This is an old faveorite of mine, that I often see misrepresented in the movies, on TV and the like. The rapier appeared in the early renaissance and was a civilian weapon. Contrary to popular belief, by modern standards it was a heavy and cumbersome sword, capable of attacks only and ill-suited to defense, a role usually relegated to the left hand or an auxiliary implement held in it. In time it evolved into the small-sword, a shorter and much faster weapon, one equally capable of attack and defense. It is unknown where the name rapier first came from, but it was adopted in England to be used to describe a civilian sword used primarily for dueling and self-defense, the word as no counterpart, as such swords were most often referred to simply as dress swords or side swords. The era of the rapier is best divided into three periods, the early, middle and the late. During the early period the sword was characterized mostly for its heavy cut and thrust. Into the middle period, the sword would start to come more into its own. The thrust was made more prominent, while the cut was to some degree still retained. Late 16th century master Capo Ferro held that the sword was sufficient for defense and that a technique should be developed to gain time, rather than develop pre-attack preparations. The later rapier era, also known as the transition period was rather short. During this time the cup hilt was made, the swords became lighter, and the blades shorter. The original or early rapier's were heavy and slow. They were as heavy as most single-handed swords or the day, and heavier then more modem calvary sabers. The more popular perception of the rapier comes more from the 19th century where sword play was considerably faster, so the film industry projects onto the Renaissance the fighting technique of later ages. The primary reason for the rapier's heft was because it was to be used in defense against robust blades and so it needed to be able to withstand against the onslaught. The edges of most rapier's served the purpose of delivering percussion cuts which made it a bigger risk for opponents to try and grab the blade with their hand. The blades of the early period tended to resemble broadswords. Later blades that nearly completely eliminated the cut began to take on a more slender look in contrast. In the middle period, the blades were pointed only at the ends, and was intended to only make very light cuts. As time passed the growing predominate in using the rapier for thrusting increased blade to blade action, which demanded a greater need for protection of the sword hand and the rather complex cup hilts that we are use to seeing today were developed. The need for a long slender blade that combined lightness with stiffness was the great challenge for swordsmiths. Whilst the role played by the cross section was fairly well understood by the beginning of the 16th century, the great difficulty was forging and heat treating such a slender blade, without warpage; Something that was not completely solved until the 19th century with the advent of the cannelured epee blade. In any event, as long as cutting was retained, not all that much could be done and throughout the rapier era the most common blade section was that of a diamond, reflecting a narrow version of the double edged broadsword blade. Later, as cutting edges were gradually discarded, fullers, raised ribs and other stiff but light cross sections became increasingly common.