Last updated
Spear-armed hoplite from Greco-Persian Wars Hoplite with spear from Greco-Persian Wars.png
Spear-armed hoplite from Greco-Persian Wars

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 (or other type of stone or metal). The most common design for hunting or combat spears since ancient times has incorporated a metal spearheadshaped like a triangle, lozenge, or leaf. The heads of fishing spears usually feature barbs or serrated edges.


The word spear comes from the Old English spere , from the Proto-Germanic speri, from a Proto-Indo-European root *sper- "spear, pole". Spears can be divided into two broad categories: those designed for thrusting as a melee weapon and those designed for throwing as a ranged weapon (usually referred to as darts or javelins).

The spear has been used throughout human history both as a hunting and fishing tool and as a weapon. Along with the club, knife, and axe, it is one of the earliest and most important tools developed by early humans. As a weapon, it may be wielded with either one or two hands. It was used in virtually every conflict up until the modern era, where even then it continues on in the form of the fixed bayonet on a long gun, and is probably the most commonly used weapon in history. [1]


Spear manufacture and use is not confined to humans. It is also practiced by the western chimpanzee. Chimpanzees near Kédougou, Senegal have been observed to create spears by breaking straight limbs off trees, stripping them of their bark and side branches, and sharpening one end with their teeth. They then used the weapons to hunt galagos sleeping in hollows. [2]


Wooden spear point from about 420,000 years ago. Natural History Museum, London Clacton Spear 02.jpg
Wooden spear point from about 420,000 years ago. Natural History Museum, London
Hunting spear and knife, from Mesa Verde National Park Mesa Verde spear and knife.jpg
Hunting spear and knife, from Mesa Verde National Park

Archaeological evidence found in present-day Germany documents that wooden spears have been used for hunting since at least 400,000 years ago, [3] and a 2012 study from the site of Kathu Pan in South Africa suggests that hominids, possibly Homo heidelbergensis , may have developed the technology of hafted stone-tipped spears in Africa about 500,000 years ago. [4] [5] Wood does not preserve well, however, and Craig Stanford, a primatologist and professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California, has suggested that the discovery of spear use by chimpanzees means that early humans may have used wooden spears before this. [6]

Neanderthals were constructing stone spear heads from as early as 300,000 BP, and by 250,000 years ago, wooden spears were made with fire-hardened points.

From circa 200,000 BCE onwards, Middle Paleolithic humans began to make complex stone blades with flaked edges which were used as spear heads. These stone heads could be fixed to the spear shaft by gum or resin or by bindings made of animal sinew, leather strips or vegetable matter. During this period, a clear difference remained between spears designed to be thrown and those designed to be used in hand-to-hand combat. By the Magdalenian period (c. 15,000–9500 BCE), spear-throwers similar to the later atlatl were in use. [7]


Sumerian spearmen advancing in close formation with large shields - Stele of the Vultures, c.2450 BCE Stele of Vultures detail 01-transparent.png
Sumerian spearmen advancing in close formation with large shields – Stele of the Vultures, c.2450 BCE


Classical antiquity

Ancient Greeks
Athenian warrior wielding a spear in battle Warrior spear CdM Paris DeRidder299.jpg
Athenian warrior wielding a spear in battle

The spear is the main weapon of the warriors of Homer's Iliad . The use of both a single thrusting spear and two throwing spears are mentioned. It has been suggested that two styles of combat are being described; an early style, with thrusting spears, dating to the Mycenaean period in which the Iliad is set, and, anachronistically, a later style, with throwing spears, from Homer's own Archaic period. [8]

In the 7th century BCE, the Greeks evolved a new close-order infantry formation, the phalanx. [9] The key to this formation was the hoplite, who was equipped with a large, circular, bronze-faced shield (aspis) and a 7–9 ft (2.1–2.7 m) spear with an iron head and bronze butt-spike (doru). [10] The hoplite phalanx dominated warfare among the Greek City States from the 7th into the 4th century BCE.

The 4th century saw major changes. One was the greater use of peltasts, light infantry armed with spear and javelins. [11] The other was the development of the sarissa, a two-handed pike 18 ft (5.5 m) in length, by the Macedonians under Phillip of Macedon and Alexander the Great. [12] The pike phalanx, supported by peltasts and cavalry, became the dominant mode of warfare among the Greeks from the late 4th century onward [13] until Greek military systems were supplanted by the Roman legions.

Ancient Romans
Re-enactor outfitted as a Late Roman legionary carrying a pilum Roman soldier 175 aC in northern province.jpg
Re-enactor outfitted as a Late Roman legionary carrying a pilum

In the pre-Marian Roman armies, the first two lines of battle, the hastati and principes , often fought with a sword called a gladius and pila , heavy javelins that were specifically designed to be thrown at an enemy to pierce and foul a target's shield. Originally the principes were armed with a short spear called a hasta , but these gradually fell out of use, eventually being replaced by the gladius. The third line, the triarii , continued to use the hasta.

