Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Reinstating the Hoplite": Adam Schwartz and the failure of the orthodox view of othismos

A few months back, I promised a review of Adam Schwartz's "Reinstating the Hoplite: Arms, Armour and Phalanx Fighting in Archaic and Classical Greece". In this post I am going to specifically address Section 3.4, Othismos. I’ll restate that this book is a remarkable resource. If you own only one book on hoplite combat, own this one. Much of the book is a filtering and restatement of arguments put forth in a series of papers that make up the great “Heresy-v-Orthodoxy” debate, meticulously footnoted. If you have read all of these papers, then much of this book will not seem novel, but it is nice to have all of this in one place and Schwartz’s commentary is often quite insightful.  His description of othismos is a weakness of the book.

This section begins with a description of othismos as “a common effort, ostensibly by a common push…of the entire phalanx…into the enemy in order to drive them back”, following Hanson’s usage. I agree with this definition and we will need to keep it in mind as we go forward, for Schwartz deviates from it in important ways in his presentation. Following the prevailing notion, which you now know to be incorrect if you have been reading my previous posts, he goes on to describe men hoplites in othismos:

The hoplites in the front stemmed their left shoulder against their shield and thrust it against the shields and bodies of the enemy with all their might; and the ranks behind them in turn stemmed their shields against the backs and right side of the man in front in a ¾ stance, as it were.

In this way, a tremendous pressure could be generated and conveyed through the entire phalanx from the rearmost rank, its force increasing on the way.

 Right away, Schwartz has unwittingly presented us in these two sentences with contradictory mechanics. This is the most glaring problem with the current portrayal of othismos, and the focus of my campaign to correct our understanding. You cannot both stand at a “¾ stance” and sustain “tremendous pressure”. A ¾ stance is one in which your body is held at a diagonal behind the shield, which is facing flush to your foes. The arm is bent, with the arm and body forming an acute angle. This is the natural stance for just about all combat sports, from Asian martial arts to renaissance fencing. Hoplites probably stood this way when engaged in spear fencing. I will do a full post on stances and weapons grips used in hoplite combat at a later date, but for now it is important to understand that in this pose, the only thing holding the shield away from the front of your body is the strength of your arm and shoulder. Were I to grab you by the right shoulder with one hand and the shield with the other and try to force your shield to touch your chest, it is easy to see that very little of your musculature resists my pushing.

Now, even the biggest weight lifter cannot resist “tremendous pressure” with the strength of his arm and shoulder alone. Remember that less than 10 men can generate 1,000 lbs of force or more. So if we take the description of men at ¾ and apply anything approaching the force that can be generated by files of hoplites, the end result will be that the hoplites collapse into the bowl of their shields, chest to underside of the shield rim. Once they collapse into the shield in this way, they occupy less space than they did in the ¾ stance. Thus, as the file closes in there is no room to move back into ¾ stance again unless the files spreads out.

This is important because the current orthodoxy posits a stance with the left shoulder inside the bowl of the shield, pushing on the inner shield-face. Many have interpreted Arrian, the Roman tactician, describing this in a section of his Tactica (16.13). Arrian of course was not a hoplite and the passage in question does not exist in earlier sources for his tactia. He did on the other hand live at a time when Romans formed shield-walls, later called a fulcum, wherein men with very different, single gripped, shields may well have pushed standing sideways at far lower pressure than a hoplite with an aspis could survive.

If we toss out the ¾ stance when pushing, then we can also eliminate the notion that the depth of the aspis was to allow the shield to be rested on the shoulder while pushing. I won’t go on here, but look back to my previous posts to learn how hoplites stood with their shields and a further examination of why the “shoulder rest” function was a side benefit and not the purpose for the depth.

At 3.4.2, the book moves on to describe arguments for and against a literal othismos defined as above. This section is a good distillation of the various viewpoints, but in rebutting the opinions against othismos, Schwartz goes awry. He specifically addresses two arguments: 1) the tremendous force generated by deep files of men would cause a squeeze that would be “distressing to contemplate” in Fraser’s words (1942), and 2) the great pressure would impede weapons usage.

Schwartz is failed here by his reliance on Franz (2002). I must be clear that Franz wrote in German, a language I do not read, so I am only commenting on Schwartz’s translated quotations from that work. With that in mind, what is attributed to Franz shows a lack of understanding of how force is generated in groups of pushing men. He is quoted as writing:

The mass pressure was not achieved by the weight of the warriors, but by their muscles…the mass of the hoplites played a relatively minor role. It came into play chiefly when brief, thrusting impulses were transmitted from one warrior to another.

