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History => Ancient and Medieval History => Weapons and Tactics => Topic started by: Chris on October 19, 2019, 10:06:10 PM

Title: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Chris on October 19, 2019, 10:06:10 PM
Gentlemen,

Interested in finding out more about friendly unit interpenetration and was wondering if those with greater knowledge (that would include everybody else) had any ideas about where to look and who to read.

Guessing that it did happen historically, as many rulebooks contain sections on interpenetration.

Thanks.
Cheers,
Chris
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Jim Webster on October 20, 2019, 06:12:11 AM
Gentlemen,

Interested in finding out more about friendly unit interpenetration and was wondering if those with greater knowledge (that would include everybody else) had any ideas about where to look and who to read.

Guessing that it did happen historically, as many rulebooks contain sections on interpenetration.

Thanks.
Cheers,
Chris

I think we know that light infantry could fall back through the main line of heavy infantry, but I doubt anybody has evidence of a mechanism
We also have evidence of interpenetration in later periods
Wargamers need it for game purposes  :o
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Mark G on October 20, 2019, 08:28:26 AM
Take your game scale into account.

I would expect none of your example other rules model every maniple .

But they have a list of mid republican romans.

And they decided to allow some form of line replacement between hastatii principes and triarii, without explicitly declaring whether they believe the lines form a continuous front, or retain maniple spaces along the front, and thus how that would happen .

And they get around this by allowing interpretation.

Now you need to go back, and decide whether you do want to see the individual maniples modelled, do have a strong view on how they operated, and therefore can make a rule to cover that activity on the table. 

Or, you can not ask this question, and just accept it’s a rule fudge for a difficult question.

Ditto English billmen and archers.

Pointless looking at later examples, because they had strict drill, cadence marching, etc.
And besides, opinions there are pretty divided too.
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Erpingham on October 20, 2019, 08:30:00 AM
Quote
Wargamers need it for game purposes 

Or we assume it happened but don't know how, so abstract it.

Add: Crossed with Mark's post.  Scale is key.  Lines interpenetrating lines is a different scale to troops moving through the ranks of a unit.  Often we do not know, because it presumably wasn't important, whether troops moved through the ranks or funnelled round the sides of units.  The effect would be the same. 

Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Justin Swanton on October 20, 2019, 08:54:50 AM
Onasander describes the interpenetration mechanism for light infantry passing through heavy infantry in a military treatise destined for Quintus Veranius Nepos, consul in 49AD and Legate of Britain. It applies to Hellenistic-style skirmishers like slingers and archers withdrawing through a phalanx of heavy foot, but the mechanism would be familiar (and relevant) to a Roman general like Nepos.

      
There should be intervals [διαστήματα - diastemata, which means 'gaps' in this context] within the ranks [κατὰ τὰς τάξεις - kata tas taxeis; in this context kata means 'throughout'; taxeis in the plural applied to a single phalanx line means 'ranks'], so that, when the light-armed troops have discharged their weapons while the enemy is still advancing, before the two armies come to close quarters, they may about-face, pass in good order through the centre of the phalanx, and come without confusion to the rear. For it is not safe for them to go around the whole army, encircling the flanks—since the enemy would quickly anticipate them in this manoeuvre, coming to close quarters and intercepting them on the way—nor is it safe for them to force their way through the closed ranks, where they would fall over the weapons and cause confusion in the lines, one man stumbling against another. - Strategikos: 19.1

In effect Onasander is describing the open order formation of the Tacticians, the latter of whom specify that this was the way of allowing one body of light or heavy infantry to be intercalced with another body of heavy infantry (Asklepiodotus: 5.1). It is easy to extrapolate an intercalced body of light infantry to that body advancing ahead of the body of heavy infantry it was part of in order to skirmish with the enemy and later withdrawing through the file gaps of the heavy infantry to evade the enemy advance.
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Andreas Johansson on October 20, 2019, 09:06:33 AM
The Praecepta Militaria of Nicephorus Phocas describes cavalry and light foot moving in and out through the intervals between units in a heavy infantry line.

