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Ancient and Medieval History / Re: Common misconceptions
« Last post by Justin Swanton on April 20, 2021, 08:12:51 PM »
1. Formulate a theory.
2. Test the theory against all known source evidence to see if the evidence chimes with the theory.
3. Wait and see if any cogent arguments arise that refute the theory.
4. Convince influential academics and media figures that this is a new shiny bandwagon that will effectively replace the tired old bandwagons, variety being the spice of life.
5. Sit back, relax and watch as your theory is propagated as fact, your books sell like hot cakes, and the BBC signs you up for a documentary.

And a bit more seriously...

I've looked at every battle I know of in which infantry change orientation or move in any direction other than straight ahead, and in every single case they do it by column - or, at the very least, the best explanation is that they do it by column. I can't cite any primary source that says "Infantry only wheeled into or as a column and never as a line." Equally there is no primary source quote that "Infantry lines wheeled as lines." Plenty of history is by deduction and inference, producing conclusions that are at least plausible and can even be morally certain. I've supplied evidence. Can the other position supply evidence as well?
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Ancient and Medieval History / Re: Common misconceptions
« Last post by RichT on April 20, 2021, 07:56:45 PM »
What I need is just one example - just one teeny, weeny, clearly documented example - of an infantry line in Antiquity wheeling as a line, either in a single block or by subunit.

And a pony?

The burden of proof is firmly on you to demonstrate that every single manoeuvre of an infantry line in Antiquity was performed in column and that lines never, ever wheeled. It's your theory, you need to convince us, not vice versa.

I'd also like one teeny, weeny, clearly documented example of how Greek hoplites fought each other. I guess we are both doomed to perpetual disappointment.
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Ancient and Medieval History / Re: Common misconceptions
« Last post by Justin Swanton on April 20, 2021, 07:41:42 PM »
Hellenistic tacticians = drill and organisation of the Hellenistic 'Macedonian' phalanx.

Gaugamela - Macedonian phalanx, OK.
Cannae - Libyans - Roman drill or who knows?
Ilipa - Romans
Zama - Romans
Cynoscephalae - Romans

It may be that the tacticians have general applicability to all infantry, not just the Hellenistic phalanx, but this is something that needs to be argued for or demonstrated, not just assumed.

My point is that every example I can find of infantry changing orientation on the battlefield or doing anything other than move straight forwards involves using columns. The manuals lay out the details of how it was done (fact), but that does not mean only the late Seleucid army did it (also fact). If one army implements a good idea it isn't long before other armies try it out (presuming they are capable of it at all). Germans wheel out panzer divisions; before long Russians, British and Americans are emulating them. The Romans in particular are famous for this (copying other armies, not fielding panzer divisions).

That lines (esp. of Hellenistic infantry) could - and often did - manoeuvre to their flanks by forming column is not in doubt. See my 'Epikampios' article in Slingshot a while back, or this thread http://soa.org.uk/sm/index.php?topic=4127.0 or if really desperate, my book (link in signature, only £30, sometimes less on Amazon :) ).

£30 - ouch! But then the South African rand is really pathetic against First World currencies.

To go from there to an assertion that no infantry in antiquity could (even in principle) perform wheels is, to say the least, a bit of a stretch.

Never said that. What I need is just one example - just one teeny, weeny, clearly documented example - of an infantry line in Antiquity wheeling as a line, either in a single block or by subunit.

Some new evidence or arguments, rather than just a repetition of the ones we've already had, might be interesting.

Questions that aren't properly answered have a bad habit of not going away.  ::)
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Ancient and Medieval History / Re: Common misconceptions
« Last post by RichT on April 20, 2021, 06:52:27 PM »
Hellenistic tacticians = drill and organisation of the Hellenistic 'Macedonian' phalanx.

Gaugamela - Macedonian phalanx, OK.
Cannae - Libyans - Roman drill or who knows?
Ilipa - Romans
Zama - Romans
Cynoscephalae - Romans

It may be that the tacticians have general applicability to all infantry, not just the Hellenistic phalanx, but this is something that needs to be argued for or demonstrated, not just assumed.

