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Customer Review

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read....not entirely convincing, 8 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: A Storm of Spears: Understanding the Greek Hoplite in Action (Hardcover)
As is so often the case these days new books have to challenge "old" ideas...otherwise we don't need a new book. To summarise the contest; this book argues that a hoplite normally used his spear underarm as opposed to the "normal" interpretation of an overarm thrust.
To do this the author puts a lot of faith in his re-enactment experience. There is a basic flaw in doing this....re-enactors are not trying to kill each other. Whether a spear can or can't penetrate a shield best with an under or over arm stroke does not add up to all that much when we know that the actual users weren't trying to penetrate a shield. In fact you could argue it's better to not penetrate and glance off than to have the spearpoint wedged fast. Successful thrusts to the exposed neck and face don't leave punctured armour and are easier to achieve overarm. Apparently the author's group of modern hoplites travelled to Marathon for the anniversary celebrations and were roughly handled when confronted with others using an overarm action....so the evidence is not as clear as he'd like us to believe in his conclusions.
It also seems that much of the discussion about formations (file spacing etc) is based on works describing later Hellenistic period pike phalanx operation. These are always depicted in art using their weapon two handed and underarm (which, strangely, contrasts with 17th century useage where pikes were levelled at shoulder height) so agree with his conclusions.
After reading the book my personal view is that both ways were used as appropriate, under arm when relatively passive (i.e. a long engagement where keeping your opponent at a distance is valuable)and overarm when you are aggressively seeking a quick resolution. I enjoyed reading the book.....I just found I didn't agree with it all.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 17 Dec 2013 15:41:48 GMT
Good review, interesting points you make, thanks for posting.
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