Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Maximum Range of Roman Pilum Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page 1, 2  Next 
Author Message
Kevin S.





Joined: 25 Aug 2009

Posts: 54

PostPosted: Sun 07 Nov, 2010 9:41 pm    Post subject: Maximum Range of Roman Pilum         Reply with quote

The question is quite simple. I have heard from some reliable people that the maximum pilum throw range is only 35 meters. This seems too short for me.

Are there any reliable sources that talked about the range of the Roman pilum?
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,170

PostPosted: Sun 07 Nov, 2010 10:25 pm    Post subject: Re: Maximum Range of Roman Pilum         Reply with quote

Kevin Sanguanlosit wrote:
The question is quite simple. I have heard from some reliable people that the maximum pilum throw range is only 35 meters. This seems too short for me.

Are there any reliable sources that talked about the range of the Roman pilum?


Yes but there is a difference from a running throw that might reach a greater distance and the tactical use of the pilum thrown as closely as possible with just the arm followed by a charge with the shield and gladius.

Even if one can hit and throw at a longer range I'm guessing that you want your throw very close because it leaves very little recovery time from avoiding the pilum or stopping it with a shield and the arrival at bad breath distance of the heavily armoured, for the time, legionnaires.

Auxiliary javelin throwers might use lighter throwing spears at longer ranges ?

Oh, and at close ranges the heavy pilum should be more armour/shield piercing than lighter spears thrown for a greater distance?

Maximum range isn't always the tactically optimum range: But it would be interesting to know what is the maximum range standing and the maximum range with a running throw.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
Joined: 10 Feb 2005
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 3
Posts: 1,532

PostPosted: Wed 10 Nov, 2010 10:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know of a source talking directly about their range, but some survived with enough wood haft to estimate total mass. The lighter weight, flat tang ones from an Augustan era fort Oberaden in Germany had enough wood to estimate total mass at 4.4 lbs. ("Roman Legionary" by Ross Cowan.) The same source estimates many others at 50% heavier or a little heavier than 6 lbs. This is lighter than an 8 lb shot put (most record throws historically around 20 meters.) But a range of 10 to 15 meters sounds more practical for the weight and target type accuracy (versus maximum feasible range) to me.
Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
View user's profile Send private message
Harry Lindfors





Joined: 07 May 2008

Posts: 45

PostPosted: Thu 11 Nov, 2010 2:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

At a later time, when the pilum was still in use, they actually attached a lead ball to the shaft to increase it's mass and punch even more.
I think this really proves the point that an extended range for the throw wasn't really an issue, the pilum was a fairly close range weapon, meant to be thrown in massed volleys against the enemy's line, probably no more than a few meters away.
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,170

PostPosted: Thu 11 Nov, 2010 4:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Harry Lindfors wrote:
meant to be thrown in massed volleys against the enemy's line, probably no more than a few meters away.


Close range and relatively precise armour piercing shock effect just before closing in with the gladius rather than longer range suppressive missiles I think.

Auxiliary archers or slingers as well as the smaller sized siege machines used as field artillery would do the suppressive fire.

( again, mostly opinion )

Oh, didn't the Roman legionnaires at times have two pilum a light and a heavier one with maybe the lighter one thrown from a slightly longer distance and the heavier one thrown at very very close range or used the spear in hand instead of the gladius. Question

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,299

PostPosted: Thu 11 Nov, 2010 10:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Oh, didn't the Roman legionnaires at times have two pilum a light and a heavier one with maybe the lighter one thrown from a slightly longer distance and the heavier one thrown at very very close range or used the spear in hand instead of the gladius. Question


Right, during the Republic there was a "heavy" and a "light", the lighter one thrown first at longer range. It seems that by the Empire, each legionary was still carrying 2 pila, but they were basically the same weight (though some were still tanged and some socketed). I'm guessing that the weight was added because over time the whole weapon had lightened up some, and more punch was desired. It's hard to back this up without more data on thicknesses and weights (which is really rare!), but many of the Republican tanged pilum heads look much beefier than the Imperial equivalents.

As for the maximum range, all I can tell you is "Farther than most reenactors can throw them!" I find that at a 2-day event, I can throw farther on Sunday than Saturday, just because I'm getting the technique down and the arm is loosened up. If I did that *every day* instead of sitting in front of a computer, I'd be a LOT better at it.

Valete,

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,432

PostPosted: Sat 17 Sep, 2011 1:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Oh, didn't the Roman legionnaires at times have two pilum a light and a heavier one with maybe the lighter one thrown from a slightly longer distance and the heavier one thrown at very very close range or used the spear in hand instead of the gladius. Question


Right, during the Republic there was a "heavy" and a "light", the lighter one thrown first at longer range. It seems that by the Empire, each legionary was still carrying 2 pila, but they were basically the same weight (though some were still tanged and some socketed). I'm guessing that the weight was added because over time the whole weapon had lightened up some, and more punch was desired. It's hard to back this up without more data on thicknesses and weights (which is really rare!), but many of the Republican tanged pilum heads look much beefier than the Imperial equivalents.

