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Great Battles #6 -leuctra 371 Bc (triumph Of Tactics)

Discussion in 'Military History' started by Austerlitz, Oct 25, 2016.

  1. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    LEUCTRA 371 BC - TRIUMPH OF TACTICS

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    BACKGROUND :

    In the 8th century BC, Greece began to emerge from the Dark Ages which followed the fall of the Mycenaean civilization(The trojan war era greeks) to the Dorian invasions. Literacy had been lost and political order vanished.From about the 9th century BC written records begin to appear. Greece was divided into many small self-governing communities, a pattern largely dictated by Greek geography: every island, valley and plain is cut off from its neighbors by the sea or mountain ranges - these would eventualy evolve into the classical era greek city states.Amongst these ,Athens - a democratic maritime state and Sparta -a militiaristic oligarchy were the most prominent.Below you can see the main regions of ancient Greece.The Isthmus of corinth(narrow neck like land) connected greece with the southern Peloponnese peninsula - Sparta was the hegemon of this area.The core region of Sparta was Laconia,but they had conquered and enslaved Messania as well as being largely allied with the northern peloponessian regions of Arcadia and Achaea.Her only rival in this region was Argos.Athens was the great city-state of Attica (rich due to silver mines and farmlands) and controlled that region.Thebes was the prominent city state of Boiotia in central greece.To the north were Thessaly and Macedon.

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    (Ancient greek regions)​

    Athens and Sparta united along with the other city states to repulse the Persian invasions of greece in the 5th century BC.Victory brought tremendous self-confidence to the greeks - particularly Athens and here navy liberated all the coastal greek city states of asia minor and thrace and organized them under herself in the Delian League .
    The dominant position of the maritime Athenian 'Empire' threatened Sparta and the Peloponnesian Leauge of mainland Greek cities,to this was added athenian excesses which led to a devastating 27 year conflict (431BC-404 BC) called the Peloponnesian war which pitted the Athenian alliance against that of Sparta.Much of it was a stalemate with Sparta invincible on land and Athens undefeated on sea(athens's walls preventing spartan army fromtaking advantage of tactical land victories).However devastating plague,strategic blunders like a expedition to sicily(to conquer spartan ally syracuse),persian gold and revolts in her overstretched maritime empire eventually ensured Athens's defeat and capitulation.Athens lost her walls,fleet,maritime possesions and recieved a Pro-spartan oligarchy.Below -The peloponnesian Wars.Sparta and her allies in red and athens and her allies in blue.Red swords indicate spartan victories,blue swords athenian victories.

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    The defeat of Athens began the period known as Spartan Hegemony.While Sparta was unchallenged master of greece,and had inherited much of Athens's territories she had neither the skill nor the enthusiasm for an overseas empire.Despite the collaborative nature of the victory, Sparta alone received the plunder taken from the defeated states and the tribute payments from the former Athenian Empire.Spartan imposition of garrisons and oligarchies on these territories,and on even some of her smaller former allies,expansionism in asia minor led to a new conflict - The Corinthian War(395 BC -387BC).Sparta and her allies faced a coalition of four allied states -Thebes,Athens,Corinth and Argos backed by Persia.On land, the Spartans achieved several early successes in major battles, but were unable to capitalize on their advantage, and the fighting soon became stalemated. At sea, the Spartan fleet was decisively defeated by a Persian fleet early in the war, an event that effectively ended Sparta's attempts to become a naval power. Taking advantage of this fact, Athens rebuilt her walls, launched several naval campaigns in the later years of the war, recapturing a number of islands that had been part of the original Athenian empire during the 5th century BC. Alarmed by these Athenian successes, the Persians stopped backing the allies and began supporting Sparta. This defection forced the allies to seek peace. The 'King's Peace' mediated by Persia was signed in 387 BC, ending the war. This treaty declared that Persia would control Ionian islands(thus regaining territories lost before ), and that all other Greek cities would be independent. Sparta was to be the guardian of the peace, with the power to enforce its clauses. The effects of the war, therefore, were to establish Persia's ability to interfere successfully in Greek politics and to affirm Sparta's hegemonic position in the Greek political system.It also demonstrated the rising power of Thebes in Central Greece.Thebes aspired to lead Boiotia as Sparta led Peloponesse and Athens Atticca.

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    (Central and southern greece-note Leuktra)​

    THE BOEOTIAN WAR :

    Sparta sought to maintain her power by opposing any effort by regional powers to expand their influence, and by replacing hostile governments in cities with friendly ones actively intervening with ther army on several occasions.In 382BC while passing through theban territory the spartans took the side of the oligarchic faction in the city and ensured a political takeover establishing a spartan garrison in the city.By the autumn of 379, Sparta seemed in control of Greece. This control began to fragment in winter 379/8, when the Theban exiles under Pelopidas staged a coup d’état during a festival,killed the oligarchs and with the aid of Athenian forces expelled the Spartan garrison.Athens and Thebes allied against sparta..Epaminondas and Peolopidas convinced the leaders of Thebes to expand the franchise to all adult males of the region, not just the city,the expansion of citizenship brought the potential pool of army recruits to an all-time high.

