). The javelin of the Roman legionaries (about six
feet long), which was hurled
Pilum. (Mainz Museum.)
at the enemy's ranks at the beginning of the engagement, before proceeding to the
use of the sword. It consisted of a wooden shaft three feet long, easily grasped in the hand,
and an iron head of the same length, culminating in a barbed point, and provided with a
socket to which the shaft was attached by iron rivets. Marius had the heads constructed of
soft, weak iron, the point only being steeled. In this way, if the point stuck in the shield
of an enemy, the iron was bent by the weight of the shaft, rendering the weapon useless and
difficult to draw out, while it made the shield unmanageable so long as it remained in it
(Plut. Mar. 25
). When well thrown, the pilum
would penetrate both shield and armour.
). A large instrument for braying substances in a
). It was held in both hands, and was much heavier as well
as longer than the pistillum.