The Macedonian Sarissa:
Hoplites vs. Pezhetairoi
All images on this page are the property of Ryan Jones*

Hoplite Hoplite in standard armor: linen cuirass w/ 'skirt,' hoplon
(shield), Corinthian-style helm, greaves, and c. 7' spear.

hoplite, side
Sideview of same.  Most Greeks painted their shields with sigals that
had personal or family meaning.  Only a few poleis (e.g. Sparta) had
a 'national' symbol used on all shields.  Armor was purchased by
individual soldiers, and thus, there was no such thing as a 'unirform.'

hoplite, rear
Back view of same.

Pezhetairoi, spear
  Hypaspist armor: the shield is smaller (and here, not concave),
the helm is Phrygian style, and he's wearing both greaves and a
bronze 'muscle' cuirass.  Armed with a spear, not the sarissa.
Compare to the lighter armament of the Pezhetairos below.

Pezhetairos
Pezhetairos with sarissa.  Notice that the sarissa is joined in the
middle.  It's uncertain if that were the case with the historical weapon,
but it would make sense for both purposes of transport, as well as for
replacement parts.  For Pezhetairoi (Foot Companions) the shield is
slung from a strap over the left shoulder (two hands are needed for the
weapon) and he wears neither cuirass nor greaves. The idea was that
a 15-16' sarissa would keep the enemy at such a distance, no heavy
hoplite body armor would be needed in a Macedonian phalanx.

Hoplite & Pezhetairoi
Compare and contrast Hoplite spear to Macedonian sarissa.
(Yes, here the Macedonian is armed more like a Hypaspist.
Some Pezhetairoi may have worn cuirasses, but the idea for
Philip II was to lighten the Pezhetairoi load, plus lighten the
overall cost of an individual soldier's armament.)

Pezhetairos at ready Sarissa lowered as for attack.  Now
it becomes obvious why the shoulder
strap is necessary for the shield.

Hoplite vs. Pezhetairos The comparative difference in reach.
At most, a hoplite phalanx will have
two spearheads past the front line.
But a Macedonian phalanx has five.

Hoplite's view of Macedonian sarissa What the poor hoplite sees!

Pezhetairoi view What the Macedonian Pezhetairoi see.
Notice that the two sarissai form a bit of a
wooden 'wall' on the men's right, in addition
to the strap-slung shields on their left.  Five
sarissai would only increase that 'shield.'


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A note to casual page browsers:  Images on this page are NOT my own and are NOT to be taken for use without the express permission of Ryan Jones, to whom they belong.  Mr. Jones (U. of Calgary) built the sarissai seen on this page and recreated the armor, and has kindly loaned these images to me for use in my ATG course.  Interested parties should contact him directly.