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The Companions spear

The coin above shows the Macedonian cavalryman during the reign of Alexander 1st of Macedon, about 445 BC.  The immediate thing to note is his double javelins and lack of armor. In fact his appearance is not unlike the neighboring Thessalian horsemen to the south of Macedon.  Of course this coin may represent hunting garb since the dog is included, as well. Thucydides describes armored Macedonian horsemen, willing to charge home by the time of the Peloponnesian Wars around 429 BC.  Sometime between Alexander I and  Alexander III's time the Macedonian Cavalry upgraded to a longer stouter spear known as a xyston.

Scanned from "Apelles, the Alexander Mozaic" by Paolo Moreno
Click to enlarge

The famous Alexander mosaic sheds some light on the length of this weapon (which was similar to the kontos, or 'barge-pole' spear of his era, as stated by Arrian). Here at Gaugamela, Alexander and his Companions ride over Darius' bodyguards. They wield a long xyston either underhanded, or over arm as depicted behind Alexander.  The depiction here may be the closest actual glimpse of what Macedonian and Persian soldiers looked like as it is very possible that this mosaic is a copy of a famous painting by Alexander's court artist Apelles, whose works are lost to us.  The xyston depicted above is shown as about 12 to 12.5 feet long (give or take for foreshortening).   This length would make the spear longer than the average hoplite doru of seven to nine feet, and much less than the eighteen foot long sarissa or pike wielded by the infantry and possibly some of Alexander's specialized horsemen.

Click to go to color version

The painting above is from the "Kinch tomb" and shows a Macedonian cavalryman, possibly a prodromoi running down a Persian footman, ca. 310 BC.  (This illustration certainly can justify the strike first capability in WAB!)  This xyston is somewhat shorter than the one above, and has a finely tapered butt spike.  Unfortunately we can't quite see where the spear point is to judge for sure. The coin and the painting above are borrowed from the highly recommended Macedonian heritage website  at:


PartII: Modeling your xystons


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