Myth busting-Antiquity style

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Myth busting-Antiquity style

Postby JOHN THURSTON » Mon Dec 11, 2006 7:43 pm

Well, you have seen the Myth busters on TV and many movies showing the Legions.

1. The Greeks and The Romans used slave as rowers (as postulated in "Ben Hur" for example)

The Destroyers (biremes) Cruisers (Triremes) and Battleships (enlarged quadremess) were not, as postulated by the august Lew Wallace, drivens by whipping with the "flaggellum". this would have wasted too much space.

We know that Athenian rowers were not slaves. I do not beleive the Roman fleet was powered by enslaved mucsle power.

A painting from Dura Europa shows a legionarius or auxiliaary launching a javelin (verutum?) from the sitting position.

It is postulated that's Caesar's legion (Legio X Frententis) have been reconstituted by marines at a time when the Legion was also serinvg in the capacity of marines.

These armored beaked sculls had little room for wasted space and the tactic they employed against the Carthaginians at sea was to board immediately. The used the their infantry skills to counter the Cathage's superior expertise in ship handling in naval combat.

A device was added to the Roman ships of war to facilitate this ie: , a ramp with a spike at the end. The ramp (more like a portable bridge) was dropped and the spike smashed into the enemy deck and the matter was resolved in a manner more suitable to the Romans.

Using the normal complement of rowers as marines was seems to have been required.

i suspect convicts may have been used in non warships but not, I think, not until the time of the Ottomans,

Myth 2: Roman Infantry fought always in tight formation. No deal here either. It took considerable space and skill to wield a sword, probably at least 3 feet of frontal line.

The Hoplites of Phyrhus which successfully operated against the Legions fought in very much tighter formation BUT were extremely vurnerable to flank attack.

Generally even the Hoplites of Phyrhus, Mithridates III and Phillip III crumbled when flanked.

Hellenstic warfare would have called their Hoplites their arm of decision. Their swords were short and, generally, their training with the sword was not as thorough as was that of the Legionary.

Even though the Spartan system defeated the Athenians in the Peloponessian war, the system could not be maintained calling, as it did, for universal male service.

Three: the Roman Legionaries placed heavy emphasis of the use of the "Dory" (8 foor double ended spear) in emulation of the Greeks.

Not so, although the Hastati (3rd line ine the manipular checkerboard) were armed with heavy spears to defend against cavalry charges. Not even even the best of cavalry would charge home against a spear or shield wall.

The Primary arms of the Legionarius were the Pilum, (heavy throwing spear) the Verutum (lighter) and the Gladius Hispansiensus. When receiving a cavalry charge it seems clear that the pilum and javelin were used against horses and riders as missiles and not in "pike" hedgehog fashion.

The dual role of the Legionarius as a swordsman (as in the spanish tercios of the 16th century) and as a missileman (javelin and Pilum) made him a formidable opponent.

Discipline would have to have been of the highest order to receive a cavalry charge once the Legion's javelins and pila had been loosed.

Marcus Linius Crassus found out what happened to legions who could not maintain high discipline in the face of Cavalry attacks.

Part of the Parthian Army was made up of Cataphractoi as shown (albeit with a diferent style of helm) in the post on dura Europos.

Myth four:

The Romans were indifferent missile men and made poor cavalrymen.

Technically this was true for a long time.

But a reading of the reuired 'evolutions' of the Roman Cavalryman in the later Empire shows skills that could only be mastered by by an accomplished Horseman.

The Horsemen from the Wall paintings at Dura shows men comfortable in the saddle. However, it should be noted that although these were Roman Cavalry, they were almost certainly NOT Italian.

Myth five: The Romans used their war horns and drums in the fashion like that of civil war regiments. I don't think so.

After literally exhausting research it appears the drummers, at least those of the later Empire, could maintain the "Phyhicc Rthym' and it is discussed in Julian's writings (beat, beat beat------pause beat----repeat) Julian attributes this attack AND route march rythym as being developed by the Spartans.

Even the use of the fifes and drums as musical corps, as well as signifiers, appears to have been stolen (borrowed) from the practices of the Janisaries of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans a very long time later.

In the Pre Alexander Persian Wars, the Persians attacked in silence, or in full outctry (from lesser trained troops)

Well trained Hellenistic force could be expexpected use a battle "paean" based on the Phyhicc stpe.

Please don't related this step, rthym, paeen" to the use of the Phrase "Phyrric victory". Phyruss was the Field marshall of the Macedonian Monarch of Phillip V of macedon..

Last edited by JOHN THURSTON on Tue Dec 12, 2006 1:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby f.Channell » Tue Dec 12, 2006 12:53 am

Myth busters is a great show.

I saw the one recently where they went after the myth that Japanese soldiers cut rifles in half with their swords in WWII.

I've even heard that myth attributed to one American Uechi person.

The swords didn't cut through the rifle.

Although truth be told they weren't probably using $100,000 real samurai swords in the testing. So it is still open for debate somewhat, although I doubt it.

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Cutting the Barrell

Postby JOHN THURSTON » Tue Dec 12, 2006 2:08 am

Hi Fred:

Yes I caught that episode. What occasionly DID happen on .30 (m1919)and .50 cal (M2) in their aircooled variants was that when the barrel got hot enough it would warp and a slug would "make a new bore" out.

That the weapon could survive this (M-2) speaks highly of its ruggedness and also gives good reason for its lenght of service.

The South Africans are still, I beleive, using the M1919 chambered for 7.62 nato and I seem to recall the Israelis using the same conversion at least until 1973. M1919s are available in 7.62 and '06 semi auto only versions to the general public. (well heck they are rather too big to hide under trench coat)

The Salvadorans jury rigged a "Spooky" with three side firing M-2s out of the same venerable C47. It was a photograph of the meltdown of one of the 'Ma Deuces' that prompted my comment.

No, I don't think i would be swinging any sword of mine against a machine gun barrel either Fred..
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