From the late 2nd century BCE, all legionaries were equipped with the pilum. The pilum continued to be the standard legionary spear until the end of the 2nd century CE. Auxilia , however, were equipped with a simple hasta and, perhaps, throwing spears. During the 3rd century CE, although the pilum continued to be used, legionaries usually were equipped with other forms of throwing and thrusting spear, similar to auxilia of the previous century. By the 4th century, the pilum had effectively disappeared from common use. [14]

In the late period of the Roman Empire, the spear became more often used because of its anti-cavalry capacities as the barbarian invasions were often conducted by people with a developed culture of cavalry in warfare.

Medieval period

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the spear and shield continued to be used by nearly all Western European cultures. Since a medieval spear required only a small amount of steel along the sharpened edges (most of the spear-tip was wrought iron), it was an economical weapon. Quick to manufacture, and needing less smithing skill than a sword, it remained the main weapon of the common soldier. The Vikings, for instance, although often portrayed with axe or sword in hand, were armed mostly with spears, [15] as were their Anglo-Saxon, Irish, or continental contemporaries.

Assyrian soldier holding a spear and wearing a helmet. Detail of a basalt relief from the palace of Tiglath-pileser III at Hadatu, Syria. 744-727 BCE. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul Assyrian soldier holding a spear and wearing a helmet. Detail of a basalt relief from the palace of Tiglath-pileser III at Hadatu, Syria. 744-727 BCE. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul.jpg
Assyrian soldier holding a spear and wearing a helmet. Detail of a basalt relief from the palace of Tiglath-pileser III at Hadatu, Syria. 744–727 BCE. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul

Broadly speaking, spears were either designed to be used in melee, or to be thrown. Within this simple classification, there was a remarkable range of types. For example, M. J. Swanton identified thirty different spearhead categories and sub-categories in early Saxon England. [16] Most medieval spearheads were generally leaf-shaped. Notable types of early medieval spears include the angon , a throwing spear with a long head similar to the Roman pilum , used by the Franks and Anglo-Saxons, and the winged (or lugged) spear, which had two prominent wings at the base of the spearhead, either to prevent the spear penetrating too far into an enemy or to aid in spear fencing. [17] Originally a Frankish weapon, the winged spear also was popular with the Vikings. It would become the ancestor of later medieval polearms, such as the partisan and spetum.

The thrusting spear also has the advantage of reach, being considerably longer than other weapon types. Exact spear lengths are hard to deduce as few spear shafts survive archaeologically but 6–8 ft (1.8–2.4 m) would seem to have been the norm. Some nations were noted for their long spears, including the Scots and the Flemish. Spears usually were used in tightly ordered formations, such as the shield wall or the schiltron. To resist cavalry, spear shafts could be planted against the ground. [18] William Wallace drew up his schiltrons in a circle at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298 to deter charging cavalry; [19] this was a widespread tactic sometimes known as the "crown" formation. [20]

Throwing spears became rarer as the Middle Ages drew on, but survived in the hands of specialists such as the Catalan Almogavars. [21] They were commonly used in Ireland until the end of the 16th century. [22]

Spears began to lose fashion among the infantry during the 14th century, being replaced by pole weapons that combined the thrusting properties of the spear with the cutting properties of the axe, such as the halberd. Where spears were retained they grew in length, eventually evolving into pikes, which would be a dominant infantry weapon in the 16th and 17th centuries. [23]


Cavalry spears were originally the same as infantry spears and were often used with two hands or held with one hand overhead. In the 12th century, after the adoption of stirrups and a high-cantled saddle, the spear became a decidedly more powerful weapon. A mounted knight would secure the lance by holding it with one hand and tucking it under the armpit (the couched lance technique) [24] This allowed all the momentum of the horse and knight to be focused on the weapon's tip, whilst still retaining accuracy and control. This use of the spear spurred the development of the lance as a distinct weapon that was perfected in the medieval sport of jousting. [25]

In the 14th century, tactical developments meant that knights and men-at-arms often fought on foot. This led to the practice of shortening the lance to about 5 ft (1.5 m).) to make it more manageable. [26] As dismounting became commonplace, specialist pole weapons such as the pollaxe were adopted by knights and this practice ceased. [27]

Introduction of gunpowder

German reenactors of pikemen Pikeniere Wallenstein-Festspiele Memmingen.jpg
German reenactors of pikemen

The development of both the long, two-handed pike and gunpowder firearms in Renaissance Europe saw an ever-increasing focus on integrated infantry tactics. [28] Those infantry not armed with these weapons carried variations on the pole-arm, including the halberd and the bill. At the start of the Renaissance, cavalry remained predominantly lance-armed; gendarmes with the heavy knightly lance and lighter cavalry with a variety of lighter lances. By the 1540s, however, pistol-armed cavalry called reiters were beginning to make their mark. Cavalry armed with pistols and other lighter firearms, along with a sword, had virtually replaced lance armed cavalry in Western Europe by the beginning of the 17th century. [29]

Ultimately, the spear proper was rendered obsolete on the battlefield. Its last flowering was the half-pike or spontoon, [30] a shortened version of the pike carried by officers of various ranks. While originally a weapon, this came to be seen more as a badge of office, or leading staff by which troops were directed. [31] The half-pike, sometimes known as a boarding pike, was also used as a weapon on board ships until the late 19th century. [32]

Islamic world

Dervish, 1913.jpg
A Palestine Arab sufi ascetic carrying a short assegai in 1913.
Bedouin warrior.jpg
A Bedouin Arab warrior carrying a long hunting az-zaġāyah c.1914.

