The ancient Hellenes were warriors as well as philosophers and scholars. Territory was to be claimed and defended, then often lost and reclaimed. Many battles were immortalized with festivals that carried on sometimes even hundreds of years after the actual battle. We all know war is not to be glamorized--it's literally a lethal activity. The ancient Hellenes did everything in their power not to die, and a large part of those measures was trying to have the tightest tactics, the largest army...and perhaps most of all, to have the best weapons. I'd like to share some of those today.

Dory (δόρυ)

The dory was the primary weapon of the ancient Hellenes. It was a spear about 3 meters in length consisting of a wood shaft with an iron tip. It was wielded single-handedly so the user could hold a shield in the other hand. The dory enabled the hoplite (soldier) to keep an enemy at a distance and was effective in phalanx (shield-wall) formation, allowing the first two lines to attack.


The primary weapon of ancient Hellenes was the dory, but if it broke they used a short single hand sword known as a 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.

Kopis - Ancient Greek SwordKopis (κοπίς)

The Kopis was a one-handed, single-edged sword that measured around 36 inches with the blade curving forward and widening near the tip. It was longer than the Xiphos, and thus more useful to the cavalry.

Makhaira (μάχαιρα)

Homeros mentions the makhaira, but as a domestic knife of no great size. In period texts the term has a variety of meanings, and can refer to virtually any knife or sword, even a surgeon's scalpel, but in a martial context it frequently refers to a type of one-edged sword; a sword designed primarily to cut rather than thrust. Some modern scholars distinguish the makhaira from the kopis (an ancient term of similar meaning) based on whether the blade is forward curved (kopis), or not (makhaira). 

Sarissa (σάρισα)

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. The 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.