Author Topic: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?  (Read 2363 times)

Justin Swanton

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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #90 on: March 15, 2019, 05:47:00 AM »

Got it. A pike phalanx didn't have to generate 400kg of force through its sarissas; it just had to generate enough to outpush a hoplite phalanx. Hoplites form up at about 60 cm per file, probably a little more. Phalangites (stated by manuals and Polybios, to be confirmed by reenactors) form up at 48cm per file. That's roughly 3 phalangites for every 2 hoplites. So to equalise pressures, phalangites need to generate 2/3 the pressure of the hoplites, which comes out at 267kg - 53,5kg per sarissa if 5 sarissas, 44,5kg per sarissas if 6 sarissas (slightly more to outpush the hoplites).

Furthermore, it is likely that the hoplites would be generating less forward pressure if the front ranker was pushing a shield against pikeheads. It's a far less stable arrangement than shield against enemy shield. And if the front ranker saw that the pikeheads were penetrating his shield he would almost certainly go into reverse gear, pushing backwards in order to not get skewered. That's something like 40kg pressure removed from the hoplites' combined pressure and added to the phalangites' pressure, so hoplites now at 360kg face phalangites at 267kg - 40kg = 227kg, which comes out at 45.5kg per sarissa for 5 sarissas and 38 kg per sarissa at 6 sarissas. All rather theoretical but it starts looking reasonable.

You are way overthinking this one. In your vision all of those pikes have to be stuck in the same aspis for this to work the way you calculate.  More likely, I think, and still along the lines of what you wish to see, is that the front rank get's stuck into the enemy aspis, as they did the later scutii, on the initial charge.  The ranks behind the first sarissaphoroi move up behind him just as hoplites would to go to othismos- this happens very fast, as part of the charging motion.  Now they would enter othismos if the opposing hoplites also packed in tight.  But remember, those hoplites are still in their spear fencing phase, where they normally did not pack in tight.  So they probably did not here initially either.  Now the front rank, or two since the second joined in spear fencing, are getting pushed by a sarissa in the shield of the foremost hoplite.  Pressures are still low enough for both the sarissa to be held and the point not to be forced through the aspis.  The hoplites obviously give ground to the pressure, which signals their own rear ranks to close on them in support. 

What we have seen up to now is a sort of othismos, low pressure, but making use of force propagation from the rear.  It can only be done in the medium order, when the sarissaphoroi can stand square to the fore with the sarissa a hip height.  If they have the sarissa high, they cannot support the weight pushing on them, if they are t closer distance they have to be side-on (sorry, that is what every recreation has shown).  When side on, they are trading the ability to transfer mass forward in files, for extra points each foe must face. Perhaps this is why we are told the closest spacing is defensive.

If the hoplites do begin a high pressure othismos against sarissa points, they are likely to get the front rank skewered, so the front rank is unlikely to allow it, and instead will push back on their own ranks. What you end up with is a stalemate at low pressure othismos of whatever force can be sustained that does not either cause the shaft to slip in the hands or the point to go through the aspis (remember aspis faces are rather thin). Surely often this stalemate failed and hoplites got skewered or the shaft slipped and the second rank sarissa was brought to bear.  It could be that shafts usually slipped before shields gave way, then something like the flying buttress of multiple ranks of sarissa could occur. Unfortunately, every new point stuck in the shield makes it less likely that one of them will go through since now you have to divide the total force by the number of points.

Probably what happened is that they were stuck in this stalemate, with all of the advantages on the sarissa side. The next sarissa after the one or ones stuck would surely be able to strike sometimes, while the dory was useless.  The hoplites will have pined for their great-great-grandfather's auxilliary throwing spear. In fact, given Diodorus's confusion about spears being thrown in many of his hoplite battle descriptions, and the possibility that thureophoroi held two spears, I have wondered if late hoplites did go back to a second spear in the age of sarissaphoroi. All a hoplites could do otherwise is hope that some of their own men, not pinned to sarissa, could fight their way through the hedge of pikes. The outcomes of all the major battles say this is unlikely to be easy.  This too is why you do not want all five front ranks with progressively longer sarissa stuck in the enemy shields. It would be impossible to stop the hoplites from slipping beneath their own front ranks and slaughtering your defenseless men.

