Ancient Greek Phalanx Combat Identify facts, lists, concepts, rules/propositions, and routines (e g., a procedure) to teach. How would you teach? Powerpoint? Students read portions? You read portions?

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Ancient Greek Phalanx Combat
Identify facts, lists, concepts, rules/propositions, and routines (e.g., a procedure) to teach.

How would you teach? Powerpoint? Students read portions? You read portions?
Note: You might organize the information differently than it is presented in the text. What should you teach first?
The phalanx (Ancient Greek: φάλαγξ, Modern Greek: φάλαγγα, phālanga) (plural phalanxes or phalanges (Ancient and Modern Greek: φάλαγγες, phālanges)) is a rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes,…or similar weapons. The term is particularly (and originally) used to describe the use of this formation in Ancient Greek warfare. The word phalanx is derived from the Greek word phalangos, meaning the finger….
The hoplite phalanx of the Archaic and Classical periods in Greece (approx. 750-350 BCE) was a formation in which the hoplites would line up in ranks in close order. The hoplites would lock their shields together, and the first few ranks of soldiers would project their spears out over the first rank of shields. The phalanx therefore presented a shield wall and a mass of spear points to the enemy, making frontal assaults much more difficult. It also allowed a higher proportion of the soldiers to be actively engaged in combat at a given time (rather than just those in the front rank).
The phalanx usually advanced at a walking pace, although it is possible that they picked up speed during the last several yards. Herodotus states, of the Greeks at the Battle of Marathon, that "They were the first Greeks we know of to charge their enemy at a run". Many historians believe that this innovation was precipitated by their desire to minimize their losses from Persian archery. The opposing sides would collide, possibly shivering many of the spears of the front row. The battle would then rely on the valour of the men in the front line; whilst those in the rear maintained forward pressure on the front ranks with their shields. When in combat, the whole formation would consistently press forward trying to break the enemy formation; thus when two phalanx formations engaged, the struggle essentially became a pushing match….
Individual hoplites carried their shields on their left arm, protecting not themselves but the soldier to the left. This meant that the men at the extreme right of the phalanx were only half protected. In battle, opposing phalanxes would exploit this weakness by attempting to overlap the enemy's right flank. It also meant that, in battle, a phalanx would tend to drift to the right (as hoplites sought to remain behind the shield of their neighbour). The most experienced hoplites were often placed on the right side of the phalanx, to counteract these problems. There was a leader in each row of a phalanx, and a rear rank officer, the ouragos (meaning tail-leader), who kept order in the rear. The phalanx is thus an example of a military formation in which the individualistic elements of battle were suppressed for the good of the whole. The hoplites had to trust their neighbours to protect them; and be willing to protect their neighbour; a phalanx was thus only as strong as its weakest elements.The effectiveness of the phalanx therefore depended upon how well the hoplites could maintain this formation while in combat, and how well they could stand their ground, especially when engaged against another phalanx. For this reason, the formation was deliberately organized to group friends and family closely together, thus providing a psychological incentive to support one's fellows, and a disincentive through shame to panic or attempt to flee. The more disciplined and courageous the army the more likely it was to win - often engagements between the various city-states of Greece would be resolved by one side fleeing before the battle. The Greek word dynamis, the "will to fight", expresses the drive that kept hoplites in formation.
"Now of those, who dare, abiding one beside another, to advance to the close fray, and the foremost champions, fewer die, and they save the people in the rear; but in men that fear, all excellence is lost. No one could ever in words go through those several ills, which befall a man, if he has been actuated by cowardice. For 'tis grievous to wound in the rear the back of a flying man in hostile war. Shameful too is a corpse lying low in the dust, wounded behind in the back by the point of a spear." [Tyrtaeus: The War Songs Of Tyrtaeus]…
Each hoplite provided their own equipment. The primary hoplite weapon was a spear around 2.4 meters in length called a doru. Although accounts of its length vary, it is usually now believed to have been seven to nine feet long (~2.1 - ~2.7m). It was held one-handed, the other hand holding the hoplite's shield. The spearhead was usually a curved leaf shape, while the rear of the spear had a spike called a sauroter ('lizard-killer') which was used to stand the spear in the ground (hence the name). It was also used as a secondary weapon if the main shaft snapped, or for the rear ranks to finish off fallen opponents as the phalanx advanced over them. It is a matter of contention among historians whether the hoplite used the spear overarm or underarm. Held underarm, the thrusts would have been less powerful but under more control, and vice versa. It seems likely that both motions were used, depending on the situation. If attack was called for, an overarm motion was more likely to break through an opponent's defense. The upward thrust is more easily deflected by armour due to its lesser leverage. However, when defending, an underarm carry absorbed more shock and could be 'couched' under the shoulder for maximum stability. It should also be said that an overarm motion would allow more effective combination of the aspis and doru if the shield wall had broken down, while the underarm motion would be more effective when the shield had to be interlocked with those of one's neighbours in the battle-line. Hoplites in the rows behind the lead would almost certainly have made overarm thrusts. The rear ranks held their spears underarm, and raised shields upwards at increasing angles. This was an effective defence against missiles, deflecting their force…
Hoplites also carried a short sword called a xiphos. The short sword was a secondary weapon, used if the doru was broken or lost.Hoplites carried a circular shield called an aspis (often referred to as a hoplon) made from wood and covered in bronze, measuring roughly 1 meter in diameter. This medium-sized shield (and indeed, large for the time) was made possible partly by its dish-like shape, which allowed it to be supported with the rim on the shoulder. It spanned from chin to knee and was very heavy (8-15 kg)….
The basic combat element of the Greek armies was the stoichis or stoichos (meaning "rank") or enomotia (meaning "sworn") 16 to 25 men strong, led by a dekadarchos who was assisted by a dimoirites and two dekasteroi (sing. dekasteros). Four to a maximum of 32 enomotiai (depending on the era in question or the city) were forming a lochos led by a lochagos, who in this way was in command of initially 100 hoplites to a maximum of c.a 500 in the late Hellenistic armies. A taxis ( mora for the Spartans) was the greatest standard hoplitic formation of 500 to 1500 men, led by a strategos (general). The entire army, a total of several taxeis or morae was led by a generals' council. In the later, commander-in-chief was a polemarchos (democracies) where a single dissent was almost equivalent to a veto or a strategos autokrator (tyrannies and democratic coalitions) or a king (kingdoms).

