The sarisa or sarissa (Greek: σάρισα) was a long spear or pike about 4–6 metres (13–20 ft) in length. It was introduced by Philip II of Macedon and was used in his Macedonian phalanxes as a replacement for the earlier dory, which was considerably shorter. These longer spears improved the strength of the phalanx by extending the rows of overlapping weapons projecting towards the enemy, and the word remained in use throughout the Byzantine years to sometimes describe the long spears of their own infantry.[1][2]

Composition and utility

The sarissa, made of tough and resilient cornel wood, was very heavy for a spear, weighing approximately 5.5 kg (12 lb) to 6.5 kg (14 lb).[3] It had a sharp iron head shaped like a leaf and a bronze butt-spike which could be anchored to the ground to stop charges by the enemy.[4] The bronze material of the butt-spike prevented it from rusting. The spike also served to balance out the spear, making it easier for soldiers to wield, and could be used as a back-up point should the main one break.

The sheer bulk and size of the spear required the soldiers to wield it with both hands, allowing them to carry only a 60 cm (24 in) shield (pelta) suspended from the neck to cover the left shoulder.[5] Its great length was an asset against hoplites and other soldiers bearing shorter weapons, as they had to get past the sarissas to engage the phalangites. However, outside the tight formation of the phalanx the sarissa was of limited utility as a weapon and a hindrance on the march. As such, it was usually composed of two lengths and was joined by a central bronze tube only before a battle.[6]


Complicated training ensured that the phalanx wielded their sarissas in unison, swinging them vertically to wheel about, then lowering them to the horizontal. The uniform swish of the sarissas daunted the Illyrian hill tribesmen against whom the young Alexander fought in an expedition early in his reign.[7]

The sarissa-bearing phalanx would usually march to battle in open formation to facilitate movement. Before the charge, it would tighten its files to close formation or even compact formation (synaspismos). The tight formation of the phalanx created a "wall of pikes", and the pike was so long that there were fully five rows of them projecting in front of the front rank of men—even if an enemy got past the first row, there were still four more to stop him. The back rows bore their pikes angled upwards in readiness, which served the additional purpose of deflecting incoming arrows.[8] The Macedonian phalanx was considered invulnerable from the front, except against another such phalanx; the only way it was ever generally defeated was by breaking its formation or outflanking it.

History of use

The invention of the sarissa is credited to Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. Philip drilled his soldiers, whose morale was at first low, to use these formidable pikes with two hands. The new tactic was unstoppable, and by the end of Philip's reign the previously fragile northern Greek kingdom of Macedon controlled the whole of Greece and Thrace.

His son, Alexander, used the new tactic across Asia, conquering Egypt, Persia and the Pauravas (northwest India), victorious all the way. The sarissa-wielding phalanxes were vital in every early battle, including the pivotal Battle of Gaugamela where the Persian king's scythe chariots were utterly destroyed by the phalanx, supported by the combined use of companion cavalry and peltasts (javelineers). During his later campaigning, Alexander gradually reduced the importance of the phalanx and the sarissa, as he modified his combined use of arms to incorporate 'Asian' weapons and troops, not specifically trained in Hellenistic battle tactics.

The sarissa, however, remained the backbone for every subsequent Hellenistic, and especially Diadochi army. The Battle of Raphia between the Seleucids and Ptolemy IV may represent the pinnacle of sarissa tactics, when only an elephant charge seemed able to disrupt the opposing phalanx. The Successor Kingdoms of Macedon's empire tried expanding upon the design, creating pikes as long as 6.75 m (22.1 ft), but all of these ideas were eventually abandoned in favor of the battle-tried Philippine-Alexandrian sarissa. Battles often ended up stalemated in what Oliver Cromwell later described as "the terrible business of push of pike".

Subsequently, a lack of training and too great a reliance on the phalanx instead of the combined use of arms (Alexander's and Philip's great contributions) led to the final defeat of Macedon by the Romans at the Battle of Pydna. Modern conclusions are that the loss was actually due to a failure of command on the part of Perseus, as well as the peculiar stance of the Companion cavalry, who did not engage the enemy. Part of the reason for the rapid deterioration of the sarissa's ability was that, after Alexander, generals ceased to protect phalanxes with cavalry and light-armed troops, and phalanxes were destroyed too easily by flank attacks owing to the sarissa's tactical unwieldiness. The sarissa was gradually replaced by variations of the gladius as the weapon of choice. Only Pyrrhus of Epirus was able to maintain a high standard of tactical handling with armies based around the sarissa, but with the dawn of the manipular system, even he struggled for his victories.

