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Phalanx warfare: Closing of the ranks
#31
picture #10 seems quite dangerous during thrusting to the guy in third row.. or guy next to him.. practically, it means guys that are thrusting should never thrust with arm at the height of own face, otherwise there is a chance sauroter might hit own men..


If anything, i would expect third row to keep some distance from first two rows, as he can nor reach anybody, therefore he doesnt have to be so close anyway... and distance would give him protection from those sauroters..

 yes, you can have arm higher, but you cant have it like that the whole battle.. its something you might quickly forget in the heat of battle and become dangerous to own men..
Jaroslav Jakubov
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#32
(09-13-2016, 01:11 PM)JaM Wrote: If anything, i would expect third row to keep some distance from first two rows, as he can nor reach anybody, therefore he doesnt have to be so close anyway...

I do not think the third rank fought with the other two  We have a nice description in Arrian of the second rank supporting the first, which could come from one of the early tactika.  As you say reach is a problem, but space for the spear is as well. Even in a sarissa phalanx the ability of the weapon to be swivelled laterally to aim at targets is severely curtailed.  Perhaps when the men pack in and the front rank goes to the sword, then the third rank can reach.
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#33
So if ranks three and beyond in a hoplite phalanx didn't use spears to fight the enemy in the clash, besides replacing casualties among the promachoi, I think the big question is, what role did they serve? Why add depth if their spears are useless? Why not just take the extra bodies and extend the line outwards to attempt to encircle the enemy? Or add multiple lines, like the Romans, so if the first phalanx breaks the other can take up the fight?
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#34
The third man can reach an enemy that is shield to shield with his own first rank. That is with these spears that are slightly over two meters long. It is possible that the rear weighted spears were preferred by the rear rankers and as described in the Hellenistic manuals, it was common that many gave longer spears to the rear rankers to make more of them reach the enemy. Again it is not specified wether they talk only about pike phalanxes or also the Hoplite ones.

In the trial of the file we were vigorously moving our spears. The sauroter seems to be a problem for the arms rather than the heads, although no arm was touched by a sauroter.

I think the third rank should expect to fight at any time, although perhaps not in the first stages of battle probably. But if you are in the third rank the battle seems very close to you! I would want to be as ready as possible.

If holding the spear vertical, you can use your own spear to block the front man's spear from getting too close to you
Giannis K. Hoplite
a.k.a.:Giannis Kadoglou
a.k.a.:Thorax
[Image: -side-1.gif]
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#35
(09-13-2016, 03:32 PM)Bryan Wrote: So if ranks three and beyond in a hoplite phalanx didn't use spears to fight the enemy in the clash, besides replacing casualties among the promachoi, I think the big question is, what role did they serve? Why add depth if their spears are useless? Why not just take the extra bodies and extend the line outwards to attempt to encircle the enemy? Or add multiple lines, like the Romans, so if the first phalanx breaks the other can take up the fight?

To a point, depth has a morale function,  and that along with replacement can explain shallow ranks.  T me deep ranks- 12,16, 25, 50+ can only be explained by the threat of othismos.

If you angle the spear down between strikes, and hold it near the rear, you will not hit the guy behind you.
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#36
Does the extra bodies in depth help with pushing? Or do they just shore up, preventing backwards movement from the promachoi?

If a truck were to very slowly push against a file of eight men, would it be any different in pressure if it were 25-50 men in the file instead? If you added enough men, could you stop the truck's movement without killing the men in the front ranks? (that is assuming the shield's don't crack)
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#37
Quote:The third man can reach an enemy that is shield to shield with his own first rank. That is with these spears that are slightly over two meters long. It is possible that the rear weighted spears were preferred by the rear rankers and as described in the Hellenistic manuals, it was common that many gave longer spears to the rear rankers to make more of them reach the enemy. Again it is not specified wether they talk only about pike phalanxes or also the Hoplite ones.



question is how much "area awareness" of your surrounding(to the back) you need while fighting with the spear.. Of course, if you concentrate not have spear in that position its fine.. question is, if you can keep that awareness during heat of battle.. You might have to do some lateral hits against enemy to the left or right, and with the spear at the height of own head, chance hitting own men in third rank would be an issue.  That's why i think 2rank fight, remaining support is the most workable way with those spears..
Jaroslav Jakubov
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#38
(09-13-2016, 04:58 PM)Bryan Wrote: Does the extra bodies in depth help with pushing? Or do they just shore up, preventing backwards movement from the promachoi?

