Monday, December 19, 2022

The Clash of Shield-walls at Plataea

 I have not posted on here for a long time, but I have not been idle.  Last spring I gave a lecture at the 2022 Battle of Plataea conference at Harvard's Center for Hellenic studies on the hoplite combat and the clash of Greek and Persian shield-walls.

1 comment:

Mark Norris said...

It was a fascinating lecture and conference. As a HEMA practitioner, who has participated in some melee competitions in the UK, I was very interested to see the footage from WMAW and in particular the sparring between the two lines in ‘close’ and ‘open’ order and the difference that made to the outcome. I struggled though with the demonstration of othismos. It’s how the transition from a shieldwall where most people have spears (and where remaining at measure is the safest and most effective option) to othismos as a shoving match takes place, and then how it is maintained. I can understand why as a member of a shieldwall/phalanx I would close measure eg if my spear had broken and I was down to using my sword while my enemy still has a spear. But if my comrades can still use their spears then I’d most likely be on my own in closing distance, and probably quickly finished off by the enemy spearman I’m trying to get to. There could be a collective decision by me and my immediate neighbours to rush in against the enemy shieldwall if several of us have lost our spears, and we end up pushing against out enemies’ shields and enter othismos. Just shoving against the enemy seems a risky proposition however, even if the file behind me joins in. In a combat situation like that I would have thought an option for those at the front would be to pull out swords and knives and thrust or stab over or around the shields into the gaps in their opponents armour. At they point just shoving against your enemy seems quite a fatal choice to take. Othismos as pushing in to your enemies’ shieldwall where swords and knives then become more effective than spears would be more understandable as an explanation of what happens.