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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Tue 20 Sep, 2011 9:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
One thing I remember is the account in Plutarch's Life of Mark Antony, where the Roman legionaries were ordered to wait for a Parthian cavalry charge and then spring up and counterattack with their pila once the Parthians had drawn very close. What I can't recall is what array they were supposed to wait in; it could have been kneeling, or it could have been a testudo, and my Plutarch is not close at hand (so I can't check it up yet).

could you also check whether by counterattack he means using the pila as thrusting spears? or throwing them? just before the charge hit
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Sep, 2011 8:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'll just let Plutarch (or a translation of him) speak:

Quote:
The next day they took better order for their march, and the Parthians,
who thought they were marching rather to plunder than to fight, were
much taken aback, when they came up and were received with a shower
of missiles, to find the enemy not disheartened, but fresh and resolute.
So that they themselves began to lose courage. But at the descent
of a bill where the Romans were obliged to pass, they got together,
and let fly their arrows upon them as they moved slowly down. But
the full-armed infantry, facing round, received the light troops within;
and those in the first rank knelt on one knee, holding their shields
before them, the next rank holding theirs over the first, and so again
others over these, much like the tiling of a house, or the rows of
seats in a theatre, the whole affording sure defence against arrows,
which glanced upon them without doing any harm. The Parthians, seeing
the Romans down upon their knees, could not imagine but that it must
proceed from weariness; so that they laid down their bows, and, taking
their spears, made a fierce onset, when the Romans, with a great cry,
leaped upon their feet, striking hand to hand with their javelins,
slew the foremost, and put the rest to flight


(from http://classics.mit.edu/Plutarch/antony.1b.txt )
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Wed 21 Sep, 2011 8:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
I'll just let Plutarch (or a translation of him) speak:

Quote:
The next day they took better order for their march, and the Parthians,
who thought they were marching rather to plunder than to fight, were
much taken aback, when they came up and were received with a shower
of missiles, to find the enemy not disheartened, but fresh and resolute.
So that they themselves began to lose courage. But at the descent
of a bill where the Romans were obliged to pass, they got together,
and let fly their arrows upon them as they moved slowly down. But
the full-armed infantry, facing round, received the light troops within;
and those in the first rank knelt on one knee, holding their shields
before them, the next rank holding theirs over the first, and so again
others over these, much like the tiling of a house, or the rows of
seats in a theatre, the whole affording sure defence against arrows,
which glanced upon them without doing any harm. The Parthians, seeing
the Romans down upon their knees, could not imagine but that it must
proceed from weariness; so that they laid down their bows, and, taking
their spears, made a fierce onset, when the Romans, with a great cry,
leaped upon their feet, striking hand to hand with their javelins,
slew the foremost, and put the rest to flight


(from http://classics.mit.edu/Plutarch/antony.1b.txt )

i guess that settles that
them quickly forming a sort of front only testudo upon recieving arrowfire reminds me distinctly of gladiator
but i guess that is
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Sep, 2011 8:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:

i guess that settles that
them quickly forming a sort of front only testudo upon recieving arrowfire reminds me distinctly of gladiator
but i guess that is


From the Plutarch quote, they also used the pila as hand to hand weapons, but not shy to throw them if the Parthians made the mistake of getting too close. When it was a charge with lance using the pila as " short " spears as I imagine that throwing them would have disrupted their solid formation.

(Speculation: After the charge was broken I imagine that the pila might have been thrown at targets of opportunity. Wink A good reason to have two pila per legionnaire, maybe in hand, or available to be passed forward as needed leaving the first few ranks holding just one ? ).

Although the pilum is being discussed concerning it's range and penetrating power and designed to bend when stuck into a shield and be an encumbrance it seems to have been still robust enough to be used in the thrust without being too easily bent out of shape ?

I'm guessing that the design of the long steel or iron shank had to find a balance between bending easily enough when used as a missile but robust enough to be useful as a spear.

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Henrik Zoltan Toth




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Sep, 2011 9:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Search for the Historia of Tacitus. I. 79., about the roxalan raids into Moesia in the winter of 67-68 AD.

Zoltán
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 22 Sep, 2011 9:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Henrik Zoltan Toth wrote:
Search for the Historia of Tacitus. I. 79., about the roxalan raids into Moesia in the winter of 67-68 AD.

Zoltán


Here, scroll down to it: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/txt/ah/tacitus/TacitusHistory01.html

Seems like the Sarmatians where very good heavy cavalry but if they had to fight on foot they where not trained for it or optimally equipped for it.

The Roman legionnaire although armoured well could skirmish as well as fighting as heavy infantry and as close range missile troops. ( Auxiliary troops adding in various missile or other specialized troops more or less available depending on the period one is looking at ..... from slingers to horse archers to mercenary heavy cavalry ).

