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Riki K





Joined: 09 Apr 2010

Posts: 6

PostPosted: Tue 19 Jul, 2011 10:38 am    Post subject: Hoplites, spears, wrist loops & shield wall tactics         Reply with quote

Are there any mention in the literature of the spear, particularly one handed, being used with a wrist strap? Most specifically, hoplite and dory. I don't remember ever seing a Hellenic depiction the use of a strap with spear, so I wonder what the disadvantages of a wrist loop might be.

The reason I ask is because years ago, I used to live among the Karamajong and although the serious Karamajong warrior's typically armed with a Kalashnikov, there were still plenty of guys running around with small bush bows and broad leafed Masai type spears. What these guys would do was take a strap of leather and figure eight loop it with the knot of the spear shaft in one loop and the wrist in the other. It's surprising how much more strength and stability an extra point of attachment provides for both under and overhand grips. The angles from which one can deliver a short, powerful thrust are greatly expanded, especially in a shield wall versus shield wall press situation where the attacker's body is perpendicular to the line of the shield wall.

I don't see the disadvantages for a one-handed spear. What am I missing?

Are there any good references for how the Greeks conducted their formation drills? I'm wondering what the general strategy was when two armies met on the field and went shield to shield. Was the general idea to try to punch through, around, under or over the other guy's shield (line)?
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Tue 19 Jul, 2011 12:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Obviously one advantage of a wrist strap is it would be easier to retain and retrieve a "dropped" spear. Happy
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

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PostPosted: Tue 19 Jul, 2011 12:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's no mention or suggestion of anything like that, as far as I've ever heard. There ARE throwing loops for javelins and throwing spears, but those are there to add power to a throw, not to keep it in your hand! For a thrust, you generally only need enough power to penetrate flesh--anything that is armored is simply avoided. You go around the shield rather than through it. If you break or lose your spear, you draw your sword.

We know bits and pieces about Greek weapon drill, but definitely not the whole picture. Some Greeks even felt that drill practice was unnecessary, since the motions needed for combat were natural to man. Overhand thrusting seems to have been the rule in a phalanx, and folks who have tried it say it works just fine, but underhand thrusting was clearly done at times as well. The exact mechanics of the collision of 2 phalanx armies is hugely debated! The basic object was to push the enemy off the field, but how much of this was physically shoving and how much was prodding and weapon-backed incentive is really hard to prove. Do a little digging through the Greek section of the Roman Army Talk board, should be a ton of stuff there!

Khaire,

Matthew
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Riki K





Joined: 09 Apr 2010

Posts: 6

PostPosted: Tue 19 Jul, 2011 1:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The loop as a throwing assist is what I first saw, too, especially since Masai type spears are also throwing spears. Instead of using the loop for extending the throwing arm, they used them to better grip their spears.

It's not just a matter of power, but also precision. With the spear supported at two points on the shaft, quickly placing your spearpoint on target, with power is much easier as well. Instead of the wrist supporting the entire weight, the weight is supported on the arm, with the wrist just guiding.

I know the overhand/underhand is a matter of debate, the underarm grip just always made more sense to me.

That's an interesting perspective on drill you bring up. When you mention "some Greeks," who were they? Can't imagine Spartans not spending time in drill. Homomisanthropic jokes aside, what else would they have been doing? Can you point me towards the correct board? Thanks.
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Karl Randall




Location: South Korea
Joined: 10 Jul 2009
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PostPosted: Tue 19 Jul, 2011 5:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well in the Chigi Vase, to the left of the hoplites led by the piper there are two warriors who are still getting ready.

Shields are shown leaning against grounded spears/javelins (a set of two, longer and shorter), both of which show figure 8 loops attached to the shaft.

This while this could mean that doru had loop straps, it also could mean that the spears shown in the vase were either designed to be thrown (or could be thrown, in needed). It helps to remember that the Chigi Vase is neither Greek, nor of the classical hoplite period. Many have argued that it represents a transitional period, where javelins, rather than spears were more commonly used. This argument has been generally (but not universally) accepted, and in this case I tend to agree as to the best of my knowledge (and I would love to be proven wrong, as I would learn something new), later representations do not show straps or loops in pottery or sculpture.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,247

PostPosted: Tue 19 Jul, 2011 7:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Riki K wrote:
I know the overhand/underhand is a matter of debate, the underarm grip just always made more sense to me.


Sure, but maybe not to the Greeks, ha!

