The origin of the pilum's design is a matter of contention. Standard tactics called for Roman soldiers to throw one of them both if time permitted at the enemy, just before charging to engage with the gladius ; however, Alexander Zhmodikov has argued that the Roman infantry could use pila at any stage in the fighting. Pictorial evidence suggests that some versions of the weapon were weighted by a lead ball to increase penetrative power but archeological specimens of this design variant are not so far known. Arguments have been put forth which favour the design to be from ancient Italian tribes or from the Iberian peninsula.
If the bearer of the shield was charging and a pilum penetrated the shield, the end of the heavy shaft of the pilum would hit the ground, holding the shield in place. The origin of the pilum's design is a matter of contention. Pictorial evidence suggests that some versions of the weapon were weighted by a lead ball to increase penetrative power but archeological specimens of this design variant are not so far known. The combination of the weapon's weight and the aforementioned pyramidal tip the design of which would be seen in the Medieval era in the form of bodkin arrow tips , allowed the pilum to be a formidable armour-piercing weapon. Because the weapon was meant to be used against armour and use its own weight, as opposed to velocity, to cause damage, the bending of the shank seems to be a beneficial result of its intended use, which is to pierce through layers of armour. Even if the shank did not bend, the pyramidal tip still made it difficult to pull out. However, there were many cases where the whole shank was hardened, making the pilum more suitable as a close quarters melee weapon , while also rendering it usable by enemy soldiers. This softness would cause the shank to bend after impact, rendering the weapon useless to the enemy. Arguments have been put forth which favour the design to be from ancient Italian tribes or from the Iberian peninsula. On some pila there was a spike on the end of the shaft which made it easier to dig into the ground. Also, if the pilum struck a shield it might embed itself, the bending of the shank would force the enemy to discard their shield as unusable without removing the pilum, which would be time consuming. Standard tactics called for Roman soldiers to throw one of them both if time permitted at the enemy, just before charging to engage with the gladius ; however, Alexander Zhmodikov has argued that the Roman infantry could use pila at any stage in the fighting. The earliest known examples of the heavy version of the pila have barbed heads and their tangs have a figure-eight shape  The angon was a similar weapon used in late Roman and post-Roman times. The most commonly found artifacts suggest that the pilum was constructed to use the weight of the weapon to cause damage, most likely to be able to impale through armour and reach the enemy soldier's body. The momentum of the pilum caused the shank to bend upon impact, and, although unintended, this proved to be a useful characteristic of the weapon. The weapon had a hard pyramidal tip but the shank was made of softer iron. By contrast, since the pyramidal tip of a pilum was wider than the rest of the shank, once it penetrated a shield, it left behind a hole larger than the rest of the shank, and it could move through the shield with little resistance, stabbing the soldier behind. Design[ edit ] The total weight of a pilum was between 2 and 5 kilograms 4. Considering that there are two versions of the pilum the heavy and the light , it may be possible that the Roman pilum had, as ancestors, two different weapons, perhaps from different cultural groups. The length of the shank and its depth of penetration also made it hard to pull out of a shield even if it failed to bend. That the pilum needed to pierce layers of armour through the shield, into body-armour, and past clothing necessitated a lengthy shank, which was simply prone to bending. The two weapon designs may have coalesced into the form of the typical Roman pilum, as it is known today.
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