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What Swords did Spartans Use? Myth vs. History

Written By: David Mickov
Updated: February 6, 2023
Edited by: Juliana Cummings

Military training was the top priority for every Spartan, and because of this, Spartan children were taught to be warriors at a young age. They would learn to use the spear, shield, and standard Spartan weapons during their training. The infantry of the Spartans relied heavily on their swords, despite their status as secondary weapons.

While the historical use of swords by the Spartans is undeniable, the current bladed weapon known as the Spartan Sword may be more fiction than reality. In this post, we will discuss the Spartan Sword, both historic and modern, and provide you with information on its characteristics, uses, and history, as well as draw comparisons to the current and actual swords used by the Spartans.

What Swords Did the Spartans Use?

Spartan Sword Title
A Spartan hoplite and the Spartan swords – Holywood Spartan Sword, Kopis, and Xiphos

Hoplite troops of Sparta were everyday citizens who fought with spears, shields, and swords. Although the dory was the primary weapon of the Spartans, they also had a common sword called the Xiphos. For those unfamiliar, the Xiphos was a short, double-edged blade typically used by Ancient Greeks with only one hand. It was often made of iron, making it fairly heavy and sturdy enough to withstand high impact.

When the Xiphos was unavailable, the Spartans would use the Kopis, another ancient Greek blade. Given that this sword was widespread in Greek culture, it could not be definitively linked to the Spartans. The Kopis were employed as a tool for daily tasks, but it was also great for hand-to-hand combat. In addition, the Kopis resembled a leaf, like the Xiphos, but it was curved and bent with only one sharp edge.

The last type of Spartan Sword came from the 21st century and originated in Hollywood. This sword was designed to be pleasing to the eye and was used in the 2006 historical film 300, in which Leonidas used it in the Battle of Thermopylae alongside thousands of other troops.

Characteristics of the Spartan Sword

Spartan Sword with details
The Holywood Spartan Sword that didn’t get used throughout history with details

The Spartan Sword, usually linked with the Spartans because of modern media, is arguably the easiest to distinguish from all European Blades, whether ancient or medieval swords. It has a terrifying look only to suit the hyperbolized warfare status and presence of the legendary Spartans themself. 

Blade

The Hollywood Spartan Sword’s blade is single-edged, sharpened on one side, and slightly curved. It starts with a very thin neck and gradually widens toward the center of the blade only to taper toward the blade’s tip ending with a very sharp point. It can be made from iron, high-carbon steel, or Damascus Steel.

A small sharp ridge is on the backside of the blade, positioned in the center. Throughout the blade’s center, a line crosses from the full tang or handle to the end of the blade.

Guard

This type of Spartan Sword does not have a real guard that could be used for protection. It has a small quillon on one side that is narrowed and points toward the user’s hand, providing a firm grip when using the sword.

Handle

Spartan Sword Replica
A replica and prop of the original Frank Miller “300” comic book from 1998 – Credits: Your Props

The handle is straight and is the ideal size for using it as a one-handed weapon. It has two sets of quillons or hooks, one on the guard and the other on the pommel, steered toward each other, leaving only a small gap open. These quillons or hooks could give the user a strong grip or even hook enemy weapons.

Scabbard

The Spartan Sword’s scabbard is the same shape as the curved blade and is usually made of leather or wood.  

Length & Size

The Hollywood Spartan Sword can come in any length and size since it is a modern fantasy weapon. That said, if someone strives for the authentic Ancient Greek sword length, it would be 17 to 23 inches (45 to 60 cm) or 12 to 17 inches (30 to 45 cm) since Spartans generally used smaller swords in battles.

Weight

The real swords used in Spartan times would be fairly light because of their smaller size. The Hollywood Spartan Sword, however, can weigh up to 4.4 lbs (2 kg), depending on the material it is made of. However, the most common weight for the Spartan Sword should be 1 to 2.2 lbs (450 to 1000 grams).

Use of the Spartan Sword

Testing out a battle-ready stainless steel Spartan Warrior Sword – Credits: Thegn Thrand

The Spartan Sword has many uses today as a popular and terrifying weapon. It is a single-edged sword primarily used for slashing attacks, and its small size makes it the ideal one-handed weapon.

Warfare

The most common use for the Spartan Sword was combat. Although the combat in the movie 300 is thrilling and impressive, real fighting that occurred in ancient battles did not look anything like that, especially in the Ancient Greek phalanxes.

Although it was used in warfare, the Spartan Sword would be a functional sword to use as a second-handed weapon other than the spear and pike. However, if it were placed against a normal Kopis or Xiphos, it would be no match as it was shorter in length. 

Modern & Cosplay

Thousands of people enjoy the hobby of collecting swords for exhibition purposes. Those in this category tend to like well-known blades, like the Spartan. A Spartan Sword, with its distinctive design that exemplifies the fierceness of Spartan warriors, is a great addition to any collection.

The Spartan Sword is also commonly seen in cosplay and reenactments such as LARP, which stands for live-action role-playing. People come together to act out scenes from stories or movies, and ancient weaponry like the Roman Gladius, Japanese Katana, or the King Leonidas Spartan Sword is often used.

The History of the Spartan Sword

Spartan Sword History
The Leonidas Sword at the tomb of Leonidas in Greece – Credits: Laconia, Sparta statue

The real and historical swords that the ancient Spartan warriors used would be the Kopis and Xiphos. They were used by the entire Ancient Greek infantry and had much influence throughout the ancient world. Even the popular enemies of the Spartans, the Persians, used these swords in battles.

The Spartan Sword, as it is known in its current popular shape today, is a modern type of fantastical weapon coming from the late 20th century.  It can be seen in comic books like Frank Miller’s 300 and was most popular in the 2006  movie version directed by Zack Snyder.

Modern media will also make people believe that Spartans primarily used swords after throwing their spears at the enemy. If this were the case and the Spartans relied heavily on their swords, they would have the weakest warriors in the regions, which is the exact opposite of their reputation.

What is known of the Spartan Sword is the difference in length. Ancient swords typically weren’t long, and the average length of the Ancient Greek sword was between 19 to 23 inches (50 and 60 cm), but rumor has it that Spartans started making blades as small as 15 inches (40 cm) during war. Plutarch, an Ancient Greek philosopher, said the reason was that the Spartans would need to approach their enemies closer in battle.

Spartan Sword Vs. Normal Sword

Spartan Sword vs. Regular Sword
Where the possible inspiration came for the creation of the modern Spartan Sword – Falchion & Kopis – Credits: Norwich Castle Museum

The biggest difference between a Spartan Sword and a regular sword from ancient, medieval, or modern times is that the Spartan sword did not exist. It’s a fictional weapon from modern media, as many Ninja swords are seen in anime, movies, or comic books. 

If we compare the Spartan Sword to the real swords that the Spartans used – the Kopis and Xiphos, the difference would be in the blade shape and the guard. The real historical Greek Swords had straight leaf-shaped or curved blades, unlike the shape of the modern Spartan Sword, which is between a Kopis and a Falchion. Ancient swords had little to do with a guard, while the Hollywood Spartan one has long and sharp hook quillons on the guard and its pommel.

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