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Phalanx warfare: Closing of the ranks
#46
"the Ashmolean museum, Britain, has a shoulder piece of composite leather/scale armour"

Is made from two thicknesses of (sheep or) goatskin with scales laced on, to use the term leather is misleading, a big old goatskin would be 2-3mm thick, looser then cow and is likely cured or tawed rather then tanned... its possible local conditions tanned it in the grave...

IMHO there can be no doubt that skin products were used in classical armour also possibly as a backing for embossed decoration, the problem is rather what kind of curing, tawing or tanning was used.... and to what extent...
Ivor

"And the four bare walls stand on the seashore. a wreck a skeleton a monument of that instability and vicissitude to which all things human are subject. Not a dwelling within sight, and the farm labourer, and curious traveller, are the only persons that ever visit the scene where once so many thousands were congregated." T.Lewin 1867
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#47
i think it would be great if all posts containing info about tube and yoke armors would be moved to the 'Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor - New Book" thread, and this one would be used for Phalanx warfare. Wink


(and admin can delete my post afterwards)
Jaroslav Jakubov
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#48
(09-14-2016, 10:37 AM)Paullus Scipio Wrote: 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. 
You need to reread the 2011 article.  There is no such thing as a tactic called "othismos".  I redefined the term as a state in which jostling pushing etc. occurs.  At Marathon we proved that all of your objections about men in files not being able to generate force, not being able to have an arm free to fight while doing it, and not being able to survive with aspis intact were completely unfounded.

"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."

YES!! Finally we agree! Othismos is not a combat term or a tactic, it simply describes a crowded condition like in the pit at a rock comcert or trying to get a crowd through a door when fleeing a fire.
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#49
You two should go head to head in articles in Ancient Warfare Magazine about Othismos, the same way they did the pro-con for the ancient PTSD articles.
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#50
wait, so practically we are back to what i told in the beginning... that hoplite warfare was all about spear fighting and keeping enemy at bay with his spears...
Jaroslav Jakubov
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#51
(09-14-2016, 02:42 PM)JaM Wrote: wait, so practically we are back to what i told in the beginning... that hoplite warfare was all about spear fighting and keeping enemy at bay with his spears...

No, hoplites charged into battle, then stopped at spear range and fought.  Some say this cannot be done and the sides must crash, but we did it easily.

Then they fought for an extended period with spear thrusts overhand. (Did no one actually read my 2011 article?).  This often led to victory as one side broke at spear range.

In prolonged battle, men could move in to fight shield on shield.  This cannot be done with an 8' dory.  Those that say they used the spear to attack the man behind the foe in front of them have never been in a life and death situation. So at this range they had to go to the sword.  Pushing, jostling, occur as part of this combat is all historical battles.  Hoplites took this further and weaponized this crowd-like state to physically push back the opposite taxis rather than simply herd it back like riot police often do to crowds.  Only in the worst crowd riots do police actually push like hoplites did.  See video of the Maidan riots in the Ukraine.  The shape of the aspis and the fact that its form did not change for centuries speaks to the fact that this crowded combat could occur in any given battle.  The rediculously deep ranks we see- ranks with no tactical doctrine to deploy laterally aftet pushing the opposite taxis out if line- also speak of this crowded phase becoming dominant by the 4th c.

Many of you are not arguing with my ideas, but with the orthodoxy of Hanson et al.  They are wrong and I will not defend them.
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#52
For terminology in the Othismos debate, I'm tracking that there is the Orthodox side, who believe in the rugby scrimmage being the primary tactic. Then there is the Heresy side, who believe spear fencing was the primary tactic. Paul, what can you name your theory, since it appears to be a mix of both? Hybrid?

Othismos deserves its own thread. I know its been done to death in this forum already in the past, but just to clarify things and provide some new evidence, tests, theories. And I'd really like to see an edited and narrated video of these experiments that were conducted at Marathon.
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#53
(09-14-2016, 03:32 PM)Bryan Wrote: For terminology in the Othismos debate, I'm tracking that there is the Orthodox side, who believe in the rugby scrimmage being the primary tactic. Then there is the Heresy side, who believe spear fencing was the primary tactic. Paul, what can you name your theory, since it appears to be a mix of both? Hybrid?

