- This article is about the personal weapon and its ceremonial derivative, for other meanings of mace please see mace (disambiguation)
An advance on the club, a mace is a wooden, metal-reinforced, or metal shaft, with a head made of stone, copper, bronze, iron or steel. The head is normally about or slightly thicker than the diameter of the shaft, shaped with flanges, knobs or spikes to allow greater penetration of armour. The length of maces can vary considerably. The maces of foot soldiers were usually quite short (two or three feet). The maces of cavalrymen were longer and better designed for blows from horseback. Two-handed maces ("mauls") could be even larger. The flail is often incorrectly called a mace.
History of the mace
The mace was first developed around 12,000 BC and quickly became an important weapon. These first wooden maces, studded with flint or obsidian became less popular due to the development of leather armour that could absorb the blows. Some maces had stone heads.
The discovery of copper and bronze made the first genuine metal maces possible.
The ancient world
One of the earliest images of a mace- or club-like weapon is on the Narmer Palette. Maces were used extensively in the bronze age in the near east.
The mace passed out of general use in the iron age, where swords, spears and axes became the dominant weapons. The ancient Romans did not use maces, probably because they had no need for a heavy, armor-smashing weapon.
The armies of the Byzantine Empire used maces, especially from horseback.
The European Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages metal armour and chainmail did much to blunt the blows of edged weapons and block arrows and other projectiles. Solid metal maces and war hammers proved able to inflict damage on well armoured knights, however, as the force of a blow from a mace would not need to puncture any armor.
Maces, being simple to make, cheap and straightforward in application, were quite common weapons. Peasant rebels and cheap conscript armies often had little more than maces, axes and pole arms. Few of these simple maces survive today. Most examples found in museums are of much better quality and often highly decorated.
Medieval bishops sometimes carried maces in battle instead of swords, so as to conform to the canonical rule which forbade priests to shed blood; unlike sword-strokes or thrusts from a spear, the blows from a mace could maim or kill without drawing blood. Bishop Odo of Bayeux appears on the Bayeux Tapestry wielding one at the Battle of Hastings (1066), but this practice does not appear to have been universal. Similarly, Archbishop Turpin wields one in The Song of Roland
Maces were very common in eastern Europe, especially medieval Poland and Russia. Eastern European maces often had pear
The cultures of pre-columbian America used clubs and maces extensively. The warriors of the Inca Empire used maces with stone or copper heads and wooden shafts.
The Aztecs used a type of wooden club with sharp obsidian blades on the side (the maquahuitl), which can be regarded as a cross between club and sword.
Mace-like weapons made a brief reappearance in the vicious trench warfare of World War I.
The mace as a real weapon went out of use with the disappearance of heavy armor. It gradually turned into the ceremonial mace, which was first a symbol of authority of military commanders. Ceremonial maces are still used to represent authority and prestige, as in the House of Commons in a Westminster System parliament, and at educational institutions such as Cornell University. Processions often feature such maces: either on parliamentary or in formal university occasions. The ecclesiastical equivalent of the mace-bearer, the dodsman, appears in church contexts. Many modern ceremonial maces, such as those used by university chancellors, have been so reduced from a fearsome weapon that they more resemble the large pepper grinders such as are used by serving staff in restaurants.