Ancient History & Civilisation

CHAPTER 7

Hoplite Hell: How Hoplites Fought

If W. Kendrick Pritchett built the stage set for our understanding of Greek warfare and Anthony Snodgrass provided the costumes, Victor Davis Hanson made the actors come alive. Hanson’s gritty Western Way of War, in particular, has had an enormous impact on popular understanding of how Greeks fought, from Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire (1998)—in which Pressfield created an othismós drill that he called, memorably, “tree-fucking”—to Zack Snyder’s movie 300 (2007), in which the Spartans fight with the underhanded grip favored by Hanson. So any discussion of how hoplites fought (or what one of my friends, after reading The Western Way of War, called “hoplite hell”) must now start with Hanson’s interpretation.

Hanson writes forcefully and shows an excellent eye for vivid details. Using an impressive variety of scattered pieces of evidence, he builds a thick description of a hoplite battle. In his words, cobbled together from different parts of the book:1

for at least the two centuries between 700 and 500 B.C., and perhaps for much of the early fifth century B.C. as well, hoplite infantry battle determined the very nature of Greek warfare, and became the means to settle disputes—instantaneously, economically, and ethically…. Unfortunately, nearly all of the conflicts of the seventh and sixth centuries remain unrecorded. At this time hoplite battle remained a “pure,” static, unchanging match between men in the heaviest of armor, void of support from auxiliary cavalry, missile throwers, or archers…. [M]ost wars involved only an hour or more of pitched battle…. The actual battle environment for men who served in the phalanx was nearly identical wherever and whenever they fought…. [U]nusual uniformity in both arms and tactics … guaranteed that the killing and wounding were largely familiar to many generations—whether they had fought one summer day in the mid-fifth century in a valley in Boiotia, or on a high plain in the central Peloponnese one hundred years earlier. For men aged twenty through sixty—the uninitiated and veteran alike—the charge, the collision of spears, the pushing, trampling, wounding, panic, confusion, even the pile of the battlefield dead, were all similar events to be experienced one awful, fatal time, or perennially until a man could fight no more.

Perhaps the only sentence here that I would not quarrel with makes the point that we have very limited literary evidence for Archaic warfare. As for the rest, hoplite battles did not decide wars instantaneously. Archaic wars sometimes dragged on and on. Think of the Messenian Wars, the Lelantine War, Sparta’s struggle with Tegea, or Athens’ conflicts with Megara and Aigina. Nor were these wars particularly ethical. The idea that Archaic Greeks fought fairly, following distinctive Greek laws of war, is a mirage based on later Greek claims about the good old days.2 But my job is to discuss the nature of hoplite fighting. Let me first summarize, fairly briefly, my views on two aspects of Archaic warfare that will inform what follows. I will begin with the weight of hoplite equipment and the nature of the Archaic phalanx, or rather, the Archaic phalanges or ranks. Then I will focus on three debated aspects of a battle: the charge, the collision, and the pushing.

“The Burden of Hoplite Arms and Armor”

In The Western Way of War, Hanson devotes a chapter to “the burden of hoplite arms and armor,” in which he reports that modern estimates range from 50 to 70 lbs.3 The higher figure is the most common estimate. Hanson mentions 70 lbs at least four times in The Other Greeks.

This estimate goes back to W. Rüstow and H. Köchly’s Geschichte des griechischen Kriegswesens von der ältesten Zeit bis auf Pyrrhos (1852).4 Rüstow and Köchly estimated weights for each piece of equipment, calculating that a fully equipped hoplite carried 72 lbs or—since they were using German lbs (one German lb = 0.5 kg)—36 kg. Hans Delbrück picked up and popularized the Rüstow-Köchly total.5 In Delbrück’s day, European soldiers carried 28–31 kg, so perhaps it is not surprising that he believed Greeks managed 36. Many scholars since have followed his lead.6

I have discussed the equipment item by item in two other publications and do not want to repeat myself needlessly here.7 Drawing on studies of surviving pieces of Greek equipment, especially from the German excavations at Olympia, and on the reconstructions made by reenactment groups in Britain and Australia, I conclude that Hanson’s picture of lumbering hoplites must be moderated. A realistic estimate is that a hoplite equipped with a helmet, cuirass, shin guards, shield, spear, and sword carried a total weight of 18–22 kg in the seventh century. By the time of the Persian Wars, helmets and shin guards had gotten thinner, and leather-and-linen corselets had largely replaced bronze-plate cuirasses, which were never ubiquitous. The total weight dropped to 14–21 kg. If a man did without shin guards and relied on his shield for chest protection, he could have carried only 9 kg.8

Let me say a bit more about the shield, which a hoplite called an aspis, since it has played a significant role in the debate about the origins of the Greek phalanx. This aspis, with its central bronze armband (porpax) and leather handgrip at the right edge, was made of wood. It could be faced with a thin sheet of bronze, but movies such as 300 give a misleading impression when the actors use metal shields. Wood did the work. And the three shields that have survived with enough wood to be identified were poplar, willow, and poplar or willow—precisely the woods recommended by the Roman naturalist Pliny for shields (Natural History 16.209). These rather soft woods tend to dent rather than split. Because their density is so much lower than the density of oak or even pine, a shield made of willow or poplar will weigh roughly half as much as one made of oak and two-thirds to three-quarters as much as one made of pine.

Reconstructors have shown just how light a porpax aspis could be. P. H. Blyth’s reconstruction of the best-preserved example, a fifth-century poplar specimen now in the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, weighs 6.2 kg. This shield, which is on the low end of the range in diameter (0.82 m), had a bronze facing on the exterior that weighed 3 kg. The same shield, unfaced, would weigh only 3.2 kg. Craig Sitch of Manning Imperial in Australia makes several versions: one of poplar, 0.84 m in diameter, weighs 4.3 kg, and another of radiata pine, 0.85 m in diameter, weighs 6.5–7 kg (samples vary). The Hoplite Association in London produces shields made of lime (similar in density to pine) and pine, 0.93 m in diameter, that weigh 6.4 kg. In poplar or willow, these shields would weigh about a third less. Sitch’s heaviest version, 0.91 m in diameter, faced with brass and lined with leather, weighs 9 kg. Most shields, however, were not faced with bronze.9

In short, while hoplite shields could weigh 7–9 kg, many weighed only half as much.