I call it the Crowd-othismos model, though in keeping with the religious terminology, I have called it "Reconstructionist".  It hinges on the fact that the Orthodox was completely wrong about the initial charge adding momentum that provides an advantage in pushing- no matter how hard individuals hit they will not break formed ranks, only a slow push of other formed ranks can push them back.  Once you eliminate the need to charge right into othismos, you can account for an initial period of spear fencing.  This is a version of the "Late-othismos" concept of Cawkwell, but he had no idea of pushing mechanics and crazily had the men fighting at 6' frontage in the initial spear fencing.

So to summarize arguments and predictions: 

Orthodoxy: Charge directly into pushing, one good underhand thrust on the way in like a mounted lancer, sideways pushing with the side of the shoulder in the bowl of the aspis.  Heavy armor and the aspis handicaps hoplites in single combat. All of this, including drill, began at the time of Tyrtaios.

Heretics: No pushing, language is figurative. Hoplites fought until the classical period as diffuse mobs, often throwing spears, alongside archers and cavalry in a manner shown by stone aged New Guinean peoples.  No drill for hoplites until well into the classical period.

Mathew's theory: Chris Mathew put forth that othismos occurred, but not when men met in close order of 45cm. A clever counter to Orthodoxy is that men could not charge into close order spears.  This is true, but 45cm frontage is a Hellenistic anachronism- you cannot form in 45cm with a 90cm aspis even theoretically because there is a bicep between shield rims.  So at best he is describing men at around 60cm frontage meeting men at 90cm frontage, not a 2:1 advantage.

My Crowd-Othismos hypothesis: Pushing in battle was seen early, but is not something that occurred in all or even most battles, and accounts for the shape of the aspis.  Without an aspis you die in the press of a crowd just as people do all the time in crowd disasters.  That is essentially the only point that is required of my theory.  But based on the physics of pushing, there is no need for an immediate push and I can account for all of the spear fencing and battles won at spear length happening in battles that either had not yet, or never got the crowd-like state during shield-on-shield sword fighting.  Early archaic hoplites fought by throwing spears initially, then after some period of missile dueling, could close to fight with spear and sword- potentially entering a crowd-like state.  This was NOT an offensive phalanx like we see in the Classical period, but something much more like a Fulcum or Saxon shield wall- a far better analogy for how armored men duel with missiles than stone aged naked warriors.  Only in the last phase when they charge to spear range do they look like an offensive phalanx.  Later in the Classical period, hoplites are charging through missile range to go directly to spear fencing- which could obviously also move on to shield-on-shield.  No strict drill for most of the period except for elites and mercenaries.  Most of the formations were self-organized as men simply grouped by tribes.
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#54
Getting back to Phalanx warfare, we have an extraordinarily detailed account of what must be one of the first uses of 'phalanx' tactics in Pausanias' description of the first Messenian war. The Lacedaemonians seem to be using phalanx tactics, but the Messenians perhaps do not, or because of indiscipline, tend to fight individually. Since it is very detailed, I hope readers won't mind if I quote it in full. Comments are mine:-

PAUSANIAS ‘Messenia’ Book IV.8.1-11 Battle between Messenians and Lacedaemonians 738 BC.

"[1]Such were the words of Euphaes. When the leaders on either side gave the signal, the Messenians charged the Lacedaemonians recklessly like men eager for death in their wrath, each one of them eager to be the first to join battle. The Lacedaemonians also advanced to meet them eagerly, but were careful not to break their ranks.

[The Lacedaemonians are clearly in 'phalanx' formation in ranks, while the Messenians seem not to be, or perhaps ill-discipline leads to individual actions, since Messenian 'ranks' are referred to later.]

