A javelin is a light spear designed primarily to be thrown, historically as a ranged weapon, but today predominantly for sport. The javelin is almost always thrown by hand, unlike the sling, bow, and crossbow, which launch projectiles with the aid of a hand-held mechanism. However, devices do exist to assist the javelin thrower in achieving greater distance, such as spear-throwers or the amentum.
A warrior or soldier armed primarily with one or more javelins is a javelineer.
The word javelin comes from Middle English and it derives from Old French javelin, a diminutive of javelot, which meant spear. The word javelot probably originated from one of the Celtic languages.
There is archaeological evidence that javelins and throwing sticks were already in use by the last phase of the Lower Paleolithic. Seven spear-like objects were found in a coal mine in the city of Schöningen, Germany. Stratigraphic dating indicates that the weapons are about 400,000 years old.  The excavated items were made of spruce (Picea) trunk and were between 1.83 and 2.25 metres long. They were manufactured with the maximum thickness and weight situated at the front end of the wooden shaft. The frontal centre of gravity suggests that these weapons were used as javelins. A fossilized horse shoulder blade with a projectile wound, dated to 500,000 years ago, was revealed in a gravel quarry in the village of Boxgrove, England. Studies suggested that the wound was probably caused by a javelin.   
In History of Ancient Egypt: Volume 1 (1882), George Rawlinson depicts the javelin as an offensive weapon used by the Ancient Egyptian military. It was lighter in weight than that used by other nations. He describes the Ancient Egyptian javelin's features:
It consisted of a long thin shaft, sometimes merely pointed, but generally armed with a head, which was either leaf-shaped, or like the head of a spear, or else four-sided, and attached to the shaft by projections at the angles. 
A strap or tasseled head was situated at the lower end of the javelin: it allowed the javelin thrower to recover his javelin after throwing it. 
Egyptian military trained from a young age in special military schools. Focusing on gymnastics to gain strength, hardiness and endurance in childhood, they learned to throw the javelin – along with practicing archery and the battle-axe – when they grew older, before entering a specific regiment. 
Javelins were carried by Egyptian light infantry, as a main weapon, and as an alternative to a spear or a bow and arrow, generally along with a shield. They also carried a curved sword, a club or a hatchet as a side-arm.  An important part in battles is often assigned to javelin-men, "whose weapons seem to inflict death at every blow". 
One or multiple javelins were also sometimes carried by Egyptian war-chariots, in the quiver and/or the bow case. 
Beyond its military purpose, the javelin was likely also a hunting instrument, both to seek food and as a sport. 
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The peltasts, usually serving as skirmishers, were armed with several javelins, often with throwing straps to increase stand-off power. The peltasts hurled their javelins at the enemy's heavier troops, the hoplite phalanx, in order to break their lines so that their own army's hoplites could destroy the weakened enemy formation. In the battle of Lechaeum, the Athenian general Iphicrates took advantage of the fact that a Spartan hoplite phalanx operating near Corinth was moving in the open field without the protection of any missile-throwing troops. He decided to ambush it with his force of peltasts. By launching repeated hit-and-run attacks against the Spartan formation, Iphicrates and his men were able to wear the Spartans down, eventually routing them and killing just under half. This marked the first recorded occasion in ancient Greek military history in which a force entirely made up of peltasts had defeated a force of hoplites.
The thureophoroi and thorakitai, who gradually replaced the peltasts, carried javelins in addition to a long thrusting spear and a short sword.
Javelins were often used as an effective hunting weapon, the strap adding enough power to take down large game. Javelins were also used in the Ancient Olympics and other Panhellenic games. They were hurled in a certain direction and whoever hurled it the farthest, as long as it hit tip-first, won that game.
In 387 BC, the Gauls invaded Italy, inflicted a crushing defeat on the Roman Republican army, and sacked Rome. After this defeat, the Romans undertook a comprehensive reform of their army and changed the basic tactical formation from the Greek-style phalanx armed with the hasta spear and the clipeus round shield to a more flexible three-line formation. The hastati stood in the first line, the principes in the second line and the triarii in the third line. While the triarii were still armed with hastae, the hastati and the principes were rearmed with short swords and heavy javelins. Each soldier from the hastati and principes lines carried two javelins. This heavy javelin, known as a pilum (plural pila), was about two metres long overall, consisting of an iron shank, about 7 mm in diameter and 60 cm long, with pyramidal head, secured to a wooden shaft. The iron shank was either socketed or, more usually, widened to a flat tang. A pilum usually weighed between 2 and 5 pounds (0.9 and 2.3 kg),[ citation needed ] with the versions produced during the empire being somewhat lighter. Pictorial evidence suggests that some versions of the weapon were weighted with a lead ball at the base of the shank in order to increase penetrative power, but no archaeological specimens have been found.  Recent experiments have shown pila to have a range of about 30 metres, although the effective range is only 15 to 20 metres. Pila were sometimes referred to as "javelins", but the archaic term for the javelin was " verutum ".