Phalanx front and depth

Hoplite phalanxes usually deployed in ranks of 8 men or more deep; The Macedonian phalanxes were often up to a maximum of 16 men deep. There are some notable exceptions; for instance, at the battles of Leuctra and Mantinea, the Theban general Epaminondas arranged the left wing of the phalanx into a "hammerhead" of 50 ranks of elite hoplites deep (see below). Phalanxes were most used through out this period and were very effective against other armies or kingdoms.
The phalanx depth, however, could vary depending on the needs, and the generals' plans. While the phalanx was in march, an eis bathos formation (loose) was adopted in order to move more freely and maintain order. This was also the initial battle formation as, in addition, permitted friendly units to pass through either assaulting or retreating. In this status, the phalanx had double depth than the normal and each hoplite had to occupy about 1.8-2m in width (6-7ft). When enemy infantry was approaching, a rapid switch to the pykne formation (tight) was necessary. In that case, each man's space was cut in half (0.9-1m or 3ft in width) and the formation depth was turning on normal. But if the phalanx was experiencing extra pressure, intense missile volleys or frontal cavalry charges, an instant switch to the synaspismos formation (ultra tight) was obligatory. In synaspismos the rank depth was half of the normal and the width each men occupied was as small as 0.45m (1.5ft)
Stages of combat
Several stages in hoplite combat can be defined:
Ephodos: The hoplites stop singing their paeanes (battle hymns) and move towards the enemy, gradually picking up pace and momentum. In the instants before impact war cries would be made.
Krousis: The opposing phalanxes meet each other almost simultaneously along their front. The promachoe (the front-liners) had to be physically and psychologically fit to sustain and survive the clash.
Doratismos: Repeated, rapid spear thrusts in order to disrupt the enemy formation.
Othismos: Literally "pushing" after the most spears have broken, the hoplites begin to push with their large shields and use their secondary weapon, the sword. This could be the longest phase.
Pararrhexis: "Breaching" the opposing phalanx, the enemy formation shatters and the battle ends.


The early history of the phalanx is largely one of combat between hoplite armies from competing Greek city-states. The usual result was rather identical, inflexible formations pushing against each other until one broke. The potential of the phalanx to achieve something more was demonstrated at Battle of Marathon (490 BC). Facing the much larger army of Darius I, the Athenians thinned out their phalanx and consequently lengthened their front, to avoid being outflanked. However, even a reduced-depth phalanx proved unstoppable to the lightly armed Persian infantry. After routing the Persian wings, the hoplites on the Athenian wings wheeled inwards, destroying the elite troop at the Persian centre, resulting in a crushing victory for Athens. Throughout the Greco-Persian Wars the hoplite phalanx was to prove superior to the Persian infantry (e.g. The battles of Thermopylae and Plataea).

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