Author Topic: Classification of infantry - the return of the revenge of the extra medium foot!  (Read 6824 times)

Patrick Waterson

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Is the troop type at the mid-point along all these axes the fighters of Papua New Guinea etc - where they are moderately massed and throw spears at each other from close range with occasional hero rushing out to fight hand-to-hand?

Such worthies I see as essentially being a loose collection of individually acting hit-and-run unorganised skirmishers, and hence near the loose end of continuum 1.  They do not employ their missiles at sufficient range to make me want to put them on continuum 2, and they are not really massed, just loosely clustered, so escape continuum 3.  I tend to think that 'massed' should have the sense of everyone acting in coordination in addition to breathing down each other's necks.

If we wanted someone on the half-way point of all three continua, I would look for troops which have the ability to move like Zulus, shoot like Cretans and fight in close combat like Iberians.  The closest I can think of right now, albeit coming second best in all three aspects, would be Incas, with their rugged rough terrain performance, massed slingshots (alas not suscribers!) and passable close combat ability.
  • Patrick Waterson
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gavindbm

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Patrick - Incas do sound like a better bet for the mid-point.
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PMBardunias

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A typical maximum bow range is about 200 metres. How long would it take HI to cover that distance whilst under fire?

From some tests we did: 50m, synaspismos of about 72-60cm frontage, maintaining this frontage at a brisk jog, about 12-15 seconds (19 seconds for us, but we ramped up the speed from a walk).
« Last Edit: September 06, 2019, 07:30:15 PM by PMBardunias »
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Patrick Waterson

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A typical maximum bow range is about 200 metres. How long would it take HI to cover that distance whilst under fire?

From some tests we did: 50m, synaspismos of about 72-60cm frontage, maintaining this frontage at a brisk jog, about 12-15 seconds (19 seconds for us, but we ramped up the speed from a walk).

So at a 'Marathon jog', it would take about a minute to cover 220 yards or so.  This would take the bite out of Achaemenid archery, which would be more used to targets closing at walking pace (as most close formation armies seem to have done).  The speed of advance would also produce numerous 'overs' from archers in depth shooting indirectly against a shallow 8-deep line.  In some ways, speed of advance can be its own protection.

We might want to define our closing HI a bit more closely: different armies would use different speeds, and my impression is that legions and tribal masses alike would close quite slowly until the time came to charge.  This would give archery more time to take effect, and a slow speed of advance, while permitting effective shield protection, would also make it easier for archers to land the majority of missiles on target when using indirect called shooting.  The intensity of shooting and weight of missiles might also have a more pronounced slowing effect against men in certain types of protection.

Julian the Apostate used a simple system to evade Sassanid archery: he started his infantry advancing at a walk, then when the first enemy volley was released, they moved up to a quick walk (and the arrows landed behind them); for the next volley, as it released they stepped up to a slow jog, then for the next one a quick jog, by which time they were well on the way to closure and out of the indirect shooting 'beaten zone'.  For some reason, few armies seem to have used this elegant countermeasure.
  • Patrick Waterson
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Patrick Waterson

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Patrick - Incas do sound like a better bet for the mid-point.

In wargaming I have found them to be excellent jacks of all trades, even if masters of none!
  • Patrick Waterson
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Erpingham

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Is the troop type at the mid-point along all these axes the fighters of Papua New Guinea etc - where they are moderately massed and throw spears at each other from close range with occasional hero rushing out to fight hand-to-hand?

Such worthies I see as essentially being a loose collection of individually acting hit-and-run unorganised skirmishers, and hence near the loose end of continuum 1. 

I've sometimes wondered if this behaviour is reflected in some forms of ancient skirmisher, particularly the "youths" beloved of Gallic and German armies, some of whom would be eager to impress.  But then I sort of recall Roman velites were prone to this sort of thing, trying to get noticed by heroic acts.  Some even dressed up in wolfskins to be more noticeable, IIRC.
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Erpingham

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Julian the Apostate used a simple system to evade Sassanid archery: he started his infantry advancing at a walk, then when the first enemy volley was released, they moved up to a quick walk (and the arrows landed behind them); for the next volley, as it released they stepped up to a slow jog, then for the next one a quick jog, by which time they were well on the way to closure and out of the indirect shooting 'beaten zone'.  For some reason, few armies seem to have used this elegant countermeasure.