So there is definitely pushing. We can even call it othismos, because the mechanics are the same in many ways as hoplite othismos.  Just at a much lower pressure.

Last note, it is not due to a lack of stability that hoplite can't push forward.  The men beside them is what stabilized their forward progress.  Far worse would be is some men were halted and other's not.  Shield overlap midigates this to a large extent. I our 3 file experiments, only the center file was pushing on a force meter, yet the other ranks added force laterally.

This is very plausible and may well be what happened, but I just wonder if it doesn't sufficiently take into account the weight of the rear ranks as described by the sources - if 11 out of 16 ranks "press forward those in front by the weight of their bodies; and thus make the charge very forcible" wouldn't that produce a high pressure rather than low pressure othismos?

Re packing to close order for this kind of othismos, Polybios seems clear enough that it happened at Sellasia: "Finally, the troops around Antigonus, packing their sarissas closely together and making use of the phalanx's unique close-order disposition, attacked the Lacedaimonians with force, driving them back from their field-defences."*

I feel we are missing something that would account for considerable pressure by a pike push but without the sarissa points generally penetrating the hoplites' or other phalangites' shields. What we really need are a couple of thousand dedicated reenactors willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause of Knowledge. They form two mini-phalanxes and go at it until the front ranks turn each other into kebabs. Then we'll know.  :)

* the "unique close-order disposition" is my own translation from the Greek. We can argue about it if you like.
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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #91 on: March 15, 2019, 05:57:47 AM »
On the idea of targetting shields for spiking and pushing, Paul has a point that the pelta would be very hard to hold vertical at right angles to the file direction - sloping in some direction seems more intuitive.  From previous discussions I know we don't know how the shield was held, except it wasn't like an aspis and it had a handle (sometimes mistranslated as strap).  Justin, do you have one of your graphics that show how it is held in your reconstruction?

Not yet. This needs a replica shield and some experimentation. My own working hypothesis is that the ochanon was a loose armband that enabled the phalangite to carry the shield at his side - 90 degrees to the facing of his body - at shoulder height by sliding the armband up to his upper arm with his elbow held high and his forearm level at chest height. He holds the sarissa shaft with his left hand but it is the sarissa that bears the weight of his left arm whilst his right arm bears the weight of the sarissa. He also has a strap that works with the ochanon.

He need to keep his shield beside his should like this in order to be able to double from intermediate to close order. If the shields are in front there isn't enough space between the intermediate files for the rear half files to move up between the front half files. Once doubling is done and the phalangites are in close order each phalangite lowers his elbow. His shield slides down until the ochanon is now around his elbow. The shield naturally rotates to a forward facing angle - the strap pulls it forwards - and we have synaspismos. Just a theory

Final point on that energy graph for splitting an aspis.  The energy seems quite low compared with the test figures for impact energy from other weapons (alas spears seems to be the one missing).  But knife stabs have been measured at an average of around 30 J impact energy (and peak much higher), which suggests to me that a strong phalangite with a small headed sarissa could easily push it through an aspis if these figures are right (or at least I read them right).  Then what happens?  Is the hoplite going to play the game, or does he angle his shieldto turn the blow?

That's the $20 000 question.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2019, 07:03:30 AM by Justin Swanton »
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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #92 on: March 15, 2019, 09:53:02 AM »
Justin
Quote
* the "unique close-order disposition" is my own translation from the Greek. We can argue about it if you like.

What would be the point? But I'll comment on it.

Pol 2.69.9
τέλος οἱ περὶ τὸν Ἀντίγονον συμφράξαντες τὰς σαρίσας καὶ χρησάμενοι τῷ τῆς ἐπαλλήλου φάλαγγος ἰδιώματι, βίᾳ προσπεσόντες ἐξέωσαν ἐκ τῶν ὀχυρωμάτων τοὺς Λακεδαιμονίους.

