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Rapier
Time Period: 16th-17th century
Location: Europe
Common Construction: Steel

Rapier is a general term for civilian swords in the 16th and 17th centuries. The stereotypical rapier has a long slender blade and is used primarily for thrusting, although it is still quite capable of slashing attacks.

The ritualized settling of disputes developed to new heights in the 16th century, in the form of a semi-organized set of rules known as dueling. As such, civilians needed a weapon that suited their needs. Heavy weapons were unnecessary, as most duelists were not wearing armor, and a lighter sword was developed as a personal defense weapon.

Rapier hilts, called swept hilts were generally more complex than that of regular swords, because the wielder did not have an armored gauntlet. Hilts continued to evolve over time to become both more protective and more attractive, culminating in the cup hilt. At the same time the blade became more slender and the cutting edge became less important as dueling tactics evolved.

Rapiers were eventually abandoned for the colichemarde, a sword designed specifically to defeat the rapier. It was lighter and faster, and the wielder had more control over where to place the blade during a thrust. The colichemarde was in turn replaced by the small sword, which was used until dueling with swords faded from popularity.

CE 16th Century, CE 17th Century, History, Medieval Europe, Sword, Weapon


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