Medieval Spears

Guardians of Warfare: The Deadly Medieval Spears

In medieval times, spears were a prized weapon in warfare because of their versatility and affordability. They were commonly used by soldiers for both offensive and defensive purposes, which made them a popular choice on the battlefield. As new threats arose, medieval spears were adapted to counter them, which increased their effectiveness. With the ability to strike from a distance and offer protection, the medieval spear was an indispensable tool for soldiers during medieval times.

Medieval Spears History

Medieval Spears
Medieval Spears by Rama van den Abeele  is licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 FR

The use of medieval spears has a long and rich history that dates back to the early medieval period. During this time, the design of spears was initially simple, consisting of a metal tip attached to a wooden shaft. As time passed, spear designs evolved to meet different needs. For instance, Vikings preferred long spears, while knights used lances for jousting or charging. The Swiss also played a crucial role in the history of spear usage by introducing pike squares. Throughout the Middle Ages, spears were an essential weapon in warfare and adapted to suit changing tactics. The length of the spear was adjusted for different situations, with shorter spears used for close combat and longer ones for more extended reach. The use of medieval spears was not only important in battle, but they also played a symbolic role in representing military might.

Types Of Medieval Spears

In the medieval era, different kinds of spears were created for various purposes. Here are four examples that show the range and flexibility of these spears:

  • Ahlspiess: Primarily used by armoured foot soldiers, the Ahlspiess had a long, slender blade with a triangular or diamond-shaped cross-section and a sturdy spike at the rear for added versatility. The weapon was designed to penetrate through gaps in armour and inflict lethal thrusts. The Ahlspiess was highly effective against heavily armoured opponents, which made it a preferred weapon for knights and men-at-arms.
  • Boar Spear: The Boar Spear had a special feature that made it practical and unique. It had crossbars, also known as “lugs,” located below the blade. These lugs effectively deterred wild boars or hostile combatants from charging towards the wielder, providing a safe distance. The broad and double-edged blade allowed for versatile use in both thrusting and slashing actions. Although it was initially designed for boar hunting, it was also proven to be helpful in combat situations against fierce and aggressive opponents.
  • Ox Tongue Spear: The Ox Tongue Spear got its name from its blade shape, which resembles an ox’s tongue. The blade was broad at the base and narrowed down to a point, making it ideal for thrusting and slashing. Infantry soldiers preferred this medieval spear for its versatility in both attack and defence. It could pierce through armour, target weak spots, and deliver sweeping strikes against unarmoured enemies.
  • Spetum: The Spetum was a weapon used by infantry soldiers and specialised formations. It had a unique spearhead design that featured several forward-curving, elongated points. This design allowed the wielder to engage multiple opponents at once and provided increased reach. The Spetum effectively combined a spear and a halberd, making it suitable for thrusting, hooking, and pulling actions. In addition, the multiple points made it an effective weapon against enemies wearing plate armour, as they could find gaps and inflict damage.

Interesting Facts

Medieval Spears
Medieval Spears by LSH 51883 is licensed by CC0 1.0
  • The term “spear” derives from the Old English word “speer” and the Proto-Germanic word “speri,” meaning “spear” or “lance.”
  • Spears played a crucial role in formations like shield walls, where soldiers would interlock their spears to create an impenetrable barrier.
  • Some spears had crossbars or lugs near the blade, serving as a guard and preventing an enemy from sliding down the shaft.
  • Many spears featured decorative elements like engraved patterns, family crests, or religious symbols, showcasing the craftsmanship and status of the wielder.
  • The continued use of spears throughout the Middle Ages reflects their enduring effectiveness as weapons of war and their significance in shaping the strategies and tactics of medieval combat.


Throughout history, weapons have evolved, and the medieval spear is an excellent example of this. It showcases the ingenuity and adaptability of weaponry and has had an immeasurable impact on countless conflicts. Whether knights, foot soldiers, or specialized units wielded it, medieval spears played a crucial role in both defence and offence. They could pierce armour, keep adversaries at bay, and strike with deadly precision, making them an essential tool in the art of medieval warfare.

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