As for the maximum range, all I can tell you is "Farther than most reenactors can throw them!" I find that at a 2-day event, I can throw farther on Sunday than Saturday, just because I'm getting the technique down and the arm is loosened up. If I did that *every day* instead of sitting in front of a computer, I'd be a LOT better at it.

Valete,

Matthew

what about the purpose of the pilums shank? how well does the idea of it almost purely being something that deprives someone of his shield,
as opposed to the idea that the pilum is designed to pierce the shield and be able to easily pass through the hole made, and kill the man behind?
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Robert Brandt




Location: Virginia
Joined: 11 May 2010

Posts: 34

PostPosted: Sat 17 Sep, 2011 5:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
what about the purpose of the pilums shank? how well does the idea of it almost purely being something that deprives someone of his shield,
as opposed to the idea that the pilum is designed to pierce the shield and be able to easily pass through the hole made, and kill the man behind?
Are you or has someone put forth the idea that the pilum was not expected to cause injury? The lengthy head of the pilum seems quite well suited to AT LEAST encumbering the shield and hopefully injuring the man behind it to me. We struggle to this day with how to get projectiles to penetrate sufficiently to cause injury without overpenetrating. The long head followed by a wider collar seems a simple yet very effective method of getting lethal penetration without the missle being able to be pulled all the way through the back of the shield.
History was certainly far more complex, varied, and intriguing than the blanket of generalities that we so often lay over our handful of surviving data points.
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,299

PostPosted: Sat 17 Sep, 2011 6:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Right, the pilum was designed to kill and wound. The long shank and small point meant that it *could* penetrate a shield and still poke the man behind it. Wasn't guaranteed to do that, obviously! Being stuck in the shield was a nice side effect, and meant that even if the victim was not badly hurt, he had a problem to deal with. At the short range these are thrown, he may only have a couple seconds before the Romans arrive with shield and sword, and they can use the pilum stuck in his shield as a door handle or a boarding ramp to rip it out of his hands or simply shove it out of their way. Also, if the pilum is stuck in your shield but the buttspike hits the ground, it can dig in and stop, halting your charge literally in your tracks, giving you a second chance to get a second navel, and causing all your fast-moving friends behind you to pile up and trip over you.

These are all second-worst-case scenarios, the worst-case of course getting the thing straight through your head or torso. Many pila would not hit anything, of course, but their very arrival would cause disruption as men duck and weave, trying not to get hit or trip. So the pilum is a charge-breaker, meant to disrupt an enemy force just at the crucial point before both lines collide head-on.

Caesar tells of a line of Gauls advancing so tightly packed that their shields overlapped. In several instances, pila went through 2 overlapped shields and pinned them together, forcing the warriors to simply drop them and close without protection. You can see the Romans grinning.

The whole concept of the *purpose* of the pilum being to deprive a man of his shield is simply a modern over-emphasis of that side effect. It gets parrotted all over the place.

Valete,

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,432

PostPosted: Sat 17 Sep, 2011 9:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i mentioned this on a video comment of someone describing 'why the empire fell' essentially saying tht all the good traned officers and veteren legionaires were wasted during the civil wars after the death of commodus,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GmqtfGwIDw&am...ture=inbox shown here, he then goes on to describe the limitanei as poor quality border troops etc,
he was making this in response to the idea that the army was weakend due to overrecruitment of barbarian peoples etc.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,170

PostPosted: Sat 17 Sep, 2011 9:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
i mentioned this on a video comment of someone describing 'why the empire fell' essentially saying tht all the good traned officers and veteren legionaires were wasted during the civil wars after the death of commodus,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GmqtfGwIDw&am...ture=inbox shown here, he then goes on to describe the limitanei as poor quality border troops etc,
he was making this in response to the idea that the army was weakend due to overrecruitment of barbarian peoples etc.


Crushing taxation, too much bureaucracy, getting soft and dependant on mercenary troops that eventually started to want to take over all contributed to the fall of Rome.

A certain proportion of mercenary troops was probably a good thing at the time because " Barbarians " often had a sense of honour and honesty somewhat lacking in the later Romans when the citizenship got fat and stupid and too sophisticated politically to be anything but out for themselves: The so-called Barbarian cultures valued greatly keeping one's word or oaths and could be trusted.

In time they became corrupted by Roman political intrigue and may have chafed in reaction to lack of honour and honesty in return by Roman culture. ( Break your word to a Barbarian and he is free of his side of the bargain ! )

Barbarians invited into the Roman Empire as mercenaries with their families probably felt like they had " won the lottery " and wanted to fit in and prosper.