[2] When they were about to come to close quarters, they threatened one another by brandishing their arms and with fierce looks, and fell to recriminations, these calling the Messenians already their slaves, no freer than the Helots; the others answering that they were impious in their undertaking, who for the sake of gain attacked their kinsmen and outraged all the ancestral gods of the Dorians, and Heracles above all. And now with their taunts they came to deeds, “mass thrusting against mass”/othismos.
[This is a mis-translation, for as we have seen, the word does NOT mean this at all. A better translation is: ]  (in a body/close order came to close quarters) especially on the Lacedaemonian side, and man attacking man. [or man setting upon man
What we have here, despite the use of the word 'othismos' is quite clearly individual combats, not co-ordinated shoving]

[3] The Lacedaemonians were far superior both in tactics and training, and also in numbers, for they had with them the neighboring peoples already reduced and serving in their ranks, and the Dryopes of Asine, who a generation earlier had been driven out of their own country by the Argives and had come as suppliants to Lacedaemon, were forced to serve in the army. Against the Messenian light-armed they employed Cretan archers as mercenaries.
[Both sides have light-armed troops but they play no part in the battle. See post]

[4] The Messenians were inspired alike by desperation and readiness to face death, regarding all their sufferings as necessary rather than terrible to men who honoured their country, and exaggerating their achievements and the consequences to the Lacedaemonians. Some of them leapt forth from the ranks, displaying glorious deeds of valor, in others fatally wounded and scarce breathing the frenzy of despair still reigned.

[5] They encouraged one another, the living and unwounded urging the stricken before their last moment came to sell their lives as dearly as they could and accept their fate with joy. And the wounded, when they felt their strength ebbing and breath failing, urged the unwounded to prove themselves no less valorous than they and not to render their death of no avail to their fatherland.
[Something of a heroic 'topos' here....]

[6] The Lacedaemonians refrained from exhorting one another, and were less inclined than the Messenians to engage in striking deeds of valor. As they were versed in warfare from boyhood, they employed a deeper formation and hoped that the Messenians would not endure the contest for so long as they, or sustain the toil of battle or wounds.
[So a battle of attrition takes place....]

[7] These were the differences in both sets of combatants in action and in feeling; but on both sides alike the conquered made no appeals or promises of ransom, perhaps in their enmity despairing of getting quarter, but mainly because they scorned to disgrace their previous achievements. The victorious refrained alike from boasting and from taunts, neither side having yet sure hopes of victory. The most remarkable was the death of those who tried to strip any of the fallen. For if they exposed any part of their bodies, they were struck with javelins or were struck down while intent on their present occupation, or were killed by those whom they were plundering who still lived.
[ the use of the word for thrown weapons 'akontizon' indicates that as on the Chigi vase, the hoplites carry two spears, one to throw.....]

[8] The kings fought in a manner that deserves mention. Theopompus rushed wildly forward to slay Euphaes himself. Euphaes, seeing him advancing, said to Antander that the action of Theopompus was no different from the attempt of his ancestor Polyneices; for Polyneices led an army from Argos against his fatherland, and slaying his brother with his own hand was slain by him. Theopompus was ready to involve the race of the Heracleidae in pollution as great as that of the house of Laius and Oedipus, but he would not leave the field unscathed. With these words he too advanced.

[9] Thereupon the battle, though the combatants had wearied, everywhere broke out again in full force. Their strength was renewed and recklessness of death heightened on both sides, so that it might have been thought that they were engaging for the first time. Finally Euphaes and his men in a frenzy of despair that was near to madness for picked Messenian troops formed the whole of the king's bodyguard, overpowering the enemy by their valor, drove back Theopompus himself and routed the Lacedaemonian troops opposed to them.
[ 'broke out again in full force' probably indicates that there were lulls in the combat, which obviously could not be continuous for long periods]
[10] But the other Messenian wing was in difficulties, for the general Pytharatus had been killed, and the men, without a commander, were fighting in a disorganized and confused manner, though not without heart. Polydorus did not pursue the Messenians when they gave way, nor Euphaes' men the Lacedaemonians. It seemed better to him and his men to support the defeated wing; they did not, however, engage with Polydorus' force, for darkness had already descended on the field;

[11] moreover, the Lacedaemonians were prevented from following the retiring force further not least by their ignorance of the country. Also it was an ancient practice with them not to carry out a pursuit too quickly, as they were more careful about maintaining their formation than about slaying the flying. In the center, where Euryleon was commanding the Lacedaemonians, and Cleonnis on the Messenian side, the contest was undecided; the coming of night separated them here also.

