Author Topic: Spear vs Sword  (Read 462 times)

RichT

  • Former Officer
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 733
Re: Spear vs Sword
« Reply #45 on: December 05, 2018, 05:01:15 PM »
Spare us! I certainly don't want to go over this old ground again since in all the times we've been over it, it's never shifted anyone's position one millimetre. Maybe Paul will want to, but be warned - it seems to be a topic people were just born certain about.

Your argument is word for word the same as Patrick Waterson's (but at least you don't drag Homer into it); and if I just say you are both wrong, would that convince you? Thought not. Well, fair enough - what I will say is you can't get to your conclusion from re-translating or re-interpreting the passage of Polybius, no matter how hard you manipulate the Greek. Your conclusion (Romans at 3 feet, Macedonians at 1.5 feet) is a common one (going back at least as far as Delbruck) and who knows, it may be right. But you'd have to conclude either that Polybius is wrong, or that Polybius' text is corrupt - both perfectly reasonable things to conclude, and might well be true. But you can't get Polybius' words as they stand to say what you want them to say, you just can't.

As to whether Romans were usually at 3 feet and Macedonians at 1.5 feet - could be. I don't think so, but other opinions are certainly available.
  • Richard Taylor

PMBardunias

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 145
  • Interests: Ancient Greek warfare
Re: Spear vs Sword
« Reply #46 on: December 05, 2018, 05:49:24 PM »

As to whether Romans were usually at 3 feet and Macedonians at 1.5 feet - could be. I don't think so, but other opinions are certainly available.

Are we certain that Polybios should be read as 3'x3' when he says "For as a man in close order of battle occupies a space of three feet".  I know the hellenistic manuals, written by philosophers love such geometric consistency, but for example hoplites would not have fought at 3' x 3' if the second line was expected to support them, they would be something like 3' wide by 1.5' deep.  What could polybius not mean: "For as a man in close order (which you my reader know is 1.5' for men in rank) of battle occupies a space of three feet (deep between men in file).  I have not tried it, but it seems unlikely that a sarissaphoroi can stand in a 1.5 x 1.5' box and have room to sing his sarissa back and forward to strike for example.
  • Paul Michael Bardunias

Erpingham

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 4512
  • Country: gb
  • Interests: Medieval warfare, Old School, home made rules
Re: Spear vs Sword
« Reply #47 on: December 05, 2018, 06:35:57 PM »
As we are moving beyond the original topic (unless someone can provide a sword v. spear angle) I suggest we either reopen one of the discussions we've had on this before or we start a new one on the same topic.
  • Anthony Clipsom

Justin Swanton

  • Committee Member
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2192
  • Country: za
    • Check out my website
  • Interests: Anything in Ancients that gives a good game and adds historicity to boot
Re: Spear vs Sword
« Reply #48 on: December 06, 2018, 04:46:31 AM »
As we are moving beyond the original topic (unless someone can provide a sword v. spear angle) I suggest we either reopen one of the discussions we've had on this before or we start a new one on the same topic.

That's fine. I'll start a new thread if anyone's interested, otherwise happy to leave it at that.
  • Justin Swanton
Check out my website

Justin Swanton

  • Committee Member
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2192
  • Country: za
    • Check out my website
  • Interests: Anything in Ancients that gives a good game and adds historicity to boot
Re: Spear vs Sword
« Reply #49 on: December 06, 2018, 05:57:26 AM »

I don't quite follow this. If you hold the spear behind the point of balance you will have even more spear projecting in front of you and hence even more of an inner guard area for the legionary to shelter in. The point is that once the legionary charges to shield contact the spears of hoplite ranks 1 and 2 are out of commission. .

If I am holding my 8-9’ dory at the balance point, there is some 6’ of spear in front of my hand.  Buy I can simply move my hand forward and only have 4’ in front of my hand if I want.

How? This is the heat of battle so you have to be able to switch your grip fast. You are holding the spear at or around the centre of balance, which is not only easiest on the wrist muscles but also makes it easier to rotate the spear as necessary. But now you need to grip the spear say 3' from the front, so you raise the spear to a vertical position and ground it. You then grip it at the 6' mark - just above your head. Then what? If you try to lower the spear forwards the sauroter will strike against the legs or shields of the hoplites behind you (that's six feet to rotate upwards going backwards).

The only other way is to gradually shuffle your grip from the point of balance to a point about 3' forwards whilst holding the spear horizontally. How much time to you have to do that?
« Last Edit: December 06, 2018, 03:13:42 PM by Justin Swanton »
  • Justin Swanton
Check out my website

PMBardunias

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 145
  • Interests: Ancient Greek warfare
Re: Spear vs Sword
« Reply #50 on: December 06, 2018, 08:53:54 PM »

How? This is the heat of battle so you have to be able to switch your grip fast.

This is wildly easy to do, and one of the big advantages of a spear over a sword.  A sword has a fixed reach. With a spear you can slide your grip up and down the shaft at will. The only limitation is that there is more torque on the wrist as you move towards either end. So if you closed to within my spear's reach when held near the balance point, I would simply loosen my grip slightly and toss the shaft back in my hand and grab it again tightly.  Try this with a broomstick, it is easier than explaining.  I am not sure if this translates because it is baseball jargon, but we call this "choking up" on the shaft. I can tell you from experience that you can easily move a foot or two off from the balance point and still use the spear. Is it as easy as holding it at the mid point, no, can I still fight with it, yes. You will not make a dagger out of a spear this way- too much torque- but you can easily match the reach of a swordsman.  If I needed a dagger by the way, Marozzo tells us what to do. Drop your shield and grab the front of the spear in your left hand, essentially half-swording as with a longsword, but with a partizan.

By the way, it works the other way too.  Suppose you as a swordsman are sitting at the maximum reach of my spear held at the balance which you have gauged threw a bit of sparring.  I would simply either let the spear slip forward through my grip to make it effectively longer and strike, or better yet, gig, where I essentially throw the spear but only through a loosened grip.  If the spear does not hit you, I grab it back  before the sauroter leaves my grasp. (Gigging is not so useful with a heavily rear weighted spear because there is not much shaft left to let slide before the sauroter. It was probably a feature though in Archaic times with any spear that could be effectively thrown, like the later longche.)
  • Paul Michael Bardunias

Patrick Waterson

  • Administrator
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6323
  • Country: gb
  • Interests: Pretty much everything to do with warfare, especially how military systems actually work.
Re: Spear vs Sword
« Reply #51 on: December 10, 2018, 06:30:34 PM »
I have before me an issue of Ancient Warfare (the 2011 Marathon special issue) in which one of the more noted contributors makes an interesting observation:

"A 2.5m dory had a reach of over 1.5m, similar to a 3.3m mid-balanced spear. The great reach of this spear was a handicap in single combat, because it would be useless if a foe managed to move up shield to shield. A man cannot reach back far enough to bring a point that is 1.5m from his grip to bear with any force against a foe this close. However, in a battle line, the extra reach enabled hoplites to support the men beside them, the reach of their spears overlapping to a greater extent. Moving within the reach of the combined spears of a phalanx would be much more difficult than evading any single spear."

The whole would seem to be greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Patrick Waterson
"The whole condition of mortals is created by their ability to analyse the universe and their inability to understand it." - Corum Jhaelen Irsei