Swords built and demolished empires since the dawn of civilization to become one of the greatest weapons ever forged by men. Whenever famous swords are mentioned, many people think of Excalibur, the mystical sword of King Arthur. While Excalibur is all legend and no one has really seen it, some legendary swords revered for centuries still exist today. Some swords became so destructive that they accumulated legendary tales, most of which cannot be verified but we still respect the swords anyway. While the sword’s power lies in the skill of its wielder, these swords literally outlived their wielders and made a mark on their own in history.
1 Wallace’s Sword
This is one of the largest swords ever discovered in history, and no one can explain how sir. William Wallace even used it. The sword is 1.63 meters tall and weighs nearly 3 kilos meaning wielder would have to be a 7ft tall giant. No one really knows how tall William Wallace was, but scientists agree that an average Scottish man is about 5ft tall. William Wallace is one of the greatest heroes of Scottish independence, and he is believed to have used this sword to slay and scare the English. He alongside his friend Andrew Moray stood up to King Edward I of England in 1297 with an army of peasants and farmers defeating English forces in the War of Stirling bridge.
Wallace was however betrayed to the English by John de Menteith, a Scottish nobleman, and beheaded in London in 1305. Wallace’s famous sword was then given to Dumbarton Castle, then held by his betrayer as an appreciation from the king. It was transferred to the William Wallace Monument in Scotland in 1888 where it is on display as a symbol of freedom for Scottish people. It has since turned into a legend for many people who believe in it as the symbol of freedom fighters. Ethel Moorhead, the 20th-century fighter for Scottish women’s freedom smashed the sword’s case in 1912 to remind the government of women’s rights. The sword was stolen from the monument in 1936 and 1972 but it was returned both times by the thieves in response to the huge outcry.
2 The Sword of Goujian
This is the mystery sword from King Goujian of the ancient state of Yue, now Hubei province, which despite being in a marshy tomb for over 2500 years, showed no sign of rusting or scratching. The 55cm tall Sword was discovered in 1965 by a team of archeologists who were extracting artifacts from a newly discovered tomb of Jian. It is one of the weapons at the heart of Chinese mythology believed to have been the earliest ones used alongside the spear and the stuff. The sword was part of 2000 artifacts discovered, three more swords were discovered alongside it, but they had rusted and lost shape to time. This sword was however intact and sharp; it cut the archeologist that attempted to test its blade. Its resistance to the elements is still mysterious despite years of studying it.
The inscriptions on the blade were still intact translating to “The king of Yue made this for his personal use” The blade had a high concentration of copper and bronze which made it malleable while the edges were coated with tin which partially explains the resistance to corrosion. The sword also contained Sulphur. This combination of elements is not common for any known sword proving the blacksmith as a genius. Chinese Mythology refers to it as the gentleman of weapons and it is believed that Goujian used it to defeat his enemies to become the last Hegemon. It is now kept in the museum of Hubei province China as a national treasure.
3 Napoleon’s Sword
This is one of the most expensive artifacts in Europe. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is arguably the greatest military commander of medieval Europe. His sword was one of his most treasured possessions. He had the saber specially designed after his visit to Egypt where he noticed that the Egyptian curved swords were good at cutting off heads. The gold-encrusted sword was his primary weapon of choice alongside his pistol in his early expeditions even before he became an emperor. The sword is associated mainly with his victory at the battle of Marengo when he defeated the larger and better equipped Austrian army in Italy forcing them to flee and paving his way as the emperor of France.
The sword was lost many times in war but always traced its way back to him leading to its legendary fame. After becoming the emperor, he gave it to his brother as a wedding gift, and it had since stayed in the family through 1978 when it was declared a national treasure. It was bought back by his direct descendants for $3.6 million in 2007. As a national treasure of France, anyone owning it has to keep it in France for at least five months a year.
4 Tomoyuki Yamashita’s Sword
Singapore was the most treasured British Colony in Asia and well-guarded until the fearsome Tomoyuki Yamashita landed on the shores with his Samurai sword in 1942. Yamashita was a star general of the Japanese Imperial army sent to Singapore to fail by Hideki Tojo, his commanding officer, and arch enemy. His swift victory over the British gave him the name “Tiger of Malaya.” Every account of surviving soldiers carried the name of Yamashita’s sword leading to its fame. The British Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival was forced to surrender to Yamashita marking the worst humiliation to the allied forces in the war. Winston Churchill called Yamashita’s victory “The worst disaster and largest capitulation in British History.” Yamashita’s sword gained more fame through the War as he held onto Singapore until the surrender of the Japanese Imperial army in 1945.
When the allies turned the direction of the war, It was Yamashita’s turn to surrender his sword. General Percival was there to witness his surrender as the sword was taken by General Douglas McArthur who in turn gave it to the West Point military academy. Tomoyuki Yamashita was then prosecuted for war crimes and hanged in 1946. The sword was not delivered back to Japan after his death; It has however been passed through museums around the world as one of the greatest artifacts of World War II.
