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Couple of quick questions about the design and effectiveness of the Pilum

1. To the best of my knowledge pilum tips were generally triangular in shape, was this pretty much universal or were other shapes (square, flat, round, etc) common as well?

2. Was there much variation depending on time period? What would they have looked like during the Macedonian wars?

3. Are there any accounts of its effectiveness against Greek armors such as the linothorax?
pila based on finds in Spain 150BC .

[Image: 255up9i.jpg]
Some pila had a small, leaf-shaped blade. Check through Bishop and Coulston and you'll find a few. Apparently, these were used against animals, like elephants, horses, camels. They cause more bleeding, having a larger point.
From what I've seen, a square-section pyramidal point was most common in the first to second centuries AD. Generally it's no thicker than the bottom of the shank (just above the tang or socket). Many of the shorter tanged examples from Republican sites have barbed triangular points, and a couple really early examples (including a socketed one) have leaf-shaped points. I believe those types do show up at least ocassionally into the Empire.

There was certainly some variation over time of the average styles, though you can find one or two that seem to show up all over the timeline! I think for the 2nd century BC you'd see more of the shorter beefier tanged varieties, with a really wide junction block like in Barcid's photo. The edges of the tang are formed into tabs which actually wrap partway around the block. But there would be slim socketed examples as well.

I'm not sure we can say that the wider points were meant for hunting, since men are animals, too! The pyramidal point is probably best at penetrating a shield, but other small points would still be able to do that. I doubt that serious armor penetration was ever much of a concern. There may be one or two accounts of a pilum actually penetrating armor (other than shields), though I don't know of any offhand.

Vale,

Matthew
You're right. Any kind of iron shaft penetrating my bod is not to be desired, no matter what the shape of the point is.

The explanation I heard for the leaf shaped animal heads, is that it takes more blood loss to drop an elephant. Basically, the difference between a broadhead arrowhead and a field point.
Oh, yeah, it's the eternal paradox of missile weapons: you want to make the biggest possible hole, but smaller weapons fly farther and (in the case of pilum points) penetrate defences better. But no way I'd throw ONE pilum at an elephant!! A hundred, maybe. That also gives him more choices of who to stomp into grease, increasing the odds that it won't be me! Ha, or a Javelin anti-tank missile, that'd do it.

Matthew
A ballista bolt at an elephant! Yow!

We've drifted. Of course it would be dozens and dozens of whatever kinds of pila at the targets. Truth be told, I wouldn't want to be close enough to a charging elephant to throw a pilum no matter what kind of point was on it.
The reason I bring it up is that supposedly the flatter heads with sharp edges are better at penetrating woven cloth armors. The theory is that a bladelike tip will actually cut through the fibers while the blunt-edged armor piercing tips could only push the fibers apart once the point penetrated. This would take significantly more energy to successfully penetrate, especially when there are numerous layers like in a linothorax.

It might be that the triangular pilum was sharp enough to avoid this or the theory might not be substantiated in the first place. But if true it might help explain why the Legions were apparently so ineffective against the pike phalanxes head on.
Quote: supposedly the flatter heads with sharp edges are better at penetrating woven cloth armors. The theory is that a bladelike tip will actually cut through the fibers while the blunt-edged armor piercing tips could only push the fibers apart once the point penetrated. This would take significantly more energy to successfully penetrate, especially when there are numerous layers like in a linothorax.
Sounds interesting. Where can we read more about this theory?

Quote:It might be that the triangular pilum was sharp enough to avoid this or the theory might not be substantiated in the first place. But if true it might help explain why the Legions were apparently so ineffective against the pike phalanxes head on.
I would say that this had more to do with the differences in weapon length. A very mobile phalanx seems best countered by.. a very mobile phalanx. Or so I've heard. :wink:
If there are ANY further postings of pure speculative character not backed up by any sources I will close this thread immediately, too.
Technically, all history is speculation. You simply choose the theory that makes the most sense considering what you know or what you think you know. :wink:


Anyways, the best illistration I can remember off the top of my head is a couple of experiments done by Michael Edelson a couple years ago.
link from old RAT
Both the blunt-edged rondell dagger and the arrows tipped with field points had extreme difficulty penetrating the 10 layer linen jack while the sharpened blades were able to penetrate completely.

Quote:I would say that this had more to do with the differences in weapon length. A very mobile phalanx seems best countered by.. a very mobile phalanx. Or so I've heard. :wink:
Weapon reach does have something to do with it, which is why it's important to consider the fact that a thrown pilum has far more reach than a sarissa. Only one throw per weapon I admit, but the Romans had a lot of them and they were being thrown at pretty dense pike formations.
Quote:Technically, all history is speculation.
Nonsense.
Quote:
Quote:Technically, all history is speculation.You simply choose the theory that makes the most sense considering what you know or what you think you know
Nonsense.
As a historian, I second that. Speculation might be an apt description when you don't have many sources, but to describe, say, the history of the attack on Pearl Harbour as 'speculation' is indeed nonsense.

it's also a very childish way to conduct a technical discussion, in which you can claim that you are always right. IF you want a real discussion on this forum, please stop posting claims like these.
Quote:
M. Demetrius:jcwljbvq Wrote:
Quote:Technically, all history is speculation.You simply choose the theory that makes the most sense considering what you know or what you think you know
Nonsense.
As a historian, I second that. Speculation might be an apt description when you don't have many sources, but to describe, say, the history of the attack on Pearl Harbour as 'speculation' is indeed nonsense.

it's also a very childish way to conduct a technical discussion, in which you can claim that you are always right. IF you want a real discussion on this forum, please stop posting claims like these.
What we know of as the history of the attack on Pearl Harbour comes from speculation and deductive reasoning based on vast number of accounts, records, and physical evidence. Based on all this and the complete lack of any significant evidence to the contrary it is very very likely that it happened as we think it happened.


Although this is starting to go a little off topic. Do you have anything to add pertaining to the pilum or its effectiveness against Greek armor and sarrissa phalanxes?
Quote: Although this is starting to go a little off topic.
Hey, you lead us here.
Quote: Do you have anything to add pertaining to the pilum or its effectiveness against Greek armor and sarrissa phalanxes?
Nothing but speculation I'm afraid.
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