Lang Saex, Damascus Viking Sword
(About): A Germanic Short-Sword Made for Surviving in New Lands
This Damascus Viking sword is a striking historical replica of the forms of ‘lang saex’ or ‘long knives’ that were common amongst the Germanic peoples known as the Saxons throughout the Migration Period, and into Early Medieval Anglo-Saxon England. Our Lang Saex is a handsome single-edged shortsword with a blade that is 24 inches in length, made from gorgeous pattern-welded ‘Damascus steel’ with a solid brass hilt. If you want to embrace the rough-living frontier lifestyle of the Saxon peoples, there is no finer representation than our Damascus Viking sword, the Lang Saex.
A Broken-Back Blade
The blade of our Lang Saex is made from a spectacularly beautiful pattern-welded steel, designed to imitate the type of blades that the late-Iron Age Saxon seaxes would have been made from. This reproduction of the mysterious metal known as ‘Damascus steel’ is made from an alloy of 1065 high-carbon steel and 15N20 nickel steel. These two metals have been chosen for their contrast: when they are piled together, forge-welded and twisted, they form a two-tone pattern. When these twisted billets are extruded, folded, cut and piled and forge-welded again, these steels create a water-like, rippling surface which builds in complexity with each repetition – the steel alloy in our Damascus Viking sword Lang Saex is folded to create more than 400 laminations! This technique was pioneered by Iron Age smiths in the 1st-millennium BCE, and was almost universal amongst swords up until the 10th-century CE. The final result is a gorgeous pattern-weld which is wholly unique to your sword, the mark of a top-grade weapon made by a skilled weaponsmith.
The design of the blade is extremely characteristic of the Saxon and early Viking weapons known as the ‘seax’. Our interpretation of the Lang Saex has a single sharp edge with a distinctive asymmetric point – this is known as the ‘broken back’ style. Short swords of this type were designed for hard utility use, but made surprisingly effective weapons with a useful point for thrusting. It bears a fuller at the back side of the sword, which reduces the weight of the weapon significantly, making it from a simple chopper into a far more agile fighting weapon. The blade of this Damascus Viking sword has been heat treated to harden it to a Rockwell hardness of 58-60 HRc, meaning that it is a resilient and tough blade that will stand up to the rigors of conquering a new land – or just the knocks and scrapes of re-enactment and roleplay use.
A Kingly Brass Hilt
The hilt of our Lang Saex is a shining golden tribute to the stunning Migration Period swords that nomad-kings wielded whilst leading their peoples to lands new. It is a strong example of a Type II under Wheeler and Oakeshott’s typology – these swords have been found overwhelmingly in the Scandinavian context attached to single-bladed weapons, so we can say with a great degree of confidence that this style is authentic and appropriate for a historical replication of a ‘lang seax’ used by the North Germanic peoples. Its cross-guard is a simple but beautiful bar-style, elliptical in shape. It has been cast from solid brass to imitate the glorious golden hilts sometimes attached to high-status Migration Period weapons. It has been inscribed with a figurative great beast, a serpent in knotwork, echoing its Scandinavian cousins. The grip is shaped from rich sheesham wood, stained dark and framed with engraved brass spacers: its oval cross-section means that it won’t move in your hand. The pommel is a simple conical shape, conforming to Type I in Geibig’s pommel typology: it is the style of pommel that all of the wide variety of Viking pommel experimentation flowed from. Like the cross-guard, it is cast in solid brass and engraved with Germanic iconography: a spectacular Celtic knot made from two duelling dragons. Our Lang Saex also comes with a gorgeous black leather shoulder scabbard, painted with a matching Germanic serpent design.
This is a stunning example of a half-forgotten sword type from the mists of the Dark Ages. The authentic Damascus pattern-weld and the broken-back design make it an extremely special weapon, fit for Saxon enthusiasts and connoisseurs of Damascus Viking swords. It is a brilliant weapon to choose for historical re-enactment of a Saxon or Viking warrior, since it has a high degree of authenticity – but its unusual shape and spectacular patternation could lend itself excellently to a fantasy outfit. It could be a barbarian king’s falchion or a lost magic sword rediscovered. You could wear it with a suit of historical Saxon chainmail – or the robe of a fantasy mage. Not a weapon for any sword collector to miss!
(History): Saxons at the Gates
These shortswords are extremely unusual to modern eyes, since their unique design was only popular for a relatively obscure period of history, during which groups of North Germans – known as Saxons – at first raided, then eventually colonised enormous swaths of southern England. The Saxons soon gave up their raiding, and the Kingdoms in the South of England eventually formed the bedrock for the Kingdom of Wessex, one of the constituents of the Heptarchy, and a major constituent for the foundation of the future Kingdom of England.
