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Chapter 9

This webpage reproduces a chapter of the


(Loeb Classical Library edition, 1928)

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Chapter 11
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.


 p293  X. The Terms used for military Evolutions

Asclep. x.1 = Ael. XXIV1 The different branches of the entire army and the names of its lesser divisions have now been given; it remains to consider in turn the terms used by the commanders in manoeuvring the divisions of the phalanx. For they use first 'right-' or 'left-face' (klisis), then 'about-face' (metabole) and 'quarter-turn' (epistrophe), also 'back-turn' (anastrophe), further 'half-turn' (perispasmos) and 'three‑quarter-turn' (ekperispasmos) and 'return‑to-original-position' (apokatastasis) and 'advance‑to-original-position' (epikatastasis), 'order files' (stoichein) and 'order ranks' (zygein), also 'lines front' (eis orthon apodunai) and 'counter-march' (exeligmos) and 'doubling' (diplasiasmos); they use also 'march-in‑column' (epagoge) and 'march-in‑line' (paragoge), and these either 'to the right' or 'to the left,' 'extended front,' 'column formation,' and 'oblique front' (plagia, orthia, loxe phalanx), 'interjection' (parembole) and 'insertion' (parenthesis), and  p295 'van‑position' (protaxis), 'rear-position' (hypotaxis), and 'supporting-position' (epitaxis). The signification of each of these terms we shall endeavour to explain as briefly as possible.42

Asclep. x.2 = Ael. XXV.12 Right- or left-facing, then, is the movement of the individual men, 'by spear' to the right, and 'by shield' — called in the cavalry 'by rein' — to the left; this takes place when the enemy falls upon the flanks and we wish either to counter-attack, or else to envelop his wing, i.e., overlap the wing of the enemy.

Asclep. x.3 = Ael. XXV.2‑43 The double turning, which is performed in the same way, is called an about-face (metabole), of which there are two kinds, the one from the enemy, called 'to the rear' (ep' uran), and the other toward the enemy, called 'from the rear' (ap' uras).

Asclep. x.4 = Ael. XXV.54 It is a quarter-turn, when we close up the entire battalion by file and rank in the compact formation​43 and move it like the body of one man in such a manner that the entire force swings on the first file-leader as on a pivot, if to the right on the right file-leader, and if to the left on the left file-leader, and at the same time takes a position in advance and faces 'by spear' if pivoting right and 'by shield' if pivoting left.

5 Let the battalion, for example,​44 be α β γ δ, and α β its rank of file-leaders; it is clear, then, that the right file-leader will be the one at β and the left the  p297 one at α, and the divisions of the force at β will be on the right, and the divisions at α will be on the left; if, then, we make the entire battalion α β γ δ quarter-turn to the right, while β holds his position, the line α β will occupy the position β ε at a right angle with α β, and the entire unit will be swung to the right into the position β ε ζ η, occupying a position in advance and facing to the right.

Asclep. x.6 = Ael. XXV.76 A back-turn is the reversal of the forward-turn to the position the battalion originally held, as to α β γ δ.

Asclep. x.7 = Ael. XXV.87 A half-turn is the movement of the battalion by two quarter-turns in the same direction, as β θ κ λ; it proceeds from the first forward-turn position β ε ζ η, takes a position in advance, and faces to the right, and, if considered from its original position α β γ δ, it faces to the rear.45

Asclep. x.8 = Ael. XXV.98 It is a three‑quarter-turn when the battalions move by three quarter-turns in the same direction to the position behind and facing left from the original station, as β μ ν ξ, a position which, considered from β θ κ λ, lies before and faces the right, and considered from the original station β α δ γ, lies behind and faces the left.46

9 It is obviously impracticable to revert by a back-turn  p299 from the three‑quarter-turn to the original position, for we shall require three back-turns to do this, one to the position β θ κ λ, one to β ε ζ η, and one to β α δ γ; but it is practicable by a quarter-turn to the right, because β α δ γ occupies a position before β μ ν ξ and faces to its right. The return by a quarter-turn to the original position is called advance-to‑original-position (epikatastasis).

