Fencing: From ancient Egyptian swordplay to modern wooden fences

Fencing: From ancient Egyptian swordplay to modern wooden fences

08 Mar Fencing: From ancient Egyptian swordplay to modern wooden fences

At Zepco, we pride ourselves on our knowledge, skill and experience in residential wood fencing, commercial fences, ornamental fences and even fences made of PVC.  I guess you could say we are experts on all things related to fencing.

We really didn’t want there to be any exceptions to that statement, so we decided to brush up on what we know about the sport of fencing.

These days fencers wear protective clothing and are armed with either a foil, epee or sabre, but there was a time when swords were used as weapons, not sporting equipment. Most of us probably base our idea of swordplay on the image of the adventurous heroic feature made famous in the swashbuckling movies out of Hollywood – from Captain Blood with Errol Flynn to Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp.  In reality, swords were in use long before Errol  pulled on his boots or Johnny used eyeliner in becoming Captain Jack Sparrow.

The earliest evidence of swordplay dates back to the ancient Egyptians. A temple near Luxor that dates back to around 1190 BCE features carvings of fencers. As PopMatters notes in its roundup of The Top 10 Cinematic Swashbucklers of All Time, “Until gunpowder became the explosive du jour, a finely honed piece of metal was the answer and cause of all of life’s problems.”

In other words, fencing first emerged as a form of military training. The roots of the sport date back to the 14th or 15th century. The Italians claim they were the first to engage in fencing as an athletic pastime, but it was German fencing masters who organized the first fencing guilds in the 15th century.

Swords were still used as weapons when duels first became “a thing” during the 1500s. Our view of duels has become somewhat romanticized when seen through the veil of history, but in fact, these affairs were very physical and often quite bloody. That’s what happens when you pit two men with an axe to grind against each other and arm them with swords or metal-tipped poles.

The experts from the PBS series History Detectives report that, “Around 1750, men stop carrying rapiers, and guns became the weapon of choice for a duel. Various guns were used, until a true dueling pistol was officially standardized in 1777, as ‘a 9 or 10 inch barreled, smooth bore flintlock of 1 inch bore, carrying a ball of 48 to the pound.’ Often lavishly decorated, the pistols are made until dueling falls out of favor in the mid-1800s.”

Instead of fading into obscurity, fencing gained traction as a sport during the 17th and 18th centuries. The introduction of the foil, which is a weapon with a flattened tip, definitely helped. So did the use of wire-mesh masks to shield the competitors faces from injury.  Establishing rules governing the target area also went a long way toward ensuring that the competitors would survive to take the field once again.

Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about bodily harm or bloodshed when Zepco’s expert fencers show up to install your new residential wood fence.  We consider the installation to be the most important part of the job. That’s why we never use sub-contractors. Our crews and wooden fence installers have been with us for more than 10 years.  We think they’re the best in the business – and we hope you will, too.

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