Viking Short Swords
Deeply tied into Scandinavian history and Viking culture, the Viking short sword seax was a blade shape popularized by Scandinavians across Europe. Historically, the shape of a viking short sword (seax) is what some call “scramasax” or “sax.”
Typically Norsemen, famous for their axes, carried a special knife that saw more general use both on and off the battlefield.
The Anglo-Saxons were historically the first to develop and popularize a straight blade, or seax, that was in widespread use in Northern Europe from the fifth century onwards. The popularity of this tool eventually spread all over northern Europe. Unlike their Viking counterparts, who often employed curved blades, the Anglo-Saxon’s heavily favored a hard heavy blade for utility purposes.
What is a Viking Short Sword or Seax Knife?
Comparing the rich history of ancient knives from all over, many cultures have their own weapon that is used throughout time. One such example is the seax knife which comes from Northern Europe and was designed for combat in both battlefield and between men as part of personal combat or as a tool to humanely dispatch game.
The seax, also known as the sax or Viking dagger, was popular not only among Vikings but also among other tribes with Scandinavian roots. Featured in deep and highly regarded parts of Scandinavian history, the knife was a clear choice for warriors like the feared and distinguished Vikings.
Vikings used seaxes before the fall of Rome, which persisted up to the Middle Ages. They ranged from small replicas that measure 3-4 inches wide on their blade length to authentic swords featuring 27-28 inch blades. Single-edged seaxes feature a significantly different profile than their double edged counterparts and are discussed in detail below.
Viking Short Sword Types
There are a few different points, designs, and sizes of seax knives. You’ll find long heavy narrow light or short ones as well.
One of the most common types, and known as seax with a broken-back style with sharp points close to the front. The transition between the blade’s point and back section is angled sharply. This type covers one-third to three-fifths its length.
Broken-back style seaxes originated in Ireland and the UK, but were also manufactured to some extent in Germany during the 9th through 11th centuries. There are many variations on the original design of a seax, yet all have a broken rear close to the point and a sharp tip at most points. The standard blade shape has paralleling edges with an elbow near its beginning and is usually either bowie-style or drop-point/spear point.
There are only a few intact handles left, but what we do know is that they were hilts just like swords of the era and early Bowie’s blades. Metal fittings were rare.
The handles of most traditional knives are quite long compared to those used today. The handle on the Aachen seax, which is often called a knife from Charlemagne, is almost 9 inches in length. Most modern-day knives typically have handles that are 5 inches long or less.
It appears that the seax handle is longer than other knife handles because it was primarily used in battle and had to have an extra 4-6 inches on the handle. If you were gripping the seax at the butt end of the grip, that was several inches of power or chopping distance in case you needed it during battle – this could potentially make all the difference between life and death. Steel was expensive so by making the handle longer you could have the same effective chopping reach as having a much longer knife blade.
A 10 inch blade and a 5 inch handle combine to give 15 inches of effective reach when chopping. A 6 inch blade with a 9 inch handle will also have the same usefulness as a weapon because both blades cost less metal back in medieval times.
As not being useful during battle, the extra blade-length that is added on when choking up on the sword would have been completely irrelevant.
Viking Short Sword Sheath
What’s interesting is how the seax was worn. It was worn horizontally or at an angle with the blade edge facing up on the front side of clothing so that it wouldn’t be uncomfortable to wear. Why is this the case? The length of this knife makes it difficult for someone using a sheath behind their body, which would make it impractical at best when not fighting. It actually had brass rings attached either by leather or chain to your belt for mobility during use, making carries cumbersome and unsteady especially while traveling when weapons must always be in hand.
Origin of the Name
A seax is also known as a scramasax or a scramaseax. The German word “scrama” means scratch, while “sax” means dagger.
It is also believed that the term ‘seax’ may have come from ‘Saxons’. The seax has its symbolic representation in the ceremonial emblem of Essex and Middlesex.
A seaxe is a knife for combat that was first used by the Anglo-Saxons. It may be implied that the word ‘saxon’ originates from the word ‘sax’.