Did all hoplites carry this porpax shield? No. Greek writers applied the term “hoplite” to Egyptians carrying shields that reached to their feet and to Macedonians who used a much smaller shield.10 Did all Greek hoplites carry this porpax shield? Perhaps yes, but there is good iconographic evidence for a significantly different variation, the oblong “Boeotian” shield found in Archaic vase painting and on coins, in addition to the famous figurine from Dodona, now in Berlin. A Boeotian shield appears to have two cut-out arcs, one on each longer side, with the handgrip on a shorter side. Scholars have usually dismissed the Boeotian shield as an unrealistic heroic marker, adapted from Mycenaean figure-of-eight shields and out of place in a hoplite phalanx. But we have to guard against letting assumptions about how hoplites fought prejudge what equipment they used. A number of scholars have followed John Boardman in arguing that the art reflects reality.11 Handling a Boeotian shield would have differed from handling a round aspis, because no one would want to hold a Boeotian shield with the arm bent at a 90-degree angle, positioning the cutouts to expose the throat and groin. But a warrior could rotate the shield quickly by moving his left hand counterclockwise 180 degrees, lessening the likelihood of dislocating his arm. One anonymous reenactor has posted a YouTube video showing how the Boeotian shield could work.12 He reminds me of one of the stories told about Sophanes, son of Eutychides from Dekeleia, who distinguished himself at the battle of Plataea. It was said that he “had an anchor as an emblem on his shield, which never ceased moving and was always in swift motion” (Herodotus 9.74.2).

No Boeotian shields have been found, but if they were made of organic materials, perhaps by stretching hides over a wooden frame, they would have disintegrated long before now. The drinking song of Hybrias the Cretan, usually dated to the late Archaic period, demonstrates that a leather shield could be a source of pride (Athenaios Deipnosophistai 695f–696a). To judge by vase paintings, the Boeotian shield remained an attractive option for a minority of fighters throughout the Archaic period. It would have looked impressive as the warrior twirled it about, and it would have been more comfortable to walk or run with it slung on one’s back, positioned with the cutouts at elbow height so one’s elbows would not constantly bump the shield. Its continued use has important implications for the nature of the Archaic phalanx.

The Nature of the Phalanx

From a strictly literary point of view, the hoplite phalanx did not exist until the fourth century, when Xenophon refers to “the phalanx of hoplites” (Anabasis 6.5.27).13 The word “phalanx” apparently derives from a root meaning “log.” Neither Herodotus nor Thucydides uses it in a military context, and with a single exception, the Archaic poets use it only in the plural, phalanges, with one exception in the Iliad.14 The word “hoplite,” which derives from hopla (military equipment), first occurs in the fifth century as an adjective in poetry; it becomes common as a noun in the second half of the century, first in Herodotus, then in Thucydides, Aristophanes, Euripides, and inscriptions.15 When discussing Archaic warfare, we might do well to avoid the expression “hoplite phalanx” and refer simply to phalanges or ranks, without prejudicing the issue of who fought in them.

Who did fight in the Archaic phalanges? By the time of the Peloponnesian War, lightly armed troops fought separately from the hoplites, as emerges clearly from Thucydides’ description of the battle of Syracuse (6.69.2): “The stone-throwers, slingers, and archers of either army began skirmishing, and routed or were routed by one another, as might be expected between light troops.” Following this inconclusive skirmishing, the seers sacrificed and the trumpeters blew, and only then did the hoplites move forward. So the phalanx of hoplites existed before any surviving source names it. When was the exclusive hoplite phalanx invented? How historians have answered this question makes for an interesting story.

Before George Grote, historians maintained that the Dorians introduced “the method of fighting with lines of heavy armed men, drawn up in close and regular order,” since Homer describes a different mode of combat and an anecdote in Polyainos credits the Herakleidai Prokles and Temenos with using pipers to help their men advance in rhythm in an unbreakable formation against the Lakedaimonians.16 Grote objected that the correctness of this view “cannot be determined … we have no historical knowledge of any military practice in Peloponnesus anterior to the hoplites with close ranks and protended spears.”17 Late nineteenth-century scholars then limited themselves to claiming that the Lakedaimonians had a trained mass formation by the time of the Messenian Wars in the eighth and seventh centuries. In his narrative of these wars, the traveler Pausanias says that it was traditional for the Lake-daimonians not to pursue too quickly, because they preferred to maintain their formation rather than to kill anyone running away (4.8.11). Several ancient sources, starting with Thucydides, say that pipers helped the Lakedaimonians maintain formation.18 “In this context,” opined Hans Delbrück, “the piper is nothing other than the tactical formation.”19

In the nineteenth century, no one mentioned any of the soldiers’ equipment as suitable only for a close-order formation. No one was talking about how heavy and unwieldy the porpax shield was—no doubt because, according to the conventional wisdom of Rüstow and Köchly, it weighed only half as much as the earlier great oval shield (6–7.5 kg compared with 14–15 kg).20

Credit for connecting the porpax shield and the phalanx formation goes to Wolf-gang Helbig. In 1909 he suggested in a page or two that the phalanx developed gradually.21 Only after the development of the close-order formation had made considerable progress did Greeks adopt the porpaxshield, which Helbig pronounced suitable only for fighting in close ranks. Two years later, he developed this view in a long article, ‘Über die Einführungszeit der geschlossenen Phalanx,” in which he looked not to late sources such as Pausanias and Polyainos, but to Archaic poets.22 He argued that Euboians distinguished between hoplites and lightly armed men, excluding everyone but hoplites from the ranks during the Lelantine War, which he dated to the middle of the seventh century. Since the Lakedaimonian poet Tyrtaios, whom he put in the second half of the seventh century, did not describe an exclusive phalanx, Helbig concluded that the Euboians, not the Spartans, created it. In his view, there was a longish period of development lasting until the sixth century. He cited the Chigi olpe, which was then dated to the early sixth or even fifth century, as the earliest definite depiction of a hoplite phalanx. Though he found this depiction inadequate in some ways, he did think that the piper on the Chigi vase proves a close-order formation advancing in step. This Protocorinthian jug fit his theory that the hoplite phalanx originated on the island of Euboia, because he believed that Protocorinthian pottery was in fact produced in Chalkis.23

The details of Helbig’s theory no longer seem tenable.24 Yet many distinguished scholars have accepted Helbig’s innovative claim that the porpax shield would only work in a close-order formation, so that once Greeks had that shield, they had the hoplite phalanx.25 These scholars stress that the shield’s weight and distinctive handling system meant that it provided better protection for the left side than the right, and they cite Thucydides’ comment that in all armies each man, out of fear, gets his unprotected side as close as possible to the shield of the man stationed next to him (5.71.1). They disagree about whether the phalanx or the shield came first, and they credit different Greek poleis with being first in the field: H. L. Lorimer and Paul Cartledge favor Corinth and Athens, Antony Andrewes Argos, Marcel Detienne Sparta. But they all date the invention of the exclusive phalanx to the first quarter of the seventh century.

