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specifics in Spear fighting combat
#46
Quote:I have seen this happen by re-eanactors in a battle completely natural without any knowledge about ancient fighting techniques.

Such information from reenactors helped me greatly in shaping my concept of such combat. I may hit you up for more details and quote you!

I don't know if you saw the Vyborg video on the "Othismos true nature" thread, but they also seem to have arrived at what I believe was close to the style of ancient hoplite mass combat. I'm curious to know if what they did conforms to your experience.
Paul M. Bardunias
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A Spartan, being asked a question, answered "No." And when the questioner said, "You lie," the Spartan said, "You see, then, that it is stupid of you to ask questions to which you already know the answer!"
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#47
I will check the video out.
We train in single and formation combat, and participate in mock battle ranging from 10 to 200 people, some times more, at the same time on the field.
With tactics, commanders and the rest what belongs to it.
Regards

Garrelt
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#48
These videos are very familiar to me.
It realy shows what happens in a confined space.
The way of fighting tells me that there are a lot of Russian/ Ukrainian fighters in those battles.
Regards

Garrelt
-----------------------------------------------------
Living History Group Teuxandrii
Taberna Germanica
Numerus I Exploratores Teuxandrii (Pedites et Equites)
Ludus Gladiatorii Gunsula
Jomsborg Elag Hrafntrae
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#49
Isn't is possible that there are several rather different experiences of battle going on all together? At the center of a group of hoplites (I'm stearing clear of the term phalanx for some linguistic reasons) a hoplite would be pressed close and have some very limited fighting options. But.... for the men in the flank files, wouldn't there be a tendency to drift and to open up the combat? there always is in all the other periods I do--a combination of aggression and fear tend to widen the combat at the flanks while pressing it in the center.

Do we know how the Greeks fought as regard to "units?" I note that in Herodotus, as he lists the Greek contingents at Plataea, some are quite small; were they "brigaded?" (This seems to go against the tide of Greek history Smile ) When an army was formed, were there gaps between contingents? My experience is in moving blocks of men, each block 100 or so, and even with training, given the "real" ground conditions of anything but a soccer pitch, the commander MUST have spaces in his line or the whole thing will collapse at the center where the pressure of marching proves intolerable as men seek to avoid everything from a puddle to a tree stump.

I'm asking all of this here because either we believe that the whole of a classical Greek army was in a single mass (as one would posit from say, Arrian et al, Onasander) in which case (1) the whole army only has say, ten files that are going to tend to "fan out" on the flanks, where single combat is possible or even likely--or (2) there are incremental gaps in the front, in which case, a great deal of the experience of hoplite warfare might well be "point of danger" fighting at the flank of a group.
Qui plus fait, miex vault.
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#50
Christian,
Your thought are valid but the tendency was to keep ranks.

Troops of city states who practised columnar tactics scorned unformed enemies. Any action breacing the ranks was frowned upon.

At Kunaxa eveybody warned everybody to stey in the ranks for example.

It was not atchived in a day but it wwas formulated gradualy.

Kind regards
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#51
Judging by the sources we have, "the Phalanx "was formed as a single body, even when made uo of sub-units, and once formed not capable of much other than movement forward or back ( Spartans excepted! )

With regard to movement, it should be borne in mind that the phalanx usually marched to the battlefield in Column, and then turned 90 degrees to form line. After that they most probably manouevred in 'open order' ( 6' or so frontage per man), closing up into 'close order' ( 3 ' frontage per man) by means of the rear ranks closing up into the intervals.This was carried out just before the Charge/clash.......some 50-100 yards apart......