Interesting - presumably in Ammianus?  It was, I recall, a style point to remark on any special tactics a general employed in battle among the Romans so perhaps this was a one off innovation, rather than a standard tactic?
  • Anthony Clipsom

nikgaukroger

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Julian the Apostate used a simple system to evade Sassanid archery: he started his infantry advancing at a walk, then when the first enemy volley was released, they moved up to a quick walk (and the arrows landed behind them); for the next volley, as it released they stepped up to a slow jog, then for the next one a quick jog, by which time they were well on the way to closure and out of the indirect shooting 'beaten zone'.  For some reason, few armies seem to have used this elegant countermeasure.

Interesting - presumably in Ammianus? 

Nope, not Ammianus on Julian's campaign. In fact in the account of one of Julian's battles Ammianus describes the Romans as advancing slowly - what protects them from the Persian arrows is forcing their way into the enemy ranks.
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DougM

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A typical maximum bow range is about 200 metres. How long would it take HI to cover that distance whilst under fire?

From some tests we did: 50m, synaspismos of about 72-60cm frontage, maintaining this frontage at a brisk jog, about 12-15 seconds (19 seconds for us, but we ramped up the speed from a walk).

 our closing HI a bit more closely: different armies would use different speeds, and my impression is that legions and tribal masses alike would close quite slowly until the time came to charge.  This would give archery more time to take effect, and a slow speed of advance, while permitting effective shield protection, would also make it easier for archers to land the majority of missiles on target when using indirect called shooting.  The intensity of shooting and weight of missiles might also have a more pronounced slowing effect against men in certain types of protection.

Julian the Apostate used a simple system to evade Sassanid archery: he started his infantry advancing at a walk, then when the first enemy volley was released, they moved up to a quick walk (and the arrows landed behind them); for the next volley, as it released they stepped up to a slow jog, then for the next one a quick jog, by which time they were well on the way to closure and out of the indirect shooting 'beaten zone'.  For some reason, few armies seem to have used this elegant countermeasure.

Evidence of this Patrick? As far as I know, all we know is the Roman infantry tried to close quickly to reduce the time spent under archery.
  • Doug Melville
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nikgaukroger

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As far as I know, all we know is the Roman infantry tried to close quickly to reduce the time spent under archery.

Or indeed slowly as I mention above - Ammianus 24.6.10
  • Nik Gaukroger
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Patrick Waterson

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As far as I know, all we know is the Roman infantry tried to close quickly to reduce the time spent under archery.

Or indeed slowly as I mention above - Ammianus 24.6.10

Doug is correct; see Ammianus XXV.1.17:

To prevent the preliminary volleys of the archers from disrupting our ranks he advanced at the double and so ruined the effectiveness of their arrows.

I have inferred Julian's method from the slow start Nick mentions in XXIV.6.10 and the subsequent phrase in idem.11:

... the soldiers were freer from the danger of the arrows the more quickly they forced their way into the enemy's ranks.

together with the explicit rapid advance in XXV.1.17.
  • Patrick Waterson
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nikgaukroger

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What we don't have in Ammianus is anything as specific as:

"he started his infantry advancing at a walk, then when the first enemy volley was released, they moved up to a quick walk (and the arrows landed behind them); for the next volley, as it released they stepped up to a slow jog, then for the next one a quick jog, by which time they were well on the way to closure and out of the indirect shooting 'beaten zone'."

And I don't think you can infer any such from the parts of Ammianus referred to. Certainly you can speculate that it is how it might have worked, but you cannot present it as a documented fact - unless there is something elsewhere that is that detailed of course.
  • Nik Gaukroger
"The Roman Empire was not murdered and nor did it die a natural death; it accidentally committed suicide."

Patrick Waterson

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And I don't think you can infer any such from the parts of Ammianus referred to. Certainly you can speculate that it is how it might have worked, but you cannot present it as a documented fact - unless there is something elsewhere that is that detailed of course.

Then I shall speculate this is how it might have worked. :)
  • Patrick Waterson
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Erpingham

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So, essentially, Roman infantry could advance at the double under archery like Greeks at Marathon but sometimes moved more slowly.  The complicated drill involving the direct involvement of the general was not attested by the sources.  Many thanks for the clarification.
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Patrick Waterson

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The complicated drill involving the direct involvement of the general was not attested by the sources.  Many thanks for the clarification.

Not attested, but I think suggested; it is not actually that complicated, as it is intuitive and simply relies on speeding up after each volley to throw off the archers' aim, which seems a more rational approach in very hot weather than a flat-rate two-hundred-yard dash.  Julian would have trained his troops to it beforehand, not in mid-battle.  Anyway, make of it what you will.
  • Patrick Waterson
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." - Winston Churchill