If a truck were to very slowly push against a file of eight men, would it be any different in pressure if it were 25-50 men in the file instead? If you added enough men, could you stop the truck's movement without killing the men in the front ranks? (that is assuming the shield's don't crack)

Our experiments show that after around 12 men you are not adding very much new pushing force per man- maybe 5-10% of mass.  This comes from problems coordinating moving together.  Probably after 16 ranks you are not so much adding force, but as you say, providing as wall behind the men who are pushing. Even if 50 ranks of men can't add the full force of 50 men to the push, they will add their weight as inertia when being pushed back.  Ironically, your efforts at pushing back 50 ranks forces them together to resist.  The other thing that deep ranks can do is cause random shockwaves of force to move through the file.  If force projection breaks down due to an inability to coordinate moving in unison and squishing tight as the ranks deepen, then sometimes we would expect men to achieve a moment of coordination by accident.  In crowd disasters this happens all the time- sort of how waves at the beach sometimes coincide perfectly and form a large wave.

This is why 12 ranks of Spartans could stand up to 50 ranks of Thebans without getting bowled off the field (you will find that an often used objection to othismos).  In fact, 12 ranks of men who knew how to coordinate their swaying forward, could in theory defeat 50 men who do not.

One thing I would like to test is which position to overlap two ranks of spears in.  We usually had the dory of the rear man between the dory of the front man and front man's head.  This is probably because you don't want to stand behind a sauroter.  But I think with the proper grip you could have your spear to the right of the guy in front.  Generally I would not want anything between my head and my spear.
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#39
(09-13-2016, 06:35 PM)Paul Bardunias Wrote: Our experiments show that after around 12 men you are not adding very much new pushing force per man- maybe 5-10% of mass.  This comes from problems coordinating moving together.  Probably after 16 ranks you are not so much adding force, but as you say, providing as wall behind the men who are pushing. Even if 50 ranks of men can't add the full force of 50 men to the push, they will add their weight as inertia when being pushed back.  Ironically, your efforts at pushing back 50 ranks forces them together to resist.  The other thing that deep ranks can do is cause random shockwaves of force to move through the file.  If force projection breaks down due to an inability to coordinate moving in unison and squishing tight as the ranks deepen, then sometimes we would expect men to achieve a moment of coordination by accident.  In crowd disasters this happens all the time- sort of how waves at the beach sometimes coincide perfectly and form a large wave.

This is why 12 ranks of Spartans could stand up to 50 ranks of Thebans without getting bowled off the field (you will find that an often used objection to othismos).  In fact, 12 ranks of men who knew how to coordinate their swaying forward, could in theory defeat 50 men who do not.

What happens when a 25 rank file begins to get pushed back in othismos? I mean they charge forward, the promachoi close shield to shield, they start getting pushed back a bit until all rear rankers are flush, shield to back, with the rank in front of them. With the promachoi get crushed if the rear ranks don't give? Will shield crack? Or do they start simply churning up dirt with their feet and not really moving anymore?
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#40
(09-13-2016, 06:40 PM)Bryan Wrote: What happens when a 25 rank file begins to get pushed back in othismos? I mean they charge forward, the promachoi close shield to shield, they start getting pushed back a bit until all rear rankers are flush, shield to back, with the rank in front of them. With the promachoi get crushed if the rear ranks don't give? Will shield crack? Or do they start simply churning up dirt with their feet and not really moving anymore?

We produced close to half a ton peak forces with a couple of files together and our aspides groaned and creaked a bit, but held, and the men groaned a bit and held too!  Hard to say with 25 because those accidental peaks could be real high, but probably men  and shields were fine.  We do know that shields were "crushed" at Coronea, a "battle like no other".  So it could happen.  My feeling is that the deep Theban ranks, met by Spartan skill in coordinating may have produced truly huge amounts of force.  Maybe more than the aspis was designed to handle.
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#41
Whats the best internet source for describing Coronea, besides Wikipedia? Any good forum posts or blogs that describe it?
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#42
Try to find Xenophon's Agesilaus. Or is it in the Hellenica?

