A battle that has been long mythologized as a cataclysmic battle between East and West is the Battle of Thermopylae. One of the most famous last stands in history, a Spartan and Thespian force of a thousand men managed to hold back a Persian force of over 100,000 men for seven days, giving the main Greek army time to retreat and return in strength to deliver the Persians a devastating blow in the Battle of Plataea.
How did men outnumbered 100 to 1 hold them off for seven days? The place they picked as their last stand, a short stretch of land bordering steep cliffs and the Gulf of Malia, made it almost impossible to attempt a flanking maneuver. The short gap they inhabited also meant they needed less men to cover the gap, and most importantly, that the Persian forces couldn’t simply overwhelm them with sheer numbers.
Another factor is the shield-wall tactics of the Greek forces. The typical Spartan force, like most armies of antiquity, used the Phalanx formation: a tightly-packed square composed of men with large shields and some kind of polearm, usually a spear. The shield of one man would be carried in his left hand, with his spear in the right. This would leave the right side of his body exposed, except for his comrade to his right doing the same thing.
This left everyone in the phalanx protected from front-facing attacks, with the exception of the men in the extreme right of the formation. The Phalanx remained a formidable formation until the rise of the Roman Republic, who brought their own Testudo shield-wall formation to replace it.
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The tactics of the Phalanx and the delaying engagement of Thermopylae are a vivid demonstration of how teamwork can help any team overcome even the strongest of obstacles. Can your team tap into that power?
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