Concept

Xiphos

Résumé
The xiphos (ξίφος ksíphos; plural xiphe, ξίφη ksíphɛː) is a double-edged, one-handed Iron Age straight shortsword used by the ancient Greeks. It was a secondary battlefield weapon for the Greek armies after the dory or javelin. The classic blade was generally about long, although the Spartans supposedly preferred to use blades as short as around the era of the Greco-Persian Wars. Stone's Glossary has xiphos being a name used by Homer for a sword. The entry in the book says that the sword had a double-edged blade widest at about two-thirds of its length from the point, and ending in a very long point. The word is attested in Mycenaean Greek Linear B form as 𐀥𐀯𐀟𐀁, qi-si-pe-e. A relation to Arabic saifun ('a sword') and Egyptian sēfet has been suggested, although this does not explain the presence of a labiovelar in Mycenaean. One suggestion connects Ossetic äxsirf "sickle", which would point to a virtual Indo-European *kwsibhro-. Most xiphe handles followed a two-piece construction (similar to a knife) using either native woods or, for more exotic imports, ebony and animal bone. The two slabs were attached to the tang of the sword, secured via two or three pins and then made smooth via filing giving the characteristic oval shape of a xiphos grip. Hand guards usually followed a "bridge" shape and were either also of organic material or iron or a combination of both, also secured via pins on each point. Some swords found in Italy or Macedonia tended to have an iron extension/reinforcement running along the handle (see picture of modern reconstruction of a xiphos made by Manning Imperial above). There have been finds of xiphe with hilts decorated with gold foil. These swords were most likely ceremonial since they are always found in burial sites. Surviving xiphe are relatively rare, but appear alongside iron weapons in burial sites, indicating both a household status and continued use into the Iron Age.
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