At night the soldiers had no more than capes to protect them from the cold. They did not sleep in tents but lay on the ground or under simple shelters. After the army arrived at the border of the Spartan region, the king made a new sacrifice, this time dedicated to Zeus and Athena. Upon reaching the battlefield, the Spartans set up camp in the most appropriate place—close to a water source when possible.
The camp itself was laid out in the form of a square, with the animals, supplies, and slaves placed in the middle. The elite Skiritai and cavalry made constant patrols of the high ground to keep watch. Sometimes the guard was more concerned about the Helot slaves trying to flee the camp than about an attack from the rival army. The Spartan soldiers kept to a strict schedule when on campaign. There would be physical exercise before breakfast, an inspection, a changeover of those on guard duty and then military instruction.
They were the only men in the world for whom war brought a respite in the training for war. In the afternoon the soldiers would compete in athletic exercises in which a polemarch high-ranking military commander acted as judge and gave a prize to the winner, this usually being meat for dinner. At the end of the day the soldiers would sing hymns and poems by the seventh-century B. At daybreak on the morning of the battle, sometimes within sight of the enemy, the Spartan hoplites would polish their bronze-coated shields, prepare their weapons, and carefully arrange their long hair, as part of a symbolically charged ritual.
When the battle was imminent, a young goat would be sacrificed to Artemis Agrotera, goddess of the hunt. The sages examined the entrails under the watchful eye of the king, who would only give the order to attack if he could count on divine approval. The singing was accompanied by the flautists who played from their positions within the ranks. The Spartan phalanx, a tight military formation usually eight men deep, would then begin its advance, lances raised, in time with the music.
One measure of the Spartan reputation for courage and nerve was the pace with which it proceeded: Its army would draw close to enemy lines more slowly than their rivals, always following the steady rhythm set by the flutes. Hoplite warriors formed phalanxes, which advanced in lockstep. The front row presented a barrier of shields locked together, from which a long line of spears protruded. Unity within the phalanx was crucial, and Spartan phalanxes had a fearsome reputation for holding their formation.
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During the Peloponnesian War, both the Spartan and Athenian sides made use of an additional class of soldier, the peltasts. This division of light infantry supplemented the heavily armed—and often unwieldy—hoplites.
Enemy commanders justly feared the colossal damage this disciplined mass could inflict. When the first lines clashed, all the soldiers would push forward with their shields. Every hoplite pressed hard against the back of the man in front, while those in the first three or four lines hurled their lances.
The purpose of the phalanx was to smash the enemy line. Until a breach was made, there were few casualties within the tightly packed Spartan lines, and the soldiers behind could immediately cover the gaps left by any men who did fall. If a phalanx did ever fall apart, the soldiers were left vulnerable, tempted to abandon their shields in order to flee.
For the Spartans, such an outcome was almost too shameful to contemplate. Despite their frightening reputation, the Spartan army was very restrained when it defeated a foe. This practice was, at heart, pragmatic: Having secured the military objective, there was little sense in unnecessarily exposing Spartan forces to further danger, especially if the enemy had men mounted on horseback. Instead, the king would order the trumpeters to sound the retreat, and the army would start to retrieve the dead. When vanquished enemies wanted to retrieve the bodies of their fallen, they would send a representative to negotiate the handover with the king of Sparta.
The bodies of the fallen Spartans were carried on their own shields to a site near the battlefield for burial. In a time-honored Spartan tradition, other markers were often erected on the site of the battle. One of the most common was a tree trunk dressed in the helmet, armor, and weapons of the defeated. If the battle was particularly significant, a stone monument might be constructed, such as the statue of the lion in honor of the Spartan leader Leonidas, which was placed on the battlefield of Thermopylae. When the rituals were over, the army began their triumphal return to Sparta.
The worst fate for any Spartan was cowardice on the battlefield. Throughout history, mothers have wept in seeing their sons set out for war; Spartan women, however, developed another ritual, aimed at preventing the ignominy that would befall them if their son wavered in the line of duty. Plutarch records Spartan mothers handing the shield to their sons, with the exhortation: Either with this or upon this —either return with the shield, victorious; or return lying on it, dead.
Read Caption. A Greek helmet from the fifth century B. At the peak of their power, the Spartans defeated the Persian army, and then turned their ire on neighboring Athens. A lifelong dedication to military discipline, service, and precision gave this kingdom a strong advantage over other Greek civilizations, allowing Sparta to dominate Greece in the fifth century B. Even at its most powerful, Spartans distrusted grand monuments. Infantry with ranged or pole weapons often carried a sword or dagger for possible hand-to-hand combat.
