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Goths vs. Greeks: Epic Ancient Battle Revealed

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Another  Thermopylae[artwork by Igor Dzis]

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Republication from Live Science

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By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor

Fragments of an ancient Greek text telling of an invasion of Greece by the Goths during the third century A.D. have been discovered in the Austrian National Library. The text includes a battle fought at the pass of Thermopylae.

Researchers used spectral imaging to enhance the fragments, making it possible to read them. The analysis suggests the fragments were copied in the 11th century A.D. and are from a text that was written in the third-century A.D. by an Athens writer named Dexippus.  During Dexippus’ life, Greece (part of the Roman Empire) and Rome struggled to repel a series of Gothic invasions.

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Another Battle of Thermopylae found in palimpsest

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Republication from Τhe History blog

GermanicsGermanic warriors battling Romans (Teutoburg Forest). In my view, the Greek combatants who confronted them would have been armed like the earlier Roman auxilia of the 2nd century AD (in the mid-3rd century AD there were no longer auxilia from the Empire’s populace because they were all citizens) bearing chain mail armour, scuta (thyreos-shields in Greek) and heavy Roman swords but with helmets of traditional Hellenic types (image and comment added by periklisdeligiannis.wordpress.com)

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The leaves of books in the Middle Ages were made of parchment and vellum, created from animal skins in an expensive and time-consuming craft. It was so costly that scribes often recycled pages from earlier books, removing the ink to create a blank sheet. In the early Middle Ages, the ink was washed off and over time the shadow of former writing reappeared like a pentimento in a painting. In the later Middle Ages, they used pumice powder to scrape the ink away for good.

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LEONIDAS’ LUCKLESS BROTHER: DORIEUS THE SPARTAN

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Greek Phoenician colonizationBy  Periklis    Deligiannis

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By  the  end  of  the  sixth  century  BC,  Anaxandridas  of  the  Agiad  royal  family,  one  of  the  two  Spartan kings (Sparta  had  two  kings),  had  a  difficulty  in  bearing  children  from  his  first  wife.  The  Spartan  ephors  forced  him  to  take  a  second  wife – despite  the  southern  Greek  monogamy – in  order  to  obtain  a  successor.  Anaxandridas’  second  wife  gave  birth  to  Cleomenes,  who  was  destined  to  become  one  of  the  most  skilful  Spartan  kings.  However,  shortly  after  the  birth  of  Cleomenes,  Anaxandridas’  first  wife  also  gave  birth  to  a  son,  named  Dorieus.  Although  Dorieus  came  from  the  king’s  first  wife,  Cleomenes  succeeded  Anaxandridas  to  the  throne  as  firstborn.  Dorieus  became  furious  because  of  the  takeover  of  royal  power  by  Cleomenes.  Thus  he  decided  to  organize  a  colonization  campaign,  in  order  to  leave  forever  Sparta  (515  BC).  His  first  choice  for  the  founding  of  his  colony,  was  the  site  of  the  river  Kinyps  in  Libya.  The  men  who  followed  him  out  were  referred  by  the  sources  as  “Lacedaemonians”  and  it  seems  that  they  included  a  few  real  Spartans  (Spartan  citizens,  called  omoioi).  The  Spartan  omoioi  followers  of  Dorieus  were  mainly  his  personal  friends  and  some  members  of  his  political  faction.  The  majority  were  other  Lacedaemonians,  mainly  hypomeiones  (fallen  citizens,  ex-Spartans  who  were  just  beginning  to  become  numerous),  perioikoi (free  Lakonian, Messenian  and  Pylian  subjects  of  Sparta)  and  Peloponnesian  allies.

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MIDDLE BYZANTINE (EAST ROMAN) GENERIC TACTICS AND STRATEGY (Part I)