From the third century BC, the Roman legion added a skirmisher type of soldier to its tactical formation. The velites were light infantry armed with short swords (the gladius or pugio ), small round shields, and several small javelins. These javelins were called "veruta" (singular verutum). The velites typically drew near the enemy, hurled javelins against their formation, and then retreated behind the legion's heavier infantry. The velites were considered highly effective in turning back war elephants, on account of discharging a hail of javelins at some range and not presenting a "block" that could be trampled on or otherwise smashed – unlike the close-order infantry behind them. At the Battle of Zama in 202 BC, the javelin-throwing velites proved their worth and were no doubt critical in helping to herd Hannibal's war elephants through the formation to be slaughtered. The velites would slowly have been either disbanded or re-equipped as more-heavily armed legionaries from the time when Gaius Marius and other Roman generals reorganised the army in the late second and early first centuries BC. Their role would most likely have been taken by irregular auxiliary troops as the republic expanded overseas. The verutum was a cheaper missile weapon than the pilum. The verutum was a short-range weapon, with a simply made head of soft iron.
Legionaries of the late republic and early empire often carried two pila, with one sometimes being lighter than the other. Standard tactics called for a Roman soldier to throw his pilum (both if there was time) at the enemy just before charging to engage with his gladius . Some pila had small hand-guards, to protect the wielder if he intended to use it as a melee weapon, but it does not appear that this was common.
In the late Roman Empire, the Roman infantry came to use a differently-shaped javelin from the earlier pilum. This javelin was lighter and had a greater range. Called a plumbata, it resembled a thick stocky arrow, fletched with leather vanes to provide stability and rotation in flight (which increased accuracy). To overcome its comparatively small mass, the plumbata was fitted with an oval-shaped lead weight socketed around the shaft just forward of the center of balance, giving the weapon its name. Even so, plumbatae were much lighter than pila, and would not have had the armour penetration or shield transfixing capabilities of their earlier counterparts.
Two or three plumbatae were typically clipped to a small wooden bracket on the inside of the large oval or round shields used at the time. Massed troops would unclip and hurl plumbatae as the enemy neared, hopefully stalling their movement and morale by making them clump together and huddle under their shields. With the enemy deprived of rapid movement and their visibility impaired by their own raised shields, the Roman troops were then better placed to exploit the tactical situation. It is unlikely plumbatae were viewed by the Romans as the killing blow, but more as a means of stalling the enemy at ranges greater than previously provided by the heavier and shorter ranged pilum.
The Gallic cavalry used to hurl several javelin volleys to soften the enemy before a frontal attack. The Gallic cavalry used their javelins in a tactic similar to that of horse archers' Parthian shot. The Gauls knew how to turn on horseback to throw javelins backwards while appearing to retreat.
The Hispanic cavalry was a light cavalry armed with falcatas and several light javelins. The Cantabri tribes invented a military tactic to maximize the advantages of the combination between horse and javelin. In this tactic the horsemen rode around in circles, toward and away from the enemy, continually hurling javelins. The tactic was usually employed against heavy infantry. The constant movement of the horsemen gave them an advantage against slow infantry and made them hard to target. The maneuver was designed to harass and taunt the enemy forces, disrupting close formations. This was commonly used against enemy infantry, especially the heavily armed and slow moving legions of the Romans. This tactic came to be known as the Cantabrian circle. In the late Republic various auxiliary cavalry completely replaced the Italian cavalry contingents and the Hispanic auxiliary cavalry was considered the best.
The Numidians were indigenous tribes of northwest Africa. The Numidian cavalry was a light cavalry usually operating as skirmishers. The Numidian horseman was armed with a small shield and several javelins. The Numidians had a reputation as swift horsemen, cunning soldiers and excellent javelin throwers. It is said that Jugurtha, the Numidian king "...took part in the national pursuits of riding, javelin throwing and competed with other young men in running." [Sallust The Jugurthine War: 6]. The Numidian Cavalry served as mercenaries in the Carthaginian Army and played a key role in assisting both Hannibal and Scipio during the Second Punic War.
