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Phalanx warfare: Closing of the ranks
#19
(09-12-2016, 03:23 PM)JaM Wrote: Paul: one thing regarding the Othismos theory - what exactly would be the tactical benefit of it? As always, i dont think they would use something without a clear combat advantage, yet, as i see it, pushing own men against enemy presents quite a lot negatives of its own - pushing a man towards danger is quite a good way how to  make that man rout and become ineffective in combat, psychological effect of being forced against a line of presented enemy weapons was always quite problematic, no matter the era, or soldier equipment..

Therefore i think if such a thing was supposed to be used, it would have to have some clear tactical benefit.. yet, i kinda don't see any.

Have you ever fought a man pushing you backwards?  Tactically the whole thing starts with two men, shield on shield, both attempting to push each other back while fighting.  Rapidly men come up in support to keep their comrade from being forced back on his heels.  Rather than being pushed into danger, you are being rescued from being bowled over.  In any army in history, giving ground before a foe is a sign of defeat and crushing to morale.  Why do you think we give such value to forces that can pull off a feigned retreat.  The hardest thing to do is get men moving backwards moving forwards again.  Usually an army recoils because its own front ranks move back into the ranks behind as they are "pushed" and by this in quotes I mean something more akin to herded back, shying away from enemies stabbing or cutting at them.  Physically pushing the front rank back on their own men has the same effect. 

Why did Greeks take this pushing thing to the extreme?  Such pushing is a factor in any line combat with shields, but usually it is limited to either the front rankers bashing each other, or very brief spats of multiple ranks together. Two factors we see in descriptions of Greek combat may account for why it happened in Greece.  First, going back to the Illiad and seen as late as Coronea, there is the need to fight for control of a fallen leader.  To do this they had to control a spot on the battlefield and push the other force back away from it.  They could fight their way to that spot, but pushing is faster.  I think this mentality became, shall we say democratized, to the point that the winner of a battle was not the side that killed the most men, but the side that held the corpses on the field.  The story of the battle of 300 champions from Sparta and Argos is all about this- 2 to 1 advantage in survivors, but the 1 held the field.  This the idea of fighting for control of ground rather than fighting to maximize the enemies casualties seems natural.

Also: It was not like a wedge, there was no attempt to break into a taxis, or unit of the phalanx. The point was for your taxis to push back the whole opposite taxis, breaking its morale. When this happened, your job as a unit was done and through most of this period you would not even turn and attack the flank or rear of other Taxies you were moving past- see how the picked Argives could have changed history if they had this tactical skill set.
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RE: Phalanx warfare: Closing of the ranks - by Paul Bardunias - 09-12-2016, 04:15 PM

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