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A new French Ancient Hoplite experimental archaeology project.

26/06/2022

An excellent living history project took place in France and you can see it here:

French re-enactors from South of France in collaboration with a web channel specializing in martial arts took an interesting approach to ancient Greek hoplite combat.

For starters the setting was impressive as there were 32 re-enactors that participated,

The French brothers in arms demonstrated phalanx movement.  The next step was demonstration of phalanx maneuvers. 

A superb show of the formation turning left with locked shields and pivoting on the left most hoplite was shown. As said on camera this could happen when one phalanx outflanked the other for various reasons.  Most demonstration of turning formation that I am aware of, were done in open order so this interpretation in a tight group and with locked shields was a very interesting approach.

Their interpretation of the Spartan maneuver in Thermopylae to trick the Persians in the narrow path offers a good insight into this part of Herodotus work that is debated by scholars.

The most important part in my opinion was the demonstration of two formations colliding and performing the othismos (push over). The most remarkable part was that hoplites stationed behind the second line of combatants could also be targeted. So men in the 3rd or 4th rank could not afford to have a false sense of security. They could also be stabbed by their enemies, even if they were not very well seen by them.

 Their solution for avoiding problems with the butt spikes of the spears is also worth further study.  I also noted that they point their spears at the enemy after they close ranks. Personally I object to that. Based on experience and many trials I believe that the best option is to go on guard and level the spears in open order and then tighten the formation. This better done when the successive ranks also have distance from one another and after the ranks close a second command for compacting the phalanx is given.

I also suggest it might be well to consider taking a better defensive stance by lowering the waist and advancing towards the enemy using the “gathering step”. (moving the rear foot first and then  move the front foot to recover your stability)

Well done lads. You set a mile stone for further study.

2 Σχόλια
  1. Pavel Vaverka permalink

    As heretic (Hans van Wees, Peter Krentz, etc. school of thinking), I have to ask, how long can people withstand such pushing brawl? I know Bardunias and his work, experiments (also other authors believing in othismos, Hanson, Matthews, etc.). Did somebody tried to test heretic ideas in larger groups? I think the tactics, elaborate formations are result of Persian wars aftermath (470’s or after 449 BC). Please read chapter about Spartans, light infantry https://brill.com/view/title/61308?language=en For the questions, which pains me (and other academics) look here for the review https://www.bookandsword.com/2017/02/25/some-thoughts-on-hoplites-at-war/ Shortly othismos as physical push could happen sometimes, but it wasn’t main mode of fighting of hoplites despite the fact, that phalanx means roller…

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