Schwartz focuses on this and tells us that it “corrects a common enough oversight in the othismos debate.” In fact, Franz, via Schwartz, is propagating a misunderstanding of crowd forces while at the same time being represented as an authority on the subject. Mass is the most important factor in transmitting forces through dense crowds. It is through “leaning” and resting your weight on the man in front, more than “pushing with the legs” that force adds cumulatively in crowds. Members of crowds stand for the most part upright and lean into each other with the upper body angled to some degree. The amount of pressure that can be generated in pushing with the legs is restricted by the angle the legs make with the ground- the closer to perpendicular the less pressure you can generate, with an optimal angle at something acute like 45 degrees depending on how well your feet grip the substrate.

This is important because, as we have seen in crowd data that I presented previously, high pressures within crowds can be maintained for long periods of time. It is in fact the duration of pressure even more than the sheer amount that causes asphyxia in crowds. So, contra Schwartz, the pressure in ranks of hoplites would be “impossible to resisist” without an aspis to protect the diaphragm. His mention of armor as protection against asphyxia, even if true (some reenactors of ECW push of pike battles tell me that the breast and back does help) becomes problematic when we consider the rise in the era of deepest ranks of the organic corslet, sometimes called “tube and yoke” or linothorax.

Schwartz further quotes Franz about what occurs in crowds:

When people behind sense that the pushing does not bring about any immediate advantage, they stop pushing. The result is a kind of reverse thrust.
This statement shows a fundamental difference in a “crowd” of pedestrians and a “crowd” of hoplites in othismos. The hoplites want to generate lethal levels of forces, while crowds do so only accidentally. If we start from the definition of othismos presented at the beginning of this post, then the goal of opposing ranks is to produce the maximum pushing force that they can. What he describes is true for pedestrian crowds, and this behavior is also why we don’t see othismos in every other battle-line in history. Once the front of the file gets squeezed to their limit, they push back on their own men, causing the file to open. In hoplites this did not happen until the pressure became enormous because of their ability to withstand being squeezed without suffocating.

An analogy to what happens between men in Franz’s depiction would be you walking down a hall and pushing against a closed door. If the door does not open, you stop pushing, the feedback telling you it is locked. But if you know the door is locked and your goal is to break down the door, then you do not stop pushing even when the same exact feedback tells you it is locked. You push harder in order to bust it opened. This is what hoplites did. Their “crowds” were meant to push against resistance and overcome it.

Schwartz touches upon this in mentioning crowd disasters, but does not connect the crowd of hoplites to the type of crowd that ends in deaths from asphyxia because he cannot describe why hoplites could survive this. My own examination of the aspis’s role in protecting against crushing of the diaphragm can. There is no reason to expect a group of motivated pushing hoplites to be “like any other crowd moving in a particular direction.”  They are intentionally attempting to generate the maximum sustained force against their opponents, and could generate sustainable forces far in excess of those which occur accidentally in crowds of similar size.

A bit further on, he discusses that othismos could not last long. This has been an objection of many: “How can you push for an extended period?” The answer again comes from an understanding of crowds. Pressure can be maintained within crowds at rock concerts for long periods.  Force will vary over time, but not in the quick oscillations Schwartz envisions.  There could be "lulls", the force reducing as men simply unpack to catch their breath, perhaps even pulling completely apart and engaging at spear range again.

At the end of this section, following the prevalent notion of hoplites charging directly into othismos, he brings up the fact that many units charge, even when occupying positions of superior height. He portrays them as abandoning tactical advantage for momentum. I won’t dwell on this, but Polybios specifically describes the problem with not charging downhill during the battle of Sellasia (2.68), and it has nothing to do with momentum for othismos.

The second objection he addresses is that weapons cannot be used in othismos. He quotes Cawkwell’s statement that men would “better be able to use their teeth than their weapons”. I’ve addressed this at length, and I was glad to see that Schwartz also saw the utility of the short sword in the press of othismos. He correctly sees the limitations of the spear in othismos and presents the overhand grip as the exclusive strike for use within the phalanx as well. I’ll delve into that deeper in a future post.

He also does a great job of showing the folly of van Wees’s notion that the aspis cannot be used to push because it was held up at a slant and only the bottom rims would collide. Obviously, the men would simply collapse into their shields as they push and Schwartz points this out. Unfortunately, he did not see that this same logic applies to men standing at ¾ stances as I described above.

