Sword Types: Xiphos

Xiphos

The ancient Greek xiphos (/ˈksiːfoʊs/ KSEE-fohss; Greek: ξίφος) was a pointed and double edged short sword, typically with a two foot long leaf-shaped blade, that was used for both cutting and thrusting. Designed for single-handed use, the xiphos was favored by the Greeks and was carried by them as standard equipment. The design has most likely been in existence since the appearance of the first swords. Blades in bronze and iron are suitable for a leaf shape due to the softness of the metals in comparison to steel. Bronze swords are cast and are thus more easily formed into a leaf shape than iron swords, which need to be forged. Xiphoi were initially made of bronze. Thus, getting the leaf shape for a bronze sword was simply a matter of pouring molten bronze into a leaf shaped mold. By the 7th and 6th centuries BC, iron supplanted bronze in making xiphoi.

Greek soldier with Xiphos and shield

It was a secondary battlefield weapon for the Greek armies after the dory or javelin. The classic blade was generally about 50–60 cm long, although the Spartans used a much shorter blade sometimes as short as one foot. The xiphos was generally used only when the spear was discarded for close combat. Xiphoi were usually carried in a baldric (a belt for a sword or other piece of equipment, worn over one shoulder and reaching down to the opposite hip) and hung under the user’s left arm. As ancient Greek warfare revolved around the phalanx, which was a spear-based formation, the xiphos was a secondary weapon, employed in close combat for situations in which the spear was ineffective or not ideal.

Modern Xiphos for collectors

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