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A mace is a blunt weapon, a type of club or virge that uses a heavy head on the end of a handle to deliver powerful strikes. The mace was chiefly used for blows struck upon the head of an enemy.[1] A mace typically consists of a strong, heavy, wooden or metal shaft, often reinforced with metal, featuring a head made of stone, bone, copper, bronze, iron, or steel.

The head of a military mace can be shaped with flanges or knobs to allow greater penetration of plate armour. The length of maces can vary considerably. The maces of foot soldiers were usually quite short (two or three feet, or sixty to ninety centimetres). The maces of cavalrymen were longer and thus better suited for blows delivered from horseback. Two-handed maces could be even larger.

Maces are rarely used today for actual combat, but many government bodies (for instance, the British House of Commons and the U.S. Congress), universities and other institutions have ceremonial maces and continue to display them as symbols of authority. They are often paraded in academic, parliamentary or civic rituals and processions.

Etymology

The Middle English word "mace" comes from the French "masse" (short for "Masse d'armes") meaning ‘large hammer’, a hammer with a heavy mass at the end.

Prehistory

Calcite mace head, 7-6th millennium BC, Syria.
A prehistoric earthenware mace found in central Serbia.
Moche stone maces. Larco Museum Collection. Lima-Peru

The mace was developed during the Upper Paleolithic from the simple club, by adding sharp spikes of flint or obsidian.

In Europe, an elaborately carved ceremonial flint mace head was one of the artifacts discovered in excavations of the Neolithic mound of Knowth in Ireland, and <

The head of a military mace can be shaped with flanges or knobs to allow greater penetration of plate armour. The length of maces can vary considerably. The maces of foot soldiers were usually quite short (two or three feet, or sixty to ninety centimetres). The maces of cavalrymen were longer and thus better suited for blows delivered from horseback. Two-handed maces could be even larger.

Maces are rarely used today for actual combat, but many government bodies (for instance, the British House of Commons and the U.S. Congress), universities and other institutions have ceremonial maces and continue to display them as symbols of authority. They are often paraded in academic, parliamentary or civic rituals and processions.

The Middle English word "mace" comes from the French "masse" (short for "Masse d'armes") meaning ‘large hammer’, a hammer with a heavy mass at the end.

Prehistory

Calcite mace head, 7-6th millennium BC, Syria.
A prehistoric earthenware mace found in central Serbia.
Moche stone maces. Larco Museum Collection. Lima-Peru

The mace was developed during the Upper Paleolithic from the simple club, by adding sharp spikes of flint or The mace was developed during the Upper Paleolithic from the simple club, by adding sharp spikes of flint or obsidian.

In Europe, an elaborately carved ceremonial flint mace head was one of the artifacts discovered in excavations of the Neolithic mound of Knowth in Ireland, and Bronze Age archaeology cites numerous finds of perforated mace heads.

In ancient Ukraine, stone mace heads were first used nearly eight millennia ago. The others known were disc maces with oddly formed stones mounted perpendicularly to their handle. The Narmer Palette shows a king swinging a mace. See the articles on the Narmer Macehead and the Scorpion Macehead for examples of decorated maces inscribed with the names of kings.

The problem with early maces was that their stone heads shattered easily and it was difficult to fix the head to the wooden handle reliably. The Egyptians attempted to give them a disk shape in the predynastic period (about 3850–3650 BC) in order to increase their impact and even provide some cutting capabilities, but this seems to have been a short-lived improvement.

A rounded pear form of mace head known as a "piriform" replaced the disc mace in the Naqada II period of pre-dynastic Upper Egypt (3600–3250 BC) and was used throughout the Naqada III period (3250–3100 BC). Similar mace heads were also used in Mesopotamia around 2450–1900 BC. On a Sumerian Clay tablet written by the scribe Gar.Ama, the title Lord of the Mace is listed in the year 3100 BC.[2] The Assyrians used maces probably about nineteenth century BC and in their campaigns; the maces were usually made of stone or marble and furnished with gold or other metals, but were rarely used in battle unless fighting heavily armoured infantry.

An important, later development in mace heads was the use of metal for their composition. With the advent of copper mace heads, they no longer shattered and a better fit could be made to the wooden club by giving the eye of the mace head the shape of a cone and using a tapered handle.

The Shardanas or warriors from Sardinia who fought for Ramses II against the Hittities were armed with maces consisting of wooden sticks with bronze heads. Many bronze statuettes of the times show Sardinian warriors carrying swords, bows and original maces.

Antiquity

During the Romans did not make wide use of maces, probably because of the influence of armour, and due to the nature of the Roman infantry's fighting style which involved the pilum (spear) and the gladius (short sword used in a stabbing fashion), though auxiliaries from Syria Palestina were armed with clubs and maces at the battles of Immae and Emesa in 272 AD. They proved highly effective against the heavily armoured horsemen of Palmyra.

During the Middle Ages metal armour such as mail protected against the blows of edged weapons.[3] Solid metal maces and war hammers proved able to inflict damage on well armoured knights, as the force of a blow from a mace is great enough to cause damage without penetrating the armour. Though iron became increasingly common, copper and bronze were also used, especially in iron-deficient areas.