There is some literary and archeological evidence that the Norse were familiar with and used the javelin for hunting and warfare, but they commonly used a spear designed for both throwing and thrusting. The Old Norse word for javelin was frakka. 
The Anglo-Saxon term for javelin was france.  In Anglo-Saxon warfare, soldiers usually formed a shield wall and used heavy weapons like Danish axes, swords and spears. Javelins, including barbed angons, were used as an offensive weapon from behind the shield wall or by warriors who left the protective formation and attacked the enemy as skirmishers.  Designed to be difficult to remove from either flesh or wood, the Angon javelin used by Anglo-Saxon warriors was an effective means of disabling an opponent or his shield, thus having the potential to disrupt opposing shield-walls. 
The Almogavars were a class of Aragonese infantrymen armed with a short sword, a shield and two heavy javelins, known as azcona.  The equipment resembled that of a Roman legionary and the use of the heavy javelins was much the same.
The Jinetes were Arabic light horsemen armed with several javelins, a sword, and a shield. They were proficient at skirmishing and rapid maneuver, and played an important role in Arabic mounted warfare throughout the Reconquista until the sixteenth century. These units were widespread among the Italian infantrymen of the fifteenth century. 
The Welsh, particularly those of North Wales, used the javelin as one of their main weapons. During the Norman and later English invasions, the primary Welsh tactic was to rain javelins on the tired, hungry, and heavily armoured English troops and then retreat into the mountains or woods before the English troops could pursue and attack them. This tactic was very successful, since it demoralized and damaged the English armies while the Welsh ranks suffered little.
The kern of Ireland used javelins as their main weapon as they accompanied the more heavily armoured galloglass .
Various kingdoms and dynasties in China have used javelins, such as the iron-headed javelin of the Qing dynasty. 
Qi Jiguang's anti-pirate army included javelin throwers with shields. 
Many African kingdoms have used the javelin as their main weapon since ancient times. Typical African warfare was based on ritualized stand-off encounters involving throwing javelins without advancing for close combat. In the flag of Eswatini there is a shield and two javelins, which symbolize the protection from the country's enemies.
The Zulu warriors used a long version of the assegai javelin as their primary weapon. The Zulu legendary leader Shaka initiated military reforms in which a short stabbing spear, with a long, swordlike spearhead named iklwa, had become the Zulu warrior's main weapon and was used as a mêlée weapon. The assegai was not discarded, but was used for an initial missile assault. With the larger shields, introduced by Shaka to the Zulu army, the short spears used as stabbing swords and the opening phase of javelin attack; the Zulu regiments were quite similar to the Roman legion with its Scutum, Gladius and Pilum tactical combination.
In Norse mythology, Odin, the chief god, carried a javelin or spear called Gungnir. It was created by a group of dwarves known as the Sons of Ivaldi who also fashioned the ship of Freyr called Skidbladnir and the golden hair of Sif.  It had the property of always finding its mark ("the spear never stopped in its thrust").  During the final conflict of Ragnarok between the gods and giants, Odin will use Gungnir to attack the wolf Fenrir before being devoured by him. 
During the war (and subsequent alliance) between the Aesir and Vanir at the dawn of time, Odin hurled a javelin over the enemy host  which, according to custom, was thought to bring good fortune or victory to the thrower.  Odin also wounded himself with a spear while hanging from Yggdrasil, the World Tree, in his ritual quest for knowledge  but in neither case is the weapon referred to specifically as Gungnir.
When the god Baldr began to have prophetic dreams of his own death, his mother Frigg extracted an oath from all things in nature not to harm him. However, she neglected the mistletoe, thinking it was too young to make, let alone respect, such a solemn vow. When Loki learned of this weakness, he had a javelin or dart made from one of its branches and tricked Hod, the blind god, into hurling it at Baldr and causing his death. 
The god Runesocesius is identified as a "god of the javelin". [ citation needed ]
Hoplites were citizen-soldiers of Ancient Greek city-states who were primarily armed with spears and shields. Hoplite soldiers used the phalanx formation to be effective in war with fewer soldiers. The formation discouraged the soldiers from acting alone, for this would compromise the formation and minimize its strengths. The hoplites were primarily represented by free citizens – propertied farmers and artisans – who were able to afford a linen armour or a bronze armour suit and weapons. Most hoplites were not professional soldiers and often lacked sufficient military training. Some states maintained a small elite professional unit, known as the epilektoi ("chosen") since they were picked from the regular citizen infantry. These existed at times in Athens, Argos, Thebes, and Syracuse, among other places. Hoplite soldiers made up the bulk of ancient Greek armies.