The work with translation, background, and commentary is available here (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sowing-Dragons-Teeth-Byzantine-Dumbarton/dp/0884022242/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?crid=2OCN405KUNN77&keywords=sowing+the+dragon+s+teeth+byzantine+warfare+in+the+tenth+century&qid=1571558625&sprefix=sowing+the+dragon%27s+%2Caps%2C238&sr=8-1-fkmr1).
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Erpingham on October 20, 2019, 09:20:44 AM
The Praecepta Militaria of Nicephorus Phocas describes cavalry and light foot moving in and out through the intervals between units in a heavy infantry line.

The work with translation, background, and commentary is available here (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sowing-Dragons-Teeth-Byzantine-Dumbarton/dp/0884022242/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?crid=2OCN405KUNN77&keywords=sowing+the+dragon+s+teeth+byzantine+warfare+in+the+tenth+century&qid=1571558625&sprefix=sowing+the+dragon%27s+%2Caps%2C238&sr=8-1-fkmr1).

For an earlier work by McGeer, summarising the Praecepta, see this article (https://www.persee.fr/doc/rebyz_0766-5598_1988_num_46_1_2225) The line gaps were wide enough for 12-15 cavalry at a time to ride through them.  They could be blocked by light infantry if the enemy threatened.  Light infantry could also move through them to outflank the enemy.
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Justin Swanton on October 20, 2019, 09:22:30 AM
The Praecepta Militaria of Nicephorus Phocas describes cavalry and light foot moving in and out through the intervals between units in a heavy infantry line.

The work with translation, background, and commentary is available here (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sowing-Dragons-Teeth-Byzantine-Dumbarton/dp/0884022242/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?crid=2OCN405KUNN77&keywords=sowing+the+dragon+s+teeth+byzantine+warfare+in+the+tenth+century&qid=1571558625&sprefix=sowing+the+dragon%27s+%2Caps%2C238&sr=8-1-fkmr1).

The key words will be "intervals" and "between". Is there an online text of Phocas anywhere?
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Erpingham on October 20, 2019, 09:38:23 AM
The Praecepta Militaria of Nicephorus Phocas describes cavalry and light foot moving in and out through the intervals between units in a heavy infantry line.

The work with translation, background, and commentary is available here (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sowing-Dragons-Teeth-Byzantine-Dumbarton/dp/0884022242/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?crid=2OCN405KUNN77&keywords=sowing+the+dragon+s+teeth+byzantine+warfare+in+the+tenth+century&qid=1571558625&sprefix=sowing+the+dragon%27s+%2Caps%2C238&sr=8-1-fkmr1).



The key words will be "intervals" and "between". Is there an online text of Phocas anywhere?
In the article mentioned, McGeer gives the word for interval as χωρια, if that is any help?
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Justin Swanton on October 20, 2019, 09:47:05 AM
The Praecepta Militaria of Nicephorus Phocas describes cavalry and light foot moving in and out through the intervals between units in a heavy infantry line.

The work with translation, background, and commentary is available here (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sowing-Dragons-Teeth-Byzantine-Dumbarton/dp/0884022242/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?crid=2OCN405KUNN77&keywords=sowing+the+dragon+s+teeth+byzantine+warfare+in+the+tenth+century&qid=1571558625&sprefix=sowing+the+dragon%27s+%2Caps%2C238&sr=8-1-fkmr1).

In the article mentioned, McGeer gives the word for interval as χωρια, if that is any help?

The key words will be "intervals" and "between". Is there an online text of Phocas anywhere?

It does (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=%CF%87%CF%89%CF%81%CE%B9%CE%B1&la=greek#lexicon), but it would be nice to see the context.
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Andreas Johansson on October 20, 2019, 10:38:59 AM
There doesn't seem to be an online version, no. (It seems that sources after about AD 500 are much less likely to be available online than later ones. Normally I'd blame this sort of thing on Disney, but here it's probably due to the traditional valorization of the classical over the medieval.)

Anyway, I'll transcribe a couple key sentences:

hê de toiautê parataxis tôn eirêmenôn pezôn estô tetragônos dittê, outô legomenê para tois palaiois tetrapleuros, ekhousa kath' ekastôn meros ana paratagas treis, ôs einai omou dia tôn tessarôn pleurôn paratagas dôdeka. einai de autas diakekhôrismenas hoson estin dynaton khôrein kath' ekaston khôrion kaballarious dekapente eite kai dôdeka tou eiserkhesthai kai exerkhesthai tous polemountas.