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Skylitzes
A battle between Byzantine and Arab cavalry, from the Madrid Skylitzes manuscript (late 13th century, but representative enough of the late phase of the Middle Period). A bloody fighting is taking place with decapitations and troopers trampled by the horses. Byzantines and Muslims alike wear mostly scale armor
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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The Middle Byzantine Age (7th-12th c. AD) was decisive for the history of the Byzantine Empire. The loss of the Middle Eastern provinces and Egypt by the invading Arabs marks its beginnings, but the “hard core” of the Empire managed to halt the forces of the invaders at the eastern border of Asia Minor, and additionally the forces of the numerous Avaro-Slavic and Proto-Bulgarian (and other Later Hunnic nomad) raiders at the Balkan borders. The experienced Byzantine Army being after all the descedant of the Roman Imperial Army, went on dealing effectively with the pressure by the same enemies and also by the Lombards (Longobards) and the Franks in Italy and some new nomadic peoples on the borders of the Balkan peninsula (Byzantine Sicily and Northwest Africa (modern Maghreb) were finally conquered by the Arabs). Its strengthening during the reign of the emperor Nikephoros Phokas (963-969) led to a strong imperial counterattack on all fronts ending in major territorial recoveries of the “Byzantine Epic Era” (this term has been used by the modern historical research, to denote the period around 963-1025 AD).

However, the fatigue of the army because of the war effort, and especially its neglect due to a series of weak emperors and the civil strife during the fifty years which followed the brilliant reign of Basil II (976-1025) to the Battle of Manzikert (AD 1071) and after that, led to its rapid weakening. Finally, new dangerous enemies, the Seljuq Turks in Asia Minor and the Normans in Italy and the Balkan Peninsula, gave decisive blows to the Empire. The renowned Byzantine army never managed to recover from the disaster of Manzikert, despite the best efforts of some emperors and some temporary military successes. The parallel decline of the Thematic administrative and military organization of the state which declined after the battle of Manzikert and was eventually abolished, had an additional negative role in the weakening of the army. The imperial defense was further weakened, leading to the capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204.

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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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ΤΗΕ GELOAN WAR MACHINE (ANCIENT SICILY) – PART I

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1The  anthropomorphic  bull  in  a  coin  of  Gela  (480-470  BC),  apparently  a  popular  emblem  on  the  shields  of  the  Geloans.

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The city of Gela  was  founded  in  688  BC  on  the  south  coast  of  Sicily,  near  the  river  Gelas,  by Cretan,  Rhodian  and  other  Dodecanese  Dorian  settlers.  This  new  Greek colony  was  originally  named  “the Lindians”  from  the  “ethnic name”  of  Lindos,  the  most  important  city-state  of  Rhodes.  Lindos  had  significantly  higher  shipping  than  any  other  city-state  of Rhodes,  Crete  and  the Dodecanese,  and  apparently  supported  the  colonial  mission  with  her  navy.  However,  because  most  of  the  colonists  had  not  Lindian  origin,  the  name  “Gela”  finally  prevailed originating  from  the  indigenous Sicanian  name  of  the  nearby  river  (the Gelas River).

From  the  beginning  the  Geloans  (the citizens  of Gela)  had  a  high level of militancy,  seeking  the expansion  of  their  territory  in  the  Sicilian  mainland,  at  the  expense  of  the  natives  of  Sicily  and  other  Greek  colonists.  The  natives  were  the  Sicani  (Sicans),  the  Elymians  (probably  a  Sicani  tribal  offshoot)  and  the  Siculi  or  Sikels  (actually  of  Italian  mainland  origins).  The  first  phase  of  the  impressive  conquests  of Gela,  belongs  to  the  wars  against  the  neighboring  Sicani.  The  Sican  townships  of  Kakyron,  Omphake  (now  Monte  Desusino),  Ariaiton  (or  Ariaitis),  Inykon  and  others,  succumbed  to  the  army  of  Gela,  despite  their  resistance.  The strong  resistance  of  the  Sicani  is  demonstrated  by  the  fact  that  the  Geloans  spent  nearly  two  centuries  until  the  subjugation  of  the  last  independent  Sicani of their territory.  The  Greeks  had  a  decisive  military  advantage  against  the  natives,  thanks  to  their  hoplite  phalanx and their cavalry.

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HOPLITE PHALANX: WHERE IT WAS INVENTED?

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Hoplitikon

A  hoplite  clash,  one  of  the  most  murderous  encounters  of  ancient  warfare (Australian  Historical  Association  Ancienthoplitikon  of  Melbourne).

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The  conception  of  hoplite  warfare  (and  tactics)  is  one  of  the  greatest  “revolutions”  in  world  military  history.  Most  scholars  regard  it  as  important  as  the  invention  of  the  saddle  with  stirrups,  which  made  the  heavy  armoured  cavalry  ascendant  in  the  battlefields,  or  the  invention  of  firearms  which  changed  forever  the  nature  of  war.

