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Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe soldiers in any period held their spears like that. While commonly depicted in art, in reality holding a spear overhand is very cumbersome, and soldiers would instead grip the shaft underhand, with the non-business end braced against their forearm.

Javelin throwing is another story, but no melee combatant would hold his spear overhand. Pick up a broom handle and give it a try yourself, you'll find that the overhand grip is very limiting.

I understand if the animation looks better the other way, or if there is technical reason troops are depicted that way in-game. It just seems like you guys are trying to emphasize historic accuracy in your art style.

Otherwise the game looks great, keep up the good work. I'm looking forward to a release.

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Care to elaborate? This is an ongoing debate. I don't believe that spears were ever held that way. The pose is depicted in art, but that's for the sake of composition. Many realistic period depictions of Greek warriors, (those showing things like tight formations and armor) actually show the underhand grip. Other than that, and the obvious javelin throwing stance, there isn't any real proof that is the way spears were held.

Seriously, get some dowels and some fencing masks, get a trashcan lid or something as a shield, and then try doing some sparring. Try both grips and you will find that no warrior that fights for his life would adopt such a silly stance. You can't even effectively raise your shield to block arrows if your spear is resting over your shoulder. Also, a great deal of combat consisted of parrying other spears, probing the enemy for weaknesses and attacking people a few men down the line who aren't expecting it. Doing all these things with an overhand grip is impossible.

It's a matter of physics. Sure, there are vases with depictions of overhand spear use, but the soldiers also have their chest exposed and their genitals flapping free. There is also a tremendous amount of pottery painted with realistic warriors with the underhand grip.

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Only a matter of time before this debate would reach the forum. Here's what I know: holding the spear over the shoulder allows you to swing the spear in an arc, exploiting gravity AND the force of the upper body. However, this doesn't work so well in tight formation. The end of the spear would be swinging around at head level behind you. Holding the spear under your shoulder is obviously more stable, and allows for a phalanx.

So, it would it safe to say that the overhand stance was only used by hoplites in open fighting, like after a formation breaks, and not in a square/phalanx. The information we have available also indicates that this applies to shorter spears and javelins, because the longer sarissa would be too unwieldy to hold in any way except under the armpit. Therefore, the underhand stance was most likely used more in Hellenistic armies than before that.

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Holding the spear under your shoulder is obviously more stable, and allows for a phalanx.

How do you figure? This (underarm) can work in open order, but not in close order or overlapping shields. Because of the overlapping shields there is no other way but to use the overarm grip. It is physically impossible to use the underarm grip when in overlapping shield configuration or during "othismos" -- the shield(wall) physically is in the way and even if your own shield or the shield of your comrade to your right were not blocking your spear all you'd be doing is stabbing at the enemy's shield. Arguing about vase depictions and all that like hylonomus is doing is very cute, but once you get down to the mechanics of an overlapping shield formation the practical evidence is very clear.

The overarm grip allows for powerful downward thrusts over the top of the enemy's shield towards the enemy soldiers' only vulnerable spots -- their necks and arms. An underarm grip stabs against the enemy shields Why would you do this? You are not in Homeric hand-to-hand combat where you can jump around and spar with your chosen enemy. A phalanx formation, especially during the Othismos phase, requires each soldier to (at least) attempt to maintain the coherence of the formation. Not to mention the hoplite shield is too large and heavy to be an effective "sparing" shield.

hylonomus's suggestion of doing some "sparing" with a trashcan lid ignores the fact that the hoplite aspis and spear were never meant for sparing! They are meant to be used in formation and at a time when the threat from arrows was very low (especially when the men were wearing enclosed bronze helmets and bronze armor). The only time arrows would have been a threat was at the beginning of the battle before the two lines met for combat, but at that point the phalanx was in open order and allowed easy movement of the shield.

No, I think the debate is pretty settled among most people who think this through. And we aren't talking about sarissae here, since we depict their usage in an two-handed underhand grip. Only the Greek dory or hoplite shield. A hoplite shield is built to be used in a tight formation which physically and effectively prevents the use of an underarm grip of the spear.

Edited by Mythos_Ruler
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You never hold a weapon with your pinky facing the enemy, I don't care who you are. You get no stability, no control and no reach. When you hold a spear like that, you are taking away every advantage a spear has, and gain none.

When held correctly, you grip the shaft between your thumb and forefinger and keep the counterweight flush with your elbow. This is more natural and allows you to deliver powerful thrusts, as well as more easily work around your shield without limiting your strikes to a single target. It isn't difficult at all to hold your weapon like this in a tight formation, in fact its much more limiting to march and fight in tight formation with an overhand grip. Would you want to fight with the blades of your allies spears resting inches from your face? Do you want to march and fight all day with your arm raised? You can't do that for long, simple anatomy. The ranks would be filled with dislocated shoulders.