Modern infantrymen now treat the bayonet as a backup weapon, but may also have handguns or pistols. They may also deploy anti-personnel mines, booby traps, incendiary or explosive devices defensively before combat. Some non-weapon equipment are designed for close combat shock effects, to get and psychological edge before melee, such as battle flags , war drums , brilliant uniforms , fierce body paint or tattoos , and even battle cries. These have become mostly only ceremonial since the decline of close combat military tactics. Infantry have employed many different methods of protection from enemy attacks, including various kinds of armour and other gear, and tactical procedures.
The most basic is personal armour. This includes shields , helmets and many types of armour — padded linen , leather, lamellar , mail , plate , and kevlar. Initially, armour was used to defend both from ranged and close combat; even a fairly light shield could help defend against most slings and javelins, though high-strength bows and crossbows could penetrate most armour at very close range.
Infantry armour had to compromises between protection and coverage, as a full suit of attack-proof armour would be too heavy to wear in combat. As firearms improved, armour for ranged defence had to be thicker and stronger. With the introduction of the heavy arquebus to piece standard steel armour, it was proved easier to make heavier firearms than heavier armour; armour transitioned to be only for close combat purposes.
Pikemen armour tended to be just steel helmets and breastplates, and gunners little or no armour. By the time of the musket, the dominance of firepower shifted militaries away from any close combat, and use of armour decreased, until infantry typically went without any armour. Helmets were added back during World War I as artillery began to dominate the battlefield, to protect against their fragmentation and other blast effects beyond a direct hit.
Modern developments in bullet-proof composite materials like kevlar have started a return to body armour for infantry, though the extra weight is a notable burden.
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In modern times, infantrymen must also often carry protective measures against chemical and biological attack, including gas masks , counter-agents, and protective suits. All of these protective measures add to the weight an infantryman must carry, and may decrease combat efficiency. Modern militaries are struggling to balance the value of personal body protection versus the weight burden and ability to move under such weight. Early crew-served weapons were siege weapons , like the ballista , trebuchet , and battering ram.
Modern versions include machine guns , anti-tank missiles , and infantry mortars. Beginning with the development the first regular military forces, close-combat regular infantry fought less as unorganised groups of individuals and more in coordinated units, maintaining a defined tactical formation during combat, for increased battlefield effectiveness; such infantry formations and the arms they used developed together, starting with the spear and the shield.
A spear has decent attack abilities with the additional advantage keeping opponents at distance; this advantage can be increased by using longer spears, but this could allow the opponent to side-step the point of the spear and close for hand-to-hand combat where the longer spear is near useless. This can be avoided when each spearman stays side-by-side with the others in close formation, each covering the ones next to him, presenting a solid wall of spears to the enemy that they cannot get around.
Similarly, a shield has decent defence abilities, but is literally hit-or-miss; an attack from an unexpected angle can bypass it completely. Larger shields can cover more, but are also heavier and less manoeuvrable, making unexpected attacks even more of a problem. This can be avoided by having shield-armed soldiers stand close together, side-by-side, each protecting both themselves and their immediate comrades, presenting a solid shield wall to the enemy. The opponents for these first formations, the close-combat infantry of more tribal societies , or any military without regular infantry so called " barbarians " used arms that focused on the individual — weapons using personal strength and force, such as larger swinging swords, axes, and clubs.
These take more room and individual freedom to swing and wield, necessitating a more loose organisation. While this may allow for a fierce running attack an initial shock advantage the tighter formation of the heavy spear and shield infantry gave them a local manpower advantage where several might be able to fight each opponent.
Thus tight formations heightened advantages of heavy arms, and gave greater local numbers in melee. To also increase their staying power, multiple rows of heavy infantrymen were added. This also increased their shock combat effect; individual opponents saw themselves literally lined-up against several heavy infantryman each, with seemingly no chance of defeating all of them. Heavy infantry developed into huge solid block formations, up to a hundred meters wide and a dozen rows deep.
Maintaining the advantages of heavy infantry meant maintaining formation; this became even more important when two forces with heavy infantry met in battle; the solidity of the formation became the deciding factor. Intense discipline and training became paramount. Empires formed around their military.