The  abandonment  of  the  organization  of  the  tribe-state  by  the  southern  Greeks  and  the  progress  of  the  institution  of  the  Greek  city-state  and  the  socio-economic  changes  that  followed  this  fundamental  change  had  progressed  significantly  in  the  late  Geometric  period.  The  new  conditions  that  followed,  led  to  the  invention  of  hoplite  warfare  and  the  corresponding  new  kind  of  warrior,  the  hoplite.  There  is  a  great  controversy  among  scholars,  about  which  was  the  southern  Greek  territory  where  the  new  battle  system  first  appeared.  The  Argives,  the  Thebans,  the  Spartans  or  the  Mantineians  are  denominated  or  implied  by  various  ancient  writers  as  the  inventors  of  hoplite  warfare.  The  strongest  opinion  among  scholars  is  claiming  that  the  hoplite  phalanx  first  appeared  in  a  state  –  or  in  a  group  of  neighboring  states  –  of  eastern  and/or  southern  Peloponnese,  in  Doric  or  Arcadian  territory.  Corinth,  Sicyon  and  the  small  city-states  of  Argolis  should  be  excluded  from  the  potential  inventors  of  the  hoplite  phalanx,  because  their  citizen-warriors  have  adopted  it  under  the  influence  of  the  Argives  of  the  tyrant  Pheidon.  Athens  and  the  rest  of  Attica  should  be  excluded  also,  for  similar  reasons. Continue reading

THE SEA BATTLE OF CUMAE, 474 BC

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The prow and ram of the modern trireme Olympias.

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After  the  Etruscan  defeat  in  the  land  battle  of  Cumae  (524  BC),  the  Cumaeans  and  the  Etruscans  (or  Tyrrhenians or Tyrsenians) did  not  come  into  heavy  fighting  until  505  BC.  That  year,  the  Latins  of  the  small  city-state  Aricia  called  for  help  the  Cumaeans  against  the  Etruscans.  In  505  BC  the  Aricians,  the  Romans  and  the  other  Latins  revolted  against  the  Etruscan  rule,  gaining  their  independence,  but  the  Tyrrhenians  had  returned  under  the  leadership  of Larth  Porsena, the powerful  warlord  of  the  city-state  Clusium  (Etruscan  Clevsin).  Porsena  was  sent  by  the  Etruscan  Confederacy  (‘Dodekapolis’)  and  managed to recapture  rebellious  Rome.  Then  he  returned  to  Clusium  to  deal  with  other  enemies  of  the  Tyrrhenians,  leaving  Larth  Aruns, his  son,  to  reconquer  the  other  cities  of  Latium.

The  Aricians  called  the  Cumaeans  for  help,  who  acceded  to  their  request  in  order  to  accomplish  a  preventative  blow  to  their  Tyrrhenian  enemies.  The  aristocratic  rulers  of  Cumae  dispatched    a  military  expedition  to  Aricia under  Aristodemos,  a veteran  hero  of  the  battle  of  Cumae.  The  Cumaeans  knew  that  sooner  or  later  the  Etruscans  would  again  march  against  them.  The  Greek  ships  sailed  to  the  Latin  coast  and landed in  the  territory  of  the  Laurentes,  the  people  of  the  city-state  Lavinium.  The  Greek  military  force  disembarked and  marched  to  Aricia.  The  city  was  under  siege  by  the  Etruscans  under  Aruns.  The  Cumaeans  joined  forces  with  the  Aricians  and  other  Latins  and  confronted  the  Tyrrhenians  in  a  hoplite  battle  (the  main  battle  troops  of  the  Etruscans,  Greeks  and  Latins  of  this  period  were  their  Greek-style  hoplite  phalanxes). Continue reading

ROME MUST BE DESTROYED (Part II)

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ALEXANDER
Alexander the Great goes ashore in Asia (Minor). Artwork  by Tom Lovell.
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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Continued from PART I

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I go on with some more text from my historical novel “Rome must be destroyed ” which belongs to the sub-category of Historical Fiction. For more info and text, read PART I. A reminder of the plot: Alexander the Great has not died in 323 BC (year of his death in reality). He goes on living and invades Italy, Carthage and the Western Mediterranean. The peoples of those regions (Italians, Carthaginians, Libyans, Celtiberians, Gauls and many others) fight against him under the leadership of Rome, Carthage and Samnium. The hero of my book is not a Greek but a Roman (Aelius Sembronius Vulca), originally a mercenary of Alexander and then an enemy of him. After a series of diplomatic and strategic detours, bloody battles and –finally – total warfare, the war results…..
The first part of the novel (Sogdiana) takes place in the steppes of Central Asia (modern Uzbekistan), the second part (Return) in Italy, the third (Carthage) in Carthage, the fourth and the fifth……
This is the first book of a trilogy that I wrote on this subject.