Other writers, starting with Johannes Kromayer, have argued that the porpax shield could have been used in a mixed fight.26 While it is true that this shield protects the left side better than the right (as any shield carried in the left hand does), a hoplite could get squarely behind the shield by turning sideways with his left foot forward. Greeks found the porpax shield suitable for climbing ladders and fighting on ships.27

I do not see any way of resolving this dispute through further reading of ancient texts, vase paintings, and monuments. The problem is a practical one, a matter of what Delbrück would have called “die Realität der Dinge.” Since modern soldiers do not fight withporpax shields, we have to look at police (who are not using replicas of Greek porpax shields) and reenactors (who are not really trying to kill each other).

Police first. Adam Schwartz has cleverly compared hoplites to Danish riot control police using double-handled, Plexiglas shields weighing less than 3 kg each. The police found them “suitable only for defensive fighting: policemen would typically form a line, advance to the combat zone and keep their position. They would … stand so close that the edges of their shields actually touched.”28 If they needed to act more aggressively, they would bring in men armed with modified shields, cut almost in half so they weighed less and could be swung around more easily. Unlike the complete shields, “the adapted version could therefore be used offensively, combined with little or no body armour to ensure crucial mobility. These policemen, cowering behind the wall of shields held by the front line in full combat gear, would then be able to dart forward and close with rioters who had ventured too close to the defensive police line.”29

So the solid wall of riot police was not always solid, but flexible and permeable enough to permit these mobile troops to dart forward and then back for cover. The formation sounds to me like inclusive phalanges, rather than an exclusive hoplite phalanx.

Reenactors next. Anyone who doubts that a porpax shield can be manipulated against attacks from various sides and angles should watch Allen Pittman’s YouTube video “Allen teaching Hoplite shield and spear.” Pittman is admittedly a martial arts expert who spent a year training with aporpax shield, but he is also using one that weighs 9 kg without the metal attachments.30

To my mind, therefore, looking at police and reenactors supports the view that warriors could have used porpax shields in a mixed formation. I can agree with Schwartz that the porpax shield was better suited to fighting in phalanges than to fighting an individual duel in an open field, but the protection needed by a warrior armed with this shield could be provided by a lightly armed fighter as well as by other men with porpax shields. Depending on the nature of the threat, a lightly armed fighter might provide better coverage than someone more weighed down could. Leaders might have organized all their men into phalanges for getting to the killing zone. The old argument that a piper proves hoplites and only hoplites marching in step is invalid. Everyone could benefit from walking in rhythm together.31

How far apart were the men in Archaic phalanges? After collecting the evidence for the width of file, Pritchett concluded that hoplites deployed in files spaced about three feet apart.32 Most writers have accepted Pritchett’s conclusions, but two have argued recently for a tighter formation, at least on some occasions. Their ideas deserve attention.

Allen Pittman suggests that hoplites overlapped their shields slightly, each man using his left hand to grab not only the leather loop at the edge of his shield but also his neighbor’s shield cord.33 This cord is visible in many vase paintings, making a complete loop around the interior of the shield. Pittman suggests that its function was to give the next man something to grasp in order to form a shield wall, and he has posted another YouTube video in which he and a friend demonstrate how this wall would work.34 The two men do move together well, raising and lowering and shifting their shields together. But the idea seems impractical for an entire line of men. What would happen when one man faced a threat to the right and his left-hand neighbor one to his left? They would pull in opposite directions and would have to break the wall. They could separate quickly, as they demonstrate on the video, but such disparate threats would come so quickly that the shield wall would break apart almost immediately. I think we’d do better to find another function for the cord.

Christopher Matthew has revived Delbrück’s view that each man sometimes occupied only a foot and a half. He relies on the Hellenistic tactician Asklepiodotos (4.3), who mentions an offensive formation called pyknosis in which each man had two cubits (about 90 cm) and a defensive formation called synaspismos in which he had only one (about 45 cm). Matthew argues that “the characteristics of the hoplite’s shield (aspis) demonstrate that the interval of the close-order phalanx had to be the 45 cm outlined by Asclepiodotus. One of the terms used to describe the close-order formation is ‘with interlocked shields’ (synaspismois). For the shields of the hoplite phalanx to effectively interlock, each man can occupy a space no bigger than half of the diameter of the shield he is carrying.”35 Matthews imagines that Greek phalanxes sometimes lined up in pyknosisformation and sometimes in synaspismos formation, so that hoplite fighting was “much more varied and dynamic in its nature” than scholars have conceived. A battle between phalanxes in the same formation would have differed a lot from a fight between phalanxes in different formations.

While I like Matthew’s stress on difference and variety, his interpretation relies heavily on the translation of synaspismos as “interlocked shields,” though it literally means only “shields together.” The word itself does not require interlocked shields. Polybios uses it to describe a formation allotting each man three feet.36 In fact Polybios uses pyknosis and synaspismos as synonyms to describe this three-foot formation, so whether there was a tighter formation is doubtful. And even if Asklepiodotos is correct and the Macedonians did sometimes fight with interlocked shields, his description might not apply to the earlier Greek hoplites, who had larger shields and shorter spears. But the biggest difficulty is imagining a battle between one side with shields interlocked and the other with men spaced twice as far apart. However impenetrable the shield wall, it would have been massively outflanked on both wings unless it had overwhelming superiority in numbers. Yet as best we can tell, when facing odds greater than 3:2, Greeks did not go out to fight another Greek army.

On the other hand, van Wees and I have both argued that Greek warriors might have had more space. Polybios says that against the Macedonian phalanx each Roman occupied three feet and had another three feet between himself and the next man in any direction.37 This spacing seems about the maximum for comfort, and it might satisfy Thucydides’ “as close as possible,” given that a man would want some space to feint and duck and manipulate his spear and sword.

The Charge

How did the battle begin? Once the men were in position, the general sacrificed the sphagia, the simple battlefield sacrifice that meant, in Michael Jameson’s words, “I kill. Let me kill,” and led the men in a paean.38 The biographer Plutarch, who uses the phrase “marching paean” in hisLykourgos, seems to have thought the Spartans sang a paean to the accompaniment of pipes all along their advance. But Thucydides’ famous passage about the Spartans advancing in step to the sound of pipes (5.70) does not mention the paean and stresses that the purpose of the music has nothing to do with religion. A passage from Xenophon makes clear that doing the paean differed from marching in time to pipes (Anabasis 6.1.11). Paeans before battle are best understood as a subset of paeans in general, which Ian Rutherford has elucidated as song-dances performed by men to honor the god and to demonstrate a sense of community among men.39 Soldiers performed the paean before they began their final advance into battle, as aorist participles often suggest.40 The commander had to choose the right moment to begin the paean. Too soon, and the men might lose their edge before they reached the enemy; too late, and faint-hearts might have dropped out before the unifying and invigorating chant began. A good commander, such as Cyrus the Younger in Xenophon’s Anabasis, would walk to within about 600 m from the enemy, perform the paean, and then advance to within 200 m before ordering the final charge (1.8.17).

