Various of the native peoples of Iberia were distinguished by a special instrument or mode of fighting. Strabo says that the Iberians as a general rule employed two lances and a sword. Those of Lusitania were especially adroit in hurling darts. Each of their warriors kept a number of these darts contained within his shield. Upon the head they wore a helmet of a primitive pattern strapped beneath the chin. This helmet, called the bacula, protected all the wearer's face, and had a mitred shape, with three red feathers on the crest. Together with these arms, the Lusitanians used a copper-headed lance and the typical form of Celtiberian sword. More singular and celebrated in their mode of fighting were the Balearic islanders, who carried, through persistent exercise, the art of slinging stones and leaden plummets to the utmost limit of perfection. The beaches of these islands, we are told, abounded, then as now, in small, smooth pebbles, "weapons of Nature's own contrivance," rarely suited to the sling.1 These slings were of three patterns, severally designed for near, far, and middling distances. The lead or stone projectile sometimes weighed a pound. Accordingly - so strenuous was their zeal to be unrivalled in the practice of this arm - even as little children the Baleares went without their dinner, till, with the formidable funda in their hand, they struck the stick their parents planted for them in the soil. Pliny and Polybius, notwithstanding, state that the sling itself was not indigenous in this region, but imported from Phoenicia. However this may be, the islanders within a little time contributed to swell the power of the Roman legions.
1 Descripciones de las Islas Pithiusas y Baleares. Madrid, 1787.
The Visigoths continued using many of the Roman or Ibero-Roman arms. Nevertheless, the solid armour of the Romans, such as their greaves and thigh-pieces and breastplates, was now replaced by primitive chain-mail resembling scales of fishes. According to Saint Isidore, Procopius, and other writers, the favourite weapons of the Spanish Visigoths were the sword or spatha, long, broad-bladed, with a double edge; the hatchet, the bow, the sling, the lance, the scythe, the mace, the pilum or javelin (used extensively in Spain throughout the Middle Ages),1 the dolou, a tight breeches, and high boots, and carried, besides the sword which was slung from their belts, a large, oval shield.1
1 A javelin made throughout of iron was found in Spain some years ago, completely doubled up, so as to admit of its being thrust dagger which concealed itself within a wooden staff, and took the name of "treacherous" or "wily" from this circumstance; and the conto, a keenly pointed pike. We also find among the military engines of the Visigoths the balista, for hurling stones and darts of large size, and the ariete or battering-ram, constructed from a gnarled and powerful tree-trunk braced with iron and suspended by a cable. Their defensive body-armour consisted of a coat of mail composed of bronze or iron scales, and called the loriga or perpunte. This was worn above the thoracho-machus, a kind of tunic made of felt, in order to shield the body from the roughness of the mail. Upon their heads they wore an ample helmet.
A fragment of stone carving preserved in Seville museum shows us two Visigothic Spanish warriors who wear a tunic and helmet of a simple pattern, and carry a two-edged sword and a large shield. Garcia Llanso says, however, that the nobles of this people wore close-fitting mail tunics covered with steel scales, a kind of bronze bassinet, into a burial urn. The javelin in question is now in the Madrid museum, and a similar weapon may be seen in the provincial museum of Granada.
Spanish Crossbowman (Late 15th Century. Royal Armoury. Madrid)
From about the time of the Moorish invasion, the changes in the arms and armour of the Spaniards coincided in the main with those in other parts of western Europe. Nevertheless, as late as the eleventh century the Spanish sword retained the characteristic which had endeared it to the Roman legionaries - namely, a hilt of small dimensions and a broad and shortish blade. In course of time the blade grows narrower and begins to taper towards the point. The quillons or crossbars (Spanish arriaces, from the Arabic arrias, a sword-hilt) were originally straight or semicircular, and ended in a knob (manzana, literally "apple"; Latin pomum, English pommel). Thus, in the Poem of the Cid we find the verse: -
"Las manzanas e los arriaces todos de oro son"
Throughout these early times the scabbard was of wood lined with leather or with velvet, and strengthened and adorned with leather bands; but when the owner was of high estate, it often bore enamels in the cloisonne style; that is, with patches of the coloured, vitreous substance bordered and fastened in by metal wire. In Spain this style, undoubtedly of foreign origin, was superseded in the thirteenth century by champleve enamelling, in which the enamel lies within a hollowed ground.
1 Historia General del Arte: Garcia Llanso; Armas, pp. 439, 440.
Spanish mediaeval weapons down to the fourteenth century are specified in the fuero of Caceres and other documents contemporary with their use. Next always in importance to the sword we find the hatchet, lance, crossbow, and mace. Montaner's Chronicle of the Kings of Aragon tells us that the sovereign, mace in hand, dealt one of his enemies "such a blow upon his iron hat that his brains came oozing out at his ears." Covarrubias mentions a dart - shaped missile called the azcona - a word which some authorities derive from the Arabic, and others from the Basque gascona, an arm employed by the natives of Gascony. The former derivation seems the likelier. The fuero of Caceres mentions the taragulo, described by the Count of Clonard as a kind of dagger; and at the close of the thirteenth century appears in Spain the poniard, which was called among the Germans panzerbrecher, or "breaker of cuirasses," and among the French the misericorde.