Top 10 Deadliest Ancient Weapons

June 20, 2011

Weapons can make all the difference on the battlefield or in close combat. Throughout history different civilizations have crafted their own versions of weapons and have always looked to better designs and stronger materials, trying to outdo their enemies in every way possible. But whether it's a simple spear that rips through an enemy's heart or a katana that rips slices anything to shreds, weapons are designed to be deadly.

10. Flail

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Seriously, what's more frightening than a spiked ball and chain? Used heavily during the Middle Ages, the flail was known for being an excellent tool for getting around an opponent's shield. Its precision is sometimes criticized because it must be spun around to attack, but it's often the spinning of a massive spiked ball that gets the opponent shaking in their boots to begin with. Make no mistake, however, in close combat this thing could not only tear a shield to pieces, but it could also take an enemy down with one hit.

9. Spear

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One of the oldest weapons in the history of the world, the spear was first used for hunting over 400,000 years ago. Soon, humans realized its killing potential and started using this basic weapon in battle. From the times of the ancient Greeks to Medieval Japan, this worldwide weapon has seen more battles than perhaps any other weapon in history. Its thrusting power is unmatched and it can be thrown at large distances to take down multiple enemies.

8. Shuriken

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Small but deadly, the Shuriken is the weapon that loves to prey on an opponent's weak spots: neck, hands, wrists, feet, or any flesh that is unarmored and exposed. This ancient Japanese weapon was actually not only used by Ninjas, but by Samurais as well. Despite its vicious cutting power, this was mainly used as a secondary weapon. Since the Shuriken is easy to conceal and can be thrown with lightning-quick speed, it's definitely a weapon you hope your opponent doesn't have handy.

7. Dead Bodies

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Unconventional and undeniably terrifying, dead bodies have been used in warfare for ages. Stick a dead body in a catapult and swing it at an enemy's territory and you not only would cause damage, but you'd also inflict fear into the hearts of the soldiers – talk about killing two birds with one stone. Even more gruesome, many armies would hurl disease-ridden human bodies at their enemies with the hope of inflicting disease. A dead body really is a triple threat: it can cause decent damage and is used in both psychological and biological warfare.

6. Spartan Hoplon Shield

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Simply put, this shield is a beast. Ridiculously huge, made from wood, and sometimes coated with bronze, Spartans were able to use the shield as a great defensive weapon, successfully defending against nearly all enemy weapons. However, it's this shield's great weight that makes it a powerful weapon also. Spartans and other Hoplites would thrust with this massive shield, easily knocking down opponents (sometimes knocking them out cold) and lining up a finishing blow. The enemy may not see a simple shield as a threat, but with its thin edges and hard design, it is indeed designed to kill.

5. Mangonel

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A key siege weapon for warfare, the Mangonel was used as early as Ancient Greece, but is definitely known for tearing down castle walls during the Middle Ages. This gigantic projectile weapon can hurl almost anything that can fit in its bowl-shaped hand, including large rocks, diseased corpses, or arrows. Catapults were so effective as siege weapons that even in World War I French Forces used modern-sized catapults to fling grenades at enemies in trench warfare.

4. Ballista

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A catapult with an edge, this weapon was often used to throw large bolts at opponents, hence it was often known as a larger-than-life sized version of a crossbow. Unlike the mangonel which uses a string to project objects into the air, ballistas use bowstrings, hurling huge arrows that can rip through a row of soldiers, or break through an enemy fortress. Highly accurate, this weapon could take aim at targets over 500 yards away and deliver massive damage.

3. Greek Fire

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Byzantine forces certainly loved roasting their opponents, but why not use their flames where it's least expected? That's right, the Byzantine Empire had its navy forces equipped with incendiary weapons that would set enemies ablaze. Men on board would hold siphons (early versions of flamethrowers) and take pleasure in burning their enemies, helping them sink to the bottom of the sea. This weapon was so effective that ships would continue to burn even under water. In fact, the Byzantine were able to fend off Muslim forces with Greek fire and saved Constantinople in 672 AD.

2. Katana

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Japanese craftsmanship has never made something so beautiful yet so deadly. Not only is the Katana one of the most famous types of swords ever made, but it is also without one of the most dangerous. Slightly curved, with a long grip for two-handed wielding, this sword was often used by Samurais during Feudal Japan, and is often referred to as the "Samurai Sword." The Katana's cutting ability is unquestionable, and the fact that it can be drawn almost instantaneously makes it number 2 on the list.

1. Flaming Arrows

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Simple yet effective, flaming arrows have been used all over the world during sieges to destroy everything in their path. It's not uncommon that archers would send a shower of flaming arrows to set an enemy town or city on fire in a matter of minutes, after they were finished pillaging and plundering of course. Whether used by the Romans or the Chinese, every military force around the globe understood the havoc that flaming arrows could wreak upon enemy forces and territory.