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 Battles and kit

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Battles and kit   Mon 26 May 2014, 12:12

According to  learned pundits during a TV docu, the Macedonian front warriors  of Alexander - the-whatever-your-opinion held 15ft 'pikes' before them in ranks, making a formidable front to attack. This was given as one of the reasons for the battle victory at Issus. Now, Issus is a fair old march from Macedonia, so how were these carried? I  speak as one who has been moving 8ft bean poles about the garden without ease. Just curious - I assume the said pikes were also heavier? I do not doubt their effectiveness - even  beanpoles poles cleared the way in the car park without trying.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Mon 26 May 2014, 13:16

I don't know about Alexandrian soldiers, but renaissance pike-men, whether Swiss mercenaries, German Landsknechts or London trained bands, are usually depicted whilst on the move, with each man carrying his pike, balanced thirdway/halfway along its length, on the shoulder. The pikes, slightly weighted anyway toward the foot end, are carried nearly horizontal (15-30° or so) so they don't impede the ranks either before or behind. 

Practically I don't see any reason why a Macedonian pike phalanx on the move would be much different. Unless this (as depicted in 16th century prints) was a convention to show that they were indeed pikemen ... and that actually their pikes were carried alongside them in wagons. Certainly some 16th century pictures appear to show pikes (spares? - or perhaps just tent poles?) carried on waggons. But I still think actually each man would have carried his own weapon (and we've discussed elsewhere that he didn't have to carry his spare clothes, cooking/eating utensils etc) at least while on "active" service, and so each unit remained armed and could immediately deploy in defence if attacked.

I'll try and dig out the relevant pics that I'm thinking of for 16th century 'pike & shot' armies on the move.
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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Mon 26 May 2014, 13:45

Swiss pikemen crossing the Alps from the Lucerne Chronicle;

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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Mon 26 May 2014, 13:52

Besides the pikes, glaives, bills and halberds, that's an interesting print Trike, in that it depicts a woman: a camp-follower/wife/mother/girlfriend/whore, or whatever, stoically plodding along, alongside the boys.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Mon 26 May 2014, 14:28

Hmm ... there are plenty of pics showing rennaisance armies marching into battle, pikes on shoulders, but not so many showing them marching, days before to the rendez-vous. The print I had in mind of Henry VIII's 1513 army on the march in northern France, once I'd found it, is clearly just a stylised plan showing what company was where within the whole force. In addition the pics showing pikes carried on wagons, that I'd also recalled, actually depict the 1545 siege of Boulogne ...  so a completely different situation to an army on the move.

So sorry...

But then Trike's pic says it all really.
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Aelfwine
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Mon 26 May 2014, 20:02

@Priscilla wrote:
According to  learned pundits during a TV docu, the Macedonian front warriors  of Alexander - the-whatever-your-opinion held 15ft 'pikes' before them in ranks, making a formidable front to attack. This was given as one of the reasons for the battle victory at Issus. Now, Issus is a fair old march from Macedonia, so how were these carried? I  speak as one who has been moving 8ft bean poles about the garden without ease. Just curious - I assume the said pikes were also heavier? I do not doubt their effectiveness - even  beanpoles poles cleared the way in the car park without trying.

The sarissas carried by the Foot Companions of the Macedonian army were made of cornel wood and consisted of two pieces. Theses two halves were joined by an iron coupling-sleeve, so that they could be dismantled on the march. A 4.5m sarissa weighed about 5.5kg whilst a 5.5m pike weighed in at 6.5kg. Those two lengths were common during Alexander`s time, but later in the Hellenistic period even longer sarissas were known, from 6.5m in length to 7.3mts.
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Mon 26 May 2014, 20:03

Alexander must have changed battle tactics for the long marches into the subcontinent  15ft pikes still seem burdensome to carry and the terrain through the passes rather rough.


.
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Mon 26 May 2014, 20:07

Crossed posts  - thanks, AW. I wondered if they had been  in 2 parts but had never seen reference to it.
Thank you for your enlightenment. Regards, P.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Tue 27 May 2014, 12:31

Marius's mules :
Every legion had a baggage train of 500–550 mules, or about 1 mule for every 10 legionaries. To keep these baggage trains from becoming too large, Marius had each man carry as much of his own equipment as he could, including his own armor, weapons and 15 days' rations or about 50–60 pounds of load total. To make this easier, he issued each legionary a forked stick to carry his load on his shoulders. The soldiers were nicknamed Marius' Mules (muli mariani in Latin) due to the amount of gear they had to carry themselves.