One example of a mace capable of penetrating armour is the flanged mace. The flanges allow it to dent or penetrate thick armour. Flange maces did not become popular until after knobbed maces. Although there are some references to flanged maces (bardouk

One example of a mace capable of penetrating armour is the flanged mace. The flanges allow it to dent or penetrate thick armour. Flange maces did not become popular until after knobbed maces. Although there are some references to flanged maces (bardoukion) as early as the Byzantine Empire c. 900[4] it is commonly accepted that the flanged mace did not become popular in Europe until the 12th century, when it was concurrently developed in Russia and Mid-west Asia.[citation needed]

Maces, being simple to make, cheap, and straightforward in application, were quite common weapons.

It is popularly believed that maces were employed by the clergy in warfare to avoid shedding blood (sine effusione sanguinis).[5] The evidence for this is sparse and appears to derive almost entirely from the depiction of Bishop Odo of Bayeux wielding a club-like mace at the Battle of Hastings in the Bayeux Tapestry, the idea being that he did so to avoid either shedding blood or bearing the arms of war.[citation needed]

Maces were very common in eastern Europe, especially medieval Poland, Ukraine, and Russia.[6] Eastern European maces often had pear shaped heads. These maces were also used by the Moldavian ruler Stephen the Great in some of his wars (see Bulawa).

The mace is also the favourite weapon of Prince Marko, a hero in South Slavic epic poetry.

The pernach was a type of flanged mace developed since the 12th century in the region of Kievan Rus', and later widely used throughout the whole of Europe. The name comes from the Slavic word pero (перо) meaning feather, reflecting the form of pernach that resembled a fletched arrow. Pernachs were the first form of the flanged mace to enjoy a wide usage. It was well suited to penetrate plate armour and chain mail. In the later times it was often used as a symbol of power by the military leaders in Eastern Europe.[7]

Pre-Columbian America

Maces in Asia were most often steel clubs with a

Maces in Asia were most often steel clubs with a spherical head. They were used mainly in South and East Asia. In India a form of these clubs was used by wrestlers to exercise the arms and shoulders. They have been known as gada since ancient times.

During the Mughal era, the flanged mace of Persia was introduced to South Asia. The term shishpar originates from the Indo-Iranian word used for sharp edged mountains in the Hindu Kush. The shishpar mace was introduced by the During the Mughal era, the flanged mace of Persia was introduced to South Asia. The term shishpar originates from the Indo-Iranian word used for sharp edged mountains in the Hindu Kush. The shishpar mace was introduced by the Delhi Sultanate and continued to be utilized until the 18th century.

Indian shishpar (flanged mace), all steel construction, with eight knife edged, hinged flanges, 18th-19th century, 26 inches long.

  • India

    Indian shishpar (flanged mace), steel with solid shaft and eight flanged head, 24in.

  • Indian (Deccan) tabar-shishpar, an extremely rare combination tabar axe and shishpar ei

    Indian (Deccan) tabar-shishpar, an extremely rare combination tabar axe and shishpar eight flanged mace, steel with hollow shaft, 21.75 in. 17th to 18th century.

  • Modern era

    Trench raiding clubs used during World War I were modern variations on the medieval mace. They were homemade mêlée weapons used by both the Allies and the Central Powers. Clubs were used during night time trench raiding expeditions as a quiet and effective way of killing or wounding enemy soldiers.

    Makeshift maces were also found in the possession of some football hooligans in the 1980s.[8]

    In 2020 China–India skirmishes personnel of People's Liberation Army Ground Force were seen using makeshift maces (batons wrapped in barbed wire and clubs embedded with nails).[9][10]

    Ceremonial use

    Makeshift maces were also found in the possession of some football hooligans in the 1980s.[8]

    In 2020 China–India skirmishes personnel of People's Liberation Army Ground Force were seen using makeshift maces (batons wrapped in barbed wire and clubs embedded with nails).[9][10]

    Maces have had a role in ceremonial practices over time, including some still in use today.

    Parliamentary maces

    Ceremonial maces are important in many parliaments following the Westminster system. They are carried in by the sergeant-at-arms or some other mace-bearers and displayed on the clerks' table while parliament is in session to show that a parliament is fully constituted. They are removed when the session ends. The mace is also removed from the table when a new speaker is being elected to show that parliament is not ready to conduct business.

    Mace of the Royal Society, granted by Charles II.

    Ceremonial maces are important in many parliaments following the Westminster system. They are carried in by the sergeant-at-arms or some other mace-bearers and displayed on the clerks' table while parliament is in session to show that a parliament is fully constituted. They are removed when the session ends. The mace is also removed from the table when a new speaker is being elected to show that parliament is not ready to conduct business.

    ceremonial mace is a short, richly ornamented staff often made of silver, the upper part of which is furnished with a knob or other head-piece and decorated with a coat of arms. The ceremonial mace was commonly borne before eminent ecclesiastical corporations, magistrates, and academic bodies as a mark and symbol of jurisdiction.

    Parade maces

    drum major will signal specific orders to the band they lead. The mace can signal anything from a step-off to a halt, from the commencement of playing to the cut off.

    University maces

    Ceremonial maces of the Rector Magnificus of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines.
    University maces are employed in a manner similar to Parliamentary maces. They symbolize the authority and independence of a chartered university and the authority vested in the provost. They are typically carried in at the beginning of a convocation ceremony and are often less than half a meter high.

    Heraldic use