That lines (esp. of Hellenistic infantry) could - and often did - manoeuvre to their flanks by forming column is not in doubt. See my 'Epikampios' article in Slingshot a while back, or this thread http://soa.org.uk/sm/index.php?topic=4127.0 or if really desperate, my book (link in signature, only £30, sometimes less on Amazon :) ).

To go from there to an assertion that no infantry in antiquity could (even in principle) perform wheels is, to say the least, a bit of a stretch. Some new evidence or arguments, rather than just a repetition of the ones we've already had, might be interesting.

ETA: http://soa.org.uk/sm/index.php?topic=4258.msg55134#msg55134 this also answers a question asked earlier about 19th C inf.
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Ancient and Medieval History / Re: Common misconceptions
« Last post by Justin Swanton on April 20, 2021, 04:45:23 PM »
Thanks Justin.  So you do have clear evidence of these columns in use.  I note though that these don't seem to fit your original premise of a line 1.5km long turning through 90 degrees, which was what I was having difficulty with.

No, I don't think a complete infantry line ever changed orientation by 90 degrees in any battle, unless it was a revolving door. It was usually part of a line getting round the enemy flank, which meant form column, march past the enemy flank, wheel 90 degrees, advance to the enemy rear, wheel 90 degrees again, march behind the enemy line, wheel into line, charge!

Also, is it an assumption that these moves were made not in some sort of follow-my-leader-way but in rigid 90 degree increments, or is that clear from the accounts of the column formation?

Basing myself on the tacticians, I posit only 90 degree wheels (y'know, an approximate 90 degree wheel, give or take a few degrees) as other angles weren't required: you want the hit the enemy flank - and more importantly, the rear - flat on, which means 90 degree changes in orientation. The drill for a wheel I think required that the men all moved from one prearranged position to another prearranged position, i.e. they practised until they all knew what a 90 degree wheel was. It didn't permit ad-hoc variations later on.

In battles where the enemy weren't in an absolutely straight line, or near straight line, like Hastings where the Saxons followed the contour of the hill, I think (again) the procedure would be to deploy the troops in several lines that each faced a portion of the enemy more-or-less flat on, and then advanced straight ahead to engage. Unless there's evidence to the contrary?
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Ancient and Medieval History / Re: Common misconceptions
« Last post by Erpingham on April 20, 2021, 04:34:47 PM »
Thanks Justin.  So you do have clear evidence of these columns in use.  I note though that these don't seem to fit your original premise of a line 1.5km long turning through 90 degrees, which was what I was having difficulty with.

Also, is it an assumption that these moves were made not in some sort of follow-my-leader-way but in rigid 90 degree increments, or is that clear from the accounts of the column formation?

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Ancient and Medieval History / Re: Common misconceptions
« Last post by Justin Swanton on April 20, 2021, 04:22:36 PM »
Quote
I'm mooting the theory that infantry changed orientation on the battlefield only by column. Thus far I haven't seen any evidence that they didn't.

Do you have any hard evidence that they did?  Just from the point of view of trying to envisage it, you are talking of lines 1.5km long made up of sub-units.  They then wheel out forwards so they form a column facing presumably toward the flank and march flank wards until each reaches a turn point at what was the end of the line, then turns 90 degrees and advances in the new direction - this forms a column.  Eventually, the column is 1.5km long at right angles to the battlefield.  All units then wheel 90 degrees to form a line.  The line then advances the 1.5km back to the battlefield.  So, all units have moved 3km, taking 45 minutes?  Or are the units turning toward the centre, exposing their flanks in sequence at short range to the enemy?  It seems to me, from what we might call an IMP position (other people abuse Occam so I will abuse Burne :) ) , that wheeling toward the centre by sub-units will bring the first units into a position quickly and they will cover the flank of the line as it redeploys.  This seems to be the way it was done in the 19th century and the basic principle of covering your own deployment seems a fundamental that your average Roman would have easily understood.

Looking at the battles I know of where infantry didn't just advance and engage the enemy frontally, it seems clear enough that they manoeuvred by column.

