The mace from the medieval fortress Peristitsa

In the medieval section of the exhibition hall of IM-Perushtitsa is presented a wonderfully preserved mace (its metal part) with an oval warhead, found in the area of the fortress Peristitsa (VI-XIV century). The fortress, which protected the local road in this part of the Rhodopes since the time of Justinian I, was rebuilt into a real military fortress from the XII century. The first written information about her dates back to that time. Most likely, the artifact shown would have been part of the armament of a soldier from the protective garrison. The mace (consisting of a handle and a metal warhead of various shapes) is a type of offensive weapon, the prototype of which is considered to be widespread among the general population, the so-called wooden crook (sopa). In the Byzantine army, maces gradually became a preferred part of the equipment of heavily armed cavalry (cataphractaries), especially in the period X-XII century. In certain situations, the weapon is also used as a general's staff, acquiring a characteristic symbolic meaning. The length of the rod in maces varies from 60 to 80 cm, less often a meter or more, and the spherical shape is found mainly in metal warheads. It is possible that the impact part is additionally supplied with iron spikes or thorns, causing even more injuries.


The main function of the weapon is to strike at the enemy's armor. The aim is to hit the helmet, shoulders and arms of the enemy, and the goal is, if not to kill, then at least to be stunned and out of the battle line. This in turn had a negative effect on the morale of the enemy army, which in turn affected the outcome of the battle. A weak enemy is dealt a fatal blow, but it is possible that a single blow will result in a fatal injury if the helmet gives way. The Byzantine chronicler Nikita Honiat, describing a victory of the Romans over the Hungarians in 1167, mentions that if a mace strike hit the head or face of the enemy, it would be devastating. In combat, however, maces are also used as effective throwing weapons, replacing the earlier plumbatae (ie special, as opposed to ordinary) throwing arrows and their two varieties.


In the late Roman army, these arrows were used by both light (levis armatura) and heavily armed units (gravis armatura). Soldiers from the first had to throw them against the enemy from the fourth battle line, and the others carried 5 plumbatae in the bulge of their shields, and shortly before the start of the battle they had to throw them. The first species (p.tribulata), characterized by its piercing power, consisted of a wooden handle ending in a conical metal tip with a lead weight on its neck. At its other end were feathers, the function of which was to ensure a straight and even flight. There was enough space between the feathers and the handle to hold the weapon when throwing. In the second species (p.mamillata), the neck was provided with multiple blades or spikes protruding in all directions. Such a plumbata, which fell to the ground - whether after hitting its target or after an unsuccessful throw - could be trapped by its spikes if an enemy soldier stepped on it. Characteristic of the listed weapons is that they did not behave like a throwing spear - in the middle of the handle, with a blade aimed at the enemy, and at the end, as the metal part (head) when thrown remained behind the body, pointing in the opposite direction. the goal. The throwing function of the mace is also confirmed by a written source from the X century - the book Vita Basilii, written by Constantine VII Crimson (945-959). The author tells of a hunt from the time of Michael III (843-867), in which his grandfather, the future emperor Basil I, also took part. In the description of the incident, it becomes clear that using the imperial bardukion the head accidentally appeared in the way of the wolf horsemen. This scene is depicted in the Madrid manuscript of Skilitza, where the shape of the bardukion stands out well.


Like many other weapons, maces were attached either to the belt or to the saddle of the horse. There were also special cases for them.

Author: Mario Jasim