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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Thu 19 Nov, 2020 12:13 am    Post subject: Throwing spears-how far?         Reply with quote

Hi All,

How far can a warrior throw a spear?

Clearly an impossible question to definitively answer as the number of variables is massive. What I am getting at is a reasonable weight throwing spear or javelin will likely have a similar weight band through history and so a legionary will likely throw a pilum about the same as a Saxon would throw an angon or a Kern would throw a dart-well that's my thinking......

Right? Wrong? Or gibberish?

Your thoughts would be very welcome.

In addition what would that distance be? Other than accounts, stories, etc that we have no way of knowing their veracity, the only reliable source I can think of is the Romans; Vegetius et al. Was there a noted distance for a legionary to throw a pilum and what weight would it be?

Any help would be great.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Nov, 2020 2:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Romans carried two different pilums, a heavy and a light version. The lighter one has a longer range and was thrown first. The second one was thrown when the enemy was closer, but only when on the offensive. When on the defensive the Romans closed ranks and used the heavier pilum as a thrusting spear. The discussion here suggests that the range of the lighter pilum was around 25-40 meters and the heavier pilum was around 10 meters.
https://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/thread-22799.html

A lot of cultures used a throwing loop to increase range. The Romans called it an amentum. Greeks, Gauls, and Iberians used them too. Modern experiments suggest that a throwing loop can increase range by 50-60%. However, General Reffye explored this subject for Napoleon and reckoned that he could increase the range of a javelin from 20 meters to 80 meters.

The Chigi vase shows 7th C hoplites with throwing loops on their spears (see left side).
https://sites.psu.edu/cams180hoplite/wp-content/uploads/sites/25279/2015/04/chigi_hoplites_full_color.jpg

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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Nov, 2020 4:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Javelins and throwing spears varied DRAMATICALLY over time and location! Some were not much larger than big arrows, 3 or 4 feet long, but you can certainly throw spears that are a good 7 feet long and weigh a couple pounds. You can find videos of New Guinea tribesmen throwing spears that are 8 or 9 feet, though they look quite light for their length. In addition to a wide range for the Roman pilum, the Iberians used a javelin which was made entirely of iron.

How far could they throw? Hate to say it, but "Farther than *I* can" is about all I can tell you with confidence. I suspect some of those guys would look good on a modern Olympic field (depending on missile weight, etc.!). But I also suspect that they usually didn't *need* to throw to their maximum range, maybe it was better to throw from a shorter range with more accuracy and impact. With the caveat that many throws beyond very close range were more like "area effect", throwing at a mass of men rather than picking an individual target. Certainly the pilum was meant to be a last-second disruption weapon, to have its greatest shock just before the legionaries slammed in with shield and sword. On the other hand, throwing loops imply a desire for better range.

It's a huge question!

Matthew
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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Nov, 2020 7:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You might find these of interest

https://www.academia.edu/1406230/Efficacy_of_the_Ankyle_in_Increasing_the_Distance_of_the_Ancient_Greek_Javelin_Throw

https://www.academia.edu/1406260/Throwing_the_Greek_Dory_How_Effective_is_the_Attached_Ankyle_at_Increasing_the_Distance_of_the_Throw

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Nov, 2020 7:40 am    Post subject: Re: Throwing spears-how far?         Reply with quote

Leo Todeschini wrote:
Clearly an impossible question to definitively answer as the number of variables is massive. What I am getting at is a reasonable weight throwing spear or javelin will likely have a similar weight band through history and so a legionary will likely throw a pilum about the same as a Saxon would throw an angon or a Kern would throw a dart-well that's my thinking......

Well, a Roman standing in line with a big shield and mainly throwing to disrupt the enemy line before he closes in with his sword is probably going to have a different ideal range than an Irishman running up, throwing, and getting out of the way because he only has a skean and a wicker shield! Just like combat archery, there are styles where the ideal range is 300 yards and styles where the ideal range is 30.

And yes, loops and throwing straps and Mesoamerican / Australian spear-throwers add range and power! And a full-time soldier is likely to throw better than the average goat-herd or potter.

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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Thu 19 Nov, 2020 11:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the responses and OK so yes the variety of options of weights and indeed circumstances scuppers any meaningful comparison from one to another time period.

Dan- thanks for the roman army ref and my one main take away is that we dont know how they were even used.

I have not messed about with an amentum, but have with a straight version and from memory it added about 45% onto a 300g javelin, but using a straight string on a regular arrow I could go from around 12m to around 45-50m, but I guess this is a weird function of weights etc as the arrows were around 45g.

