How effective is Spear/Shield combo compared to Sword/Spear?

Apr 2012
269
Augusta GA USA
Right, what they said! You can't get "inside" a spear when the spearman can simply pull it back so the point is even with his shield--which I can do without much of a stretch. And in most any formation, maneuverability is pretty darn limited. Keep your sword handy, definitely, but start with your spear.

Matthew
If you "pull it back so the point is even with his spear", you have effectively signed your death warrant. Firstly unless you have 40" forearms you would have little or no control of the weapon. Secondly with 90% of your spear behind you, your own comrades would be constantly fouling your control of the weapon.
 
Apr 2012
269
Augusta GA USA
Ah, but the Romans would toss their spears and then attack with the sword. Shoulder to shoulder ranks requires even, nice ground, a swordsman with a short stabbing sword and a big shield not in shoulder to shoulder formation can move laterally and slash.

Kind of like throwing a hook actually...
Depends on what period you're talking about. The original legions with citizen-soldiers did not operate "shoulder to shoulder" as was the case with the phalanx. As the legions became more polyglot and "barbarians" were accepted into them the formations started to shrink, presenting a solid front to their opponents.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,008
MD, USA
Ah, but the Romans would toss their spears and then attack with the sword. Shoulder to shoulder ranks requires even, nice ground, a swordsman with a short stabbing sword and a big shield not in shoulder to shoulder formation can move laterally and slash.

Kind of like throwing a hook actually...
Well, most battles were fought on nice, even ground, because everyone likes to have a decent space to fight on. (Open battles, of course, not attacks on walls or fortifications!) But there were usually slopes, foliage, rough bits, etc. Generally not necessarily a big deal.

BUT you seem to keep forgetting when talking about formations of men that your lone swordsman is not attacking just ONE spearman! He's got friends close on either side, AND behind him. "Moving laterally" just means the swordsman is facing different spearmen, now. What's the point?

Imagine it, you're the spearman, you've shortened your spear because the the swordsman is now in your face, you stab, he parries with his sword and then counter slashes.
Why on earth would he parry with his sword? Shouldn't he have a shield?? Oh, is he using his shield to fend off all the other spears coming at him from next to me and behind me? That would make some sense. But hey, as long as he is using his sword to block my spear, that's fine, I know it means he can't swing at me. Whereas he only has to miss one parry and I can stick him. Unless one of my buddies sticks him first. It's okay, we like to share.

Would you rather be fighting that battle with a spear or a sword ? If armies could be trained, we're they merely trained to only fight with spears or were spears used as auxiliary weapons and then the sword fighting began ?
Um, I think we've said quite a few times (though possibly in other similar threads) that the spear was THE MAIN WEAPON in countless societies for thousands of years. Swords were generally backup weapons. Yes, there are exceptions, notably Roman legionaries, and we also know there were spears that were used for thrusting and others for throwing, while many seem to have been good for either.

And don't you think that an army would tend to be trained to use the weapons they had? Granted, a lot of troops didn't necessarily get a LOT of training, but they'd have to know how to deploy and stay in formation, that was fundamental. Disorder meant death.

A wall of spears generally meant 90 percent of your troops would survive the day, even if they lost.

Matthew
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,008
MD, USA
If you "pull it back so the point is even with his spear", you have effectively signed your death warrant. Firstly unless you have 40" forearms you would have little or no control of the weapon. Secondly with 90% of your spear behind you, your own comrades would be constantly fouling your control of the weapon.
Well, having handled a spear and shield more than once, I'm not sure why this would be so. With an overhand thrust you're holding the spear near its balance point, no matter where your arm is. That also means you'll be thrusting slightly downwards, so the butt of the shaft is above the heads of the men behind. Look, this is all literally "ancient history", it's the way millions of men have fought since the Stone Age, so why keep assuming they couldn't do it?

Here's a handy shot of me:



These other guys don't seem to have thought it was much of a problem:










Sorry, there just isn't a lot of artwork that actually shows deep formations of spearmen, but there are certainly plenty of descriptions as well as other evidence, and lots of reenactor experience. But you can see from these depictions that a second and third rank could be pressed right up behind the first and not be in anyone's way.

And they'd be perfectly placed to skewer any enemy who got past the first line of spearpoints.

Matthew