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Thread: Qin Pike Square vs Macedonian Phalanx

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monash View Post
    It's not a matter of drill but of physics, it's next to impossible for densely packed group of men wielding 17ft pikes to stay in formation, shoulder to shoulder when entering a thicket of scrub, crossing a ditch or climbing a boulder strewn rise. Elite troops will do it better than average troops but it only takes one part of the line to disrupt to cause a man killing gap. And that gap doesn't have to be very wide.

    Remember if your entire front line is a phalanx then the entire front line has to move in unison, it cant afford to have one part fall behind or get ahead. Especially if, like later users you didn't have strong supporting foot to move forward and temporarily plug the gap while also keeping hostile infantry away from their flanks.
    This is why I did not bring legionaries into the equation. I only wanted to compare like with like.

    Sure, 1 v 1, legionaries beat phalangites, but smart phalanx user would not rely solely on it.

    I think it's wrong to simply say that manipular legion is superior to pike squares. An army needs a mix. I hate to rehash something often posted in Rome v Han debates, but if past Chinese field manuals are to be believed:

    According to the Bingfa (兵法), where there are waterways fifteen feet wide, chariots cannot pass. Where rocks are piled up among the mountain forests, and rivers circulate between hills covered with woods and thickets; there the infantry arm comes into its own. Here two chariots or two horsemen do not equal one foot soldier. Where there are rolling hills, wide open spaces and flat plains, there chariots and cavalry find their use, and ten foot soldiers are not as good as one horseman. Flat places intersected with gorges, and abrupt declivities affording wide outlooks - commanding positions such as these should be held by archers and crossbowmen. Here a hundred men armed with hand-to-hand weapons are not equal to one archer. When two forces oppose one another on a plain covered with short grasses they are free to manoeuvre back and forth, and then the long halberd (长戟) is the right weapon. Three men with swords and shields are not as effective as one so armed. Among reeds and rushes and thickets of bamboo, where the undergrowth is rich and abundant, short spears are needed. Two men with long halberds are not as good there as one with a spear. But among winding ways and dangerous precipices the sword and shield are to be preferred, and three archers or crossbowmen will not do as well as one swordsman. -Chao Cuo

    It appears sword and shield is not always the optimal load out.

  2. #32
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hboGYT View Post
    The centre of gravity is most likely slightly forward of the the geometric centre, which is way forward of where the pike is held.
    I'd have thought, from my layman's understanding, that there must have been some sort of counterweight on the back end, to at least balance out some of the weight on the front end, to make the pike easier to handle and use.
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  3. #33
    Senior Contributor Triple C's Avatar
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    Reenactors and Wikipedia thinks the Macedonian pike has a butt-spike. That probably would function as a counterweight, in addition to a backup weapon in case the spear was broken.

    Re: Sword and shield. The "Polybian" legionaries had javelins, which in a pinch would do as spears. The legions also had "organic" supporting arms in its auxiliaries, like cavalry, archers, ballistae, etc.
    Last edited by Triple C; 26 Apr 18, at 13:04.
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  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    I'd have thought, from my layman's understanding, that there must have been some sort of counterweight on the back end, to at least balance out some of the weight on the front end, to make the pike easier to handle and use.
    I don't think it's ever going to be that significant of a counter weight. Adding more counter-weight reduces the tendency to rotate but adds to the total weight. At some point, you might as well deal with the imbalance than to try and hold a heavier weight.

  5. #35
    Senior Contributor Triple C's Avatar
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    Increasing total weight for better handling characteristics should be an acceptable trade-off. The weight of melee weapons wasn't much of a factor compared to body armor or pack. And most pikemen didn't wear much armor. I would think that most warriors would gladly trade a bit of weight for a more agile weapon, and moreover, counterweight at the end means the weapon could be extended further toward the enemy, extending reach.
    Last edited by Triple C; 26 Apr 18, at 13:57.
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    It's not a matter of drill but of physics, it's next to impossible for densely packed group of men wielding 17ft pikes to stay in formation, shoulder to shoulder when entering a thicket of scrub, crossing a ditch or climbing a boulder strewn rise. Elite troops will do it better than average troops but it only takes one part of the line to disrupt to cause a man killing gap. And that gap doesn't have to be very wide.

    Remember if your entire front line is a phalanx then the entire front line has to move in unison, it cant afford to have one part fall behind or get ahead. Especially if, like later users you didn't have strong supporting foot to move forward and temporarily plug the gap while also keeping hostile infantry away from their flanks.
    partly.

    the italian pikemen or the spanish tercios of the 16th century was an enormously different beast from the pikemen of earlier. far better unit articulation, drill, professional troops.

    it's interesting to see how later formations right before the advent of mass guns went heavily towards pike. there were some attempts to re-create the legionary type (ie rodeleros) but those were far more situational. so there's a good argument that the weaknesses in flexibility of the old Macedonian pike formation could be largely ameliorated if you had better organized and trained troops.
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  7. #37
    Senior Contributor Triple C's Avatar
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    Possibly. There might might have been some steep drop off in the efficiency of Macedonian pike, because Alexander was supposed to have cowed some rebels into retreating simply by demonstrating close order drills.
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    Got to be careful here.

