The xyston (Ancient Greek: ξυστόν "spear, javelin; pointed stick, goad") was a type of a long thrusting spear in ancient Greece. It measured about 3.5–4.25 meters (11.5–13.9 ft) long and was probably held by the cavalryman with both hands, although the depiction of Alexander the Great's xyston on the Alexander Mosaic in Pompeii (see figure), suggests that it could also be used single handed. It had a wooden shaft and a spear-point at both ends. Possible reasons for the secondary spear-tip were that it acted partly as a counterweight and also served as a backup in case the Xyston was broken in action. The xyston is usually mentioned in context with the hetairoi (ἑταῖροι), the cavalry forces of ancient Macedon. After Alexander the Great's death, the hetairoi were named xystophoroi (ξυστοφόροι, "spear-bearers") because of their use of the xyston lance. In his Greek-written Bellum Judaicum, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus uses the term xyston to describe the Roman throwing javelin, the pilum.

The xyston was wielded either underarm or overarm, presumably as a matter of personal preference. It was also known, especially later, as the kontos; meaning literally "barge-pole"; the name possibly originated as a slang term for the weapon.

Alexander xyston
The length of Alexander the Great's xyston.

See also


Acropolis of Athens

The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. The word acropolis is from the Greek words ἄκρον (akron, "highest point, extremity") and πόλις (polis, "city"). Although the term acropolis is generic and there are many other acropoleis in Greece, the significance of the Acropolis of Athens is such that it is commonly known as "The Acropolis" without qualification. During ancient times it was known also more properly as Cecropia, after the legendary serpent-man, Cecrops, the supposed first Athenian king.

While there is evidence that the hill was inhabited as far back as the fourth millennium BC, it was Pericles (c. 495–429 BC) in the fifth century BC who coordinated the construction of the site's most important present remains including the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike. The Parthenon and the other buildings were damaged seriously during the 1687 siege by the Venetians during the Morean War when gunpowder being stored in the Parthenon was hit by a cannonball and exploded.

Ancient Greek dialects

Ancient Greek in classical antiquity, before the development of the common Koine Greek of the Hellenistic period, was divided into several varieties.

Most of these varieties are known only from inscriptions, but a few of them, principally Aeolic, Doric, and Ionic, are also represented in the literary canon alongside the dominant Attic form of literary Greek.

Likewise, Modern Greek is divided into several dialects, most derived from Koine Greek.

Ancient Greek military personal equipment

Ancient Greek weapons and armor were primarily geared towards combat between individuals. Their primary technique was called the phalanx, a formation consisting of massed shield wall, which required heavy frontal armor and medium-ranged weapons such as spears. Soldiers were required to provide their own panoply, which could prove expensive, however the lack of any official peace-keeping force meant that most Greek citizens carried weapons as a matter of course for self-defence. Because individuals provided their own equipment, there was considerable diversity in arms and armour among the Hellenistic troops.The poorest citizens, unable to afford the purchase or upkeep of military equipment, operated on the battlefield as psiloi or peltasts; fast, mobile skirmishing troops.

Weapons were primarily constructed from iron, wood and bronze.

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.

Companion cavalry

The Companions (Greek: ἑταῖροι [heˈtairoi̯], hetairoi) were the elite cavalry of the Macedonian army from the time of king Philip II of Macedon, achieved their greatest prestige under Alexander the Great, and have been regarded as the first or among the first shock cavalry used in Europe. Chosen Companions, or Hetairoi, formed the elite guard of the king (Somatophylakes).

Cycladic culture

Cycladic culture (also known as Cycladic civilisation or, chronologically, as Cycladic chronology) was a Bronze Age culture (c. 3200–c. 1050 BC) found throughout the islands of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea. In chronological terms, it is a relative dating system for artefacts which broadly complements Helladic chronology (mainland Greece) and Minoan chronology (Crete) during the same period of time.


Demonax (Greek: Δημώναξ, Dēmōnax, gen.: Δημώνακτος; c. AD 70 – c. 170) was a Greek Cynic philosopher. Born in Cyprus, he moved to Athens, where his wisdom, and his skill in solving disputes, earned him the admiration of the citizens. He taught Lucian, who wrote a Life of Demonax in praise of his teacher. When he died he received a magnificent public funeral.

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)

Greece in the Roman era

Greece in the Roman era describes the period of Greek history when Ancient Greece was dominated by the Roman Republic (509 – 27 BC), the Roman Empire (27 BC – AD 395), and the Byzantine Empire (AD 395 – 1453). The Roman era of Greek history began with the Corinthian defeat in the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC. However, before the Achaean War, the Roman Republic had been steadily gaining control of mainland Greece by defeating the Kingdom of Macedon in a series of conflicts known as the Macedonian Wars. The Fourth Macedonian War ended at the Battle of Pydna in 148 BC and defeat of the Macedonian royal pretender Andriscus.