See also


  1. ^ 11th century, Michael Attaleiates, The History, A.1047
  2. ^ 6th century, Agathias Scholasticus, Histories, B.43
  3. ^ Markle 324
  4. ^ Fox76f.
  5. ^ Markle 326
  6. ^ Fox, p. 75
  7. ^ Described by Fox, pp 84f.
  8. ^ Anthony, Matthew, Christopher (2015). An invincible beast : understanding the Hellenistic pike-phalanx at war. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword Military. p. 397. ISBN 9781473881341. OCLC 951434590.


  • Lane Fox, Robin (1973). Alexander the Great. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-008878-4.
  • M. Markle, III, Minor (Summer 1977). "The Macedonian Sarrissa, Spear and Related Armor". American Journal of Archaeology. Archeological Institute of America. 81 (3): 323–339.
  • Campbell, Duncan B. (2014). "How long was the Macedonian sarissa?". Ancient Warfare. Karwansaray Publishers. VIII (3): 48–52.

External links

Alynda sarissa

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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.

The latest innovations in weapons and tactics were adopted and refined by Philip II, and he created a uniquely flexible and effective army. By introducing military service as a full-time occupation, Philip was able to drill his men regularly, ensuring unity and cohesion in his ranks. In a remarkably short time, this led to the creation of one of the finest military machines of the ancient world.

Tactical improvements included the latest developments in the deployment of the traditional Greek phalanx made by men such as Epaminondas of Thebes and Iphicrates of Athens. Philip II improved on these military innovators by using both Epaminondas' deeper phalanx and Iphicrates' combination of a longer spear and smaller and lighter shield. However, the Macedonian king also innovated; he introduced the use of a much longer spear, the two-handed pike. The Macedonian pike, the sarissa, gave its wielder many advantages both offensively and defensively. For the first time in Greek warfare, cavalry became a decisive arm in battle. The Macedonian army perfected the co-ordination of different troop types, an early example of combined arms tactics — the heavy infantry phalanx, skirmish infantry, archers, light cavalry and heavy cavalry, and siege engines were all deployed in battle; each troop type being used to its own particular advantage and creating a synergy of mutual support.

The new Macedonian army was an amalgamation of different forces. Macedonians and other Greeks (especially Thessalian cavalry) and a wide range of mercenaries from across the Aegean and Balkans were employed by Phillip. By 338 BC, more than a half of the army for his planned invasion of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia came from outside the borders of Macedon — from all over the Greek world and the nearby barbarian tribes, such as the Illyrians, Paeonians, and Thracians.

Unfortunately, most of the primary historical sources for this period have been lost. As a consequence, scholarship is largely reliant on the works of Diodorus Siculus and Arrian, plus the incomplete writings of Curtius, all of whom lived centuries later than the events they describe.


Anzili or Enzili was a Hittite goddess who was worshiped in Tamita and Zapišḫuna. Her name is sometimes written with the Sumerogram IŠTAR or the compound IŠTAR-liIn Ḫurma, the goddess Anzili was considered the partner of the Weather god of Zippalanda, but she is also attested as the partner of the Weather god of Šarišša. In Kuliwišna she was worshiped with the local weather god and the LAMMA-tutelary godAlong with the goddess Zukki, Anzili was involved in rituals to aid childbirth. Anzili and Zukki are among the many Hittite deities, whose temporary disappearance is the topic of myth (compare Telipinu, the Sun goddess of Arinna, Inara, the kurša-hunting bag, Ḫannaḫanna, the Gulšeš, and various weather gods, including the weather god of Kuliwišna). The standard pattern is that the deity disappears as a result of their anger and they have to be mollified in order to bring them back. In the case of Anzili and Zukki, the goddesses are so angry that they put their shoes on the wrong feet - left on right and right on left - and they put their clothes on back to front, so that their cloak pins are on the back. Then they both departed from mankind. The back-to-front clothes of the goddesses might be understood as a symbol of the symbolic destruction of the cosmic order which results from the goddesses' departure.


