View Full Version : Historical Germanic Phalanx..!

07-15-2007, 17:34
I've just (partially) read an english translation of In Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic Wars) written by Gaius Julius Caesar.

Caesar writes about Gauls/Germans using a Phalanx formation during his wars against the Helvetii (a Gallic tribe) and Ariovistus (a Germanic king).

But the Germans, according to their custom, rapidly forming a phalanx, sustained the attack of our swords. There were found very many of our soldiers who leaped upon the phalanx, and with their hands tore away the shields, and wounded the enemy from above

Blimey :dizzy2:

I called a German Phalanx ridiculous in a thread not long ago - excuse me while I eat my foot :sorry2:

Library FTW :book:

07-16-2007, 06:04
that means germans phalanxe useless???:inquisitive:

I of the Storm
07-16-2007, 08:02
Wouldn't say so. Let's put it this way: it was not invincible. If it was useless, they wouldn't have done it at all.

07-16-2007, 11:22
I thought I'd post about it because a lot of people - me included - thought a Germanic Phalanx just a historical inaccuracy in RTW.

Obviously not... :dizzy2:

I of the Storm
07-16-2007, 12:08
Although I think that the description "phalanx" is a bit misleading, for it gives associations with the greek style. I suppose it was more of a spear wall, than the disciplined macedonian phalanx.
But then, how was Caesar - regarding his background - supposed to call it, if not "phalanx"?

07-16-2007, 16:02
If it looks like a Phalanx and works like a Phalanx... might as well call it a Phalanx :2thumbsup:

The Greeks used a number of different Phalanx types didn't they?

07-16-2007, 22:53
The Greeks at the time of the persian wars were using a phalanx dependant upon a large bronze faced (wood core) shield, which was held so that it protected in theory the left side of the soldier and the man to his left. There is alot of argument about how they held their spears, but it seems certain that they held them at the middle, varying overhand and underhand (there is no counterbalance on them, so it would be extremely difficult to hold any other way). Call that the Greek phalanx- it was dependant on the large hoplon shield which was intended to be used as a shock weapon as much as a protective device- once the spears in the front line were broken, the soldier was responsible for pushing forward, while the man behind him attempted to cover with his spear and push forward. In the classical period, after the persian wars, the trend in equipment for this phalanx began to emphasize the charge, as soldiers increasingly used leather breasplates instead of metal ones.

The Macedonian phalanx was entirely different. It relied on long spears, some held high in the back ranks to protect against arrow fire. The soldier's role in this phalanx was not to protect the man to his left but to hold his spear, often assisted by the lines behind him, depending on the time period and the length of the spear. The phalanx was meant to close fast, but it couldn't charge because of the dense and carefully ordered formation. The heavy equipment of the classical phalanx was foregone to cut expense and free the soldier to hold his spear. The shield was far smaller, as the spear was intended to defend instead. Like the greek phalanx however, it valued order above all personal valor.

Phalanx came to mean any spear formation utilizing the shield as much as the spear. In later eras equipment in a shield (greek) phalanx was very light, unlike the heavy armor worn by the greeks in classical times, and consequently the formation was far more flexbile. For the germans and gauls, who fought with shields and spears in levies, the term phalanx was easily applied, even though the formation was flexbile and individualistic, completely the opposite of either the greek or macedonian phalankes.

Thus you are completely right to say that the germans using the macedonian phalanx in RTW is an inaccuracy- as mentioned above it was far more like a shield wall. Unlike the later shield wall however, it was an individualistic formation- valor was achieved in personal combat, which is why the Romans described above were able to pry the phalanx apart by attacking around the shield- the dense greek phalanx made that alot more difficult. Since the greek and macedonian phalankes were both dense and individualism was discouraged, the germans could hardly ever be said to use a phalanx. But for Caesar, the term shieldwall was hundreds (technically thousands) of years away, and phalanx was a readily accesible and widely applied term to indicate a formation relying primarily on spears, a system of combat not applied by roman legionaries during that time, and therefore without specific names regarding specific type.

07-17-2007, 04:00
I thought I'd post about it because a lot of people - me included - thought a Germanic Phalanx just a historical inaccuracy in RTW.

Obviously not... :dizzy2:

07-17-2007, 09:55
I thought I'd post about it because a lot of people - me included - thought a Germanic Phalanx just a historical inaccuracy in RTW.

Obviously not... :dizzy2:
I thought that too...

07-17-2007, 23:24
Both Gauls, as described Telamon ( I think it was at Telamon), and Germans, the Cimbri and friends at Orange etc., used dense shieldwall/phalnx formations, and behaved in a fairly intelligent and disciplined manner, and the Romans had a veryhard time defeating their ordered and disciplined defensive formations. At Telamon After the initial rush of Gallic skirmishers and Gesaeti (wild spearmen and swordsmen fanatics) was defeated by the Romans, the large amount of remaining Gallic infantry fought on the defensive in solid, ordered, and disciplined massed ranks. The Germans at Orange etc. are described as holding a disciplined shieldwall/phalanx formation with white shields and metal breastplates.

When advancing, the Gauls usually did so at a slow to normal pace so as to retain order and discipline in their ranks, they weren't stupid and were very experienced at war, and then they would charge, make their 'barbarain rush' when they got closer to, probably within missile range, of the enemy line of battle.

Many ancient military terms were used casually and interchangeably as Polybius and Livy do quite frequently.