But Post-Roman England was not an empty land, begging for colonisation. Britain had been a province of the Roman Empire for more than three centuries, becoming interlinked with pan-European trade, with wealthy settlements, a significant road network and a thriving economy. The gradual withdrawal of Roman presence did not mean all of this disappeared overnight: even though the European economy began to fragment, the Romano-British successor culture remained a flourishing society – and a ripe target. By contrast, the Germanic tribes of the ‘Saxon shore’, consisting of the coastal Netherlands, northern Germany and southern Denmark, had long languished on the edge of the Empire. Their society was a far rougher one than the one on the English mainland. Many men would carry a long knife, called a ‘saex’ or ‘seax’, a sort of Migration Age Swiss Army Knife that would be used for a whole range of tasks. They were useful for small craft like whittling and trapping; they were effective butchering knives for preparing a hunting kill for the pot; and they were a deadly weapon in a fight. By the end of Roman dominance, some of these wielders of these Damascus Viking swords had become Roman foederati, federated tribes contracted to manage the Roman border regions. But many more eyed the former Roman provinces with barbarian greed…
The Real Story
It would be easy to make the story of the Anglo-Saxon settlement of England a clichéd tale of jealous barbarians at the gates of civilisation. And indeed, that used to be the dominant analysis: surviving written sources tell of a savage invader from across the sea, who burned and pillaged all in its way. Writers such as Gildas the Wise, writing in the 6th-century CE, depicts this as revenge from God against the decadent post-Roman elites. The Brittonic-Welsh writer Nennius, writing in the 9th-century CE, describes a mythic campaign of resistance led by an ‘Artorius’, who threw back the Saxon hordes at Badon Hill (the foundation for all Arthurian legend that would follow). These historical sources, and the narrative of barbarous conquest they told, were rich soil for Victorian moralism, coloured by contemporary imperialist attitudes, to look backward and justify its own history. But all of these sources have their own viewpoints and flaws. Gildas, for example, was far from an objective historian, seeking to write a moral tale rather than an objective history, using the Saxons as a foil for the decadent pagan elites that he sought to decry from his Christian high-horse. Nennius, although his story is an evocative foundation myth for the Welsh Brittonic society which formed in contradistinction to the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, he was writing centuries after the Anglo-Saxon settlement of England was thoroughly established. Modern scholarship takes a more nuanced view – aided by genetic analysis, and a more complex understanding of how the Damascus Viking sword-wielding Saxon elite might have related to the lands which they took by conquest, have gotten us closer to a more complex truth. It seems that, rather than displacing the native Brittonic peoples, Saxon warrior-kings might well have ruled by a sort of cultural supremacy, strongly impacting the linguistic and political world – Old English carries little mark from the Brittonic natives, and religious and cultural sites show a strong change toward Saxon cultural practises. But genetic markers show a strong continuity in terms of heritage from the Brittonic past, indicating that there was little of what we might today call ‘ethnic cleansing’.
Saxons, In Their Own Words
The Saxons themselves were pagan, with little surviving written literature – but as the southern Saxon and more northern Anglian kingdoms gradually Christianised in the course of the 7th century, Anglo-Saxon England began recording its histories more thoroughly. Often, the spread of Christianity was a strong factor in the emergence of literacy, not least because the Church was, even in that era, a trans-national organisation linked across Europe with Rome as its nexus, with communication over great distances a required part. Some Anglo-Saxon monarchs were keen to put the education that bishops and churchmen could give their people to good use – an effective bureaucracy of Churchmen meant a closely-connected (and wealthy, and loyal) kingdom. However, there were many who did not agree – although the Saxon king Saeberht was converted by Bishop Mellitus to Christianity in 604 CE, his sons Sexred and Saeward remained pagan, and after their father’s death in 614, they drove Mellitus out over a flimsy pretext (he apparently refused to allow them to taste the sacramental bread), and returned the East Saxon Kingdom to official paganism. Others, such as Raedwald of the East Angles, hedged their bets, officially converting to Christianity whilst continuing to patronise pagan worship practises. Raedwald’s successor Eaorpwald, though another Christian, was killed not long after his coronation by a pagan usurper. The process of Christian conversion was therefore frequently a bloody affair. The last great pagan of Anglo-Saxon England, King Penda of Mercia, was slain at the Battle of the Winwaed in 655 CE, removing the lynchpin of political paganism, and securing the dominance of Christian ideology and practice amongst the Anglo-Saxon elite on the island from then onward – though in reality, Christian theology often mixed with and augmented folk belief amongst the inhabitants as a whole.
Thus, the Saxons began recording their own rich oral culture from the early 8th-century CE with the burgeoning Christianisation of the Kingdoms of England, with early examples of Anglo-Saxon writing being the stunning whale-bone chest known confusingly as the ‘Franks casket’ (named after its donor Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks, rather than the early-medieval Frankish people), the works of the Anglo-Saxon historian the Venerable Bede (also writing around the turn of the 8th-century) – and, of course, the epic Germanic poem Beowulf.
Gradually, the Saxons became the farmers, governors and kings of Anglo-Saxon England, and they put down their Damascus Viking swords, founding for themselves a new society: that of a fledgling England. Our Lang Saex contains all of this complex and evolving history in one spectacular blade.
Looking for more Viking Swords made out of Damascus Steel? Then check out this one!
- Total length: 32 inches
- Blade length: 24 inches
- Blade material: 1095/15N20 steels ; Damascus – 400-520 layers
- Blade hardness: 58-60 HRc
- Guard and pommel: Solid Brass