Muslim warriors used a spear that was called an az-zaġāyah . Berbers pronounced it zaġāya, but the English term, derived from the Old French via Berber, is "assegai". It is a pole weapon used for throwing or hurling, usually a light spear or javelin made of hard wood and pointed with a forged iron tip. The az-zaġāyah played an important role during the Islamic conquest as well as during later periods, well into the 20th century. A longer pole az-zaġāyah was being used as a hunting weapon from horseback. The az-zaġāyah was widely used. It existed in various forms in areas stretching from Southern Africa to the Indian subcontinent, although these places already had their own variants of the spear. This javelin was the weapon of choice during the Fulani jihad as well as during the Mahdist War in Sudan. It is still being used by certain wandering Sufi ascetics (Derwishes).


Spear with inscription, Zhou dynasty Zhu Gou Bronze spearhead-IMG 4424-black.jpg
Spear with inscription, Zhou dynasty


Shang Dynasty spear heads Bronze spearheads, Shang Dynasty.JPG
Shang Dynasty spear heads

In the Chinese martial arts, the Chinese spear (Qiang 槍) is popularly known as the "king of weapons". The spear is listed in the group of the four major weapons (along with the gun (staff), dao (a single-edged blade similar to a sabre), and the jian (sword)). [33]

Spears were used first as hunting weapons amongst the ancient Chinese. They became popular as infantry weapons during the Warring States and Qin era, when spearmen were used as especially highly disciplined soldiers in organized group attacks. When used in formation fighting, spearmen would line up their large rectangular or circular shields in a shieldwall manner. The Qin also employed long spears (more akin to a pike) in formations similar to Swiss pikemen in order to ward off cavalry. The Han Empire would use similar tactics as its Qin predecessors. Halberds, polearms, and dagger axes were also common weapons during this time.

Spears were also common weaponry for Warring States, Qin, and Han era cavalry units. During these eras, the spear would develop into a longer lance-like weapon used for cavalry charges.

There are many words in Chinese that would be classified as a spear in English. The Mao is the predecessor of the Qiang . The first bronze Mao appeared in the Shang dynasty. This weapon was less prominent on the battlefield than the ge (dagger-axe). In some archaeological examples two tiny holes or ears can be found in the blade of the spearhead near the socket, these holes were presumably used to attach tassels, much like modern day wushu spears.

A bronze spear, notice the ears on the side of the socket. Spear Jinsha.JPG
A bronze spear, notice the ears on the side of the socket.
A later period qiang Chinese pirate spear hmsL4.jpg
A later period qiang

In the early Shang, the Mao appeared to have a relatively short shaft as well as a relatively narrow shaft as opposed to Mao in the later Shang and Western Zhou period. Some Mao from this era are heavily decorated as is evidenced by a Warring States period Mao from the Ba Shu area. [34]

In the Han dynasty the Mao and the Ji (戟 Ji can be loosely defined as a halberd) rose to prominence in the military. Interesting to note is that the amount of iron Mao-heads found exceeds the number of bronze heads. By the end of the Han dynasty (Eastern Han) the process of replacement of the iron Mao had been completed and the bronze Mao had been rendered completely obsolete. After the Han dynasty toward the Sui and Tang dynasties the Mao used by cavalry were fitted with much longer shafts, as is mentioned above. During this era, the use of the Shuo (矟) was widespread among the footmen. The Shuo can be likened to a pike or simply a long spear. [35]

After the Tang dynasty, the popularity of the Mao declined and was replaced by the Qiang (枪). The Tang dynasty divided the Qiang in four categories: "一曰漆枪, 二曰木枪, 三曰白杆枪, 四曰扑头枪。” Roughly translated the four categories are: Qi (a kind of wood) Spears, Wooden Spears, Bai Gan (A kind of wood) Spears and Pu Tou Qiang. The Qiang that were produced in the Song and Ming dynasties consisted of four major parts: Spearhead, Shaft, End Spike and Tassel. The types of Qiang that exist are many. Among the types there are cavalry Qiang that were the length of one zhang (eleven feet and nine inches or 3.58 m), Litte-Flower Spears (Xiao Hua Qiang 小花枪) that are the length of one person and their arm extended above his head, double hooked spears, single hooked spears, ringed spears and many more. [36]

There is some confusion as to how to distinguish the Qiang from the Mao, as they are obviously very similar. Some people say that a Mao is longer than a Qiang, others say that the main difference is between the stiffness of the shaft, where the Qiang would be flexible and the Mao would be stiff. Scholars seem to lean toward the latter explanation more than the former. Because of the difference in the construction of the Mao and the Qiang, the usage is also different, though there is no definitive answer as to what exactly the differences are between the Mao and the Qiang. [37]


Razakars during Operation Polo Razakars.jpg
Razakars during Operation Polo
Engraving of a Maratha soldier with spear by James Forbes, 1813. Spear man in raghoba camp.jpg
Engraving of a Maratha soldier with spear by James Forbes, 1813.

