Classical vs Medieval Pike Tactics

Aug 2016
977
US&A
#1
I know that classical era phalangites would hold their sarissa in a lower stance than medieval pikemen.

Was this just because medieval pikemen had to be more mobile or was there more to it than that?

How were the capabilities of these two types of pikemen different?
 
Jan 2015
2,928
MD, USA
#2
What makes later pikemen more mobile? Macedonian pikemen were more than capable of changing depth and spacing, facing or wheeling, and charging. They were very much offensive troops, not just defensive. I don't see what later pikemen might have done that Hellenistic ones could not.

Matthew
 
Feb 2011
6,452
#3
RidiculousName said:
I know that classical era phalangites would hold their sarissa in a lower stance than medieval pikemen.

Was this just because medieval pikemen had to be more mobile or was there more to it than that?
Non-phalangite pikemen don't have shields and thus could hold their pike at the shoulder or even above the shoulder. Technically you could still do it with a shield, but the weight of the shield wouldn't be supported by the shield strap anymore. To take full advantage of the shield strap, the strap has to be taut and for the strap to be taut you have to hold the pike at a lowered position. With a shield you're exchanging versatility for more protection.

 
Last edited:
Sep 2017
720
United States
#4
I'm not sure exactly why, but like Hackneyed said, later medieval pikemen were generally more armored, and therefore didn't have to carry strap shields. Also, a lower stance tilts the strap shield more upwards, where it is more protective against arcing missile fire.

Tactically, well, medieval and classical battlefields were different beasts. The knights of the Middle Ages were much stronger and more deadly than the melee cavalry of the Classical Age. AFAIK, there were a lot more non-arrow/bolt skirmishers (javelins and slingers) in classical times.

However, I can't see their overall application and fighting style as vastly different.
 
Apr 2018
280
USA
#6
What makes later pikemen more mobile? Macedonian pikemen were more than capable of changing depth and spacing, facing or wheeling, and charging. They were very much offensive troops, not just defensive. I don't see what later pikemen might have done that Hellenistic ones could not.

Matthew
In both eras mobility overall would have depended on the particular troops in question's training, skill, discipline, etc.

That said the pike tactics popularized by the swiss in the late 1400s I think did start to put much more emphasis on mobility and rapid offensive capability than the macedonians. In particular the late medieval pike tactics tended to start most often preferring on much deeper squares or columns for combat, sometimes up to 60-80 ranks deep, which could usually move quicker and maintain cohesion more easily if only due the much smaller frontage. The macedonian pikemen's tactics, though they might be subdivided into squares 16x16 men each, as i understand it were generally still focused on establishing a single very long, continuous front without any gaps


Pinkie pike squares.png
 
Aug 2016
977
US&A
#7
Didn't Classical pikemen mostly fight infantry while Medieval pikemen mostly fought cavalry?
I think the best anti-cavalry was usually cavalry. You wouldn't expect cavalry to charge a pike formation, and they could easily avoid them. Rather, pikes were useful because they could protect other troops, often artillerymen, by preventing cavalry charges in the first place. They weren't useless against other infantry either.
 

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