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Historical Weapons : The Xiphos

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The Xiphos was the main type of sword used by the Ancient Greek Hoplites, however, the design of the sword goes back to ancient times. Discover more about this ancient weapon!

The Xiphos was a double-edged, one-handed weapon used by the ancient Greeks. The sword was primarily used as a secondary weapon for the Greek armies if their primary weapon, the dory, was broken or lost.

The classic Xiphos was usually around 50-60 cms long, although the Spartans prefered a shorter version of the blade. Often leaf-shaped, the sword would be strengthened by a midrib, which was a large strengthened diamond shape running along the midline of the sword.

The xiphos’s leaf shape design meant that it lent itself to both cutting and thrusting. The design of this sword most likely had been in existence since the appearance of the first swords. This was because blades in bronze and iron are suitable for a leaf shape design due to the softness of the metals in comparison to steel. Bronze swords can also be cast and thus are easier to form into a leaf shape than an iron sword. Indeed early xiphos were bronze swords, and it was only in the classical period that they were made of iron.

These leaf-shaped swords, however, were not limited to Greece, as many other leaf shaped weapons can be found throughout Europe in the late Bronze age under different ages. Bronze age leaf swords were common in the Urnfield culture, with the early La Tene era replacing the bronze with iron. As a majority of these leaf-shaped swords were made of iron. As a result, not many of these swords survived as iron tends to severely rust over the years, whilst a majority of bronze swords age fairly well. As a result, much more is known about the bronze age era leaf-shaped swords than the iron ones.

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Sources:
Cartwright, M. and Cartwright, M. (2019). Ancient Greek Warfare. [online] Ancient History Encyclopedia. Available at: https://www.ancient.eu/Greek_Warfare/ [Accessed 7 Jan. 2019].

Cartwright, M. and Cartwright, M. (2019). Hoplite. [online] Ancient History Encyclopedia. Available at: https://www.ancient.eu/hoplite/ [Accessed 7 Jan. 2019].

En.wikipedia.org. (2019). Xiphos. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiphos [Accessed 7 Jan. 2019].

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