The prebattle paean served multiple functions. If the men had previously walked some distance, it helped them regain their order, as they found their places and fell into step with the movements of the dance. It helped them to warm up for the fight. It gave them a sense of solidarity, as they joined in doing something familiar, something they had learned to do as young men. And as they chanted and stamped their feet together, they appealed to the god to see them safely through the battle. Performing the paean gave “courage to friends as it rids them of the fear of the enemy” (Aeschylus, Seven against Thebes 270). As the paean ended, they found themselves walking confidently forward, ready to fight. In his semifictitious Education of Cyrus (3.3.58–59), Xenophon has Cyrus the Great do it just right: After sacrificing successfully, he leads his well-trained forces ahead at a quick pace. Before they come into missile range, he starts the paean. When it finishes his men are walking boldly forward, filled with “enthusiasm, ambition, strength, courage, exhortation, self-control, and obedience.” When they step on the first arrows shot by the enemy, they yell and charge.

As hoplites charged, yelling a war-cry such as eleleu! or alala! they tended to lose their formation (Thucydides 5.70). The Spartans were the exception, for they advanced all the way to the sound of pipes, but Hanson suspects (I think rightly) that Thucydides gives “an idealized picture of even the Spartan army, which often did not follow such a textbook procedure.”41 Once they started moving, hoplites “lost the rigid conformity of finely tailored columns.”42 Obstacles such as ditches, clefts, clumps of trees, ridges and water courses, Polybios says (18.31.5–6), are all sufficient to break up a formation. Men scattered and bunched. By the time they reached the enemy, the line would not have been straight or the files even.

Scholars and reenactors debate how hoplites held their spears when they charged. They began their advance with spears held at the slope on their right shoulders, spearheads and thumbs upward. To judge by Xenophon’s Anabasis (6.5.25), they lowered them on command to an underhand thrusting position, thumbs forward. Did they change to an overhand grip (thumbs backward, spearheads forward) before they reached the enemy? Vases show both underhand and overhand grips. Hanson and Matthew maintain that hoplites delivered their initial blows underhand; reenactors in Melbourne agree.43 They would interpret men using the overhand grip as throwing javelins. But J. K. Anderson argues that warriors raised their thrusting spears to an overhand position before they reached the enemy; reenactors in London agree with him.44 Anderson believes that the hoplites in the second line on the right on the Chigi vase are shown in the act of raising their spears by flipping them up into the air just enough to grab them again with their thumbs reversed. He comments (and I can confirm) that a little practice with a broom handle will show that changing grips is not all that hard. You have to watch closely to catch Alan Pittman doing it in one of his YouTube demonstration videos, so quickly and smoothly does his hand change position as he raises his arm.45 J. F. Lazenby argues that changing grips would have been more difficult after the fighting started, and this would be particularly true if Matthew is correct that the weights of the spearhead and butt spike mean the spear’s center of gravity would be well toward the butt spike, not in the middle, so that perhaps 2 m of his spear would extend in front of the warrior.46 Lazenby points out that underhand thrusts shown on vases are invariably in duels, while the (admittedly few) vases showing hoplite lines about to engage show raised spears. He therefore inclines to think that hoplites changed to an overhand grip before they charged, while some changed back again after their line broke and they had enough room to change.

The Collision

In his now classic book, The Face of Battle (1976), John Keegan claimed that “large masses of soldiers do not smash into each other, either because one gives way at the critical moment, or because the attackers during the advance to combat lose their fainthearts and arrive at the point of contact very much inferior in numbers to the mass they are attacking.”47 Keegan’s denial of shock fits the ancient historians, who regularly speak of armies coming “to hands” or “to spear.” It also fits the slow, methodical Spartan advance, which would not have aided shock.

Though he was inspired by Keegan, Hanson argues that Greek hoplites crashed into each other. He says:

a fair reading of the ancient accounts of hoplite battles suggests that in the case of the Greeks—and perhaps among the Greeks alone—the first charge of men usually smashed right into the enemy line: the key was to achieve an initial shock through collision which literally knocked the enemy back and allowed troops to pour in through the subsequent tears in the line…. Indeed, the narratives of the battles of Mantineia, Delion, Nemea, and Leuktra, not to mention the accounts of earlier (often nameless) conflicts in the Lyric poets, make no sense unless we understand that both sides literally collided together, creating the awful thud of forceful impact at the combined rate of ten miles per hour.48

Hanson actually quotes from only one ancient account, the second part of the battle of Koroneia (not the initial fight), where Agesilaos “made a furious frontal attack on the Thebans,” according to Xenophon, “and clashing their shields together they pushed, they fought, they killed, they died” (Hellenika 4.3.19 = Agesilaos 2.12).

Perhaps sensing that this single passage is inconclusive—Xenophon describes the battle as “like no other fought in my time” (Hellenika 4.3.16), so it’s unwise to use it as if it were typical—Hanson offers four reasons “why we must assume that ancient Greek battle within its first few seconds was a terrible collision of soldiers on the run.”49 None is compelling.

1. The depth of the phalanx. “The function of those to the rear,” he says, “was literally to push their comrades forward.” This statement assumes what needs to be proved.

2. The size and shape of hoplite shield created a feeling of “absolute protection.” I doubt it. Shields were neither impenetrable nor unbreakable.

3. “The enemy line was not necessarily an absolutely impenetrable wall of shields.” I agree. But why would this increase the likelihood of shock?

4. At this stage men were irrational; “adrenaline and the laws of motion made continued movement forward more likely than a sudden stop.” The stop would not have to be sudden. If Keegan is right that in other times and places infantry lines did not crash into each other, we require good evidence for believing that Greeks were different.

Perhaps Everett Wheeler goes too far when he dismisses the idea of shock on the grounds that many men would have died from the impact.50 I do not doubt that eager hoplites sometimes collided. But I do not think Hanson has made his case for a general collision. As Adrian Goldsworthy points out, “references in our sources to the great noise when battle was joined cannot be used to prove that the two phalanxes literally crashed together.”51 Wolfgang Petersen’s 2004 film Troy gives a realistic impression of the charge. The Greeks break their formation somewhat as they run toward the stationary Trojans, deployed in a tight formation outside their city wall. But the film is less realistic in having all the leading Greeks slam into the Trojan shields. Computer-generated imagery has created an unrealistic uniformity.