I hope this helps, because this is about the limit of my apetite for transcription. It's the first two sentence of ch.I §5.
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Chris on October 20, 2019, 01:11:28 PM
Many thanks Magisters.  :D Much appreciated. Much food for thought here.

Cheers,
Chris
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: RichT on October 20, 2019, 06:14:14 PM
χωρια - same word as in the chapter heading of Onasander 19 (Loeb translation = "the phalanx should have intervals")
 
τὰς τάξεις - in the context, files not ranks (Loeb translation gives ranks, but comparison with Asclep 6.1 etc makes files more likely - taxeis can be used for pretty much anything).
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Patrick Waterson on October 21, 2019, 08:20:21 AM
τὰς τάξεις - in the context, files not ranks (Loeb translation gives ranks, but comparison with Asclep 6.1 etc makes files more likely - taxeis can be used for pretty much anything).

Which makes diastemata kata tas taxeis more along the lines of gaps between files (as opposed to, say, between subunits).  Densing up for shock combat would thus have to occur after skirmishers have passed through friendly lines, which makes sense.  It also suggests that recalling your skirmishers when the other side does is a good idea because otherwise when his densed-up troops charge he will drive your skirmishers back through the gaps between your files and then crush your still-not-densed-up formation with his own fully-densed one, driving it back with disorder and loss.

The as-yet-unanswered question would seem to be whether the intervals are 6' intervals (one man per 6') or 3' intervals.  I would suggest 3' intervals (one man per 3') as this permits effortless passage of lightly-equipped humanity while leaving only one process to undertake to finish 'densing up' the phalanx to its most effective 18" individual spacing.
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: RichT on October 21, 2019, 09:39:06 AM
Well - given that Onasander was writing mid 1st C AD, a full century after the last Macedonian phalanx, and that his work (unlike Aelian/Arrian, which are overtly antiquarian) was intended to be of practical value, it's rather unlikely that he has any specific Hellenistic drill in mind, and more likely that he is using his reading (including of Hellenistic Taktika) to make a general observation about light and heavy infantry that would still be applicable to his Roman audience. So a vague translation (like the Loeb) probably well conveys what he had in mind:

"There should be gaps in the lines so that, when the light-armed troops..." etc.

But from a source criticism perspective, given that Onasander might well have been inspired in his comment by Hellenistic Taktika and that these (judging by Asclep. 6.1) refer to LI being interspersed among the files of the HI, something that Asclepiodotus (etc) calls 'parentaxis' (and note that that one of the manuscripts of Onasander has 'parataxeis' in place of 'tas taxeis'), then 'files' is probably what was originally meant and what inspired Onasander's comment. That said, to a Roman readership familiar with Roman deployment, it could just as well be read as:

"There should be gaps between the units so that, when the light-armed troops..." etc.

Onasander isn't specific as to which he means and it's probably quite deliberate that the phrase is ambiguous. Trying to extract precise tactical details (of what army? In what period?) from this is unwise.

Bottom line, post sledgehammer and nut, yes Onasander (and Asclep etc) do appear to provide examples of LI directly interpenetrating HI, though without details of exactly how (which as wargamers we can happily abstract away).
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: BjörnF on October 21, 2019, 06:47:09 PM
I have always wondered if one of Hannibal’s problems at Zama was that he didn’t know how to make HI pass through other HI.

From wikipedia about Hannibal's first line: "After a close contest, his first line was pushed back by the Roman hastati. Hannibal ordered his second line not to allow the first line in their ranks. The bulk of them managed to escape and position themselves on the wings of the second line on Hannibal's instructions."

About Hannibal's second line:  "Again, it was not allowed to merge with the third line and was forced to the wings, along with the first line."

I mean, the Romans did also fight in lines and could get an exhausted line through the line behind it without killing their own men.
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Patrick Waterson on October 21, 2019, 07:20:56 PM
I have always wondered if one of Hannibal’s problems at Zama was that he didn’t know how to make HI pass through other HI.

He knew - he had been doing it for more than a decade in Italy.  Most of his troops, at least in his own army, were Italian and familiar with the Roman system, which he had anyway adopted.  Training Mago's mercenaries and Carthage's citizen infantry in line exchange would have taken only a few weeks, and he had those prior to Zama (when the Carthaginian senate wanted to hurry him up to engage the Romans, he told them to mind their own business, which suggests that he was not pepared to move until happy with his units' training).