The organization of military forces into regular military units is first noted in Egyptian records of the Battle of Kadesh c. Soldiers were grouped into units of 50, which were in turn grouped into larger units of , then 1,, and finally into units of up to 5, — the largest independent command. Several of these Egyptian "divisions" made up an army, but operated independently, both on the march and tactically, demonstrating sufficient military command and control organisation for basic battlefield manoeuvres.
Similar hierarchical organizations have been noted in other ancient armies, typically with approximately 10 to to 1, ratios even where base 10 was not common , similar to modern sections squads , companies , and regiments. The training of the infantry has differed drastically over time and from place to place. The cost of maintaining an army in fighting order and the seasonal nature of warfare precluded large permanent armies.
The antiquity saw everything from the well-trained and motivated citizen armies of Greek and Rome, the tribal host assembled from farmers and hunters with only passing acquaintance with warfare and masses of lightly armed and ill-trained militia put up as a last ditch effort. In medieval times the foot soldiers varied from peasant levies to semi-permanent companies of mercenaries, foremost among them the Swiss, English, Aragonese and German, to men-at-arms who went into battle as well-armoured as knights, the latter of which at times also fought on foot.
The creation of standing armies —permanently assembled for war or defence—saw increase in training and experience. The increased use of firearms and the need for drill to handle them efficiently. The introduction of national and mass armies saw an establishment of minimum requirements and the introduction of special troops first of them the engineers going back to medieval times, but also different kinds of infantry adopted to specific terrain, bicycle, motorcycle, motorised and mechanised troops culminating with the introduction of highly trained special forces during the first and second World War.
As a branch of the armed forces , the role of the infantry in warfare is to engage, fight, and kill the enemy at close range—using either a firearm rifle , pistol , machine gun , an edged-weapon knife , bayonet , or bare hands close quarters combat —as required by the mission to hand; thus. Beginning with the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, artillery has become an increasingly dominant force on the battlefield. Since World War I , combat aircraft and armoured vehicles have also become dominant.
However, the most effective method for locating all enemy forces on a battlefield is still the infantry patrol, and it is the presence or absence of infantry that ultimately determines whether a particular piece of ground has been captured or held.
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In 20th and 21st century warfare, infantry functions most effectively as part of a combined arms team including artillery, armour, and combat aircraft. Attack operations are the most basic role of the infantry, and along with defence, form the main stances of the infantry on the battlefield. Traditionally, in an open battle, or meeting engagement , two armies would manoeuvre to contact, at which point they would form up their infantry and other units opposite each other.
Then one or both would advance and attempt to defeat the enemy force. The goal of an attack remains the same: to advance into an enemy-held objective, most frequently a hill, river crossing, city or other dominant terrain feature, and dislodge the enemy, thereby establishing control of the objective. Attacks are often feared by the infantry conducting them because of the high number of casualties suffered while advancing to close with and destroy the enemy while under enemy fire.
In mechanised infantry the armoured personnel carrier APC is considered the assaulting position. These APCs can deliver infantrymen through the front lines to the battle and—in the case of infantry fighting vehicles —contribute supporting firepower to engage the enemy. Successful attacks rely on sufficient force, preparative reconnaissance and battlefield preparation with bomb assets. Retention of discipline and cohesion throughout the attack is paramount to success. A subcategory of attacks is the ambush , where infantrymen lie in wait for enemy forces before attacking at a vulnerable moment.
This gives the ambushing infantrymen the combat advantage of surprise, concealment and superior firing positions, and causes confusion. The ambushed unit does not know what it is up against, or where they are attacking from. Patrolling is the most common infantry mission. Full-scale attacks and defensive efforts are occasional, but patrols are constant. Patrols consist of small groups of infantry moving about in areas of possible enemy activity to locate the enemy and destroy them when found. Patrols are used not only on the front-lines, but in rear areas where enemy infiltration or insurgencies are possible.
Pursuit is a role that the infantry often assumes. The objective of pursuit operations is the destruction of withdrawing enemy forces which are not capable of effectively engaging friendly units, before they can build their strength to the point where they are effective. Infantry traditionally have been the main force to overrun these units in the past, and in modern combat are used to pursue enemy forces in constricted terrain urban areas in particular , where faster forces, such as armoured vehicles are incapable of going or would be exposed to ambush.
Defence operations are the natural counter to attacks, in which the mission is to hold an objective and defeat enemy forces attempting to dislodge the defender. Defensive posture offers many advantages to the infantry, including the ability to use terrain and constructed fortifications to advantage; these reduce exposure to enemy fire compared with advancing forces. Effective defence relies on minimising losses to enemy fire, breaking the enemy's cohesion before their advance is completed, and preventing enemy penetration of defensive positions.
