WEAPONS               12/30/03

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    Some of you may have noticed a significant omission from the main page: SPEARS!  The spear was the main weapon of the hoplite, made of ash and seven or eight feet long.  The head was usually iron and was "leaf-shaped" and socketed.  Now, there is precious little hard info in my sources about the size of the heads or the sockets, but from what I know of Roman spears and other cultures I'd guess that the shafts were thinner than most people think, maybe just an inch.  At the bottom end was a bronze buttspike, square or triangular in section--I don't know exactly how big that was, either.  The buttspike was probably meant mostly for sticking the spear upright in the ground when camping, though it was definitely used as a weapon if the head broke off--cuirasses and helmets have been found with square holes in them, demonstrating its lethality.

      My spearhead is shown at right, about half actual size (11" long overall).  It was hand-forged long ago by a fellow named Brock.  (The 4 little circles are his maker's mark.)

       Next in line is Tom Kolb's spearhead from Manning Imperial.  Just under 10" long, and the socket is about 7/8" diameter.  At 4-1/2 ounces, a VERY sweet little spearhead!

      Third is my buttspike, copied from the one in the Osprey book The Spartan Army, also made by Manning Imperial.  It is 14-1/2" long (about an inch of the socket didn't fit on the scanner!), and the socket is 1-1/8" in diameter. At first the spike was about 1-1/4" square and the whole thing weighed three pounds, which felt awful heavy, so I ground it down some. Now the spike is an inch square, and I trimmed down the ring and reamed out the socket, taking the weight down to 2 pounds.  NICE work, though, solid cast bronze.

      At far right is Jon Martin's buttspike by Manning, which inpired me and Tom Kolb to get ours from there.  Jon's has a shorter socket and an inscription on the spike.

     Mike Kasner has made buttspikes by soldering brass barstock to the narrow end of a brass firehose nozzle with the threaded end cut off (from a flea market), then grinding and cutting to shape.  He has also made spearheads from old socketed chisels.

      The blade of the hoplite's sword is also described as "leaf-shaped", and was roughly two feet long.  Again, I have not found enough information about its details, so I was forced to make some educated guesses when building mine.  I started with an old wall-hanger "Prince Valiant" blade, 24" by 2" wide, and ground it into the shape of the Alfedena sword shown in Connolly (p. 103).  There are no cross-sections that I have seen, but Connolly's pictures of the blades seem to show two fullers and a midrib, so that's what I ground into my blade (which started as a flattened diamond cross-section). 
      The hilt seems to have been constructed similarly to a Roman dagger hilt, with the tang sandwiched between layers of wood, with thin metal plates on top.  The metal covering of the pommel appears to be a separate piece, cylindrical or conical.  It turned out to be a real beast to put together.  On the grip I had to use pairs of small nails that straddled the narrow tang, whereas on the originals the tang seems to follow the outline of the guard and grip, so that only two nails would be placed on the center line.   Connolly implies that the three hilts he shows all have iron plates, not bronze, but Dan Peterson says that some hilts were indeed solid bronze.
       At some point, the Spartans began to use a much shorter sword.  None have survived (or been published, at least), but illustrations show that its blade was only a foot or so long.  Otherwise it was very similar in shape to the longer hoplite sword, though the blade may have had a simple diamond cross-section without fullers.  By the Peloponnesian War the Spartan short sword was in common use in the rest of Greece as well.  It is often referred to these days as the xiphos, but this seems to be a more general Greek term for "sword".

       At right, my sword and scabbard, 32 K.  The scabbard is wood covered with leather, with brass chape and throat.  Two strips of brass are wrapped around the throat and soldered in place, rather than any fancy embossing.  If I had thought to taper the wood more, the chape would be smaller and much more graceful.  The baldric is cut in the "ladder" pattern seen on many vase paintings, and the ends tied and nailed to the scabbard.

       There is a discussion on the Sword Forum which has photographs of an original hoplite sword,

       Here is George Marcinek's very nice sword and scabbard, made by Manning Imperial.

       A third type of sword was the falcata or kopis, a curved sword with the cutting edge along the inner side.  It was capable of devastating cuts.  The one at right is Jon Martin's old one--he replaced the solid brass hilt with a wooden one shaped like a bird of prey, which he believes fits the evidence better.  The scabbard is wood with brass fittings, modeled from several sources.  Below is Jon's new kopis, from Deepeeka (India).

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