97% of people can't name these medieval weapons from a picture. Can you?

By: J. Scott Wilson
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Medieval weapons ranged from the common bow and arrow to chariots designed to slice off your legs and create dead bodies as early biological warfare. While the weapons look interesting, there is one important fact: They were meant to maim, kill and destroy anything in their path, often while applying the most pain possible. Do you think you know your weapons? Take this quiz and find out.

The bow and arrow was one of the most common medieval weapons. A skilled bowman could target weak spots in armor, taking down even the mightiest knights.

As those who saw the "Red Wedding" episode of "Game of Thrones" can attest, crossbows can do a LOT of damage. They throw a smaller projectile than a bow, but it travels faster and is more accurate.

This was your basic-issue siege weapon, a pole with a heavy piece on the end used to batter down doors and drawbridges. Being one of the guys assigned to wield it was a tough job, thanks to things like the previously mentioned boiling oil.

Of all the jobs a medieval soldier could have, manning the siege tower was one of the worst. You were automatically riding on the biggest target on the battlefield, subject to everything from storms of arrows to fire and boiling oil. On the good side, if you survived, you were the first to get the plunder!

The actual existence of this weapon has never been proved, but it's mentioned in accounts of early Greek wars. The idea involved a crane with a grappling hook attached that was used to grab hold of attacking ships and capsize them.

It seems like a simple idea: Take a regular arrow, dip it in flaming pitch, then shoot it at the attacker. The Romans used these to devastating effect, although the pitch would throw off the accuracy and range of the arrows.

While spears COULD be thrown, the javelin was expressly designed for the purpose. They were generally used as a mass-attack weapon, with soldiers launching tremendous volleys of them, especially against mounted attackers.

If you've seen "Gladiator," you've seen this wicked little beauty. It's basically just a chariot with a spinning blade sticking out from one or both of the wheels. You don't want to stand too close!

If you ever wonder why accounts of cannon battles harp on the noise so much, head to a Civil War battlefield sometime for a demonstration. In the early days of their deployment, the noise of the cannons alone could win a battle against more primitive opponents.

Is there a middle school student who hasn't used popsicle sticks to build one of these? In the Middle Ages, they were popular siege weapons because they were easy to build, could be fired relatively quickly and weren't picky about what you used for ammunition.

If you've seen the "Kill Bill" movies, you're pretty well-versed in the mystique of the katana. Japanese swordsmiths would fold metal over and over again to make a blade whose flexibility and strength were unmatched.

The rapier is the ornate weapon, often with a "basket" hilt, that shows up most often in comic fencing scenes. It's primarily a thrusting weapon, not nearly as good for slashing as other blades, which lends itself to comical lunges.

If you had a really big guy in your medieval soldier unit, you wanted him to have one of these. Sure, it didn't have any sharp edges, but a solid blow from this on a knight's helmet would have him seeing little birdies for days.

If you've seen season 2 of "Game of Thrones," you know the concept of Greek fire. An early form of napalm, this tarry substance was lit ablaze and used primarily against warships, with deadly effect.

The spear is one of the oldest weapons, dating back to prehistoric times. Imagine being a Neanderthal hunter, trying to bring down a mammoth with a tree branch sharpened with stone tools. Not fun!

Whacking someone with an ax is generally termed to be a hostile act, and it's even worse when you don't even do it from arm's length. The problem with the throwing ax, though, is that if you miss you might have to dodge your own weapon.

The arbalest was essentially a crossbow on steroids. It had a steel construction, which allowed for a much greater tension on the bowstring and thus a much greater punch. It had an accurate range up to 100 meters.

At first glance, this seems like a redneck joke gone horribly wrong. Take a battle cannon and reduce it to portable size, then hold it in your hand and light the fuse. Oddly enough, this was a pretty popular weapon.

The gladius was the sword that held the Roman Empire together. It was simple to manufacture, big enough to do serious damage, but small enough for long combat and deadly even in moderately trained hands.

Medieval shields were used in hand-to-hand combat to protect the wearer from attacks.

One thing I've always liked about military nomenclature is how frequently the name exactly describes the function. The sword breaker was designed to catch an enemy's sword. With a wrist-flick, the wielder could then snap the blade.

Swordsmen were known for trickery, and this little blade is one of their best toys. You're fighting an opponent with a blade in each hand, then suddenly your dagger sprouts two more blades!

Hardly the most exotic of medieval weapons, this is one the Negan, of Walking Dead fame, would appreciate. Take a big, heavy stick and put a big, heavy pointed thing on the end of it. Or several pointed things.

This bizarre-looking blade looks like something a Klingon warrior should be carrying on the bridge of a Bird of Prey. It's an African tribal weapon that has existed in various shapes for centuries.

If you've ever played jacks, you're familiar with the shape, but this is no child's toy. These spiked bits of evil were used against men and horses alike, since it's hard to gallop or walk with steel spikes in your foot.

Here's another example of ill-considered medieval weapons technology. Just like the hand cannon, this involves loading explosives into a tube and holding it in your hand. Descendants of the wielders of this weapon are the guys who hold Roman candles and shoot them at each other.

One of the continuing dilemmas in medieval warfare was how unarmored soldiers could beat armored and mounted knights. The pike, wielded by massed soldiers, was a handy solution. The long, wickedly bladed or pointed staffs made a very hazardous wall through which to ride.

The longbow was the most difficult bow to master, but also the most powerful. A properly fired arrow from a longbow could pierce armor, and the effective range was truly impressive. The English longbow was the apex of the craft.

The broadsword was your basic-issue hacking and slaying weapon, especially for knights. They weren't nearly as quick or nimble as rapiers, but if you got hit by one you weren't likely going to get up.

These floating bombs were used during the Siege of Antwerp. They were essentially shaped charges made out of ships, designed to break blockades. They were only partially effective.

Unlike the "throwing stars" that we know today, the original shurikens were small, coated with poison to kill or disable an opponent. They were made from a variety of items, including coins and nails.

This odd-looking piece of defensive equipment wasn't used much for battle, but rather for swordsmen fighting duels. If the fight just couldn't wait until dawn, this shield had a lantern embedded in it, or hung from a hook on it, that both blinded the opponent and let the wielder see what he was stabbing.

If you're looking for an ancient weapon, this is it! The club has been around since Og got mad at Thag for stealing his portion of dead animal and whacked him with the nearest big stick.

People often get maces and flails confused. The easy way to remember is that if the head is fixed, it's a mace. If it's loose, attached by a chain or other means, it's a flail. Both really hurt when they hit you in the head.

The trebuchet was a modification of the classic catapult. It used a counterweighted lever system to throw heavier payloads for great distances. It's now popular at "punkin chunkin" contests.

The sabre is the most elegant of battle swords. It's light, wielded by one hand and, when used by someone fluent in fencing, a deadly weapon. Even against knights in armor, its ability to fit through the joints in the suit makes it fearsome.

This was your standard issue blade for knights. It wasn't terribly pretty or elegant, but if you were on horseback and wanted to cleave a path, swinging this would pretty well do the trick.

This is the weapon of the berserker, the wild man who wades into a melee and starts laying about him with gusto. It doesn't mess around with accuracy or finesse ... whatever it hits will sustain enough damage to be put out of commission.

The lance was of course the most popular part of jousting contests. If you've ever seen "A Knight's Tale," you've seen plenty of the strategy involved. It wasn't really that useful in a pitched battle, though, since it was fairly unwieldy.

The recurve was an example of medieval weapon R&D, with the second curve allowing a more efficient transfer of force from bowstring to arrow. However, the additional tension was frequently too much for middling-quality materials, and it made more noise when fired, making its use as a sniper weapon limited.

The sling is another one of those weapons whose origins go back into the mists of time. The most famous use was in the biblical story of David and Goliath.

The ballista was a crossbow on steroids. Imagine if Tim Allen, of "Home Improvement" fame, got hold of a crossbow. The result is a giant weapon that requires a team to load and cock, which throws a bolt that looks like half a telephone pole.

The mortar was a natural for siege warfare. While cannons were straight-ahead weapons, the mortar lobbed its payload in a high arc, making it easy to fire over castle walls.

When you see ornately set medieval movies, the glaive is that huge-bladed spear the king's guards usually carry. Beyond their size, though, they were wicked battle weapons when they could swing freely.

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