A sarissa at about 12-13lbs seems a little less problematic when considering this lot - actually IIRC 50-60lbs packs seem to have been about the norm throughout history.
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Tue 27 May 2014, 14:52

Landsknechts on the march;

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Wed 28 May 2014, 09:15

The weight of the pole may be small, but I am intrigued by awkwardness of using such long pikes in formation - a bit Laurel and Hardy to my mind; after a bit of advance in ranks then chaos when disarray begins after a fall or sudden turn. If dropped and a second weapon used then the ground would be an extra hazard.
As for the chaps in the above pic - well imagine the ways those behind could snaggle their comrades frills in front....... and the dialogue.
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Wed 28 May 2014, 13:02

@Priscilla wrote:
The weight of the pole may be small, but I am intrigued by awkwardness of using such long pikes in formation - a bit Laurel and Hardy to my mind; after a bit of advance in ranks then chaos when disarray begins after a fall or sudden turn. If dropped and a second weapon used then the ground would be an extra hazard.
As for the chaps in the above pic - well imagine the ways those behind could snaggle their comrades frills in front....... and the dialogue.

Drill, Priscilla, continual drilling and marching in time to fife and drum, to keep such mishaps to a minimum.
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Wed 28 May 2014, 13:58

So it's, "Right lads, so that's marching abart, nah we're gonner practice dying and what to do wiv yer pike if an arrer gets yer - pay attention you lot at the back. An' you lot in the front ain't got nuffin to laugh abart." or similar such training instructions?

I ought get back to my bean poles.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Wed 28 May 2014, 17:56

Yup, as Trike says drill/training, plus discipline and constant practice. Which, before the days of standing armies, explains why Swiss and Landsknecht pike & shot companies were so much in demand throughout the period 1450 to 1550. These were professional mercenaries, who were usually in continual active employment since they were good and always available to the highest bidder. (As I believe poor Francis I of France found out when on the eve of battle his Swiss pikemen demanded payment for their services, and he, being short of the necessary sum, the next morning found himself facing his previously loyal Swiss soldiers, who were now in the employ of his enemy).

But learning to handle the pike effectively in close formation does seen, not unexpectedly, to have taken time ...

At Flodden in 1513 the Scots adopted their standard defensive schiltron formations for their infantry armed with pole-arms. For several hundred years previously these would have been simple spears, but by 1513 the Scots had started to adopt the much longer pike. There is some evidence from contemporary reports of the battle, that they had trouble handling their new pikes and so inadvertedly allowed gaps to open up in the spikey pike wall, which the English, still mostly using the rather old fashioned shorter bill, managed to exploit to get in under the pikes, and so close with devastating effect.

And again in both of Henry VIII's French ventures, while he did not lack for either men nor pikes, he still had to cough up money to buy-in the services of trained German Landsknecht merceneries to meet the lack of trained home-grown pikemen. The London Trained Bands (pike & musket units), which were basically militia and so essentially part-time soldiers, did their best and served Henry well, but they were still not deemed as good as 'the professionals' which in 1544 meant hired German landsknechts, who came in complete units under their own officers and with a balanced mix of pikes, halberds and muskets.

Disciplined renaissance pike formations were exceedingly effective in defending against cavalry but they were still good offensively against lesser-trained infantry armed with shorter pole-arms. But when they came up against other similarly disciplined and resolute pike formations the results could be a bloody:



A print entitled "Bad War" from a sketch by Hans Holbein depicting the chaotic melée that results when two similar pike formations come into close contact.

Sorry P for the renaissance bias. I know you're really interested in the Macedonian Phalanx ... but the renaissance is more my period and the discussion of pikes rather struck a chord.


Last edited by Meles meles on Wed 28 May 2014, 18:35; edited 2 times in total
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Battles and kit   Wed 28 May 2014, 18:26

I think we can both assume that a  pike mess as above is timeless, MM?  thanks for the close up. There are just things that one can't train for, I guess. Imagine being in the middle of that lot - nasty.
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