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Legio X

The battle of Leuktra

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I've read that the Thebans used a "diagonal" battle line, but how could they get such an advantage over the Spartans just because that?

Edited by Legio X

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The diagonal battle line means not that the front troops were in diagonal to the enemy's front lines, but that the Thebans had put more lines of soldiers on one side than on the other, giving them more pushing strength than usual and thus causing a faster break of the enemy line on that side, allowing the Thebans to roll the side of the Spartans and thus win the battle. Usual battle formation was about 8 men deep, at Leuctre the Thebans had 16 men deep formations on part of the line (if I remember well, my books are still in bags and cases) and could thus more easily roll the Spartan left, before the Spartan's right could break the Theban left.

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I've read that the Thebians used a "diagonal" battle line, but how could they get such an advantage over the Spartans just because that?

 

I defer to our many military experts, but from what I remember, the strongest elements of an Ancient Greek army were usually on the right. Epaminondas, the Theban general who was very familiar with Spatan tactics, placed his best troops fifty men deep on his left, contrary to the military tradition of the day. The remainder of his troops were placed in shallower columns on his center and right that progressively fell behind the column to their left, forming a "diagonal".

 

Once the Theban left crushed the Spartan right, the remaining Spartan allies fled the field since the Spartan right was considered the stongest, most experienced fighters.

 

 

guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy

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The diagonal battle line means not that the front troops were in diagonal to the enemy's front lines, but that the Thebans had put more lines of soldiers on one side than on the other, giving them more pushing strength than usual and thus causing a faster break of the enemy line on that side, allowing the Thebans to roll the side of the Spartans and thus win the battle. Usual battle formation was about 8 men deep, at Leuctre the Thebans had 16 men deep formations on part of the line (if I remember well, my books are still in bags and cases) and could thus more easily roll the Spartan left, before the Spartan's right could break the Theban left.

But in that case the Spartans should have rolled up the Theban left wing before, as the Spartans (probaly) had much stronger and more experienced soldiers...

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The Thebans doubled their attack at the "place of honour" where the Spartiates would have been placed. Once they'd been overwhelmed, that was it - the Spartan's "allies" pretty much hated them at this time anyway, so they weren't going to stick around to defend what had become their overlords.

 

Cheers

 

Russ

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The Thebans deployed a phalanx 80 shields wide by 50 shields deep. This phalanx was placed on the left facing the Spartans. They had several smaller phalanxes to the right covering the center and right. As they advanced the phalanxes went forward at different times so the left became refused. The Spartan Allies did not reach the Theban army's right until the Spartans themselves had been broken, at which time the Spartan allies left the battlefield.

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I've read that the Thebans used a "diagonal" battle line, but how could they get such an advantage over the Spartans just because that?

 

Video evidence of the battle :o

 

 

 

 

 

guy also known as gaius

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The key to the strategy is cavalry. Both sides untypically deployed horsemen along the line ahead of the phalanxes. With greek battles, as indeed was common throughout the ancient period, establishing cavalry superiority was essential to control your flanks and rear. The Theban cavalry was better in any case - the Spartans were known to be indifferent horsemen.

 

When the battle begins, the lines of cavalry set to against each other for dominance, with phalanxes trudging on behind. With a right flank refused diagonal, this allowed a progressive escape route for the Theban cavalry and with each withdrawal another Spartan cavalry block was trapped between both sides - the Spartan phalanxes did not halt. They simply couldn't get out because the Thebans were jamming them in.

 

Later in the battle this gave the Thebans a cavalry ascendancy in which they were pretty much unchallenged, now able to attack the Spartan flanks and rear without hindrance.

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"The key to the strategy is cavalry."

 

No. The key was presenting a block of men so great the Spartans could not defeat, and refusing their center and right preventing the Spartan allies the opportunity of defeating them. Once the Spartans were trampled, their allies fled without fighting.

 

al

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That assumes the phalanxes were all important. Whilst they formed the body of the battle, there was no significant advantage to either side there. The refusement of the right flank without considering the cavalry action in between the lines makes no sense as a winning strategy. Far from it, it's rather pointless and in one respect might actually prevent a Theban victory. It was the cavalry action that swung it, as so often happens in battles of this period.

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Don't know what you're smokin' but the cavalry, although useful, wasn't the key to this battle. I'll let you talk with yourself for the rest of this thread. Enjoy.

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Don't know what you're smokin' but the cavalry, although useful, wasn't the key to this battle. I'll let you talk with yourself for the rest of this thread. Enjoy.

 

I think you are both correct, but let's ask Professor Kagan:

 

 

The Battle of Leuctra begins at 25:00

The issue of cavalry at 33:11

 

 

guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy

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Don't know what you're smokin' but the cavalry, although useful, wasn't the key to this battle. I'll let you talk with yourself for the rest of this thread. Enjoy.

 

Thanks Guy, but to answer the above point, I don't smoke :o

 

Think about what was happening. A phalanx is useless unless it advances to contact with the enemy. Both sides therefore begin an advance. If they don't, they gain no momentum. Unusually the cavalry was lined in front of the line - why? - One side or the other made that decision and the opposing force did likewise to face them off. Gaining superiority in cavalry is essential. It really is. If the enemy has cavalry flowing around your line, you're in deep, deep trouble, regardless of how good your phalanxes may be. In the majority of ancient battles the cavalry face off and fight first. So did the Spartans opt for a frontal cavalry charge out of ignorance? Or did the Thebans craftily do that to set up the Spartan horsemen for a fall? We don't know.

 

At any rate, the two sides horses begin their melee across the battlefield. Cavalry fights are always more fluid than infantry, and note that they had a limited time before their phalanxes arrived remorselessly. In other words, they would have to gain whatever advantage and get out before they were trapped between rows of pikes. Since the Thebans advanced in right flank refused (which does not protect the trailing units in any way, please note, it merely delays the time of contact, and phalanxes have extremely limited adaptability and once formed, are difficult to manoever) their cavalry had a wider door to withdraw through. So the Theban cavalry fights not necessarily to win a melee, but to block the exit from that side. As the Theban phalaxes arrive the cavalry backs off, leaving the Spartan horsemen trapped in the worse case scenario.

 

That's all well and good, but consider what happens on the Spartan side. The advancing phalanxes can see their own cavalry in front of them, milling around helplessly. I would imagine a certain amount of hesitation at skewering your men. Whatever the truth of the relative strengths of each sides infantry, one thing must be abundantly clear - that the Spartans would have suffered a certain level of morale drop and confusion. That was advantage the Theban phalanxes needed, and the entire reason for advancing in right flank refused. To trap the enemy cavalry and disrupt the Spartan advance. Game over.

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Thanks Guy, but to answer the above point, I don't smoke :D

 

I used to smoke cigars, but no longer. My asthma has been acting up.

 

I love Amsterdam, but I wouldn't admit to smoking anything there. B) I really love the Dutch art, however.

 

I'd much rather have a heated argument about Leuktra than any modern topic. :o

 

 

guy also known as gaius

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