[12] This battle was fought principally or entirely by the heavy-armed troops on both sides. The mounted men were few and achieved nothing worth mention; for the Peloponnesians were not good horsemen then. The Messenian light-armed and the Cretans on the Lacedaemonian side did not engage at all; for on both sides according to the ancient practice they were posted in reserve to their own infantry.
 [Unusually, there were no 'preliminaries' by the light troops, and the battle was conducted purely by the Hoplites, with the light armed in the rear....]
[13] The following day neither side was minded to begin battle or to be the first to set up a trophy, but as the day advanced they made proposals for taking up the dead; when this was agreed on both sides, they proceeded to bury them.”
 
Footnote: The paradox with this passage is that there is no supporting evidence of the use of the phalanx in Greece at that time [738 BC]. Anthony Snodgrass defined "the hoplite revolution," which included both the use of the phalanx in Greece and standardization of a "hoplite panoply" of arms and equipment. The panoply consisted of artifacts adapted from previous models: corselet, greaves, ankle guards, closed "Corinthian" helmet, large round shield with a band for the arm and a side grip, spear, longish iron sword. Each element except the greaves is dated to 750-700 BC, perhaps earlier, and since these lend themselves to ‘phalanx’ tactics it is likely that the ‘phalanx’ emerged around this time also.
The paradox is that they are first depicted together on Proto-Corinthian vases of 675 BC for the panoply and the phalanx around 650 BC, much too late for the First Messenian War. The only supporting evidence for the phalanx therefore is dated to the time of the Second Messenian War, not the First. However, this is proof from a deficit. The vases may only demonstrate that depictions of phalanx warfare began at that time, not that phalanxes did. Pausanias on the other hand is positive evidence, and seems to have had good sources whom he names as Rhianus of Brene [3 C BC] and Myron of Priene, and both these and Pausanias himself relied on Aristomenes, a Messenian. The detail given in the account demonstrates a detailed source in turn. Pausanias gives a critique of these sources [ IV.6.2]. Moreover, attempts to discount or select out what he says often create other problems. He is a vital part of all the evidence for the period.
"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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#55
Paul Bardunias wrote:
"You need to reread the 2011 article.  There is no such thing as a tactic called "othismos".  I redefined the term as a state in which jostling pushing etc. occurs.  At Marathon we proved that all of your objections about men in files not being able to generate force, not being able to have an arm free to fight while doing it, and not being able to survive with aspis intact were completely unfounded."



No I don't. I am thoroughly familiar with it, as you might expect Wink Tend to mostly agree with it, except for the last part, mostly on the last page. There you describe an imaginary phase of battle, for which there is no evidence whatever, whereby individual files press forward in 'othismos', a crowd-like state, instigated by the 'ouragos/file closer' at the rear. I always laugh at this point at the thought of the front rank/promachoi, who are the Officer file leaders/lochagoi, and the best men in the phalanx, as all the manuals agree [e.g. Arrian Tactica 12 "the brawniest and strongest, those most experienced in warfare....which holds together the whole phalanx....the cutting edge"] finding themselves suddenly and unexpectedly propelled forward remorselessly onto the points of their opponent's weapons, no doubt kicking and screaming, by the grinning squaddies behind them in an ancient form of 'fragging'.

You have always been short on the mechanics of how this co-ordinated pushing/leaning could be achieved, which you say is done by 'Taxeis'/units, and by individual files. At least you recognise  "the difficulty [impossibility?] in co-ordinating such deep files of men to push in unison." And the files are not so deep, for the evidence suggests fighting was in half-files 4-6 deep.

Furthermore, the things you 'proved' at Marathon are a mere 'straw man', for I don't recall ever having raised those particular objections - you have confused me with someone else. My objections, going back to 2007 were much more fundamental.


