The Xyston was a 12-foot long spear or lance with a wooden shaft and a metallic spearhead. On the opposite end of the shaft was a tapering butt spike used to counterbalance the weapon.
- 12 feet
- 7 lbs
- Wood and Iron
The Xyston was probably used two-handed, although the image of Alexander the Great wielding a xyston one-handed appears on the Alexander Mosaic in Pompeii. It is typically associated with the hetairoi, the cavalry forces of Macedon.
The Xyston was designed to be more offensive than the dory, which was fitting for Alexander who was more of an imperialistic conqueror while Spartans focused on defending their nation. Pikes similar to the Xyston dominated medieval warfare and in some armies were more common than the sword, especially since swords required more steel and money to make than the Xyston.
The tip of the Xyston was small in order to have a more precise penetration to pierce shields and armor more effectively.
The Sarissa was a similar longer pike; but was only used by Macedonian hoplites (Phalangite) as they were too heavy for cavalry.
Both the Sarissa and Xyston has a counterweight on its butt end; similar to the Persian spears it faced. However it was long and narrow to allow the spear to anchor itself into the ground; giving the Phalangite more power to resist enemy cavalry charges. Like the smaller Dory; this butt spike can still be used as a backup spear if the main spearhead gets damaged.
Similar spears were used by various other cavalry during the Classical Period. By the Medieval Age: the European Knights initially used similar spears while on horseback. However as armor improved, the spears for cavalry had heavier spearheads: evolving into the Lance.