phalanx


phalanx
/fay"langks, fal"angks/, n., pl. phalanxes or, for 7, phalanges /feuh lan"jeez/, v.
n.
1. (in ancient Greece) a group of heavily armed infantry formed in ranks and files close and deep, with shields joined and long spears overlapping.
2. any body of troops in close array.
3. a number of individuals, esp. persons united for a common purpose.
4. a compact or closely massed body of persons, animals, or things.
5. Mil. (cap.) a radar-controlled U.S. Navy 20mm Gatling-type gun deployed on ships as a last line of defense against antiship cruise missiles.
6. (in Fourierism) a group of about 1800 persons, living together and holding their property in common.
7. Anat., Zool. any of the bones of the fingers or toes. See diag. under skeleton.
v.i.
8. Print. to arrange the distribution of work in a shop as evenly as possible.
[1545-55; < L < Gk phálanx military formation, bone of finger or toe, wooden roller]

* * *

Tactical formation consisting of a block of heavily armed infantry standing shoulder to shoulder in files several ranks deep.

First used by the Sumerians and fully developed by the ancient Greeks, it is viewed today as the beginning of European military development. The Greek city-states adopted a phalanx eight men deep during the 7th century BC. The spectacle of Greek hoplites marching forward in solid ranks was frightening to the enemy, but the phalanx was difficult to maneuver and easily thrown into confusion if its ranks were broken.

* * *

▪ military formation
      in military science, tactical formation consisting of a block of heavily armed infantry standing shoulder to shoulder in files several ranks deep. Fully developed by the ancient Greeks, it survived in modified form into the gunpowder era and is viewed today as the beginning of European military development.

 The ancient Sumerian army fielded a standard six-man-deep phalanx; the first line went into battle carrying large, rectangular shields, and the troops bore heavy pikes and battle axes. During the 7th century BC the Greek city-states adopted a phalanx eight men deep. The Greek hoplite, the heavy-armed infantryman who manned the phalanx, was equipped with a round shield, a heavy corselet of leather and metal, greaves (shin armour), an 8-foot pike for thrusting, and a 2-foot double-edged sword. Since the phalanx held in solid ranks and was divided only into the centre and wings, there was generally little need for an officer corps; the whole line advanced in step to the sound of the flute. Such a formation encouraged cohesion among advancing troops and presented a frightening spectacle to the enemy, but it was difficult to maneuver and, if penetrated by enemy formations, became little more than a mob.

      The basic Greek formation was made more flexible by Philip II of Macedon and his son, Alexander III (Alexander the Great) the Great. Alexander's core unit in the phalanx was the syntagma, normally 16 men deep. Each soldier was armed with the sarissa, a 13- to 21-foot spear; in battle formation, the first five ranks held their spears horizontally in front of the advancing phalanx, each file being practically on the heels of the men in front. The remaining 11 ranks presumably held their spears vertically or rested them on the shoulders of those in front. On both sides of the syntagma, lending mobility as well as protection, was the light infantry, a disciplined force of archers, slingers, and javelin men. Protecting the flanks and poised to charge the enemy's weak points was heavy cavalry, armed with sword and javelin. Squadrons of light horse were used for scouting and skirmishing.

      From the founding of their city-state until the close of the 2nd century BC, the Romans found the Greek-style phalanx suitable for fighting in the plains of Latium. The basic weapon for this formation was a thrusting spear called the hasta; from this the heavy infantry derived its name, hastati, retaining it even after Rome abandoned the phalanx for the more flexible legion.

      For a millennium after the fall of Rome, massed infantry was swept from the field by heavy cavalry, but in the 15th century, Swiss burghers and peasants, fighting for their freedom in Alpine valleys where cavalry had little room to maneuver, brought about a return of the phalanx. This consisted of one-fifth missile weapons (chiefly the crossbow), one-fifth spears, and three-fifths halberds (eight-foot shafts with the blade of an ax, the point of a spear, and a hook for pulling a rider out of the saddle). Discarding all armour except for the helmet and cuirass, the Swiss were able to march 30 miles a day and attack with a celerity and discipline that were disconcerting to their adversaries.

      In the 16th century, Spanish troops armed with pike and harquebus introduced the first phalanx of the gunpowder age—solid columns of infantry known as battles. Usually the harquebusiers were drawn up on the corners of battles 25 ranks deep. After firing at the word of command, each rank withdrew to the rear to reload under cover of the pikemen and gradually moved forward by successive volleys until its turn came again. When the enemy's ranks were broken by firepower, the pikemen evolved from square into line and advanced, shoulder to shoulder, in a massive charge calculated to sweep the field.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Phalanx — (From Ancient Greek polytonic| ( finger )) can have many meanings, as the original Greek also did: The Greek meaning was one of a military formation, it consisted of four sides resembling a rectangle. For the most part this strategy worked but… …   Wikipedia

  • Phalanx — Pha lanx, n.; pl. {Phalanxes}, L. {Phalanges}. [L., from Gr. ?.] 1. (Gr. Antiq.) A body of heavy armed infantry formed in ranks and files close and deep. There were several different arrangements, the phalanx varying in depth from four to twenty… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Phalanx — Sf geschlossene Schlachtreihe erw. bildg. (18. Jh.) Entlehnung. Entlehnt aus l. phalanx, dieses aus gr. phálanx, eigentlich Baumstamm, Block . So bezeichnet wurde die Schlachtreihe der griechischen Fußkämpfer.    Ebenso nndl. falanx, ne. phalanx …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • phalanx — (n.) 1550s, from Gk. phalanx (gen. phalangos) line of battle, battle array, also finger or toe bone, originally round piece of wood, trunk, log, of unknown origin, perhaps from PIE root *bhelg plank, beam (Cf. O.E. balca balk; see BALK (Cf.… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Phalanx — »Schlachtreihe; geschlossene Front«: Das Fremdwort wurde im 18. Jh. aus gleichbed. lat. phalanx entlehnt, das seinerseits aus griech. phálagx »Schlachtreihe« stammt. Das griech. Wort ist mit seiner eigentlichen Bedeutung »Walze; Balken,… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • phalanx — [fā′laŋks΄, fal′aŋks΄] n. pl. phalanxes; also, and for PHALANX 5 always, phalanges [fə lan′jēz΄] [L < Gr, line of battle, bone between fingers, orig., log < IE base * bhel , log > BALK] 1. an ancient military formation of infantry in… …   English World dictionary

  • Phalanx — (gr.), 1) ursprünglich u. schon bei Homer die Schlachtordnung in geschlossener Linie, wo die Krieger nach Stämmen od. Geschlechtern in der Fronte standen u. nach Muth u. Kraft sich hinter einander reiheten. Später wurde die P. die Grundlage der… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Phalanx — (griech., »geschlossene Reihe«), bei den Griechen das Heer in Schlachtordnung, besonders die mehrere Glieder tiefe Ausstellung der schweren Infanterie, vornehmlich in der von König Philipp von Mazedonien begründeten und in der hellenistischen… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Phalanx — (grch.), geschlossene Schlachtreihe; insbes. die Kernschar des mazedon. mit Speeren bewaffneten Fußvolks, eine im Viereck eng aneinander geschlossene Masse [Tafel: Kriegswesen I, 1]. (S. auch Phalangen.) …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Phalanx — Phalanx, griech., Schlachtreihe; die tiefe Aufstellung des schwerbewaffneten griech. Fußvolks; insbesonders das schwerbewaffnete macedon. Fußvolk, ein eigenes Corps bildend, 16 Mann tief, dicht geschlossen, mit 14 langen Speeren bewaffnet, auf… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • phalanx — index band, mass (body of persons) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.