Thus large bodies of men could be least disrupted on reasonably level ground. There were exceptions of course - for example, Xenophon, attacking a steep hill defended by tribal peltasts, has his Hoplites attack in a number of small columns.....
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
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#52
The hoplites had to be tightly packed,especially against another hoplite phalanx. Not only this was what each low rank officer had to keep in mind(and in his men's mind) but also the usual tactic was to have lighter troops or even cavalry in either of the flanks f the phalanx. This way they prevented the outflanking of the phalanx,but now I think of it,it might have prevented what Kineas suggested. By the way,wellcome Kineas!
The purpose was to keep the shields overlapping in all the length of the phalanx. Usually one wing outflanked partially the opposing wing (the right one outflanking the left of the oponents') and this must have produced some disorder in the left wing anyway,but the battle shouldn't have been that loose.
Khaire
Giannis
Giannis K. Hoplite
a.k.a.:Giannis Kadoglou
a.k.a.:Thorax
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#53
I understand that it had to be kept close. I'm not that much of a heretic! I will note, though, that without some intervals in the line, it is awfully hard to move anywhere. 18th c. armies couldn't, and they spent much more time at linear marching drill than most hoplites. 18th C. armies had to leave an interval of about 1/6 of their frontage between battalions, and an interval between companies in the battalion (it was different in different manuals). or looked at another way, a whole phalanx moving along the knife edge of a gentle slope is going to split, and they'll split even if every man is a member of the UK foot guards... or that's been my experience. What happens when part of your line hits an obstruction?
Final point (and to be fair, my main period is the 4th c. BC) I think it is worth keeping in mind when looking at Pankration and swordsmanship and the like, that many hoplites also fought at sea, or went on overseas expeditions, where the possibility fo fighting man to man in a "single" combat was much higher.
Also worth noting that Xenophon's description of Mantinea mentions a picked force charging out of the formation (same guys who were at Kunaxa!). Is this a forlorn hope? (I don't think anyone knows, but such stuff did happen.)
I only keep up this stream of supposition to say that I think there were many, many incidences where a hoplite might profit from some personal combat training. Which is not to say I disagree with any of your points about the function of the phalanx or the average hoplites place in the line.

Anyway, I'm here to learn. I expect to be in Greece next spring (April 15 to May 15 or so) and I'd love to come to an event and see your drill, meet you gentlemen, and have some practical experience to take home to Canada.
Qui plus fait, miex vault.
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#54
Elite units had the necessary moral and training to be entrusted complex manuvers and duties out of the main body's "safety in numbers"

Christian you might want to check "Othismos true nature" for the mechanics of mass drill and some members personal experience that it is not so difficult as it sounds.


Kind regards
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#55
Thanks, Stefanos. I read the whole thread, and a nice piece of work it is!

But there's some assumptions there, and I'd like to test them with reenactors, as proposed.

First, I think that evidence that most Greek hoplites did very much drill at all is an assumption and needs to be proven. Note I'm not saying it didn't happen--just that I feel it needs to be discussed. What's the evidence that young men were drilled? (Before the mid 4th c?). My impression, and it is only an impression, is that the only evidence goes the other way--Xenophon seems to think that ONLY the Spartans, the Thebans from 371 BC, and the mercenaries ever did drill. So, for example,

kai gar hoi men Boiôtoi egumnazonto pantes peri ta hopla
(Sorry for the latin transliteration!) Which is from Xenophon's Hellenika 6.5.23.

or (English Translation from Perseus, from "Constitution of the Lacedaemonians, 11.8 and following) showing how very well drilled the Spartans were, by contrast to any other state:

"The Lacedaemonians also carry out with perfect ease manoeuvres that instructors [hoplomachoi] in tactics think very difficult. Thus, when they march in column, every section of course follows in the rear of the section in front of it. Suppose that at such a time an enemy in order of battle suddenly makes his appearance in front: the word is passed to the second lieutenant to deploy into line to the left, and so throughout the column until the battle-line stands facing the enemy. Or again, if the enemy appears in the rear while they are in this formation, each file counter-marches, in order that the best men may always be face to face with the enemy."

