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Urban plan of Cyrene (Kyrene)

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Site plan of Late Classical and Hellenistic Cyrene, the main city of the Greek colonies in Cyrenaica

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ΤΗΕ GELOAN WAR MACHINE (ANCIENT SICILY) – PART II

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phalanx

cavalryThe hoplite phalanx (vase-painting above) and the cavalry of the Archaic type (artwork below, by Giussepe Rava) were the two main army formations of the Siciliot and Italiot Greeks including the Geloans.
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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CONTINUED FROM PART I
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Gela completed her hegemonic march when eventually Gelon, her greatest son, made Syracuse his capital. Henceforth, Acragas substituted Gela as the second most powerful city-state of Sicily, a great rival for Syracuse.
Many readers accustomed to the History of World War II, must have known Gela, because her site was one of the main landing areas of the Allied assault on Sicily on the 10th of July 1943.
After this historical introduction, I am going to deal in greater detail with ancient Gela’s armed forces.
The main military disadvantage of Gela was the lack of natural harbours in her core territory. Because of this geophysical situation, the Geloans never had a navy of some account. When the Geloan tyrants formed the ‘Geloan Empire’, they exploited the ports and the warships of the subject naval city-states to establish a navy.
The limited occupation of the Geloans with shipping and the fertile plain around their city turned them into an agricultural and ranching life. Moreover the ancestors of most settlers, although all of them islanders, were more attached to the land occupations than to sea life: these were the Cretans, the Coans and the colonists from the city-states Hialysos and Kamiros of Rhodes; the Lindians were actually the exception to this ‘general rule’.

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HOPLITE TACTICS: THE HOPLITE PHALANX

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

14Leonidas’ Spartans  confront  the Persian army at Thermop[ylae, in a classic  artwork by Peter Connolly.

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The  hoplite  way  of  war  as  it  is  known  from  the  sources  of  the  Classical  period,  had  been  formed  until  the  Persian  wars  (490-479  BC).  When  the  hoplite  armies  of  two  rival  city-states  prepared  for  battle,  their  hoplites  formed  the  phalanx,  in  a  short  distance  apart  and  usually  in  closed  formation.  In  this  formation,  each  hoplite  had  an  area  of  about  one  square  meter  in  order  to  fight  and  manoeuvre.  The  hoplites  could  be  arrayed  in  an  open  formation,  if  needed  (open  formation  was  used  during  the  march  to  the  field  of  battle  or  if  the  enemy  line  had  to  be  covered  in  length).  In  this  case,  the  distance  between  the  hoplites  increased  alength  the  front  of  the  phalanx  and  also  apeak,  in  the  “depth”  of  the  phalanx  (which  is  the  number  of  ranks).  On  the  other  hand,  if  the  phalanx  had  to  turn  to  the  famous  compact  and  unbreakable  “shieldwall”,  the  hoplites  were  approaching  one  another  so  that  their  shoulders  touched  (very  close  or  dense  formation).  This  was  the  proper  formation  when  the  phalanx  had  to  put  more  pressure  on  the  opponent  or  to  ensure  its  best  possible  defence.  It  was  the  perfect  closed  formation  (although  it  had  some  disadvantages)  because  the  unprotected  right  side  of  the  hoplite  was  covered  by  the  shield  of  his  fellow  hoplite  to  his  right.  Thus  was  formed  an  unbreakable  and  compact  array  which  was  based  on  the  solidarity  of  the  combatants.

The  mission  of    the  “champions”  (“promachoi”)  of  the  Heroic  Age  (Late  Mycenaean  and  Geometric  Age)  –  which were  the  best  and  most  noble  fighters  who  fought  in  front  of  the  other  warriors  –  were  no  longer  the  duels  to  death  with  the  champions  of  the  enemy.  Their  current  mission  was  to  maintain  the  tenacity  of  their  hoplite  phalanx  and  to  kill  the  opposing  champions  in  order  to  weaken  and  burst  the  enemy  phalanx.  Because  of  their  mission,  the  champions  were  arrayed  in  the  first  rank  (line)  of  the  phalanx,  holding  in  reality  the  same  position  as  in  the  irregular  line  of  the  Geometric  period.

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Hoplite  phalanx  of  eight  ranks  (“depth”)  in  battle  formation.

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A CONTRIBUTION TO THE STUDY OF THE SPARTAN NAVY – PART I

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aaaaaThe  allied  Greek  fleet  in  the  sea  battle  of  Salamis,  against  the  Phoenicians  and  the  Persians.

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The  Navy  of  ancient  Sparta – an  important  Weapon  of  the  Spartan army – remains  in  a  state  of  oblivion  for  most  researchers.  The  Spartans  had  no  naval  tradition,  nor  ever  acquired  one.  But  the  Spartan  navy  was  a  reality,  due  to  the  inhabitants  of  the  coasts  of  Laconia.  Later,  during  the  Classical  era,  the  united  Peloponnesian  Navy  was  provided  mainly  by  the  Peloponnesian  allies  of  Sparta.  After  the  end  of  the  Hegemony  of  Sparta  in  Greece  (371  BC),  the  Spartans  reduced  essentially  their  naval  forces  until  the  time  of  king  Nabis,  who  was  responsible  for  the  last  glimpse  of  the  Spartan  navy.
The  maritime  tradition  of  the  coastal  Laconian  “perioikoi” (subjects  of  Sparta,  mostly  pre-Dorian)  begins  at  least  from  the  Mycenaean  era,  when  the  Lacedaemonian  Achaeans  took  part  in  the  Trojan  War  with  60  ships.  The  founding of  common  colonies  by  Spartan  Dorians  and  Laconian  pre-Dorians  in  Crete,  Melos,  Thera (Santorini)  and  Cnidus  (a  city  of  Asia  Minor),  indicates  that  the  Laconian  maritime  tradition  continued  uninterruptedly  during  the  Geometric  period (11th-8th  centuries  BC).  This  is  also  indicated  by  the  Spartan  naval  operation  for  the  founding  of  Taras  (modern  Taranto)  in  Southern  Italy  (706/5  BC),  which  started  from  Gythion, the  main  port  of  Sparta (Taras  was  a  Spartan  colony).  Continue reading

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