Spears in the Indian society were used both in missile and non-missile form, both by cavalry and foot-soldiers. Mounted spear-fighting was practiced using with a ten-foot, ball-tipped wooden lance called a bothati, the end of which was covered in dye so that hits may be confirmed. Spears were constructed from a variety of materials such as the sang made completely of steel, and the ballam which had a bamboo shaft.

The Arab presence in Sindh and the Mameluks of Delhi introduced the Middle Eastern javelin into India.

The Rajputs wielded a type of spear for infantrymen which had a club integrated into the spearhead, and a pointed butt end. Other spears had forked blades, several spear-points, and numerous other innovations. One particular spear unique to India was the vita or corded lance.

Used by the Maratha army, it had a rope connecting the spear with the user's wrist, allowing the weapon to be thrown and pulled back. The Vel is a type of spear or lance, originated in Southern India, primarily used by Tamils. [38] [39]

Sikh Nihangs sometimes carry a spear even today. Spears were used in conflicts and training by armed paramilitary units such as the razakars of Nizams of Hyderabad State as late as the second half of the 20th century. Tribal made spears are used in conflicts and rioting in the Northeastern states of India, such as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura.


Ukiyo-e print of a samurai general holding a yari in his right hand Estampe-p1000685.jpg
Ukiyo-e print of a samurai general holding a yari in his right hand

The hoko spear was used in ancient Japan sometime between the Yayoi period and the Heian period, but it became unpopular as early samurai often acted as horseback archers. Medieval Japan employed spears again for infantrymen to use, but it was not until the 11th century in that samurai began to prefer spears over bows. Several polearms were used in the Japanese theatres; the naginata was a glaive-like weapon with a long, curved blade popularly among the samurai and the Buddhist warrior-monks, often used against cavalry; the yari was a longer polearm, with a straight-bladed spearhead, which became the weapon of choice of both the samurai and the ashigaru (footmen) during the Warring States Era; the horseback samurai used shorter yari for his single-armed combat; on the other hand, ashigaru infantries used long yari (similar with European pike) for their massed combat formation.


A Filipino warrior holding a Sibat (spear) in the Boxer Codex. Native-Warrior.jpg
A Filipino warrior holding a Sibat (spear) in the Boxer Codex.

Filipino spears (sibat) were used as both a weapon and a tool throughout the Philippines. It is also called a bangkaw (after the Bankaw Revolt.), sumbling or palupad in the islands of Visayas and Mindanao. Sibat are typically made from rattan, either with a sharpened tip or a head made from metal. These heads may either be single-edged, double-edged or barbed. Styles vary according to function and origin. For example, a sibat designed for fishing may not be the same as those used for hunting.

The spear was used as the primary weapon in expeditions and battles against neighbouring island kingdoms and it became famous during the 1521 Battle of Mactan, where the chieftain Lapu Lapu of Cebu fought against Spanish forces led by Ferdinand Magellan who was subsequently killed.


Zulu man with iklwa, 1917 Zulu warrior.jpg
Zulu man with iklwa, 1917

The various types of the assegai (a light spear or javelin made of wood and pointed with iron or fire-hardened tip) were used throughout Africa and it was the most common weapon used before the introduction of firearms. The Zulu, Xhosa and other Nguni tribes of South Africa were renowned for their use of the assegai.

Shaka of the Zulu invented a shorter stabbing spear with a two-foot (0.61m) shaft and a larger, broader blade one foot (0.3m) long. This weapon is otherwise known as the iklwa or ixwa, after the sound that was heard as it was withdrawn from the victim's wound. [40] [41] The traditional spear was not abandoned, but was used to range attack enemy formations before closing in for close quarters battle with the iklwa. This tactical combination originated during Shaka's military reforms. This weapon was typically used with one hand while the off hand held a cowhide shield for protection.

The Americas


As advanced metallurgy was largely unknown in pre-Columbian America outside of Western Mexico and South America, most weapons in Meso-America were made of wood or obsidian. This did not mean that they were less lethal, as obsidian may be sharpened to become many times sharper than steel. [42] Meso-American spears varied greatly in shape and size. While the Aztecs preferred the sword-like macuahuitl for fighting, [43] the advantage of a far-reaching thrusting weapon was recognised, and a large portion of the army would carry the tepoztopilli into battle. [44] The tepoztopilli was a pole-arm, and to judge from depictions in various Aztec codices, it was roughly the height of a man, with a broad wooden head about twice the length of the users' palm or shorter, edged with razor-sharp obsidian blades which were deeply set in grooves carved into the head, and cemented in place with bitumen or plant resin as an adhesive. The tepoztopilli was able both to thrust and slash effectively.

