The Sarissa was the heart of the phalanx. The point of the Sarissa was its iron head, shaped like a leaf. On the opposing side was a bronze butt-spike, and the shaft itself was made of cornel wood. At thirteen to twenty-one feet long, it was heavy and unwieldy. A fifteen foot long sarissa could weigh twelve pounds, and one eighteen feet long could be almost fifteen pounds. Needless to say, outside of the phalanx a twenty-one foot sarissa was as good as a paper sword.
Inside the phalanx, however, the sarissa changed history. Ordered rows of infantry, standing more than eight men deep, all pointed their spears straight ahead. From the enemy’s view, it was a wall of points. Their only options were to get longer spears or attack from the side. For this reason, the sarissa and phalanx served the Greeks well for many years.
It was first brought into use by the Macedonians, under the Philip of Macdon. His son, Alexander the great, also used the formation on his conquests. Before Philip and Alexander, greek phalanxes would use a dory, but the sarissa was more effective. It was used with both hands, and had a significantly longer range than the older dory used by the Spartans. From Philip to the rise of Rome, the sarissa remained the number-one weapon of the Greeks.