In the armies of ancient Greece and Rome, with their dense battle formations, the main weapons were a spear and a sword, and not combat mounts. In close order, there was usually no place left for a swing with a battle ax, so the battle tactics determined the set of weapons of the soldiers.
Battle axes of the 6-14th centuries, proliferation, one-handed battle axes and large infantry axes.
On the contrary, among the Germanic tribes, often fighting in free formation or without it at all, with their addiction to individual fights during the battle, battle axes were a very popular type of weapon.
Therefore, after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the battle ax as a weapon became widespread among both infantry and cavalry. The reasons for the wide spread of the battle ax could be both its comparative cheapness with respect to the sword, and the personal preferences of the owner.
Battle axes of that period can be divided into two groups. The first group includes battle axes designed for one-handed combat. Such axes performed the same functions as the mace and klevets – counteracting an enemy well protected by armor.
As a rule, riders armed themselves with small hatchets with an elongated butt. In Russia, such a weapon was called coinage. One-handed ax was widely used in infantry, both by militias and professional soldiers.
The second group includes large infantry axes designed for two-handed combat. Such axes were widespread in Europe, especially in its northern regions, at a time when infantry was the main striking force, from about the 6th to 10th centuries.
At the same time, two-handed axes usually armed with selected soldiers, intended to break through the enemy system. They had to cut through enemy spears, breaching the rest of their fighters.
Reducing the role of battle axes with the spread of plate armor.
With the spread of plate armor, the role of the battle ax began to decrease gradually. An ax chopped chain mail better than a sword, however, it was much less effective against solid plate armor. Starting around the 13th century. the hatchet in the cavalry is gradually giving way to the shestoper and the man.
As an affordable melee weapon, the battle ax in the infantry continued to exist, but over time, the number of warriors armed with axes steadily decreased.
Based on the book Small Encyclopedia of Cold Steel.