Anthony-great papers; thank you

Sean-a good point; thanks

So in the papers it gave a weight of about 1.5kg being thrown about 16m by athletic, but otherwise untrained guys. It sounds like a lighter pilum might go to 20m, but more likely less and a heavier pilum as low as 10m. Presumably a light pilum will also be around 1.5 kg in weight.

Can someone point me at pilum weights?

Thanks

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Nov, 2020 1:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is also a family of fletched "darts" or "hand arrows" in Europe from possibly as early as the 13th century to definitely the 16th century. Artists sometimes give Death one of them and war galleys or castles sometimes purchased a big batch of them.

So I think darts and throwing spears are like bows and arrows, people come up with different systems and use them in different ways.

Edit: Chef de Chambre saith (in 2009) "I was going through (Belgian historian Claude) Gaier last night, and in 1443, the comptroller of the (Burgundian) ducal artillery recorded some 21,050 heads for 'flesche de main' in one castles stores. Also, they had a variety, I counted in the list of the type of dart/javelin weapons the following catagories 'flesch de main', 'dard', 'dard de fer', 'dards de Espagnie', and 'javelins'. Apparently, there was a variety of the weapons in use.

These were entirely separate from arrows, arrowheads, quarrels, and artillery ammunition (as late as 1461, we have record of Burgundian artillerists employing arrow-like projectiles in cannons - like a sabot round, all metal, apparently, and with two sets of fins per projectile, one set of three to the rear, one set of three to the middle.)

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Last edited by Sean Manning on Fri 20 Nov, 2020 11:10 am; edited 1 time in total
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Nov, 2020 6:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was just looking at modern Olympic javelin distances and with many distance records at more than 300ft

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Javelin_throw#:~:text=In%20international%20competition%2C%20men%20throw,(21%20oz)%20in%20weight.

What struck me more was the weight ranges gauged by the thrower's age. 800g is a handful, imo.

It would be interesting to fool around with fletched darts.

Cheers
GC
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Fri 20 Nov, 2020 1:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I made a vid about these a few years ago here https://youtu.be/cJotBsrqbwI and here https://youtu.be/lLx0ZRqHYPI

Since, I have found they have a proper name and now I have forgotten it. Damn.

Interesting things.

Modern javelin throwers and javelins, I am not so concerned about as they and it, are such singular things and I suspect not what is representative of a 'joe average'

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Duncan Hill




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Nov, 2020 5:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know nothing about spear tossing, but it seems to me that all things being equal, the spear should go the same distance, regardless of historical timeframe (which I think is what you were suggesting in the opening post?). Perhaps the question should instead be "what are the key variables that inform spear-throwing?".

Maybe the variables change with history - projectile weight and aerodynamics, throwing technique - changes that are informed (as others have suggested above) by tactical context, and of course technology and materials available.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sat 21 Nov, 2020 10:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
There is also a family of fletched "darts" or "hand arrows" in Europe from possibly as early as the 13th century to definitely the 16th century. Artists sometimes give Death one of them and war galleys or castles sometimes purchased a big batch of them.

So I think darts and throwing spears are like bows and arrows, people come up with different systems and use them in different ways.

Edit: Chef de Chambre saith (in 2009) "I was going through (Belgian historian Claude) Gaier last night, and in 1443, the comptroller of the (Burgundian) ducal artillery recorded some 21,050 heads for 'flesche de main' in one castles stores. Also, they had a variety, I counted in the list of the type of dart/javelin weapons the following catagories 'flesch de main', 'dard', 'dard de fer', 'dards de Espagnie', and 'javelins'. Apparently, there was a variety of the weapons in use.

These were entirely separate from arrows, arrowheads, quarrels, and artillery ammunition (as late as 1461, we have record of Burgundian artillerists employing arrow-like projectiles in cannons - like a sabot round, all metal, apparently, and with two sets of fins per projectile, one set of three to the rear, one set of three to the middle.)




Just to add on to this, I think these things were in use more or less continuously from Classical times to the Pike and Shot era, in various sizes and shapes.

The Roman plumbata (a small weighted, vaned war-dart) was considered by the (late Imperial) Romans themselves to be their longest ranged weapon. It was used by certain legions.



Though you don't see that many mentions in the records, you do see art depicting both small war-darts and much larger vaned javelins in use from the14th through the 16th Centuries.

Martin Walgren posted several more of these here


The 14th Century Catalan Grand Company seems to have also revived (or continued to use) some of the ancient Iberian weapons including a pilum like weapon (known to the Franks as the Angon) and the solid iron Soliferrum that Matthew mentioned, which was said to have very short range but impressive armor-piercing capability. The Catalan Grand Company had a very impressive military record albeit fraught with atrocities.

You also see anecdotal accounts of knights throwing 'lances' though one cannot always be sure what they mean.

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