Shuckburgh (on Perseus):
"At length Antigonus ordered a charge in close order and in double phalanx; the enormous weight of this peculiar formation proved sufficient to finally dislodge the Lacedaemonians from their strongholds."

Paton (Loeb):
"Until, on Antigonus ordering the Macedonians to close up in the peculiar formation of the double phalanx with its serried line of pikes, they delivered a charge which finally forced the Lacedaemonians from their stronghold."

Swanton:
"Finally, the troops around Antigonus, packing their sarissas closely together and making use of the phalanx's unique close-order disposition, attacked the Lacedaimonians with force, driving them back from their field-defences."

Me:
"Finally those about Antigonus, crowding together their sarissas and making use of the features of the double phalanx, forcibly attacking the Lacedaimonians pushed them out of their strongholds."

Comments:
"crowding together their sarissas" is sumphraxantes, the same phrasso verb we talked about last time we had this discussion.

"double phalanx" - literally 'one after another phalanx' - the Macedonians were already in double phalanx, Pol 2.66.9: "Owing to the narrowness of the ground, the Macedonians were arranged in a double phalanx". Strictly speaking a double phalanx is one phalanx formed behind another rather than the usually assumed double depth.

"strongholds" - the Spartans had already pulled down and advanced in front of their fortifications according to 2.69.6, so perhaps Pol has in mind the hill rather than then palisade.
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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #93 on: March 15, 2019, 03:42:57 PM »

* the "unique close-order disposition" is my own translation from the Greek. We can argue about it if you like.

I am with Rich on this one.  Redoubling would not have allowed them to take this hill, but stacking units would.  The explanation of why goes to the heart of Theban deep rank tactics.

As we showed with the force curve you posted earlier, and in fairness was presaged by Hanson himself without data, you get diminishing returns as you add men in file after 8 and these gains become smaller after about 12-16. This might in part explain the common file depths we see. So the question I am often asked is what did the 49th rank hoplites add at Leuktra? Or the baggage handlers for that matter.  The key is understanding how a unit in othismos is defeated.  Anything that makes it difficult for that last man in file to take a step back helps you stay in the game.  This could be the fact that stepping back is moving up a slope, but what would be best is to have a wall at their backs.  You could crush a hoplite unit against a wall all day and it could not break.  The next best thing to a wall is another crowd of men. There is a great deal of inertia, in the colloquial sense, to trying to get a large group of men to move back. Those men have no clue what is happening a dozen or more ranks ahead. They judge how the battle is going by the way the men right in front of them are acting. You have to transfer the information to the rear of that mass to get the last ranks to move.

Thus, even if deep ranks add zero pressure to the enemy unit, they do press on their own men and make it difficult to move back.  The result is a ratcheting advance, where the natural fore and back movement of men in the pushing struggle is now biases in one direction.  50 ranks may not be able to put out more force than 12, but they are much much harder to move back. Unless the 12 ranks can kill enough men to cause a general panic in the 50 ranks, they will inevitably lose.  Interestingly, the whole time they are losing, they may think they are winning, because at the front, they are out-pushing the men directly in front of them.  But like punching a boxer on the ropes, they just would not go back. If you were a bird looking down, you would see each side stretching and contracting like an accordion, but the stretches back would be a bit farther for the 12 ranks.

At sellasia, the Spartans have the help of the slope.  We do not need to invoke a high pressure othismos to get them to push the Macedonians down the hill. Even the relatively smaller force that can be pushed through sarissa is enough to get them moving back.  The answer is to invoke the wall-like function of a mass of men and throw the second phalanx directly behind the first. Now we have a more equal fight, where both sides have something hindering rearward movement.

