Many fantasy heroes bear two swords and same goes for historical recreations in movies and medievalist re-enactment. Why? Are there any sources about such? I know none at least. Please do tell me, if you know any.

There are several reasons why a medieval warrior would not fight with two swords. First of all, a sword is a very expensive weapon. Not many men could afford one, let alone two. There were of course very rich men who owned several swords. There are even pictures where a knight has a long sword at his hip and a short sword hanging from his saddle. There seems to be however, no pictures of any knights wielding them both together. The two swords were more like the main weapon and a spare one or two different weapons for different “jobs”.

Second reason could be that weilding two swords is clumsy and awkward. It is much like  shooting with two assault rifles. If you expect to hit your enemy by filling the air with bullets or flurry of blades two rifles/swords is fine, but if you actually can handle your weapon you would rather try to make one aimed hit.

A dagger could be paired with a sword. There are actually no medieval surviving fencing manuals that would imply it as common technique, so it should be treated as an exeption. During the rennessaince the rapier swords had often a dagger as a pair to them and techniques were printed in manuals also. This pair of weapons however differs greatly from medieval weapons in so many ways I will not go into them here. Exept to say, that the dagger is a natural companion for such eminently thrusting weapon as the rapier.

Sword & dagger

Sword & dagger

Every medieval armed man had a dagger. But fighting with a sword and dagger together is again a bit like firing a rifle and a pistol together. The pistol adds wery little to the rifle, but losing one hand for pistol makes rifle quite unwieldy. A one hand sword was usually used with a shield. The shield would wary in shape and size, but definetively be more protection than a dagger. For example arrows and such. Also properly used shield protects the swordhand even during an attack. When the shields went a bit out of fashion, it was not replaced with a dagger or a nother sword, but by a longer (single) sword that could be weilded by two hands. The two handed sword gave its user longer reach, more leveradge and more accurate control. Fine trade of, especially since the plate armour was invented along. So no shield was necessary any more. Of course most common soldiers with a one hand sword and not much armour would also utilise a small buckler, wich is a lot easier to carry around everywhere they took the sword (like a pub), than a full sized shield.

Of course, a person who has the one handed sword and has lost his shield, or did not carry one in the first place, could take a dagger to the other hand to “improve his chanses”. A dagger would also be used on an enemy that was too close to be hit effectively with the sword. In battle and judical combat the dagger would be for the coup de grace, when the fully armoured enemy was allreadydown, it was simply easier to hit the narrow slits of visor or other weakpoints of the suit of armour. Third reason not to use a second weapon even when you have a one handed sword and no shield, is that you might need your other hand in the fight. It might be more usefull to you for grapling the enemy or his weapons. In fact there are several techniques in the medieval fighting manuals that employ the other hand. This is forbidden in many re-enactment rules and could be the reason why someone might rather choose a second weapon for a re-enactment fight.

Fourth, but not the least reason could be, not spending much time to learn how to wield two swords, is that it would be a damn nuisance to carry around two swords. It would be especially difficult to mount a horse with a sword hanging on warriors right hip. And as we know: all medieval warriors knew how to ride a horse. Oh by the way, there are no sources for carrying swords strapped to a warroirs back, or do you know any? Why not? Well, it is not really as handy as it would seem, until you tried it out.

There are also other weapons that are used along the sword by the re-enactors. The axe is often employed by viking re-enactors, and who is to say it was not used by vikings together with sword. We have wery limited sources on viking skill of arms anyhow. In my opinion however as a pair the sword would be for defence and the axe for attack. The swordhand is woulnerable whitout the shield, but the axehand is even more so. The axe is more cumbersome than the sword, having its balancepoint so far from the hand. And in my opinion here also we are speaking of a rare case of accident, rather than weapons of choise. Vikings had shields, you see. Whitout a shield a man is wery woulnerable to arrows and casted spears alike. While a shield could of course break, one had to do whith what was left.

In my opinion spear and sword would be much likelier pair. In medieval manuscripts depicting judical combat the warroirs often start with a spear, a shield and a sword. The spear is most often casted towards the enemy in the beginnign, but they were also used in conjunction. Not in separate hands, but rather both with wide two-hand grip.

What ever the true reasons for not using two swords in conjunction, the fact remains, that there are no historical sources for such. No swordsmanship manuals or even pictorial evidence, not from miniature paintings nor from church paintings. Or do you know any?