Sarissa (weapon)

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Sarissa (weapon)
Ancient Macedonian soldiers, from the tomb of Agios Athanasios, Greece.jpg
Weapon type: Polearm
Use: Weapons of war, hoplites , cavalry troops
Creation time: approx. 350 BC Chr.
Working time: from approx. 350 BC Chr. -
Region of origin /
Macedonia , Philip II (Macedonia)
Distribution: Macedonia , Diadochin Empire
Overall length: approx. 600 cm
Blade length: approx. 30 cm
Weight: 6 kg - 8 kg
Handle: Wood, leather, metal
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The Sarissa ( gr. Σάρισα) (pl. Sarissen) was a skewer with a wooden shaft that was used by Macedonian and Hellenistic armies from the 4th century BC. Until the subjugation of the Diadochen empires by the Romans . Their length of up to six meters made them an essential element of the Macedonian phalanx . The invention of the sarissa is attributed to Philip II of Macedonia , the father of Alexander the Great .


The exorbitant length was made possible by using the wood of the cornel cherry , which was often used in Macedonia for the construction of weapons and was considered to be particularly strong and light. This meant that the Sarissas remained manageable and did not immediately split up when the armies collided.

Like most ancient polearms, the sarissa had points at both ends. With the lower end, the weapon could be anchored in the ground to withstand the enemy onslaught. Possibly it could also be used by fighters in the back rows of the phalanx to stab fallen opponents as they moved forward. The lower end was often weighted with metal counterweights to help the wearers balance. The stock of the weapon could be made of two parts that can be assembled with a metal sleeve to facilitate transport.

With a length of five to six meters, the sarissa weighed about six to eight kilograms.


" Battle of Alexander" (mosaic, Pompeii , approx. 150–100 BC) with sarissas of the phalanx in the background and Alexander and his cavalry attacking with sarissas from the left

Infantry equipped with sarissi could only carry small shields attached to the shoulder due to the two-handed use of the weapon. Therefore, attempts were made to deflect arrows and other projectiles from the enemy with the help of the lances carried upright in the back rows of the phalanx .

The weapon was very difficult to handle and could hardly be moved individually within the troop formation. An enemy who came through the forest of the peaks could hardly be repelled from close up - so the enemies should be kept at a large distance, for which the technology was optimized, e.g. B. through the integrated use of various armed units.

After initial difficulties, the Romans quickly found ways and means to defeat phalanges armed with sarissas, in particular through the use of more flexible units (see Macedonian Phalanx # Inferior to the Romans ).

Light cavalry, which was equipped with sarissas, were called sarissophores (Greek Σαρισοφόροι, "sariss-bearers"). The sarissa was guided by riders in the center of gravity, so that an effective length of 2.5 to three meters was achieved, with the left hand free to steer the horse. This type of use is shown on the Alexander mosaic.