He also twists Xenophon (Cyr. 7.1.33) to mean that the aspis was rested on, not against, the shoulder. The clear reading of the passage is that the shield was rested against the shoulder/upper arm, and this can certainly be read as a description of the way I portray hoplites as resting the rim against the front of the shoulder, on the broad shoulder piece of the organic corslet. Note that some depictions show these stiff shoulder pieces extending wider than the shoulder, so if you push with the shield on the shoulder the stiff pad gets jammed into your neck!

Section 3.4.3 is an examination of the morale effects of added ranks, which are in no way incompatible with othismos, but works alongside it. In 3.4.4, he discusses the need to maintain cohesion. Goldsworthy’s notion of depth as a means of maintaining cohesion in the presence of broken terrain is mentioned, but as I have shown previously, there is no record of 25 or 50 rank phalanxes deploying from this depth into a shallower, broader line. Unless these men are meant to stand idle until the front ranks somehow break through, getting more men into the area is not helpful unless they can move to a shallower formation and engage the enemy.

He describes the Argive predilection to run too early into the charge and notes that this tore holes in the formation between them an adjacent units. Interestingly, he goes on to describe Spartans foregoing the charge, but does not seem to realize that this too must result in gaps between them and adjacent units that did have a running charge. The whole line cannot have arrived simultaneously against the enemy line if part walked and part ran. This has been overlooked by everyone to my knowledge.

Following the common model of othismos, he mentions hoplites charging 50 m (later 20-25m) in order to impart “a maximum of penetration power at the collision”. The real cause of the charge has more to do with the “tremendous nervous pressure” he also describes, because it takes only a few yards to achieve the “ramming speed” suggested by the orthodoxy. Any distance in excess of that simply causes fatigue and a loss of cohesion for no gain of momentum. In fact, the whole notion of a charge like an un-horsed medieval knight imparting maximum pressure is a fallacy, as I have previously demonstrated. Dense packing is far more important for a strong and sustainable force even if it occurs at slow speed.

It is in the final section, 3.4.5, that Schwartz’s portrait of othismos falls apart. He again draws on “observations of crowd behavior” to portray othismos as a “phenomenon occurring at intervals”. He applies what I is think a wildly inappropriate reference on Spartan leaders having trouble keeping the rear ranks from pushing forward to initiate the charge to show that rear ranks could push forward when locked in combat. I do believe that they did push forward within the file, but this reference cannot be applied. Cavalry were famous for “chomping at the bit” to rush into the charge as well, but there is not corresponding push when engaged in combat.  Using an innapropriate reference gives ammo to the foes of othismos.

Inexplicably, he abandons the ¾ stance, where men push their shields into the back of those in front, for Luginbill’s “T” shaped, side-on stance where men push into the side and right shoulder of those in front. Then he has the file leaders being propelled into the enemy ranks by the file behind them “killing left and right”. Far more likely is getting “killed from left and right”. More importantly, the overlapping of shields within each succesive rank make any single file pushing through the stacked ranks and out of formation, then into the enemy’s overlapped ranks, unlikely.

He states that: “Such othismos may have occurred in short bursts, and at random intervals, as the rear ranks felt they might help their comrades by applying pressure. And not all 7 ranks need to participate in shoving simultaneously…” This is a radical departure from Hanson's “a common effort, ostensibly by a common push…of the entire phalanx…into the enemy in order to drive them back”. In fact, what he goes on to describe is nothing unique to hoplites. Romans and pretty much any linear formation in ranks surely had disorganized pushing by eager men behind the front ranks. This interpretation makes “othismos” so common in the history of warfare that it hardly warrants a special term in the Greek context. This commonality also goes a long way towards unraveling all of the arguments for the form of the panoply being derived from the need to be effective in the “push”. Any Roman with a scutum could do what Schwartz advocates and frequently did.

Part of the problem is that Schwartz is in a bit over his head. I do not say this disparagingly. I applaud him for attempting to bring in concepts from crowd mechanics even if he ultimately does not sufficiently understand them. A statement that hoplite battles were “essentially chaotic” is ironic, because I agree with him, but my understanding of chaos is clearly far different from his own. The phrase “no one to direct the movements of the enormous organism” is so close to what I believe the truth, but we need to add an understanding of how order emerges from seemingly ‘chaotic’ interactions within groups. The study of how this occurs through what is called self-organization will ultimately yield a clearer understanding of hoplite combat. Groups of men, like flocks of birds or schools of fish, can achieve a great degree of cohesion and coordination through simple interactions between men in a bottom-up fashion, and do not require the top-down direction of generals for much of what occurs in combat. Thus, we do not need “a referee with a whistle” as Holladay (1982) said would be needed to move from one phase to another. Such “phase transitions” can arise simply from the interactions of individual hoplites in the absence of specific orders.


