost.
War Axe Versus the Dory Spear
The Viking War Axe was a weapon that would install fear into any enemy with its great arc of attack and intense power. A Viking with this axe could hold back multiple enemies and decimate the shield walls of many opponents. Unfortunately the Viking would soon tire in battle due to the amount of strength needed to swing this weapon. The War Axe or Great Axe was a heavy steel axe head, sat on top of a sturdy wooden shaft.
The Dory Spear was usually a bronze tipped head fixed on to a 9 ft wooden shaft. It is often described as been used in one hand whilst the Spartan used his other hand to hold the shield. The spear was perfect for keeping an enemy at a distance from the shield wall, but would have lost effectiveness after the Spartans broke their defensive formation. If the Vikings attacked a Spartan shield wall they would have used the same tactics that they employed when fighting the similar Anglo-Saxon formations. They would have used their heavy shields to force the spears downwards and once lowered, the Vikings would either break off the spear heads or smash the spear's length of wood with their metal swords.
- Spartan Warrior vs Roman Legionnaire
Who would win in a one and one fight? A veteran Legionnaire or an elite Spartan warrior. Let us look at their training methods and what weapons they would have used.
Both warriors were breed to fight from a young age and they championed the best their society had to offer. The way a warrior died was more important than how the battle ended to the individual fighter, both cultures put great stock in the legend's of their greatest heroes.
When I collated my results I came up with these scores...
The Spartan warrior received a total of... 43/50.
The Viking warrior received a total of... 40.5/50.
I had to take into account the advanced Viking Age technology when assessing the two as warrior versus warrior. The Spartans were better drilled as a fighting force than their Viking counterparts. As a unit the Spartans would have fought better against an organised Viking force. If it came to a one on one fight, the Viking warrior would have beaten the Spartan warrior as his weaponry was superior in a stand up contest.
If you have any comments or counter points please feel free to comment below...
© 2013 Andrew Stewart
Andrew Stewart (author) from England on April 02, 2014:
Thank you they are valid points that you have raised. I appreciate your addition to the hub.
Enghis on April 01, 2014:
The bearded axe should be taken into account as well. The beard of the axe was made specifically to hook onto a shield and wrench it out of the wielder's hand. A spartan relies heavily on his shield, and doesn't fight anywhere nearly as effective without it.
Andrew Stewart (author) from England on October 30, 2013:
Good question Harald, I tried to keep the bout more of a one on one short range battle. The Viking's did use the Bow as a weapon to open the conflict, usually a few volleys were fired before they switched to their primary weapon. It could be argued that the large Spartan shield could nullify the majority of the opponents arrows quite effectively, especially in the early Viking Age.
Thanks for the comment.
Harald Harade on October 30, 2013:
The vikings used bow as a long range weapon?why isn't that taken into it.