Author Topic: Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx  (Read 278 times)

Bill Lee

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Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx
« on: October 31, 2020, 01:16:16 PM »
I'm planning to "expand east" having finally got the Second Punic War covered, with a Cisalpine Gaul army as a 'spin-off.' I'd naively thought the late Macedonians (from Antigonos Gonatos on) was fairly well documented BUT...
According to my 'bible' (AOTM&PW by Duncan Head) there was an elite corps of Agema and Peltasts, which he concludes were armed with sarissas, (at least for pitched battles) and a 'line' phalanx which in every description I'd seen to date had two corps, the Bronze Shields and the White Shields. However the DBMM Army List calls the elite phalanx Bronze Shields and the line one White Shields. Thinking this might reflect new research I'm reading newer material and have just got Nick Sekunda's Osprey title.  It seems quite conclusive that the Army List is mistaken but two questions arise that I'm hoping for opinions on.
He has the elite Peltasts/Agema as equipped with 12' 'pikes' but as part of the phalanx - what is members' view on this? Should they be treated as 'hoplites' rather than 'phalangites' or were they more akin to light infantry? Would the 12' spear be enough to operate as a 'pike phalanx' given their wielders' elite status?
The second question is that Nick Sekunda casts great doubt on the existence of the White Shields corps of the phalanx, citing evidence that references are actually to Thracians in one instance and thureophoroi in another, both of which we are told carried white shields.
What are your thoughts on that?
(Yes, I know "no one knows" is going to be the most likely conclusion..."
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Duncan Head

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Re: Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2020, 02:38:14 PM »
The most recent study that deals with the Antigonid phalanx is of course our own Richard Taylor's The Macedonian Phalanx. He suggests that Sekunda's identification of the White Shields as non-phalanx troops is not convincing. My own thoughts, in a similar vein, are briefly on this Forum here.

I think there is general consensus that the peltasts fought as part of the pike-phalanx, but possibly with smaller shields and possibly with shorter pikes.
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Bill Lee

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Re: Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2020, 06:15:17 PM »
That was a quick response! Thanks very much Duncan, an extremely helpful reply.
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Duncan Head

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Re: Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2020, 10:30:33 PM »
I've just come across another relevant work, a dissertation: The Macedonian Infantry from Antigonos Monophthalmos to Perseus.

Quote
Nicholas Sekunda has argued extensively that the so-called phalanx of leukaspides was to be identified with non-Macedonian troops, specifically Thracians, carrying the thyreos, a wooden oval shield, but in my opinion that it is a far-fetched claim based on a very free interpretation of Livy’s description of the battle of Pydna. It is easier to understand that they were part of the same body, the Macedonian phalanx, as they never are mentioned alongside the foreign allies and certainly, as Sekunda himself concedes, they are never equated with Thracians in the sources.
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Bill Lee

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Re: Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2020, 11:31:58 AM »
Thanks Duncan, very helpful again except now I'm even more confused! This chap implies that the peltasts and agenda were light troops, and even worse, says towards the end that he thinks the Bronze Shields and White Shields were distinct from the phalanx.
 
"It is worthy of mention that at the beginning of the engagement, Aemilius was faced with the Bronze Shields, between the phalanx and the light infantry, and the ex-consul Lucius Albinus with the White Shields, in the centre of the enemy lines.

From this it would seem that both units remained in existence until the very last moments of the Antigonid dynasty, being two infantry bodies distinct from the phalanx and the hypaspists respectively, although once again, their precise attributes are lost to us."
« Last Edit: November 21, 2020, 12:06:11 PM by Bill Lee »
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Duncan Head

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Re: Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2020, 02:56:06 PM »
I think that either you've misread her or she's not being perfectly clear. The confusion seems to be because Livy is saying that the Roman first legion was between the peltasts and the Bronze shields, not that any Macedonian unit was distinct from both peltasts and phalanx:

Quote from: Livy 44.41
His legion filled up the space between the peltasts and the phalanxes, and thus disunited the enemy's line. Behind him were the peltasts, and his front faced the shielded phalanx of Chalcaspides.