Throwing spears also were used extensively in Meso-American warfare, usually with the help of an atlatl. [45] Throwing spears were typically shorter and more stream-lined than the tepoztopilli, and some had obsidian edges for greater penetration.

Native Americans

A photograph of an American native, a Hupa man with his spear - by Edward Sheriff Curtis, dated 1923 A smoky day at the Sugar Bowl--Hupa.jpg
A photograph of an American native, a Hupa man with his spear – by Edward Sheriff Curtis, dated 1923
Spear Case, Crow (Native American), late 19th century, Brooklyn Museum Spear Case, late 19th century, 26.792.jpg
Spear Case, Crow (Native American), late 19th century, Brooklyn Museum

Typically, most spears made by Native Americans were created with materials surrounded by their communities. Usually, the shaft of the spear was made with a wooden stick while the head of the spear was fashioned from arrowheads, pieces of metal such as copper, or a bone that had been sharpened. Spears were a preferred weapon by many since it was inexpensive to create, could more easily be taught to others, and could be made quickly and in large quantities.

Native Americans used the Buffalo Pound method to kill buffalo, which required a hunter to dress as a buffalo and lure one into a ravine where other hunters were hiding. Once the buffalo appeared, the other hunters would kill him with spears. A variation of this technique, called the Buffalo Jump, was when a runner would lead the animals towards a cliff. As the buffalo got close to the cliff, other members of the tribe would jump out from behind rocks or trees and scare the buffalo over the cliff. Other hunters would be waiting at the bottom of the cliff to spear the animal to death. [46]


Peruvian fisherman spearfishing with a multi-pronged spear Spear fishing Peru cropped.jpg
Peruvian fisherman spearfishing with a multi-pronged spear

One of the earliest forms of killing prey for humans, hunting game with a spear and spear fishing continues to this day as both a means of catching food and as a cultural activity. Some of the most common prey for early humans were mega fauna such as mammoths which were hunted with various kinds of spear. One theory for the Quaternary extinction event was that most of these animals were hunted to extinction by humans with spears. Even after the invention of other hunting weapons such as the bow the spear continued to be used, either as a projectile weapon or used in the hand as was common in boar hunting.


A boar-spear with a bar Boar Spear MET 14.25.305 006jan2015.jpg
A boar-spear with a bar

Modern revival

Spear hunting fell out of favour in most of Europe in the 18th century, but continued in Germany, enjoying a revival in the 1930s. [49] Spear hunting is still practiced in the United States. [50] Animals taken are primarily wild boar and deer, although trophy animals such as cats and big game as large as a Cape Buffalo are hunted with spears. Alligators are hunted in Florida with a type of harpoon.

In myth and legend


The Norse god Odin, carrying the spear Gungnir on his ride to Hel Odin rides to Hel.jpg
The Norse god Odin, carrying the spear Gungnir on his ride to Hel

Like many weapons, a spear may also be a symbol of power.

The Celts would symbolically destroy a dead warrior's spear either to prevent its use by another or as a sacrificial offering.

In classical Greek mythology Zeus' bolts of lightning may be interpreted as a symbolic spear. Some would carry that interpretation to the spear that frequently is associated with Athena, interpreting her spear as a symbolic connection to some of Zeus' power beyond the Aegis once he rose to replacing other deities in the pantheon. Athena was depicted with a spear prior to that change in myths, however. Chiron's wedding-gift to Peleus when he married the nymph Thetis in classical Greek mythology, was an ashen spear as the nature of ashwood with its straight grain made it an ideal choice of wood for a spear.

The Romans and their early enemies would force prisoners to walk underneath a 'yoke of spears', which humiliated them. The yoke would consist of three spears, two upright with a third tied between them at a height which made the prisoners stoop. [51] It has been suggested that the arrangement has a magical origin, a way to trap evil spirits. [52] The word subjugate has its origins in this practice (from Latin sub = under, jugum = yoke). [53]

In Norse mythology, the god Odin's spear (named Gungnir) was made by the sons of Ivaldi. It had the special property that it never missed its mark. During the War with the Vanir, Odin symbolically threw Gungnir into the Vanir host. This practice of symbolically casting a spear into the enemy ranks at the start of a fight was sometimes used in historic clashes, to seek Odin's support in the coming battle. [54] In Wagner's opera Siegfried , the haft of Gungnir is said to be from the "World-Tree" Yggdrasil. [55]

Other spears of religious significance are the Holy Lance [56] and the Lúin of Celtchar, [57] believed by some to have vast mystical powers.