The definitive Roman occupation of the Greek world was established after the Battle of Actium (31 BC), in which Augustus defeated Cleopatra VII, the Greek Ptolemaic queen of Egypt, and the Roman general Mark Antony, and afterwards conquered Alexandria (32 BC), the last great city of Hellenistic Greece. The Roman era of Greek history continued with Emperor Constantine the Great's adoption of Byzantium as Nova Roma, the capital city of the Roman Empire; in AD 330, the city was renamed Constantinople; afterwards, the Byzantine Empire was a generally Greek-speaking polity.

Greek Dark Ages

The Greek Dark Ages, Homeric Age (named for the fabled poet, Homer) or Geometric period (so called after the characteristic Geometric art of the time),

is the period of Greek history from the end of the Mycenaean palatial civilization around 1100 BC to the first signs of the Greek poleis (city states) in the 9th century BC.

The archaeological evidence shows a widespread collapse of Bronze Age civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean world at the outset of the period, as the great palaces and cities of the Mycenaeans were destroyed or abandoned. At about the same time, the Hittite civilization suffered serious disruption and cities from Troy to Gaza were destroyed and in Egypt the New Kingdom fell into disarray that led to the Third Intermediate Period.

Following the collapse, fewer and smaller settlements suggest famine and depopulation. In Greece, the Linear B writing of the Greek language used by Mycenaean bureaucrats ceased. The decoration on Greek pottery after about 1100 BC lacks the figurative decoration of Mycenaean ware and is restricted to simpler, generally geometric styles (1000–700 BC).

It was previously thought that all contact was lost between mainland Hellenes and foreign powers during this period, yielding little cultural progress or growth, but artifacts from excavations at Lefkandi on the Lelantine Plain in Euboea show that significant cultural and trade links with the east, particularly the Levant coast, developed from c. 900 BC onwards. Additionally, evidence has emerged of the new presence of Hellenes in sub-Mycenaean Cyprus and on the Syrian coast at Al-Mina.

List of types of spears

This is a list of types of spears found worldwide throughout history.


In the culture of ancient Greece, the term paideia (also spelled paedeia) (; Greek: παιδεία, paideía) referred to the rearing and education of the ideal member of the polis. It incorporated both practical, subject-based schooling and a focus upon the socialization of individuals within the aristocratic order of the polis. The practical aspects of this education included subjects subsumed under the modern designation of the liberal arts (rhetoric, grammar, and philosophy are examples), as well as scientific disciplines like arithmetic and medicine. An ideal and successful member of the polis would possess intellectual, moral and physical refinement, so training in gymnastics and wrestling was valued for its effect on the body alongside the moral education which the Greeks believed was imparted by the study of music, poetry, and philosophy. This approach to the rearing of a well-rounded Greek male was common to the Greek-speaking world, with the exception of Sparta where a rigid and militaristic form of education known as the agoge was practiced.

Phylakopi I culture

The Phylakopi I culture (Greek: Φυλακωπή) refers to a "cultural" dating system used for the Cycladic culture that flourished during the early Bronze Age in Greece. It spans the period ca. 2300-2000 BC and was named by Colin Renfrew, after the settlement of Phylakopi on the Cycladic island of Milos. Other archaeologists describe this period as the Early Cycladic III (ECIII).

Pole weapon

A pole weapon or pole arm is a close combat weapon in which the main fighting part of the weapon is fitted to the end of a long shaft, typically of wood, thereby extending the user's effective range and striking power. Because many pole weapons were adapted from farm implements or other tools, and contain relatively little metal, they were cheap to make and readily available. This made them the favored weapon of peasant levies and peasant rebellions the world over.

Pole arms can be divided into three broad categories: those designed for extended reach and thrusting tactics used in pike square or phalanx combat; those designed to increase leverage (thanks to hands moving freely on a pole) to maximize centrifugal force against cavalry; and those designed for throwing tactics used in skirmish line combat. Spears, glaives, guandaos, pudaos, poleaxes, halberds, harpoons, sovnyas, tridents, naginatas, war scythes and javelins are all varieties of pole arms.

Pole arms were common weapons on post-classical battlefields of Asia and Europe. Their range and impact force made them effective weapons against armored warriors on horseback, because they could penetrate armor. The Renaissance saw a plethora of different varieties. Pole arms in modern times are largely constrained to ceremonial military units such as the Papal Swiss Guard or Yeomen of the Guard, or traditional martial arts. Chinese martial arts in particular have preserved a wide variety of weapons and techniques.


In ancient Greece, the prodromoi (singular: prodromos) were skirmisher light cavalry. Their name (ancient Greek: πρόδρομοι, prοdromoi, lit. "pre-cursors," "runners-before," or "runners-ahead") implies that these cavalry 'moved before the rest of the army' and were therefore intended for scouting and screening missions. They were usually equipped with javelins, and a sword. Sometimes they wore either linen or leather armour, as well as bronze helmets.


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.


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.

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