Monday, June 7, 2010

Schwartz and Mathew on Hoplite Combat

I just received Adam Schwartz's "Reinstating the Hoplite: Arms, Armour and Phalanx Fighting in Archaic and Classical Greece". It is an excellent resource, and a good rebuttal to many of the weak points of Hans Van Wees "Greek Warfare: Myths and Realities." Unfortunately, he passes over some of Van Wees better ideas and propagates mechanics for othismos which you should recognize as flawed if you've read through my previous posts. There is not all that much new in the book, and some of the the newer elements are subject to logical flaws, but as a review it is an excellent resource if you can afford to add it to your shelf.

The book is most useful to me in that he provides passages from German works that have been opaque to me until now. One of these is a book by Franz (2002) that actually discusses crowd behavior, though once again confusing the manner in which force is generated in crowds. Still, I would have cited him in my 2007 paper had I known he even broached the topic.

I'll do an in-depth review of this book at some point. Perhaps comparing where I agree with him and where Van Wees and Goldsworthy are correct.

The second work that has come into my possession is a paper by Chris Mathew, "When Push Comes to Shove: What was the Othismos of Hoplite Combat?" I have corresponded with Chris in the past, a hoplite reenactor and a very nice fellow. I was very pleased to see a reenactor working for his Ph.D. and looked forward to his input into the debate. Unfortunately I cannot agree with most of his views on hoplite battle. His main assertion, that hoplites fought with the dory using what I and others have termed the "high underhand" grip, is surely incorrect. As with the book above, I will try to do a full review of this paper in the near future. I think his main problem is that he was working within the paradigm of the "charge directly into othismos" crowd. The formations he describes are well suited to defeating such a charge, but taken out of that context can be shown to be quite ill suited to hoplite combat.