Sir James George Frazer in The Golden Bough [58] noted the phallic nature of the spear and suggested that in the Arthurian legends the spear or lance functioned as a symbol of male fertility, paired with the Grail (as a symbol of female fertility).

Statue of the Hindu God of War, Murugan, holding his primary weapon, the Vel. Batu Caves, Malaysia. Gombak Selangor Batu-Caves-01.jpg
Statue of the Hindu God of War, Murugan, holding his primary weapon, the Vel . Batu Caves, Malaysia.

The Hindu god of war Murugan is worshipped by Tamils in the form of the spear called Vel , which is his primary weapon. [59]

The term spear is also used (in a somewhat archaic manner) to describe the male line of a family, as opposed to the distaff or female line.


See also

Related weapons:

Notes and references

  1. Weir, William. 50 Weapons That Changed Warfare. The Career Press, 2005, p 12.
  2. Pruetz, Jill D.; Bertolani, Paco (2007). "Savanna Chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes verus, Hunt with Tools". Current Biology. 17 (5): 412–417. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2006.12.042 . PMID   17320393. S2CID   16551874.
  3. Thieme, Hartmut (1997-02-27). "Lower Palaeolithic hunting spears from Germany". Nature. 385 (6619): 807–810. Bibcode:1997Natur.385..807T. doi:10.1038/385807a0. PMID   9039910. S2CID   4283393 . Retrieved 2017-01-09.
  4. Monte Morin, "Stone-tipped spear may have much earlier origin", Los Angeles Times , November 16, 2012
  5. J. Wilkins et al. "Evidence for early hafted hunting technology". Science, Vol. 338, Nov. 16, 2012, p. 942. doi:10.1126/science.1227608.
  6. Rick Weiss, "Chimps Observed Making Their Own Weapons", The Washington Post , February 22, 2007
  7. Wymer, John (1982). The Palaeolithic Age. London: Croom Helm. p. 192. ISBN   978-0-7099-2710-5.
  8. Webster, T.B.L. (1977). From Mycenae to Homer. London: Methuen. pp. 166–8. ISBN   978-0-416-70570-6 . Retrieved 15 Feb 2010.
  9. Hanson, Victor Davis (1999). "Chapter 2 : The Rise of the City State and the Invention of Western Warfare". The Wars of the Ancient Greeks. London: Cassell. pp. 42–83. ISBN   978-0-304-35982-0.
  10. Hanson (1999), p. 59
  11. Hanson (1999), pp.147–8
  12. Hanson (1999), pp149-150
  13. Hunt, Peter. The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare: Volume 1, Greece, The Hellenistic World and the Rise of Rome. Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 108
  14. Bishop, M.C.; Coulston J.C. (1989). Roman Military Equipment. Princes Risborough: Shire Publications. ISBN   978-0-7478-0005-7.
  15. "Viking Spear". Hurstwic.org. Retrieved 2017-01-09.
  16. Swanton, M.J. (1973). The Spearheads of the Anglo-Saxon Settlement. London: Royal Archaeological Institute.
  17. Martin, Paul (1968). Armour and weapons. London: Herbert Jenkins. p. 226.
  18. e.g. at the Battle of Steppes, 1213. Oman, Sir Charles (1991) [1924]. The Art of War in the Middle Ages. 1. London: Greenhill Books. p. 451. ISBN   978-1-85367-100-5.
  19. Fisher, Andrew (1986). William Wallace. Edinburgh: John Donald. p. 80. ISBN   978-0-85976-154-3.
  20. Verbruggen, J. F. (1997). The Art of Warfare in Western Europe in the Middle Ages (2nd. ed.). Woodbridge: Boydell Press. pp. 184–5. ISBN   978-0-85115-630-9.
  21. Morris, Paul (September 2000). "'We have met Devils!': The Almogavars of James I and Peter III of Catalonia–Aragon". Anistoriton. 004. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
  22. Heath, Ian (1993). The Irish Wars 1485–1603. Oxford: Osprey. p. 36. ISBN   978-1-85532-280-6.
  23. Arnold, Thomas (2001). The Renaissance at War. London: Cassel & Co. pp. 60–72. ISBN   978-0-304-35270-8.
  24. Nicholson, Helen (2004). Medieval Warfare. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan. pp. 102–3. ISBN   978-0-333-76331-5.
    • Sébastien Nadot, Rompez les lances ! Chevaliers et tournois au Moyen Age, Paris, ed. Autrement, 2010. (Couch your lances ! Knights and tournaments in the Middle Ages...)
  25. Nicholson (2004), p. 102
  26. Nicholson (2004), p101
  27. Arnold (2001), pp.66–72, 78–81
  28. Arnold (2001), pp.92–100
  29. Oakeshott, Ewart (1980). European Weapons and Armour. Guildford & London: Lutterworth Press. p. 56. ISBN   978-0-7188-2126-5.
  30. Oakeshott (1980), p.55
  31. Oakeshott (1980), p.56
  32. "Spear Training | Spear Fighting | 枪 矛 厹". Imperial Combat Arts.
  33. 郑, 轶伟 (2007). 中国古代冷兵器. 上海: 上海文化出版社. p. 19. ISBN   978-7-80740-220-6.
  34. 郑, 轶伟 (2007). 中国古代冷兵器. 上海: 上海文化出版社. p. 20. ISBN   978-7-80740-220-6.
  35. 郑, 轶伟 (2007). 中国古代冷兵器. 上海: 上海文化出版社. p. 21. ISBN   978-7-80740-220-6.
  36. 郑, 轶伟 (2007). 中国古代冷兵器. 上海: 上海文化出版社. p. 22. ISBN   978-7-80740-220-6.
  37. Nikkilä, Pertti (1997). StO. Finnish Oriental Society. ISBN   9789519380315.
  38. Subrahmanian, N. (1996). Śaṅgam polity: the administration and social life of the Śaṅgam Tamils. Ennes.
  39. "TherionArms – Zulu 'Iklwa' war spear". www.therionarms.com.
  40. McBride, Angus (1976). The Zulu War . Osprey Publishing. pp.  9.
  41. Buck, BA (March 1982). "Ancient technology in contemporary surgery". The Western Journal of Medicine. 136 (3): 265–269. ISSN   0093-0415. OCLC   115633208. PMC   1273673 . PMID   7046256.
  42. "Precolumbian Spears". February 4, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-02-04.
  43. "Native American Spears". Indians.org. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  44. Blackmore, Howard (2003). Hunting Weapons from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Dover. pp. 83–4. ISBN   978-0-486-40961-0 . Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  45. Blackmore (2003), pp.88–91
  46. Blackmore (2003), pp92-3.
  47. Connolly, Peter (1981). Greece and Rome at War. London: Macdonald Phoebus. p. 89. ISBN   978-0-356-06798-8.
  48. M. Cary and A. D. Nock. "Magic Spears". The Classical Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 3/4 (June–October 1927), pp. 122–127
  49. "subjugation". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2017-01-09.
  50. Crossley-Holland, Kevin (1982). The Norse Myths. London: Penguin. pp. 51, 197. ISBN   978-0-14-006056-0.
  51. "Score: BHR0215". Dlib.indiana.edu. Retrieved 2017-01-09.
  52. E. A. Livingstone (ed.). "Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 2017-01-09.
  53. James MacKillop, author. "Dictionary of Celtic Mythology". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 2017-01-09.
  54. "The Golden Bough" via Project Gutenberg.
  55. Clothey, Fred W. (1978). The Many Faces of Murukan̲: The History and Meaning of a South Indian God. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN   9789027976321.
  56. P. K. Ford, "On the Significance of some Arthurian Names in Welsh", in Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 30 (1983), pp.268–273 at p.71; R. Bromwich and D. Simon Evans, Culhwch and Olwen. An Edition and Study of the Oldest Arthurian Tale (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1992), p.64

