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"Macedonian Sarissohoroi Cavalry Question" Topic

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wmyers18 Jul 2020 9:37 a.m. PST

I lucked out on an eBay auction for a lot of Minifigs 25mm Companion Cavalry and light cavalry with sarissa/kontos being wielded 2 handed.

I know there's some discrepancies in historians determining the lengths used but any feelings from those on here?

Maybe pictures would help illustrate what I am referring to (there's not much online for Minifigs poses).

(*I do not know what happened with the title – I copied and pasted and what I copied states "Sarissophoroi", with the P …*)

GurKhan18 Jul 2020 10:00 a.m. PST

Those figures are PBC6, "Thracian Light Cavalryman with Sarissa" from the old Minifigs Macedonian and Punic range, based on Phil Barker's original "Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars" from the 1970s. Phil reconstructed Alexander's sarissophoroi/prodromoi cavalry as being Thracians, based on a passage in Diodoros which seems to say that. Hence the little furry cap, which is his interpretation of the Thracian fox-skin alopekis.

These days, most scholars would reject this interpretation of Diodoros and probably interpret the sarissophoroi cavalry as being Macedonians. And there is nothing like that little fur cap in depictions of Thracians in ancient art anyway. About the only ancient depiction we have of an unarmoured lancer cavalryman who might be a sarissophoros is a lost painting from the lost Macedonian "Kinch Tomb" here and his spear seems to be about ten feet or a bit more, though possibly shortened for the composition.

As for the sarissa, there is no ancient source which explicitly tells us the length of cavalry sarissai, so your guess (or the Minifigs designer's) is as good as any. Ailian's manual says that the shortest sarissai were eight cubits about twelve feet long, which might seem plausible for a cavalry lance. But it has been argued that this is a textual corruption, and the ten cubits (about fifteen feet) found in Asclepiodotos is the true shortest length. But of course both these manuals are speaking about infantry sarissai anyway…

This is one of those genuine "nobody really knows" questions.

wmyers18 Jul 2020 10:43 a.m. PST

Thank you!

Due to the soft nature of lead, I was thinking of replacing the weapon with a steel pike (or broom bristle). I'll check them in person when I get them.

JJartist19 Jul 2020 1:35 p.m. PST

That is certainly quite a pile of classic lead. That range had some really cool figures, some of which still get promoted into the land of 28mm giants for my games.

I cannot add any real advice to GurKhan's sage "nobody really knows" answer. I agree the beaver skin hats are not so correct, but maybe these are "Mountain man tribes" (humor!).

Yeah the spears are going to turn into spaghetti on those. The good news is you might get away with just drilling the front hand, and then the back end can stay lead, and you can trim it.

As for length of sarissa and xyston, I took a stab at that awhile back:


Much more info is available. My guess is the majority of confusion comes from Arrian equating the xyston with the kontos of his day.

One thing for sure the xyston fighting style as described is much different than two handed kontos style.

Last time I looked we still don't know where the word xyston comes from. I just call them 'lances' in my gaming vernacular since in style and description they seem more like lances used by Bengal and Napoleonic cavalry. And they break (a lot).

But much of that goes against some sources.

Of course now we have instant access to this kind of primary source. The broad blade does seem to indicate sarissophoroi?


Druzhina21 Jul 2020 11:25 p.m. PST

After Phil Barker's interpretation went out of favour I converted many of the sarissas of similar Thracian light cavalry to a pair of javelins, some to bow and arrow and a couple to standard bearer (using Dacian standards).

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