    The Spartan Army mobilized for war,and marched into Boeotia ravaging the countryside.While the Thebans refused pitched battle in the open field against the main spartan army they struck successes against spartan garrisons and harassing their detatchement and won several large skirmishes which raised their morale.All the while Thebes consolidated Boeotia under itself in the Boeotian Confederacy,while reforming its army.Low intensity warfare continued with intermittent periods of truce.Athens,wary of the cost of war in which Thebes was not helping directly and wary of growing theban power sent envoys to Sparta to arrange for a new peace. The Thebans participated in this as well.Sparta agreed to peace, and everyone swore to remove governors and garrisons, disband armaments, and give cities autonomy.At the signing of the treaty, the Spartan king Aegesilaus intentionally provoked Epaminondas, who was representing Thebes. Sparta signed the treaty for the Peloponnese, then Athens signed, then the Athenian allies signed. Epaminondas signed for the Boeotian Federation. Aegesilaus demanded that the Boeoetian cities sign for themselves, and when Epaminondas refused, the Spartan king scratched Thebes off the treaty.It would be war.

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    (The mountanous topography of Greece & Chokepoints)​

    The other Spartan King Cleombrotus was already nearby in the field with an army at Phocis and on the instructions from Sparta invaded Boeotia from the north ,looking to force a decision.Cleombrotus's last 2 expeditions had failed to produce anything substantial and he was determined to change that lest he be accused of shirking from battle back in sparta.Thebans and their Boeotian allies took up a defensive position between Coronea and Lake Copais with a small force guarding the pass at Helicon.Cleombrotus turned the Theban defences by advancing from Ambrossos to Styris and on to Thisbe instead of the normal eastern path ,defeating the theban contingent at Helicon enroute.Cleombrotus then camped on the high ground overlooking Leuctra on the Boeotian plains.If the Boeotians sought battle, he was well-positioned to accept it, and could look forward to ravaging Boeotian territory and winning over some of Thebes’ more reluctant allies ,poised as he was to march on Thebes.The Theban army too backtracked and marched to Leuctra to confront the spartans.Their leaders felt they had to fight, since otherwise they would be besieged, the cities would revolt, and the people of Thebes would turn on them.The 2 armies thus prepared for a decisive showdown at the plains of Leuctra.

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    (Locations of campaign area - dots and lines unrelated)​

    NEXT: OPPOSING ARMIES
     
  2. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    HOPLITE WARFARE

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    NATURE OF GREEK-CITY STATE WARFARE :

    Introduction -
    Ancient Greek Warfare during the classical period of the city states was dominated exclusively by hoplites- citizen soldiers of the city states who were primarily armed with spears and oval shields.The hoplites were primarily free citizens—propertied farmers and artisans—who were able to afford the bronze/linothoraxarmor suit and weapons.
    The fragmentary nature of Ancient Greece, with many competing city-states, increased the frequency of conflict, but conversely limited the scale of warfare. Limited manpower did not allow most Greek city-states to form large armies which could operate for long periods,since the citizens were mainly farmers, workers.They were expected to take part in any military campaign when they would be called for duty.This inevitably reduced the potential duration of campaigns, as a large portion of any Greek army would need to return to their own professions as farmers and artisans. Campaigns would therefore often be restricted to summer.battle was refused by the defender, they would generally retreat to their city, in which case the attackers generally had to content themselves with ravaging the surrounding countryside, since Siege engineering was not efficient, at least until the 5th century BC.When battles occurred, they were usually set-piece and intended to be decisive. The battlefield would be flat and open to facilitate phalanx warfare. These battles were usually short and required a high degree of discipline. At least in the early classical period,cavalry was usually used to protect the flanks, when present at all, and cover a possible retreat.

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    Equipment -
    The standard battle tactic was a rectangular phalanx formation. The formation was organized from eight to ten rows deep.Above depicts the equipment of a hoplite.The 6-9 foot Dory spear -The spearhead was usually a curved leaf shape, while the rear of the spear had a butt-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 to kill enemies lying on the ground as the formation passed over. Despite the snapping of the spear, Hoplites could easily switch to the sauroter without great consequence.The rear ranks used the secondary end to finish off fallen opponents as the phalanx advanced over them.The secondary weapon of a hoplite was the xiphos, a short sword used when the soldier's spear was broken or lost while fighting.This very short xiphos would be very advantageous in the press that occurred when two lines of hoplites met, capable of being thrust through gaps in the shieldwall into an enemy's unprotected groin or throat, while there was no room to swing a longer sword.

    A bronze circular shield Hoplon or Aspis-although very heavy (8–15 kg),spanned from chin to knee.Importantly, it permitted the formation of a shield wall by an army, an impenetrable mass of men and shields. The dish-like shape of this shield was such that it could be supported with the rim on the shoulder.This was quite an important feature of the shield especially for the hoplites that remained in the latter ranks. While these soldiers continued to help press forward they did not have the added burden of holding up their shield. But the circular shield was not without its disadvantages. Despite its mobility, protective curve, and double straps the circular shape created gaps in the shield wall at both its top and bottom. These gaps left parts of the hoplite exposed to potentially lethal spear thrusts.

