The Myth of the Phalanx-Scrimmage Author(s): A. D. Fraser Source: The Classical Weekly, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Oct. 12, 1942), pp.

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53-6). into physical touchwith one another. The case has recentlybeen well expressed by the late ProfessorW. it is difficult to conceive of any sort of play with spearor swordwhen the combatants are bent forward. sword and spear. When the sides make contact. their bodies are not more than a foot or two apart. corslet and greaves. and This content downloaded from 65. could decimatethe enemy while engaged in the game of shoving.of shock of the as a steady thrust with mass developedinstantaneously the wholeweight of the file behindit-a literalshoving of the enemy off the groundon which he stood. the front-rank opponentscome almost. 15 Aug 2013 13:09:57 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . but not quite. heads down and arms tightly embracing the shouldersnearest." But the expression 'pushback' in many languages and its equivalent are commonmilitary parlance.meanwhile.Nothing of this is said. but falls instead into a state of neutrality. it must needs requestpermissionto take up its dead.gatheredup their own fellowswho had fallenand erecteda trophy. those opposingfront-rankers behind them would stumble over them.6. The machinebreaksdown when put to the first test.the issuewas in doubt till Epaminondas criedto his men: "Obligeme with one step more. and the Spartanline yielded. The hoplitesare all similarly equippedwith the protectionof helmet. 20-3).4. however. authoritative In England. shield. The traditional belief is sadly at fault somewhere. sent round the flank. but we hear of none of them in history. despitethe seeminglyharmless natureof the engagement. Plutarch (Pelop. Mitford (History of Greece 1784-I8Io). the "property"of the side holding. we have the clearevidenceof the Attic vaseMoreover.CLASSICAL WEEKLY 15 THE MYTH OF THE PHALANX-SCRIMMACGE It has long been a generallyacceptedbelief among studentsof Greekhistoryand antiquitiesthat the main function of the Greek phalanx in the classicalperiod was that of pushing. Each member of the file pushes against the man in front of him. its opponent from the field.as in the American game.The would fall on their faces. 6. for dead there are. paintings where innumerablebattle scenes are portrayed without an example of "compactorder. their for their weaponsare valueless. a matter of brawn.where the acceptedtheory of phalanxfighting seems to have arisen. and pushing for dear life.and we shall have the victory. (1. Indeed. The armies of Europe were at the time abandoning hand-to-handfighting for a conflict in which musket and cannonplayeda leadingpart.50 men deep.This was perhapsinevitablein view of the great numberof lethal weapons which was employed and somewhatrecklesslybrandished.There areother possibilities as well. The date and circumstancesof its birth may not be destituteof significance. In the process-not entirelyaccidentally were sustained -wounds mortaland non-mortal by the membersof the opposingforces.there is. and in latterdays it is sometimes used of foes who neverso much as sight one another.A theory of warfare that arises in a noteworthyperiod of armed strife is usually destinedto enjoy a long life. The realistmight suggest severalobviousshort-cuts to victory: (i) Let one side bear back suddenly.with. and the front-liners are subjectedto a degreeof squeezingthat is distressing to contemplate. seal. Beforethe ball is put into play.88.Thereupon it requests its dead. by the respectable authorsXenophon (Hell. the battlelineof either side becomes compressed to a thicknessof not aboveI5 or 20 feet. The side exercisingthe more powerfulthrust is likely to win immediatepossessionof the ball.3-I5). (2) Light-armedforces. In this sport. The wedges then push hard against each other while the ball is rolled in beneath their feet by a quarterback. sometimeseight. for offensiveweapons. Though the men of the rearranks are similarlyequippedwith those of the front. sometimeshundredsof them. The successfulpushers. By virtue of this rear-to-front pressure.70) in his accountof the battle near the Olympeium says: "The Argives at first pushed back the left wing of the Syracusans."This was in 1933. An analysisof the phalanx-scrimmage might be expressed in terms somewhat as follows: The hostile armiesadvanceto meet each other in formationthat is normallyeight men deep. As remotelyas the Napoleoniceraa similar judgment was expressedby W. shield againstshield. and they could be cut to pieces before they could regain their feet.when the Theban phalanx. Diodorus (I5.42 on Thu. J. struckthe Spartan line of twelve.(2) Accordingto one accountof the battle of Leuctra. I think." On what was the belief founded?On very little.heads down. there is no opportunity use.As shieldpresses againstshield. by physical force. And when one of the phalanxes had been pushed from off the designatedarea of the battlefield. a more or less clear mental association between the workings of the phalanxand of the Rugby football scrimmage. Still the processof shoving goes on till one or the other army is pushed "from the field"-whatever that may a trucefor the recoveryof mean. Woodhouse: "A conflict of hoplites was. it but three literaryreferences:(i) Thucydides appears.88. therefore. in number) form a compact threerank wedge. the forwards(seven. the ball when held does not remain." They obeyed. in the main. Innumerablerepetitions of the fundamentalidea have occurred in the interval of nearly a century and a half. The era of its origin stamps it with the professional and.