The Pushing (ōthismós)

In Hanson’s scenario, a brief period of very crowded fighting followed the initial collision, before the battle turned into a shoving match, a sort of inverted tug-of-war. In taking this view, Hanson followed many distinguished scholars.52 Cartledge, for example, writes that “warfare between massed phalanxes (phalanges) was not a graceful or imaginative affair, but required above all disciplined cohesion and unyielding physical and moral strength … fighting consisted chiefly of a concerted shoving (ôthismos) akin to the tight scrummaging of modern rugby football.” This rugby analogy has proved to be a powerful one.

For all its prominence in modern discussions of Archaic battle—how many other Greek words made it into Donald Kagan’s opening remarks at the 2008 Yale conference?—the word ōthismós occurs rarely in the battle narratives of the classical historians: twice in Herodotus (7.225.1, the struggle over Leonidas’ body at Thermopylae, and 9.62.2, the end of the battle of Plataia), once in Thucydides (4.96, the battle of Delion), and never in Xenophon. The word for the great shoving contest supposed to be the essence of Greek battle, in other words, occurs once in a description of Greek fighting Greek. There it does not stand alone, but is modified by “of shields” or perhaps, by analogy with Herodotus 5.30.4, we should understand “of men with shields.” From these few passages, it is hard to be sure that Thucydides’ ōthismós of shields is any more literal than Herodotus’ōthismós of words (8.78, 9.26).

Years ago, scholars did not take ōthismós to mean something like a rugby scrum on steroids. Look at how translators used to render Herodotus. George Rawlinson in 1858–60 was typical: “a fierce struggle” and “a hand-to-hand struggle.”53 Commentators and lexicographers were no different. In the first American edition of A Greek-English Lexicon (1848), Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott gave “a very hot, close fight” and “to come to close quarters.” In 1908, R. W. Macan wrote that “Hdt. seems to use ὠθισμόfor fighting at the closest quarters (without special reference to its etymological sense).”54 As late as 1938, J. E. Powell’s Lexicon to Herodotus translated ōthismós as “hand-to-hand combat.”55

Nor were nineteenth-century military historians thinking of Greek battles as shoving contests. Delbrück, for instance, wrote that

In such a phalanx two ranks at most can participate in the actual combat, with the second rank stepping into the holes of the first at the moment of contact. The following ranks serve as immediate replacements for the dead and wounded, but they exercise principally a physical and moral pressure. The deeper phalanx will defeat the more shallow one, even if on both sides exactly the same number of combatants actually manage to use their weapons.56

By “physical pressure,” Delbrück does not mean shoving, as he makes clear on the next page. There he says that Greeks did not put unarmored men in the rear ranks because

the realization that they could not really expect to receive any true support from these rear ranks would have seriously weakened the drive, the forward thrust of the foremost ranks, in which, of course, the value of the rearmost ranks normally lies.57

If battles were shoving matches, more men in the rear would have helped, whether armed or unarmed. Delbrück must mean that by their reassuring physical presence the rear ranks supported the front ranks and encouraged their advance.

The earliest use of the rugby analogy that I have found occurs in G. B. Grundy’s Thucydides and the History of his Age, originally published in 1911:

Under ordinary circumstances the hoplite force advanced into battle in a compact mass…. When it came into contact with the enemy, it relied in the first instance on shock tactics, that is to say, on the weight put into the first onset and developed in the subsequent thrust. The principle was very much the same as that followed by the forwards in a scrummage at the Rugby game of football.58

Since the forwards are only eight of fifteen players on a rugby team, perhaps Grundy might have had in mind a “scrum” of the first two or three lines, not of eight lines or more. His further explanation of his idea is curious, to say the least. He says:

People who are unacquainted with military history do not understand the importance of mere avoirdupois weight in close fighting. A regiment of big men meeting a regiment of smaller men in a circumscribed space, such as, for example, a village street, will almost certainly drive the latter back…. In the fifth century the appreciation of it [the factor of weight] would seem to have been at least imperfect. It was not till Leuktra that the Greeks really learnt this particular lesson in the military art.59

This passage strikes me as really odd. Greek battles did not take place on village streets, and the Greeks were very well acquainted with their own military history. If weight was literally so important in Archaic and Classical battles, how can it be that the Greeks didn’t appreciate it until the fourth century?

In any case, Johannes Kromayer and Georg Veith used the word Massendruck in their 1928 handbook, though they did not amplify what they meant by it.60 They may have meant that the entire front rank or two pushed, or they may have meant that all ranks pushed together. W. J. Woodhouse had the latter in mind in his 1933 book King Agis III of Sparta and His Campaign in Arkadia in 418 B.C. This is the first clear statement I have found of what became the dominant view:

a conflict of hoplites was, in the main, a matter of brawn, of shock of the mass developed instantaneously as a steady thrust with the whole weight of the file behind it—a literal shoving of the enemy off the ground on which he stood.61

The context for this passage is Woodhouse’s peculiar discussion of Thucydides 5.71, where Thucydides says that each man kept close to his right-hand neighbor’s shield out of fear. Woodhouse labeled this “notion … to put it bluntly, nothing but a fatuous delusion and stark nonsense,” and claimed to understand the real explanation: Hoplites advanced with their shields held straight across their chests, forcing them to slant to the right as they walked.

Not surprisingly, the great commentator on Thucydides, A. W. Gomme, objected:

a Greek battle was not so simply “a matter of brawn, a steady thrust with the whole weight of the file behind it—a literal shoving of the enemy off the ground on which he stood” (did the back rows push the men in front?), as Professor Woodhouse supposes. It was not a scrummage. The men all used their weapons, and had their right arms free.62

The parenthetical remark drips with sarcasm—Gomme italicized the word push. Did the back rows push the men in front? Obviously not, he means. No publicity is bad publicity, however, and Gomme had mentioned the rugby scrum again.

The analogy caught on in spite of both Gomme and a short 1942 article by A. D. Fraser called “The Myth of the Phalanx Scrimmage,” which takes as its point of departure the assumption that the rugby model dominates the field, at least in England. Pritchett dismissed Fraser’s note as a “strange article … [that] claims that there are only ‘three literary references’ to pushing.”63 By the time Pritchett wrote this put-down, in 1985, the full-scale rugby scrum, all ranks uniting in one giant shove, had become the standard view of how Greeks fought.