As the core values of the Empire decayed, valour, personal courage and honesty and the Roman ceased being able and willing to defend themselves they just became a big fat and lazy target for invasion by the " country cousins " of the already assimilated " Barbarians ". Wink

Oh, and " little things " like Attila seriously weakened the Roman of the West although the Eastern Roman Empire prospered for almost another millennia until 1453 when the Turks conquered what little was left of the Byzantine Empire.

Civil war(s) where lots of loyal quality troops are lost certainly can also be a weakening factor disrupting the social contracts and leading to relative anarchy and lost of respect for the authority of the official government.

( Note: Roman history experts may complete or correct this picture and the above is my take on it that could be wrong. Wink Big Grin Cool ).

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Jaroslav Kravcak




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 22 Apr 2006

Posts: 123

PostPosted: Mon 19 Sep, 2011 7:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I allways wondered what could be armour penetrative power pilum be compared to.

Assuming it is thrown at close range (10-15m), how would it compare to the energy of couched lance or what draw weight of longbow for example would be an energetic equivalent to it? Or would it have a chance of penetrating helmet or breastplate of 15th century armour? (from cca 1450s for example)
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 1,492

PostPosted: Mon 19 Sep, 2011 2:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jaroslav Kravcak wrote:
I allways wondered what could be armour penetrative power pilum be compared to.

Assuming it is thrown at close range (10-15m), how would it compare to the energy of couched lance or what draw weight of longbow for example would be an energetic equivalent to it? Or would it have a chance of penetrating helmet or breastplate of 15th century armour? (from cca 1450s for example)


Olympic javelin throwers can manage approximately 400J. With a heavier pilum, you'd get more energy. A pilum thrower is unlikely to be Olympic-level, so less energy. So 200-300J is a realistic estimate.

What longbow compares with this? About 200lb with 200 gram/3000 grain arrows at point-blank range, or 300lb with 300g/4500gr arrows at maybe 50m.

A larger head will require more energy to penetrate as compared with an arrow, but you can expect good penetration.

The praise of the armour penetrating ability of the pilum seen in contemporary literary sources appears to be soundly based on real-life experience!

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
Joined: 05 Aug 2008
Likes: 23 pages

Posts: 448

PostPosted: Tue 20 Sep, 2011 7:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:


Olympic javelin throwers can manage approximately 400J. With a heavier pilum, you'd get more energy. A pilum thrower is unlikely to be Olympic-level, so less energy. So 200-300J is a realistic estimate.

What longbow compares with this? About 200lb with 200 gram/3000 grain arrows at point-blank range, or 300lb with 300g/4500gr arrows at maybe 50m.


I wouldn't actually assume that automatically at all. There's finite amount of energy one can put into speeding up the flying stick thing.

Here's interesting link:

http://www.worldatlatl.org/Articles/TakochCD/...evised.pdf

Unfortunately can't attain most of the sources, but still it seem that throwing really heavy javelins was often employed at the cost of total energy.

Still, estimates of sectional density and momentum remind that such heavy stuff probably remains excellent penetrator, especially if we take pilum shape into account.

Although as far as penetration goes, there way to much things to consider for short answer IMO - some things tend to get penetrated more readily by quick, not necessarily powerful missiles, while other stop quick stuff rather easily.

At the end, I agree that arrow from the bow would have to be of rather epic characteristics to even approach heavy javelins potential at piercing stuff. Eek!
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,170

PostPosted: Tue 20 Sep, 2011 7:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:

Unfortunately can't attain most of the sources, but still it seem that throwing really heavy javelins was often employed at the cost of total energy.

Still, estimates of sectional density and momentum remind that such heavy stuff probably remains excellent penetrator, especially if we take pilum shape into account.

Although as far as penetration goes, there way to much things to consider for short answer IMO - some things tend to get penetrated more readily by quick, not necessarily powerful missiles, while other stop quick stuff rather easily.

At the end, I agree that arrow from the bow would have to be of rather epic characteristics to even approach heavy javelins potential at piercing stuff. Eek!


There is something else to consider and that is that even a very light javelin can only be thrown as fast as one can move one's arm. as one increases the weight one at first gets very much the same velocity but more energy because of greater mass of the projectile.

At some point the speed starts being affected by the weight but the energy is still greater even with an increase in mass.

Past a certain point the lost of velocity versus increased mass crosses the point of diminishing returns and the total energy becomes less.

Also, kinetic energy is M multiplied by V squared but momentum at modest velocities Mass x V is more relevant with hand thrown object. ( With firearm ballistics the much higher velocities make Kinetic energy much more relevant but momentum is also an important issue ).

