Throughout history, the greatest and most legendary heroes and figures have been known for not only changing history, but also for their legendary weapons. So much so in fact that some people argue whether the hero wielded the weapon, or whether the weapon wielded the hero. In any case, the following swords became so legendary that they became more well-known than the heroes themselves. Here are 10 famous swords that changed history.
10. Honjo Masamune
Considered one of Japan’s greatest swordsmith’s, Goro Nyudo Masamune made a number of incredible blades, though the most famous one he ever forged was likely the Honjo Masamune This was the sword that during the Edo period in Japan, represented the Shogunate, the military dictators who ruled the country. Named after Honjo Shigenaga, a general who first carried the weapon, the sword was won by him in a duel against an enemy. The Honjo Masamune changed hands a number of times afterwards, many of those hands belonging to Shoguns. It was declared one of Japan’s national treasures, but unfortunately after the end of World War II, the sword mysteriously disappeared. The only physical evidence we have are drawings of the blade's temper line when it was forged. People are literally still searching for it to this day.
9. Curved Saber of San Martin
During South America’s fight for independence against Spain, many military leaders rose to fame. One of those leaders was San Martin, an Argentine general who was known as the first protector of Peru after he helped them gain independence on July 28th, 1821. Before arriving in South America, San Martin visited London where he bought a curved sword that he would come to rely on and appreciate so much that he armed his cavalries with similar blades. The style of sword was highly maneuverable, especially when charging on horseback, and could have been the difference in the battles won while using them. San Martin’s specific sword was handed down to other leaders and their families until it was finally given to the National Historical Museum in Buenos Aires where it is still on display today.
Both cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad the prophet of Islam, Ali ibn Abi Talib was better known simply as Ali. He was the leader of the Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East between 656 and 661 AD. An admirer of Ali’s abilities in battle, Muhammad gave him a great sword, a scimitar called the Zulfiqar. Now there are conflicting stories about exactly how the sword looked, though the most popular seems to be that it was a curved weapon with a split roughly half way up that made it seem like a double-bladed scimitar. Ali used the Zulfiqar during the Battle of the Trench when a larger Confederate force attempted a siege on the city of Medina. Using the sword, he thwarted their attempts. Today, it’s considered a priceless artifact and Ali’s sword is said to be part of a famous collection of such relics called the Al Jafar.
Given as a gift in 372 AD to a Yamato ruler in Japan by King Geunchogo of the Baekje Dynasty in modern day Korea. The Seven-Branched Sword was likely not a combat-ready weapon, but one of ceremony and display. The famous sword is made of pure iron and is 74.9 centimeters long with six smaller extensions which curve out from the main blade, curling upwards in the same direction. While many swords of the world are famous for the many lives that they took on the way to helping change history, the Seven-Branched Sword has unique value, it’s discovery revealed a relationship between the kingdoms of Korea and Japan at a time when experts believe there likely wasn’t one, at least not one in which such gifts were exchanged.
6. The Sword of Goujian
Found in a tomb in Hubei, China in 1965, the sword of Goujian is a relic that dates back to a time between 771 and 403 BC. It belonged to Goujian, a famous emperor who apparently took back his kingdom a decade after it fell to a neighboring state. Upon it’s discovery, archaeologists were shocked to find that even though it had been in the tomb for thousands of years, there was no trace of serious wear on the blade which was still very sharp. In addition, there was no tarnish or rust on it which is especially odd considering it’s made up of tin and copper and the crypt was soaked in water from the Zhang River the entire time. Today, it rests in the Hubei Provincial Museum still sharp.
Born in Vivar, Spain in 1043, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, more commonly known as El Cid or The Lord, was a military leader who was famous for his many victories over his enemies. Almost as famous are his two swords Colada and Tizona, which he used to cut down forces from Moors, Barcelona, and Aragon. Tizona is said to have been forged in Cordoba, Spain with steel from various sources, including Damascus steel from the Middle East. It’s over a meter long and weighs just over a kilogram. Tizona saw its fair share of battles on it’s way to helping shape the future of the kingdoms within Spain. Today, this most famous sword is a cherished relic and is on display at a museum in Spain.
4. Napoleon’s Sword
Considered a strategic genius, Napoleon Bonaparte was a statesman and military leader during the French Revolutionary War that was granted the title of Emperor of the French from the French senate in 1804. During his rule, Napoleon expanded his empire, toppling many regimes by personally attending battles with his pistol and sword at his side. That sword was a cavalry-style blade and is said to have been made from the finest metals available at the time. Gold-encrusted, the Emperor gave it to his brother as a wedding gift, hoping the victories that he won with it would deliver good luck. The famous sword was handed down from generation to generation until it was finally sold off. Then on June 10th, 2007, Napoleon’s sword was purchased at an auction by his descendants who paid a hefty price of nearly $6.4 million for it.
3. The Wallace Sword
The sword used by the guardian of Scotland himself, William Wallace, this two-handed sword is a whopping 1.63 meters long and weighs 2.7 kilograms, making it a truly deadly weapon in the hands of someone strong enough to swing it. It’s length added to the legend that Wallace was a giant man and fell every enemy that he faced with a single swing. Truth be told, it did take down a number of large English soldiers during the wars of Scottish independence, specifically in the Battle of Sterling in 1297 and the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. After he was captured in August of 1305, Wallace was brutally executed. His sword changed hands a number of times, but is now on display at the Wallace Monument near Sterling, where he and his sword had their greatest victory.
The sword of Charles the Great, better known as Charlemagne, Joyeuse was carried by the leader until his death in 814 AD. The sword is over one meter in length with an 82.8 centimeter blade, and weighs almost 1.6 kilograms. As Charlemagne’s personal sword Joyeuse, which means joyous, was used to battle enemies, execute prisoners, and knight loyal followers. He was truly fond of his weapon as it helped him transform from King of the Franks to the first Holy Roman Emperor. It’s said that during one particular battle, this most famous sword was lost, but it was soon discovered by one of the Emperor’s knights and returned to him. Charlemagne was so happy to get Joyeuse back that he granted the knight his own piece of land to rule.
1. Curtana - The Sword of Mercy
Many stories surround the sword used by British monarchs during coronations. Some say it originally belonged to a knight of the round table named Tristan, while others believed it was Edward the Confessors. But unlike many legendary swords, Curtana’s blade is missing nearly 2.5 centimeters of it’s tip which is squared off as a blunt object. It’s purpose is strictly ceremonial, not violent, which is why it’s been given the nickname “The Sword of Mercy”. One legend tells of the famous sword’s tip being broken off by an angel to prevent a killing, though the true reason is likely that it broke off accidentally or it was purposely removed for safety. The Sword of Mercy is one of the crowned jewels of the United Kingdom, one of the best known swords of the world, and is one of the few such relics to survive the English Civil War of the mid 1600s.
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