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Full Version: Testudo and Synaspismos
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In this thread
http://www.romanarmytalk.com/17-roman-mi...=15#363270
emerged the following assumption: romans used to adopt synaspismos formation in order to do the testudo (arrian, tactica, 11.4): I'm just wondering if in this pace, by "synaspismos", Arrian means the distance of 1,5 foot for each soldier, as in a phalanx, or if he simply used the word in its litteral meaning of "shield touching each other", implying a larger space for each soldier, let's say 2-2,5 feet...because, in the first case, in a testudo formation, roman scuta, being large about 2 feet, would be overlapping each other...while all reenactors who perform a roman testudo seem to adopt a less close formation. (2-2,5 feet)
Romans weren't Greeks and their fighting style was different, at least until much later in their history when the Greeks co-opted the Eastern Empire. When it comes to use of terms, the Greeks like Arrian didn't use Latin phrases to describe what the Romans did, so they used commonly known Koine words, such as "synaspismos," to describe Romans formed with closely held shields. This doesn't mean the Romans broke out an old Hellenic drill manual and adopted their ways, its just a literary technique.

I hate using Wikipedia, but this explains it well:

"As a writer, Arrian was obliged by the prevailing literary mores of his time to compose his works in "good Greek," which meant imitating as closely as possible the grammar and literary style of the Athenian writers of the 5th century BC."
Source
I would disagree here. If I remember correctly, I am out of town at the moment writing on my smartphone, Arrian is specifically talking about the one-cubit synaspismos when he is giving the example of the testudo. The Techne Taktike of Arrian is not a literary text like Alexandrou Anabasis. It is a manual that gives very useful information on Roman tactics as well as more ancient Greek ones. Flavius Arrianus was not a man unschooled in Roman military practices, so if he specifically states this fact about the Roman testudo of his time, we cannot easily dismiss it as information. And of course, the synaspismos density is not some Greek tactic in itself. It is only a technical term to describe a certain density of troops as employed by any army.
Quote:I'm just wondering if in this pace, by "synaspismos", Arrian means the distance of 1,5 foot for each soldier, as in a phalanx, or if he simply used the word in its litteral meaning of "shield touching each other" ...
I would say it's the latter.

Arrian doesn't actually define the spacing of men in synaspismos formation (afaik), unlike Asclepiodotus and Aelian, who draw a distinction (for the Macedonian phalanx) between araios ("loose" order) of 4 cubits and pyknos ("close" order) of 1 cubit, and who equate the latter with synaspismos ("holding shields together").
Arrian actually defines synaspismos, although not by distance, as a density so packed that it is impossible to turn to any side. Then he talks about the testudo and how it is formed in that way. The description is the standard one for the 1 cubit synaspismos. It would be better if someone brought up the whole text to see and judge.
Quote:Arrian actually defines synaspismos, although not by distance, as a density so packed that it is impossible to turn to any side.
This is true (notwithstanding DeVoto's eccentric translation, which cannot be trusted on this point, as on so many others).

I merely point out that Arrian omits the measurements found in the other "tactical handbooks", in case the OP thinks otherwise. And it is worth bearing in mind that, whenever he does supply measurements in connection with the Macedonian phalanx, they do not conform to those of Aelian and Asclepiodotus (see Ancient Warfare VIII.3). So even if we assume that Arrian intended to define synaspismos as strictly applying to a phalanx in pyknos order (and that exactly the same spacing must then apply to the Roman testudo), his idea of pyknos may not have been the same as Aelian's or Asclepiodotus'. (Must the men be standing at intervals of precisely one-and-a-half feet in order not to be able to turn to either side?)
The only text i found is this, it's in greek. I wasn't able to find an english version until now:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text...apter%3D11

Anyway, if you click on words, you can have a translation.

As far i know, Arrian, in the ektasis kata Alanon, distinguish between a close order formation (pyknosis) and an even closer one, in order to receive a cavalry charge. He doesn't use the term synaspismos, but he say that legionaires, already deployed in closed order, further close their formation and locking their shields. (the greek term is enchrimpto, wich means to put close)
http://members.tripod.com/~S_van_Dorst/A...taxis.html

The question still remains: is this the same formation, with the same distances, used by greek phalanx?
Quote:The question still remains: is this the same formation, with the same distances, used by greek phalanx?
In my opinion it's not 100% the same formation but comparable. I think this is the late Roman fulcum (which some believe was also called the testudo), closed ranks with shields locked, both in a defensive as well as an offensive variant (as described in the Strategicon).

Sure, Romans fought differently from the Greek phalanx but I agree with modern scholars who propose that Romans had a number of different tactics available. One of these was the very close combat with locked shields. Mostly used for the testudo (the turtle variant for sieges) but becoming more and more common towards the Dominate and after. These later infantry formation are not the same as Hellenistic phalanxes but can be compared to them. I think that Arrian is referring to a similar formation in his treatise about how to defend against cavalry, and his description of the close-order infantry resembles that of the close-order in the testudo.

However the discussion remains wide open because apperently there is no 100% agreement about the exact meaning of the Original terminology (or whether the authors used them correctly). Sad
https://web.duke.edu/classics/grbs/FTexts/44/Rance2.pdf

I just wanted to report this research on fulcum and his link with testudo...