The javelin used by the athletes was a wooden pole, 1,5 to 2 meters long, with one of its edges pointed, while it was lighter than the one used by warriors. It is not certain if the javelin had just a pointed edge or a metal point, like the one on the javelins used by the army. Hesychius mentions that this type of javelin was named apotomas. Both types were frequently depicted on pots. The javelin with the pointed edge was necessary in practicing with targets, since it could stick on it. However, based on references by the orator Antiphon it appears that accidents did happen with this type of javelin, like the death of a child from a javelin during training. The historian Xenophon, in his work On the Art of Horsemanship, suggested covering the javelin with a sphere in order to avoid accidents of this type. When the javelin did not have an added metal point, a metal ring was added to its edge, transferring the javelin's center of gravity to the front so it could have precision and accuracy in its flight.
The main difference between the ancient and the modern javelin is that the athletes of ancient Greece adjusted the thong, a leather stripe that formed a loop, which was tied at the javelin's gravity center and where the athlete placed his index and middle finger. Every athlete tied the thong at the point where it suited him the most, while at the warriors' javelins the thongs were placed at a fixed point.
The thong helped during the throw in two ways:
- It increased the force of the shot, because it made the grasp more secure.
- It made the javelin rotate around its axis, stabilizing its flight and enabling it to move further away.