Ancient Weapons

Ancient weapons, also known as ancient combat weapons are weapons that were used in battle during ancient times. While the weapon types are quite distinctive the actual varieties within these weapon types differ greatly from region to region.

The ancient weapons are extremely interesting as they are the forebears of many weapon types we still see today. In light of this you will find out about the different ancient weapons and what they were used for today.

Ancient Weapons overview

All ancient weapons are cold weapons, this means they do not have any form of explosive nature to them and simply use kinetic energy for their thrust. The two types of weapon used during ancient times are ranged weapons and melee weapons. Ranged weapons means weapons used at a distance while melee weapons means used in close quarter combat.


Although the Javelin comes in many different names (Pilum in Roman Empire for example) the actual weapon did not vary much from region to region. The javelin is essentially a smaller, lighter version of a spear that can be thrown from distance to hit a target, this being a ranged weapon. Old javelins were simply wooden with a point carved at the end but over time they started changing the pointed head to different materials. Javelins usually ranged from 1.5 to 2.25 metres in length.


A spear is a longer version of a javelin thus comes in the form of a wooden shaft with a pointed head in the form of wood, flint, obsidian, iron, steel or bronze that can inflict damage on an enemy. Generally spears were used for close quarter combat through a stabbing motion to keep enemies at more than arms distance away, it was also a great weapon used against animals such as enemies on horseback. Spears usually ranged from 2 to 3 metres in length.

Short Sword

The short sword came in many forms; some were straight like the Roman Gladius while others were curved like the Thracian Sica. The short sword was a melee weapon that was used in close quarters to kill and maim enemies. Generally the short sword was between 60 and 70 centimetres in length.

Long Sword

The long sword was more cumbersome than the short sword but was a good weapon at keeping an attacker at a further length from the defender. Long swords are well known for inflicting more damage because of their longer arc when wielding giving more momentum and energy.

Long swords are swords that are 80 centimetres or more in length.


The dagger predated the sword; in fact the sword is simply a longer version of the dagger. The dagger is a short 20 to 30 centimetre weapon used in extreme close combat to stab and slash an enemy. The dagger was used as a secondary weapon when a primary weapon such as a sword or axe was lost in combat.


The axe is one of the older weapons and is known to have been used as early as 6000 years BCE. The axe usually had a 30 cm to 1.5 metres length handle with a weight of 0.5 kg to 3 kg. The axe was a devastating weapon that cut literally cut limbs from attackers in one fell swoop.


The polearm, also known as a long axe is a cross between an axe and a spear. Essentially it is a long 4 to 7 metre long pole topped with a three spiked metal weapon. This weapon was an axe on the front, spike on the top and hook on the back.

The polearm was a brilliant defensive weapon as it could be swung as an axe, jabbed as a spear and the hook used to great affect for pulling men off horseback. Phillip II of Macedon is generally regarded as the leader to introduce the polearm into battle.

Bow and Arrow

The bow and arrow is another brilliant ancient ranged weapon whereby a mix of woods are combined with horse hair to produce kinetic energy strong enough to propel an arrow made of wooden shaft with a pointed end towards the enemy. The bow and arrow has been used extensively throughout history in battle.


The Sling was a ranged weapon whereby a stone or rock was placed on the end of the sling and it was spun round before propelling against an oncoming enemy. The sling is seen as one of the very first propelled weapons alongside the javelin.


The chariot was the very first combat vehicle and was a horse drawn two wheeled vehicle carrying two passengers. One would control the horse’s movements while the other would fire arrows against the enemy.

The chariot was a devastating weapon until the early years AD when new war tactics rendered it useless.

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