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|Tom Kolb's spearhead is one of the best I've seen, from Manning Imperial. Just under 10" long, and the socket is about 7/8" diameter. Very light and nicely shaped.|
|My spearhead is 11" long overall, and was
hand-forged long ago by a fellow named Brock. (The 4
little circles are his maker's mark.)
|My second spearhead is ground down from an
old Museum Replicas "Large Spearhead", originally a
triangular 19-inch monster. I lopped 3" off the socket
and 4" off the blade, so now it's under a foot long and
looking quite nice. I thinned the blade some, and
reduced the ugly weld lump where the blade met the socket.
|My buttspike is based on the one in the
Osprey book The Spartan Army, also made by Manning
Imperial. A very lovely casting, but simply too
heavy. It is 14-1/2" long, and the socket is 1-1/8" in
diameter. At first the weight was 3 pounds, but I ground it
down to 2 pounds.
|I had another go at my buttspike, cutting an
inch and a half off the point and regrinding that, then
fluting the faces. Also took a layer off the socket
area, losing that nice fake seam line but also another half
pound of weight.
|So here is my first attempt at an iron
sauroter! The spike itself is narrower at the top than
I wanted, but it was what I had on hand. The iron part
of the socket is just scrap steel sheet wrapped into a
tube. I am not sure that any nail was used on the
originals, but in this case it goes through the brass band,
the iron tube, and the tang of the spike itself, to hold
everything firmly in place. The brass joint ring is
soldered to the iron tube.
blade of the hoplite's sword (xiphos or machaira) is
described as "leaf-shaped", and varied in length. The
best-known examples are roughly two feet long, but many
originals are shorter. The blade was iron (not
bronze!), and sometimes had a midrib, but many were plainer
with a lenticular or flattened diamond cross-section.
It seems that midribs predate the other options, but I don't
know for certain when blades without ribs first
appeared. Though the blade is usually shown as fairly
broad, much narrower ones are known. I suspect that
many modern reproductions are too large! Those who
have been fortunate enough to handle original Greek swords
always remark on how small they are, thin and light.
NOTE: Much popular information on Greek swords comes from Peter Connolly's "Greece and Rome at War." However, all the archeological examples he shows are from ITALY, and construction methods tend to be different from the Greek examples. Overlying hilt plates of iron or brass are not common in Greece, and again may be a more northern fashion (Macedonia and Thrace).
| The tang
of the Greek sword basically matches the outline of the
hilt. Some examples have a flange along both sides of
the grip area, but on others the tang is simply flat.
There are NO rod tangs (such as Roman or medieval
swords typically have). Richard Hook's reconstruction
of the xiphos in Nick Sekunda's Osprey book shows a rod
tang, but that is incorrect.
The grip is made of wood or bone or ivory in a "scale" or "slab" construction, with a shaped plate applied to either face and riveted through the tang. The guard and pommel *could* be made in the same way, but could be done in other ways (below).
The blade at left was made by Dave Akers, and he kindly permitted the use of his photograph. Buy swords from him!
| The tang
can match the entire outline of the guard, flaring out to as
much as 4-1/2" wide, with pointed ends. In this case
the actual guard is applied by scale construction like the
grip, and can be wood, bone, ivory, iron, or possibly
bronze. I call this option the "full-width guard tang"
(snappy, eh?), and it was used from at least the 6th century
BC to the late 4th.
Alternatively, the tang can flare out into stubbier "shoulders", as with the right-hand example, with the guard itself projecting beyond. In this case the guard is *apparently* a single solid block, iron or possibly organic, with a slot cut through to slide down over the grip tang and rest on the shoulders. The bottom is grooved so the top half of the shoulders are actually recessed into the guard.
I do not know when the shorter tang shoulders for a one-piece guard first appear. They are shown on smaller swords that seem to post-date the Persian Wars, but could have been in use in the Peloponnesian Wars. Certainly a one-piece guard is an option to consider for improving a less accurate reproduction sword that needs to be rehilted.
bottom edge of the guard is straight, never curved,
with an optional U-shaped notch in the center. The top
edge tapers or curves downward at each end, and the top
itself is rounded off to a semi-circular
cross-section. It is not thick or bulky in any
way. It also seems that there is often a gap in the
middle between the guard itself and the tang or blade, so
that a tab or extension on the bottom of the grip scale
slides under the guard, secured by 2 (or more?)
rivets. In other words, the two ends of the guard are
connected by a "bridge" in the middle which passes over the
bottom of the guard.
