Sword experts cut through some myths
By Carl Orth | Suncoast NewsHOLIDAY - In medieval times, swordsmen probably didn't have to worry about turning off the ringer on their cell phones before they went into battle, Paul Stonebridge joked.
Published: June 15, 2012
Published: June 15, 2012
The teen services manager for Pasco County libraries, Stonebridge silenced his phone just before he and fellow expert Jody Carroll began their demonstration Tuesday night.
They put on a show for the "Teen Summer Reading Kickoff: A Knight With Medieval Sword Fighting" at Centennial Park Branch Library.
The duo dressed the part in authentic-looking outfits, and used weapons such as swords, spears, axes and shields.
A really good sword in medieval times might cost the equivalent of $10,000 in today's dollars, Stonebridge said.
In fact, the weapons could get so expensive that warriors often practiced with wooden swords.
Movies might make sword-fighting scenes look dramatic, Stonebridge said. The swordsmanship, however, often is rather boring to him and other connoisseurs of the craft.
Carroll clowned around by taking a swig out of a water bottle while clanging swords with Stonebridge. They were acting out a scene similar to the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.
Swords came in a range of shapes, sizes and materials, Stonebridge and Carroll demonstrated. Some were manufactured to be quite flexible. Stonebridge bent a sword over his head to prove the point.
Egyptians developed some of the earliest swords, Carroll explained. The curved blade was intended to slash through the body of an enemy and leave a longer, gaping wound.
Roman soldiers perfected battle tactics, Stonebridge said. Carroll put on a helmet, picked up a spear and shield, and crouched in the stance that made Roman warriors so formidable.
Scores of Roman soldiers would interlock shields in a sort of wall and then advance in a wave virtually unstoppable by their enemies. The Romans could lift their shields high above their heads in case enemies rained down a barrage of arrows upon them.
Such tactics help explain why Rome was able to hold sway over much of the world for a thousand years.
While a medieval-era teen might have yearned to get a sword, today's teens probably are a bit more motivated by high technology. Centennial Park Branch librarian Ashley Moore said every six books a teen reads this summer qualifies for an entry in a drawing for an Apple iPad tablet.
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