And how is bringing up art, the only real reason reenactors hold their spears like that, "cute?" that's a bit insulting, especially considering how wrong you are on various points. For one thing you said that the only vulnerable spot on a Hoplite is his neck and arms, which is wrong. According to texts, most injuries at the time were in the legs, groin and abdomen, indicating usage of underarm thrusts. Writings also describe spears being thrust through shields and breastplates, something that requires force that can only be delivered through the superior underarm thrust.

If you study, you will learn that Hoplites marched with their spears resting on their shoulder, and then lowered them into an underarm grip before combat. You can do this while maintaining tight formation, unlike an overhand grip which requires open space to transition to. Texts also speak of finishing off downed enemies that you march over with the lizard killer, which is a matter of convenience. You wouldn't flip your spear all the way around just to stab an enemy with your counterweight while marching, would you?

Also, think of safety! In an overhand grip, you are constantly swinging a counterweight around the heads of the troops behind you and if you are in back you are holding a blade over the shoulder of the troops in front. If someone knocked your spear to the side, you would clock the guy next to you in the back of the head, and on top of that your wrist isn't strong enough to recover, and you let your whole team down.

Logic, physics, historic texts, all the evidence is stacked in favor of underarm use. What evidence do you have of overhand use beside what is depicted on vases or used by misinformed reenactors?

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The last few rows of the phalanx would obviously not hold their spears overarm. They would not need to. They would be the ones to lizard stick enemy soldiers as the phalanx advanced.

No, the front rows of the phalanx would be the ones to thrust overarm in order to stab over the enemy shield wall. In order to stab UNDER the enemy shield wall with an underarm grip the front line of your phalanx would need to crouch low to stab under the enemy shields. Is there any evidence of this in art, literature, or otherwise? I await your answer on this.

If I study I "will learn that Hoplites marched with their spears resting on their shoulder, and then lowered them into an underarm grip before combat." Fine, then name the texts! As far as safety goes, since the front lines are stabbing in a downward motion, the saurotaur would be high above the rear rank's heads, and no danger. You tell me how you are supposed to stab with an underarm grip, in a crouched position, as the rank behind you is pushing you with their shields.

Edited by Mythos_Ruler
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Xenophon, Anabasis, Book IV

"Along the line the order had sped "to keep their spears at rest on the right shoulder until the bugle signal; then lower them for the charge, slow march, and even pace, no one to quicken into a run." Lastly, the watchword was passed, "Zeus the Saviour, Heracles our Guide.""

You can easily attack over a shield from an underarm stance. In fact using the term "underarm" is misleading, what's important here is thumb placement. Imagine how a fencer holds a foil, this gives you the most control. You can still raise your arm above your head, but you'd be leading with your thumb. This way you can still attack different parts of your opponent's body, or enemies to the left or right of your opponent. This position also allows you to easily disengage or parry other spears without anything protruding from behind you to disturb your allies or throw you off balance. Holding your spear upside down is just goofy.

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You can block the guy directly in front of you in a heated battle. What gets you is the man you aren't paying attention to. Also, loose formations were just as common as tight phalanxes, and the notion of a clashing shield wall is up to debate as well. Squaring off with the enemy at spear range and skirmishing them with probing strikes was far more likely. Smashing your front line into the enemy ranks would put some of your most experienced troops at unnecessary risk.

If you look at the above vase picture, you will notice there is plenty of room between shields to fit a spear at armpit-level. Also, the shields were designed to extend beyond your elbow to protect the man to your left, so there would be no arm to get in the way of an underarm grip. Some shields even had cutout sections specifically designed to fit a spear through.

You can have an interlocked shield wall that still makes room for movement necessary to be combat-effective. Standing uncomfortably close and having men pushing shields into your back would severely hamper combat prowess. Furthermore, you want to be low and obscured by your shield. Waving your spear over your head not only leaves your entire arm and armpit vulnerable, but telegraphs all your movements to your opponent.

Edited by hylonomus
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You still fail to disprove any of my points, instead simply claiming I am wrong without backing anything up.

Holding a spear with your pinky facing the enemy severely limits range. You can't get full extension, and you can't defend against anybody using the same attacks against you. You basically get a single target, and you better hope he doesn't have a helmet and he's using the same stupid stance you are. Also, what if you are fighting an enemy slightly taller than you? It's physically impossible to hit a target higher then your own face, not to mention the strain on your shoulder and wrist.

