Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Warfare in the Ancient Greek World

The armies of Ancient Greece were originally citizen forces where the individual was expected to equip himself with the majority of his supplies, weapons and armor.

The Hoplite armed with and eight foot thrusting spear and curved short sword was the main fighting man of any Greek city state army.  His protective gear consisted of the best armor each man could personally afford.  The minimum would included a large round, wooden shield covered in bronze and a bronze helmet.  Those that could afford the best would also have a bronze (leather and stiffened linen were common for those with lesser funds) cuirass covering their chest and back and bronze greaves covering their lower legs.
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The Hoplite Heavy Infantry Phalanx was the standard fighting formation.  Its strength was based on the coordinated defense of the overlapping shields and viscous killing power of the spears and swords.  Training, strength, stamina and bravery were key elements in the success of the phalanx. Battle were won or lost through the success of the phalanx.

The light infantry were armed with javelins or slings (occasionally with bows), a long knife or short sword was often carried for close combat. Their protection might include as much as a light curved shield and helmet (these were often called Peltast's) or as little as their normal clothing.  The job of the light infantry was to skirmish with the enemy and protect the flanks of the phalanx.

Unlike other armies of the time period, cavalry played a very limited role in Ancient Greek armies.  They were usual light cavalry with little or no armor and armed with javelins.  Their main role involved scouting and limited skirmish tactics.

The Galleon-work horse of the Spanish Empire

The Spanish Galleon became synonymous with trade and treasure in the 16th and 17th centuries.They were also the backbone warships of the major European navy's of the day.
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Cross section of a typical galleon design. Note the two gun decks, supplies stored in the lowest hold and the ballast stones that were critical to the ships stability and one of the key ways to identify sunken shipwrecks to this very day.
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Galleons were massive ships for their time and very expensive, they were therefore embellished with the finest craftsmanship and artistic designs affordable. The tall "castle" in the Stern was designed as an elevated fighting platform for the soldiers in the crew and was a hallmark of the galleon design.
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From 1566 t0 1790 the yearly "Treasure Fleet" transported the income of Spain's American Colonial Empire to Spain.  Fleets of twenty or more galleons would assemble in Cuba and sail in a convoy through the dangerous Caribbean waters (storms, Hurricanes and pirate/Privateer raiders being the greatest threats) to Europe.  In today's money it was not unusual for each treasure galleon to carry between 500 million and a billion dollars worth of silver, gold, gems and jewelry on board-a tempting prize for pirates and the navies of Spain's enemies.

One a year from 1565 to 1815, the Manila-Acapulco Galleon, "the Black Ship," carried the years taxes, trade good and passengers from the Spanish East Indies in Asia to New Spain. The cargo then was transported overland to coastal seaports to join the annual Treasure Fleet to Spain.
File:Invincible Armada.jpg
File:Vroom Hendrick Cornelisz Battle between England and Spain 1601.jpg
 In large scale sea battles, Galleons were the major warships of the age.  Most galleon were armed with forty to sixty cannon and hundreds of soldiers.  The main tactic was to fire the ships cannon while closing with the the enemy.  When the ships were close enough to grapple (throw ropes with hooks to catch and pull the enemy ship towards the attacker) the soldiers would board the opponent and capture them through hand to hand combat.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From Reconquista to the New World

Fro the first Muslim invasions of the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century to the last decades of the15th century, the Christian rulers of the various kingdoms of these land fought to retake the land in the name of Christ. As the centuries progressed more and more of the lands were retaken through the "Reconquista."

File:Coat of Arms of Queen Isabella of Castile (1492-1504).svg
By 1492, the monarchs Queen Isabella of Castile & Leon and King Ferdinand of Aragon (both descended from the king of Leon) had married, uniting their joint kingdoms into what would become Spain and completed the Reconquista by eliminating Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Western Europe.

One of the benefits of the final actions of the Reconquista was the "liberation" of land, properties and much of the wealth of the Muslims.  A large portion of these riches now came into the hands of the King and Queen, just in time to fund a risky venture to discover a shorter trade route to India under the command of one Cristóbal Colón. 
File:Christopher Columbus on Santa Maria in 1492..jpg
In 1493, Cristóbal Colón returned to Spain claiming to have found a new route to Asia and the "Indies."  It would take several more voyages by multiple European Explorers to eventual establish that Colón had actually discovered a hitherto unknown land-"the New World." The centuries long Reconquista to retake the Iberian peninsula for Christianity now lead to the opening of entire "new" continents to colonization and religious conversion.