I left out any notion of the deep rear ranks adding force because our experiments showed that there is a drop of.  But that is not the whole story.  Remember that this drop off occurs because the men cannot fully coordinate their movements over such distance.  My hoplites had never done this and only had 10 minutes of my instruction on how to push.  The group I did not instruct, who tried to push in the old-style sideways manner performed terribly.  But even my group would have done better if they had any history of moving in a group- as in group dancing.  Also, if they had someone calling out time like men would rowing a galley. One reason why rock concerts are so dangerous for crowd crushing disasters is that the beat caused synchronicity of movement. There is a whole field of study on this.  What can happen in deep ranks is that you can get synchronicity by accident.  Just as you will get waves at sea that are freakishly tall due to a perfect alignment of wave periods, you can get a theoretically huge pulse every now and them with deep ranks.  We had peaks that were far higher than the 400kg we reported as the maximum sustained force- meaning the number stayed stable on the scale long enough for me to record it. Many times pulses were a blur of numbers higher than the one that it settled on. I hope I am not making this more confusing, because instant pulses like this are so quick that they can't push anyone very far, but they can do things like lift men off their feet momentarily. I bring this up because I think it is through such pulses that shields may have been crushed at Coronea, and even in a lower pressure setting, such spikes would force a sarissa point through a shield.
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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #94 on: March 16, 2019, 03:40:29 AM »
Let's do some Greek:

τέλος - the issue/resolution (of the battle)
οἱ περὶ τὸν Ἀντίγονον - those round about Antigonus
συμφράξαντες - pressing/packing closely together
τὰς σαρίσας - the sarissas
καὶ - and
χρησάμενοι - making use of
τῷ - the (refers to ἰδιώματι)
τῆς ἐπαλλήλου φάλαγγος - of the phalanx close behind/in close order
ἰδιώματι, - peculiarity, specific property, unique feature
βίᾳ - with force
προσπεσόντες - falling upon/attacking
ἐξέωσαν - thrust out, expelled
ἐκ τῶν ὀχυρωμάτων - from the strongholds (field defences in this case)
τοὺς Λακεδαιμονίους. - the Macedonians

The key word here is ἐπαλλήλου which can be translated as either 'close behind' or 'in close order'.* If it is translated as 'close behind' in the sense that a second phalanx moves up behind the first to lend it support then we would expect to find this elsewhere since Polybios says it is a 'peculiarity, specific property, unique feature' of the phalanx (of the Macedonian phalanx as opposed to the hoplite phalanx). But I'm not aware of any other mention in the sources of two phalanxes lining up one behind the other so that the second phalanx can act as a backstop to an othismos push by the first phalanx. And using depth to help othismos was very much a feature of hoplite phalanxes, at least of Theban ones.

Taking ἐπαλλήλου in the sense of 'close order' makes better sense. The one cubit close order file of the phalanx was peculiar to that formation, not being found in any other infantry formation, and in this context it complements the 'packing the sarissas closely together'.

Which means that Antigonus wins the othismos (sorry! sarissmos) contest by doubling files to close order. Two Macedonian files now press against every Spartan one - the implication is that the Spartans, new to the game of pike phalanxes, did not know how to use close order. The Spartans are out-shoved and lose the battle.

* reading all the uses of the word it seems to have the overall meaning of 'one close to another' - 'close behind' is just one of the applications.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2019, 04:06:01 AM by Justin Swanton »
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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #95 on: March 16, 2019, 04:48:05 AM »
Let's do some Greek:

But I'm not aware of any other mention in the sources of two phalanxes lining up one behind the other so that the second phalanx can act as a backstop to an othismos push by the first phalanx.

Polybius uses the term 4 times.  Here are the other three, all stacked in series:

Plb. 2.66
Owing to the narrowness of the ground, the Macedonians were arranged in a double phalanx, one close behind the other, while the mercenaries were placed in front of them.
( προτάξας οὖν τοὺς μισθοφόρους ἐπέστησεδιφαλαγγίαν ἐπάλληλον τῶν Μακεδόνων: ἐποίει δὲ τοῦτο διὰ τὴν στενότητατῶν τόπων.)


