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Jaroslav Kravcak




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 22 Apr 2006

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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2015 5:27 am    Post subject: Infantry formations density in different time periods.         Reply with quote

Good day. Happy

Browsing videos on youtube I stumbled upon comment, that Ill quote:

""For as a man in close order of battle occupies a space of three feet;" (From section A Well-Formed Phalanx is Irresistible)

Thus we know that in a phalanx, each man occupies three feet. This would leave around one foot between each man if they were standing parallel to the enemy formation. However, they would most likely be attempting to minimize their silhouette, thus they will be standing with one foot forward, almost perpendicularly to the enemy formation. This way, their shoulder-strapped shields would also actually protect them, instead of simply hanging uselessly (The sarrissaphoroi can't actually maneuver their shields with their hands because both hands are occupied holding the sarissa). So the gap between each man would be closer to 1.5 feet rather than 1.

"Now, a Roman soldier in full armour also requires a space of three square feet. But as their method of fighting admits of individual motion for each man—because he defends his body with a shield, which he moves about to any point from which a blow is coming, and because he uses his sword both for cutting and stabbing,—it is evident that each man must have a clear space, and an interval of at least three feet both on flank and rear, if he is to do his duty with any effect." (From section Roman Soldiers in More Open Order)

From this, we know that a Roman soldier can theoretically fight occupying three feet, just like a Sarrissaphoroi. However, in practice, the Roman Legionnaire needs to move around relatively freely to fight at full efficiency. Thus, the Roman Legionnaire needs at least three feet on the flanks. From this we know that in reality, the Roman Legionnaire occupies around six feet of space.

"The result of this will be that each Roman soldier will face two of the front rank of a phalanx, so that he has to encounter and fight against ten spears," (From section Roman Soldiers in More Open Order)

This quote confirms my interpretation of the text. Since each Roman soldier will face two Sarissaphoroi on the front ranks, the Roman formation must be half as dense as the Phalanx. We know that the Phalanx occupies 3 feet of space, with 1.5 feet of distance between each soldier. Thus, we can confirm that the Legionnaire occupies 6 feet of space, with 3 feet of distance between each soldier (or a bit less, because the Legionnaires are not trying to minimize their silhouette). "


This text is more, or less about density of formation of legion and phalanx, stating, that ideally single legionaire would occupy roughly 6 feet of space in formation, while phalangite would have taken roughly 3 feet of space.

Id like to ask, if numbers given here could be applied generally to any similar force throughout history (like 16th century pikesquare, or napoleonic infantry), or if they are to be taken as referring only to the ancient forces listed here.

What would be the ideal, or set distance between men in ranks, and distance between ranks in various infantry formations throughout history?
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2015 6:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The measuring system is a little weird and at times I do not know if he's talking about square feet or just length. I have a little trouble imagining the whole thing.

Do the Romans take up twice the space front wise? Is there a new pike in the front rank every 27, 30 or 137 cm?
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Tim Jones




Location: United Kingdom
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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2015 6:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When I'm doing Tudor pike drill, then the spacing is about the length of your upper arm. For most people that's probably about a foot. (By that I mean each man has is a foot to the right of the man on his left).
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2015 7:45 am    Post subject: Re: Infantry formations density in different time periods.         Reply with quote

Jaroslav Kravcak wrote:
Good day. Happy

Browsing videos on youtube I stumbled upon comment, that Ill quote:

""For as a man in close order of battle occupies a space of three feet;" (From section A Well-Formed Phalanx is Irresistible)

Thus we know that in a phalanx, each man occupies three feet. This would leave around one foot between each man if they were standing parallel to the enemy formation. However, they would most likely be attempting to minimize their silhouette, thus they will be standing with one foot forward, almost perpendicularly to the enemy formation. This way, their shoulder-strapped shields would also actually protect them, instead of simply hanging uselessly (The sarrissaphoroi can't actually maneuver their shields with their hands because both hands are occupied holding the sarissa). So the gap between each man would be closer to 1.5 feet rather than 1.

