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The Macedonian Sarissa, Spear, and Related Armor
Minor M. Markle, III
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 81, No. 3 (Summer, 1977), pp. 323-339
Published by: Archaeological Institute of America
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/503007
Page Count: 17
You can always find the topics here!Topics: Spears, Shields, Lances, Weapons, Sarcophagi, Armor, Tact, Diameters, Warfare, Mosaic
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Adoption of the sarissa, or long lance, by Macedonian infantry and cavalry brought about important changes in military tactics. To understand these developments, it is necessary to be clear about the limitations of size and weight of the sarissa, since these factors determined how the weapon could be wielded in battle. When it is established how the sarissa had to be handled, then one can conceive more accurately both the advantages and weaknesses of military formations armed in this manner. Moreover, to gain a proper perspective on the limited role played by sarissa-armed foot, one must examine the evidence for the continued use of the hoplite panoply by the Macedonians. First, I shall consider the precise specifications of the Macedonian sarissa and its concomitant small target in comparison with those of the traditional Greek hoplite spear and shield. Second, I will show that both literary and archaeological sources indicate that the Macedonian hypaspists normally employed the spear, hoplite shield, and related equipment. Third, I will discuss the sarissa as an infantry weapon and show in what respects the Macedonian phalanx differed from the older Greek hoplite formation. Finally, I will consider how the Macedonians carried and wielded the cavalry lance and argue that this weapon was employed against not only hostile cavalry but even infantry. In a second article, entitled "Use of the Sarissa by Philip and Alexander of Macedon," I will argue that Philip employed the cavalry lance for the first time at Chaeronea in 338 B.C. and that the infantry lance may not have been used in battle before the reign of Alexander the Great. I will also show that the Mounted Lancers, the Companion Cavalry, and the Foot Companions of the phalanx, even under Alexander, were not invariably armed with the sarissa but frequently used the spear and javelin.
American Journal of Archaeology © 1977 Archaeological Institute of America