Related Research Articles

Pole weapon Type of melee armament with a long shaft for infantry combat

A pole weapon or pole arm is a close combat weapon in which the main fighting part of the weapon is fitted to the end of a long shaft, typically of wood, thereby extending the user's effective range and striking power. Pole weapons are predominantly melee weapons, with a subclass of spear-like designs fit for both thrusting and throwing. Because many pole weapons were adapted from agricultural implements or other tools in fairly large amount of abundance, and contain relatively little metal, they were cheap to make and readily available. When warfare breaks out and the belligerents have a poorer class who cannot pay for dedicated weapons made for war, military leaders often resort to the appropriation of tools as cheap weapons. The cost of training was minimal, since these conscripted farmers had spent most of their lives in the familiar use of these "weapons" in the fields. This made polearms the favored weapon of peasant levies and peasant rebellions the world over.

Lance Long spear used by cavalry

A lance is a pole weapon designed to be used by a mounted warrior or cavalry soldier (lancer). During the periods of classical and medieval warfare, it evolved into being the leading weapon in cavalry charges, and was unsuited for throwing or for repeated thrusting, unlike similar weapons of the javelin and pike family typically used by infantry. Lances were often equipped with a vamplate – a small circular plate to prevent the hand sliding up the shaft upon impact. Though best known as a military and sporting weapon carried by European knights, the use of lances was widespread throughout Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa wherever suitable mounts were available. As a secondary weapon, lancers of the medieval period also carried daggers, swords, axes, hammers, or maces for use in hand-to-hand combat, since the lance was often a one-use-per-engagement weapon; assuming the lance survived the initial impact intact, it was usually too long, heavy, and slow to be effective against opponents in a melee.

Halberd Type of pole weapon with axe blade topped with a spike

A halberd is a two-handed pole weapon that came to prominent use during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. The word halberd is most likely equivalent to the German word Hellebarde, deriving from Middle High German halm (handle) and barte (battleaxe) joined to form helmbarte. Troops that used the weapon were called halberdiers.

