Greek Soldiers On Campagin

Marching
Unlike pleasure walking at a set pace, stopping for lunch or to enjoy the view, marching involves tramping along at the pace set by the army as a whole, stopping and starting on command. Rivers and obstacles caused a cumulative disruptive effect amplifying itself down the column of march. Officers would need to feel the rhythm of the march and learn when units needed to rest or keep on going. Suskenoi marched together, in a relatively open order with their slaves and baggage in close attendance. Infantry could cope better with rough conditions than horses, which preferred smoother conditions.

Xenophon suggests that horses' hoofs could be hardened by getting them to stamp on a bed of hard round stones. "No foot, no horse" as the old maxim goes. Without stirrups to give added support to the legs riders' circulation could be a problem especially in cold weather. Xenophon recommends that the leg from the knee down be relaxed, while above the hips the body should be loose so the rider could better stand fatigue and be less liable to come off if pulled or pushed. Horses need daily exercise as do their riders, over all types of ground. A thick quilted saddlecloth could help protect a horse's back and prevent sores. A pad could also make horses with a protruding bony spine more comfortable for their riders. Xenophon recommends a horse with a "double back", a recessed backbone with enough muscle either side to support the riders pelvic bone. Squadrons may have adopted a saddle cloth of uniform colour, and officers liked leopard skin. Both are useful for keeping horse sweat from the rider.

A broad comfortable back would have made for a comfortable ride and a good weapons platform. Xenophon states that reins should match the leather of the bridle and not be weak, slippery or too thick. Cavalryman would march on foot as much as possible to save their mounts, and the health of their horses would be their prime concern.

Marching at night would add to the confusion with units becoming lost and orders becoming misunderstood. When halts were called those at the front of the column benefited more than those at the back. Inevitably it took time to pass the order down the column, and more time for the column to close up to the front before they could rest. Dust could also be a problem for those marching further down the line. So the order in which units marched would have needed to be rotated daily. During the halts soldiers would need to water animals and themselves, check straps and re-tighten equipment. Fire wood could be gathered and tied on to packs and baggage animals. Scouts or prodromoi would report on suitable camping areas with sufficient water, especially for the horses. Those troops in the front of the column would be able to choose the best campsite, close to water and wood. A fire would be established, hovels constructed and tents set up within the mess group. Equipment would be unpacked, mended and hot food prepared. The encampment was generally unfortified, and would seem a very disorganised affair to a Roman soldier.

During the Peloponnesian War and the retreat to after Cunaxa armies sometimes marched in hollow rectangles or squares, the plaision. The front or stoma, was flanked by two pleurai and the oura brought up the rear. This was a battle formation and the army marched in formal lochi, with baggage animals grouped together within the formation, but still close to their owners. Such proximity gave the soldiers something tangible to fight for.

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