    Throughout the hoplite era the standard hoplites' armour went through many cyclical changes. An early era hoplite typically wore a Bronze breastplate and helmet with cheekplates(Corinthian helmet as shown above), as well as greaves . Later, in the classical period, the breastplate became less common, replaced instead with a corselet (Linothorax) made of layers of linen glued together, or perhaps of leather, sometimes covered in whole or in part with overlapping metal scales. Eventually even greaves became less commonly used.These changes reflected the balancing of mobility with protection, especially as cavalry became more prominent in the Peloponnesian War and the need to combat light troops which were increasingly used to negate the hoplites role as the primary force in battle.Yet bronze armour remained in use partly until the end of the hoplite era.

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    Attack Postures -
    Hoplites employed 2 general types of attack postures while fighting in the phalanx,as shown above - The underarm attack and the overarm attack.The underarm attack was the most commonly used once the opposing formations were locked in combat.Generally a hoplite aimed at the opponents throat or chest area when attacking from a upward angle,or at his midsection /ribs when going for a low angle attack if there is a gap in opponents defense.Note the underam attack can be used for both an high and low angle attack,while the overarm attack is only useful for a downward thrust.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 their shields upwards at increasing angles. This was an effective defence against missiles, deflecting their force.

    For the front rank a thrust downwards over the top of the shield, would endanger the man behind with the elevated pointed butt spike . Additionally, raising the arm to strike downwards over the shield would push the spear belonging to the man in the second rank upwards so that it could not be brought to bear against a target.Conversely the small amount of elevation required to aim an underarm attack at an opponent's face lowers the sauroter(butt-spike), which does not endanger the rearwardman who is protected by his shield from accidental injury. Additionally, the chest of an opponent could easily be targeted by a hoplite in the front rank of the phalanx while the opponent's face was targeted by the man in the second rank.

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    Shieldwall & Right side Drift -
    Each individual hoplite carried his shield on the left arm, protecting not only himself 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 famous right side drift. The most experienced hoplites were often placed on the right side of the phalanx, to avoid these problems.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 against it very 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). Battles between two phalanxes usually took place in open, flat plains where it was easier to advance and stay in formation.

    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 neighbours; 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.

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    Above are the 2 general types of shieldwalls.The Close-order shieldwall favoured by the spartans especially and the Intermediate order shieldwall - difference being in spacing of spears..The close-order formation of 45cm per man (or something akin to it) was the most common form of hoplite deployment. This order allowed the first two ranks of a phalanx to engage an enemy while being supported by the rows of reserves behind them.The Spartan 'lock on' model would allow to face the enemy front rank with potentially 4 spears against a single enemy one - an enormous advantage.However the drawback was it was quite difficult to maintain the cohesion of the formation,it was slow and thus couldn't be used for charging more than very short distances and required disciplined troops.The Intermediate model could be used by lesser trained troops,and had much better mobility -often employed for the initial shock charge and had better frontage.However faced with a disciplined enemy phalanx in close-order the front ranks of the charging intermediate order would likely be stopped cold as each hoplite would face upto 4 spears.However once the initial impact was over,the second rank of the intemediate phalanx would come into action being pressed forward and things would be more even.In almost all encounters of this era pitting intermediate phalanxes against close order ones -the close order phalanxes were victorious.The spartans are described as seldom charging into battle but trotting gently and silently to the sound of pipes.This thus constituted one of the secrets of spartan military dominance in hoplite warfare.The thebans possibly adopted this style after extensive contact with the spartans


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    Phases of Hoplite Combat -
    The phalanx usually advanced at a walking pace, although it is possible that they picked up speed during the last several yards. One of the main reasons for this slow approach was to maintain formation. If the phalanx lost its shape as it approached the enemy it would be rendered useless. If the hoplites of the phalanx were to pick up speed toward the latter part of the advance it would have been for the purpose of gaining momentum against the enemy in the initial collision.The generally accepted phases of hoplite combat are -

    Ephodos: The hoplites stop singing their pæanes (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 promachœ (the front-liners) had to be physically and psychologically fit and disciplined to avoid wavering, and were often veterans who had proven themselves in battle before.

    Doratismos: Repeated, rapid spear thrusts in order to disrupt the enemy formation. The use of long spears would keep enemies apart as well as allow men in a row to assist their comrades next to them. The prodding could also open up a man to allow a comrade to spear him. Too hard prodding could get a spear stuck in a shield, which would necessitate someone in the back to lend his to the now-disarmed man.


    Othismos: Literally "pushing" after most spears have been broken, the hoplites begin to push with their spears and spear shafts against their opponents' shields. This could be the longest phase.

    Pararrhexis: "Breaching" the opposing phalanx, the enemy formation shatters and the battle ends. Battles rarely lasted more than an hour,Once one of the lines broke, the troops would generally flee from the field.Cavalry would be used at this point to mop up the scattered enemy.

    Generally losses before an enemy phalanx broke were less than 5%,with perhaps another 10% of the enemy army being casualities in the rout and pursuit when he had his backs turned towards his pursuers.

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    Weaknesses -
    The Hoplite Phalanx was vulnerable when facing an enemy fielding lighter and more flexible troops without its own such supporting troops.Formidable from the front, its flanks and rear were very vulnerable, and once engaged it may not easily disengage or redeploy to face a threat from those directions. Finally, most of the phalanx-centric armies tended to lack supporting echelons behind the main line of battle like the roman legion. This meant that breaking through the line of battle or compromising one of its flanks often ensured victory as there was no second reserve line to counterattack the breakthrough.

    NEXT: THE SPARTAN ARMY
     
  3. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    THE SPARTAN ARMY

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    THE SPARTAN WARRIOR :

    The spartans called themselves Dorians and claimed descent from herakles(possibly a Dorian warlord later legend).The Spartan people (Lacedaemonians) were divided in three classes: Full citizens, known as the Spartiates proper, or Hómoioi ("equals" or peers), who received a grant of land for their military service. The second class were the Perioeci (the "dwellers nearby"), free non-citizens, generally merchants, craftsmen and sailors, who were used as light infantry and on auxiliary roles on campaign. The third and most numerous class were the Helots - state-owned serfs used to farm the Spartiate lands. By the 5th century BC, the helots too were used as light troops in skirmishes. The Spartiates were the core of the Spartan army: they participated in the Assembly and provided the hoplites in the army. Indeed, they were supposed to be soldiers and nothing else, being forbidden to learn and exercise any other trade.To a large degree, the necessity for the constant war footing of the Spartan society was the need to keep the vastly more numerous helots subdued.This structure came into being under one Lygurgus sometime in the 6th or 7th century BC after Sparta conquered the fertile region of Messenia and enslaved its population,turning them into helots.The ratio of spartan citizens to helots was 1 : 20 which necessisated the spartan state keep its whole manpower mobilized so as to prevent revolts and maintain the quasi-apartheid structure.Women held a more respectable position in spartan society than in other greek states ,being educated,having right to property and taking part in physical training.

    "... they were the only men in the world with whom war brought a respite in the training for war." - Plutarch

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    (Spartan Battle Drill)​
    TRAINING :

    After the reforms of Lycurgus Sparta became a fully militarized state existing solely for the purpose of waging war and education was totally subordinated to the needs of the military.Both boys and girls were brought up by the city women until the age of seven, when boys (paidia) were taken from their mothers and grouped together in "packs" (agelai) and were sent to what is almost equivalent to present-day military boot camp - The Agoge.
    While Greek children were normally handed into the care of an educated slave as their tutor (pedagogue); second , Greek children were normally provided with sandals and changes of clothing; and third, Greek children were normally given asufficiency of food. The Spartans did none of these things.

    By brutal training at the Agoge ,they became inured to hardship, being provided with scant food and clothing; this also encouraged them to steal, and if they were caught, they were punished – not for stealing, but for being caught.They learned to read and write so they could be able to read military maps.At the age of twelve, a boy was classed as a "youth" (meirakion). His physical education was intensified, discipline became much harsher, and the boys were loaded with extra tasks. Boys were not permitted to wear shoes ensuring not only was the Spartan warrior guaranteed to be sure-footed, but his feet were hardened from an early age.Likewise, the boys were permitted only one cloak throughout the year, ratherthan switching between summer and winter garments, so that they would grow accustomed to heat and cold.Food was rationed for two reasons- the ability to perform effectively on an empty stomach, for example, or simply to subsiston rations for longer.

    '‘it is required by law for all Lakedaimonians to practise gymnastic exercises, even while on campaign’'

    Adulthood was reached at the age of 18, and the young adult (eiren) initially served as a trainer for the boys. At the same time, the most promising youths were included in the Krypteia. At 20, Spartans became eligible for military service and joined one of the messes, which included 15 men of various ages..Those who were rejected retained a lesser form of citizenship, as only the soldiers were ranked among the homoioi. However, even after that, and even during marriage and until about the age of 30, they would spend most of their day in the barracks with their unit. Military duty lasted until the 60th year, but there are recorded cases of older people participating in campaigns in times of crisis.Spartans practised gymnastics,hunting and hoplite drills throughout their active service time to increase endurance ,discipline and physical fitness.

    ‘The Spartans do whatever the Law commands, and it always commands the same thing: not to flee from
    battle, even against overwhelming numbers, but to remain in the ranks and either prevail or perish.’- Herodotus

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    (Spartan commander on the left in bronze panopoly.To the right is a late age spartan -spear not shown here,armor has been abandoned to increase mobility and stamina(only some did this) and corinthian helmet has been replaced by pilos helmet which was lighter and provided better vision and hearing but less protection)​

    SOCIAL PRESSURE :
    One of the other reasons behind the spartans inhuman battle feats was peer pressure and fear of social ostracization and the law.Anyone who did not abide by this principle brought disgrace upon himself and suffered the dishonour of being labelled a tresas (‘runaway’). This was a serious offence at Sparta; such a coward was no longer welcome in the communal mess.He was doomed to wear a shabby tribon and shave half of his hypene. Worse still, he lost his citizen status as a Spartiate and was obliged to defer to his juniors in all matters.For example,Aristodemos when he missed the battle of Thermopylai owing to an eye disease, and returned home as the sole survivor, ‘he was deprived of honour - none of the Spartiates would give him fire or speak to him he fought at Plataia in the following year, where he absolved himself of the taint - he was killed, ‘raging and running out from the battle-line to achieve great deeds’.Abandoning one's shield was tantamount to desertion -hence the story of a spartan woman telling his son departing for war to return with his shield or on it.The only people who could have a gravestone were women who died in child birth and warriors who died in battle; both were considered lives given for the state.

    ‘I am not surprised that they prefer death to a life so filled with dishonour and disgrace’ -Xenophon

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    (Thucydides Spartan army organization 418 BC)​

    ORGANIZATION :

    The full army was nominally led in battle by the two kings -one went on campaign,with the other remaining at home which ensured no political chaos if a king was killed ,and also ensured unity of command on the field.Unlike other states, their authority was severely circumscribed; actual power rested with the five elected ephors.The kings were accompanied by a select group of 300 men as a royal guard, who were termed hippeis ("cavalrymen"). Despite their title, they were infantry hoplites like all Spartiatai. Indeed, the Spartans did not utilize a cavalry of their own until late into the Peloponessian war.The hippeis belonged to the first mora and were the elite of the Spartan army, being deployed on the honorary right side of the battle line. They were selected every year by specially commissioned officials, the hippagretai, from among experienced men who had sons, so that their line would continue.The Spartiate population was subdivided into age groups. The youngest at 20 were counted as weaker due to lack of experience, and the oldest, up to 60 or in a crisis 65, were only called up in an emergency, to defend the baggage train.This sytem made mobilization easier.The Lamda on the shield is for Lacedaemon.

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    (Spartan deployment at Mantinea 418BC)​

    The early spartan field army organization was based on five territorial divisions, the obai ("villages"), which supplied a lochos(equivalent of battalion) of ~ 1,000 men each. This system was used during the Persian Wars, as implied by references to the lochoi made by Herodotus.By the time of the peloponnesian wars the organization had undergone changes to reflect decline in manpower .This organization is depicted in the last 2 diagrams,the main source being thucydides.
    Basic unit was the file - 8 man deep with the leader front and second-in-command to the rear.4 files made up the Enomatia of 32 men -the basic building block of the spartan army.4 enomatia made up a Pentekostia and 4 Pentekostia made up a Lochos of 512 men.The spartan army is said to have been composed of 7 Lochoi giving a main strength of 3584 men(spartiates) -these would be supported by Periokes of similar number and thousands of helots as light troops,non combatants and in times of crisis even hoplites.

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    Above depicts the Mora Army typical of the period post-peloponessian wars and would have been in practice at Leuktra.This structure had evolved further, both to address the shortages in manpower and to create a more flexible system that allowed the Spartans to send smaller detachments on campaign or to garrisons outside their homeland.Main source for this is Xenophon who lived in sparta as a friend of the king and campaigned with the spartan army in asia.
    According to Xenophon, the basic Spartan unit remained the enōmotia, with 36 men in three files of twelve under an enōmotarches instead of 4 files 8 man-deep as earlier.Two enōmotiai formed a pentēkostys of 72 men under a pentēkontēr, and two pentēkostyai were grouped into a lochos of 144 men under a lochagos. Four lochoi formed a mora of 576 men under a polemarchos, the largest single tactical unit of the Spartan army.Six morai composed the Spartan army on campaign to which were added the light troops,cavalry,mercenaries and the contingents of allied states.
    Aristotle says that there are six named morai and all Lakedaimonians are divided amongst the morai.Below is depicted 2 different systems of organization -On top the early system of organization described by thucydides -here a single lochos is shifting from column to line.Below depicts an intermediate formation still 32 man enomatias with 4 files of 8 men,but with the Lochos being of the more nimble organization of 4 Enomatias asd escribed by Xenophon.Here 2 Lochos move to line from column.

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    TACTICS :
    The Spartans themselves did not introduce any significant changes or tactical innovations in hoplite warfare, but their constant drill and superb discipline made their phalanx much more cohesive and effective. The Spartans employed the phalanx in the classical style in a single line, uniformly deep in files of 8 to 12 men. When fighting alongside their allies, the Spartans would normally occupy the honorary right flank. If, as usually happened, the Spartans achieved victory on their side, they would then wheel left and roll up the enemy formation.The spartans enjoyed several advantages over their rival hoplites.

    >
    Perfection of the Close-order Battle formation.Many of their rivals being largely militia hoplites often couldn't maintain their cohesion and charged in intermediate order,spartans moved on a trot to the sound of pipes.Being essentially a standing army of professionals their discipline allowed them to accomplish this easily.
    >Fanaticism and Cult of Heroism .Retreat and defeat were worse than death for the spartans,so a spartan warrior by and large never broke and ran due to social taboo and personal disgrace.The cult of courage was cultivated in them from childhood.This gave the spartan phalanx very high durability in pushing contests.
    >The spartans were professional soldiers and possesed greater amount of experience in weapon handling,superior self-confidence,generally maintained formation better and their spear thrusts more accurate.Due to being in peak physical fitness through their training they had superior stamina and often more brute muscle power -important factors in a hoplite battle.
    >Spartan drilling allowed them to change formation quickly,especially after defeating the hoplites on their flank(the spartan right),they could quickly regroup change direction and begin rolling up the enemy army from the side.Enemy forces even if victorious on the other flank took longer to reorganize before turning inwards and often got scattered pursuing the retreating forces on the defeated spartan left flank.Hastily raised hoplites couldn't change direction in an organized manner at all.
    >Organization based on the file rather than rank.
    >Smooth command hierarchy.

    NEXT : SPARTAN ARMY CONTINUED -THEBAN ARMY
     
  4. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    THE OPPOSING ARMIES II

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    EXAMPLE OF SPARTAN BATTLE TACTICS :

    Above depicts a typical spartan battle -The Battle of Nemea.One of the decisive battles of the Corinthian war,its an example of classic spartan hoplite tactics.18,000 hoplites under Sparta and allies face the 24,000 strong coalition of Athens,Corinth,Argos and Thebes in 394BC.The Spartans and their allies lined up for battle with the Spartans on the right and the allies on the left.Athenians were opposite the Spartans, while the Boeotians(thebans) and other allies faced the Spartans' allies.As the two phalanxes closed for battle, both shifted to the right. (This was a common occurrence in hoplite battles—hoplites carried their shield on their left arm, so men would shift to the right to gain the protection of their neighbor's shield as well as their own.) This shift meant that, by the time the armies met, both of them extended past their opponents' left flank. Consequently, the right flanks of both armies were victorious, while the left flanks of both were defeated.The Spartans then turned from their defeat of the Athenians to face the soldiers from the allied right wing who were returning from their pursuit of the Spartans' allies. The Spartan phalanx took first the Argives, then the Corinthians, and then the Boeotians in the side, inflicting heavy losses on all three. At the end of the day, the Spartans had inflicted 2,800 casualties, while suffering only 1,100.Much of the spartan casualities were allies on the left wing and not spartiates.
    Up until Leuktra the spartan army had not lost a major pitched battle when at equal strength.At leuktra they would be superior in strength.

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    SPARTAN CAVALRY AND LIGHT TROOPS :

    It was only during the Peloponessian wars that spartans began to add small detatchments of 60 cavalrymen to their mora battalions.This was done mostly in response to the increase in number of skirmishers and peltasts fielded by rival enemies to disrupt hoplite armies,and to athenian raiding of the spartan coast which needed a mobile response force.Quality of spartan cavalry remained poor because only those deemed unfit to serve in the infantry were deputed to the cavalry.Moreover horses were property of the richest spartans and lent on mobilization temporarily.Greece except Thessaly was not good horse country and didn't breed horses of sufficient mass for shock action.There were no saddles or stirrups.Cavalry was thus used for pursuit,reconaissance,harassment by throwing javelins and running down light infantry or isolated troops.It was incapable for shock charge on formed body of troops .

    Light troops especially peltasts had grown in popularity during the peloponessian war and had contributed to several small spartan reverses in the period.To counter them spartans deployed their own light troops of javelineers largely taken from the helots,supplemented by few archers (even though spartans despised archery and considered it effeminate).The spartan allies the Skiritai provided a battalion of 600 elite light infantry who were deployed on the leftflank and acted as scouts and ambush troops.

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    THE THEBAN ARMY :

    The core theban army was made up of hoplites as usual.The six principal cities of the boeitian confederacy each provided 1,000 hoplites at immediate notice.The army was led by six elected Boetarchs.At leuktra the most prominent of these were Epaminondas and Pelopidas.The theban hoplite is distinguishable by the boeiotian helmet.Thebans were reputed to be amongst the fiercest heavy infantry in greece,though of less repute than the spartans.Equipment was largely identical.Unlike the spartans however they were a militia force ,and not a full standing army.Almost a decade of small scale warfare in the buildup to leuktra however had increased the thebans confidence in themselves.

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    The Theban Sacred Band -
    The elite of the theban army the sacred band were a group of 300 full-time professional soldiers, the 300 hand-picked men were chosen purely for ability and merit, regardless of social class. It was said to be composed of 150 male couples.This was supposedly because due to their mutual devotion they would fight with utter fanaticism than abandon their partner making them a formidable enemy,making Service started from age 20 and ended at age 30.The theban sacred band would begin its dominance at Leuctra and remained undefeated until 338 BC when at the battle of Charonea ,Philip of Macedon destroyed the greek alliance and the theban sacred band killed to a man by his young son Alexander.At Leuctra the Sacred Band was led by Pelopidas and led the theban charge on the spartans.In battle they fought as hoplites.Above a sacred band soldier is shown with xiphos.

