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Maximus_Superbus_Bongus

Roman Cohort versus a Macedonian Phalanx.

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Hello. I am new to these fourums so if my question is out of place please tell me.

I was always facsinated with this question. Now one on one. 1 cohort of Legionnaires versus 1 unit of silver pikemen. Who has the advantage? Now the cohort has mobility and the phalanx has reach. With no cavalry to support the cohort can they overcome the Phalanx? What do you think? And I am talking late republic cohorts.

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There's a lot to consider. What sort of ground are they fighting on? Who has higher ground? Where is the sun? What weather prevails?

 

In general, the phalanx is fairly formidable provided you meet them head on without missile support (I mean ancient missiles :P ). Thats why the Romans adopted it earlier to your chosen period. The cohort has a lot of tactical flexibility the phalanx doesn't. That's why the Romans dropped the pikes when they realised just how vulnerable the phalanx can be.

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Hello. I am new to these fourums so if my question is out of place please tell me.

I was always facsinated with this question. Now one on one. 1 cohort of Legionnaires versus 1 unit of silver pikemen. Who has the advantage? Now the cohort has mobility and the phalanx has reach. With no cavalry to support the cohort can they overcome the Phalanx? What do you think? And I am talking late republic cohorts.

Livy's verdict was definitive:

"(The Macedonians) were armed with round shields and long spears, the Romans had the large shield called the scutum, a better protection for the body, and the javelin, a much more effective weapon than the spear whether for hurling or thrusting. In both armies the soldiers fought in line rank by rank, but the Macedonian phalanx lacked mobility and formed a single unit; the Roman army was more elastic, made up of numerous divisions, which could easily act separately or in combination as required."

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On flat grassland and in clear weather.

 

 

There's a lot to consider. What sort of ground are they fighting on? Who has higher ground? Where is the sun? What weather prevails?

 

In general, the phalanx is fairly formidable provided you meet them head on without missile support (I mean ancient missiles ;) ). Thats why the Romans adopted it earlier to your chosen period. The cohort has a lot of tactical flexibility the phalanx doesn't. That's why the Romans dropped the pikes when they realised just how vulnerable the phalanx can be.

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Right now I am reading Titus livius' History of Rome. I do need to brush up on Appians' "On the macedonian wars" There's just to much damn stuff to read. I must of read a million things and feel I have not even scratched the surface. Anyway the matchup between the phalanx and the cohort always facsinated me.

 

 

Hello. I am new to these fourums so if my question is out of place please tell me.

I was always facsinated with this question. Now one on one. 1 cohort of Legionnaires versus 1 unit of silver pikemen. Who has the advantage? Now the cohort has mobility and the phalanx has reach. With no cavalry to support the cohort can they overcome the Phalanx? What do you think? And I am talking late republic cohorts.

Livy's verdict was definitive:

"(The Macedonians) were armed with round shields and long spears, the Romans had the large shield called the scutum, a better protection for the body, and the javelin, a much more effective weapon than the spear whether for hurling or thrusting. In both armies the soldiers fought in line rank by rank, but the Macedonian phalanx lacked mobility and formed a single unit; the Roman army was more elastic, made up of numerous divisions, which could easily act separately or in combination as required."

Edited by Maximus_Superbus_Bongus

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test

 

Hello. I am new to these fourums so if my question is out of place please tell me.

I was always facsinated with this question. Now one on one. 1 cohort of Legionnaires versus 1 unit of silver pikemen. Who has the advantage? Now the cohort has mobility and the phalanx has reach. With no cavalry to support the cohort can they overcome the Phalanx? What do you think? And I am talking late republic cohorts.

Livy's verdict was definitive:

"(The Macedonians) were armed with round shields and long spears, the Romans had the large shield called the scutum, a better protection for the body, and the javelin, a much more effective weapon than the spear whether for hurling or thrusting. In both armies the soldiers fought in line rank by rank, but the Macedonian phalanx lacked mobility and formed a single unit; the Roman army was more elastic, made up of numerous divisions, which could easily act separately or in combination as required."

Edited by Maximus_Superbus_Bongus

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I think in a flat ground fight 1 on 1 head to head with good weather the Phalanx has the advantage. They have 16-18 foot sarisa's! The only way I can see a cohort beating the Phalanx is using a wide formation and getting to their sides and rear. The phalanx has to use team work but the cohort can spread out and/or split into 2 or 3 sub units. I think head to head the phalanx takes it but who fights that way? In a real contest the cohort would win because they can attacker all sides at once if they break into sub-formations. Anyone have any thoughts on my opinion?

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Polybius took a long hard look at this. Basically, the situation appears to be this - a stationary phalanx can't be got at from the front - the legionaries just can't get past the sarissas (pikes. The Romans proved this against the Pontic phalanx at Charonea in the 80s BC. But if you are going to have a stationary phalanx, you need so)mething like Alexander's cavalry on the flanks. At Charonea, what the pontic phalanx got was Murena's legionaries after they had seen off the Pontic brazen shields after some broken field play on the Pontic right. And legionaries on a phalanx flank are like sharks in a school of tunny.

