*
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 20, 2018, 10:12:11 PM

Login with username, password and session length

Recent

Author Topic: How long is a German spear?  (Read 927 times)

Offline Tim Haslam

  • Supporting Adventurer
  • librarian
  • *
  • Posts: 191
How long is a German spear?
« on: April 15, 2018, 07:06:16 PM »
So some ancient rule sets allow 1st Century AD Germans a 'long spear' as opposed to shorter throwing spears etc.
I'm wondering just how long is a German long spear?
8' perhaps?

Offline bigredbat

  • mad scientist
  • Posts: 607
    • BigRedBatCave
Re: How long is a German spear?
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2018, 08:36:43 PM »
Hi Tim,

Tacitus writes that the typical framea serves "for close or distant conflict" so is presumably, since chuckable, not especially long. So perhaps the longer spears were just longer than short spears?   Alas I can't find the historical reference to which tribes had the longer spear.  :-(

Best, Simon

Offline carlos marighela

  • Supporting Adventurer
  • galactic brain
  • *
  • Posts: 6701
Re: How long is a German spear?
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2018, 09:39:32 PM »
According to some of our correspondents, who attended last year’s Tactica in Hamburg, it’s nowhere near as long as they would have you believe. Still, as the lady said, between muffled guffaws, ‘size isn’t everything’.  ;)
Eu sempre te amarei
Onde estiver estarei
Oh meu Mengooo

Tu és time de tradição,
RAÇA, AMOR e PAIXÃO
Oh meu Mengooo!

Offline NickNascati

  • mastermind
  • Posts: 1449
Re: How long is a German spear?
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2018, 01:47:32 AM »
Tim,
       I picture a proper thrusting spear to be 8 - 10 feet long.  A throwing spear probably 6 feet maximum, and of lighter construction.

Offline Luddite

  • scientist
  • Posts: 341
    • The Shire and everything after
Re: How long is a German spear?
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2018, 09:04:50 AM »
Tacitus (Germania 6):

"Even iron is not plentiful with them, as we infer from the character of their weapons. But few use swords or long lances. They carry a spear [hasta] (framea is their name for it), with a narrow and short head, but so sharp and easy to wield that the same weapon serves, according to circumstances, for close or distant conflict. As for the horse-soldier, he is satisfied with a shield and spear; the foot-soldiers also scatter showers of missiles each man having several and hurling them to an immense distance, and being naked or lightly clad with a little cloak."

Interesting academic article on the possibility of longer spears being used: http://gladius.revistas.csic.es/index.php/gladius/article/viewFile/287/290
http://luddite1811.blogspot.co.uk/

It is by tea alone I set my mind in motion.  It is by the juice of Typhoo the thoughts acquire speed, the teeth acquire stains, the stains serve as a warning.  It is by tea alone I set my mind in motion.

Offline bigredbat

  • mad scientist
  • Posts: 607
    • BigRedBatCave
Re: How long is a German spear?
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2018, 10:15:23 AM »
Great- that article has the quotation in it:-

"A plain was not the only battle-field favourable to a Roman soldier: if he used judgment, woods and glades were equally suitable. The barbarians' huge shields, their enormous spears, could not be so manageable among tree-trunks and springing brushwood as the pilum, the short sword, and close-fitting body-armour. Their policy was to strike thick and fast, and to direct the point to the face. The Germans carried neither corselet nor headpiece — not even shields with a toughening of metal or hide, but targes of wickerwork or thin, painted board. Their first line alone carried spears of a fashion: the remainder had only darts, fire-pointed or too short."  (Tac. Ann. II, 14, 2-3)

"A practice, rare among the other German tribes, and simply characteristic of individual prowess, has become general among the Chatti, of letting the hair and beard grow as soon as they have attained manhood, and not till they have slain a foe laying aside that peculiar aspect which devotes and pledges them to valour. Over the spoiled and bleeding enemy they show their faces once more; then, and not till then, proclaiming that they have discharged the obligations of their birth, and proved themselves worthy of their country and of their parents. The coward and the unwarlike remain unshorn. The bravest of them also wear an iron ring (which otherwise is a mark of disgrace among the people) until they have released themselves by the slaughter of a foe. Most of the Chatti delight in these fashions. Even hoary-headed men are distinguished by them, and are thus conspicuous alike to enemies and to fellow-countrymen. To begin the battle always rests with them; they form the first line, an unusual spectacle." (Tac. Ger. 31 my italics)

The long spear is longer than the pilum but the actual length isn't specified; it appears that it is used single handed in conjunction with the large shield, so likely not exceptionally long. Presumably the front ranks are of the more experienced, better equippped warriors (and, on occasion, the dismounted nobles) formed a shieldwall over which the lesser warriors threw javelins.