Helena said...


Really appreciated this post. It was particularly timely as I am in the process of describing the Battle of Sepeia in the second book of my Leonidas trilogy. Obviously, I have a particular problem here since the Argives had broken their line when the Spartans attacked, but everything that contributes to my understanding of hoplite warfare is valuable, and any thoughts you have on Sepeia would be particularly welcome. Helena

katsucurrys14 said...

I absolutely love your blog. Just wanted to say that.

Some time ago, I wondered what a "real" hoplite battle would resemble, and found the following video instructive and (I believe) in accordance with your views:


I think you may find it interesting (assuming you have not seen it before). It includes some "skirmishing," an approach, a pretty clear depiction of othismos (or at least I believe so), and even a rout at the end! No doratismos unfortunately, as russian crowds rarely carry spears.

P. M. Bardunias said...

"any thoughts you have on Sepeia would be particularly welcome"

Hey Helena,

Sepeia is interesting because it is an example of Spartan trickery on the battlefield. Modern scholars tend to view Sparta as ultra-conservative, but this is not the case. Tactically, Spartans were extremely innovative. They seem less so strategically, but this may have more to do with their wish to maintain a political status quo than a lack of insight.

At the battle of Sepeia, where Cleomes Spartans met the Argives, the Argive commander decided to mirror every action of the Spartan army because he was afraid of a sneak attack. What they did was to listen to the Spartan herald, and when the herald signalled for the Spartan army to break for a meal, they knew they would be safe to break too.

Unfortunately for them, Cleomenes was too clever. He told his men to make ready to attck when they heard the normal call to fall out for breakfast. They then attacked the unprepared Argives and defeated them soundly. Cleomenes heaped more trickery and a good deal of blasphemy on top of this by tricking the defeated Argives who had fled to a sacred grove into coming forth one at a time on the pretence they were ransomed by relatives. He then killed them. When the Argives wided up, he simply burned the sacred grove around them.

Some claim he paid for this blasphemy by losing his mind an mutilating himself to death. Sparta paid a more ironic price.

When Epameinondas, the Theban who was ever a good student of Spartan tactics and ploys, brought his army into Laconia to decide the fate of Sparta, the Spartan' would fall for their own trick. At the battle of Mantinea, the Thebans formed for battle, then made as if to camp for the night. Once the Spartans bought the fake and started to fall out of formation, the Thebans charged. Luckily Epameinondas was killed by a Spartan and the battle ended in a draw, but the Spartans should have known better.

At some point I should do a post on all of the various tactical innovations and tricks of Spartans like Brasidas and Agiselaos. Often their innovations are later used by men such as Epameinondas, who then get all the credit.

P. M. Bardunias said...

"I think you may find it interesting"

Thank you very much! I do find it interesting, and no, I had not seen it. What is best about it from my point of view, is that they are in an opened space, not bound by any walls. Most crowd videos have at least one wall involved. This has led some of my critics to claim that no crowd of hoplites could form in a dense mass like that without the constriction to force them together. In your video you can clearly see the way that the crowd keeps in a compact mass due to an urge to stick together and pressure from the outside edges in.

I also like the slow compact advance, in formation without any drill or oversight by a commander. I am hopling to write an article for Ancient Warfare on just this type of Bottom-up coordination in formations in the future.

Thanks again, great find.

Wandalstouring said...

