Viking Spears

Viking battle re-enactment with spears
Viking battle re-enactment

Viking Spears - Introduction

The most commonly used weapon of the ancient Viking warriors was the spear. It was not as glamorous as a Viking Sword and not as frightening looking as a Viking battle axe, but in the hands of skilled Norse warrior it was deadly.

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On this page we provide information on why Vikings used spears, how they were constructed, and we list the ways they were used by these warriors of the Middle Ages.

Most medieval Norsemen used spears for a weapon simply because they were cheaper and easier to make than swords and even battle axes. Spears required less metal and most blacksmiths of the Viking Age were capable of making them, as opposed to the special skill required to make a sword.

Viking Spear Construction

This weapon was made by using a rivet to secure a spear head to a shaft. There were many variations of spears. These variations included differences in spear head sizes and shapes, and differences in the length of the shaft. Spear heads of the early Viking Age were usually around eight inches (20 centimeters) long, where as later ones could be up to twenty four inches long (60 centimeters). Some spear heads had "wings". Spears with this feature are called barbed spears.

There is very little archaeological or other types of information available about the shaft of Viking spears. In the Norse Sagas, which are a great source of information about Viking life and war, there is mention of a spear that was so long that an outstretched arm could touch the rivet. The way this is explained in the Gisla Saga makes it seem like this spear was uncommonly long. The Sagas also mention that some spear shafts were reinforced with iron. For example, in Vatnsdaela Saga, a man named Ingolf had a spear with a broad blade and a shaft that was reinforced with iron.

How the Vikings used their Spears in Battle

The ancient Norse warriors used their spears in many ways; the main ways were thrusting, throwing, and cutting.

The Spear as a Thrusting Weapon

Thrusting the spear at an enemy was the most common method the Vikings used for this weapon. This method is mentioned in many of the Norse Sagas. For example in one Saga it is written that Helgi had a spear which he thrust through Bolli's shield, and through Bolli. The Norse warrior could thrust the spear with one hand or two. In the Norse Sagas it is mentioned that Vikings would often sling their shields over their shoulders so that they could hold their spear with two hands. By doing this they of course became more vulnerable.

The Spear as a Throwing Weapon

The Vikings were also known to throw their spears at the enemy. There are many examples of this in the Norse Sagas. Vikings would often carry several spears so that they would have a few to throw and at least one to hold on to for hand to hand combat. Throwing a spear could be a risky thing to do. If you missed your opponent he could pick up the spear and use it against you. Some Vikings were so well trained at fighting with spears that they could throw two at the same time. There were also warriors who could catch a spear in flight.

The Spear as a Cutting Weapon

Besides thrusting and throwing the spear was, probably to a much lesser extent, used as a cutting weapon. There is an example of this in the Kroka-Refs Saga where Refer repays Porgils for an earlier slander by using his spear to split him in two down to his shoulders.