Also note that the Spartans expect to counter-march by files throughout their phalanx, meaning that there is at least a man's gap between files. Again, it could be argued that this gap would be closed for combat. But if every man has a three foot gap to close (a file's minimum width) across the front of a real fighting force (say 4000 men in 8 ranks, or 500 files) than at the moment of closing fies, the difference int he formation between open and closed is 1500 paces! The danger of an opponent's better formed phalanx striking you while carrying out this maneuver would be so great that no general would dare employ it int he face of the enemy!

Second, I have done years of fighting in the SCA, and I agree that the model is flawed, but not entirely useless--as a single example, I'll note how FAST a melee with 100 guys a side goes, and how very quickly a person tires. SCA experience can inform us about things like fatigue and timescale--or at least educate our guesses!

Third, I spend my summers marching reenactors around various parade squares. I completely agree that in three weeks you can teach 500 people to march in step and perform some solid evolutions. I have to agree with the other point of view, however--add heat, armour, limited visibility and terrain, and my experience is that the line is much harder to maintain--add the aspis, and I'm not sure it could be done at all at a dead run. Fairly small errors of marching with people carrying a rifle and a pack, say, will be much more profound when everyone is trying to maintain a shield wall--much less trying to wheel or conform to ground. Again, this isn't armchair theory--I'm often a "brigade" commander, sometimes an "army" commander, and I'm used to moving blocks of 300 to 800 men.

My "group" (my brigade, in fact) practices a charge at the double in two ranks. After only five years of practice, we can now deliver the rapid attack across about 100 meters and still maintain our line. To do so, however, we HAD to open our files (not our ranks) to allow for the natural movement of the solider within his file area. Fortunately for us in that time period, there's excellent evidence (Phillips, vis Matt Springer's superb "Zeal and Bayonets Only) that rapidity in movement required the troops to open their files.

This experience, plus the fact that the Spartans had room to counter march their files, plus Herodotus's contention that the Athenians at Marathon were the first to charge at a run (with the implication that it was common thereafter, Herodotus 6.112.1 and following) suggest to me that the hoplite formation was never closed tight until the stress of combat forced it closed. They could close it, especially in small groups, Herodotus mentions one group of Phokians in the face of cavalry:

"The Phocians opposed them in every possible way, drawing in together and closing their ranks to the best of their power." Herodotus 9.18.1 The word used, puknôsantes, at it's root seems to mean "close in texture, dense, thick" according to my desktop Classical Greek lexicon. So the hard pressed Phokians were able to close their ranks in the face of the Thessalian cavalry.

I agree with all the points of view on the other thread that suggested that all of the different theses on Othismos were probably equally valid. And, to sum up (lest I appear unduly combative) I think that the answer lies with us reenactors--just as was said on the other thread. We need two blocks of 300 hoplites, and 600 open minds, so that we can test a number of different theories. Nothing makes me prouder as a reenactor than to look at the trireme project that gave birth to the Olympias--where reconstruction was able to prove and disprove theory.

Just my 2 cents worth, and apologies for the length.
Qui plus fait, miex vault.
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#56
Quote:First, I think that evidence that most Greek hoplites did very much drill at all is an assumption and needs to be proven. Note I'm not saying it didn't happen--just that I feel it needs to be discussed. What's the evidence that young men were drilled? (Before the mid 4th c?). My impression, and it is only an impression, is that the only evidence goes the other way--Xenophon seems to think that ONLY the Spartans, the Thebans from 371 BC, and the mercenaries ever did drill.
We do know that the Athenians had two years of obligatory service from 18-20 years old. In the first year they learned how to act in their unit and move as much in accordance as possible. In the second year they mostly served as garisson in border castles and camps and this obviously put the theory into practice. Two such years were brobably not a bad training at all. In the ceremony of their aproval by the state as hoplites-the same one that the made their famous oath- they danced the "phyrric dance" where they supposedly performed all the movements they had learned. This applies also to the Spartans,where we know they gave much value to group dancing,in order to learn how to act all together in accordance.
I don't remember references for other city states,but we don't have any reason to suppose things were much different.

