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Old April 5th, 2014, 03:59 PM   #1

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Pre-modern armies which the main weapon wasn't a spear.


I don't have a profund knowledge about the subject, but the impression I have is that most pre-modern armies (ie: before gunpowder) used a pole weapons, especially spears, as their main weapon.

Was that really the case or it's just a misconception? If so, why is that? And which ones were the exception (thinking about the infantry)?
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Old April 5th, 2014, 04:12 PM   #2

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Originally Posted by SNascimento View Post
I don't have a profund knowledge about the subject, but the impression I have is that most pre-modern armies (ie: before gunpowder) used a pole weapons, especially spears, as their main weapon.

Was that really the case or it's just a misconception? If so, why is that? And which ones were the exception (thinking about the infantry)?
The truth is that the spear was cheap and easy to produce, along with requiring little skill. So for most armies, the spear was the common weapon of the common man. Most other weapons require extensive training which only the upper classes (for example, knights) or professional soldiers (for example, the Romans) could spare the time and money for. Some examples of exceptions to this are the Romans, Greek Hoplites to some extent (spears were usually broken at the first impact, after which they would usually switch to switch to swords), Landsknechts and Swiss mercenaries, the Macedonians and Successor Kingdoms (while they did use pikes, pikes and phalanxes require extensive training to be successful), and I believe Native Americans usually used ranged weapons.
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Old April 5th, 2014, 04:55 PM   #3
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Rome?

If not spear then its a polearm.
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Old April 5th, 2014, 05:04 PM   #4
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It was the case. Greeks, Persians, Byzantines, Barbarian tribes, etc. all used them. On horseback it was the weapon of choice(lance). Longers spears called Pikes were used by the Greeks under Alexander and later by the 15th century Europe.

The Qin/Han Chinese carried a carried a combo of spears and Halberds(Ji or Ge) Dagger Axes. The Imperial Roman Legion didn't carry spears but used Javelins and Swords(Pila and Gladius)(the Pila could be used as a spear I guess) and Spears were mainly used by cavalry and Auxiliary infantry.

Medieval infantry carried a mixture of weapons I believe. A Knight on horsback primary weapon was the lance. Later spears became supplemented with Pikes and Halberds.
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Old April 5th, 2014, 05:07 PM   #5
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Rome?
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Old April 5th, 2014, 05:23 PM   #6

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Post Marian legionaries weren't spearmen. They might've carried a few pilum, but I hardly see how that makes them spearmen.
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Old April 5th, 2014, 05:32 PM   #7

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Post Marian legionaries weren't spearmen. They might've carried a few pilum, but I hardly see how that makes them spearmen.
Even before the Marian Reforms the Romans weren't spear men. They had dropped the hoplite formation and adopted the Triplex Acies either after Rome was sacked by the Gauls or during the Second Samnites War. While the Triarii were spear men, and the Hastati were initially spear men, the spear didn't become the common infantry weapon again until the 5th century AD.
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Old April 5th, 2014, 05:33 PM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Imperator View Post
The truth is that the spear was cheap and easy to produce, along with requiring little skill. So for most armies, the spear was the common weapon of the common man. Most other weapons require extensive training which only the upper classes (for example, knights) or professional soldiers (for example, the Romans) could spare the time and money for. Some examples of exceptions to this are the Romans, Greek Hoplites to some extent (spears were usually broken at the first impact, after which they would usually switch to switch to swords), Landsknechts and Swiss mercenaries, the Macedonians and Successor Kingdoms (while they did use pikes, pikes and phalanxes require extensive training to be successful), and I believe Native Americans usually used ranged weapons.
I don't think that Landsknechts and the Swiss are a good example of "exceptions". The pike was the primary weapon of both and the push-of-pike was their preferred way to solve things.
The pike also required a lot of training, maybe not so physical(like a longbow) or technical (like a sword), but drills and field manouvres were instrumental in the success of this weapon, as negatively showed by the Scottish defeat at Flodden in 1513
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Old April 5th, 2014, 05:39 PM   #9

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Originally Posted by M.E.T.H.O.D. View Post
I don't think that Landsknechts and the Swiss are a good example of "exceptions". The pike was the primary weapon of both and the push-of-pike was their preferred way to solve things.
The pike also required a lot of training, maybe not so physical(like a longbow) or technical (like a sword), but drills and field manouvres were instrumental in the success of this weapon, as negatively showed by the Scottish defeat at Flodden in 1513
Yes I'm sorry I didn't really explain this and I agreed that they weren't great examples. What I was trying to say is that pike based armies are different than spear based armies. Pikes and phalanxes require extensive training to be effective, so a professional army is needed for a pike based army. On the other hand, spears are cheap and easy to learn, making them ideal for militia armies made up mostly of untrained peasants.
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Old April 5th, 2014, 05:47 PM   #10

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Originally Posted by The Imperator View Post
Even before the Marian Reforms the Romans weren't spear men. They had dropped the hoplite formation and adopted the Triplex Acies either after Rome was sacked by the Gauls or during the Second Samnites War. While the Triarii were spear men, and the Hastati were initially spear men, the spear didn't become the common infantry weapon again until the 5th century AD.
Agreed. I was hesitant to add the pre Marian armies because of the triarii.
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