May 9, 2012
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?
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