Plb. 11.11
Meanwhile Philopoemen too had arranged his army in three divisions, and was leading them out of Mantinea, the Illyrians and the men with body armour by the gate leading to the temple of Poseidon, and with them all the rest of the foreign contingent and lightarmed troops; by the next gate, toward the west, the phalanx; and by the next the Achaean cavalry. He sent his light-armed men forward to occupy the hill, which rises to a considerable height above the road called Xenis and the above-mentioned temple: he stationed the men with body armour next, resting on this hill to the south; next them the Illyrians; next them, in the same straight line, the phalanx, drawn up in companies, with an interval between each, along the ditch which runs towards the temple of Poseidon, right through the middle of the plain of Mantinea, until it touches the range of mountains that forms the boundary of the territory of the Elisphasii. Next to them, on the right wing, he stationed the Achaean cavalry, under the command of Aristaenetus of Dyme; while on the left wing he led the whole of the foreign contingent, drawn up in lines one behind the other. ( πρὸς μὲν τούτοις ἐπὶ τὸδεξιὸν κέρας ἐπέστησε τοὺς Ἀχαϊκοὺς ἱππεῖς, ὧν Ἀρισταίνετος ἡγεῖτο Δυμαῖος:κατὰ δὲ τὸ λαιὸν αὐτὸς εἶχε τὸ ξενικὸν ἅπαν ἐν ἐπαλλήλοις τάξεσιν.)


Plb. 12.18
If therefore he were to put his whole thirty thousand on the ground, he would have to mass his cavalry alone nearly three times the usual depth; and then what room is left for his large force of mercenaries?
 (ἐὰν δὲ πάνταςἐκτάττῃ τοὺς τρισμυρίους, βραχὺ λείπει τοῦ τριφαλαγγίαν ἐπάλληλον εἶναι τῶνἱππέων αὐτῶν.)

Lest you think a diphalanx is doubled rather than stacked, think of Polybius's mention of the Tetraphalanx which has to be stacked:

Plb. 12.20.7]  It was, therefore much better to march twice or four times the ordinary depth of a phalanx1 in good order, for which sufficient ground could possibly be found.

διόπερ οὐδὲ παρὰ μικρὸν ἦν κρεῖττον ἄγειν διφαλαγγίαν ἢ τετραφαλαγγίαν ἁρμόζουσαν, ᾗ καὶ τόπον πορείας εὑρεῖν οὐκ ἀδύνατον, καὶ τὸ παρατάξαι ταχέως ῥᾴδιόν γε, δυνάμενον διὰ τῶν προδρόμων ἐκ πολλοῦ γινώσκειν τὴν τῶν πολεμίων παρουσίαν.
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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #96 on: March 16, 2019, 06:49:09 AM »
Let's do some Greek:

But I'm not aware of any other mention in the sources of two phalanxes lining up one behind the other so that the second phalanx can act as a backstop to an othismos push by the first phalanx.

Polybius uses the term 4 times.  Here are the other three, all stacked in series:

Plb. 2.66
Owing to the narrowness of the ground, the Macedonians were arranged in a double phalanx, one close behind the other, while the mercenaries were placed in front of them.
( προτάξας οὖν τοὺς μισθοφόρους ἐπέστησεδιφαλαγγίαν ἐπάλληλον τῶν Μακεδόνων: ἐποίει δὲ τοῦτο διὰ τὴν στενότητατῶν τόπων.)

Ummm...

προτάξας - He placed in front
οὖν τοὺς μισθοφόρους - the mercenaries.
ἐπέστησε - He placed
διφαλαγγίαν - the diphalanx
ἐπάλληλον - close behind
τῶν Μακεδόνων - of the Macedonians.