The profile of the upper edge of the guard can be quite elegant. It can be "double-tapered" like C at left, with a "valley" near the grip then rising and tapering off again near the tip. Or it can simply taper down from the grip as with example A. Type D and E have a "saddle" in the middle. On several Macedonian examples, the center spike on E was decorated as an acanthus leaf or even a scorpion.
Iron guards and guard plates can be flush-riveted, so that the surface is smooth. Normal rivet heads (rather than flush-riveted) seem to be smallish and rounded. Also note that rivets near the ends of a wooden scale guard plate can cause the wood to split!
At least a couple guards are known that have a gold or other thin metal sheathing over wood or ivory parts. This may be a Macedonian fashion, however--the best example is from Phillip II's tomb at Vergina.
Example F, below, is my interpretation of a xiphos guard from Macedonia, 6th century BC. It is shown in the Aigai ebook linked below, on page 159. It is metal and may be hollow (over an organic core).
guard reconstruction by Dave Akers, viewed from the
blade. The "bridge" where the bottom of the grip will
be inserted is clearly visible.
pommel is not completely understood. On some swords
the tang ends in a rectangular or squarish section which the
grip section neatly flairs into--B at left. This can
have a rivet through it (often close to the grip), so the
pommel was apparently made by scale construction as well,
two halves riveted through the tang. The height of
this pommel tang tab can be as little as 3/8" such as on
example C, to an inch or so. There are original
depictions of pommels that are small discs, which would
perfectly fit on a short tab. Conceivably, such a
small pommel could be made as part of the grip, each scale
simply expanding to a half-disc.
On other swords, there is a short rod tang or spike at the top of the grip, clearly for securing a solid pommel. The tang would project completely through the pommel and be peened (flattened) like a rivet over a washer or metal cap. This is actually visible in some vase paintings. The widened base of the spike shown on A at left is to allow for a rivet hole, but it will also prevent the pommel from rotating.
Pommel tabs like B and C definitely date back into the 6th century BC and may have been used for centuries. Pommel spikes are seen on 4th century artifacts, but are also suggested by vase paintings from c. 500 BC.
reproduction based on a xiphos from a grave at Vitsa, #418
in Kilian-Dirlmeier. Here is the blade cut from 1/4"
thick steel scrap (using an angle grinder), mostly ground to
shape. Final sanding and polishing has not been
done. The blade has a lenticular cross-section, and is
16 inches from point to guard. The pommel section on
the original is missing, so I decided to go with a pommel
parts from wood (maple?), though the original guard was iron
and the grip plates apparently bone. My pieces of bone
were not big enough, nor was I able to find a piece of steel
for the guard among the junk piles that pass for my
workshop. Wood was certainly used for some hilts,
since blades are found with rivets in place but no hilt
| Top view
of the guard, showing the "bridge" into which the bottom of
the guard plate will fit.
| View of
the guard. I believe the ends should be narrower, but
I don't want to risk the thing breaking!
assembled! The shoulders of the blade are visible,
projecting through the top of the guard. This is not
unique! At center you can see the bottom of the grip
plate under the guard bridge. The pommel spike is
peened over a bronze washer. The hilt rivets are made
from bronze boat nails, with the heads cut off and peened at
both ends. The wood is coated with linseed oil.
Final weight is 1-1/2 pounds.
xiphos from the collection of the late John Piscopo.
The blade is about 20 inches long and obviously very
narrow! (And slightly bent!) The tang is broken
off at mid-grip--it's alarming how common that is.