Cerithiopsis is a genus of very small sea snails, marine gastropod mollusks or micromollusks in the family Cerithiopsidae.

Cold Days

Cold Days is a 2012 bestselling novel by Jim Butcher and the 14th book in the ongoing The Dresden Files series. The book was first published on November 27, 2012 through Roc Hardcover and continues the adventures of wizard detective Harry Dresden.

Dory (spear)

The dory or doru (; Greek: δόρυ) is a spear that was the chief spear of hoplites (heavy infantry) in Ancient Greece. The word "dory" was first attested by Homer with the meanings of "wood" and "spear". Homeric heroes hold two dorata (Greek: δόρατα, plural of δόρυ) (Il. 11,43, Od. 1, 256). In the Homeric epics and in the classical period the dory was a symbol of military power, possibly more important than the sword, as can be inferred from expressions like "Troy conquered by dory" (Il. 16,708) and words like "doryktetos" (Greek: δορίκτητος) (spear-won) and "doryalotos" (Greek: δορυάλωτος) (spear-taken).The dory was about 2 to 3 m (6 ft 7 in to 9 ft 10 in) in length and had a handle with a diameter of 5 cm (two inches) made of wood, either cornel or ash weighing 2 to 4 lb (0.91 to 1.81 kg). The flat leaf-shaped spearhead was composed of iron and its weight was counterbalanced by an iron butt-spike. (cf Sarissa)

Grevillea sarissa

Grevillea sarissa, the wheel grevillea, is a shrub which is

native to South Australia and Western Australia. It grows to between 0.6 and 3.5 metres in height and produces yellow, red or pink flowers between August and December (late winter to early summer) in its native range.The species was originally described by botanist Spencer Le Marchant Moore, his description published in Journal of the Linnean Society in 1899.Six subspecies are currently recognised:

G. sarissa subsp. anfractifolia

G. sarissa subsp. bicolor

G. sarissa subsp. rectitepala

G. sarissa subsp. sarissa

G. sarissa subsp. succincta

G. sarissa subsp. umbellifera


Konos (Ancient Greek: κῶνος: cone, spinning top) is a conical shaped Macedonianian helmet worn in combat during the Hellenistic era. Its pointed shape is similar to the Pilos helmet that is placed underneath a Konos as an interior protector. Although close in design, a Pilos helmet has a small visor around the opening and a Konos helmet is created to have a thin brim protruding from its base and closely fits around the warrior's head. Bronze ear guards that hang to the jawbone were later added for further protection, also differing from the Pilos. Spiral characteristics from the Ionic order are engraved across the front of the helmet for design. The Greek crest is fixed across the ridges of the helmet as a way to demonstrate tribe recognition. The Konos/Pilos helmet belongs to one in five standard types of ancient Greek headgear and weaponry. A clause of military regulation from Amphipolis proclaims that the Konos is to be the helmet of Phalangites—infantry standing in close rectangular or squared formation. According to the Military Decree of Amphipolis, "...those not bearing the weapons appropriate to them are to be fined: two obols for the kotthybos, the same amount for the konos, three obols for the sarissa...."


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Excavations began in 1992. Dirk Mielke identified from the 16th to 13th centuries BC three "pottery horizons" and two Hittite building layers of different character. Mielke further identified a third, Iron Age building layer.[1]

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This is a list of Grevillea species.

Macedonian phalanx

The Macedonian phalanx is an infantry formation developed by Philip II and used by his son Alexander the Great to conquer the Achaemenid Empire and other armies. Phalanxes remained dominant on battlefields throughout the Ancient Macedonian Period, although wars had developed into more protracted operations generally involving sieges and naval combat as much as pitched battles, until they were ultimately displaced by the Roman legions.

Mek (comics)

Mek is a three-issue comic book mini-series published in 2003 by WildStorm, written by Warren Ellis, pencilled by Steve Rolston and inked by Al Gordon.

