The Armed Forces of Athens
The final trumpets have blown, and the troops fall into their places. Each tribal "taxis" lines up its "lochoi." The Greeks have no flags nor standards. There is a great deal of shouting by the subaltern officers, and running up and down the ranks. Presently everything is in formal array. The hoplites stand in close order, each man about two feet from the next, leaving no gaps between each division from end to end of the lines. The men are set in eight long ranks. This is the normal "phalanx" order. Only those in front can actually lunge and strike at the enemy. The men in the rear will add to the battering force of the charge, and crowding in closely, wedge themselves promptly to the front, when any of the first rank goes down.
It is an imposing sight when the strategos in charge of the maneuvers, a stately man in a red chlamys, gives the final word "March!"
Loud pipes begin screaming. The long lines of red, blue, and orange plumes nod fiercely together. The sun strikes fire out of thousands of brandished lance tips. The phalanx goes swinging away over the dusty parade ground, the subalterns up and down the files muttering angrily to each inapt recruit to "Keep your distance:" or "Don't advance your shield." The commandant duly orders the "Half turn:" "Left" or "Right turn:" "Formation by squares," and finally the critical "Change front to rear." If this last maneuver is successfully accomplished, the strategos will compliment the drill sergeants; for it is notoriously difficult to turn a ponderous phalanx around and yet make it keep good order. The drilling goes on until the welcome order comes, "Ground arms!" and every perspiring soldier lets his heavy shield slip from his arm upon the ground.
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