Terrain and weather conditions favouring infantry and slowing down and making cavalry ineffective in attack or even a fast retreat.

Where the Romans would have difficulty would be in bringing the fight to a cavalry force refusing to close, but the Romans could be very effective in defence as long as the more mobile cavalry forces closed the distance to attack.

NOTE: I'm bringing up ideas and speculation for discussion and I'm not making statements of facts even if it turns out that I'm basically correct i.e. looking for feedback by those more knowledgeable about Roman history and tactics to confirm or dispute my conclusions. Wink Big Grin Cool

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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Thu 22 Sep, 2011 10:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
NOTE: I'm bringing up ideas and speculation for discussion and I'm not making statements of facts even if it turns out that I'm basically correct i.e. looking for feedback by those more knowledgeable about Roman history and tactics to confirm or dispute my conclusions


I'm not extremely knowledgeable in exact roman tactics either, but

Quote:
the Romans, with a great cry,
leaped upon their feet, striking hand to hand with their javelins,
slew the foremost, and put the rest to flight


I'd question the translation here. And this is really the case for any translation, not trying to pick on this one. Many biblical translations are guesses to a point, and can be interpreted a few different ways. It's not only the language you must be familiar with, but the context, and many other issues.

"Leaped to their feet, striking hand to hand with their javelins" Could be "threw their javelins and engaged in hand to hand" or numerous other translations that are close but still mean something different. Maybe by throwing a javelin and then striking with a sword you are "striking hand to hand with javelins".

Unfortunately, my Latin is rather weak Confused , so I would have no idea either as to exaclty what was written and what liberties were taken with the translation.

Pila don't seem like they would make very effective weapons in HTH combat, but I don't know.

The other thing is a calsh of arms like this would be a chaotic mess, riders being dragged off their mounts, horses falling in and on people, etc., etc., so it's tough to say, even for an eyewitness exactly what had happened.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 5:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Incidentally, I was motivated to look this up. The relevant passage in the original Greek (and another English translation) is here:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=...ection%3D3

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=...ection%3D3

Quote:
But the Romans, with a full battle cry, suddenly sprang up, and thrusting with their javelins slew the foremost of the Parthians and put all the rest to rout.


The key phrase here is "yssois paiontes." "Hyssos"--"javelin"--here clearly refers to the pilum. "Paiontes" is normally used for the act of striking with an object held in the hand, and only rarely for that of throwing a missile, so the interpretation here is in favour of thrusting with the pilum in hand-to-hand combat.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 9:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Your interpretation, Lafayette?

I like this better than than a third parties interpretation.

Is it possible that in antiquity the meaning of "Paiontes" could have been a more broad definition?
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2011 8:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
Is it possible that in antiquity the meaning of "Paiontes" could have been a more broad definition?


The lexicon I looked up for the definition of paiein/paiontes is already a lexicon of Classical Greek, which is quite a different language from modern (Demotic) Greek. And while "paiein" has been used for things like Zeus's thunderbolt, it's far more common to see the verb in contexts like people clubbing or stabbing other people to death.

More to the point, however, we have a fairly direct comparison with a passage in Arrian's Ektaxis, which incidentally also deals with a situation where legionaries are expected to use their pila against cavalry. To quote from Sander Van Dorst's excellent page on the text:

Quote:
tèn tetartèn de hyperakontizein tas lonchas: kai tèn prootèn paiein è akontizein tois kontois apheidoos es te hippous kai autous.


he translates it as such:

Quote:
The fourth rank will throw their javelins overhead and the first rank will stab at them and their horses with their spears without pause.


I'd take one minor issue with his translation: the second half of the sentence says the first rank should "paien e akontizein"--two different verbs--but Van Dorst only says "stab." "Akontizein" basically means "throw" or "cast" or something like that, though like "paiein" it is also (very) occasionally used in the very general meaning of "strike." However, we can see that Arrian probably isn't using it generically from the first half of the sentence: "ten tetarten de hyperakontizein tas longkhas" or "the fourth rank will lob their javelins high." Since "akontizein" has thus been shown to basically mean "throw" in the context of this passage, "paiein" is obviously the "thrusting" half, and "paiein e akontizein tois kontois" means "thrust or throw their spears."

By extension, though Plutarch is not Arrian, I find it easier to believe that his "tois yssois paiontes" is much more likely to specifically mean "thrust their spears" rather than just a general "thrust/throw," especially since we've seen from the instance in Arrian that the verbs tend to be used for their specific meanings in the context of a military-oriented discussion.


Philip Rance's paper on the translation of "foulkon" in Maurice's Strategikon may also be of some interest here, partly because it has quotations from both of the texts mentioned above and partly because it extends this discussion well into the realm of very-Late Roman and Early Byzantine contexts.

www.duke.edu/web/classics/grbs/FTexts/44/Rance2.pdf
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