The Spartans of cource would perform the above movements much more orderly and in addition they appear to have been practicing some more extreem movements that are not expected even from very well trained men. Like the one Herodotus mentions in Thermopylae,which I still can't properly imagine. While fighting,they all together started retreating as if routing and then all at once turned to face the enemy again,and in this action they killed many of their enemies and few of them were lost. If we accept that the hoplites were useless against a massive oponent if they broke the phalanx,then you can imagine that the rest of greek hoplites shouldn't be blaimed for not operating this way!
Quote:if every man has a three foot gap to close (a file's minimum width)
This is actually too much,if you want the shield to overlap in close order. I'd say you must count about a bit more than 2 feet.
Quote:The danger of an opponent's better formed phalanx striking you while carrying out this maneuver would be so great that no general would dare employ it int he face of the enemy!
And indeed they avoided so,after all the early hoplite battles were most often somewhat arranged. However the hoplites in the late fifth century bc and afterwards were very used to unexpected attacks. One possible deployment may have been that not each column took its place in turn next to the other,but all at once or many at once moved,with the leader of each column knowing how many paces would have to count to turn to the right and take his position. This would make things much quicker.
Quote:we HAD to open our files (not our ranks) to allow for the natural movement of the solider within his file area. Fortunately for us in that time period, there's excellent evidence (Phillips, vis Matt Springer's superb "Zeal and Bayonets Only) that rapidity in movement required the troops to open their files
Likewise,the hoplites must have walked the distance between the armies in open order and with much space between each rank.They'd close files about 100 m from the enemy and then the most disciplined armies would not run in all that distance in order to maintain their formation. This is what Spartans must have done most of the times. They may have broken to a run in the last few meters to gain momentum. If the hoplites ran,they would form again their files after impact with the enemy,each hoplite adding his waight to the one in front. This may have happened either instantly or slowly in different places of the phalanx.
Quote:"The Phocians opposed them in every possible way, drawing in together and closing their ranks to the best of their power." Herodotus 9.18.1 The word used, puknôsantes, at it's root seems to mean "close in texture, dense, thick" according to my desktop Classical Greek lexicon. So the hard pressed Phokians were able to close their ranks in the face of the Thessalian cavalry.
This can be interpreted in two or three ways.
One is that they were in open order and closed to face the cavalry as quickly and orderly as they could. After all,they were not a proffesional army. Another interpretation is that in open order they allowed less space between columns,so when they formed close order,the shields were being very much overlaped,making it harder for the cavalry to penetrate. And yet another and very possible explanation is that thet formed close order as usual with the shields somewhat overlapping and wither from fear or pressure or both the men where coming one closer to the other to feel secured and protect themselves. None of these interpretations in unlikely nor heretical.
Yes we have to repeat it that we need to get very many aspis armed people together to experiment a bit.
As to the Olympias project,it was excellent,but as usually,it answered some questions and produced even greater ones!
Christian,if you're participating in such large groups and more so leading them,you can perhaps try some things that apply mosty in hoplite phalanxes?
Khaire
Giannis
Giannis K. Hoplite
a.k.a.:Giannis Kadoglou
a.k.a.:Thorax
[Image: -side-1.gif]
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#57
My memory is that Athenian ephebe training was only instituted in the late 4th century, as I noted in my post. Is there any other source that speaks to hoplite training earlier?

I'm quite interested in the possibility that the trainers in various athletics also trained the hoplites, but so far, it looks more like a theory than anything substantial. Again, I'd be delighted to be shown otherwise.