Quote:
That's an interesting perspective on drill you bring up. When you mention "some Greeks," who were they?


Oh, gosh, put me on the spot--I don't recall which specific writer(s) it might have been. As I recall, the passage I'm thinking of said that it was only natural for a man to bring up his left arm in defense, and raise his right arm to strike a blow. Of course that does not mean that all Greeks agreed with that! Typical "armchair general" stuff, except that many of those famous Greek philosophers served as hoplites. (Socrates was known to be particularly kick-ass!)

Quote:
Can't imagine Spartans not spending time in drill.


Oh, no, the *Spartans* drilled! They did all manner of marching and combat training, with a heavy emphasis on withstanding hardship, to the point that the troops couldn't wait for war to break out since the food would be better and camping conditions much nicer! But the Spartans were DIFFERENT.

Quote:
Can you point me towards the correct board? Thanks.


Just look up Roman Army Talk, I don't recall the exact URL. Oh, should be a link on my Legio XX front page:

http://www.larp.com/legioxx/

Karl, the Chigi Vase is exactly what I was thinking of, though I agree that it's hardly a deal-clencher! There is also a famous vase showing a hoplite holding a javelin ready to throw, and he has 2 fingers through the loop. So the loop is NOT being used as a thrusting aid.

Khairete,

Matthew
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,423

PostPosted: Tue 23 Aug, 2011 3:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

id like to ask that fatal question about the hoplite phalanx.. use of spears underarm or overarm? or different ranks holding spears differently
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,247

PostPosted: Tue 23 Aug, 2011 5:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, not sure I can tell you more than I have. Overarm seems to have been the rule, though we certainly see depictions of under-hand thrusts, typically in a duel between 2 warriors. (Not that it's easy to put a whole battle on a vase!) Folks on the Roman Army Talk board have found that overarm is the way to go in a phalanx, and say that it works just fine. Plenty of control and power, and you can still strike at someone who is pressed against your shield. Under-arm is apparently NOT good in a phalanx, though I vaguely recall something about the chance of gutting the guy behind with your buttspike not being quite the threat it was thought to be. (Could be mis-remembering!) Best bet, go to RAT and look around there.

Khaire,

Matthew
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Michael Ekelmann




Location: Seattle Metro Area, USA
Joined: 01 Nov 2006
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Posts: 92

PostPosted: Sat 27 Aug, 2011 12:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Riki K wrote:
The loop as a throwing assist is what I first saw, too, especially since Masai type spears are also throwing spears. Instead of using the loop for extending the throwing arm, they used them to better grip their spears.

It's not just a matter of power, but also precision. With the spear supported at two points on the shaft, quickly placing your spearpoint on target, with power is much easier as well. Instead of the wrist supporting the entire weight, the weight is supported on the arm, with the wrist just guiding.

I know the overhand/underhand is a matter of debate, the underarm grip just always made more sense to me.

That's an interesting perspective on drill you bring up. When you mention "some Greeks," who were they? Can't imagine Spartans not spending time in drill. Homomisanthropic jokes aside, what else would they have been doing? Can you point me towards the correct board? Thanks.


Riki,
Do you have pictures of the strap arrangement you're describing? I can't quite picture how one would use it.

“Men prefer to fight with swords, so they can see each other's eyes!" Sean Connery as Mulay Hamid El Raisuli in The Wind and the Lion
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,423

PostPosted: Sun 18 Sep, 2011 6:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

id like to use this threadto highlight the upcoming battle of marathon reenactment thatis being held in sydney
http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/furballx/marathon/main.html

personally i am feeling very excited at the prospect of plugging arrows into a crowd of hoplites,
unfortunately i do not have the money or time to become a hoplite, what i do have is possibly just enough time to prepare a kit to roughly resemble a persian archer (the heavy attention to detail is mainly needed by the hoplites themselves, there is a desire toget as many archers as possible
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
Joined: 27 Nov 2004

Posts: 669

PostPosted: Sun 18 Sep, 2011 10:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Oh, gosh, put me on the spot--I don't recall which specific writer(s) it might have been. As I recall, the passage I'm thinking of said that it was only natural for a man to bring up his left arm in defense, and raise his right arm to strike a blow. Of course that does not mean that all Greeks agreed with that! Typical "armchair general" stuff, except that many of those famous Greek philosophers served as hoplites. (Socrates was known to be particularly kick-ass!)


That would be Xenophon, I believe. He was far from an armchair general. Wink
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