Paul Mac wrote:
"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."

YES!! Finally we agree! Othismos is not a combat term or a tactic, it simply describes a crowded condition like in the pit at a rock comcert or trying to get a crowd through a door when fleeing a fire."


Well we can certainly agree the latter point, though in your 2011 article and later you say things such as: "The crowding of 'Othismos' and periods of active intense pushing could last for a long time...." implying that co-ordinated pushing or leaning could take place while in a disorganised crowd jostling and shoving one another - a rather obvious contradiction.

Well, Grasshopper, you have come a long way from your initial hypothesis that hoplite battle was all 'othismos/shoving', to a point where you now recognise that few battles were 'deadlocked', and that your supposed co-ordinated pushing would only take place as a last resort in such cases. Soon you will come to accept that it simply never occurred at all as a deliberate tactic ( I don't say that 'othismos'/jostling and shoving didn't ever occur, just not deliberately).

[Digression: Just as the British Public school classicists saw familiar 'Rugby ' analogies, are you not echoing this, given your 'Gridiron' experience, when you envisage an unevidenced change of stance from the well-evidenced three-quarter stance to a square on stance, with shield flat across the chest like a 'lineman's' pushing stance? ] Big Grin
"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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#56
I have no clue how to quote you by section like we used to be able to do on here, so what you wrote will be in quotes:

"No I don't. I am thoroughly familiar with it, as you might expect Wink Tend to mostly agree with it, except for the last part, mostly on the last page. There you describe an imaginary phase of battle, for which there is no evidence whatever, whereby individual files press forward in 'othismos', a crowd-like state, instigated by the 'ouragos/file closer' at the rear. I always laugh at this point at the thought of the front rank/promachoi, who are the Officer file leaders/lochagoi, and the best men in the phalanx, as all the manuals agree [e.g. Arrian Tactica 12 "the brawniest and strongest, those most experienced in warfare....which holds together the whole phalanx....the cutting edge"] finding themselves suddenly and unexpectedly propelled forward remorselessly onto the points of their opponent's weapons, no doubt kicking and screaming, by the grinning squaddies behind them in an ancient form of 'fragging'."

See, that is how I know you did not read the 2011 paper sufficiently- it updates the 2007 paper which you are thinking of.  I clearly state that othismos is started by the Promachoi, supported naturally by the man behind him as he pushes on his foe while sword fighting with his free arm.  Men in file simply add their weight forward each in turn until the whole file is involved. The ouragos is the Last man involved.  He is also the only one who has full freedom of movement and can run away if he wants to unhindered- thus he must be a steady man.

"You have always been short on the mechanics of how this co-ordinated pushing/leaning could be achieved, which you say is done by 'Taxeis'/units, and by individual files. At least you recognise  "the difficulty [impossibility?] in co-ordinating such deep files of men to push in unison." And the files are not so deep, for the evidence suggests fighting was in half-files 4-6 deep."

This is not up for argument any longer.  We did this!  even with 4 men substantially more force is generated than any single man can generate and maintain.  What you quote above is about deep files, and this turned out to be true too.  After 12 men, the difficulty coordinating means each new man adds only a fraction of his body weight.

"Well we can certainly agree the latter point, though in your 2011 article and later you say things such as: "The crowding of 'Othismos' and periods of active intense pushing could last for a long time...." implying that co-ordinated pushing or leaning could take place while in a disorganised crowd jostling and shoving one another - a rather obvious contradiction."
 
Not at all, this is exactly what happens when people die in crowd disasters.  The surely was a period of close up shield on shield sword fighting that  could get tighter and become othismos. 

"Well, Grasshopper, you have come a long way from your initial hypothesis that hoplite battle was all 'othismos/shoving', to a point where you now recognise that few battles were 'deadlocked', and that your supposed co-ordinated pushing would only take place as a last resort in such cases. Soon you will come to accept that it simply never occurred at all as a deliberate tactic ( I don't say that 'othismos'/jostling and shoving didn't ever occur, just not deliberately)."

