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Ancient Battle Formations (Hardback)

Ancient History Military

By Justin Swanton
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 147 black and white
ISBN: 9781526740069
Published: 17th August 2020


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Justin Swanton examines the principal battle-winning formations of the Ancient world, determining their composition, function and efficacy. An introductory chapter looks at the fundamental components of the principal battle formations of heavy and light infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots, showing how they bolstered the individual's soldier's willingness to fight.

The rest of the book focuses on massed infantry that reigned supreme in this era: the heavily armoured Greek hoplite phalanx that was immune to the weaponry of its non-Greek opponents; the Macedonian pike phalanx that was unbeatable against frontal attacks so long as it kept order; the Roman triplex acies which, contrary to popular opinion, consisted of continuous lines in open order, with file spaces wide enough to allow embattled infantry to fall back after which those files closed up instantly against the enemy.

A careful study of the Greek and Latin of the sources sheds fresh light on how these formations were organized and worked, re-evaluating many conventional notions and leading to some surprising conclusions.

This would be a great read for both military history enthusiasts as well as Wargammers (The author is the editor of Slingshot, the magazine of the Society of Ancients). There is also some interesting research that would be useful for re-enactors of the period.

This is an excellent book focussed on one specific aspect of warfare, and while it sounds pretty mundane, this is an excellent look at formations.

There are also lots of copies of statues and drawings form the period to help reinforce the author’s views.

Read the full review here

Medieval Sword School

This book is an unique history book focusing on ancient battles and battle formations and recommended to anyone interested in historical warfare.

NetGalley, Sumit RK

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"A careful study of the Greek and Latin of the sources sheds fresh light on how these formations were organized and worked, re-evaluating many conventional notions and leading to some surprising conclusions."
This got me in the first place.

The author has done a fantastic job of describing the battle formations.
The book is neither to cliche or boring.
This provides a different insight on the fighting skills of Greek and Roman people.

NetGalley, Sophrosyne T

About Justin Swanton

A long-standing member of the Society of Ancients, Justin Swanton has been studying ancient warfare many years, making a close reading of ancient battle accounts in the original Greek and Latin. He is editor of Slingshot, the journal of the Society of Ancients, and is a graphic designer by profession, hence the striking diagrams that accompany his writing. He is a keen wargamer in his spare time and has published one novel set in late Antiquity. Justin lives in Durban, South Africa.

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The Macedonian pike phalanx dominated the battlefields of Greece and the Near and Middle East for over two centuries. It was one of the most successful infantry formations of the ancient world, only rivalled by the manipular formation of the Roman legions. The phalanx was a key factor in the battlefield success of Alexander the Great and after his death dominated the armies of his Successors (the Diadochoi), who ruled from Greece and Egypt to the borders of India. Richard Taylor gives an overview of the phalanx’s development, organization, equipment and training. He analyses the reasons for…

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