Escorting consists of protecting support units from ambush, particularly from hostile infantry forces. Combat support units a majority of the military are not as well armed or trained as infantry units and have a different mission. Therefore, they need the protection of the infantry, particularly when on the move.
This is one of the most important roles for the modern infantry, particularly when operating alongside armoured vehicles. In this capacity, infantry essentially conducts patrol on the move, scouring terrain which may hide enemy infantry waiting to ambush friendly vehicles, and identifying enemy strong points for attack by the heavier units. Infantry units are tasked to protect certain areas like command posts or airbases. Units assigned to this job usually have a large number of military police attached to them for control of checkpoints and prisons.
Maneouvering consumes much of an infantry unit's time. Infantry, like all combat arms units, are often manoeuvred to meet battlefield needs, and often must do so under enemy attack. The infantry must maintain their cohesion and readiness during the move to ensure their usefulness when they reach their objective. Traditionally, infantry have relied on their own legs for mobility, but mechanised or armoured infantry often uses trucks and armoured vehicles for transport.
These units can quickly disembark and transition to light infantry, without vehicles, to access terrain which armoured vehicles can't effectively access. Surveillance operations are often carried out with the employment of small recon units or sniper teams which gather information about the enemy, reporting on characteristics such as size, activity, location, unit and equipment.
These infantry units typically are known for their stealth and ability to operate for periods of time within close proximity of the enemy without being detected. They may engage high-profile targets, or be employed to hunt down terrorist cells and insurgents within a given area. These units may also entice the enemy to engage a located recon unit, thus disclosing their location to be destroyed by more powerful friendly forces. Some assignments for infantry units involve deployment behind the front, although patrol and security operations are usually maintained in case of enemy infiltration.
This is usually the best time for infantry units to integrate replacements into units and to maintain equipment. Additionally, soldiers can be rested and general readiness should improve. However, the unit must be ready for deployment at any point. This can be undertaken either in reserve or on the front, but consists of using infantry troops as labor for construction of field positions, roads, bridges, airfields, and all other manner of structures.
The infantry is often given this assignment because of the physical quantity of strong men within the unit, although it can lessen a unit's morale and limit the unit's ability to maintain readiness and perform other missions. More often, such jobs are given to specialist engineering corps. Infantry units are trained to quickly mobilise, infiltrate, enter and neutralise threat forces when appropriate combat intelligence indicates to secure a location, rescue or capture high-profile targets.
Urban combat poses unique challenges to the combat forces. It is one of the most complicated type of operations an infantry unit will undertake. With many places for the enemy to hide and ambush from, infantry units must be trained in how to enter a city, and systematically clear the buildings, which most likely will be booby trapped, in order to kill or capture enemy personnel within the city. Care must be taken to differentiate innocent civilians who often hide and support the enemy from the non-uniformed armed enemy forces.
Civilian and military casualties both are usually very high. Because of an infantryman's duties with firearms, explosives, physical and emotional stress , and physical violence, casualties and deaths are not uncommon in both war and in peacetime training or operations. It is a highly dangerous and demanding combat service; in World War II, military doctors concluded that even physically unwounded soldiers were psychologically worn out after about days of combat.
The physical, mental, and environmental operating demands of the infantryman are high. Infantrymen live, fight and die outdoors in all types of brutal climates, often with no physical shelter. Poor climate conditions adds misery to this already demanding existence. Disease epidemics, frostbite, heat stroke, trench foot, insect and wild animal bites are common along with stress disorders and these have sometimes caused more casualties than enemy action.
Infantrymen are expected to continue with their combat missions despite the death and injury of friends, fear, despair, fatigue, and bodily injury. Some infantry units are considered Special Forces. The earliest Special Forces commando units were more highly trained infantrymen, with special weapons, equipment, and missions. Special Forces units recruit heavily from regular infantry units to fill their ranks.
Foreign and domestic militaries typically have a slang term for their infantrymen. In the U. Naval infantry, commonly known as marines , are primarily a category of infantry that form part of the naval forces of states and perform roles on land and at sea, including amphibious operations , as well as other, naval roles. They also perform other tasks, including land warfare, separate from naval operations. They also have a number of other, specialist roles. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses of "foot soldier", see Foot soldier disambiguation.
For the computer game, see Infantry computer game. Prehistoric Ancient Post-classical Early modern Late modern industrial fourth-gen.