Early on it surely was not a deliberate tactic.  It happens in all close combat- it happened in a minor way at Zama.  The difference is that with an aspis you could survive such a crush and maintain it- thus weaponize it.  I don't think the Greeks ever had a "tactic" of othismos.  I don't think they trained for it specifically by tree humping etc.  It was something that could occur in close combat, and the aspis allowed them to survive it, which in turn allowed them to push even more.  I think only in the late 5thc do we see this phase of battle being specifically thought of ahead of time with a deepening of ranks.
 
"[Digression: Just as the British Public school classicists saw familiar 'Rugby ' analogies, are you not echoing this, given your 'Gridiron' experience, when you envisage an unevidenced change of stance from the well-evidenced three-quarter stance to a square on stance, with shield flat across the chest like a 'lineman's' pushing stance? ] Big Grin"

This is true, my experience on the line in football games told me that the whole concept of pushing side-on is wrong, but it is my study of self-organized systems and crowd disasters that show the true mechanics of how crowds generate force, and it is different that either rugby or football.
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#57
So if I have the crowd othismos theory down, it goes like this:

1. Hoplite phalanx clashes with other phalanx. Both sides commence spear fencing. (this only works if both sides are hoplites).
2. At some point the distance between promachoi hoplites on opposing sides decreases from spear fencing distance to shield against shield. Maybe they are too aggressive, maybe a spear broke.
3. This starts a sword fight up close between promachoi, but from rearward crowd pressure it forces others in the phalanx to close with their opponents aspis to aspis, like a zipper effect.
4. Once a section of the phalanx is shield to shield, pushing naturally starts. This changes the dynamic within the battle completely.
5. Rear ranks add to the pushing, they don't start it. The shape of the aspis gives breathing room for the body so the men aren't asphyxiated in the crush.
6. Over time, knowing that this frequently occurs during hoplite vs. hoplite pitched battles, some enterprising city states that drill their men (like Sparta and Thebes) started planning for this occurrence, in the sense that knowing it can happen they took steps to ensure that if it did happen they would be better prepared (shorter swords, deeper ranks, better command and control).

Is this about correct?

If it is, where does the natural wheeling movement to the right occur, whereby the hoplites take shelter in their mate's shield? Is this during spear fencing or othismos pushing?
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#58
Thats pretty good.  Two points to change: on point 4, the zipper effect probably happens because you are holding an 8 foot spear and the guy opposite you has a knife-sized sword.  You can't fight him unless you go to the sword.  The guy beside you now is holdibg an 8' spear with your swordsman foe to his front, so he must go to sword.  This would collapse the whole line to sword fighting if carried out laterally.  Also, it is not clear exactly how the first swordsman closed in, we only know that they did from descriptions of shield on shield combat.  In a phalanx he may have dragged those men beside him into close range because they do not want to break the line.

Point 6: I am note sure how "concious" they were of othismos as we use the term.  The may never have trained for it directly- like Pressfield's tree humping.  That honestly would not help all that much anyway.  They may have just known from experience that deeper phalanxes win and that pushing had something to do with it.  Or of course they may have known all about it, I can't say.

As to your last points, the rightward drift happens initially on the charge and was probably more about the line closing up towards the right than the whole line drifting right.  If you try to walk straight with your aspis in front of you, you will veer right because your body is twisted, but having been in an advancing phalanx, I had to physically nudge the men on my left away from me and we all converged.

I you overlap right shield over left, there is a natural bias towards the right moving forward that could alone account for the wheeling, but when fighting close your immediate foe is actually a bit towards yoir right- his head is to your right for example.  Tis may also be part of it.
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#59
How many city states routinely used knife sized swords?
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#60
(09-16-2016, 07:55 PM)Bryan Wrote: How many city states routinely used knife sized swords?

Hard to say, they are pretty common on early 4thc images.  Around this time we read of Spartans using swords called enchiridia or "daggers". There are a number of Theban stelai and Athenian vase images and statues that show blades shorter than a man's forearm- maybe 12-14inches.


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