I have been a traditional sceptic of the shoving envisaged by Hanson and more in favour of a fencing approach (probably because I fence), although I admitted that sometimes pushing was used, but in my opinion it needed very good fighters in the front in order to stay alive because a shoving mass is extremely predictable. I thought of your model of the othismos for quite some time and consider it sound. But there are some things you missed. One thing are kneeling Sycthian archers below the front hoplite. I don't think they often have time to get away before spearfencing switches to osthismos. So you have someone down there who can use his bow while the fighting is at a distance and may render great service with a knife because the hoplites without someone down there defending them are very vulnerable to attacks against the backside of the knee that instantly makes them incapable of continuing their fighting(because they have difficulty to stand). To a lesser degree underhand spears could be used for the purpose of wounding down there, because while the shield helps to breathe, the upper legs are not fully protected. Of course it seems nearly impossible to move a spear underarm while in othismos, but again the predictability of this move helps to predeploy the weapon for the clash and the move may also help to get rid of these pesky Scythians. Additionally by pointing downwards with the spearpoint the weapon my be rested on shields further back in order not to harm comrades and make the spear pierce with more force(this technique is certainly to dangerous for modern reenactment). However, I would totally agree that not all, perhaps not even most underhand spears would actually cause much harm because there are still quite a lot of factors to consider. Still, little harm under the right conditions may have much bigger effects.
All these fencing aspects have the tendency to create dead bodies over which one phalanx must move when succesful in pushing. That's an issue not covered in your analyses right now. In my opinion this will change mechanics significantly because the hoplites in the othismus must move over terrain they can't see and can hardly control their progress in movement (if I understood you correctly).
Another issue I would like you to discuss is the bronze bell cuirass. It seems to me that such a construction would not only shine brightly, but could be a backup system to survive in case the shield was so damaged that it didn't secure breating space any more. This makes me wonder whether the organic linothorax being glued together may or may not have been rigid enough to maintain its form contrary to current reconstruction.

P. M. Bardunias said...

"One thing are kneeling Sycthian archers below the front hoplite."

I’m not sure where you picked up the notion that Scythian archers were a regular feature of hoplite combat, or that they were stationed kneeling beside hoplites in formation- perhaps from Krentz’s Marathon analysis or from some vase images? In any case, this is a misunderstanding. For example, only Athens had a significant number of archers at Plataia, and Scythian mercenaries were not a regular feature of Greek warfare.
As for how they were used, they surely did not remain kneeling beside hoplites in hand to hand combat under any of the prevailing combat models. They would have formed their own unit and fought with the skirmishers as Thucydides describes well for a clash between Athens and Syracuse:

Thuc. 6.69.2 First, the stone-throwers, slingers, and archers of either army began skirmishing, and routed or were routed by one another, as might be expected between light troops; next, soothsayers brought forward the usual victims, and trumpeters urged on the heavy infantry to the charge

As you can see, this is a separate prelude to the general charge of hoplites. Prior to the charge, these skirmishers will have retreated back through their own lines (how this was done is another source of argument among scholars) and reformed behind the ranks of hoplites. We read in the later tacticians that caution must be taken not too form too deep because the distance will make it hard for the missile troops to fire over the ranks. Some percentage of these men will have formed on the flanks as well.

"in my opinion it needed very good fighters in the front in order to stay alive because a shoving mass is extremely predictable."

Fighting in othismos is not like fencing, it is a knife-fight. This is probably why Xenophon tells us that there is no need to train with the sword because any child knows the motion from hitting with a stick and in combat there is no way to miss your foe. My opinion, based on some experimentation I have done, is that the front rankers either die quick or bind their swords up with their foe’s sword fast. Stand up with a partner with less than a foot of space between you and you will see the strikes that come naturally.

"...dead bodies over which one phalanx must move when succesful in pushing."

This is less of a problem in full othismos than it is in the few moments prior as the two groups close in. In othismos you move so slowly that tripping is less likely, but more importantly, you have nowhere to fall even if your feet get caught on something. There are many descriptions of men in such massed groups standing in their ranks even after they die due to the pressure of bodies against them.

P. M. Bardunias said...


"Another issue I would like you to discuss is the bronze bell cuirass… could be a backup system to survive in case the shield was so damaged that it didn't secure breating space any more."

This is a good point, and one I have usually avoided because I don’t have enough data to make an intelligent guess. My thought is that the bell cuirass is not really designed for this though. If the bell-like rim were secured into a single linked ring, this would look more likely. As it is, they simply closed on the sides and show no features that appear specifically designed to bear pressure on the front and rear. I have been told by ECW reenactors that steel pikemen’s breastplates will function to aid in breathing to some extent, but these are not only of stronger material, but also heavily domed.

"This makes me wonder whether the organic linothorax being glued together may or may not have been rigid enough to maintain its form contrary to current reconstruction."

The “linothorax” is perhaps the biggest topic for argumentation among Greek military historians after othismos. I wrote an article summarizing all of the possibilities and describing what seems most probable in the magazine Ancient Warfare vol.4-3. From the evidence we have, it is probable that the armors of that shape, better called Tube and Yoke corslets, could be made of either textile or leather. While gluing the linen is an ingenious possibility, there is absolutely no evidence for this and it is unlikely for a number of reasons. Surely it should not be the “default” option it has become. As for rigidity, it is clear that they were stiff, they could stand up like a tube on their own, but images show that the front would collapse back into the back if not supported and the armor flatten. Good idea though.