"Now, a Roman soldier in full armour also requires a space of three square feet. But as their method of fighting admits of individual motion for each man—because he defends his body with a shield, which he moves about to any point from which a blow is coming, and because he uses his sword both for cutting and stabbing,—it is evident that each man must have a clear space, and an interval of at least three feet both on flank and rear, if he is to do his duty with any effect." (From section Roman Soldiers in More Open Order)

From this, we know that a Roman soldier can theoretically fight occupying three feet, just like a Sarrissaphoroi. However, in practice, the Roman Legionnaire needs to move around relatively freely to fight at full efficiency. Thus, the Roman Legionnaire needs at least three feet on the flanks. From this we know that in reality, the Roman Legionnaire occupies around six feet of space.

"The result of this will be that each Roman soldier will face two of the front rank of a phalanx, so that he has to encounter and fight against ten spears," (From section Roman Soldiers in More Open Order)

This quote confirms my interpretation of the text. Since each Roman soldier will face two Sarissaphoroi on the front ranks, the Roman formation must be half as dense as the Phalanx. We know that the Phalanx occupies 3 feet of space, with 1.5 feet of distance between each soldier. Thus, we can confirm that the Legionnaire occupies 6 feet of space, with 3 feet of distance between each soldier (or a bit less, because the Legionnaires are not trying to minimize their silhouette). "


This text is more, or less about density of formation of legion and phalanx, stating, that ideally single legionaire would occupy roughly 6 feet of space in formation, while phalangite would have taken roughly 3 feet of space.

Id like to ask, if numbers given here could be applied generally to any similar force throughout history (like 16th century pikesquare, or napoleonic infantry), or if they are to be taken as referring only to the ancient forces listed here.

What would be the ideal, or set distance between men in ranks, and distance between ranks in various infantry formations throughout history?


I'm not sure what part of this quote is from Youtube, and what is from actual historical sources. There are certainly ancient authors who say the Romans fought with 3 feet per man, but I believe it is Polybius who says 6 feet per man. Most of us think 6 feet is too open--it's hard to think of anything you'd need to do in a battle that requires that much space! And it seems pretty clear that the Romans *could* fight if packed much more densely, because of their short swords. But I'm not sure the ancient writers go to such length to explain everything--they are generally more concise as well as vague!

The spacing for Macedonian-style pikemen is rather better laid out by the original sources, as I understand. Close order, standard for battle, was 3 feet per man. Open order, typical for marching, was 6 feet. These were both used for earlier hoplites, as well. But the phalangites added "locked shields", stuffed into 1-1/2 feet per man, meaning their c. 2-foot diameter shields overlapped. This was typically a defensive formation.

There is at least one battle description which does relate how a single file of Romans was facing 2 files of Macedonians. I don't know all the technicalities well enough to say whether that was typical, or only happened when the Romans were in the more open 6-foot spacing, or with the Romans at 3 feet and the Macedonians at "locked shields", or if it's just confusion on the part of the writer.

In any case, the stance is not the result of trying to minimize the profile, but a simple function of holding the shield in the left hand and bracing the right foot back. The body automatically turns side-on to the enemy, head turned to the left to stay "forward". For the phalangite, the pike has to be held with 2 hands--try this with a broom and you'll get the same effect, left side turned towards the enemy, left foot forward, right foot back. The shield hangs from a neckstrap, and rests on the left arm. (It's unclear whether the left forearm goes through the usual porpax or armband, or not.)

A spacing of 3 feet per man is easily accomplished by every man holding one arm out to touch the next man. For a 6-foot spacing, presumably every man would extend both arms, touching weapon to shield all down the line.

I can't really help with spacing in the middle ages, just haven't studied that. Once you get into the late 17th century, though, line infantry with muskets are arrayed shoulder to shoulder, roughly 1-1/2 feet per man. It's excellent for keeping in formation as maneuvers are carried out, since you only have to keep bumping elbows with the next man to assure that you're still in place. It also gives a good dense formation for volume of fire, which is everything in battle. Not to mention a nice dense line of bayonets. Formations could be 2 to 4 men deep--a friend of mine who used to reenact with a French Marine unit (French and Indian War) actually got a chance to fire 4 ranks deep once. Front rank kneeling low, 2nd kneeling high, 3rd slightly crouched, 4th standing. It really freaked out their British opponents, who thought they were in column and would have to display into line to fire! But 3 deep was more common, and most everyone went to 2-deep during the American Revolution.