5 The Curved Saber of San Martin
Jose De San Martin or saint of the sword as many know him is the hero of South America’s fight for freedom. San Martin was a general in the Spanish Army until he resigned to fight for the freedom of his land of birth. On his way to Argentina, he made a stop in London and bought the sword which he considered a great weapon to arm the Calvary. He armed his men with a similar design throughout the independence wars in Argentina, Chile, and Peru and still had it at the Guayaquil Conference after independence. He was a warrior not interested in ruling, so he retired silently to a simple life in France.
His sword remained behind as a symbol of freedom as many people mystified it turning him into a legend. He willed the sword to Governor Manuel De Rosas of Argentina as an appreciation for his great service in rebuilding the freed Argentina. The sword had already been declared a national symbol of freedom and was delivered to the Argentina National History museum in 1897. It has since joined the list of priceless artifacts in South America.
6 The 7 Branched Sword
This is the mystical sword kept as part of the Japanese imperial regalia. It features three delicate branches on each side of the blade combining with the tip of the sword’s central blade to form 7 branches famously known as Nanatsusaya no Tachi in Japan. The sword is made of Iron but not designed for combat; it is just ceremonial. The inscriptions on the sword state that it contains magical powers to kill the enemies. It was given to the king of Japan by the crown prince of Baekje which is in modern-day South Korea during the Jin Dynasty of China around 369 AD. This sword is living proof that there was a relationship between the Koreas and Japan in those early days as opposed to most historical accounts. The sword is believed to be housed in Isonokami Shrine in Japan and not available to the public.
7 Tizona Sword of Cid
El Cid Capeador was a Castilian knight that rose to fame from the Court of King Ferdinand one to the king of Valencia in the late 11th century. His name El Cid is believed to represent both the Spanish and Arabic word for lord. He was a war champion for Both Spanish Christians, and Muslims have fought for both sides and establishing Valencia as a haven for both religions. His two swords, Colada, a two-handed sword and Tizona, the 75cm one-handed sword are both national treasures of Spain, but Tizona was the most feared.
Legend has it that when El Cid attacked the Moors, the sheer sight of Tizona was enough to prompt a quick surrender from his opponents. It is believed that King Ferdinand II of Aragon used the same sword to finally defeat the Moors years after El Cid’s death cementing its place in Spanish legend. It was kept in the National Museum in Madrid until the People of Burgos repurchased it to reside at the Burgos Museum, El Cid’s city of birth.
8 The Zulfiqar Scimitar
The Scimitar was the inspiration for the creation of curved swords (saber) in the west. Its origins lie in the middle east as the Ottomans used them many times in war depicting medieval Christian Muslim battles like the war between the straight sword and the curved sword. Scimitars were famous for their excellent ability to cut off heads, and the Zulfiqar remains the most popular of them all. It was given to Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib by the prophet Mohammed himself.
Prophet Mohammed had himself obtained the two-bladed sword after his victory in the battle of Badir. Ali had allegedly broken three swords in the fight after smashing many shields and was covered in blood. Ali later used the sword at during the siege of Medina, and it is believed by some Muslims to have been blessed by the power of the angel Michael to defend Ali and the prophet against enemy forces. There are no clear records of the sword’s current location, but it remains the most legendary for many Muslims around the world.
Charlemagne or Charles the great was the great king of France who united western Europe to form the greatest Christian empire after the fall of the Roman empire. He allegedly got the sword while on a journey from Spain to Frankia. The sword is associated with magical forces entrusted to Galas the great blacksmith who allegedly took three years to forge it. The term Joyeuse which is French for joy is linked to the name of the sword in the 11th-century song of Roland. Legends around the sword claim that it could change into 30 different colors a day and blind anyone that looked upon it.
Charlemagne once lost the sword in battle, and to the man who recovered it, he gave him the whole land of what is now the town of Joyeuse in Ardeche, France as an appreciation. After his death, tales of Joyeuse disappeared until 1207 when it was used to crown king Philip the bold. It has since been used to crown French kings, the last being King Charles X. It now resides at the Louvre museum in France.
10 The Sword of Mercy
This is one of the four swords used in the coronation of British Monarchs alongside the sword of temporal justice, the sword of spiritual justice and the sword of the state. It is a crown jewel of the United Kingdom, also called Curtana. The sword is believed to have been wielded by Edward, the confessor although some legends trace it back to Tristan, a knight of the round table in King Arthur’s inner circle. It is one of the few ancient British artifacts that survived the long civil war. While most swords are famous for their destruction, this sword is a symbol of mercy and compassion. Some legends say it was named the sword of mercy by Ogier the Viking who was told by a voice from heaven to show mercy while trying to strike Charlemagne for killing his son. The sword’s pointed peak was broken and later Squared off. Legends say that an angel broke it to avoid unnecessary killing. It resides in the London Tower alongside other crown jewels.