The advantage of having 25 or 50 men is an obvious one. The enemy cannot even hope to break or beat that phalanx. Why would they even want to close in with them? How many can you kill? There will always be innumerable men behind which you have to fight. And if 12 men is all that can push this means that in a phalanx of 50 only about 12 would be pushing to stop the enemy. Anyone behind that would be fresh. The battle for him could have ended without even feeling the slightest poke, even if the front rankers were giving it all!

I guess I'm describing the psychological advantage of the deep phalanx, but it comes with the practical problems that it presents to the enemy.

In the Peloponnesian war the Thebans were fighting deeper than usual, but that was breaking their rules with the other Boeotian cities. They had agreed to a maximum depth which the Thebans exceded. Why would they set such a rule? Because the greater the depth, the shorter the frontage and thus the fewer the men who are actually fighting. You also sacrifice from the total length of the allied front, risking to be enveloped by the enemy.
Giannis K. Hoplite
a.k.a.:Giannis Kadoglou
a.k.a.:Thorax
[Image: -side-1.gif]
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#43
(09-13-2016, 07:19 PM)Bryan Wrote: Whats the best internet source for describing Coronea, besides Wikipedia? Any good forum posts or blogs that describe it?

Xenophon describes it twice:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text...ction%3D17

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text...hapter%3D2
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#44
Dan Howard wrote:
That is not leather armour. The metal plates provide the protection, not the backing. AFAIK we have no Graeco-Hellenistic examples of either leather or linen armour at this point in time.”....

.... “I have no idea what your point is. Leather, scale, mail, plate (and possibly cloth) armours were all made in the tube and yoke style. It was the fashion of the time to make all armour in this style. Armour consisting of overlapping metal scales on a leather foundation is not leather armour, it is metal armour.”

Well, that depends. It’s all a matter of definition. To my mind ‘metal’ armour means armour made entirely of metal, such as the bronze ‘Bell’ cuirass, the later ‘muscled’ cuirass, mail, and lamellar armour, or the later so-called Roman ‘lorica segmentata’. Nor do I agree that it is just the metal that provides the protection. Bovine hides are generally around 5 mm thick, and so a ‘spolas’ would be also ( though a ‘double breasted’ one would provide 10 mm of frontal protection). That Thracian cavalry corselet is a Tube-and-Yoke one made from 3 mm thick leather, re-inforced with scales ( in this case all over, making it the most expensive kind). This is a well known armour principle c.f. ‘face hardened steel’ used on armoured vehicles. The ‘hardened’ material provides the initial resistance, backed up by the bulk of the defence, here the leather, just like on armoured vehicles with ‘face hardened’ steel armour. It allows provision of lighter, stronger armour to provide overall equivalent protection ( here 2mm of leather thickness –almost half – has been replaced by ‘harder’ metal scales.)
Moreover, how do you define leather corselets that have only ‘partial’ scale reinforcement?
The commonest term used for such armour is ‘composite’ armour, in this instance scale reinforced leather.
As  to Graeco-Hellenistic examples, that ‘Thracian’ corselet is part of a Greek panoply ( note the helmet) and is therefore most likely an ‘export’ panoply made in Greece. Greek Tube-and-Yoke armour is unlikely to turn up in a Greek context for reasons I have explained several times.

Dan Howard wrote:
There is no point asking these questions. Why not ask why they used the tube and yoke style in the first place? Often the answer is something like: "because that is how we always have done it" or "because that is how our cultural superiors do it". Fashion has a far greater influence over armour design than many want to admit. Fashion rarely has much to do with efficiency or common sense. “

I don’t believe fashion had anything to do with it in this instance. The Tube-and- Yoke design is simple, practical and allows thick materials to be used, and it had a long history, over 3,500 years, and very similar designs were still being made in Japan (O Yoroi style) in the Middle ages.......                           
 