In the 16th and early 17th centuries, musketeers had a more open order, since it was common for the front rank to fire and then U-turn and move back between the files to reload. (Or for the 2nd rank to advance through the first to take their turn to fire.)

For Renaissance pikemen, well, I learned it as shoulder-to-shoulder. That would be equivalent to the Macedonian "locked shields" but without the shields. With the small groups of reenactors I was with, we never had any trouble doing that. So far, unfortunately, my own Macedonian phalanx is just my humble self, so it's hard to get much idea for how it would have looked and worked! Pretty easy to keep formation, though...

Matthew
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Pieter B.





Joined: 16 Feb 2014
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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2015 10:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Relying solely on pictorial evidence isn't the best thing to do but perhaps it will give a somewhat accurate idea of what those later pike units looked like.


http://www.denstoredanske.dk/@api/deki/files/...686173.jpg

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Het_afdanken_der_waardgelders_door_prins_Maurits_op_de_Neude_te_Utrecht%2C_31_juli_1618_%28Joost_Cornelisz._Droochsloot%2C_1625%29.jpg

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ed/BattleOfHeiligerlee.jpg

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8a/Slag_bij_Nieuwpoort_%281600%29_-_2_Fases.jpg

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/24/Der_Weisskunig_86_Detail_Knights_Dismounted.jpg/800px-Der_Weisskunig_86_Detail_Knights_Dismounted.jpg

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8e/Velazquez-The_Surrender_of_Breda.jpg
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Jaroslav Kravcak




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2015 3:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for your replies for far.

Whole discussion is available under this video,for clarification. (written roughly on 16th-.17th of july for orientation):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LcshvKuROY

Maybe I havent understood the main message of a person arguing for it, but it generally looks like he dismisses the existence of really dense formations (shoulder to shoulder), at least for his quoted area of interest: roman legion and phalanx (especially greek hoplites if I understood it correctly.)

Otherwise, his view of how combat would generally proceed (putting emphasis on preserving individuals life and restrain from too intimate direct contact of both formations, so that most of it is relatively bloodless giving ground, or taking ground under psychological, rather than actual physical pressure in unbrokne formations) seems quite sound to me, at least to some extent.

Nevertheless cathegorical refusal of really dense formations as nonsensical is what caught my attention as something new. While much of the combat result might be purely the matter of psychological pressure, where resolve of one side breaks enemies will to fight, Im still of opinion, that actual physical confrontation also plays role in it and that keeping denser order means presenting more weapons against the enemy, thus increasing the chance of gaining local numerical superiority and that violent push into the enemy might break up his formation physically as well.

As I understood, he argues that depth is much more important, than how much space individual soldier occupies in a formation. Still, I find 6 feet for individual legionaire to be able to fight effectively to his fullest as huge exaggeration. (it reads like 6 square feet of space around him in my understanding of given text.)
While I see, that in case of legion vs pike phalanx this would make whole formation highly mobile and enable men to run away from danger, untill phalanx would end up in broken terrain, I cant imagine romans facing other opponents with formations with space of roughly 2 metres around every legionaire as being able to hold ground against determined assault.

This discussion came as interesting to me, as it basically states, that at least for given examples, formations were generally very loose as nothing denser was nessesary due to psychological factors, that come into play in combat - namely unwillingness to risk life in too close of a confrontation and, that it would render given soldiers basically unable to use their weapons to their full potential, or at all, so I wanted to have an opinion of more knowledgeable people.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2015 8:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yipes, well, I'm not about to try to dig through that whole Youtube discussion to pick on specific points, but what he says about "Hollywood" formations is ridiculous. His little 4-on-4 fights are amusing games, but completely unlike ancient or medieval combat in any way. For one thing, if either side stood closer together, had covered flanks, multiple ranks, and kept formation, no one would be able to get next to or behind any of them! The line is your life. Lose your formation and you lose the battle.

