Deadliest Warrior: Knight Vs. Spartan

May 12, 2010

Hello gentlemen. I wrote a blog here a while back when SpikeTV aired the Knight Vs. Pirate episode, and that can be found here ( What I'm jabbering about here today is more about the same show, only concerning the wrap up episode at the begginning of the second season. I'll start by saying that I recognize that the show is supposed to be entertainment, and it gets that done well enough. The whole concept is something that is really a little ridiculous to begin with, but I feel it's worth poking at regardless.

In the wrap up episode of Deadliest Warrior (Entitled "Back for Blood") the show matched up what they saw as the winners of season one in two categories; ancient and modern, decided by the presence of black powder or the absence thereof. My concern is the ancient bracket. The show reasoned the bracket down to Spartan and Samurai, and discounted all the featured warriors that had been "defeated". My focus here is the elimination of the Knight by the Pirate. If you read my other article you'll already know my, and many others, opinions on that matter. Regardless of what I think, the show made a distinction between the ancient and the modern, yet still mixed them in the match ups. That alone should've put the Knight back in the ancient bracket. I'm now going to examine what would have taken place had the Knight been factored in as he ought to have been. I would be thrilled if someone representing the show addressed this in a blog, or better yet a short video, but I realize that is asking way too much.

Given that most of the shows experts are actually semi-educated stuntmen, I'm going to also examine this from a different perspective and ditch the weapon vs. weapon system. The Knight's roster of weapons is a little jumbled, and there are at least two weapons included that he would not actually have used. Barry, the Spartan Expert, actually got the Spartan weapons just right, so they won't be needing any adjustments. Although the Samurai is an amazing warrior typically (All warrior classes had their degenerates, and we tend to like to examine the upstanding examples) he is not suited to do battle with warriors armed in metal plate. It's got nothing to do with skill, only that his weapons are not suited to combat them, and there is not reason they should be...the samurai, afterall, did evolve fighting themselves in relative isolation, and did that with deadly precision and tools to match.


Much of what the show portrayed knights to be was not exactly spot on. It did however manage to give the European knight more credit than most myth raped view points do, and for that I give them credit. Before we examine the knight we have to decide when and where our knight is from, and the show has already taken care of most of this for us. The show seemed to want a Knight from the early 15th century, meaning he would be well equipped with a full harness (suit of armor), a hand and a half sword (The show used the misnomer "Broadsword"), a pollaxe (The show used the misnomer "Halberd), and a rondel dagger. The show placed the knight on foot, so he would most likely be an English Knight, though he could technically have been from any western or southern European country.

The Knight was trained for his purpose just as well as a Samurai or Spartan would have been, being taken from his household at a young age (6-8 years of age) and likely put in a relative's noble house for education and military training. Europe had its own system of martial arts, much like any professional warrior class. This would have included horsemanship, training with an array of weapons, and hand to hand combat and wrestling. Search for the ARMA or WMA on google to look further into these medieval fighting arts.

A knight, contrary to what was portrayed on the show, was on average, not a fanatical christian crusader. Many Knights behaved secularly and could have focused on anything from self betterment to plain and simple monetary gain. Now that we have our man cut out, I will examine his equipment to give you a good idea of what he might have functioned like.


A pollaxe is what the show called a halberd. It is a long shafted weapon, with a steel head that is a combination of spear (which is perfectly ridged for attempting to pierce armor of any sort), axe, hammer, and alternatively a back spike. This weapon was usually the Knight's primary weapon, and was perfectly suited for combating other warriors, especially armored ones. What this weapon could do to an unarmored warrior is visible from the weapons demo given on the show. It's ridged spike and hammer would have been its most effective assets against an armored warrior.




A knight's secondary weapon is The hand and a half sword (Also known as a bastard sword, longsword, or sword of war) is a sword anywhere from 43 inches to about 48 inches in length that in the period we are examing would have begun to see a sharp tapering in blade shape and would have become slightly, although not unreasonably, more ridged than in the past. A good example of a European longsword is an amazingly versatile sword, excelling at both the cut and thrust, and use as a tool for guarding. It is not ideal for fighting against full plate armor, but does very well for a secondary weapon and can be made through halfswording (A style of holding the sword when combating another armored warrior, in which the blade as held at the half point to attain better control over the point of the sword) to seek out the few open parts in another Knight's armor. On rare occasional halfswording can even lead to piercing a medieval breastplate, though this is highly impractical against a moving target. The longsword would have been more often used in two hands during this time period, as plate armor serves to make a shield less needed. It could, and would have, still be used with a shield, especially when used by a less armored warrior. We will assume that our knight is choosing to use his in two hands, as he is equipped with a full harness and pollaxe, which requires the use of both hands.



The rondell dagger is a knight's trietary weapon, and often put to use when fighting comes to grappling, a common occurence when both warriors are heavily armored. It is short and extremely ridged. It is called the rondell because of the two rondell discs that make up the hilt and pommell. They aid in controlling the weapon when puncturing.



A knight's harness, or armor, is possibly his most important assett behind his training. The armor is nearly complete during this time period, allowing for very few openings, the only two directly open are under the arm pits, often guarded by a another steel disk called a besagew, and the back of the knee, an area not easily reached. He is the equal of several, upon several less armored men in a battle. Contrary to what used to be popular belief the armor worn by a knight was not all that encumbering or heavy. A field harness is an average of 40-50 pounds distributed over the body...significantly less than a modern infantryman manages to fight with undistributed. This plate armor defeated most conventional weaponry of the time, even with the advanced metallurgy compared to previous centuries. A knight may or may not still wear a full hauberk of maille (chainmail) under his plate armor, and it is more likely that he would forgo it during this time period for patches of maille protecting his few open areas, making him that much more agile. Beneath his plate, and possible maille, he wears a lightly padded gambeson. This is a less heavy quilted armor than used in previous centuries, though it still serves as an effective defense against projectiles, and absorbs the shock of blunt weapons. The knight's bascinet (or Helmet) is visored during this time period and can be raised or lowered by toggle. Over his cuirass a knight would likely wear a short surcoat bearing his coat of arms.  A Spartan's iron and bronze weaponry would not only be unable to harm the Knight most of the time, but would actually be severly damaged it if made contact with the Knight's plate.


The Spartan has been examined fairly accurately on the show actually. He is certainly the warrior who has been the best researched by the shows associates. However, he is somewhat overblown generally. This, in my own opinion, is due to the recent popularity of the film 300, and the older battle of thermopylae. Do not mistake what I'm saying here. The Spartan is a prime warrior, and one of the greatest military professionals the world has ever seen in my opinion. However, the Spartan specialists seem to have convinced everyone that each Spartan is a superman. This simply isn't true. The battle of Thermopylae was also not 300 against over a million as often thought. Truthfully the Spartan army was aided by other Greeks resulting in a total of roughly 6000 to 7000 greeks against 70,000-300,000 mostly poorly trained Persians. I don't mean to discredit the Spartan culture, or say that the battle of Thermopylae was a joke. It wasn't. It is an excellent example of a well armed, very well trained, patriotic army defending extremely successfully. The Spartan people were, however, human like any other warrior people. The way Barry, the  somewhat overzealous Spartan expert portrayed the Spartan warrior around the time period of 450 B.C. using his weapons is generally accurate to my eye, and his information is as good as what I could list here.I imagine that with the obbession of Thermopylae period Spartans, the show will surely be drawing their example from that time period, if not that particular battle.

All of that being said, the Spartan is equipped in bronze armor; greaves, cuirass, corinthian helm, and most importantly, his shield which is a combination of bronze and wood. His sword is iron, not steel, and he has a bronze tipped spear which is suited for defeating the armor of the time.


Now that we've arrived at the conflict itself, there really is not all that much to say. The Spartan is almost 1000 years behind in technology, and adapted to a very different kind of warrior than an English Knight or Man at Arms on foot would have been accustomed to. The Spartan's weapons are not suited for getting through plate armor, and could actually be significantly damaged by the Knights arms or armor. The spartan's shield is still perfectly useful. Steel will not cut bronze like paper, however it is true that a man wielding an aspis, such as a Spartan would use, would likely tire long before the knight did because of his gear. Especially when attempting to defend from another professional warrior using absolutely superior weapons. The knight's pollaxe could easily defeat bronze armor by way of spear point, backspike, or hammer, the sword less so, though it could still viably be of use, especially if halfsworded. It is an unfair encounter seperated by years of metallurgical advancement and differently adapted warfare. Both men flourished in battle and can be considered of roughly equal skill, but because of the superior equipment used by a knight on foot, he would come out victorious. The medieval Knight is the most effective ancient warrior featured on the show when matched against the others in single combat. It's unfortunate that the show didn't even discuss his inclusion, and I hope that perhaps this article will at least garner a little online discussion here. I hope you enjoyed the article, let me know your thoughts.