What is a Sparth Axe?

Here at Arms and Armor we are often asked about various weapons that folks have heard of, but want to know more about. The so-called sparth axe is just such a case in point.  
Irish Axe arms and armor
Arms and Armor Irish Axe
Although it is a common historical term for a large fighting axe, there really isn't much written about these weapons in commonly available reference texts.  In "European Weapons and Armor From the Renaissance to the Instustrial Revolution" Oakeshott makes passing reference to sparth axes in his discussion of the development of the halberd, and of the horseman's axe.  
Sparth Axe by Arms & Armor
A custom bardiche by Arms and Armor
He says that sparth axes are an English description of pretty much any fighting axe, and probably derived from the large Dane axes of the 11th century.  
dane axe
Arms and Armor Dane Axe
In "Hafted Weapons in Medieval and Renaissance Europe", one of the more comprehensive and authoritative texts on the subject, there is no mention at all of the sparth axe, despite substantial analysis of related weapons such as halberds and bardiches.  
arms and armor Hungarian axe
Arms and Armor Hungarian Axe
George Stone's modestly titled "A Glossary Of The Construction, Decoration, And Use of Arms And Armor In All Countries And In All Times", simply tells us that a sparth is "an Anglo-Saxon battle axe", with no other elaboration. 
Custom sparth axe by Arms & Armor Inc.
Another custom bardiche axe
13th C depiction of Sparth Axe or Bardiche guys with axes
Are they sparths?
So what is a sparth? Check out the video for some discussion, and maybe even some answers...
new vid w/ adjusted audio
divider swords

Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.

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