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GURPS is a tabletop roleplaying game, like Dungeons and Dragons. In the Low Tech expansion, pages 9-10, it includes rules for two-man pikes; pikes so long they take two people to use effectively. I get that GURPS is just a game, but it's usually very well researched, and Low Tech is an expansion focused on realism. Normally when something in the game is unrealistic, they explicitly say so, which makes me think some culture somewhere really did use two-man pikes. Googling "two-man pike" only returns a modern firefighting tool.

So, did any cultures actually use two-man pikes?

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    This would be interesting if they existed. I can't help but think they'd be highly impractical. Pike formations worked with multiple ranks of pikes to form a wall of sharp points to keep the enemy back. Two man pikes would double the number of men required in a formation (for the same number of pointy bits). There's also a practical limit on pike length where it bends excessively under its own weight (making it hard to stab the pointy bit into an enemy).
    – Steve Bird
    Jul 2 at 18:19
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    German legend has a seven-men pike: baden-wuerttemberg.de/en/our-state/traditionen/… (a humorous tale of seven not-too-bright Swabians who altogether wielded a single long spear, which was obviously rather useless as a weapon). Jul 2 at 20:20
  • @EikePierstorff "7"? After a peek for the pike at the pic behind your link even that legend (hilarious, btw, thx) that seems not that long and not that seven, either ;) ? If you could locate another tale of that format, I'd be tempted to say that this should go into a slightly more elaborated answer (because: concept seems to not make much sense, but how did this come about? 'Idea' is obviously not 'brand new'…) Jul 2 at 22:34
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    @LаngLаngС it's a folk tale about some, basically, village idiots, who come out on top despite being hilariously incompetent (they fail to kill a rabbit with the stupidly unwieldy weapon they have constructed for themselves, but come upon a dead bear by the roadside and are erroneously celebrated as fierce bear killers). The story is literally called "The seven Swabians", so I am sure they were indeed seven, but it's not serious history and posted only for general entertainment. Jul 2 at 23:04
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    @EikePierstorff Sure thing. It's just that I suspect 'prior art' being a likely inspiration for sth that at first glance sounds 'impressive' but on second look makes no obvious sense at all. Think of archaeology of ideas… If you have 'more like that', I'd be interested. If it is systematic, I'd say: an answer —proper— is needed. Jul 2 at 23:09
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Sarissa was 4-6m long and was used by the Macedonian phalanx. It was not literally wielded by several people, but ...

The weapons of the first five rows of men all projected beyond the front of the formation..

The sarissas were heavy (~6kg) and unwieldy; I remember reading (back in school) that the sarissas of the rows 2-5 were often supported on the shoulders of the hoplites in the forward rows - this is the extent to which they were "wielded by multiple people".

It is near impossible to "prove a negative" outside of Math, but it is hard to contrive a need for a 2-man pike, as quite eloquently explained by @Steve Bird in a comment:

Two man pikes would double the number of men required in a formation (for the same number of pointy bits)

As for anti-elephant tactics, a simple spear (even a large one) cannot seriously hurt a war elephant, to be of any use it has to be attached to something much heavier than 2 men - Earth or a wagon. Romans used the following against Pyrrhus's and Carthaginian elephants:

  1. ox-drawn wagons, equipped with long spikes to wound the elephants
  2. pots of burning coals to scare elephants
  3. screening troops who would hurl javelins at the elephants (to harass and panic them)
  4. disciplined Roman maniples simply made way for the charging elephants to pass (similar to a WW2 anti-tank tactics).
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    Almost fully agreed, plus good focus on sarissa: but could you rule out something like 'anti-war-elephant' application as well? For men or horses I can't start to imagine a twofer to make any sense, but bigger (maybe) moving objectives, like chariots, big beasts, 'sth siege', or 'ad-hoc tactic' (for whatever need, no actual own idea, but battelfield physics is more inspirational than theoretical imagination ;)? Jul 2 at 22:29
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    @LаngLаngС: I will think about it and do some research over the weekend, thanks for the questions!
    – sds
    Jul 3 at 0:07
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    @LаngLаngС 2-3 men together couldn't stop a war elephant while holding a pike. Not just that, the pike'd probably shatter if hit by a war elephant barreling down on it. For those beasts you'd want static defensive positions, or better yet something to scare them into turning on their controllers (which happened a lot anyway, elephants turned out to be less than optimal in warfare).
    – jwenting
    Jul 3 at 4:01
  • @jwenting I would think it would be more about trying to stab the elephant's rider(s) rather than the elephant itself.
    – Ryan_L
    Jul 3 at 6:25
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    Two or even three men simply holding a pike can't even stop a horse. For that the pike must be braced on the ground and guided into the horse by its bearer(s); who then pray the horse doesn't fall on them. In practice: (1) horses aren't suicidal even when their riders are; and (2) one dealt best with elephants by simply sidestepping them a la Scipio at Zama: "Scipio's soldiers avoided the elephants by opening their ranks and drove them off with missiles." Landing under a horse isn't necessarily fatal; under an elephant almost certainly is. Jul 6 at 17:10

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