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
Joined: 05 Aug 2008
Likes: 23 pages

Posts: 448

PostPosted: Tue 20 Sep, 2011 7:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Jean Thibodeau"]
Bartek Strojek wrote:

There is something else to consider and that is that even a very light javelin can only be thrown as fast as one can move one's arm. as one increases the weight one at first gets very much the same velocity but more energy because of greater mass of the projectile.

At some point the speed starts being affected by the weight but the energy is still greater even with an increase in mass.

Past a certain point the lost of velocity versus increased mass crosses the point of diminishing returns and the total energy becomes less.

Also, kinetic energy is M multiplied by V squared but momentum at modest velocities Mass x V is more relevant with hand thrown object. ( With firearm ballistics the much higher velocities make Kinetic energy much more relevant but momentum is also an important issue ).


Well exactly - but past the certain point moving greater mass at given, or even slightly lower speed becomes just too much for muscle-bones-tendon system.

KE is always relevant, because with 0.5 kg javelin, even increasing v from 10 m/s to 12 means almost 50% gain in KE. Wink

What happens to that energy is obviously crucial, that's why momentum is important indeed.
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,170

PostPosted: Tue 20 Sep, 2011 7:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:

KE is always relevant, because with 0.5 kg javelin, even increasing v from 10 m/s to 12 means almost 50% gain in KE. Wink

What happens to that energy is obviously crucial, that's why momentum is important indeed.


Agreed but some of the kinetic energy is spent in deforming the projectile tip and/or target and wasted as heat of friction.

Realistically one has to take into account kinetic energy and momentum. Wink Big Grin Cool

I'm just not good enough at math of physics to really sort it out. Wink Cool

When dealing with velocities in the thousands of meters/sec a lot of interesting things happen including hydrostatic chock where water behaves and transfers energy explosively as almost a solid that are not a factor when dealing in velocities of tens of meters/sec or at most the very low hundreds of meters/second.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Kurt Scholz





Joined: 09 Dec 2008

Posts: 390

PostPosted: Tue 20 Sep, 2011 9:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a general move towards heavy shield-penetrating missiles like the soliferra and the pila were just one of the solutions for that problem at that time in order to kill a man behind his shield. If you wanted to disable the shield only, why not use a cheaper and lighter construction with barbs and a rather short metal shank that just sticks in the shield. Afterwards you step on the spear, lower the enemy's shield and kill him. I think, there's of a description of Migration Period Franks fighting that way.
View user's profile Send private message
Gary Teuscher





Joined: 19 Nov 2008

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 704

PostPosted: Tue 20 Sep, 2011 9:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
A pilum thrower is unlikely to be Olympic-level, so less energy. So 200-300J is a realistic estimate.


Only thing I'd have to say here - this is an ideal situation for the olympic javelineer, unemcumbered by a shield, on a track with a full run up.

I'd guess the energy produced by the Roman Javelin thrower to be significantly less, particularily if not using a full run-up, which would be difficult in formation.

Not to slight the javelins penetration - there are period sources of mailed people having their armour pierced by javelins, though I am not aware of period sources regarding the pilum stating this. Not saying there are not sources, I am just not that well versed regarding the pilum.

It seems t me though the Pilum was a short ranged javelin, but designed to max penetrative power. I'm sure it was a fairly effective armour piercer - but considerering most warriors carried shields an would likely block many of the pilum thrown, havin a good secondary ability to make the shield somewhat useless was nice as well.
View user's profile Send private message
Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 1,492

PostPosted: Tue 20 Sep, 2011 12:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:


Olympic javelin throwers can manage approximately 400J. With a heavier pilum, you'd get more energy. A pilum thrower is unlikely to be Olympic-level, so less energy. So 200-300J is a realistic estimate.

What longbow compares with this? About 200lb with 200 gram/3000 grain arrows at point-blank range, or 300lb with 300g/4500gr arrows at maybe 50m.


I wouldn't actually assume that automatically at all. There's finite amount of energy one can put into speeding up the flying stick thing.


Indeed. And some of this energy ends up in the moving arm/hand. The slower the thrown object, the less energy needed to move the arm/hand at that speed. Thus, more energy is available for the thrown object.

That's basically why heavier arrows/bolts/things shot by bows/crossbows/mechanical artillery end up with more energy, shot from the same device.

Throwing by hand, you also get an increase in the energy available, since at the range of speeds involved, the muscles provide more force at the lower speed. See, e.g., B. R. MacIntosh and R. J. Holash, ‘‘Power output and force-velocity properties of muscle,’’ in Biomechanics and Biology of Movement (Human Kinetics, 2000), pp. 193-210.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Maximum Range of Roman Pilum
Page 1 of 2 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2  Next All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum