Strengths & Weaknesses
- Good defensive unit
- Low damage but average armour penetration
- Average attack
- Normal morale
- Very vulnerable when not in phalanx
A tightly formed phalanx of sarissa-armed infantry presented an almost impenetrable wall of spear points, especially to cavalry. The sarissa itself was a two-handed spear or pike, between four and seven metres long, and was adopted by the armies of Philip II, Alexander the Great, and the Successors that followed them. With an iron tip and a bronze butt-spike which provided balance and could be dug into the ground to bolster a defensive stance, it was an effective weapon for mass combat. When advancing in close order against the enemy, each man would occupy a square roughly a metre to a side, with the sarissas of the first five ranks projecting beyond the phalanx. On the defensive the phalanxes would close up, locking together with each man resting his shield on the man in front for greater stability. Such formations sacrificed manoeuvrability, leading to their main weakness on their flanks and rear. Philip II’s employment of the sarissa, and this new Macedonian-style phalanx, developed from earlier hoplite warfare. There is some debate as to whether his wounding by either an Illyrian or Thracian long spear, which killed his mount, may have influenced the sarissa's introduction.