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A Storm of Spears: Understanding the Greek Hoplite in Action Hardcover – 17 Nov 2011
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About the Author
Christopher Matthew has just completed his doctoral thesis on hoplite warfare at MacQuarie University in Sydney, where one of his assessors has said he 'singlehandedly advanced the whole field'. He has also been invited to lecture on the subject at other Australian universities. This book, closely based on his doctoral thesis, will be his first, although he has already had several articles published in academic journals. 'He is currently working on a new translation of Aelian's work on tactics and co-editing (with Dr Matthew Trundle) Beyond the Gates of Fire: New Perspectives on the Battle of Thermopylae, both of which will be published by Pen & Sword. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
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.
Dr Matthew brings a fresh approach to the study of hoplite warfare and convincingly challenges some long-standing yet erroneous ideas about how hoplite battle would have been engaged.
For anyone with a genuine interest in hoplite warfare Dr Matthew's work will be a valuable reference.