ἐποίει - He was doing
δὲ τοῦτο - this
διὰ -owing to
τὴν στενότητα - the narrowness
τῶν τόπων. of the ground

Polybius uses the term διφαλαγγία in 12.20.6-7:

      
And what can be less prepared than a phalanx advancing in line but broken and disunited? How much easier indeed it would have been to develop from proper marching-order into order of battle than to straighten out and prepare for action on thickly wooded and fissured ground a broken line with numerous gaps in it. It would, therefore, have been considerably better to form a proper double or quadruple phalanx [διφαλαγγίαν ἢ τετραφαλαγγίαν], for which it was not impossible to find marching room and which it would have been quite easy to get into order of battle expeditiously enough, as he was enabled through his scouts to receive in good time warning of the approach of the enemy.

'Diphalanx' here refers to a phalanx marching in a double column (and a quadruple phalanx in 4 parallel columns) that is not in line but 'can get into order of battle' with speed once near the enemy. Arrian describes the diphalanx as a marching formation in a double column: Tactics: 29.1-2, as does Arrian: Tactics: 36.

So Antigonus forms his phalanx up in two columns, fronted by the mercenaries, and marches up to the hill where they quickly deploy in line. Notice that the diphalanx is 'close behind' the mercenaries, not one phalanx close behind another.

Plb. 11.11
Meanwhile Philopoemen too had arranged his army in three divisions, and was leading them out of Mantinea, the Illyrians and the men with body armour by the gate leading to the temple of Poseidon, and with them all the rest of the foreign contingent and lightarmed troops; by the next gate, toward the west, the phalanx; and by the next the Achaean cavalry. He sent his light-armed men forward to occupy the hill, which rises to a considerable height above the road called Xenis and the above-mentioned temple: he stationed the men with body armour next, resting on this hill to the south; next them the Illyrians; next them, in the same straight line, the phalanx, drawn up in companies, with an interval between each, along the ditch which runs towards the temple of Poseidon, right through the middle of the plain of Mantinea, until it touches the range of mountains that forms the boundary of the territory of the Elisphasii. Next to them, on the right wing, he stationed the Achaean cavalry, under the command of Aristaenetus of Dyme; while on the left wing he led the whole of the foreign contingent, drawn up in lines one behind the other. ( πρὸς μὲν τούτοις ἐπὶ τὸδεξιὸν κέρας ἐπέστησε τοὺς Ἀχαϊκοὺς ἱππεῖς, ὧν Ἀρισταίνετος ἡγεῖτο Δυμαῖος:κατὰ δὲ τὸ λαιὸν αὐτὸς εἶχε τὸ ξενικὸν ἅπαν ἐν ἐπαλλήλοις τάξεσιν.)

ἐπαλλήλοις τάξεσιν - can be (and is in some translations) rendered as 'companies close together' or 'in close order.' There was a close order formation for cavalry. But sure, taxeis one behind the other also works (though why would Machanidas deploy cavalry in depth?)

Plb. 12.18
If therefore he were to put his whole thirty thousand on the ground, he would have to mass his cavalry alone nearly three times the usual depth; and then what room is left for his large force of mercenaries?
 (ἐὰν δὲ πάνταςἐκτάττῃ τοὺς τρισμυρίους, βραχὺ λείπει τοῦ τριφαλαγγίαν ἐπάλληλον εἶναι τῶνἱππέων αὐτῶν.)

Here Polybios makes clear that the three supposed groups of Persian cavalry would be one behind the other since one group alone would occupy the breadth of the available space. So fine.



« Last Edit: March 16, 2019, 06:53:38 AM by Justin Swanton »
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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #97 on: March 16, 2019, 03:20:13 PM »
Yes, but in each case they stacked, either laterally or in depth. In no case are they doubled to closer order as you would read Sellasia. 

The double phalanx is akin to Xenophons Orthoi lochoi, which are intentionally not dense so as to move quickly.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2019, 03:25:12 PM by PMBardunias »
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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #98 on: March 16, 2019, 05:04:44 PM »
Yes, but in each case they stacked, either laterally or in depth. In no case are they doubled to closer order as you would read Sellasia. 

The double phalanx is akin to Xenophons Orthoi lochoi, which are intentionally not dense so as to move quickly.

