The Sarissa, The Primary Weapon of the Hoplite

English: Museum Quintana. Bronze age spear hea...

English: Museum Quintana. Bronze age spear head and axe. Deutsch: Museum Quintana. Speerspitzen und Beil aus der Bronzezeit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) The one on the left is the sarissa spear head.

One half of a bronze mold for casting a socket...

One half of a bronze mold for casting a socketed spear head dated to the period 1400-1000 BC. There are no known parallels for this mold. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deutsch: Makedonische Phalanx Ελληνικά: Μακεδο...

Deutsch: Makedonische Phalanx Ελληνικά: Μακεδονική φάλαγγα Македонски: Македонска фаланга English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the phalanx formation, the hoplites were virtually safe from any infantry or cavalry behind their bristling hedge of spears, or sarissas, which were about 18 feet long, with razor-sharp spearheads at the end. These spearheads had to be strong and hard, to withstand whatever force that cared to attack the “bristling hedge”. The best metal available for this was bronze.

Bronze is very hard and brittle, and Iron would be ideal, but was not used because it smelted at a much higher temperature than people knew how to create at that time. Once it became widely available, though, Iron replaced bronze and became the metal of use in ancient Greece. The period when bronze was the most useful and used metal available was called the bronze age. When iron came into widespread use it is known as the iron age.

The spear heads were made by being cast into molds, metal molds that were made in two halves so they could be fixed together so the molten metal could be poured down, then, once it cooled and hardened, the halves are taken apart and there is a beautiful spearhead just ready to be sharpened and fixed to the end of a pole. If you ask me, a weapon is an enemy to whoever it’s pointed at, and a beauty to the maker.

These spearheads were very large and in the shape of leaves, but they sure didn’t feel like leaves! In case the enemy somehow manged to break the formation, the back of the spear had a smaller head called the sauroter, lizard-killer, so-called because as well as being helpful if the enemy gets past, it enables the spear to be stuck into the ground (hence the name) when setting up camp, or if something especially “jolty” comes against the Phalanx.

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