Welcome all. This short series of articles is designed to give you an overview of the various armies used throughout history (A very few of them I admit). Later issues will go into roman (early and late period), "viking" i.e. generic scandinavian raiders, Byzantine, crusader, swiss, machiavellian, and maybe one or two others. Each article will discuss what they wore, fought with, some of their tactics and include a short bibliography.

Any such discussion needs a few definitions first. I will define tactics, therefore, as the movement of men within a single battle. It is the science of how to win a fight. Strategy is defined as the science of winning a war (i.e many battles). A strategist will tell a general where he must win (i.e. go take city X), the general should be a good tactician which will allow him to win each fight. Needless to say these lines get very fuzzy, especially when dealing with something I choose to call the tactics of mistake, which will be covered in a future issue.

I will begin then with the greeks. The average greek city-state army was pathetic. Below I discuss the Alexandrian army which incorporated the entire concept of the greek phalanx. Each grecian army consisted of 1 or more phalanxs of men armed with spears (usually 18' long); armour consisted of a small targe (round shield) and sometimes a leather breastplate. When a war was to be fought the armies arranged a place to meet, both sides arrived, lined up, and walked into each other. Tactics was unheard of. Needless to say, they were easily conquered by Phillip of Macedon who used tactics. Out of the city states he created an army which he passed on to his son Alexander. With it Alendander went on to conquer the world.

The Alexandrian army was drawn up as follows:

{}                                                         {}
{}                                                         {}

[\] = 2 ilae
X = Psiloi
Y = Syntagma
Z = Peltasts
{} = 1 ilae of light cavalry

Cavalry - 1800 men formed into 8 ilae (225 men each) (each [\] is 2 ilae)
armour: helm, metal/leather breastplate, leather skirt, greaves
arms: large targe, 6' thrusting spear, short sword
refered to as the "companions" they were alexander's favourites

Light cavalry - 900 men formed into 4 ilae (each {} is one ilae)
armour: helm, small targe
arms: 2 hand spear, throwing spear, bow

Peltasts or Hypaspists - 3000 men (reserves) (the Z's)
armour: as heavy cavalry
arms: sarissa - 8 to 10' pike with 1' metal head

Pezetaeri: main bulk of men. The Phalanx is broken down into 4 chiliarchias each of 1024 men, each chiliarchia is broken down into 4 Syntagma each of 256 men (each Y is one Syntagma)
armour: as heavy cavalry
arms: 18' sarissa

Psiloi: are light misslemen using javelins, bows and slings (the X's)

At the onset of a battle the Psiloi let fly with whatever they had time for, then they retired to the back and sides. From that position they continued to harrass the oposing army. The Phalanx was set up as an anvil, held almost motionless and oposing armies were allowed to break themselves upon it. The cavalry then used a sequence of charges from one side then the other to shatter the bulk of the enemy. The light cavalry was used to prevent the army from being outflanked by harassing any cavalry forces the oposing army had. Their light weight and missle weapons keep them moving far to fast to be engaged by the heavy cavalry of their oponents or by a body of foot soldiers.

To make the standard comparison to the SCA these fighters are of very little use to us as their dominant arm was heavy cavalry which we don't have. The tactics that we learn from them are, however, applicable. Picture Calontir (C) as that heavy phalanx. 2 forces of fast moving heavy fighters are placed as wings (A & B). As the oponents approach Calontir holds fast and the wings begin alternating sweeps. A hits from the left, pushes for 30 seconds and then falls back, as they fall back pulling some of the East with them, B hits from the right, pushes for 30 seconds and then falls back. A can then charge again and so on. Several small forces (such as Ealdormere) which are highly mobile and can hit hard are then used to prevent the enemy from flanking us or retreating out of the killing ground. This sort of tactic can be used down to units as small as 20 men a side although it then begins to rely VERY heavily upon the abilities of the indivual fighters. Also note the effect that missle weapons can have. Perhaps our closest approximation is the twostick fighters. If you open a battle by sending several in to shake up and sting the enemy line it will hit your center with much less force. As a final point in this tactic if the center slowly retreats it will help the wings with their charge, although this makes it much more tricky.




      AA                        BB
E1  AA--------          BB   E2
      AA--THEM--    BB

(Or so says the theory)

Next month the romans. If there is any interest I will attempt to analyze the various kingdom armies in the same way (for those kingdoms who have an identity in their fighting forces).