Sure, but the point is that the diphalanx of Antigonus' deployment is not the same as the phalanx that fights the Spartans. That phalanx is not paired (no 'di-'). The diphalanx is a marching formation, or more precisely, a marching formation in close proximity to the enemy. The ἐπαλλήλου φάλαγγος isn't following anything or close to anything, so ἐπαλλήλου can only mean - as it does in several translations - that the phalanx is close in itself, i.e. its files are close together.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2019, 06:58:41 PM by Justin Swanton »
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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #99 on: March 16, 2019, 05:14:19 PM »
Like I said - what would be the point of arguing about it? It leads to no greater understanding, and spreads a load of misinformation. Pointless.
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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #100 on: March 17, 2019, 12:02:51 AM »
Yes, but in each case they stacked, either laterally or in depth. In no case are they doubled to closer order as you would read Sellasia. 

The double phalanx is akin to Xenophons Orthoi lochoi, which are intentionally not dense so as to move quickly.

Sure, but the point is that the diphalanx of Antigonus' deployment is not the same as the phalanx that fights the Spartans. That phalanx is not paired (no 'di-'). The diphalanx is a marching formation, or more precisely, a marching formation in close proximity to the enemy. The ἐπαλλήλου φάλαγγος isn't following anything or close to anything, so ἐπαλλήλου can only mean - as it does in several translations - that the phalanx is close in itself, i.e. its files are close together.

So here is my problem: The ground is too narrow for two deployed phalanxes, so Antigonos deploys two phalanxes in marching column as they approach with the mercs in front.  Then what?  Surely it is still too narrow to deploy two phalanxes unless they were deployed in closest order as soon that they formed.  This gives you no room to double later. Is it your position that there was no change in formation later when the tide turns, but just a simple rally that made use of the already, and previously losing, formation's close order?  Doesn't it make more sense that even if he were describing the approach in two columns undeployed that one would move ahead and deploy and the other move up behind?
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Justin Swanton

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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #101 on: March 17, 2019, 05:33:28 AM »
Yes, but in each case they stacked, either laterally or in depth. In no case are they doubled to closer order as you would read Sellasia. 

The double phalanx is akin to Xenophons Orthoi lochoi, which are intentionally not dense so as to move quickly.

Sure, but the point is that the diphalanx of Antigonus' deployment is not the same as the phalanx that fights the Spartans. That phalanx is not paired (no 'di-'). The diphalanx is a marching formation, or more precisely, a marching formation in close proximity to the enemy. The ἐπαλλήλου φάλαγγος isn't following anything or close to anything, so ἐπαλλήλου can only mean - as it does in several translations - that the phalanx is close in itself, i.e. its files are close together.

So here is my problem: The ground is too narrow for two deployed phalanxes, so Antigonos deploys two phalanxes in marching column as they approach with the mercs in front.  Then what?  Surely it is still too narrow to deploy two phalanxes unless they were deployed in closest order as soon that they formed.  This gives you no room to double later. Is it your position that there was no change in formation later when the tide turns, but just a simple rally that made use of the already, and previously losing, formation's close order?  Doesn't it make more sense that even if he were describing the approach in two columns undeployed that one would move ahead and deploy and the other move up behind?

Antigonus is emerging from a pass, so the ground where he initially deploys is too narrow to set up the whole phalanx at its full width (just the part that attacks Cleomenes' son on the other hill). The Spartans on their two hills beyond the pass have plenty of lateral space - they don't form double lines. So Antigonus is obliged to advance towards the Spartan left in double column and deploy in line only when near the Spartans at the base of the hill. The mercenaries are a screen for the column to prevent the Spartans from attacking the phalangites whilst they are still in column. Once at the base of the hill Antigonus now has plenty of room to deploy his phalanx in a single intermediate-order line that matches the frontage of Cleomenes' phalanx, and has no problem doubling to close order later on.
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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #102 on: April 06, 2019, 10:53:51 AM »
On the idea of targetting shields for spiking and pushing, Paul has a point that the pelta would be very hard to hold vertical at right angles to the file direction - sloping in some direction seems more intuitive.  From previous discussions I know we don't know how the shield was held, except it wasn't like an aspis and it had a handle (sometimes mistranslated as strap).  Justin, do you have one of your graphics that show how it is held in your reconstruction?

