The Roman Pilum
A Roman spear was used in the New Testament to stab Jesus in the lower (5th) rib. Roman spears were generally placed on a long wooden shaft to prevent the breaking of the spear. The point was pyramid shaped; this triangular shape created a wound, which unlike a sword wound, would
not heal quickly. Often victims of this type of spear puncture bleed to death.
The spear used to stab Jesus however was probably a Pilum, or a throwing spear.
Pilums were usually carried by Legionaries, or elite soldiers. Their presence
would probably have been required to keep the rioting away form Jesus’ crucified body.
Legionaries usually carried two or three Pilums at any given time so it is easy to imagine them being readily available
at Jesus’ crucifixion.
Pilums were generally meant for one
time use. They were about two meters long and weighed approximately three kilograms. Their shafts were quite thin; on average only seven and a half millimeter wide. The iron shaft bent easily when it made contact with a shield. This would facilitate one of the more favored Roman military tactics.
The shaft would first toss the Pilum into enemy ranks. If the Pilum hit
a shield in the heat of combat. This would serve as a hindrance to the soldier
and he would have to abandon the shield entirely leaving him more susceptible to attack.
At this point, advancing Roman soldiers would be engaged in battle with a shield less enemy who would quickly fall. Overall, Roman spears in general were built to be merciless and aid I the other tactics. One stab from a well built spear could cause an enemy to bleed to death or leave him
open to attack by other weapons.