Infantry is a military specialization which engages in ground combat on foot. Infantry generally consists of light infantry, mountain infantry, motorized infantry, mechanized infantry, airborne infantry, air assault infantry, and marine infantry.
A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head. The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with fire hardened spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as bone, flint, obsidian, iron, steel, or bronze. The most common design for hunting or combat spears since ancient times has incorporated a metal spearhead shaped like a triangle, lozenge, or leaf. The heads of fishing spears usually feature barbs or serrated edges.
The pilum was a javelin commonly used by the Roman army in ancient times. It was generally about 2 metres long overall, consisting of an iron shank about 7 mm in diameter and 60 cm (24 in) long with a pyramidal head, attached to a wooden shaft by either a socket or a flat tang.
A peltast was a type of light infantryman, originating in Thrace and Paeonia, and named after the kind of shield he carried. Thucydides mentions the Thracian peltasts, while Xenophon in the Anabasis distinguishes the Thracian and Greek peltast troops. The peltast often served as a skirmisher in Hellenic and Hellenistic armies. In the Medieval period, the same term was used for a type of Byzantine infantryman.
The army of the Kingdom of Macedon was among the greatest military forces of the ancient world. It was created and made formidable by King Philip II of Macedon; previously the army of Macedon had been of little account in the politics of the Greek world, and Macedonia had been regarded as a second-rate power.
Roman military personal equipment was produced in large numbers to established patterns, and used in an established manner. These standard patterns and uses were called the res militaris or disciplina. Its regular practice during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire led to military excellence and victory. The equipment gave the Romans a very distinct advantage over their barbarian enemies, especially so in the case of armour. This does not mean that every Roman soldier had better equipment than the richer men among his opponents. According to Edward Luttwak, Roman equipment was not of a better quality than that used by the majority of Rome's adversaries. Other historians and writers have stated that the Roman army's need for large quantities of "mass produced" equipment after the Marian Reforms and subsequent civil wars led to a decline in the quality of Roman equipment compared to the earlier Republican era:
The production of these kinds of helmets of Italic tradition decreased in quality because of the demands of equipping huge armies, especially during civil wars...The bad quality of these helmets is recorded by the sources describing how sometimes they were covered by wicker protections, like those of Pompeius' soldiers during the siege of Dyrrachium in 48 BC, which were seriously damaged by the missiles of Caesar's slingers and archers.
It would appear that armour quality suffered at times when mass production methods were being used to meet the increased demand ..." and "...the reduced size curiasses would also have been quicker and cheaper to produce, which may have been a deciding factor at times of financial crisis, or where large bodies of men were required to be mobilized at short notice, possibly reflected in the poor-quality, mass produced iron helmets of Imperial Italic type C, as found, for example, in the River Po at Cremona, associated with the Civil Wars of AD 69 AD; Russel-Robinson, 1975, 67
Up until then, the quality of helmets had been fairly consistent and the bowls well decorated and finished. However, after the Marian Reforms, with their resultant influx of the poorest citizens into the army, there must inevitably have been a massive demand for cheaper equipment, a situation which can only have been exacerbated by the Civil Wars...
The verutum, plural veruta, was a short javelin used in the Roman army. This javelin was used by the velites for skirmishing purposes, unlike the heavier pilum, which was used by the hastati and principes for weakening the enemy before advancing into close combat. The shafts were about 1.1 metres long, substantially shorter than the 2-metre pilum, and the point measured about 13 centimetres (5 in) long. The verutum had either an iron shank like the pilum or a tapering metal head. It was sometimes thrown with the aid of a throwing strap, or amentum.
Heavy infantry consisted of heavily armed and armoured infantrymen who were trained to mount frontal assaults and/or anchor the defensive center of a battle line. This differentiated them from light infantry who are relatively mobile and lightly armoured skirmisher troops intended for screening, scouting, and other tactical roles unsuited to soldiers carrying heavier loads. Heavy infantry typically made use of dense battlefield formations, such as shield wall or phalanx, multiplying their effective weight of arms with force concentration.
