To the content  To the main menu

The Spear Was a Refined Roman Legionaries Weapon, but the Neanderthals Came up With It


Do you also think of one of the best javelin throwers in the world when you say spear? Jan Železný definitely made this athletic discipline famous in the Czech Republic. However, the spear was originally a stabbing weapon and its history goes back a long way. When did it appear and how did it evolve over time?

The spear is originally a stabbing and throwing weapon. It's basically a rod finished with a tip, which can be made of various materials - stone, bone or metal. The body, rod, handle or lattice is made of wood or bamboo. For the most primitive spears, which lacked a separate point, the sharpened end of the lattice itself worked well. The weapon's perfectly straight body ensures the correct flight path.

The Prehistoric Spear Pointed to the Intelligence of Our Predecessors

The findings of primitive spears show that their history dates back to prehistoric civilisations that didn't have the knowledge of metal processing. Until a few years ago, Neanderthals were perceived by our society as individuals who could hardly articulate. However, the findings of castings of their brains and other research on the remains refuted these claims. It was also possible to prove that the with regard to hunting, Neanderthals didn't primitively club their prey with sticks and stones, but had sophisticated weapons at their disposal. 

The discovery of 400,000-year-old wooden spears has shown that the mastery of these weapons isn't their age, but points to our predecessors’ intelligence. They had to understand the basic principles of aerodynamics and physics. They were also able to work with their own balance and the body's bio-motor capabilities. Annemieke Milks' team from University College London found that it was not just weapons that could stab from a close distance. Even then, they were used for long-distance hunting, and the spearheads were adapted to this.

A Roman Spear Heralded the Beginning of The Fight and Killed Subtly

Even the bravest barbarian shook his knees when he heard the sound of whistling Roman spears. Roman spears, also known as a pila, have been the legions' most important weapon for centuries. 

This weapon began being used for the very first time at the end of the 4th century BC and has undergone development and changes over the centuries. Compared to the classic spear, the pilum differed in its construction and perhaps became so popular due to that. The Roman spear usually measured less than two metres and weighed up to two kilogrammes. Its sophistication was hidden in the points with return hooks, which prevented a simple ripping from the opponent's shield, or even from the body of the affected fighter. Some variants also had a special pyramidal tip. These insidious tweaks didn't give the opponent a chance.

Gaius Marius, one of the greatest Roman military reformers, allegedly made an important improvement. He replaced the metal nails that held part of the structure in the iron head with a wooden pin. If the weapon missed the target, it was damaged and could not be used repeatedly. The enemies could not aim the saw back at the legionnaires. And other improvements followed. In the early days of the empire, the spear was equipped with small lead weights, which were designed to improve its flight characteristics. 

The use of Roman spears had clear rules. As soon as the enemies got close enough, the legionaries began throwing their pilas, signalling the beginning of the fight. This act was well thought out and its goal was to break the opponent's psyche.

Javelin Is a Lightweight and Flying Version of Lance

The javelin was slightly smaller and primarily intended for throwing, while the lances served as a stick weapon and was used mainly for contact combat. The spear's length usually didn't exceed two metres, the lance was on the contrary two and a half to three metres. 

The lance has been used for thousands of years, and in ancient and early Middle Ages it played an important role in the struggle of man against man. The individual held the lance in his raised hand and stabbed downward as he moved his arm forward. In the second half of the 14th century, riders began using more massive and even longer lances.

On the contrary, due to its lightness, the spear was used for stabbing as well as for throwing. We currently know it as a sports tool.

Javelin Throwing Is One of the Oldest Olympic Disciplines

The javelin throw was part of the ancient Olympic pentathlon. At present, it's an exhibition Czech athletic discipline, in which Jan Železný and Barbora Špotáková set world records. 

The records were dominated in the past by the Germans Uwe Hohn and Petra Felke. However, due to the Hohn throw, the equipment was modified and the world tables were restarted. His Berlin throw rewrote history, as it was the first throw in history to break the 100-metre barrier. Precisely for the safety of the spectators, the javelin's centre of gravity was shifted. Therefore, the distance of the throws was reduced by about 10% and the number of cases where the spear landed flat, and didn't stick meant there were disputes about the validity of the points decreased. 

The athletic javelin is made of high-quality hardened duralumin. The female variants are shorter and lighter, weighting around 600g, while male javelins weigh around 800 g.

Periods: Lance

Like this article? Share

Comments (0)

Recommended products

Similar articles

  • Rozdíly mezi meči Careful With Sharp Swords! How to Choose a Blade?

    No matter if used by Roman gladiators, French knights or Japanese samurai. The purpose of the sword was to kill. In self-defense, or in attack. Beautiful piece of steel turns into a deadly weapon in battles. This is why you always need to be careful with swords. Especially with the sharp ones. What are the key differences between sword blades, and what types are there? Let’s find out!

  • Populární filmové meče Eight Must-Have Fantasy Swords

    Mind-blowing heroic deeds, epic battles of thousands against thousands, and fights against hair-raising monsters These are the basic ingredients of a good fantasy story. Fantasy stories have a few things in common. First of all, the good always wins. But there is another thing. The main characters usually crush enemies with a beautiful sword in their hand. That is why we have compiled a list of the most famous fantasy swords from films, TV series and games.

  • Historie palných zbraní Evolution of ranged weapons: from bamboo sticks to revolver

    As shown in the popular Bowling for Columbine documentary, in some US states you can get an automatic firearm for free if you open a bank account. Civilian possession of weapons is a heated topic in many countries. However, let’s now look back through history to see the origin of firearms. We will see how these clumsy, inaccurate, and unreliable curiosities that used to lose battles to bows developed into lethal instruments used by military and hunters.

  • Kubotan Stay Safe With This Self-defence Keychain Weapon

    Finding a pepper spray in your purse might take longer than you can afford. Try using a kubotan, instead! These weapons are no bigger than a pen, but they can be as effective as a personal bodyguard. If used correctly, kubotan can help you defend yourself against any attacker, whether in a dark underpass or during a pub brawl.

Comments (0)

Write your own comment

We take care of our customers, their questions of all kinds are answered

Your questions help us to improve. What is as clear as a day for someone, can be for another an interesting novelty. Do not be afraid to ask questions. We are here for you! What we do not know ourselves, we discuss with experts with whom we work closely. The most frequent questions are published here. Your curiosity is appreciated!

  • Do you like shopping with free shipping? If you purchased for at least € 900, you will receive a free delivery to France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Hungary and Poland!

    Free delivery on orders over 900€

  • Is it necessary to deliver the goods quickly? If you manage to place your order of in-stock items by 11.00 am and pay, it will be despatched on the same day. Delivery time within Europe take about 2-5 business days.

    Fast delivery for orders by 11:00 AM

  • Does the delivered size not fit? We exchange the goods within 14 days for another size free of charge. You pay only the shipping.

    Exchange of size within 14 days for free

  • Many of our products are not available anywhere else. These are unique replicas of museum exemplars, designs of ours or our customers.

    Unique items exclusive production

  • On an approx. 800m2 we store items worth about 600 thousand EURO. Choose any item from stock today and it will be despatched immediately. Personal pickup in Kadan can be organized within a few minutes!

    Huge range of products Bestsellers always in stock

Choose a language

Choose a currency