Interesting thread; it makes me think that I need to rewite the German army list for "To the Strongest!" to change them from warriors to shieldwall, supported by javelinmen.

Offline DivisMal

  • mastermind
  • Posts: 1242
Re: How long is a German spear?
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2018, 01:49:16 PM »
It is actually a long debated problem in archaeology far too complex to sum up here. To make it short:

1. Tacitus was never himself in Germania Magna and did NOT write an ethnographic account. Rather his text aimed at presenting noble savages to show that Rome had become decadent.

2. there was not THE Germanic spears, but about a gazillion of types. I did some research on this myself and being the curator of the archaeological collection of the largest museum in North Gemrmany have quite a lot of spears i see on a daily basis :) from what I think can be securely said:
- there were definitely throwing and thrusting spears
- Most Germanic burials were cremated, so we cannot reconstruct the length from the position of the spearhead in the grave (like we can in Early Medieval times).
-there seems to be a standarization after Germanic tribes had encountered Roman legions. Our Danish colleagues interpret this (quite convincingly in my opinion) as going to a more systematic approach to battle mimicking Roman legions (in game terms forming something like a spearwall/phalanx)
-some spearheads are pretty long suggesting a use as a thrusting spear (from horseback or foot) this has been interpreted as the framea from Tacitus. A pretty long spear with a long blade.
- from what we know from written sources, the Germanic warlords did successfully battle Rome not only at the clades teutoburgensis (nowadays located near Kalkriese), but were alos defeated in many cases. So probably the combat tactics were distinct between different tribes (Germanic people lived as far east as modern Poland and Ukraine) and quite dynamic over such a long time (also reacting to innovations of Rome and their Germanic neighbors).

I’m currently on holiday (on totally ungermanic but pretty nice Madeira), but can look up some more stuff when I’m back at work next week. Just feel free to ask!

Florian

Offline Andreas Johansson

  • student
  • Posts: 12
Re: How long is a German spear?
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2018, 04:59:12 AM »
-some spearheads are pretty long suggesting a use as a thrusting spear (from horseback or foot) this has been interpreted as the framea from Tacitus. A pretty long spear with a long blade.
Why identify the long ones as the framea rather than the apparently bigger lancea Tacitus mentions in the previous sentence?

Offline DivisMal

  • mastermind
  • Posts: 1242
Re: How long is a German spear?
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2018, 10:57:13 AM »
Why identify the long ones as the framea rather than the apparently bigger lancea Tacitus mentions in the previous sentence?

You could do that, I just wanted to give an example. The problems remain the same:
- Tacitus also interpreted many things for Roman readers and thereby changed them.
- Finally Tacitus aimed at showign his audience how decadent Rome had become by presenting a people of noble savages. His descriptions are not neutral and we can assume they were often twirked to serve this purpose.

We are therefore  pretty sure, that Tacitus‘ classification is flawed. It’s like you and me sitting together and describing like the Taliban, even though we never were in Afghanistan, to teach our own soldiers how we imagine a brutal fighting force. Tacitus did not live with Germanic people and had no first hand knowledge of the things he reports.

Apart from that there is the problem that Germanic society was not static or uniform as Tacitus suggests, but spread over a huge area where different weapons were used.These societies were dynamic, i.e. things within changed during time and were not „frozen“ as the text suggests.

Therefore it is pretty difficult to locate and identify specific descriptions in Tacitus.

Offline Tim Haslam

  • Supporting Adventurer
  • librarian
  • *
  • Posts: 191
Re: How long is a German spear?
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2018, 02:53:17 PM »
 lol
Well I've got them at 45mm!
 lol

Interesting conversation though!

Offline area23

  • mastermind
  • Posts: 1063
    • area23
Re: How long is a German spear?
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2018, 03:25:49 PM »
Great discussion. At this point I'm thinking of doing different size spears for different tribes to reflect different cultures and fighting styles.

Offline Patrice

  • mastermind
  • Posts: 1174
    • « Argad ! »
Re: How long is a German spear?
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2018, 06:27:52 PM »
Thrusting spears were certainly longer and slightly bigger than throwing spears (...although it was probably possible to throw them also).

Well I've got them at 45mm! lol

I've just checked, that's about the length I made mine. :D
For Dark Ages tribes I think they don't need to be exactly all the same size in the same group; warriors could provide their own and/or fancy some differences.

Offline Duncan Head

  • schoolboy
  • Posts: 9
Re: How long is a German spear?
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2018, 12:06:26 PM »
According to this article spear-shafts from Thorsberg Moor were from 8 to 10 feet long. Most of the Thorsberg finds were 3rd-4th centuries AD, so a bit later than Tacitus, but may be examples of the same type of "enormis hastas" he's talking about.