The Hellenistic armies is the term applied to the armies of the successor kingdoms of the Hellenistic period. The Hellenistic armies emerged after the death of Alexander the Great, when his vast empire was split between his successors, also known as the Diadochi. During the Wars of the Diadochi, the Macedonian army under Philip II and Alexander gradually adopted new units and tactics, further developing Macedonian warfare and improving on the tactics used in the Classical era. The armies of the Diadochi bear few differences from those of Alexander, but during the era of the Epigonoi, the differences were obvious, favoring numbers over quality and weight over maneuverability. The limited availability of Greek conscripts in the east led to an increasing dependence on mercenary forces, whereas in the west, Hellenistic armies were continuously involved in wars, which soon exhausted local manpower, paving the way for Roman supremacy. The major Hellenistic states were the Seleucid Empire, Ptolemaic Egypt and Macedonia during the Antigonid kingdom. Smaller states included Attalid Pergamum, Pontus, Epirus, the Achaean League, the Aetolian League, Syracuse, and other nations such as Athens, Sparta, etc.
In Ancient Greek armies, the psiloi were the light infantry who usually acted as skirmishers and missile troops, and who were distinguished from the armored hoplitai by their light weapons and lack of armor.
Velites were a class of infantry in the Roman army of the mid-Republic from 211 to 107 BC. Velites were light infantry and skirmishers armed with javelins, each with a 75cm wooden shaft the diameter of a finger, with a 25cm narrow metal point, to fling at the enemy. They also carried short thrusting swords, or gladii, for use in melee. They rarely wore armour as they were the youngest and poorest soldiers in the legion and could not afford much equipment. They did carry small wooden shields called parma for protection, and wore headdresses made from wolf skins so their brave deeds could be recognized. The velites were placed at the front partly for tactical reasons, and also so that they had the opportunity to secure glory for themselves in single combat.
Hastati were a class of infantry employed in the armies of the early Roman Republic, who originally fought as spearmen and later as swordsmen. These soldiers were the staple unit after Rome threw off Etruscan rule. They were originally some of the poorest men in the legion, and could afford only modest equipment—light chainmail and other miscellaneous equipment. The Senate supplied their soldiers with only a short stabbing sword, the gladius, and their distinctive squared shield, the scutum. The hastatus was typically equipped with these, and one or two soft iron tipped throwing spears called pila. This doubled their effectiveness, not only as a strong leading edge to their maniple, but also as a stand-alone missile troop. Later, the hastati contained the younger men rather than just the poorer, though most men of their age were relatively poor. Their usual position was the first battle line. They fought in a quincunx formation, supported by lighter infantry. The enemy was allowed to penetrate the first battle line consisting of hastati, after which the enemy would deal with the more hardened, seasoned soldiers, the principes. They were eventually disbanded after the Marian reforms of 107 BC.
Principes were spearmen, and later swordsmen, in the armies of the early Roman Republic. They were men in the prime of their lives who were fairly wealthy, and could afford decent equipment. They were the heavier infantry of the legion who carried large shields and wore good quality armor.
People have used weapons in warfare, hunting, self-defense, law enforcement, and criminal activity. Weapons also serve many other purposes in society including use in sports, collections for display, and historical displays and demonstrations. As technology has developed throughout history, weapons have changed with it.
The Roman army of the mid-Republic, also called the manipular Roman army or the Polybian army, refers to the armed forces deployed by the mid-Roman Republic, from the end of the Samnite Wars to the end of the Social War. The first phase of this army, in its manipular structure, is described in detail in the Histories of the ancient Greek historian Polybius, writing before 146 BC.
The Roman army of the late Republic refers to the armed forces deployed by the late Roman Republic, from the beginning of the first century BC until the establishment of the Imperial Roman army by Augustus in 30 BC.
Ancient Greek weapons and armor were primarily geared towards combat between individuals. Their primary technique was called the phalanx, a formation consisting of massed shield wall, which required heavy frontal armor and medium-ranged weapons such as spears. Soldiers were required to provide their own panoply, which could prove expensive, however the lack of any official peace-keeping force meant that most Greek citizens carried weapons as a matter of course for self-defence. Because individuals provided their own equipment, there was considerable diversity in arms and armour among the Hellenistic troops.
The Caetrati were a type of light infantry in ancient Iberia who often fought as skirmishers. They were armed with a caetra shield, swords, and javelins.
The phoulkon, in Latin fulcum, was an infantry formation utilized by the military of the late Roman and Byzantine Empire. It is a formation in which an infantry formation closes ranks and the first two or three lines form a shield wall while those behind them hurl projectiles. It was used in both offensive and defensive stances.