Yes, ancient formations for Romans and probably Celts and Vikings were probably a little looser in general than we tend to envision them--I know us Roman reenactors tend to march shield-to-shield, which is a little tight. But the sources are VERY specific about Greek and Macedonian formations and spacing, and modern tests have shown them to be very workable and functional.

One final caveat, which for all I know is already discussed, is that the sparring and reenactments and competitive combats we do today have the MAJOR difference from real life in that we don't die. If you want far better realism, you don't even need real weapons, just impose a rule that anyone getting "killed" has to leave the group and the sport forever, and never contact anyone in that circle of friends ever again. Oh, and anyone "wounded" has, say, a 25 percent chance of "dying" in about 2 weeks. Suddenly you'll see an entirely different dynamic in how the combat goes.

We have to be VERY careful about drawing conclusions based on our modern experiences. The ancients had very different situations and priorities.

Matthew
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Neal Matheson




Location: sussex UK
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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2015 9:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Outstanding Matthew I wish I could "plus one" that post.....
http://www.seeknottheancestors.com/
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2015 12:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The video is not an attempt at recreating an actual battle but something he and his club did on request of the viewers.

I am waiting for the time when computer simulation of battles can be attempted but we're a long way from that.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2015 1:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
The video is not an attempt at recreating an actual battle but something he and his club did on request of the viewers.


Ah! Fair enough. I should point out that I would LOVE to have the time to get into sparring like that, cuz I know it's a blast! It doesn't get much more fun than fun with swords and spears.

And Thanks, Neal!

Matthew
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Jaroslav Kravcak




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2015 4:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Yipes, well, I'm not about to try to dig through that whole Youtube discussion to pick on specific points, but what he says about "Hollywood" formations is ridiculous. His little 4-on-4 fights are amusing games, but completely unlike ancient or medieval combat in any way. For one thing, if either side stood closer together, had covered flanks, multiple ranks, and kept formation, no one would be able to get next to or behind any of them! The line is your life. Lose your formation and you lose the battle.

Yes, ancient formations for Romans and probably Celts and Vikings were probably a little looser in general than we tend to envision them--I know us Roman reenactors tend to march shield-to-shield, which is a little tight. But the sources are VERY specific about Greek and Macedonian formations and spacing, and modern tests have shown them to be very workable and functional.

One final caveat, which for all I know is already discussed, is that the sparring and reenactments and competitive combats we do today have the MAJOR difference from real life in that we don't die. If you want far better realism, you don't even need real weapons, just impose a rule that anyone getting "killed" has to leave the group and the sport forever, and never contact anyone in that circle of friends ever again. Oh, and anyone "wounded" has, say, a 25 percent chance of "dying" in about 2 weeks. Suddenly you'll see an entirely different dynamic in how the combat goes.

We have to be VERY careful about drawing conclusions based on our modern experiences. The ancients had very different situations and priorities.

Matthew


Shame I dont know of a way to link the exact part of comments below the video concerning this discussion.

Just to point out: these opinions have no connection to the uploader of this video, it is just a part of the discussion to it and presented by completely different person.

Well it looked like nonsense to me as well, just wanted to make sure Im not missing something. :-D
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 23 Jul, 2015 1:05 pm    Post subject: Re: Infantry formations density in different time periods.         Reply with quote

Well, if you're talking about "Albert Ray Jonathan's" opinion, I don't quite get where he's coming from with regards to the spacing in Polybius either. Most of the interpretations I've seen take the "interval of three feet on both flanks and rear" ("treis podas kat'epistaten kai kata parastaten") to mean that there was a spacing of three feet from one legionary to the next (like what "iolanda navone" said), not three plus three to give a total of six feet between one legionary and the next.

Needless to say, Polybius isn't really that clear on how a Roman legionary could occupy twice the space a phalangite did when both of them require three feet of space to fight in. We have spacing information for the Macedonian phalanx from other manuals -- Aelian, for instance, gave four cubits (roughly five and a half feet) per man in open order, two cubits (a tad under three feet) in order/pyknosis, and one cubit (just under one and a half feet) for close order/synaspismos. But we're not sure about which exact order corresponds to the spacing intended by Polybius in his comparison between the Romans and the Macedonians.

