The Weighty Issue of Two-Handed Greatswords
Popular media, fantasy games, and uninformed historians frequently give the impression that these immense weapons were awkward, unwieldy and ponderously heavy. The facts confirm an entirely different understanding. To understand what we are discussing it is important to first have a working definition. The respected work, Swords and Hilt Weapons, offers this description of the weapon:
"The two-handed sword was a specialized and effective infantry weapon, and was recognized as such in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Although large, measuring 60-70 in/150-175 cm overall, it was not as hefty as it looked, weighing something of the order of 5-8 lbs/2.3-3.6 kg. In the hands of the Swiss and German infantrymen it was lethal, and its use was considered as special skill, often meriting extra pay. Fifteenth-century examples usually have an expanded cruciform hilt, sometimes with side rings on one or both sides of the quillon block.
This was the form which remained dominant in Italy during the sixteenth century, but in Germany a more flamboyant form developed. Two-handed swords typically have a generous ricasso to allow the blade to be safely gripped below the quillons and thus wielded more effectively at close quarters. Triangular or pointed projections, known as flukes, were added at the base of the ricasso to defend the hand.” (Coe et al, p. 48)
In contrast to longswords, technically, true two-handed swords (epee’s a deux main) or “two-handers” were actually Renaissance, not Medieval weapons. They are really those specialized forms of the later 1500-1600s, such as the Swiss/German Dopplehänder (“double-hander”) or Bidenhänder (“both-hander”).
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Source: Copyright © 2014 The ARMA