A List Of Spartan Weapons
Sparta was one of the greatest military powers in the ancient world, and Spartan weapons are still studied by scholars to this day. Reproductions are also prized by collectors. The Spartans were a militaristic city state of Ancient Greece, and they developed many of the military tactics and weapons we associate with that region and time period today. There are, unfortunately, few references in literature to Sparta, as few well known ancient Greek historians like Homer or Herodotus were actually from Sparta. One Greek historian from Sparta was Tyrtaeus, who wrote most of what we know about Spartan weapons and military tactics. The majority of what we do know about Spartan weaponry, we know from artistic representations on pottery and statues.
Sparta was unique among ancient Greek city-states for their militaristic society. Other Greek city-states had standing armies that would be raised in times of war, but Sparta had an entire class of professional soldiers. The Spartans also developed a strict military code of honor that ruled the entire city state. Their soldiers, called hoplites, were usually outfitted with heavy bronze armor consisting of a helmet, a shield, a cuirass or breastplate, greaves that covered the legs and vambraces on the arms. The total weight of a Spartan soldier’s bronze armor could have ranged from forty to sixty pounds. Spartan weapons generally consisted of a spear for long range fighting and a sword for close combat.
The Spartan round shield is probably the most recognizable part of Spartan weaponry. The ancient Greek word for shield is “hoplon,” from which the word for Greek soldiers, “hoplite,” is derived. As the primary defense, the shield was very important to Spartan soldiers. Their shields were usually big enough to cover a soldier from shoulder to knee. Shields were usually made of wood with bronze edges and frame, but later they were coated in bronze. The Spartan soldier held the shield by a leather arm band that wrapped around his elbow, but there was also a handle to grip and control the angle of the shield. The Spartan soldiers used their shields not only to guard their own bodies, but part of the soldier on their left. They would fight in tight formation with shields locked in a wall that made it hard for enemy soldiers to get past.
Spartan helmets were relatively simple in design and usually made of bronze. Helmets usually covered the entire head and featured a nose guard, which left only the eyes free. This design offered protection but limited the soldier’s range of sight and hearing. Later helmets had cut out portions for the ears so soldiers could hear better.
The Spartan spear was very long, between two and three meters or six to nine feet long. Spears were usually held in one hand and the shield in the other. Spears were the primary weapon, and wouldn’t usually be thrown at the enemy. Spartan spears were often used in formation fighting as stabbing weapons that could reach over the enemy’s shields. The blade of the spear was leaf shaped and bronze. Spartan spears also had a heavy weight on the back end that could be used for bludgeoning if the spearhead broke off during combat.
Spartan swords were primarily used as stabbing weapons in close combat because spears were too long to be effective against a single opponent out of formation. Swords were generally used when the spear had broken or was lost in combat. While there were different types of swords throughout Spartan history, most were short and leaf shaped. The blade of the Spartan sword was usually between one and two feet long. The swords were short because they could be used to stab between interlocked shields.