I don't think you got the point of my probably overlong dissertation of the gaps. If the Spartans could counter march, then they had big gaps--at least as wide as an aspis, ie 34 inches or more. And as i said, they couldn't have closed their front at 100 meters from the enemy, because such a closing of frontage, even with a small army, would require reducing the width by 1500 feet over 500 files, or 750 feet over 250 files, which would be a very small phalanx but a crippling distance to close laterally. I regularly need to open and close skirmishers and I would never do it closer than 300 meters to the enemy--otherwise, somebody kills you while you're trying to change your spacing.
If this doesn't make sense, I'll try a diagram next!
Qui plus fait, miex vault.
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#58
In the bronze age only the aristokrat charioteers had martial arts training.
The rest simply grouped together and followed them.
As democracy and therefore increased armies started appearing the problem of what to do with so many men started. Elite unites of Logadae of aristokratic origin had the money and time to do something more complex.

2 weeks are more than enough to drill a group og men to manouver in formation and I DO KNOW what I am talking about. Imagine then that this was "the battle tactic". 2 years are more that enough to muster the basic drill . Most middle class epheboi started military drill from 15 under the supervision of the paedotrives (ancient fitness instructor)
All city stated required from their citizen to perform service.
Crtetans also sent their epheboi for a year to learn outdoor fieldcraft skills.

Tha phalanx was chosen because is the simplest system compaired to others.

Kind regards
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#59
Quote:And as i said, they couldn't have closed their front at 100 meters from the enemy, because such a closing of frontage, even with a small army, would require reducing the width by 1500 feet over 500 files, or 750 feet over 250 files, which would be a very small phalanx but a crippling distance to close laterally. I regularly need to open and close skirmishers and I would never do it closer than 300 meters to the enemy--otherwise, somebody kills you while you're trying to change your spacing.
If this doesn't make sense, I'll try a diagram next!
Hm,sorry I think I will need a diagram...Either I'm not grabing something basic or there is some mistake in our understanding of how a phalanx deployed.
I never said they would switch to close order only about 100 m from the enemy. The typical hoplite battles took place in rather flat plains. This is the case with Mantineia,Marathon,Plataea and the rest of the big battlefields. At the point that there was no need for further maneuvering was needed and the two phalanxes were one oposite to the other,before the final charge,the phalanx was doubling its thickness by halfing its depth and keeping its lenght the same. Usually there was considerable time for both phalanxes to do so. The piknosis was done after the phalanx had taken its fighting position. The Spartans in Mantineia,we are told, managed to form their battle line directly from a marching column,even though they were surprized by the enemy who was already charging! This is discipline! Even in this case,they would first for open order with 16 deep and then close order 8 deep. However this is a bit hypothetical because due to lack of time they most probably formed the close order almost emediately. I apologise if I'm repeating common ground here,but I didn't understad where your doubt lies.
Khaire
Giannis
Giannis K. Hoplite
a.k.a.:Giannis Kadoglou
a.k.a.:Thorax
[Image: -side-1.gif]
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#60
Ahh.

As is so often the case online, I'm not sure we've been disagreeing!

I think I need to read posts more carefully. Later tonight when my daughter's play-date is done, I'll try my hand at a diagram to show what I perceived the problem to be.

I am EAGER to try this stuff with larger bodies of men/women/participants. Quite a few of my rev war friends are interested, so perhaps we'll start a small phalanx in Ontario and work from there.

(Shameless plug) my unit can be seen at www.csmid.com and our overall org at www.northernbrigade.org . Anyone wanting to see the next step above that should take a look at www.britishbrigade.com , which is the site of the British Army of the 18th C. in America. And apologies for it being off topic--my excuse is that it may prove a rich recruiting ground for a phalanx, or at least for some experimentation. I'm hoping to get the troops at Lansing Manor in 2 weeks to try moving 8 deep and 16-20 wide, depending on turnout. Don't tell them, though...

As I mentioned on this thread or somewhere, I'll be in Greece for a month next spring and I'd love to see a group in action and perhaps learn some of your drills.

Must go be a dad.
Qui plus fait, miex vault.
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