The Medieval Spear

From Regia Anglorum:

The main weapon of the period was the spear, not only for the peasant but also for the professional soldier and even the nobility. It was the traditional weapon that Woden used and remained the weapon par excellence among the Germanic peoples even during the tenth and eleventh centuries.

At the battle of Maldon in 991 the Eorl led his men into battle armed with his ‘spear and shield’; it was only after he had killed two men with his spears that he then drew his sword to engage a third man.

There were several types of spear. The first was the light throwing spear or javelin. Manuscripts of the period often show warriors holding a number of spears in the shield hand (three seems to be the most practical whilst still gripping the shield, as shown in tests), and another in the weapon hand. Presumably most of these were for throwing as the opposing sides closed, whilst the last was retained for hand to hand combat. In early Anglo-Saxon times some Germanic warriors used a special type of javelin known as an ‘angon’. This was most probably based on the Roman pilum, and had an elongated iron socket, often as long as 75cm (30′), and a barbed head. When this type of spear stuck into a shield it would sink in up to the barbs, bend, and make it very difficult to remove. With the angon firmly embedded, the shield would become too cumbersome to move, thus rendering it useless. This would perhaps then cause the warrior to discard his shield, or at least retire to find another, thus removing him from the action.

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