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    The Theban Cavalry -
    Unlike the spartan cavalry,the theban cavalry was better trained and equipped.Though still not capable of true shock action it was at that time probabaly the best cavalry in greece south of thessaly and macedon(which bred true battlehorses and had the finest cavalry overall).The theban cavalry performed raiding,reconaissance and was capable of limited shock charges,though not against a body of spearmen in formation.

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    Above,the great Theban Strategos Epaminondas -considered the greatest greek general before Philip and Alexander.He was one of the six boeitarchs at Leuctra and masterminded the radical tactic of the oblique order attack.He would oversee the end of spartan power in greece and usher in a brief period of theban hegemeony.He was killed at Mantinea in 362 BC employing the oblique order again to success against a last attempt by the spartans to regain their lost power.Philip of macedon who was hostage in thebes during this period incorporated many of epaminondas's innovations into his new macedonian army later.

    NEXT : THE BATTLE OF LEUKTRA
     
  5. Austerlitz

    Austerlitz Extraordinary Historian THINKER

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    THE BATTLE OF LEUKTRA

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    The Spartan army composed of 10,000 hoplites plus 1000 supporting light troops and 1000 cavalry -a total of 12,000 men.2000 spartans(Among them 700 spartiates)formed the elite core of the Lakedaemonian army stationed on the right wing under their king Cleombrotus.To their left are the lesser reliable spartan allies.The king brought his army onto the plain and deployed it twelve ranks deep, with the four morai on the right wing. However, ‘since the space in-between was a plain, the Lacedaemonians deployed their horsemen in front of their phalanx, and the Thebans stationed their own opposite them,’ Xenophon notes.This would keep Boeotian horsemen from harassing the Spartan phalanx during its deployment.
    The Thebans were outnumbered ,having only 6500 hoplites and 1000 light infantry,but had a modest advantage in cavalry -1500 .Total theban army numbered 9000 men.Initially the six Boeotian generals present were divided as to whether to offer battle, with Epaminondas being the main advocate in favor of battle. Only when a seventh arrived who sided with Epaminondas was the decision made. In spite of inferior numbers and the doubtful loyalty of his Boeotian allies, the Boetians would offer battle on the plain before the town.The battle began Spartans' mercenary peltasts (slingers, javeliniers, and/or skirmishers) attacking and driving back the Boeotian camp followers,as the 2 armies deployed for battle to meet each other on the plain.Below spartans in red,thebans blue.Spartan camp on ridge to their rear.

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    1.Rather than skirmish on the flanks as traditional greek cavalry of this period Epaminondas launches his cavalry in a charge at the opposing spartan horsemen.The The thebans superior in both quality and quantity rout their opponents in short order.The cavalry battle serves to screen epaminondas's deployment from the spartans,the dust clouds raised by the horses hooves denying visibility.Worse the fleeing spartan cavalry rides through the ranks of its own hoplites disordering the spartan close-order phalanx and disrupting the allied phalanxes as well.

    2.On the flanks the light infantry of both sides skirmish indecisively.
    3.Under the dust cloud and confusion of the cavalry encounter the Theban army advances towards the spartans.

    4.The spartans have deployed their deadliest troops on the traditional right flank with cleombrotus and his 300 bodyguards in the normal 12 man deep width - (8-12 men considered the best balance between pushing power and frontage).Epaminondas in a major break with tradition masses the bulk of his infantry into a massive 50 man deep column and places his best troops on the left flank facing directly the spartans rather than on th traditional right flank.The vanguard of this assault column is the elite sacred band led by Pelopidas.

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    1.Under the cover of the dust the theban columns advance rapidly The theban shallower and weaker center and right wing phalanxes advance slower than the leftwing assault column so that they were progressively further to the right and rear of the proceeding column giving a falling away impression and creating distance between themselves and the enemy.This is the first recorded employment of the Echelon attack formation.The cavalry screens the right flank.

    2.Cleombrotus having only reordered his phalanx from the disruption caused by the retreating cavalry finally sees the unusually deep theban column about to hurl itself on his position.He orders the rear ranks of the spartan phalnx to extend to the right and outflank the thebans.However before this process can be completed Pelopidas at the head of the sacred band crashes into them.

    3.The spartans are able to withstand Pelopidas's attack despite being caught mid-manuever as the theban numbers were small.However at this juncture the main weight of the theabn mass strikes the spartan phalanx with momentum.The spartan line is stunned and pushed back by the sheer impact of the massive 50 man deep column.

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    1.The Spartan allies begin to advance but because of the refused theban flank are yet to engage the theban centre seriously.They dare not turn left and try to take the Epaminondas's column on the flank as that would expose their own flank to the theban centre.

    2.The spartan phalanx resists desperately but is overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the theban mass and is broken.Cleombrotus and his royal guard stand their ground defiantly but the sacred band breaks through.Cleombrotus and most of his royal guard is killed in action.The first spartan king to be killed in battle since Leonidas at Thermopylae.

    3.After breaking the spartan phalanx the thebans turn right and take the advancing spartan allies in the flank.Seeing the spartan front broken and thebans about to flank them they retreat.

