Ancient Roman Spears and Pilum: One of the most powerful empires of the ancient world was the Roman Empire. The foundation of the Roman Empire was established on courage, duty, and honor which were largely based on its strong military power. The Roman military regime was one of the strongest military powers in the ancient world because of the superior weapons and also because of their war tactics.
The Roman army was open-minded in adopting the war tactics and also the weapons of their enemies if they could be benefited from it. A sword and a spear were the main weapons of a Roman soldier.
Ancient Roman Pilum
The Roman Army was one of the most ruthless armies in the world. If it weren’t for this army, the largest empire ever would have been nothing. The army was very advanced in technology which led them to any victories.
The pilum was a javelin commonly used by the Roman army in ancient times. It was generally about two meters long overall, consisting of an iron or, rather, “soft” steel shank about 7 mm in diameter and 60 cm long with the pyramidal head. The shank was joined to the wooden shaft by either a socket or a flat tang.
The total weight of a pilum was between two and five kilograms, with the versions produced during the Empire is a bit lighter than those dating from the previous Republican era.
Ancient Roman Spears
The iron shank was the key to the function of the pilum. The weapon had a hard barbed tip but the shank itself was not properly tempered. This deliberate ‘un-tempering’ would cause the shank to bend after impact, thus rendering the weapon useless to the enemy.
More importantly, if the pilum struck the shield of an enemy it would embed itself into the shield’s fabric, and this along with the bending of the shank would cause the shield to become unwieldy, forcing the enemy to discard it.
Pila were divided into two models namely heavy and light. Pictorial evidence suggested that some versions of the weapon were weighted by a lead ball to increase penetrative power but archeological specimens of this design variant are not so far known. Recent experiments have shown Pila had a range of approximately 30 meters (100 ft), although the effective range is up to 15-20 m which is between 50 and 70 feet.
Roman Spears and Pilum Facts
Legionaries of the Late Republic and Early Empire often carried two Pila, with one sometimes being lighter than the other. Standard tactics called for Roman soldiers to throw one of them at the enemy, just before charging to engage with the gladius.
The effect of the Pila throw was to disrupt the enemy formation by attrition and by causing gaps to appear in its protective shield wall.
Pila could also be used in hand-to-hand combat; one documented instance of this occurred at the Siege of Alesia. Additionally, Pila could also be employed as a thrusting implement and a barrier against cavalry charges. 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.