10 Now the original position, the quarter-turn, and the third, called the three‑quarter-turn, can be restored to the original position by a single evolution, the first β ε ζ η, by a single back-turn, the second β μ ν ξ by a single quarter-turn; but the position between these two, β θ κ λ, which we also call a half-turn, can resume its original station equally well by two evolutions, because its movement by a back-turn equals that by a quarter-turn; since it requires two back-turns to revert to the original position, first to β ε ζ η and then to β α δ γ, and also two quarter-turns to advance to the original position, first to β μ ν ξ and then to β α δ γ.

With Asclep. x.11 cf. Ael. XXXIV.111 If we should make the quarter-turn to the left, then the battalion will in the same way occupy the position in advance, with its face, however, to the left; since α β γ δ, by pivoting upon the stationary file-leader α, will by the first quarter-turn take the position α ο π ρ, by the half-turn the position α σ τ υ,  p301 by the three‑quarter-turn the position α φ χ ψ, and by the advance-to‑original-position, the position α β γ δ. The different ways of returning to the original position you may consider similar to those used in evolutions to the right.

These evolutions are used whenever the enemy appears on the flank of the army.

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Asclep. x.12 = Ael. XXVI.312 It is called lines-front when man by man the force reverts​47 to its original position, so that in case the command has been given to turn to the right from the enemy and then to form lines-front, the men will have to turn back so as to face the enemy.

Asclep. x.13 = Ael. XXVII.1‑2; XXVIII.113 There are three types of the counter-march, the  p303 Macedonian, the Laconian, and also the Cretan or Persian; and each of these, again, is performed in two ways, either by file or by rank.48

It is a Macedonian counter-march when the rank of file-leaders holds its original position, and the rear ranks down to the file-closers march through to a forward position and then each man about-faces; thus α β γ δ ε is the rank of file-leaders and remains in the same place, and the back ranks ζ η θ ι κ and λ μ ν ξ ο move forward, either by rank so that ζ η θ ι κ marches through first and becomes π ρ σ τ υ and λ μ ν ξ ο becomes φ χ ψ ω ϛ, or by file so that κ ο takes the place of υ ϛ, ι ξ of τ ω, and so on, as θ ν of σ ψ, η μ of ρ χ, and ζ λ of π φ; and then each man from the file-closer on about-faces, i.e., π ρ σ τ υ and φ χ ψ ω ϛ turn about and face with α β γ δ ε as their front line, because the enemy was seen in the rear.​49 It is clear that in this kind of counter-march the phalanx would seem to yield ground and to be almost in flight, which emboldens the enemy and disheartens those who are counter-marching.

Asclep. x.14 = Ael. XXVII.3; XXVIII.2; cf. XXXIV.414 The Laconian counter-march takes up a position  p305 the opposite of that shown above; for each soldier about-faces to the rear, while the rank of file-closers λ μ ν ξ ο holds its position; and the other ranks ζ η θ ι κ and α β γ δ ε march through on either side [to a position behind the] file-closer — and this, clearly, in two ways, either by file or by rank — and ζ η θ ι κ take the position Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ, and α β γ δ ε the position Α Β Γ Δ Ε.​50 By this form of manoeuvre the Laconian counter-march arouses a feeling in the enemy just opposite to that aroused by the Macedonian; for they would seem to those who have appeared in the rear to be making for and charging upon them, so that they dismay the enemy and arouse fear among them.

Asclep. x.15 = Ael. XXVII.4; XXVIII.3; cf. XXXIV.515 The so‑called Cretan and Persian counter-march is an intermediate between the two; for it does not occupy the position behind the phalanx, as the Macedonian, nor the one before the phalanx, as the Laconian, but occupies the same ground, while the file-leader takes the place of the file-closer, and in like manner the rear‑rank-men those of the front‑ p307 rank‑men . . . marching past each other, and this in two ways, either by file or by rank, until the file-closer has in turn taken the place of the file-leader. That is, consider the line of file-leaders α β γ δ ε, of rear‑rank-men ζ η θ ι κ, then λ μ ν ξ ο, and after it as the rank of file-closers π ρ σ τ υ; then α β γ δ ε takes the position of π ρ σ τ υ, ζ η θ ι κ of λ μ ν ξ ο, λ μ ν ξ ο that of ζ η θ ι κ, and π ρ σ τ υ that of α β γ δ ε.​51 By this counter-march the phalanx will not change its ground, and this we shall find advantageous, whenever the terrain before and behind is less favourable.