Note that the modern paper tag has been inserted under the "bridge" of the guard. The "saddle" in the middle is clearly visible, in this case rising not quite to a point. The U-notch is also visible. The guard appears to be a 2-piece scale construction, judging by the way the blade flairs out to its tips.
| At left,
my first sword and scabbard. I made my sword from an
old fantasy "medieval" blade, ground it into the shape of
the Alfedena sword shown in Connolly (p. 103). It
started with a flattened diamond cross-section, and I ground
the faces to leave a midrib down the center.
Since the blade already had an incorrect rod tang, I was
forced to make the hilt from 3 blocks of wood, sandwiched by
sheet steel plates, and put pairs of rivets through
the grip on either side of the tang, rather than single
rivets through a proper flat tang. Functional but
historically unsatisfying! I will probably change the
hilt at some point to a more typically Greek style, without
the overlying steel plates.
scabbard is wood covered with leather, with bronze chape and
throat based on the Olympia finds. The throat is 18-gauge
bronze, a little over an inch high. Note the
characteristic U-shaped projections or studs, which fit into
the notch in the sword guard. These are commonly seen
on vase paintings, as well as on all three of the objects
identified as scabbard throats from Olympia, but artwork
seems to show that the top of the scabbard throat could just
be straight, with the sword guard lacking the corresponding
notch. Also note that the throat is wider than the
body of the scabbard, matching the width of the guard.
chape is also formed from 18-ga sheet bronze. This
simple object actually matches the typical chape seen in
vase paintings--some are rounded, some rectangular.
Some do have the wider semicircular shape seen on the
Italian examples, but these appear to be a less common form
in Greece. On the back of
the chape you can see the nail which secures it--I
decided not to put this in front as the original piece has!
At right is the back of the suspension, showing two steel rings held by crossed leather thong. Four small nails hold the thong in place. Some scabbards clearly show four rings, others only two.
| My short
xiphos also started as a fantasy-medieval sword, cut and
ground to shape. The blade is 15 inches long.
It also has an incorrect rod tang, so the hilt pieces are
solid wood blocks drilled through to fit. The pommel
and guard are olive while the grip is probably maple.
For the top of the pommel I made a bronze washer, then
de-modernized a square nut by sanding off the galvanization
and heating to blacken it.
The wood and leather scabbard has a wooden throat based on the ivory example from Olympia, and a plain chape of bronze sheet .
| My rough
sketch of a short xiphos based on two examples from
Olympia. The blade is about 12 inches long by a mere
1-1/8 inches wide! The blade flairs to about 2 inches
at the hilt. Three other sword fragments from Olympia
seem to be in this size range, and the width matches the
three scabbard throats found there. So it would seem
that the Spartan short sword is much better documented than
we had thought--and often narrower! This matches the
artwork quite well, and I can't wait to make
one! Note the guard tang shoulders and short tab
for the pommel.
| Tafel 66
from Holger Baitinger's catalog of weapon finds from
Olympia. I have added (approximate) scales in inches
and centimeters. Items 1335 and 1336 are identified as
pommels, the larger being hollow-cast bronze and the smaller
one wood. Note that both would be secured by a pair of
nails driven into the grip (presumably on either side of the
The three items at right are scabbard throats ("mouths"), though the middle one at least would only fit a very narrow blade. 1337 is bronze, 1338 is ivory, and 1339 is bone, a winged style clearly visible in at least one vase painting.
Item 1340 is identified as a scabbard chape, and while I was dubious at first it actually does match a surprising number of those shown in artwork. So that's what I based my own chape on. Item 1341 is also said to be a chape but is clearly a strap terminal of some sort.
|Here is George Marcinek's very nice sword and scabbard, made by Manning Imperial. I am starting to question the ubiquitous cast chape with the lion head, since I have never seen such an artifact, but such a thing may be visible in artwork.|
|Deepeeka kopis owned by Jon Martin. I'm not sure if the small scabbard knife is a Greek feature or Iberian, but otherwise it seems to be a decently made piece.|
Fabrica Romanorum--Matt Lukes--
EXCELLENT swords as well as fabulous helmets, armor, etc.
Iron Age Armory--Shane Allee, http://www.ironagearmoury.com/xiphos.html,
a FABULOUS xiphos.
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||Bibliography||The BRONZE AGE|