I finally made a working replica of the shallower shield using layers of cardboard, making the shield strap out of plastic cord and the telamon from part of an old belt. After experimenting with the attachments points for the strap on the shield I got it to work: one can keep the shield at one's side with the telamon around the upper arm and the elbow raised (the shield naturally sits at 90 degrees to the facing of the body, meaning that doubling from intermediate order to at 48cm wide close order becomes possible - the shield doesn't get in the way).

To bring the shield around to the front one wold have to ground the sarissa, continuing to hold it with one's left arm, and use the right arm to pull the shield around whilst lowering the left elbow. It's quickly done. The telamon is now around the elbow and the shield faces forwards. Resuming one's right hand grip on the sarissa, one simply raises it and tips it forwards so it is presented over the edge of the shield to the right (pole vaulter grip). The left elbow rests on the telamon and the shield strap carries the weight of the arm and shield. The right arm, close to the chest, holds the sarissa in a relaxed way - the arm bones are actually carrying the weight. I could maintain this pose for ages.

The shield  is very firmly braced on a 5-point position - lower edge  resting against the hip, upper right edge braced by left arm, centre held by left elbow, and two points to the left and right of the telamon held by the strap. The shield is very rigid. One can advance like this in a 3/4 pose, raise the shield to block enemy thrusts at the face, and make one's own sarissa thrusts up to 2 feet forwards or so.

Forming up into a 48cm close order is no problem as the shield straps are fastened fairly close to the centre of the shield, allowing neighbouring shields to overlap without knocking against them.

I'll post some photos shortly.
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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #103 on: April 06, 2019, 08:53:20 PM »
Sounds promising, Justin: it will be interesting to see this.
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Re: Did the Macedonian Phalanx practise othismos with its sarissas?
« Reply #104 on: April 07, 2019, 04:07:53 PM »
On the idea of targetting shields for spiking and pushing, Paul has a point that the pelta would be very hard to hold vertical at right angles to the file direction - sloping in some direction seems more intuitive.  From previous discussions I know we don't know how the shield was held, except it wasn't like an aspis and it had a handle (sometimes mistranslated as strap).  Justin, do you have one of your graphics that show how it is held in your reconstruction?

I finally made a working replica of the shallower shield using layers of cardboard, making the shield strap out of plastic cord and the telamon from part of an old belt. After experimenting with the attachments points for the strap on the shield I got it to work: one can keep the shield at one's side with the telamon around the upper arm and the elbow raised (the shield naturally sits at 90 degrees to the facing of the body, meaning that doubling from intermediate order to at 48cm wide close order becomes possible - the shield doesn't get in the way).

To bring the shield around to the front one wold have to ground the sarissa, continuing to hold it with one's left arm, and use the right arm to pull the shield around whilst lowering the left elbow. It's quickly done. The telamon is now around the elbow and the shield faces forwards. Resuming one's right hand grip on the sarissa, one simply raises it and tips it forwards so it is presented over the edge of the shield to the right (pole vaulter grip). The left elbow rests on the telamon and the shield strap carries the weight of the arm and shield. The right arm, close to the chest, holds the sarissa in a relaxed way - the arm bones are actually carrying the weight. I could maintain this pose for ages.

The shield  is very firmly braced on a 5-point position - lower edge  resting against the hip, upper right edge braced by left arm, centre held by left elbow, and two points to the left and right of the telamon held by the strap. The shield is very rigid. One can advance like this in a 3/4 pose, raise the shield to block enemy thrusts at the face, and make one's own sarissa thrusts up to 2 feet forwards or so.

Forming up into a 48cm close order is no problem as the shield straps are fastened fairly close to the centre of the shield, allowing neighbouring shields to overlap without knocking against them.

I'll post some photos shortly.

I have shown you video of this done with the aspis, haven't I?
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