With regard to the Tube-and-Yoke style, it is very simple, and as you say could be made in a number of materials. The oldest example I know of is bronze-age, around 3,500 years old from Siberia, and made of bone ( see attached, from another RAT thread)

Dan Howard wrote:
 “I give both if these ideas exactly the same respect - none. Leather armour is 1-2 cm thick. Leather backing for scale armour is a few mm. The function of the leather in both of these instances is completely unrelated. The same difference can be noted when comparing linen armour and linen backing. You can't take a leather spolas and retro-fit it with metal scales. You need to design it to take scales from the start - the manner of construction is completely different.”

I don’t agree with this. Bovine leather is typically 5mm [3/16 inch] thick on average, but not of uniform thickness. Certainly ‘triple’ or ‘quadruple’ layer hide is almost arrow proof, but would be very difficult to wear, as well as expensive to make ( Hope you aren’t implying ‘glued’ layers of leather, Dan ! LOL!  Joke: I know from your depth of expertise that you know better). I also agree with Paul B. That you can indeed retro-fit a 5 mm thick leather ‘spolas’ with scales – the only difficulty is sewing them onto that thickness of leather.
Certainly a purely ‘scale’ cuirass ( such as some Scythian examples) might have backing leather of only 1 mm or so thick, which is what I presume you are referring to...

Paul B wrote:
On another note, this image has always bothered me.  It is not a T-Y, yet its material is thick enough to be cut into Pteryges.  It is patterned in the manner we see many textile garments.  Surely this could be a "linothorax".  Which would mean that there was a linen armor, but it was not, or at least not always patterned as a T-Y. “

Dan Howard wrote:
These things aren't photos. Trying to interpret these images as anything more than "looks like some kind of armour" is not a productive use of time.”

I’d agree with Dan here. Iconography must be taken with a good deal of salt, unless supported by literature and/or archaeology, and a good example is Greek helmets. In iconography and vase painting  in particular, down to the 5 c they are invariably depicted with crests ( copied by re-enactors everywhere) but the subject matter is always mythological – Gods and Heroes – who come dressed in the finest gear. It is only after the Persian Wars (once the Men of Marathon were elected to the Pantheon of Heroes) that we see a more realistic picture; crestless helmets and often no body armour at all. In archaeology, we have thousands of examples of Greek helmets, yet very, very few of them show any trace of helmet crest fittings ( though these of necessity must support removable crests). In fact it is possible that as at Rome, only officers had crests ( we are told, for example, that the Athenian commander wore a helmet displaying Athena’s triple crest). There is a RAT thread on this subject.....Ground Hog Day !

Paul B wrote:
Speaking of flexibility, I have never seen this fully explained, see attached. “

See above: This is an obvious ‘mythological’ piece , and I would put the armour down to ‘artistic licence’, or a fantasy piece, since we have  ( IIRC) no other examples of this armour................

Creon 01 wrote:
You are not still claiming all those "leather" finds at Archontiko are accurate are you? I thought all those newspaper articles were proven incorrect? “
And what do you base this ‘thought’ on ? You really must start supporting your often wild assertions with sources/evidence. So far as I know, full reports on the Archontiko excavations, which ceased in 2010 due to lack of funding, have not been produced by the Chrysostomous (husband and wife). Given that something like a thousand graves were excavated over many years, and given the general slowness of Greek Archaeology ( due to rights vesting in the excavators), I wouldn’t expect anything soon! I’ve been looking for further information since 2007, and those several news reports must have been based on something, probably a verbal briefing at a press conference.

If you know otherwise, ( and I suspect you do not not) please share. But leaving aside Archontiko, there are still hundreds of references to adipose organic material (i.e. leather) found with what are obviously Greek metal corselet fittings, and other parts of Greek panoplies , helmets and greaves,  ( see attached 5 C example from the same Golyamata Mogila tumulus as the intact 4C example.) and dozens if not hundreds of examples of leather/scale composite corselets in museums all over the world. As one example, the Ashmolean museum, Britain,has a shoulder piece of composite leather/scale armour  found in the Scythian Grave VI, Volkovtsy tumulus in 1885. It came from a Tube-and-Yoke corselet, which Lyutsenko reported as ‘a leather cuirass’. And there are hundreds of other examples.
The bulk of examples, such as the Thracian intact example I posted earlier are of course in East European or Russian museums.....
 