If someone is attacking you in the same place over and over again, it's ridiculously easy to counter them, whether they are in a phalanx or not. If the Greeks fought all their battles in such a way, they would have gotten their asses kicked all over the Mediterranean. The grip you are describing would only be effective against another hoplite standing directly in front of you, less than four feet away, and only if you manage to hit his neck or arm. Funny how most Hoplite wounds were to the legs and groin...

I'm open to being proven wrong, that's how you learn. So far though, you've failed to do anything but cement my theories.

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If someone is attacking you in the same place over and over again, it's ridiculously easy to counter them, whether they are in a phalanx or not. If the Greeks fought all their battles in such a way, they would have gotten their asses kicked all over the Mediterranean. The grip you are describing would only be effective against another hoplite standing directly in front of you, less than four feet away, and only if you manage to hit his neck or arm. Funny how most Hoplite wounds were to the legs and groin...

The Greeks did actually just fight against other Greeks, thus, it was basically Phalanx against Phalanx. There were no invasions (because you have no reason to invade Greece, after all) until the Persian Wars, in which luck and discipline and the Persian focus on light armoured missile troops which were not able to damage the heavy armored Greek infantry won the battles for the Greeks. After that, the Phalanx was heavily modified and went towards a more staggered formation, plus the use of skirmish troops such as Peltasts. (which had beed used before, but to a minor extend)

I think both points are true - the basic Phalanx formation until ~500 BC would be probably the position as depicted in 0 AD, however, I agree with hylonomus (first reptile ever^^) that it would be just too inflexible against anything else and thus, I think, it developed more into a looser formation as cited in the Anabasis .(whose events take place after the modification of the Phalanx, when missile troops were much more important)

I suggest everyone just calms down a bit.;)

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Well, what I've read is that some formations held the spears overhand and aimed for the helmet (piercing the eyes, or knocking him to the ground if you hit). Then, when he's down, he's an easy prey for being stabbed as he tries to get up/gets walked over. The Macedonian phalanx did surely use a modified underhand grip, but the sarissa was held with both arms. The whole essence of the phalanx is to make a unit of soldiers work as one body. Therefore, the right flank was severely exposed.

The only consequent use of underhand wielding I can recall, was the phase of the battle where they locked their spears to the enemy shield and pushed.

Btw, I've tried out the difference between under- and overhand thrusts. Much more power on underhand thrusts, but your aiming is severely hampered. Also, it's easier to deflect with a shield.

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There really is no need for finesse or "accuracy" in a phalanx battle. Anywhere you stab will most likely connect with an enemy soldier (either his flesh or his armor). My point about the underarm grip is that the enemy shield wall (and your friend's shield) is in the way.

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Control is always important, and you still disregard all the shortcomings of the overarm grip and ignore the many other benefits. And in practice, it's actually easier to deliver a clean, killing strike over a shield wall with an underarm grip. This method is much less likely to be parried by another spear or evaded.

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The Greeks did actually just fight against other Greeks, thus, it was basically Phalanx against Phalanx. There were no invasions (because you have no reason to invade Greece, after all) until the Persian Wars, in which luck and discipline and the Persian focus on light armoured missile troops which were not able to damage the heavy armored Greek infantry won the battles for the Greeks. After that, the Phalanx was heavily modified and went towards a more staggered formation, plus the use of skirmish troops such as Peltasts. (which had beed used before, but to a minor extend)

I think both points are true - the basic Phalanx formation until ~500 BC would be probably the position as depicted in 0 AD, however, I agree with hylonomus (first reptile ever^^) that it would be just too inflexible against anything else and thus, I think, it developed more into a looser formation as cited in the Anabasis .(whose events take place after the modification of the Phalanx, when missile troops were much more important)

I suggest everyone just calms down a bit.;)

Good points. Sorry if things got heated, sometimes these debates get me excited. I personally still think that the overhand grip would be far too unwieldy in combat, and there is no real evidence of it being used outside of vase paintings. I don't believe art such as this has any merit toward historical accuracy, as artists tend to worry more about composition, heroic poses and symbolism.

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Excuse me but if indeed hoplites used overhand grip, and practised it throughout their lives, wouldn't they kinda get used to using their spears in that way. So really how can you say ''in practise'' it's easier to kill someone with underarm grip if you don't have someone with years and years of experience in using overhand grip to test it properly? ;)

Edited by emperor77
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Excuse me but if indeed hoplites used overhand grip, and practised it throughout their lives, wouldn't they kinda get used to using their spears in that way. So really how can you say ''in practise'' it's easier to kill someone with underarm grip if you don't have someone with years and years of experience in using overhand grip to test it properly? ;)

You can master anything "in practice." That doesn't change physics. Just because you train to do something wrong, it doesn't make improper use of muscle and bone structure coupled with a complete disregard for physics suddenly effective.

