2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book on Hellenistic warfare,
This review is from: Hellenistic Infantry Reform in the 160s BC (Studies in the Ancient and Medieval Art of Warfare) (Studies on the History of Ancient and Medieval Art of Warfare) (Hardcover)
From the author’s Introduction:
“The thesis advanced in this book is that both the Ptolemaic and Seleucid heavy infantry were re-armed and re-organized along Roman lines during the 160’s BC. This was the first time that the military successes of Rome forced the Hellenistic world to accept the fact that the Hellenistic phalanx was no match to the Roman manipular tactical system, and that it was necessary to change the equipment, organisation and tactics of their heavy infantry.”
“The evidence for military reform comes from an extremely varied range of sources, literary, epigraphic, papyrological and representational.”
The author tells us that “Some of the ideas advanced in this book have previously appeared in two titles of a popular nature” – e.g. his books for Montvert Publications on the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Armies back in the mid-1990s. I didn’t read them at the time, and now they are hideously expensive – come on Osprey, buy up the reprint rights!
Also - “My ideas of what happened in the infantry reforms of the 160s have changed somewhat” due to new research work.
The contents are:
P013: List of figures in text (36 of)
P017: Chapter 1 – Military Reform in the Ptolemaic Army (14 sections)
P084: Chapter 2 – Military Reform in the Seleucucid Army (8 sections)
P115: General Conclusions
P117: Appendices (7 of)
As you can see, there is much more evidence for the Ptolemaic army, and this involves a lot of ‘technical’ discussion, and a knowledge of the Greek alphabet will be invaluable, although not essential for following it. The Seleucid army has much less evidence, and is dependent upon a ‘reasoned’ discussion. The Appendices contain a lot of interesting snippets, which I shall go into below.
From the author’s General Conclusions:
“The proposition advanced in the second chapter, that the Seleucid heavy infantry was armed and organized along Roman lines at some point immediately prior to 166, is based on two passages in the literary sources and on one disputable piece of archaeological evidence. The material covering the Ptolemaic infantry is much more copious and the conclusion that it was comprehensively reorganized along Roman lines at roughly the same period seems inescapable. It is the certainty of the Ptolemaic evidence which puts the Seleucid evidence in its context.”
Having just read Eckstein’s Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War, and the Rise of Rome (Hellenistic Culture and Society), I must take exception to this author’s assertion that “the Hellenistic phalanx was no match to the Roman manipular tactical system” – as Eckstein and others appear to disagree with him. However, in the General Conclusions, he also says –
“When Hannibal invaded Italy with less than 20,000 men, Polybius tells us that the Romans and their Allies were capable of mustering, at least on paper, 700,000 foot and 70,000 horse. It was Rome’s capacity to mobilise such huge armies which defeated Macedon, rather than any innate superiority of the Roman military system. However many armies the incompetence of Roman military commanders could lose, there was always a near-inexhaustible reservoir of manpower to draw on. The first years of the Third Macedonian War saw many Roman reverses, but these did not matter. All that mattered was the last battle.”
If you are interested in the subject, then this will be an interesting book for you. If you are interested in Hellenistic armies in general, then, while the esoteric arguments in the main sections may be uninteresting, there is a lot of interesting details in the various appendices:
P117: The evidence for Roman influence on Hellenistic armies before the Third Macedonian War
P125: The TAKTIKA of Poseidonius of Apameia
P135: The date of the “Soldiers’ Tomb” at Sidon
P150: The date and purpose of the Daphne Parade
P159: Polybius on Antiochus IV
P173: The Kampyr-Tepe Terracotta
P176: Late Hellenistic Armies
The first Appendix discusses Pyrrhus’s army reforms –“Ever since the Macedonian phalanx first emerged as a tactical formation, there existed a danger that the frontage would rupture if the phalanx was required to move forward for any distance over rough terrain… It seems that Pyrrhus was the first commander to attempt to solve this problem by alternating blocks of pike-men and medium infantry in the front line. According to Polybius… Pyrrhus made use of Roman weapons and of Italian troops, placing a maniple… of Italians alongside a phalanx block… in his battles with the Romans… The maniples of Italians would have served as flexible ‘joints’ between the pike-blocks, enabling the latter to deliver a series of individual ‘hammer-blows’ without disrupting the line. In this way the phalanx could ‘articulate’ and a rupture in the line was prevented.”
“An ‘articulating’ phalanx also seems to have been the tactical formation used at the battle of Magnesia in 190 BC, where Antiochus the Great deployed the pikemen of the Seleucid army as follows:
…”There were 16,000 infantry armed in the Macedonian manner, who are called phalangites. They formed the centre of the line, and their frontage was divided into 10 parts; and these parts were separated by intervals in which two elephants were placed (Livy)”. “The appearance of the phalanx was like that of a wall, of which the elephants were the towers (Appian)” Each of the elephants would have been accompanied by a guard of an uncertain number of infantry.”
“We have seen that it was reasonably common practice for the phalanxes of third century Hellenistic armies to be drawn up in articulating phalanx blocks until the battle of Magnesia. It seems that this ‘articulating phalanx’ was a military innovation of Pyrrhus, the result of his experiences in the Italian Campaign. Pyrrhus was clearly influenced by manipular tactics. There is no indication, however, that later armies used weapons other than the traditional ones of the phalanx.” And so on.
This is a highly recommended book. I borrowed it from a library, but am now searching for a cheap copy to buy.
Hellenistic Infantry Reform in the 160s BC (Studies in the Ancient and Medieval Art of Warfare) (Studies on the History of Ancient and Medieval Art of Warfare)(2 customer reviews)