Dan Howard wrote:
Yep. I'd love to see a dig report of Greco-Hellenistic leather armour. Apparently there was no organic material at all recovered from Archontiko. So we still have just as much physical evidence for leather armour as we have for linen - none........ “

Whether or not there was organic material recovered from Archontiko is an open question, which will likely have to await publication of reports. Presumably your first sentence refers to “in a Greek context”. Well, that is highly unlikely for reasons I have repeatedly stated. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have examples of Greek-made corselets. Greek panoplies were in big demand by Royalty, nobles and others who could afford it in neighbouring countries such as Macedon, Thrace and Scythia. Greek panoplies were exported as early as the late 7 c and 6 C BC. Greek corselet fittings abound e.g. The Thracian King Seuthes III had a Greek panoply – helmet, greaves and leather body armour which was obviously made in Greece, probably Athens ( the corselet was decorated on the breast with a bust of Pallas Athena. Greek made metalwork is easily distinguishable from native Thracian or Scythian metalwork ). There is plenty of evidence for Greek made leather armour ( see corselet reconstruction above – I have some doubts about the actual reconstruction, but clearly the fittings came from a Greek workshop. There were also two gorgets in the find.)
I can't fulfill Dan's wish (Yet !! ), but in the meantime here is a photo of one of the Archontiko graves showing a hoplite panoply as it was found in situ, note Illyrian helmet, aspis, spear head etc......


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"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#45
OH NO! NOT AGAIN !
Aaaaaa....rgh! There are two horrible myths about Hoplite warfare that just won’t lay down and die, despite all the evidence being out there, and plain as a pike-staff. The most recent is the existence of a corselet supposedly called ‘linothorax’ and made of glued linen. Its latest manifestation is the Aldrete et al book, discussed elsewhere. If it became widely accepted it would set back the study of hoplite armour nearly 50 years !

The other is the dreaded ‘Othismos’, concerted pushing by hoplites as a tactic, which is equally spurious ( despite my good friend Paul Bardunias attempts to revive it). Both are 19C theories, and frankly, laughable.
Yet here we are ( again!) talking of ‘Othismos’ in the sense of a pushing or shoving phase of Hoplite combat as if it were an established fact. IT IS NOT! Such a thing never existed.
For the time being, I shall leave aside the ‘practical’ reasons why this tactic is impossible, and look purely at the literature. Paul Bardunias skips very lightly over the literature in his latest article on the subject on his blog site here, an epitome of an article ( The  Storm of Spears and Press of Shields) he wrote for “Ancient Warfare” magazine’s special ‘Marathon’ issue :
http://hollow-lakedaimon.blogspot.com.au/
scroll down to the entry for June 20 2014......

The whole ‘concerted shove’ school of Phalanx fighting came about through a total misinterpretation of various snippets in our sources, and one in particular in Thucydides – the 19 C scholars who studied Classics immediately thought of Rugby scrums, since they’d all played ‘rugger’ at Public School. Incidently, this illustrates the error of interpreting something in terms you are familiar with – a common mistake. As Paul B. recites, this ‘Rugby scrum’ school of concerted shoving in ‘close order’ became known as the ‘Orthodox’ school of Phalanx fighting, as espoused by the likes of Hanson Luginbill and Schwartz. Naturally a ‘Heretical’ school grew up championed by the likes of Van Wees,  Krentz and Goldsworthy, advocating spear fighting in a sort of skirmish ‘open order’. Both schools are utterly wrong, and they are just like the tale of the blind philosophers asked to describe an elephant. In the words of Shakespeare;  “A plague on both your houses” [Romeo and Juliet]. As described in this thread and told in Xenophon, hoplites generally operated in ‘normal’ or open order[6 ft frontage], and closed up to half-files in ‘close order’[3 ft frontage] to fight. But this was not ‘Othismos’, a concerted shove for that is NOT what the word means! In fact quite the opposite, as we shall see.