Wandalstouring said...

"I’m not sure where you picked up the notion that Scythian archers were a regular feature of hoplite combat, or that they were stationed kneeling beside hoplites in formation- perhaps from Krentz’s Marathon analysis or from some vase images?"

The Scythian archer is an icon of "Bunte Götter" and of Munich's glyptothek. The original was on the temple of Aphaia in Aigina. And it's with absolute certainty part of a depicted hoplite engagement.
The temple with the frieze was built around 500 BC when Aigina and Athens were archenemies. Simply because most of our sources are on Athens it doesn't mean someone else didn't have the same idea. This concept of kneeling archers and spearmen in front is also visible in Medieval depictions of the Battle of Visby.

"Fighting in othismos is not like fencing, it is a knife-fight."

I have doubts that fencing was so unimportant. If this was the case there would have been no need for a sacred band to take the front ranks in the Theban formation at Leuctra. Rather they could have rather taken the right and given honour to other citizens of standing.

"Thuc. 6.69.2 First, the stone-throwers, slingers, and archers of either army began skirmishing, and routed or were routed by one another, as might be expected between light troops; next, soothsayers brought forward the usual victims, and trumpeters urged on the heavy infantry to the charge"

This is a ritual and I have doubts that after the skirmishing phase there was a soothsayer phase. It's more likely that the soothsayer came before the ranked infantry assault. Thycidides uses this text to voice his disdain for the light armed. Well, it least he mentions them unlike many other Greek authors. That archers can be a useful part of ranked formations has been proven by the Assyrians and was also part of Byzantine warfare.

P. M. Bardunias said...

"And it's with absolute certainty part of a depicted hoplite engagement."

I did not say that archers were not a feature of Hoplite combat- Cretan archers much more so than Scythian mercenaries. They simply did not form up at the knees of hoplites during close combat. There is no mention of missile troops interspersed in this manner in the clasical period. We read of light troops beside hoplites in Tyrtaeus, but there I believe the description is not to be taken literally as 2 psiloi per hoplite. Some have taken this and linked it to vase images that show hoplites beside archers to make a case for the existance of a mixed phalanx into the classical period. The vast majority, and the clearest depictions, of massed hoplites in ranks do not show attendant light troops.

More importantly they are never mentioned in this deployment in battle descriptions, which surely would be the case if hoplites were tripping over them. The fact that they are mentioned in other deployments shows that they not simply being ignored. Hoplites could have used some interspersed archers on the many occiasions when they found themselves with no answer to peltast attacks as at Sphacteria and Corinth.

In the end though, any man kneeling in the crowd of othismos would be unlikely to survive and surely could not use a bow.

"If this was the case there would have been no need for a sacred band to take the front ranks in the Theban formation at Leuctra."

Fencing was very important, but it was spear fencing, not sword fencing, and it occurred before the men moved shield to shield- the dory was 8 feet long.

The Theban sacred band was originally spread out along the front line of the theban phalanx. Prior to Leuktra, they were taken off the front and put into a single unit, which was found to be more effective- spectacularly so at the battle of Tegyra.

At Leuktra we don't know precisely how they were deployed, but it is unlikely that they went back to the old practice of forming a veneer at the front of the whole Theban phalanx. Some have put them in a flanking position or even behind a reserve that came around to hit the Spartans as they attempted to extend their line. I believe they were part of the battle line, but in their own unit formed in 8-16 ranks, but that is because I think the Theban plan was to recreate Tegyra on a grander scale with the deep ranks behind helping to push through the Spartans and then roll up the line.

P. M. Bardunias said...

"That archers can be a useful part of ranked formations has been proven by the Assyrians and was also part of Byzantine warfare."

The use of archers and other missile troops as rear ranks behind 1-4 solid ranks of spearmen- who may themselves throw spears, as in the Roman Fulcum or the standard Persian deployment is far different than a battle line with intercalated light troops that remain in that position as the spear men fight above them. I will go into this in some future post, but I think it likely that early hoplites, or their immediate predessesors, fought much like a fulcum. They probably formed 2-4 ranks as a shield-wall in front of missile troops. They also were probably armed with a pair of longche rather than a single dory, one or both of which was thrown. For a variety of reasons, the ranks of hoplites swelled and the effectiveness of the missile troops behind them dropped until what we commonly know as a phalanx appeared with the rear ranks no longer formed of missile troops, but of hoplites.