I first challenged this model in an article published in the same year in Classical Antiquity—in fact, I suspect that an earlier version of that paper, submitted to another journal and rejected by a cranky anonymous reader using a manual typewriter, prompted Pritchett’s chapter. Though I have been rebuked by literalists such as Robert Luginbill and Adam Schwartz, I take heart in the number of other writers since 1985 who have declared themselves skeptical about the rugby model.64

It is true that, unlike the noun ōthismós, the verb ōtheō (push) and its compounds occur frequently in the classical historians, in lines such as “on the right the Athenians pushed the Syracusans.” The rugby model takes these verbs literally. (Luginbill’s “natural reading” really means “literal reading.”) Now there is no doubt that the classical historians sometimes use ōtheō figuratively. For example, Herodotus refers to Miltiades pushing the Apsinthians away by walling off the neck of the Chersonesos (6.37.1) and speaks of the Greeks pushing the Persians back in reference to Xerxes’ invasion as a whole (8.3.2). So ōtheō might be meant literally or figuratively in battle narratives.

How can we decide which?

The historians worked in a literary tradition going back to Homer, from whom they inherited ōtheō. The natural way to understand ōtheō in the historians is to assume they use it as Homer does. If he describes mass shoving, so do they. But if he does not, the natural interpretation is that they do not either.

Pritchett opted for the former. “The ōthismós is as common in Homer as it is in later hoplite warfare,” he writes, “although the noun is not used.”65 In his description of Homeric fighting, he says that “they pushed, leaning their shields against their shoulders … while they thrust with swords and spears.”66 This combination of pushing, leaning shields, and thrusting swords and spears never occurs in the poem. Pritchett cites two passages for the leaning of shields on shoulders. Neither mentions pushing. He cites six passages for the thrusting with swords and spears. Only one mentions pushing. It comes in book 13, in what Pritchett describes as “the most informative passage.”67 The Greeks are massed together closely in what sounds like a hoplite phalanx as Hektor attacks (13.145–48):

But when he met the dense phalanges he came close and stopped. The opposing sons of the Achaians, pricking him with swords and leaf-headed spears, pushed him away from them; he shivered as he retreated.

Here the Greeks are fighting inside their camp wall, their backs to their ships, when a small group of nine champions, each one named by the poet, rallies together. There’s no mention of shields clashing, and the stabbing and the pushing happen at the same time. The Greeks used their weapons, not their shields, to drive Hektor back, slowly—he was “pushed” back rather than routed. A figurative “push” makes equally good sense in the other passages Pritchett cites as evidence of an ōthismós in the Iliad.68

The ōthismós is as common in Homer as in hoplite warfare, but not in quite the sense Pritchett intended.

I want to return briefly to the battle of Koroneia, a favorite of the literalists. It’s an interesting case where Xenophon uses the verb ōtheō while alluding to a passage in Homer that does not use it. In the Hellenika (4.3.19), Xenophon writes:

Clashing their shields together, they pushed, they fought, they killed, they died.

Xenophon uses the same verb, symballein (“clashing their shields”), that Homer does in Iliad 4.446–51 = 8.60–65:

Now as these advancing came to one place and encountered,

they clashed their [leather] shields together and their spears, and the strength

of armored men in bronze, and the shields massive in the middle

clashed against each other, and the sound grew huge of the fighting.

There the wails of despair and the cries of triumph rose up together of men killing and men killed, and the ground ran with blood.

The allusion is clearer in the expanded version of the scene Xenophon gives in his Agesilaos (2.12–14). Here we have, as in Homer, the peculiar noise of battle, men killing and men dying, and blood on the ground:

Clashing their shields together, they pushed, they fought, they killed, they died. There was no screaming, nor was there silence, but the noise that anger and battle together will produce…. When the fighting ended, one could see, where they met one another, the ground stained with blood.

And what happens next in Iliad 8? Fighting at a distance (Iliad 8.66–67):

So long as it was early morning and the sacred daylight increasing, so long the thrown weapons of both took hold, and people fell.

If Xenophon has this Iliad scene in mind, “push” cannot be a mass shove in either the Agesilaos or Hellenika passages.

A few years ago Simon Hornblower commented that “only an unusually arrogant scholar could claim to know exactly what kind of thing went on in a hoplite battle.”69 I am thankful that he included the words “unusually” and “exactly.” I feel close to certain that hoplites never carried 30+ kg of equipment. I feel confident that Archaic phalanges included archers, javelin and stone throwers, and slingers as well as men with helmets, breastplates, shin guards, and shields. The men who came to be called hoplites were not equipped identically. A man might use a Corinthian helmet or a felt pilos, a bronze cuirass or a linen corselet, a round or Boeotian shield—or some but not all of these items, depending on personal preference or simply whether he could afford them all. Whether they lined up with three feet per man or had a few feet more, most armies lost their formation as they advanced and charged. The neat blue and red rectangles we draw on battle plans should not seduce us into thinking of untrained Greeks as capable of marching precision. As for a collision and a shoving match, I’m skeptical that a general collision or general shove occurred, but willing to believe that some men ran into each other and that some literally shoved an enemy when they thought it would give an advantage in the hand-to-hand fighting. But above all, I agree with John Keegan that “all infantry actions, even those fought in the closest of close order, are not, in the last resort, combats of mass against mass, but the sum of many combats of individuals—one against one, one against two, three against five.”70

The Origins of the Hoplite Phalanx

At the 2008 Yale conference, Anthony Snodgrass repeated a suggestion he had made in print in 2006: Future considerations of the hoplite’s development ought to start from the physical evidence, especially the dedications at Olympia.71 Greeks dedicated helmets, cuirasses, and greaves by the late eighth century. The porpax shield first appears in vase painting in the early seventh century, or even the late eighth if a round shield with a figured shield device proves a shield intended to be held right side up (that is, a double-grip shield). Then the dedications of armor increase sharply about the middle of the century. Snodgrass therefore maintains that individual hoplites existed before the hoplite phalanx. In his view, aristocrats adopted the more expensive equipment first. They fought in a mixed force that included more lightly equipped troops until the middle of the seventh century, when the number of hoplites was large enough to exclude all other fighters from the ranks, restricting them to supporting roles.

I think we can squeeze a bit more out of the material evidence. Peter Bol’s study of the bronze shield fragments found at Olympia suggests that bronze rims, bronze emblems, and bronze facings came into use no earlier than the last third of the seventh century. For sixty to seventy years, therefore, porpax shields were made of perishable materials, wood or wood and leather. How can we explain this time lag in the use of bronze for shields compared to its use for other pieces of defensive equipment?