1. Gaugamela
The phalanx wheels right by syntagmata and then moves in column to the right, accompanied by the cavalry.

2. Cannae
The Libyan veterans on the flanks form column by subunits and march around to the rear of the legions then reform line and attack.

3. Ilipa
The legionaries on the flanks form column by centuries and advance to extend past the Iberians then reform line and advance (I need to check the exact reference for this).

4. Zama
The triarii split in half then form two columns by centuries, one facing left and one right, and advance past the hastati and principes, then reform line and advance to the flanks of the hastati and principes in order to extend their line.

5. Cynoscephalae
The principes and triarii of the victorious Roman right wing stop their pursuit of the shattered left wing Macedonian phalanx, wheel left into column by century, advance to the rear of the right wing phalanx, wheel left again into line, and charge.

Notice that with one exception, infantry form column only for flanking operations. According to the tacticians, a syntagma that wheeled first contracted from intermediate to close order. So if you apply that generally, you get this:

Line of subunits (always square-shaped - syntagma, pentecosty, century)




Subunits contract in size from intermediate to close order.




Subunits individually wheel 90 degrees (the space between them means they don't impede each other).




Subunits expand back to intermediate order and march off.




Square-shaped subunits means that when the column wheels back into line, the subunits are correctly spaced.



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Ancient and Medieval History / Re: Common misconceptions
« Last post by Erpingham on April 20, 2021, 04:19:26 PM »
Quote
I was thinking of Hastings in the sense of cavalry pulling back from infantry who don't stay put but charge after them.

AKA pursuit.  I can think of a couple of other medieval examples of infantry pursuing cavalry; Montenaken 1465 and Loudon Hill 1307.  Disasterous in the first case, successful in the second. 

In terms of infantry attacking cavalry, at the Battle of Hausbergen 1262 the Strasbourg militia advanced to rescue their cavalry who were outnumbered by the knights of the Bishop of Trier.  The bishops infantry could not advance to aid their own cavalry as they were held back by the shooting of the Strasbourg crossbowmen, so the bishops knights were comprehensively beaten.

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Ancient and Medieval History / Re: Common misconceptions
« Last post by Justin Swanton on April 20, 2021, 03:58:49 PM »
Quote
I think Justin needs to prove that mounted troops were never contacted in the ZOC of infantry..  ::)

If infantry tried it bad things tended to happen to them, cf Hastings.  :P

I don't see any reason to think that the English at Hastings were trying to get at the cavalry from within their ZoC (or indeed TZ); nor that the mounted were trying to move across it.

True. I was thinking of Hastings in the sense of cavalry pulling back from infantry who don't stay put but charge after them. Not the best example.

But infantry can and did charge cavalry and survive:

Quote
And their [the Persians'] commander told the leader of the baggage-train to cross the Pactolus river and encamp, while the horsemen themselves, getting sight of the camp-followers on the side of the Greeks, scattered for plunder, killed a large number of them. On perceiving this Agesilaus ordered his horsemen to go to their aid. And the Persians, in their turn, when they saw this movement, gathered together and formed an opposing line, with very many companies of their horsemen.

Then Agesilaus, aware that the infantry of the enemy was not yet at hand, while on his side none of the arms which had been made ready was missing, deemed it a fit time to join battle if he could. Therefore, after offering sacrifice, he at once led his phalanx against the opposing line of horsemen, ordering the first ten year-classes of the hoplites to run to close quarters with the enemy, and bidding the peltasts lead the way at a double-quick. He also sent word to his cavalry to attack, in the assurance that he and the whole army were following them.

Now the Persians met the attack of the cavalry; but when the whole formidable array together was upon them, they gave way, and some of them were struck down at once in crossing the river, while the rest fled on. And the Greeks, pursuing them, captured their camp as well.

Charge cavalry from close enough to catch them flat-footed and pin them against an obstacle - the river - and you've got them. So no, I don't think they should be able to move across the front of infantry within a hundred paces or so; charge or withdraw would seem to be the only realistic options in most cases.

Fair enough.
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