I have written a long article about the spear in my weaponry section. Refer to that for most of the detail on this weapon.

A hoplite was first and foremost a spearman. It is perhaps significant that there is no word in Greek for swordsman.

A hoplite’s spear was in the region of eight feet long, and had a head made in the early days of bronze, but for most of the classical period of iron. Since iron rusts, few survive. The shaft of the spear was round in cross section and typically made of ash wood, which is rare in Greece.

Coinciding with the introduction of the hoplite panoply, was the use of butt-spikes. These were typically square in cross-section, and between 2 and 8 inches long (one example was 15 inches – which makes me doubt that it was a butt-spike at all). They would prevent damp getting into the end of the spear so easily, which might cause it to rot. They would have acted a bit as counter-weights, but I doubt that this was an important function. They were used for stabbing downwards at the fallen. Often in art the butt-spike, or sauroter as it was called in Greek (literally “lizard killer”) is shown as the means of finishing off an opponent, the coup de grace if you like, this blow being delivered double-handed. Perhaps they could have been used for non-lethal slapping blows. They were also a back up to the main spearhead, and perhaps might allow a man to thrust backwards as well as forwards when surrounded.

One way to make the shaft is to get a length of ash, which comes from timber yards square in cross-section, and somehow round it off. There are machines which can do this efficiently, or you could do it with hand tools. The Greeks probably went to some trouble to get the spear-shafts nice and smooth, so the machine might give a more authentic result.

My spear-head is not forged, but was made in a rather easy cheats’ way. I bought the head of a tool designed for cutting the edges of lawns neatly. It is a socket, and a semi-circular blade. Simply cut the blade down to a spearhead shape. I removed the paint from the tool by placing the whole thing in a fire. Most modern examples of this tool are made from a flat sheet, and do not give the most authentic result. The old-fashioned sort was forged, and is stronger, more symmetrical, gives you a much more authentic spearhead, and is much more difficult to find.



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