Your back-up piece!

The dagger has been around in some incarnation or another since the beginning of mankind.  Neolithic times found early man making daggers from bone, ivory or flint.  Much like those early battle axes, the dagger was a stabbing or thrusting tool more so then one designed to cut or slash.  Metal daggers appeared in the early Bronze Age and were made out of copper.  The dagger was smaller and was easier for the people to make.  The bronze age dagger held sway for years before the sword made its appearance.
When you move into the iron age, the dagger never loses its place in society or in warfare.  The Roman legionaries carried an iron thrusting dagger.  The dagger was a common carry by the populace of many people around the world, with it being not only a status symbol but a weapon of defense.  For a time, before the Middle Ages, the dagger fell out of fashion.  It was replaced by a cutting knife and thus the difference is seen, the dagger is for thrusting while the knife is for cutting.

Here are some basic characteristics for a dagger (they don’t always apply but in general):  full crossgaurd, double edged, blade between 6-12 inches.

Now, before someone freaks out about the length, here is the general idea that I use when I determine ‘what’ something is:

  • 1 edge, 1-8 inches – knife
  • 2 edges, 6-12 inches – dagger
  • 2 edges, 12-24 inches – large dagger or short sword
  • 2 edges, larger then 24 inches – sword

Now there are daggers that step outside of this paradigm but this is a good model to follow.

Dagger as ONLY Weapon
Usually seen when thieves, spies or assassins come into play, the dagger as a primary weapon is seen throughout history.  The assassin loves the dagger as a weapon.  Fast, easy to conceal and deadly, 12 inches of steal concealed under a cloak.  These styles of daggers, are utilitarian.  The crossgaurd is not overly long but long enough to protect the hand.  The Blade is thick and made for thrusting.

Dagger with Sword
This is probably the dagger style and style of fighting that most people are familiar with. Used with a sword, the dagger became the secondary weapon for people from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance.  And even though the swords changed from longswords to rapiers, the dagger stayed the same.  Whether the dagger is just a dagger or a main-gauche (left-hand dagger) the dagger was the perfect pairing with the sword.  As the main weapon was usually first to be drawn, the dagger could be the deciding factor.  If the swordsmen were well matched, whomever was quicker or more skilled with a dagger might be the one to draw first blood or inflict the final wound.