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Headword: *)/embolon
Adler number: epsilon,953
Translated headword: wedge, wedge-formation
Vetting Status: high
Translation:
Name of a battle-order.[1] It is half of a lozenge; it is also called sling-shaped.[2] A lozenge-shaped arrangement.
Also the iron part of a warship.[3]
"After [one of the tribunes] had dragged away from the wedges [= rostra] the praetor who was calling for war, he made speeches".[4]
Wedge is what [a formation] is called, whenever the phalanx marching in two directions[5] joins its leading wings together, but separates the rearward [ones].
But Agathias says [6]: "they had the shape of a formation like one forming a wedge; for: it looked delta-shaped,[7] and all the frontal part ended in a point, and it was was strongly fortified and compacted, due to the fact that from all directions it was enclosed by shields; and one could say that they had given to this join the shape of a pig's head. On each side the legs, joined together in depth by rows and squadrons, mostly stretched out in oblique directions, were separated and divided from each other, and as they were prolonged they ended with the greatest width, so that the central part was empty and the back of the soldiers appeared bare in a row. For they had turned themselves so that they could be face to face with the enemies and fight safely by putting forward their shields, and at the same time they could guard their backs, for they were ranged in battle opposite to each other".
Diagram of a wedge:[8]
L
Q Q Q
Z Z Z Z Z
D D D D D D D
B B B B B B B B B
A A A A A A A A A A A
G G G G G G G G G
E E E E E E E
H H H H H
K K K
M
Greek Original:
*)/embolon: parata/cews o)/noma. e)/sti de\ to\ h(/misu tou= r(o/mbou: o)noma/zetai de\ kai\ sfendonoeide/s. r(ombw/dhs de\ para/tacis. kai\ th=s nho\s to\ polemiko\n sidh/rion. to\n de\ parakalou=nta pro\s to\n po/lemon strathgo\n kataspa/sas a)po\ tw=n e)mbo/lwn e)poiei=to tou\s lo/gous. *)/embolon de\ kalei=tai, o(/tan h( a)mfi/stomos difalaggi/a ta\ me\n h(gou/mena ke/rata a)llh/lois suna/yh|, ta\ de\ e(po/mena diasth/sh|. *)agaqi/as de/ fhsin: h)=n de\ au)toi=s h( i)de/a th=s parata/cews oi(=on e)s e)/mbolon: deltwtw=| ga\r e)w/|kei kai\ to\ me\n e)mpro/sqion o(/son e)s o)cu\ e)/lhge, stegano/n te h)=n kai\ pepuknwme/non tw=| pa/ntoqen tai=s a)spi/si peripefra/xqai, fai/hs te a)\n au)tou\s suo\s kefalh\n th=| sunqe/sei a)potupw/sasqai: ta\ de\ ske/lh e(kate/rwqen kata\ sti/xous te kai\ lo/xous e)s ba/qos cugkei/mena kai\ e)piplei=ston ei)s to\ e)gka/rsion paratetame/na dii/+stato a)llh/lwn h)re/ma kai\ dieke/krito, kai\ proi+o/nta e)s me/giston eu)=ros a)peteleu/ta, w(s kai\ to\ metacu\ xwri/on keno\n kaqesta/nai kai\ ta\ nw=ta gumna\ tw=n a)ndrw=n stoixhdo\n diafai/nesqai. a)pestramme/noi ga\r sfa=s au)tou\s e)tu/gxanon, o(/pws a)\n toi=s me\n polemi/ois a)ntipro/swpoi ei)=en kai\ e)k tou= a)sfalw=s a)gwni/zointo ta\s a)spi/das probeblhme/noi, ta\ de\ o)pi/sqia dia\ to\ a)llh/lois a)ntiteta/xqai diafula/ttointo. sxh=ma e)mbo/lou. l q q q z z z z z d d d d d d d b b b b b b b b b a a a a a a a a a a a g g g g g g g g g e e e e e e e h h h h h k k k m
Notes:
[1] See also Onomasticon Tacticum 35 and 58; ps.-Zonaras epsilon702; cf. Arrian, Tactica 17.3 = Aelian, Tactica 19.5, Asclepiodotus 7.7. The sources record as "wedge-formation" a cavalry scheme apparently invented by the Scythians and the Thracians, later adopted and developed by the Macedonians, with a couple of "lambda-shaped" infantry versions used by Epameinondas (see Xenophon, Hellenica 7.5.22-24 on Second Mantineia, 362 BCE -- including the warship's ram analogy: below, at n.3). One of these was also used by Alexander the Great at Gaugamela. Polybius (1.26.13-16) also mentions a naval wedge, taken up by the Roman ships during the battle at Cape Ecnomus (256 BCE). A reference to a Byzantine use of the same arrangement is provided by John Cinnamos, Epitome 281.3.
[2] The Suda reads sfendonoeide/s, probably a corruption for sfenoeide/s, "wedge-shaped", as attested by Asclepiodotus. The word sfendonoeide/s is only attested by a fragment of Posidonius (98a Jacoby=68a-b Theiler), in reference to the shape of the earth.
[3] i.e. the iron (or bronze) tip of a ram (epsilon 952, and cf. epsilon 949).
[4] Diodorus Siculus 31.5.3 (via the Excerpta Constantini, 1 p.402), on Rhodian envoys in Rome in 167 BCE. For this meaning of embolon see Hesychius rho594 s.v. r(w/stron; and Polybius 6.53.1.
[5] Arrian, Tactica 29.5. See also Aelian, Tactica 47.3-5: "the infantry formation called the wedge…has all of its sides made up of heavy infantry. It is formed when the amphistomos difalangia in marching joins its wings together in front, while holding them open in the rear in the shape of the letter *l". The so-called a)nti/stomos difalaggi/a was formed when the file-leaders of a formation on the march were posted one half on the right and the other half on the left, with the file-closers stationed on the inside.
[6] Agathias, Histories 2.8.
[7] cf. delta 203.
[8] From Asclepiodotus, but here mis-labelled: a lozenge, not its half (the lambda- or delta-shaped wedge). NB: a lozenge arrangement will not display on screen, but that is what it is; imagine that the display is the right-hand half of it.
Reference:
Devine, A.M., "Embolon: a study in tactical terminology," Phoenix 37 (1983) 201-217
Keywords: biography; daily life; definition; historiography; history; imagery; military affairs; science and technology; trade and manufacture; zoology
Translated by: Antonella Ippolito on 2 November 2006@10:57:21.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (typo) on 2 November 2006@14:50:47.
Antonella Ippolito (other typos) on 3 November 2006@04:44:54.
David Whitehead (augmented and rearranged notes; more keywords; tweaks and cosmetics) on 3 November 2006@05:38:57.
David Whitehead (augmented notes) on 3 November 2006@07:36:32.
David Whitehead (tweaks and cosmetics) on 3 November 2006@10:28:04.
David Whitehead (more keywords; tweaks and cosmetics) on 16 August 2012@04:09:54.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 1 March 2015@22:53:03.
David Whitehead (supplied missing note number (my error)) on 24 December 2015@10:10:11.

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