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Many experts over the years have pointed that the greek welfare tactics were strange, the simple fact of advancing until being to the reach of your enemy, is against the human instinct, most warriors would prefer to "cowardly" trow projectiles at the enemy at a 50 yards distance, but the fact is that the greeks did it that way.

I frankly have never see any pottery showing the "underarm" grip you say, neither that text that was quoted, say it specifically, and on the other hand, all depictions of hoplites in formation shows them holding their spears over the shoulder.

You are basing your arguments, in logic, physics, and anatomy, but you cannot do that to research history, at least not when it goes against the historical evidence. Besides, I don't believe you really understand how the phalanx works, because it is impossible to stab your enemy when your shield(and his) are on the way. Think of it like being behind a fence that covers from your knee to your shoulder, now in that position try to stab, and what you get is that you have to crouch, or force your arm, in a very uncomfortable arch.

On the other hand, the "over the shoulder" position not only let you point at the enemies head and upper torso, but you can also point it down, to stab the enemies on the floor, once you push them with the shield. I agree that is not the best choice when you are in open battle, but in a close phalanx formation, it was the only choice.

EDIT: Perhaps we should add both, if only a logical argument could be added, for when the units are not in formation, but as it has been pointed many times, 0 AD is historically acurated, but is also meant to be a fun

and frankly, I wouldn't change the view of the spartans running at the enemy with their spears up ;)

Phalanx Formation

81947~Detail-of-a-Corinthian-Vase-Showing-a-Hoplite-Battle-circa-600-BC-Posters.jpg

Open Combat

hoplite.jpg

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I think most people advocating the overarm grip is misunderstanding the form. Just because you are holding a spear between your thumb and forefinger with shaft pressed against your forearm doesn't mean you can't attack over a shield wall. All you have to do is raise your elbow level with your shoulder and you can easily attack over a shield or ally's shoulder. In fact, now that you are using your thumb to intuitively guide your weapon, you deliver a sure thrust that can be driven home without being easily knocked away or parried. This method would effectively increase range and killing effectiveness without sacrificing anything. An army of hoplites using their spears like this would completely decimate an army using the overarm grip before they could even attack.

Artwork is not proof of military practice, its just a picture designed to look good. Overarm grips are easier to draw and have better composition. Besides these pieces of art, a few cryptic texts are the only thing offering any real evidence of either form. Instead, you must apply what is already known about martial arts and anatomy to what would be practical. Any martial artist on earth would laugh at the notion of fighting with the overhand spear grip, or guiding a thrusting weapon with your pinky and shoulder instead of your thumb and forearm.

Edited by hylonomus
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  • 2 weeks later...

@mfmachado

Even tho the 300 version of the phalanx looks pretty cool the whole movie is very inaccurate..

I get that you just wanna point something out from a good movie but unfortunately they over exaggerated everything to make it more heroic.

1. Spartans didint fight nearly naked, they were very well known for their heavier-than-usual armor.

2. No soldier will bend their knees in battle, having done martial arts myself i can tell you having ur knees bent all the time drains a lot of your lower body strength. Now imagine doing that with full armor and shield.

But still its a cool video.

As to the overarm/underarm grip- lets think bout it:

It is true that underarm grip provides you more thrust, just look at your muscles that you're using- bi,tri and your shoulder to give the spear some additional speed while overarm is a bit uncomfortable, just think how humans evolved, when we used hands and feet to walk, its natural to do any motion that doesn't require our arm to go over our shoulder.

But, in Phalanx this is just wrong, even tho you can use underarm grip to hit your opponent over your and their shield your arm and biceps are on the same elevation as your shoulder and head, making them very exposed, what if the guy in front of you decides not to go for your head but for ur arm that isint as heavily armored? Remember, armor is lighter (or no arm armor at all, native to hoplites) on your arms for the sake of comfort, try to thrust your spear with two 20-pound metal plates strapped to them.. Thats why hoplites didint have anything to protect their biceps.

So, back to the battlefield - you thrust your spear with underarm grip over the shield, but the guy in front was just waiting for that, while he raises his shield a bit to cover his face from being struck, with his spear he uses overarm grip to strike ur arm from over his shield, u get your arm cut open, u drop your spear and your arm is most likely unable to do anything anymore due to the pain and damage.

Now, what can you do? you cant pick up your weapon, u cant swap places with the guy behind you without breaking formation and endangering guys to your left and right.

Now lets see how a situation like this really looks like:

overarm.png

For those who didint see the movie - a second later the guy gets his arm cut open in a very unpleasant way.

Thats why in my opinion overarm in phalanx is all good, if the dev. team wants to include underarm grip in free combat that would be awesome (visually entertaining with the variety :) )

Well i hope this contributed.

-MK

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