Asclep. x.16 = Ael. XXVII.5; XXVIII.416 Counter-marches are made by rank, when the half-wings exchange positions each within its own wing,​52 for this strengthens the centre of the phalanx. Sometimes it is not advisable to make the counter-marches by half-wings, when the enemy is near by, but rather by battalions, so that the right wing of the battalion occupies the left and vice versa.

 p309  Asclep. x.17 = Ael. XXIX.1; 2; 817 The term doubling is used in two ways: either of the place occupied by the phalanx, while the number of the men remains the same, or of the number of the men; and each of these may be by file or by rank, also called by depth or by length. Doubling of men, then, takes place by length when we interject or insert between the original files other files of equal strength, maintaining all the while the length of the phalanx, so that a compact order arises only from the doubling of the men; doubling takes place by depth when we interject between the original ranks others of equal strength, so that a compact order arises only by depth. The difference between insertion and interjection has been explained before.53

Asclep. x.18 = Ael. XXIX.7; 9; XXXVIII.1‑218 Doubling of place occurs by length when we change the above mentioned compact formation by length into a loose formation, or when the interjected men counter-march by rank, either to prevent being outflanked by the enemy or when we wish to outflank the enemy; by outflanking is understood  p311 the throwing of one wing about the wing of the enemy — and this is done sometimes even when a wing is numerically inferior to that of the enemy — as when both wings are used in a flanking movement, it is called a double outflanking.

Asclep. x.19 = Ael. XXIX.919 Doubling of place is performed by depth when we change the above mentioned compact formation by depth into a loose formation, or when the interjected men counter-march by file.

Asclep. x.20 = Ael. XXIX.3; 5; 6; 1020 Whenever we wish to return this compact formation to its original position, we shall command the men who have changed their position to counter-march to their original stations. Some condemn such doublings, especially when the enemy is near, and, by extending the light infantry and cavalry on both wings, give the appearance of the doubling without disturbing the phalanx.

Asclep. x.21 = Ael. XXX21 By such evolutions a phalanx assumes the form sometimes of a square, sometimes of an oblong rectangle, or, again, of an extended front when the length is many times as great as the depth, or of an extended depth when the depth is many times as great as the length; an oblique front lies midway between the last two. In this formation one wing is drawn up close to the enemy and fights the contest, while the other is partly withdrawn and refused;  p313 it is called the right oblique when the right wing is advanced, and the left oblique when the left wing is advanced.54

With Asclep. x.22 cf. Ael. XXIV.122 Many other formations are in use, not merely in battle, but also on the march to guard against the sudden attacks of the enemy; for the entire army is broken up into parts, sometimes large and sometimes small, such as wings and half-wings, so that when the parts are combined the army may face the enemy with inner fronts or with outer fronts, and at other times with corresponding or again with different fronts.

For the enemy is descried either on one side, or on two, or three, or on all sides. Each of these situations has been discussed in order.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

42 The great confusion of these terms during this period was probably due to the fact that such discussions had lost all contact with the drill-ground.

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43 That is, two cubits apart.

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44 The diagrams to explain this and the following evolutions will be found on p301.

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45 Such an evolution could scarcely ever have been used in actual warfare.

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46 This evolution must have been confined to the drill-ground, where for purposes of discipline and exercise formations are still taught which find no place in actual battle.

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47 That is, from a turn to the right or to the left.

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48 The importance of the counter-march by files is evident, when one bears in mind that in the front lines of the ancient phalanx were stationed the best soldiers (cf. iii.5‑6).

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49 The following diagram will explain this manoeuvre:

φ χ ψ ω ϛ
π ρ σ τ υ
α β γ δ ε
ζ η θ ι κ
λ μ ν ξ ο
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50 To explain the manoeuvre:

α β γ δ ε
ζ η θ ι κ
λ μ ν ξ ο
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51 Cf. the diagram:

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52 Since the strongest half-wing occupies the right flank, the second strongest the left, and the others the centre, by this evolution the two stronger half-wings will exchange places with the two weaker, and so the centre will be strengthened and the wings weakened.

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53 Cf. vi.1, where, however, a slightly different word is used for 'insertion.'

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54 The figures to explain these formations will be found below: square (Fig. 21), extended front (Figs. 1 and 2), extended depth (Figs. 3 and 4), right oblique (Fig. 6), and left oblique (Fig. 5).

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Page updated: 28 Nov 12