Middle Ages for Kids
Chain mail, plate armor for men and horses, the longbow and flail were some of the advances during the Middle Ages. Other weapons included battering rams, daggers, knives, battle axes, and glaives (spears). A lance was a long spear with a metal tip used by knights on horseback.
A flail was used for close combat. It referred to any weapon that was attached to a rope or chain and swung against the enemy. The portion that actually hit the enemy could be made of wood or metal or anything you had. One type of flair was called a mace. A mace is a flail with a round metal ball with spikes at the end of short chain. Flails were invented as an agricultural tool. But it was soon recognized as a useful as a weapon. If you had a piece of wood and a piece of rope, you could make a flail and have something to use to defend yourself.
Archers used longbows and arrows, the arrows tipped with poison for battle. Longbows were usually as tall as the user, which is how they got their name. A smaller weapon was the very lethal crossbow. Crossbow arrows were made of metal and considerably smaller in size than longbow arrows. Because the arrows were smaller, you could carry more of them at one time. Unlike longbows, crossbows could be hidden and used in a surprise attack.
The caltrop was a metal spike that you threw on the ground in front of an advancing army. Any man or horse that accidently stepped on a caltrop would be injured and slowed down.
Shields were hand held and used to protect fighters.
Chain mail was worn to protect the body. It was made of thousands of interlinked rings of metal. Chain mail was expensive, but it did help the wearer survive a glancing blow. A direct hit, with a sharp point, however, could penetrate chain mail.
Armor started as metal helmets and shields. Then metalsmiths began making metal plates of steel that covered the chest. Over time, a suit of armor was developed that covered the wearer from head to toe. These suits were expensive, hot, heavy, and took a great deal of practice to use. They added a lot of weight for a horse to carry, which was a drawback. Because a full suit of armor was so heavy, the wearer often had trouble getting up again without help. This, too, was a drawback.
Gunpowder entered the Middle Ages around the 1300s. It took time to create weapons and techniques to effectively use this new weapon - gunpowder.