Perhaps the earliest warrior on a Greek vase who certainly carries a double-handled round shield in action provides a clue.72 He does not wear a bronze-plate cuirass. Perhaps the first men to carry the new shield were not wealthy aristocrats, but poorer men who wanted the superior protection a large, round shield provided a man who could not afford expensive body armor. I think of Thrasyboulos’ men in 403, making wooden and wickerwork shields in Peiraieus (Xen. Hell. 2.4.25). They had defeated the Thirty’s forces once, but as they anticipated the fighting to come, they needed to equip javelin and stone throwers with enough protection to let them join the hand-to-hand fighting. A big shield would be enough, for a brave or desperate man. John Hale may well be right: The first Greeks to use big, round shields might have been mercenaries employed in the east.73 When they brought their shields home, they used them in the early phalanges, fighting beside or behind aristocrats armed with the best defensive armor available and using lighter shields. If the Boeotian shield on vases is often used by a hero, perhaps that is because it was used by aristocraticpromachoi, aristocrats who fought in the front line.

As the richer warriors began to adopt the porpax shield, they decorated it more impressively with bronze fittings, which then begin to turn up at Olympia. Because a bronze cuirass was less critical for warriors armed with the porpax shield, it became less common, so that by the end of the sixth century a hoplite normally wore a leather and linen corselet, if that.

If hoplites could fight successfully in a mixed force, why did the Greeks eventually exclude archers and other lightly armed fighters from the hoplite ranks? I believe the impetus came from the Persians.74 Herodotus says that the Median king Cyaxares was the first to divide his forces into spearmen, archers, and cavalry, in the late seventh century (1.103). He’s likely to be wrong: The Assyrians probably used an integrated tactical system, employing specialist contingents of different kinds, already in the eighth century.75The Greeks had no such specialized contingents until much later. Archaic Greek cavalry was really mounted infantry, men who rode to get into position but dismounted and fought on foot. Archers and other lightly armed men fought in the same ranks. Such armies could not match the Persians. The way forward was shown by Miltiades, who armed all the Athenians at Marathon as hoplites and closed with the Persians before their mounted archers could get into position. Thereafter other Greeks emulated the exclusive phalanx and experimented with specialized contingents of archers and cavalry and even, at Athens, Persian-style mounted archers.

Let me close with a comment on the “grand hoplite narrative.” I would return to a view close to that articulated by George Grote, who thought that “the gradual rise of the small proprietors and town-artisans” in the seventh and sixth centuries led to heavily armed infantry replacing cavalry and that the Persian threat led to an equally important increase in the number of rowers in new, larger Greek fleets. “All these movements in the Grecian communities,” he wrote, “tended to break up the close and exclusive oligarchies with which our first historical knowledge commences; and to conduct them, either to oligarchies rather more open, embracing all men of a certain amount of property—or else to democracies.”76 Provided that we substitute mounted infantry, men who rode to battle in all their fine gear but fought on foot, for Grote’s (originally Aristotle’s) cavalry, this passage sounds right to me. It isn’t that the hoplite phalanx was politically unimportant. In the big picture, it was very important. But its history is complex. Grote rightly linked both an increasing number of men who could afford hoplite equipment and an increasing number of men who rowed in the fleets to the lengthy evolution toward political equality in ancient Greece.77

Notes

I am grateful to Gregory Viggiano and Donald Kagan for inviting me to participate in the 2008 conference at Yale University on the origins of the Greek phalanx. In revising my paper for publication, I have not tried to eradicate traces of its origin as an oral communication delivered to a diverse audience in a setting designed to provoke debate.

1. Hanson 2000: xxvi, 37, 153, 221–22.

2. See Krentz 2000, 2002; and Dayton 2006.

3. Hanson 2000: 56.

4. Rüstow and Köchly 1852: 44.

5. First in Die Perserkriege und die Burgunderkriege (1887) and later in his multivolume Geschichte der Kriegskunst im Rahmen der politischen Geschichte (3rd ed. 1920, translated as History of the Art of War, vol. 1 Antiquity, 1975), where he conceded that Rüstow and Köchly lacked evidence (1975: 86).

6. Some authorities writing in English mention the specific figure of 72 lbs, probably misled or confused by the two kinds of lbs, the German and the avoirdupois. I confess to making this mistake myself until Kurt Raaflaub kindly corrected me during a conference break.

7. Krentz 2010a: 45–50, and 2010b: 190–197.

8. Based on his own experience exercising with replicas and his examination of spears in Greek art, Allen Pittman has argued that Greek spears were thinner than the one inch (25 mm) both scholars and reenactors have generally accepted; he suggests that 18 mm is a realistic estimate (2007: 66–69). As far as I know, no one has tested thinner, lighter spears to see whether they would in fact work better.

9. Snodgrass 1964: 63–64.

10. Xenophon Anabasis 1.8.9; Arrian Anabasis 1.6.2.

11. Boardman 1983: 27–33; Franz 2002: 183–84; van Wees 2004: 50–52; Rawlings 2007: 57.

  12. The YouTube video “Boeotian Shield Usage” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeKuy36OG_g&feature=player_embedded#at=10) demonstrates the maneuverability of the shield.

  13. In this section I draw heavily on my paper “Marathon and the Development of the Exclusive Hoplite Phalanx,” forthcoming in Carey and Edwards 2011.

  14. The exception appears in Homer, Iliad 6.6; Homer uses the plural about twenty times. The plural also occurs in Tyrtaios F 12 lines 21–22, where the good warrior “turns to flight the enemy’s rugged phalanges,” and Mimnermos F 13 line 3, where the warrior breaks “the massed phalanges of the Lydian horsemen.”

  15. Lazenby and Whitehead 1996: 32.

  16. Müller 1839: 85. Rüstow and Köchly 1852: 10 cite Polyainos 1.10.

  17. Grote 1869–70: 2. 462–63.

  18. Thucydides 5.70; Plutarch Moralia 210F; Athenaios Deipnosophistai 14.627D; Polyainos Stratagems 1.10Excerpts 18.1; Pausanias 3.17.5; Xenophon Anabasis 6.1.11.

  19. Delbrück 1975: 58, a translation of the third German edition of 1920.

  20. Rüstow and Köchly 1852: 16–17. They included this great oval shield in their 36 kg total estimate discussed above.

  21. Helbig 1909: 66–67.

  22. Helbig 1911.

  23. Helbig 1879: 85–86.

  24. The Chigi olpe, for instance, was painted in Corinth about 640, from which Martin Nil-son concluded that “the Chigi vase gives the lower boundary; hoplite tactics were fully enacted in the second half of the seventh century” (1929: 240).

  25. Gomme 1945–56: 1.10; Lorimer 1947: 128; Andrewes 1956: 31–42; Detienne 1968: 140; Cartledge 1977 and 2001: 153–66; Hanson 1999: 222–42; Schwartz 2009.

  26. Kromayer in Kromayer and Veith 1928: 21; Nierhaus 1938: 90–113; Snodgrass 1965 and 1993; Greenhalgh 1973: 69–75; van Wees 2000 and 2004: 166–83; Krentz 2002; Wheeler 2007; Rawlings 2007: 54–59.

