May 9, 2012

Oddball meditation...

I was just talking to my son the classicist, and he expressed curiosity about if some Marines were sent back in time to fight the Spartans, who would win.

I said that was a boring question. If spears are used, the Spartans obviously win. If firearms, the Marines win. The really interesting thing would be to send both groups to the 17th century, to duke it out with muskets and pikes.

My initial thought is that the Spartans would have the advantage. Pike work was, I think, trickier than musketry, and Spartan hoplites would grasp the concept right away. As an instance, here are some modern chaps handling pikes. (Re-enactors of the English Civil War.) Not too impressive, eh?

Pikemen, reenactors of the English Civil War

For the historically challenged, the matchlock musket of the 17th century fired slowly. Two or three shots a minute if you were skilled. And the musketeer was almost helpless in defense. A horseman could just ride by and cut him down. So the pikemen formed a bristling wall of points, mostly to protect the shooters. There was an intricate dance needed to bring the musketeers forward to shoot, then move them back among the pikes when danger approached. And to move the whole assembly across the battlefield without losing cohesion. (All this was made obsolete by the invention of the bayonet.)

Posted by John Weidner at May 9, 2012 10:38 PM

Yes, many people don't realize that for a century or two after the adoption of gunpowder weapons, a skilled archer beat a musketeer in range and accuracy. Firearms were used primarily because troops could be trained to use them far more easily.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at May 10, 2012 5:17 AM

California spanish lancers did a number on pistol/musket armed US infantry/cavalry here in the southwest in the days of the Santa Fe trail.
...of course carrying gunpowder in wooden kegs through all kinds of weather and fording rivers without bridges had it's wouldn't always be dry enough on the other end of the Journey.

Posted by: kalashnikat at May 10, 2012 5:19 PM
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