There are some other glaring points, like the reference to Frontinus' Stratagemata for a spacing of three feet between files and six between ranks. The Stratagemata is not a military manual, but rather a collection of clever ruses and stratagems, and nowhere does it prescribe standard spacings between soldiers in a formation. Frontinus also wrote a more conventional military manual but for all we know it has been lost to posterity apart from a few short fragments quoted in later works.

There is no widespread scholarly consensus on the othismos either -- the "physical shoving match" mentioned in relation with Greek hoplites. Ask ten military historians who actually know something about ancient Greek warfare and you'll probably get eleven (or twenty-one) opinions about it. Some favour the idea of it being a literal shoving match. Some think the hoplites mostly hung back and fenced with their spears. Some think the Greek hoplite formation was looser than usually thought and that there was a great deal of skirmishing and throwing going on. And let's not mention the downright kooky hypotheses. So any one man's opinion about it is literally that -- one man's opinion. Not to mention that "iolanda" correctly raised the point that the Macedonian phalanx the Romans faced in the battles against Pyrrhus and the Macedonian kings was a different beast from the classical Greek hoplite phalanx, so the discussion about "othismos" -- normally framed around the experience of hoplite vs. hoplite combat -- may not be directly relevant to the question of spacing in the Macedonian phalanx and the Roman legions.
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Thu 23 Jul, 2015 3:34 pm    Post subject: Re: Infantry formations density in different time periods.         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Well, if you're talking about "Albert Ray Jonathan's" opinion, I don't quite get where he's coming from with regards to the spacing in Polybius either. Most of the interpretations I've seen take the "interval of three feet on both flanks and rear" ("treis podas kat'epistaten kai kata parastaten") to mean that there was a spacing of three feet from one legionary to the next (like what "iolanda navone" said), not three plus three to give a total of six feet between one legionary and the next.

Needless to say, Polybius isn't really that clear on how a Roman legionary could occupy twice the space a phalangite did when both of them require three feet of space to fight in. We have spacing information for the Macedonian phalanx from other manuals -- Aelian, for instance, gave four cubits (roughly five and a half feet) per man in open order, two cubits (a tad under three feet) in order/pyknosis, and one cubit (just under one and a half feet) for close order/synaspismos. But we're not sure about which exact order corresponds to the spacing intended by Polybius in his comparison between the Romans and the Macedonians.

There are some other glaring points, like the reference to Frontinus' Stratagemata for a spacing of three feet between files and six between ranks. The Stratagemata is not a military manual, but rather a collection of clever ruses and stratagems, and nowhere does it prescribe standard spacings between soldiers in a formation. Frontinus also wrote a more conventional military manual but for all we know it has been lost to posterity apart from a few short fragments quoted in later works.

There is no widespread scholarly consensus on the othismos either -- the "physical shoving match" mentioned in relation with Greek hoplites. Ask ten military historians who actually know something about ancient Greek warfare and you'll probably get eleven (or twenty-one) opinions about it. Some favour the idea of it being a literal shoving match. Some think the hoplites mostly hung back and fenced with their spears. Some think the Greek hoplite formation was looser than usually thought and that there was a great deal of skirmishing and throwing going on. And let's not mention the downright kooky hypotheses. So any one man's opinion about it is literally that -- one man's opinion. Not to mention that "iolanda" correctly raised the point that the Macedonian phalanx the Romans faced in the battles against Pyrrhus and the Macedonian kings was a different beast from the classical Greek hoplite phalanx, so the discussion about "othismos" -- normally framed around the experience of hoplite vs. hoplite combat -- may not be directly relevant to the question of spacing in the Macedonian phalanx and the Roman legions.


Funny thing is that the Push of Pikes is a term used in late 15th and 16th century warfare when describing a clash between two pike formations. It could indeed be that such an event is limited to pikes and not spears.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 10 Sep, 2015 4:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't think they're the same thing -- the debates about the othismos have largely been pretty separate from the parallel debate about what the "push of pike" really meant, and the only major similarity is that we don't really have a broad universal consensus in either case. Some people have drawn comparisons between the two but I haven't heard of any major breakthrough being made that way.
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