The reasons for the mix-up between the Carthaginian first and second lines have more to do with Scipio's anticipation of and countermeasures against Hannibal's plan for the battle.  The elephants and first line, split into company-size 'combat groups', were supposed to break into the Roman hastati and force them back on the principes while the second line moved up behind and scooped up any bypassed hastati, like a rake being pressed points-first into the Roman lines.  At the same time, Hannibal's veterans were supposed to envelop the Roman flanks (hence their deployment well back instead of in support of the second line).  However, when Scipio spooked the elephants and drove off the Carthaginian cavalry with his own, Hannibal's envelopment was aborted and this meant the leading lines were unsupported.

Hanibal had doubtless instructed his second line to maintain their cohesion at all costs, but the disruption of his plan meant they hung back from following up the first line, perhaps waiting for the veterans to move out and envelop the Romans (which of course never happened), which meant the unsupported first line ran out of momentum and by the time the second line closed the survivors of the first were seeking to get away.  Drill or no drill, the result was an all-round mess.  The Romans eventualy won the resultant three-cornered fight, which left the survivors of the Carthaginian first and second lines routing full pelt towards the third line.

The third line, consisting of Hannibal's veterans, was fully capable of letting another line or lines through, but in a controlled fashion.  The routers were very much uncontrolled, so rather than have his last steady troops mobbed and disorganised by panicky routers shoving through with intent rather than order, Hannibal preferred to send them round the ends of his third line, keeping the latter intact and ready for immediate engagement.

Hannibal knew how to pass HI through other HI, but the dislocation of his arrangements at Zamam meant he faced an entirely different problem than an ordinary exchange of lines.
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Erpingham on October 25, 2019, 04:38:34 PM
Just checking Chris got what he wanted here - it seemed to stop abruptly.

I think we demonstrated evidence of light infantry interpenetration in the ancient mediterranean, plus Romans could do it with heavy infantry.  Patrick holds that Hannibal's veterans could carry out HI/HI interpenetration.  The Byzantines could pass cavalry through an infantry line when the infantry was deployed to allow it to happen, as well as deploying light infantry through those same gaps.  Cavalry passing through infantry gaps seems implied in much Early Medieval warfare, where cavalry could take shelter behind an infantry wall or in an infantry hollow formation.

There are a number of other queries.  Charging elephants and scythed chariots could be channelled through hostile infantry.  Does this mean they could channel through friendly infantry? 

These examples are mainlydrawn from Mediterranean wars or sometimes Northern Europe.  What was the situation like further East?  Did the Chinese, for example, do interpenetration?
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Jim Webster on October 25, 2019, 04:47:50 PM


There are a number of other queries.  Charging elephants and scythed chariots could be channelled through hostile infantry.  Does this mean they could channel through friendly infantry? 


In the Elephant battle, (Galatians v Seleucids) we're told that the Galatian infantry opened their ranks to let their own chariots move forward
Title: Re: Instances and Interpretations of Interpenetration
Post by: Chris on October 26, 2019, 01:02:10 PM
Just checking Chris got what he wanted here - it seemed to stop abruptly.


Yes I did Anthony. Thanks for checking in on that. As for what I am going to do with the information, well . . .

A survey of rules (those that I have played and those that I have not - perhaps 9 or 10 books in total) has been considered, but to what end? Interestingly, at least to me, there are a couple at one end of the interpenetration spectrum (like Armati and Tactica) and a couple at the other end (like Hail Caesar and WRG 3rd Edition - 1971). The majority seem to fall somewhere in the middle. Accepting the historical exceptions noted in previous posts, a brief look at Battle Day engagements (say the last 10) and looking over the diagrams of battles provided in Warfare in the Classical World suggests that encounters were rather linear, obviously, and so, there was not a great need for this friendly formation to pass through this other friendly formation. So, while there are sections of rules that cover this possibility, it appears that the frequency of it happening was not all that common. Others, in previous posts, have remarked that interpenetration is more of a game mechanic. So, like the various approaches to this diverse hobby, it seems a case of "to each his own".

FWIW, the topic has only been covered once in the pages of Slingshot, at least as far as I know. A check of the Index showed that Richard Nelson looked at the subject from a WRG 4th Edition perspective in Issue 52.

At this point, will probably put this topic on the "pending further consideration" shelf, right next to the idea about writing an article or articles about terrain.

Cheers,
Chris