    4.The spartan survivors retreat amidst desperate fighting to their entrenched camp.Seeing the unthinkable happen and the spartans withdraw ,the spartan allies retreat all through the line towards the camp.Epaminondas doesn't pursue.

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    AFTERMATH :

    The spartans lost more than 1000 men killed (later accounts suggest 4000),while the thebans suffered maybe 200-300 kiled.Crucially of the 700 spartiates involved 400 were killed -a devastating blow for sparta's already dwindling spartiate population which formed the backbone of spartan military strength.Cleombrotus is killed in battle along with the bulk of his elite royal guard(Hippies).Sparta's reputation for military invincibility was shattered beyond repair.Epaminondas allowed the rest of the spartan army to retreat unmolested as he didn't wish to assault the spartan position uphill with inferior numbers and defended by desperate men.In an unprecedented act Agisilaus decided ‘to let the laws sleep for a day’ and not punish the survivors('tremblers) -too many had survived and spartan manpower was at its lowest ebb.

    The defeat encouraged sparta's hitherto fearful allies to rise up with spartan military reputation,strength in tatters,it was the aftermath of leuktra that destroyed spartan power forever.Sparta's neighbours the Arcadians,Argos and Tegeans -erstwhile dominated by the spartans in the peloponesse joined thebes.Epaminondas led a large Theban-led army into Laconia and ravaged the countryside with the spartans powerless to stop him by a pitched battle.It was the first time in 400 years laconia had been ravaged.The Spartan army was reduced to concentrating on just holding the city itself which had no walls.Marching this time to Messenia a region which the Spartans had conquered some 200 years before. Epaminondas freed the helots of Messenia, and rebuilt the ancient city of Messene with fortifications that were among the strongest in Greece. He then issued a call to Messenian exiles all over Greece to return and rebuild their homeland.The loss of Messenia was particularly damaging to the Spartans, since the territory comprised one-third of Sparta's territory and contained half of their helot population. The helots' labor allowed the Spartans to become a "full-time" army.He also oversaw the fortifying of 2 great strongholds Mantinea and Megalopolis . Messene , Megalopolis and Mantinea which served to ring ring Laconia from all sides and pen sparta in.Not only was sparta's economic base destroyed,she was surrounded by hostile confederation with fortified cities she couldn't take.Epaminondas' campaign of 370/369 has been described as an example of "the grand strategy of indirect approach", which was aimed at severing "the economic roots of her [Sparta's] military supremacy."In mere months, Epaminondas had created two new enemy states that opposed Sparta, shaken the foundations of Sparta's economy, and all but devastated Sparta's prestige. This accomplished, he led his army back home, victorious.

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    Epaminondas's success led to a decade of Theban hegemony.Though Thebes's power subsided to an extent after the death of Pelopidas and Epaminondas at Mantinea 362BC even though thebes won against a last ditch spartan attempt to revive her power.Sparta's power would never recover (see above sparta surrounded by theban allies and fort-cities) and would gradually decline into a second rate power.Further,Philip of Macedon, who studied and lived in Thebes, was no doubt heavily influenced by the battle to develop his own, highly effective approach to tactics and armament. In turn, his son Alexander would go on to develop his father's theories to an entirely new level.While leuctra destroyed spartan power,who had earlier reduced athenian power- the constant conflict between the greek city states would leave the stage open for the rise of a new power that would end the classical age in greece - Macedonia.Thebes would be destroyed in confrontation with Alexander.

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    CAUSES OF THEBAN SUCCESS :

    Concentration of Effort - The key to the theban success was the far greater volume of mass they were able to bring to bear upon the enemy at the decisive point - a prelude to the later german schwerpunkt concept.Thus Epaminondas was able to win the battle by being superior at the decisive point despite being inferior overall and to overcome spartan martial prowess through tactics.The deep phalanx had been used once by Pagondas,a theban general at the battle of Delium but only 25 men deep.But the refused flank and interchanging the position of the deep phalanx to face the main spartan force were innovations made by epaminondas.That it was not a fluke is attested by the fact that epaminondas employed a more sophisticated version at mantinea(362bc) and again suceeded.Concentration of force, refused flank and combined arms are tactics that Philip and Alexander used in many of their battles. Philip's victories against the Illyrians and at Charonea and Alexander's triumphs owe credit to the tactical manoeuver used to vanquish the Spartans.

    Economy of Force -
    The direct supplement to concentration of effort,if Epaminondas had merely used the deep column his weakened centre and right would have collapsed and he would have been outflanked.The introduction of the refused flank in the echelon formation in the oblique order attack was the key tactic that prevented this and allowed him to hold these sectors with minimal men.

    Surprise -
    Epaminondas achieved tactical surprise by clever screening and employment of his cavalry in front of his main line.The spartans were alerted to the unusual depth og his column only at the final stages when it was too late.

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    Sources :
    Osprey Warrior -Spartan
    Osprey Men at arms - Greek Hoplite,Spartan army
    Storm of Spears - C.Matthew
    Sparta at War -Scott Rusch
    Net sources
     

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