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🎥 By: @lafoodieguy
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Did The Pilum Bend?
Pictured above is an illustration by Peter Connolly depicting Roman Legionaries from the Principate hurling a volley of Pila into the enemy. The Pilum (Plural: Pila) is one of the defining weapons of a Roman Legionary. It is perhaps famed most of all for its feature to bend upon impact, which would mean an enemy couldn't throw it back. But did this actually happen? Or is this merely another of the many myths of the Roman army?
The was Pilum was known to bend, one way or another. In his "Commentaries on the Gallic War", Caesar records how "the iron head would bend". Plutarch, in his "Roman Lives: Marius", records how Marius modified the Pilum by replacing one of its iron nails holding the long tip to the wooden shaft with a wooden pin. This pin would in turn break easier when thrown, causing the iron head to "twist sideways and trail down", but not literally bend the metal.
So was the Pilum designed specifically to bend? No. The purpose of the Pilum was to penetrate enemy shields and armor, possibly wounding or killing the man behind them. The Pilum did this very well thanks to its design, since the weight of the weapon was concentrated at its head, giving it great armor-piercing power, while its pyramidical tip made its removal from a shield very difficult, and some Pila were modified to be even more effective at it. The long iron head also gave it enough reach to pierce enemy armor and shields and hit the man behind them.
Pila weren't made from flimsy metal that was easy to bend. Indeed it was normal for Pila to be used as spears in close quarters as well, as the Adamklissi metopes show for one. It is well known how the Romans built their Pila, and modern reconstructions of the javelin have not corroborated the myth of the weapon being designed to bend. The Pilum was first and foremost an armor-piercing weapon, with it being possible for it to bend, but this might well refer to the head just loosening and trailing down and not literally bending.
Just checking the abs are still there… 🤪
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