    The phalangites/phalanx is not a pike square. That development didn't come until much later. To equate the Macedonians/Qin with later pike formations would not be comparing apples to apples.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WABs_OOE View Post
    Got to be careful here.

    The phalangites/phalanx is not a pike square. That development didn't come until much later. To equate the Macedonians/Qin with later pike formations would not be comparing apples to apples.
    Please do tell.

    Don't they all fight with pikes... in squares, hence pike squares?

  10. #40
    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    partly.

    the italian pikemen or the spanish tercios of the 16th century was an enormously different beast from the pikemen of earlier. far better unit articulation, drill, professional troops.
    Yes, but again the tercios etc were a combined armed formation which combined pikes with arquebus and 'sword and buckler troops. Even the Swiss seldom tried to engage a foe with pike/polearm alone at least not after they left their homeland

    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    it's interesting to see how later formations right before the advent of mass guns went heavily towards pike. there were some attempts to re-create the legionary type (ie rodeleros) but those were far more situational. so there's a good argument that the weaknesses in flexibility of the old Macedonian pike formation could be largely ameliorated if you had better organized and trained troops.
    I still think history shows they had to work in tandem with other troop types to get maximum utility from them, especially as the number of gun powder weapons of the battlefield started to increase and field fortifications (gabionades etc) started to be used more often. This might not have been the case in all battles but seems to have been the case in most.
    Last edited by Monash; 28 Apr 18, at 03:25.
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  11. #41
    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hboGYT View Post
    Please do tell.

    Don't they all fight with pikes... in squares, hence pike squares?
    Err not correct. Look up the tercios. It was most definitely not a 'pike square' for a start it had a hollow center and was more akin to the British infantry squares at Waterloo than the phalanx.
    Last edited by Monash; 27 Apr 18, at 12:56.
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    I still think history shows they had to work in tandem with other troop types to get maximum utility from them, especially as the number of gun powder weapons of the battlefield started to increase and filed fortifications (gabionades etc) started to be used more often. This might not have been the case in all battles but seems to have been the case in most.
    oh, agreed. in any case, as with most formations the maximum utility is derived from the specific enemy you are fighting.

    IE the roman legion was a world-beater against hordes of poorly armed/armored Celts and (at first) Germanics. had trouble with the Macedonian pike until the pike hit difficult terrain; had trouble with heavy cavalry and horse archers.

    pikes slaughter sword and buckler troops unless sword and buckler outmaneuvers and closes the gap, in which case the pikes get slaughtered in turn.
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  13. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by hboGYT View Post
    Don't they all fight with pikes... in squares, hence pike squares?
    The major difference is that the later pike formations were capable of fighting multiple sides simultaneously instead of just one direction. A Swiss pike square can point their pikes on all 4 sides while the phalanx formations could not.

  14. #44
    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    pikes slaughter sword and buckler troops unless sword and buckler outmaneuvers and closes the gap, in which case the pikes get slaughtered in turn.
    A few years ago I read Sir Charles Oman's series 'The Art of War' (In Europe). He commended that the Spanish sword and buckler men were highly effective against pikes in the few major battles where they were used. According to him they would advance in loose formation towards the pike line and then the leading troops would look for an opportunity to roll under the pikes in order to get to the front ranks. He claims they wore some form of body armor which would have helped (I guess) but I imagine more than a few didn't make it. Still I believe the point was that it would only need a handful of them to succeed and start tearing up gaps in the line before for the rest of their comrades could pile in and destroy the formation.
    Last edited by Monash; 28 Apr 18, at 12:21.
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    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    I reckon that one day a long, long time ago, some nearsighted person, from some distance, saw an eagle that was standing on the back of a lion. Or it was simply a case of forced perspective, and the eagle and lion were merged from what they could see.

    Because their vision wasn't so good, they thought "hmm, that's a strange animal. I'll call it a griffin."

    Other nearsighted people over the millennia, every so often, also happened to see the same thing, and the existence of griffins thus became a confirmed reality.
    Been doing some more thinking...

    Satyrs
    1. either a nearsighted person, or a person who has a fertile imagination, is the "witness"
    2. possibly never seen a goat before, perhaps at the time of the earliest domestication (e.g. Europeans seeing Middle Eastern origin farmers with goats for the first time)
    3. forced perspective merges man and goat, from what they can see, or they see something as simple as a goat shepherd standing behind a goat
    4. man and goat appear to be a single animal, which came to be called "satyrs" in certain nations

    I think I might gather up my theories regarding the origin of these myths and make a separate thread.

    "On the Origin of Made-Up Mythical Creatures". ;-)
    Last edited by Ironduke; 28 Apr 18, at 17:46.
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