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An Invincible Beast (Paperback)

Understanding the Hellenistic Pike Phalanx in Action

Ancient History Military P&S History

By Christopher Matthew
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 544
Illustrations: 50 illustrations, includes colour
ISBN: 9781399085267
Published: 28th February 2022


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The Hellenistic pike-phalanx was a true military innovation, transforming the face of warfare in the ancient world. For nearly 200 years, from the rise of the Macedonians as a military power in the mid-fourth century BC, to their defeat at the hands of the Romans at Pydna in 168BC, the pike-wielding heavy infantryman (the phalangite) formed the basis of nearly every Hellenistic army to deploy on battlefields stretching from Italy to India. And yet, despite this dominance, and the vast literature dedicated to detailing the history of the Hellenistic world, there remains fierce debate among modern scholars about how infantry combat in this age was actually conducted.

Christopher Matthews critically examines phalanx combat by using techniques such as physical re-creation, experimental archaeology, and ballistics testing, and then comparing the findings of this testing to the ancient literary, artistic and archaeological evidence, as well as modern theories. The result is the most comprehensive and up-to-date study of what heavy infantry combat was like in the age of Alexander the Great and his Successors.

"Overall a solid book, with some excellent argument".

The Pike and Shot Society

...this is an outstanding book. Because it is an academic work, it is recommended to students studying classical, and particularly Hellenic, history. Those with a passion for military history, re-enacting, ancient Greece, ancient Macedon, or Alexander the Great may also enjoy it.

Considering that historical writing on this topic has been sketchy until recently, I also recommend it to all those with a general interest in the classics.

UNRV, Martin Holmes

About Christopher Matthew

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.

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