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The hoplite spear or dory is of debatable form, but for the sake of this thread I will describe it as follows:

It was about 8' in length with a small, light head and a larger (heavier?) sauroter at the base. The shaft tapered from base to point and between the taper and the sauroter the balance point and the grip would have been between 1/4 and 1/3 of the spear length from the base. Thus a reach between 5-6'. The spear described above is seen clearly below, and while foreshortening may make the head seem smaller or exagerate thetaper, the grip placement is telling. This image is one of the most detailed I have found, showing the attatchment points of the side of the T-Y cuirasse, which is an uncommon detail. (If you are following the sauroter thread, look, no lead)

My question is if any other historical spear conformed to this description.
The grip ( sqiggly line in a rectangle towards the bottom third of the spear) seems set back further than I imagined. Have you seen other examples of this?
Quote:The grip ( sqiggly line in a rectangle towards the bottom third of the spear) seems set back further than I imagined. Have you seen other examples of this?

There are not many images that show grips. This is an exceptionally detailed portrayal. I'll look though my stuff and see if I can find something in some of the better images. You do often see the spear held towards the rear, but as Paul M-S recently pointed out you see it held in the middle quite often as well. If you take the above image and really measure the spear, then the grip is way to the back, about a quarter of the length up from the base. This is probably a bit much and the spear may be a bit fore-shortened, but it is still clearly gripped to the rear.
Another dory with a hand grip which “seems” closer to the sauroter on the tondo of the Jason kylix showing the victory of Theseus over the Minotaur in the presence of Athena, National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid. 425 to 410 BC
Nice find! I'll start looking for images of spears with grip-wraps as well. if you find any with centrally placed, wrapped grips then that would be beneficial evidence to the contrary. I am inclined to believe the grip placement is more accurate than where a hoplite is actually holding a spear in a scene that has no obvious grip. Notice the obvious taper to theis dory as well.

By the way, the owl-hoplite that is your avatar seems to be gripping towards the rear of the spear :wink:
It only makes sense! :wink:
From what I have read about them and the use, it would seem the obvious solution to stab out, abd have less poking in your phalanx mates face behind!
Thanks Paul,
What I really like about the detail of that particular image is not only the grip and taper but also sauroter shape and what looks like hand stiching on the side seam of Athena's peplos.
I continue to cry foul. If you use a spear with this grip, you offer your opponent all kinds of advantages in leverage. And it seems to me that the overwhelming number are center grip. And most importantly--and again, you have to fight with the weapon to get this--reach is of little value. The spear is held overhand to stab down over the opposing shield, or right or left. Extra reach is not really going to make that much difference--unless you are sniping during a prolonged period of spear fencing, and even then...

You give up point control and leverage for a few inches of reach. Why?

(Mind you, if a guy is in the 2nd or third rank, suddenly I'd be more willing to buy a long grip--but there's still a huge loss of control)

Try it. Get a 9 foot dory and try hitting things. Smile
Whist in accord with most/all of the above views, it seems to me that the dory was parallel sided with a central grip right down to after the Persian wars. Sometime in the first half of the 5C BC, the tapered shaft with rear grip and smaller head appears, but does not universally replace the earlier type. In an effort to 'convert' existing dories to the 'new fashion' some employ lead weights added to the sauroter to produce a rearward balance. The changed balance point allowed the production of slightly longer spears - e.g. Iphicrates type, and ultimately led to the design of the macedonian pike - which of necessity had to be tapered in shaft.

I offer this as a working hypothesis, though I have not fully researched it........... Big Grin
I agree. i think all our debates would be rendered easier and better by everyone dating their assertions. Myself, I have little interest in the period after the Persian Wars, so my arguments are largely confined to 550-450. I recognize that others mean (in general) the Peloponnesian War or later--when we state our various theories and suppositions, we should all be more careful to name a date range.

I don't know how many of you folks have been to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens--but one of the experiences of it I found most profound was to see the staggering number of Attic red Figure and Black Figure vases in just the one museum--and then to go to the Benaki and the Stoa of Attalos and the Kermaikos--all with more vases.

That's by way of saying that in the world of military history, I see the same 4-6 vases (like the Chigi vase or the Achilles Vase) shown and debated over and over. There's literally THOUSANDS of vases. A couple of examples of any given item--from sandals to spear grips--has very little meaning. Or rather, since the artists were clearly observant men, we don't know what the meaning is.

Just for example, the spear Achilles has may have a back grip because it is drawn to be a two-handed spear. Note that Achilles has no shield. Two handed spears were, in fact, known--Xenophon describes, in depth, the use of a two handed spear. Maybe this is archaisizing--the Achilles painter was very old-fashioned, and maybe he thought that heroes at Troy used two-handed spears.

Hey--I'm not insisting on any of this, but I'd be very careful about suggesting that in 450 (that's when the Achilles painter probably painted his figure, and no later than 435 at the absolute end) there were men experimenting with a rear grip dory. I ask again--what would you get for that extra reach?

besides killed, I mean. Smile ) )
I don't think there can be much doubt that rearward grip single-grip spears DID come into's an example.....
Paulus Scipio's working hypothesis makes sense as the evolution of military technology and tactics rarely stands still. Kineas also make valid points on dating images but in particular the vast amount of imagery which lies beyond our ken. I have visited each of those museums and the Louvre and the KHM in Vienna and I know I still haven't seen a fraction of what is out let alone those in Australia. Dr Tim Dawson identified this in his studies on Byzantine military iconography as the "coffee table book syndrome". From our earliest exposure to Greek iconography in art , for whatever reason, we tend to get repeats of the same images almost ad infinitum to the detriment of the thousands of images that are actually out there. We can make assessments only on those images we see until something comes along and challenges us. I think that's what makes forums like RAT indispensible. Here we are getting fed a global diet of images that some of us had never seen and can form opinions upon them which scholars who (also suffer just as we do from "coffee table book syndrome") may have never had access to. Despite our frustrations when we come to apparant dead ends I think we all deserve a collective pat on the back for our collective chipping away and sharing our finds with one another.
As the deeper phalanx became a more dominant feature in greek warfar, surely the longer reach was necessary as you said fr=or thos in the rear ranks, but if you move the center of gravity back along a shaft, you also move the point of control back, along with giving yourself greater leverage, not less. Big Grin )
Quote:you also move the point of control back, along with giving yourself greater leverage, not less. Big Grin )

I'm sure you must be right in some technical way, but pick up a pear by the butt end and try to wield it...
I think you mixing your apples with your pears here! :wink:
No, but seriously, while I only have a hasta to play with, but much like a pool cue, you weild it from the heavy, thicker end!
No loss of control there. I think it is really not an issue. Otherwise, the Macedonian sarrisa would have been held in the center too? I imagine. Smile

I had often looked at the image of the spartan holding his dory at that end, and thought it was an extremely awkward way to hold it, but if the balance is at the rear, it puts my mind to rest. Smile
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