Phalanx

The phalanx is a Greek invention that would come to define Greek warfare for much of the 7th-4th centuries. It was a formation of  heavily armored hoplites arranged in an eight-man deep line. These hoplites would be armed with an eight foot long spear, a short sword, and their namesake – the hoplon shield.

Greek Phalanx [5]

[5] A Greek phalanx, typically eight men deep.

The soldiers would ordinarily each occupy a space of around three square feet and have a space of three feet on either side to allow for movement (Kagan and Variggio, 139). However, some argue the factuality of this notion.

Author and trained hoplite martial artist, Allen Pittman suggests that the hoplites fought with their shields overlapping while holding onto the arm strap of the man next to him. Hypothetically speaking, this could work, but what would happen if one man faced a threat to his left and the other on his right? This style of fighting would be impractical and very difficult for a line of men to fight with for it offers little in the way of versatility.

Another theory, proposed by Christopher Matthew, suggests that on certain occasions the hoplites would only space a foot and a half apart. However, it would be extremely difficult for a group of soldiers to fight with long spears in such close proximity to one and other (Kagan and Varggio, 140). Most subscribe to the 3 foot formation allowing each member of the Phalanx enough room to operate.

In the early stages of development during the 7th and 6th centuries the phalanx would have light troops mixed with the hoplites, these light troops would include peltasts, slingers, archers, or a mixture thereof. Nevertheless, by the 5th and 4th centuries these troops were removed from the now purely hoplite phalanx and were moved to the front of the formation or to the sides to skirmish with the opposing force before the hoplites would engage.

[6] Greek Phalanx in battle

[6] Greek Phalanx in battle

The phalanx would prove itself to become a dominant form of fighting and allow the Greeks to establish themselves as formidable fighters in the ancient world. This formation would define Greek warfare and have a large impact not only on Greek culture, but also their legacy.

Leave a Reply