Let us start with the LSJ definition:
‘othismos’ is a noun and means:-
“the jostling, struggling, of combatants in a mêlée, “Περσέων τε καὶ Λακεδαιμονίων . ἐγένετο πολλόςHdt.7.225; ἀπικέσθαι ἐς . to come to close quarters, Id.9.62; “. ἀμφὶ τὰ θύρετραX.An.5.2.17; “ περι᾽ τὰς πύλας . καὶ πνιγμόςPlb.4.58.9, cf. Anaxandr.33.7: metaph., “. λόγωνdispute, altercation, Hdt.8.78, 9.26.”
.....the very opposite of an organised concerted shove! ( and just how could that be done and co-ordinated on a phalanx frontage typically a kilometre or so long??) If we wanted a single word definition ‘scrimmaging’ might fit well.
The word occurs over 60 times in our sources, overwhelmingly in a Roman context – yet no-one suggests that Romans used a concerted ‘pushing’ tactic. The main user is the late Roman writer Procopius, who uses the term over a dozen times. Plutarch uses it in a Roman context more than a Greek one, as well as others such as Cassius Dio (half a dozen or so times) and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, as well as Appian,Polybius and Josephus.
I won’t recount every usage, or this post will turn into a book. I’ll simply try to give a flavour of the usage of the noun ‘Othismos’.

Herodotus uses the word 4 times, twice in a military context[VII.225 and IX.62], and twice metaphorically to describe heated verbal arguments.[VIII.78 and IX.26]. Neither of the Military contexts describe hoplites in a ‘shoving match’. The first is the scrimmage around the body of the fallen King Leonidas at Thermopylae against Persians. The second is the  scrimmage/close quarter fighting when the Persian fence of pavises is pushed over at Plataea. No Hoplite v Hoplite shoving against each other.

Thucydides uses the word once. At [IV.96.2] describing the battle of Delion he uses the phrase ‘othismos aspidon/ ὠθισμὸς ἀσπίδων’ scrimmaging shield to shield, but if ‘othismos’ means shoving shield to shield, why does he have to specify ‘shield to shield’?

Xenophon in his Anabasis uses the word just once to describe the jostling and struggle of panicked troops trying to get through a gate, Polybius also uses it in this way ( and no other). In fact the word is used more frequently to describe jostling/struggling of crowds to get through doors and gates than in battle contexts. Plutarch [Timoleon 27] uses the word to describe the Carthaginians crossing the river Crimisus in ‘tumultuous disorder’.

It is significant that Xenophon, a hoplite general and therefore knowledgable knows the word but never uses it to describe  a ‘shoving phase’ of a battle. ( though he does use the verb form to refer to physical shoving at close quarters, a.k.a in the vernacular ‘shield bashing’, as at Koroneia, referenced by Paul B. above: “...and setting shields against shields they shoved, fought, killed, and were killed. Finally, some of the Thebans broke through and reached Mount Helicon, but many were killed while making their way thither. “
....which doesn’t sound at all like a concerted ‘shoving phase’ but rather a desperate hand-to-hand struggle.

Astute readers will have observed that in both those references, Xenophon refers to the opposing sides coming within “spear thrust”[IV.3.17]
Now as the opposing armies were coming together, there was deep silence for a time in both lines; but when they were distant from one another about a stadium, the Thebans raised the war-cry and rushed to close quarters on the run. When, however, the distance between the armies was still about three plethra, the troops whom Herippidas commanded [ the former ‘Ten Thousand’ mercenaries], and with them the Ionians, Aeolians, and Hellespontines, ran forth in their turn from the phalanx of Agesilaus, and the whole mass joined in the charge and, when they came within spear thrust, put to flight the force in their front.[ so no concerted shoving] As for the Argives, they did not await the attack of the forces of Agesilaus, but fled to Mount Helicon.”
....and  c.f the similar account in Xen “Agesilaos”. (“....coming within spear thrust)

This ‘jostling/struggling’ in some disorder can also be used of ships and cavalry.....

Well, this post is now over a thousand words, so I’ll stop here before it turns into a book. Suffice to say that ‘Othismos’ doesn’t mean ‘concerted shoving’ as referred to by the ‘Orthodox’ supporters or Paul B. and nowhere is a ‘shoving phase’ of battle described.....
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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