the people in the first two rows had interlocking shields and spears while the subsequent rows only had spears. There was no distance between people in the rows but each row was around 2 paces away from each other
- 7 ft PVC “spear”
- 6 trash lid “shields” (55cm in diameter)
- 6 more trash lid “shields” (a little smaller than 55cm in diameter)
We spent around an hour on our first formation, the hoplite. Our group was in the first row with the shields. Regarding the learning curve, we noticed that people were struggling with the idea of using their shields to protect the person next to them rather than themselves. This meant it took a little longer for the front rows to learn the interlocking aspect of the formation than it did for the back rows, who did not initially have to hold the shields. However, once we switched around we caught on pretty quickly. Although we were surprised by how much heavier the PVC pipes were than we had anticipated. I was worried about getting hit in the head from behind
Sense of Safety
Regarding a sense of safety, we all agreed that being in the middle of the group felt a lot safer than being in the front or the back. The closeness of the formation had us feeling squished which isn’t a terrible thing when you’re in the middle and battling to the death. I think our inclination to shield ourselves in the front row spoke to the lack of safety we felt. Not having a human in between yourself and the enemy, and only being protected by the hope that the person next to you is holding their shield properly is not very comforting. However, we all agreed that we felt least safe in the back row. We were completely exposed and completely blinded to anything that could be happening behind us.
While this was the oldest and “simplest” of the three formations, we understood how it would have been a significant improvement from the wicker shields of the Persian Empire. We also saw why this formation was important in its symbolism, where every life was of equal importance on the battlefield regardless of social status outside of war.
- 10 ft and 5 ft PVC pipes joined together with a connector. Meant to emulate the 15 ft sarissa spears
Each person carried 15ft spears. We organized in five rows of five, where each of us was 3 ft apart from each other on all sides. We were meant to stay in this formation the entire time.
The sarissa spears were much more difficult to handle than the 7ft hoplite spears. They were much more wobbly and felt much less secure in our hands (especially for the lefties, who were forced to keep the spears in their right hands). Because we were farther away from each other, we had more room to mess up and more room to fall out of sync with each other. When Jake checked our distance from each other after we had walked in the formation for a bit, we were no longer 3 ft apart. In some sense, the squishedness of the hoplite made the learning curve much easier than the phalanx, as there was really no room to fall out of step.
Sense of Safety
With five rows of fifteen foot poles, it was pretty easy to feel safe. With spears that long, our formation felt impenetrable against the hoplite. This was something we very easily put to the test, and the hoplite very easily lost against the phalanx. The only safety issue that was of significance was the accidental stabbing or bonking on the head with the PVC tubes. If we had used actual spears, which are much heavier and pointier than PVC tubes, we might have faced some serious injuries. However the injuries became less frequent as we spent more time in this formation, indicating that the learning curve must be pretty quick.
As mentioned previously, we constructed a phalanx formation against a hoplite formation. Because the sarissas were so long, we were able to penetrate the hoplite with our weapons while still maintaining a good physical distance. Especially because the spears in the hoplite were only 7 ft long, if they planned on attacking us we would have very easily dominated them. As such, the phalanx replacing the hoplite made perfect sense to us
- Trash can cut in half vertically (shield)
- 3-inch pvc pipe (sword)
The maniple, a roman military formation, was the last formation we constructed during the lab. We only had 12 shields, so only half of our group was shielded at a time. However, In ancient times, everyone would have had a shield of their own. These shields were curved rather than flat. We were farthest apart from each other during this formation, a bit more than 3 feet.
Because we were significantly more spaced out than ever before, it was a lot more difficult for us to maintain the same distance and stay in step with each other. The walking in unison aspect definitely took the longest for us to get down in this formation and we were still having issues with it at the end of the lab. However, the weapons we used felt most intuitive. Switching from a spear to a shorter sword was a welcome transition as it was significantly less heavy and the chances of accidentally hitting yourself or others depleted.
Sense of Safety
Unlike in the hoplite, the shields in the maniple were used to protect yourself rather than the person next to you. This increased the sense of safety significantly. The curved nature of the shield also contributed to this. However, switching from a 15 foot spear to a 3 foot sword was a little scary, as we would hypothetically have to get much closer to the enemy to fight them
It was more difficult to see how the maniple would replace the phalanx as the phalanx was visibly a lot more threatening than the maniple. However, once we did the tortoise formation, I could begin to see how much more impenetrable it would be comparatively.