Pike (weapon) Long spear used by infantry

A pike is a pole weapon, a very long thrusting spear formerly used extensively by infantry. Pikes were used regularly in European warfare from the Late Middle Ages to the early 18th century, and were wielded by foot soldiers deployed in close quarters, until it was replaced by rifles, which had a longer range, and to which a bayonet could be attached. The pike found extensive use with Landsknecht armies and Swiss mercenaries, who employed it as their main weapon and used it in pike square formations. A similar weapon, the sarissa, was also used by Alexander the Great's Macedonian phalanx infantry to great effect. Generally, a spear becomes a pike when it is too long to be wielded with one hand in combat.

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 millimetres (0.28 in) in diameter and 60 centimetres (24 in) long with a pyramidal head. The shank was joined to the wooden shaft by either a socket or a flat tang.

The French estoc is a type of sword, also called a tuck in English, in use from the 14th to the 17th century. It is characterized by a cruciform hilt with a grip for two-handed use and a straight, edgeless, but sharply pointed blade of around 0.91 metres (36 in) to 1.32 metres (52 in) in length. It is noted for its ability to pierce mail armor.

<i>Yari</i> Japanese straight-headed spear

Yari (槍) is the term for a traditionally-made Japanese blade in the form of a spear, or more specifically, the straight-headed spear. The martial art of wielding the yari is called sōjutsu.

Assegai Wooden African javelin pointed with iron or fire-hardened tip

An assegai or assagai is a pole weapon used for throwing, usually a light spear or javelin made up of a wooden handle and an iron tip.

Ancient Macedonian army

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

Roman military personal equipment was produced in small 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 period of Anglo-Saxon warfare spans the 5th century AD to the 11th in England. Its technology and tactics resemble those of other European cultural areas of the Early stone age, although the Anglo-Saxons, unlike the Continental Germanic tribes such as the Franks and the Goths, do not appear to have regularly fought on horseback.

Xyston Ancient Greek pole weapon

The xyston, a derivative of the verb ξύω "scrape, shave", was a type of a long thrusting spear in ancient Greece. It measured about 3.5–4.25 meters (11.5–13.9 ft) long and was probably held by the cavalryman with both hands, although the depiction of Alexander the Great's xyston on the Alexander Mosaic in Pompeii, suggests that it could also be used single handed. It had a wooden shaft and a spear-point at both ends. Possible reasons for the secondary spear-tip were that it acted partly as a counterweight and also served as a backup in case the xyston was broken in action. The xyston is usually mentioned in context with the hetairoi (ἑταῖροι), the cavalry forces of ancient Macedon. After Alexander the Great's death, the hetairoi were named xystophoroi because of their use of the xyston lance. In his Greek-written Bellum Judaicum, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus uses the term xyston to describe the Roman throwing javelin, the pilum.

Javelin Type of light spear designed to be thrown by hand

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, generally called spear-throwers.

Migration Period spear Germanic weapon

The spear or lance, together with the bow, the sword, the seax and the shield, was the main equipment of the Germanic warriors during the Migration Period and the Early Middle Ages.


The angon was a type of javelin used during the Early Middle Ages by the Anglo-Saxons, Franks, Goths, and other Germanic peoples. It was similar to, and probably derived from, the pilum used by the Roman army and had a barbed head and long narrow socket or shank made of iron mounted on a wooden haft.

History of weapons Aspect of history

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.

Mughal weapons

Mughal weapons significantly evolved during the ruling periods of Babur, Akbar, Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan. During its conquests throughout the centuries, the military of the Mughal Empire used a variety of weapons including swords, bows and arrows, horses, camels, elephants, some of the world's largest cannons, muskets and flintlock blunderbusses.

Weaponry in Anglo-Saxon England Types and usage of weaponry in Anglo-Saxon England

Many different weapons were created and used in Anglo-Saxon England between the fifth and eleventh centuries. Spears, used for piercing and throwing, were the most common weapon. Other commonplace weapons included the sword, axe, and knife—however, bows and arrows, as well as slings, were not frequently used by the Anglo-Saxons. For defensive purposes, the shield was the most common item used by warriors, although sometimes mail and helmets were used.

Chinese polearms Overview of pole weapons traditionally used by Chinese armies

The three most common types of Chinese polearms are the ge (戈), qiang (槍), and ji (戟). They are translated into English as dagger-axe, spear, and halberd. Dagger-axes were originally a short slashing weapon with a 0.9 to 1.8 m long shaft, but around the 4th century BC a spearhead was added to the blade, and it became a halberd. The spear is also sometimes called a mao (矛), which is sometimes used to designate polearms with a wavy snake-like spearhead. There was another polearm weapon known as the pi (鈹), translated into English as either sword-staff or long lance, that was used from ancient times until the Han dynasty. It was essentially a short sword attached to a stick. From the Warring States period onward, the length of Chinese polearms varied from around 2.8 m to 5.5 m, however there is no specific designation for a pike in the traditional Chinese lexicon. A very long spear is just called a long spear.