 

On the other hand, a phalanx going forward can't match legionaries going backwards, as was shown in the Macedonian wars. In scenario 1 there is a macro dislocation, as at Cynoscephalae, when one phalanx went forward faster than its companion, allowing Romans to peel off the side of the legion retreating more slowly and hit the Macedonians of the faster moving phalanx in the rear. Or in scenario 2, there are micro-dislocations such as at Pydna, when the advancing phalanx slowly lost its coherent hedge of spears as some parts of the legion retreated faster and others were more stubborn. And as soon as the legionaries could get in through a break in the spear-hedge and amongst just one file of phalangites, the whole thing went to hell in a handbasket.

 

So generally, the phalanx was doomed standing still, because the Romans could thin their attacking lines and get around its flanks, and it was doomed going forward, because it was impossible to keep the lines perfectly dressed in a battle situation, even allowing for perfectly smooth terrain. And the phalanx had no reverse gear.

 

There's a book on the Macedonian wars by Pen & Sword coming out towards the end of the year that examines the matter in some detail.(By the bloke who did the Mithridatic wars for them last year, I believe.)

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Wasn't the Cohort just a structural unit until the "Marian reforms" ?

 

"Marius exchanged the manipular formation for a different organization based on the cohort. There were precedents...in the war with Hannibal...but only as a temporary arrangement, and a "cohort" at this period may not have signified unit of a standard size." (the Roman army, Pat Southern, 2006) .

 

So, it is a Legion/Maniples against "Phalanx" at pydna and before

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Marius changed the emphasis between Maniple and Cohort. Prior to Marius, the Cohort existed as a formation of covenience - and interestingly, even after the reforms, was never given it's own 'spirit' as other formations had.

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Very well said matt. When an army has a phalanx formation it is only prudent to have either cavalry and/or light infantry on the flanks. Alexander the Great was a master at utilizing the phalanx. I do wonder if you take Alexander the Greats best army and put it up against say Pompey's best or Caesars what the outcome would be.

 

 

 

Polybius took a long hard look at this. Basically, the situation appears to be this - a stationary phalanx can't be got at from the front - the legionaries just can't get past the sarissas (pikes. The Romans proved this against the Pontic phalanx at Charonea in the 80s BC. But if you are going to have a stationary phalanx, you need so)mething like Alexander's cavalry on the flanks. At Charonea, what the pontic phalanx got was Murena's legionaries after they had seen off the Pontic brazen shields after some broken field play on the Pontic right. And legionaries on a phalanx flank are like sharks in a school of tunny.

 

On the other hand, a phalanx going forward can't match legionaries going backwards, as was shown in the Macedonian wars. In scenario 1 there is a macro dislocation, as at Cynoscephalae, when one phalanx went forward faster than its companion, allowing Romans to peel off the side of the legion retreating more slowly and hit the Macedonians of the faster moving phalanx in the rear. Or in scenario 2, there are micro-dislocations such as at Pydna, when the advancing phalanx slowly lost its coherent hedge of spears as some parts of the legion retreated faster and others were more stubborn. And as soon as the legionaries could get in through a break in the spear-hedge and amongst just one file of phalangites, the whole thing went to hell in a handbasket.

 

So generally, the phalanx was doomed standing still, because the Romans could thin their attacking lines and get around its flanks, and it was doomed going forward, because it was impossible to keep the lines perfectly dressed in a battle situation, even allowing for perfectly smooth terrain. And the phalanx had no reverse gear.

 

There's a book on the Macedonian wars by Pen & Sword coming out towards the end of the year that examines the matter in some detail.(By the bloke who did the Mithridatic wars for them last year, I believe.)

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I think you're right. And there is a difference between the tactics before and after the marian reforms.

 

Wasn't the Cohort just a structural unit until the "Marian reforms" ?

 

"Marius exchanged the manipular formation for a different organization based on the cohort. There were precedents...in the war with Hannibal...but only as a temporary arrangement, and a "cohort" at this period may not have signified unit of a standard size." (the Roman army, Pat Southern, 2006) .

 

So, it is a Legion/Maniples against "Phalanx" at pydna and before

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Very well said matt. When an army has a phalanx formation it is only prudent to have either cavalry and/or light infantry on the flanks. Alexander the Great was a master at utilizing the phalanx. I do wonder if you take Alexander the Greats best army and put it up against say Pompey's best or Caesars what the outcome would be.

Unsurprisingly, Livy's answer to a related question (Alexander III versus his contemporary Romans) was definitive too; Alexander wpuld have been utterly defeated.

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Unsurprisingly, Livy's answer to a related question (Alexander III versus his contemporary Romans) was definitive too; Alexander wpuld have been utterly defeated.

 

 

Ah, one of my favorite subjects ! Alexander would have won every battle and lost the war...(see 4 Greek invaders to Italy before and after the times of Al , and Pyrhus and the Carthagian one...) . No, Rome was not a small vilage in 330 BCE .

Edited by Caesar CXXXVII

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Well, the Roman style of warfare came after the Phalanx as the Romans could use their speed and mobility to break up the Hellenes. Over flat terrain the Roman would win all day long as it has the space to manouvre but if they were faced with the phalanx defending a bottle neck then the phalanx' longer reach would win.

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