Ancient Greek armored foot soldiers were known as hoplites and they mainly relied on spears and shields for combat. They used sword as the secondary weapon and crossbow as the long range weapon. Then there were some amazing advanced weapons used both at sea and land. Here are 10 most prominent and incredible weapons used in ancient Greece.
The Kopis was a one-handed, single-edged sword used by the Greeks. It measured around 36 inches with the blade curving forward and widening near the tip. It was longer than Xiphos, the other prominent ancient Greek sword. Kopis was more useful to the cavalry “because from the height of a horse’s back the cut of a Kopis will serve you better than the thrust of a xiphos”
The primary weapon of ancient Greeks was the spear. If it broke they used a short single hand sword known as Xiphos. The Xiphos had a double-edged blade that rarely measured longer than 20 inches which made it useful in close range combat. It was more martially versatile than the other prominent sword, the single edged Kopis.
Forerunner to the medieval crossbow, Gastraphetes was the long range weapon of ancient Greeks including Alexander the Great. It was not loaded by pulling up the string. Instead it was loaded by resting the stomach in a concavity at the rear and pressing down with all strength. This gave it more energy than the one arm of the archer.
Dory was the primary weapon of the ancient Greeks. It was a long spear about 3 meters in length consisting of a wood shaft with an iron tip. It was single handed like Xiphos allowing the user to hold the shield in the other hand. Dory enabled the hoplite to keep an enemy at a distance and was effective in phalanx (shield-wall) formation, allowing the first two lines to attack.
Introduced by Alexander’s father, Philip II of Macedon, Sarissa was a 4 to 7 meters long spear which was used instead of the dory. It was made of tough cornel wood and weighed around 5 kilograms. Sarissa was considerably longer than its predecessor and this made it very effective in the Macedonian phalanx which was considered invulnerable from the front and could be only defeated if the formation was broken. Invention of Sarissa greatly helped Philip II and his son Alexander the Great in their conquests.
Hoplon was a large and heavy round shield about 1 meter in diameter and weighing around 7 to 10 kilograms. It was such an important part of the arsenal of the Greek foot soldiers that they were referred to as hoplites. Hoplon was a vital in the famous Greek phalanx formation which created a massive shield wall to make frontal attacks difficult for the enemy. It was also used to carry the dead and wounded from the battlefield. Losing it was considered a disgrace which is why women told their husbands: ‘come back with your shield or on it’.
#4 Naval Ram
Athenians were the most successful at naval war and ramming was their primary naval tactic. The ram comprised an underwater prolongation of the bow of the ship to form an armored beak, around six to twelve feet in length. It was driven into the hull of the enemy ship to sink it. Athenians outdid the enemy ships on speed and maneuverability. They used to ram the enemy and get out before their archers or marines could respond.
Ballista was a missile weapon used to launch a large projectile at a distant target. With a range of 500 yards it was the most advanced siege weapon of ancient Greeks. Although it was invented around 400 B.C., it was Philip II and his son Alexander the Great that used the weapon prominently to their advantage. Ballista was so ahead of its time that it was used till the middle ages.
#2 Claw of Archimedes
Around 214 B.C., the Romans were attempting to siege Syracuse, a prominent Greek city. The greatest genius of ancient Greece, Archimedes, was given the task of defending the seaside city. Archimedes created a machine which is now famous as the Claw of Archimedes. It consisted of a hook system to lift and topple ships which approached the walls of the city. The Romans attacked Syracuse at night and the Claw machines sank many of their ships. In fact they were so effective that the Romans didn’t know what hit them and wondered whether they were fighting against the Gods.
#1 Greek Fire
Developed around 670 A.D., the Greek fire is the most fascinating ancient weapon. The formula of Greek fire was a closely guarded secret which has been lost and remains a matter of conjecture among scientists. The mixture was heated on cauldron on the ship and thrown at the enemy with a giant syringe. It continued burning while floating on water. Greek fire was used by Byzantines in naval battles and was responsible for many of their military victories.