I apologize in case that the translation in English is not ”literary” enough (or maybe it is!). Copyright is mine, thereby for a probable reproduction of this text, please send to me an e-mail message.

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SOGDIANA

[continued]

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…………………………………………………………………………………………….
All the barbarians were dead, except two women. The older one had the common Asiatic appearance. Her heavy wound indicated that she was running out of time. The other woman had an uncanny beauty, a real temptation for us men from the Inner Sea. She was young and diminutive. We were impressed by her narrow slanted eyes that looked like reptilian, her protruding cheek bones in her face below the eyes, her small slender nose and her very pale, almost yellow skin. Her body which was silhouetted below her thin leather dress, appeared to be well formed. Her breasts were small, but firm and well rounded.

I knew that most of the Sauromatae people resembled in appearance to the Asiatics. I now verified from this woman and her other dead comrades, that some resembled to the Serae and the Phryni who live afar in the East, beyond India, around a large Yellow river as they call it. I have seen a few Serae merchants at Farthest Alexandria. They had the same strange appearance and the same yellowish skin. The local Sogdians speaking about them, say that they are exceptionally civilised, their kingdoms are powerful and their armies are worthy of the Greek ones. They may say it to tease the Macedonians!
Volsinius the Campanian who had captured her, was most enchanted by the reptilian-eyed woman.
“That is my trophy!” said with joy. He could not wait for the moment to enjoy her. He dragged her holding her stiffly by the hair, whilst she pounded and kicked him. Three of the soldiers, who were passionately looking at her, approached the young girl. They wanted to taste her … If they wanted her Volsinius was unable to deny. He had the right to enjoy the woman first and keep her for his own, after the others had done with her. However the Italian mercenary did not want to share the girl and he was holding tightly his bloodstained spear. Centauros who had seen the threatening situation spoke.
“We don’t have time for this. We are leaving immediately! “.
“We won’t be long Centauros …” said Numerius.
“The Sauromatae we killed were few. They surely belong to a larger raiding party. Somewhere, close by, more enemies are lurking…. “

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ROME MUST BE DESTROYED (Part I): What if Alexander the Great had not died so young?

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phalanx(artwork  copyright: Johny Shumate)

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By Periklis Deligiannis
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Many readers know that I have written a historical novel entitled ‘Rome must be destroyed : What if Alexander the Great had not died so young?’  (See List of my Published Books and Articles  and also the book’s cover on the left of this page) which has been published a few years ago in Greek. I quote here the prologue, the beginning of the first chapter and the accompanying Historical Note for the English-speaking readers. I hope you enjoy it. I apologize in case that the translation in English is not ”literary” enough (or maybe it is!). Copyright is mine, thereby for a probable reproduction of this text, please send to me an email message.

Some more text of the novel you can read in Part II
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The official abstract of the novel (from the Greek edition):
What if Alexander the Great had not died so young? Would he be able to conquer the peoples of the Known World of his era? This is an exciting novel on the adventures and the new conquests of the great king, on the glory that in reality his early death (only 33 years old) had deprived him of. Through the narration of Aelius Sembronius Vulca, an adventurous Roman mercenary in Alexander’s army, an enthralling era is coming alive. Vulca, the main hero of the novel, is following Alexander at every step of his campaigns, until around 315 BC the warrior-king turns against the peoples and states of the Western Mediterranean and dismisses all mercenaries from those regions.
Vulca, the devout soldier of Alexander who fought for ten years at his side ready to sacrifice his life for his commander, will be found on the battlefields confronting him and enemies who until then were his brotherly friends, defending his homeland against the formidable Macedonian phalanx … Will he manage to prepare Rome, Carthage and the other Italian and Western Mediterranean states for the approaching threat? A Rome torn, ravaged by wars in Italy, intrigues and personal ambitions? Alexander is determined: Rome has to open her gates or be destroyed!…
This unique alternative history novel is the first part of a trilogy on the hypothetical march of Alexander to the Western Mediterranean and Europe. It is a work based on solid historical evidence, which enthrals the reader from the first page. An exciting adventure historically based on the real plans of the great warrior-king which, if not cancelled by his sudden death, may have formed completely different the World map until today … A novel that came so close on becoming reality…
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ROME MUST BE DESTROYED