Mora (military unit)

A mora (Greek: μόρα) (plural Morae) was an ancient Spartan military unit of about a sixth of the Spartan army, at approx. 600 men by modern estimates, although Xenophon places it at 6,000. This can be reconciled by the nature of the Spartan army with an organisation based on year classes, with only the younger troops being mobilised for all but the gravest emergencies. Either way, it was the largest tactical unit in Sparta, if not all Greece, and was often the only force sent out on campaign.

A mora was composed typically of hoplites, men armed with spears, swords and the heavy aspis shield and armoured in a cuirass, greaves and a helmet. This equipment changed over time, with more or less armour being used over different eras. Around 227BC, Cleomenes III re-equipped some Morai with the Macedonian sarissa and trained them to fight in the Macedonian pike phalanx. The unit was led by a Polemarch, the third (or arguably second) highest rank in Spartan hierarchy after the kings. However, sometimes there was a higher rank, that of Strategos, most famously held by Lysander. During the time of pure phalanx combat in Greece, the mora was a very difficult obstacle for an opposing commander to negotiate. However, Iphicrates of Athens used a small, elite group of lightly armed peltasts to destroy one.


The pezhetairoi (Greek and Ancient Macedonian: πεζέταιροι, singular: pezhetairos) were the backbone of the Macedonian army and Diadochi kingdoms. They were literally "foot companions" (in Greek, pezos means "pedestrian" and hetairos means "companion" or "friend").

The Macedonian phalanxes were made up almost entirely of pezhetairoi. Pezhetairoi were very effective against both enemy cavalry and infantry, as their long pikes could be used to impale enemies charging on horse-back or to keep enemy infantry with shorter weapons at bay.


The phalanx (Ancient Greek: φάλαγξ; plural phalanxes or phalanges, φάλαγγες, phalanges) was a rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, sarissas, or similar pole weapons. The term is particularly (and originally) used to describe the use of this formation in Ancient Greek warfare, although the ancient Greek writers used it to also describe any massed infantry formation, regardless of its equipment. Arrian uses the term in his Array against the Alans when he refers to his legions. In Greek texts, the phalanx may be deployed for battle, on the march, or even camped, thus describing the mass of infantry or cavalry that would deploy in line during battle. They marched forward as one entity.

The term itself, as used today, does not refer to a distinctive military unit or division (e.g., the Roman legion or the contemporary Western-type battalion), but to the type of formation of an army's troops. Therefore, this term does not indicate a standard combat strength or composition but includes the total number of infantry, which is deployed in a single formation known as a "phalanx".

Many spear-armed troops historically fought in what might be termed phalanx-like formations. This article focuses on the use of the military phalanx formation in Ancient Greece, the Hellenistic world, and other ancient states heavily influenced by Greek civilization.

Pike (weapon)

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 their replacement by the bayonet. 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 sarissophoroi (σαρισσοφόροι, sarissa bearers; singular: sarissophoros σαρισσοφόρος), also called prodromoi, were a unit of light cavalry in the ancient Macedonian army.

Seleucid army

The Seleucid army was the army of the Seleucid Empire, one of the numerous Hellenistic states that emerged after the death of Alexander the Great.

As with the other major Hellenistic armies, the Seleucid army fought primarily in the Greco-Macedonian style, with its main body being the phalanx. The phalanx was a large, dense formation of men armed with small shields and a long pike called the sarissa. This form of fighting had been developed by the Macedonian army in the reign of Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. Alongside the phalanx, the Seleucid armies used a great deal of native and mercenary troops to supplement their Greek forces, which were limited due to the distance from the Seleucid rulers' Macedonian homeland.


Serissa is a genus of flowering plants in the family Rubiaceae, containing only one species, Serissa japonica. It is native to open sub-tropical woodlands and wet meadows in southeast Asia, from India, and China to Japan. It is commonly called the snowrose, tree of a thousand stars, or Japanese boxthorn; and was formerly called Serissa foetida. 'Foetida' referres to the unpleasant, vomit-like, odour that the trees give off if their leaves are pruned or bruised. Snowrose and tree of a thousand stars are different cultivars. The only method of differentiating is measuring the difference in the shape and size of the flowers produced.


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