In the time of the Middle Ages, axes were great weapons of war. They were long and heavy, but also expensive and hard to find. Scimitars and long knives allowed quicker movements in combat. Swords too are valuable, as they are both short-range weapons that allow quick thrusts with a lot of force behind them – however they can also be broken easily if skillfully wielded against similarly armed opponents. The longest seax knives were found in Norway and across Europe. These tools experienced their golden age during the Merovignian era, before the Viking age.
Uses of Seax Knives
When you see a seax for the first time, it may not appear to be as beautiful and high-end as a recurve blade. However, it is unwise to judge this sturdy knife based solely on its looks. One of the most notable features of the seax is that it’s able to complete multiple tasks with ease.
The straight edge of the seax knife makes it such a versatile tool that it can be used for anything from penetrating and scoring to using its pointed blade. However, this multipurpose tool is only a good fit for jobs of varying lengths.
One of the advantages of longer blades is that they can be used for thrusts or aggressive slashes, while shorter blades are better suited to delicate jobs. For example, short blades excel at skinning game; stripping bark from wood when making firewood; or making low-intensity cuts on a carcass in order to extract meat easier.
There are two types of seax knives: short and long. Short ones measure up to 35 centimeters; while the ones that can be as long as 75 centimeters are used in combat or chopping a variety of things, such as bushes, which is similar to how you would wield a machete.
The early days of the seax knife were characterized by a longer, thicker blade and heavier weight which functioned as both an effective slashing weapon and purposeful combat tool.
Rather than outsourcing manufacturing to outside blacksmiths with their own styles and brands, in most cases these tools were manufactured internally until they became too expensive for a single person.
Knives, which are typically light and don’t require expensive or skilled handiwork, were both used for combat and everyday purposes including hunting and food preparation.
Although combat guns are generally longer than general-use pistols, both the types of weapons proved effective for either job because they have design attributes.
Nonetheless, the Vikings preferred these weapons over others for a variety of reasons. These ranged from smaller size to more durable composition. One advantage of the blade was that it had a sharp edge and a strong base which functioned well as an effective stabbing weapon.
One reason for this was the design of the sword, which is straight and wide at the handle but narrows towards the tip. The forging process itself was also much simpler, with many sword owners taking it upon themselves to teach their children how to forge a simple blade.
The seax combat knife, although it can make any noticeable damage to armored targets like chain mail or heavily padded armor, will likely break the bones and cause internal bleeding.
Unlike other hand-to-hand combat weapons, this knife can be concealed behind its shield. The most notable benefit of this technique is the surprise factor as opponents are not expecting a knife attack when they encounter melee combat.
A seax knife usually has two edges, one of which was sharp for cutting. The lack of the sharp edge on a seax kept opponents from attacking it with short edge attacks.
The short blade of a throwing knife is unique in that it can be thrown from a shorter distance than other blades. This benefit allows throwers to easily conceal the blade behind their shield for an unexpected, instant thrust attack.
Seax knives, a stone age tool of the Scandinavian hunter, were status symbols. Some portray lavish decorations such as ornamentation and fauna. The most common examples of this can be found in Trondheim.
Virtually every Viking would carry a seax knife horizontally on the waist. This way to carry it served as an easy way for them easy access to their weapon while in close combat range. Sometimes, they used it even as a preferable weapon, thus replacing their one-handed swords with this inferior sword.
Viking Short Sword: Conclusion
In the early days, a seax knife was designed for general-purpose, utility-based tasks. For example, it could be used as a hunting knife or combat weapon.
The credit for this versatility is owed to its weight and shape of the blade tip. When needed, there were even daggers in the traditional design of a slender 12-inch slicer with a single sharpened edge on one side and an antler shaped handle that ended at right angles near the blade’s sitting position.
The original version of a long knife was widely used for different tasks, ranging from cutting to work around camp. It was also used during fights when an ax or sword wasn’t doing the job.
Norse seax knives were weight- and design-tested to be used specifically in close combat. The ease of crafting the blades made them a common weapon for Viking fighters, even though they primarily fought in long or ranged engagements.
The seax knife also has a beautiful design, which sometimes people purchase it not for its practical use but instead as an accessory to include in their collection.
So, is seax for you? Well, it depends on you! If you are a great fan of unconventional blade shapes and wish to try something different from the mainstream, the seax knife is worthy of your time and money. Modern-day seax knives like Skrama is the favorite of many bushcrafters.