.the secondarywas to preventa break through at any point by the enemy.C. The opening of Jesus'ministry was markedby his teachingin the synagoguein Nazaretha few days latet (December i8. an abundance of reserves was availablein a stage of warfarethat had not yet done more than play with the idea of a mobile body of reserves." he says.D.What then was the funcexamination tion of the rearranks. the combatants.16 Pausanias (9..D." although neither then nor at any time did Jesus experiencewithin himself any tracesof Messianicconsciousness. CLASSICAL It is in the child-minded chatter- WEEKLY viding reserves.Jesus sought out John and was baptized by him about DecemberX of that year.seenvaguelythroughwavering Olmsteadthinks not. and in this new study Professor history of (writtenoriginallyas chaptersin a projected and forming the Near East fromCyrusto Muhammad. freshand uinimpaired in strength. "The center. With the baptismcame the awareness that he too. like John. immediatelyclarified. and from HerodAntipas. With the deep formationof 25. Thus the supposedevidence of literatureproves on to be valueless. Also the woundedand dead can be replaced only from the rear ranks." he claims. where the Thebans were. Upon Joseph's death Jesus succeeded to his father's trade.couldbe poured to the front every minute to take the place of those whose energieswere beginning to flag.. (iii) confusionof ranks. STEAD. This content downloaded from 65. In the broiling Greek sun. reports concerning the preaching of John the Baptist reachedNazareth.a streamof men.). 27 A. FRASER UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA REVIEWS Jesus in the Light of History. delivered of the author'sHaskellLectures the substance School of Theology in I940) to the OberlinGraduate he attempts the portrayal of what he considers to be the historical Jesus. York1942 $2. By A. 15 Aug 2013 13:09:57 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . each front-line man sought out the warrior over againsthim and at once engaged him in combat.Truly the of 37I B. "wasin mighty conflict.And theremay be other possibilities. There followed a period of attempted withdrawal from the public eye.4) that the story occurs." We may dismiss the latter part. Interestedby what he heard.42 on Thu. 3 maps.and pushing them back little by little followed them. serving as the village joiner until he was almost fifty years of age. "Jesus makes his own appearance in the full light of history. OLM- New 317 pages. XiV.3.then rests for a hundred. A polo pony is relievedafter a 7:/2 minute chukker. for the presenceof the word E7rToKoXOV00VV makes it clear that the processof shoving is not here in question. and we are left with imsuch choices as (i) what the usual interpretation plies.2-10). T." According to this latest portrayal Jesus was born in Nazareth around 20 B. (ii) shield pushing against shield of fellowsoldierso as to form a solid front. Late in the year 28 A.The crux of the matterlies in the expression 0W'&w dartov.Jesuswent about in Galileepreachingand ministeringto the sick. accountof the battleof Delium (4. With the great body of reservesinvolvedin the Theban phalanx.So the warrior has soon to dropto the rearand be replaced by a relief.96) (3) Thucydides' is regardedas the ulitmate proof. must have been close to exhaustionat the end of five minutesof fighting. If the authorhad taken thought the picture would be to add 7rpoa' art8a 7roEAILLCov.75 "Must Jesus always be to us a dimly recognizable cloudsof doubt?" figure. or upwards. the firstbom son of Joseph and Mary.D. Rejected by his townsfolk. a football player is in box Polyaenus(2.88.D. was too strong for the Athenians. Scribner's.with pushing of shields . but the right wing. A. Danger threatenedfrom two from the high-priestsin Jerusalem quarters. wherehe drewto himself the favor of the pilgrimsand the wrath of the highpriestlygroupby "cleansing" the templearea. The passageread by Jesuswas that set for the 62nd Sabbath of the cycle which commencedon the first Sabbath following the terminationof the Feast of Tabernacles on October 13. The true pictureseems to be this: advancingto the conflict.wearing moderatelyheavy armor and exerting every effort to kill or disable the foe.C. The Passover of 29 A. 28 A. "hadbeen summoned to carry on God's work. This date Olmsteadregards as definitely establishedon the basis of the triennial cycle of scripture readingsemployedin the synagogue. D. (April i8) found him in Jerusalem. At Leuctrait was a case of a team of twelve playing one with three completeteamsof substitutes in reserve.a boxer rests after three minutes' activity.88. and what was the merit of the 25-rankformationof Delium. "At long last. must have been veritable supermen Spartans to have stood for a moment underodds of four to one. "Who was Jesus of Nazareth? When did he live? Where was his home? What was his environment? How did he act? What did he teach? Why did he die?" These are the questions which Olmstead sets out to answer. the 5o-rankof Leuctra? The answerthat common sense dictatesis that the primaryfunction of the rear ranks was that of pro- action five seconds.13.who saw in Jesusa prophetand popular leadereven more to be feared than John the Baptist. But the road to obscuritybegins in brevity here as usually.

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