  27. For hoplites outside the phalanx, see Rawlings 2000.

  28. Schwartz 2009: 54.

  29. Schwartz 2009: 54.

  30. For the video, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjjU6tSUp34&feature=player_embedded. Pittman 2007: 70 says that adding the metal parts pushed the weight as high as 14 kg, so it isn’t surprising that he’s training with an unfaced wooden shield in the video. The Hoplite Association in London judges 14 lbs to be about the maximum manageable weight (http://www.4hoplites.com/Aspis.htm). I would like to see reenactors practicing with lighter poplar and willow shields weighing a realistic 4–5 kg.

  31. Note, too, that the Lakedaimonians’ use of pipers was exceptional, was worthy of remark: Thucydides 5.70, Athenaios Deipnosophistai 14.624D; Pausanias 3.17.5; Polyainos Stratagems 1.10. Most armies did not use pipers to keep their advance slow and their formation intact.

  32. Pritchett 1971–91: 1.134–54.

  33. Pittman 2007: 70–72. More tentatively, he says that a man might have thrust his arm through his left-hand neighbor’s rope, then put his hand through his porpax, and finally grabbed both his loop and his right-hand neighbor’s rope, linking him both left and right. This idea strikes me as entirely unworkable.

  34. For the video “Hoplite Shield,” go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbPSvJt3ER0&feature=player_embedded#at=13.

  35. Matthew 2009: 406.

  36. Polybios 18.29–30 with Pritchett 1971–91: 1.145, 151–54.

  37. Polybios 18.30.5–11. See Krentz 1985, 1994 (where “6 m” and “3 m” are misprints for “6 feet: and “3 feet”); van Wees 2000, 2004.

  38. Jameson 1991.

  39. Curiously, Rutherford 1995: 114 seems to think the dance was not included in military paeans. My thanks to my colleague Keyne Cheshire for suggesting that stomping feet and other movements would fit a prebattle context nicely. For a helpful review of recent work on paeans, see Furley and Bremer 2001: 1.84–91.

  40. Thucydides 4.43, 4.96.1; Xenophon, Anabasis 4.3.29–31, 4.8.16, 5.2.13, Hellenika 2.4.17.

  41. Hanson 2000: 141.

  42. Hanson 2000: 121, 140.

  43. Hanson 2000: 162–64; Matthew 2009: 400–406.

  44. Anderson 1991: 31.

  45. “Hoplite shield,” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbPSvJt3ER0&feature=player_embedded#at=13.

  46. Lazenby 1991: 92–93.

  47. Keegan 1976: 71.

  48. Hanson 2000: 156–57.

  49. Hanson 2000: 157–58.

  50. Wheeler 2007: 209.

  51. Goldsworthy 1997: 17.

  52. Hanson 2000: 68–69, 152–59, 171–84, 1999: 262; Anderson 1970: 175–76, 1984; Cart-ledge 1977: 15–16. Pritchett 1985: 65–73. Important recent advocates of this view include Lazenby 1991: 87–109; Luginbill 1994; Raaflaub 1999: 132–33; Eccheverría Rey 2011: 64–65.

  53. See also George Campbell Macauley in 1904 (“a great struggle” and “jostling”), Henry Cary in 1908 (“violent struggle” and “a close conflict”), and Alfred Denis Godley in the 1921 Loeb edition (“a great struggle” and “blows at close quarters”).

  54. Macan 1908: 730, commenting on 9.62.

  55. Powell 1938: 386.

  56. Delbrück 1975: 53, a translation of the 1920 third edition. The first edition was published in 1900.

  57. Delbrück 1975: 54.

  58. Grundy 1948: 1.268. I have not seen the 1911 first edition, but Grundy says in his preface that he made “only one change in respect to matter and a few minor changes in respect to form” (viii). I would not be surprised to find the rugby analogy somewhere earlier. William Mitford may have anticipated Grundy’s view, without mentioning rugby. On Plataia, Mitford says that “the Tegeans, according to Herodotus, made the first impression; the Lacedaemonians then pushed forward, and confusion soon became general among the Persian infantry” (1823: 2.111). And on Delion: “The field was well disputed between the rest; in action so close, they joined opposing shields; and where weapons could not avail against the compact arrangement of defensive armor, they endevored [sic] to break each other’s line by force of pushing” (1823: 3.27). Mitford clearly has literal pushing in mind, but it is unclear whether he imagines the Greeks in the rear ranks pushing their own men ahead of them.

  59. Grundy 1948: 1.268–69.

  60. Kromayer and Veith 1928: 85.

  61. Woodhouse 1933: 78–79. He cites only Thucydides 4.96 and 6.70 in support of his view.

  62. Gomme 1937: 135.

  63. Pritchett 1971–91: 4.66 n. 200. Perhaps this dismissal is not quite fair. Fraser does say that the rugby model was founded on only three passages. But the ones he discusses are among those most frequently cited, and what he says can be applied to the rest. Fraser discusses the battle of Syracuse (Thucydides 6.70.2 [the reference is garbled in his text]), the “give me one more step” story from the battle of Leuktra (Polyainos 2.3.2), and the battle of Delion (Thucydides 4.96).

  64. To varying degrees, scholars skeptical of the mass shove and favoring individual action, sometimes including a push with the shield, include Cawkwell 1978, 1989; Krentz 1985, 1994; Goldsworthy 1997; van Wees 2004: 188–91, Rawlings 2007: 93–97, and Matthew 2009.

  65. Pritchett 1971–91: 4.29.

  66. Pritchett 1971–91: 4.29.

  67. Pritchett 1971–91: 4.15.

  68. Pritchett 1971–91: 4.29.

  69. Hornblower 1991–2008: 2.306.

  70. Keegan 1976: 100.

  71. Snodgrass 2006: 345.

  72. A Protocorinthian aryballos, c. 690–680, found at Lechaion (Corinth Museum CP 2096). See Eliot and Eliot 1968: plate 102, 2.

  73. See Hale (this volume). Fagan hints at this hypothesis when he comments that “the development of [the mixed early phalanx], perhaps not coincidentally, was more or less contemporaneous with the height of Assyrian military sophistication” (2010: 99 n. 51).

  74. See Krentz 2002: 35–37, 2011. Though he would not attribute such significance to Marathon, van Wees 2004 makes a case based on iconographic evidence that the exclusive phalanx developed only in the sixth or fifth century.

  75. Fagan 2010.

  76. Grote 1869: 3.30–31.

  77. On the role of the fleet in developing its rowers’ political consciousness, see Strauss 1996.

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