- Apr 2017
We are not talking about javelins but melee combat. Spears in all their variations were still relevant as long as you wield it two handed and you create a very concentration of spear points that were really hard to handle even for the Romans. However a spear one handed and a shield is a different mater.Looks like other folks have pointed out most of the answers, but it can easily get confusing when discussing multiple eras and pikes versus spears.
To *me*, a pike is a long spear used strictly 2-handed. For the purposes of a discussion like this, I'd use "spear" for a ONE-handed weapon, typically used with a shield in the left hand.
And yes, spear and shield has been used by any number of societies from the Bronze Age through the 13th century AD at least. Spears were THE weapon of choice for infantry, skilled or not, and were used on horseback as well. (Eventually, cavalry lances became distinct from infantry spears in certain ways.)
How much reach you have with a spear depends on a number of factors. Greek spears in particular were balanced well towards the butt, both by tapering the shaft and by adding a heavy buttspike as a counterweight. Plenty of reach. I don't think medieval spears had weighted butts, but they may have used tapering to move the balance point back. Or they may have preferred it in the middle so that the spear could be thrown as well as thrust.
By the time swords are long enough to compete with the reach of 8 or 9 feet of spear, infantry were mostly using pikes and polearms. Still no win for the sword, there. A big advantage of pikes over spearmen with shields is that you can pack the men far more densely. That puts a lot more points forwards, with several ranks of points projecting beyond the men. "Slipping through" with a sword is closer to "suicidal" than "easy".
I'm sure I've missed something...
I will just give you a scenario. You see a solid wall of Roman shields closing in on you; you have a spear and a smaller shield. The Romans rammed into your formation. What are you going to do with your spear in such tight space? All you see is a solid wall and arms raising in sync above the wall stabbing occasionally. It's just doesn't work in that scenario. However, if you wield your long spears two handed, you push the enemy back and possibly damaging their shields simply from the high concentration of spear points hitting the shield walls.