Elsewhere in the dissertation she even quotes Livy calling the leukaspides a phalanx, "leucaspidem phalangem" and she herself says "What I believe is undeniable is that both (sc. leukaspides and chalkaspides - DH) were Macedonian troops and formed part of the phalanx".
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RichT

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Re: Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2020, 03:17:10 PM »
Seems she's not being perfectly clear since the sentences Bill quotes (p. 31) would appear to contradict the line you, Duncan quote (p. 17).

I'm intrigued by p 18 n. 66 where she quotes a passage from one edition of Livy that is not included in an other edition and which I've not seen before:

"First marched the Thracians, men of fierce countenance and tall of stature, and protected on their left side by bucklers which shone with remarkable brightness. […] Next came a band of the Macedonians themselves, which they called the phalanx of the Leucaspides. A few selected for their strength and valour were more conspicuous, shining in gilded armour and scarlet cloaks: this was the middle of the army. These were succeeded by those whom they called Chalcaspides, from their brazen and glittering bucklers."

This would seem to equate the Leukaspides with the Peltasts (which I'm sure is incorrect, but it would be nice to know the status of this passage - at any rate most editions don't include it).
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Re: Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2020, 03:29:28 PM »
That passage is Plutarch, Aemilius Paullus, not Livy, isn't it?
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Re: Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2020, 03:57:46 PM »
I guess it's modelled on Plutarch (Aemilius, 18.3-4) though it's not the same text, as aside from it being in Latin, there are no Leukaspides in Plutarch.

"First the Thracians advanced, whose appearance, Nasica says, was most terrible,—men of lofty stature, clad in tunics which showed black beneath the white and gleaming armour of their shields and greaves, and tossing high on their right shoulders battle-axes with heavy iron heads. Next to the Thracians, the mercenaries advanced to the attack; their equipment was of every variety, and Paeonians were mingled with them. Next to these came a third division, picked men, the flower of the Macedonians themselves for youthful strength and valour, gleaming with gilded armour and fresh scarlet coats. As these took their places in the line, they were illumined by the phalanx-lines of the Bronze-shields which issued from the camp behind them and filled the plain with the gleam of iron and the glitter of bronze, the hills, too, with the tumultuous shouts of their cheering."

I'd guess though that the editor of that edition just inserted a bit of translated Plutarch to fill the gap.  So probably not very interesting after all.
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Duncan Head

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Re: Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2020, 04:29:14 PM »
Ah, I see... it's here in a 1743 Dutch (? "Lugdunum Batavorum") edition of Livy, which puts it a century earlier than Mestre's Twiss Travers edition, but doesn't help all that much. The footnotes reference Plutarch, but whether as a source or a parallel I can't really make out.

I might hazard that it had been Latinized by someone too modern to realise that clipeus was not an appropriate translation for thureos, but that might be trying to impose too much precision on the ancients ;)
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RichT

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Re: Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx
« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2020, 06:26:49 PM »
Good find! I see then in that text, p. 802 they enclose all this section after 'cum praesidio' in square brackets with 'Plut. in Aemil.' in the margin, with the square brackets ending on p. 805 before 'proelium ducit'. So it looks as if the two missing leaves are still missing, and this is just someone's interpolation based on (a garbled understanding of) Plutarch. Even so it got translated by McDevitte in the 1850 translation, on Perseus.

A bit of a shame, since it includes: 'caetrati, Macedones et ipsi, sarissas gerentes, quemadmodum phalangitae, cetera levius armati', 'the peltasts, who were also Macedonians, and carried sarissas like those of the phalanx, but in other respects more lightly armed' - which would be the only explicit statement to that effect. But no, it's not ancient.
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Andreas Johansson

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Re: Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx
« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2020, 06:44:17 PM »
"Lugdunum Batavorum"

Better known to latter-day barbarians as Leiden.
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Duncan Head

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Re: Antigonid Macedonian Phalanx
« Reply #12 on: November 21, 2020, 07:37:23 PM »
"Lugdunum Batavorum"

Better known to latter-day barbarians as Leiden.

Ah, of course. Always "Seventeen of Leyden" for me...

A bit of a shame, since it includes: 'caetrati, Macedones et ipsi, sarissas gerentes, quemadmodum phalangitae, cetera levius armati', 'the peltasts, who were also Macedonians, and carried sarissas like those of the phalanx, but in other respects more lightly armed' - which would be the only explicit statement to that effect. But no, it's not ancient.

Oh, if only...
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