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“… To built a thousand warships larger than triremes, in Phoenicia, Syria, Cilicia and Cyprus, for the needs of the campaign against the Carthaginians and the other peoples who inhabit the coasts of Libya and Iberia and all neighboring coasts around Sicily … “
(projects of Alexander the Great  quoted by Diodoros of Sicily, Book 18, 4).

“… Others say that (Alexander) was thinking (of sailing) to Sicily and the Cape of Iapygia; instigated also by the name of the Romans whose reputation was extended.”
(projects of Alexander  quoted by Arrian in his  Alexandrou Anabasis)

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FOREWORD

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About Alexander… About the years that we fought as his soldiers and as his enemies. This is what they asked me to recount every night around the fire. Members of my family, people of my clan, archons of our community, other young or mature men who would like to hear the man who lived all these harder than anyone else. To listen about this heroic age, as they were calling it … They didn’t know…
Now, at the end of my life, now that involuntarily comes to mind the account of the life of a man, now the image of all these is more intense than ever! Sometimes I remember them with suffering, sometimes with nostalgia. And sometimes when I’m alone, tears appear on my eyes. I succeeded or not on what I was requested to do? Was I the man who had to be in those difficult times? Did I save my people? The Senate and the People of Rome…
These questions are no longer torturing me anymore. They cannot be answered by me. Let my people judge me.
“Recount your memories Vulca … Speak to us…”

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TWILIGHT OF THE MACEDONIAN PHALANX

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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

Thraco-Phrygian2

A  Thraco-Phrygian  helmet, characeristic of the pezetairoi (pikemen) of the Macedonian phalanx.

sarissa

Spear-heads from 3rd-1st cent. BC Greece, probably originally parts of sarissae (the sarissa was the main weapon of the Macedonian phalanx).

The  Macedonian  phalanx  and  the  ‘manipula’  of  the  Roman  legion  were  the  two  most  successful  battle  formations  of  Antiquity.  The  Macedonian-type  phalanx  of  pikemen  (pezetairoi  in  Greek)  was  founded  by  Philip  II  of  Macedonia  in  the  mid-fourth  century  BC,  when  he  was  influenced  deeply  by  the  military  innovations  of  the  Athenian  general  Iphicrates  and  the  Theban  general  Epaminondas.  The  Macedonian-type  phalanx  had  a  great  course  in  history.  The  Macedonians  were  those  who  used  it  for  the  first  time,  and  then  bequeathed  it  to  the  Greek/Hellenistic  Kingdoms  that  finally  formed  after  the  disintegration  of  the  Empire  of  Alexander  the  Great.  Thus,  the  Macedonian-type  phalanx  was  used  by  the  Antigonid,  Lysimachid,  Seleucid,  Ptolemaic  and  Attalid  (Pergamene)  Greeks  and  also  by  the  Greek  Kingdoms  of  Bactria  and  India,  the  Hellenized  Kingdom  of  Pontus  and  other  lesser  Greek  and  Hellenized  states  of  the  Middle  East.  In  mainland Greece,  the  Epirotes,  the  Achaeans,  the  Boeotians  and  the  Spartans  formed  at  different  times,  their  heavy  infantry  as  Macedonian-type  phalanxes.  On the other hand,  the  Athenians  and  the  other  Greeks  of  mainland Greece,  and  also  the  Greeks  of  Sicily, Italy,  Gaul-Iberia  (Marseille/Massalia  and  its  colonies),  Cyrenaica  (modern  eastern Libya)  and  the  northern  Black  Sea,  never  adopted  this  type  of  phalanx.  Only  the  Tarantines  of  Magna  Graecia  formed  a  short-lived  Macedonian-type  phalanx  (leukaspis)  led  by  Pyrrhus  of  Epirus.

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