This past lab featured one of the more unconventional practices we have endeavored in (which is surprising to an extent). We marched throughout the mini-bald spot in three different formations ranging from the Greek Hoplite formation, the Greek Phalanx and the Roman legionary formation. This was perhaps the weirdest lab to approach as I could not help but to find it whimsical and goofy having to hold PVC pipes marching around campus while those in the larger Carleton community looked on with humor in their minds.
Nevertheless, once it actually came time to try and assemble the first formation – the Greek Hoplite – I found I was able to focus on the practicalities of it all, apart from a few laughs and jokes here and there. Being in the hoplite, I felt like we were a strong, unified unit, with some minor complications. Even though we held our shields locked together protecting our upper and lower body, I found that the lack of mobility really hindered the individual soldier. The fact that a soldier in the middle of the hoplite structure is, in a sense, stuck in their position, I think tactics out of the ordinary would cripple that soldier. This prompted another thought: how often did the hoplite structure break and resort to more hand-to-hand combat between armies as is traditionally portrayed in media. I also found that holding the spear was very hard, especially when you attempted to raise the spear over the shield – I found it often got caught. Lastly, with regards to the hoplite, I had the good fortune to be one of the soldiers who stood at the right-end of the line with an entirely exposed right shoulder to the oncoming enemy. Holding that position must have been a terrible experience, as I imagine it was the principle area to strike from the opposing enemy, which must have resulted in trying to overload the weakest side.
The phalanx structure was by far the most difficult to assemble as a group, due in part to the unruly nature of the PVC pipes (which I wouldn’t trade for the sheer weight of using wood). The phalanx at first glance seems the worst structure to fight with: it is extremely clunky, rigid, and incredibly heavy. In all sincerity, I cannot imagine how someone was able to wield one of the spears, not only in battle but also for the march beforehand. Simply holding the PVC pipe at roughly a 5 degree angle for 2-3 minutes had my shoulders and forearms tender, and I was not even able to thrust the spear very far. I find the phalanx to be the scariest structure to be enveloped in because while it is incredibly strong, its weak points are massively weak and when exposed would cripple a phalanx…, whether that be a flank or a gap created by a brave short-ranged soldier. Once the phalanx breaks, the soldier is left with practically nothing to defend themselves except a massive, 18-foot spear and less armor. I think that is why the Roman legionary seems so appealing when looked at with reference to ancient Greece. The Roman legionary soldier is well equipped to defend themselves, yet is also able to act within a larger group as a whole unit. The notion of stabbing with short, quick jabs seems much more effective than the seemingly defensive strategy that the phalanx relies on. Ultimately, it is the ancient warfare technique I would prefer.
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