Keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction since 2008
I agree to a point. Single combat in a field battle would have necessarily been rare. I still look at these battles as more like a rugby scrum or offensive/defensive lines in football, with a wall of shields in between. You were pretty decently protected, even on the front line, and most of what you were doing was pushing and clashing rather than stabbing. The stabby part mostly came after you broke their line or they broke yours, and even then you would not be too hasty about leaving the guy to your right, as his shield protected you.
I have been interested in Greco-Roman military history since I was a teenager (so, about 50 years). Even the reading I did back then gave me the feel for their battle tactics as disciplined, formation fighting, not (ideally) a melee. Which is why I am nearly always disappointed (read: pissed off) at the common portrayal of those battles as the latter. Especially on the (NOT) History Channel. The generally smaller-in-stature Romans needed that discipline to be successful against Celts and Gauls, who were not primitives at all. Both peoples had excellent metal working skills, both weapons and jewelry. The Germanic tribes were especially prone to ill discipline because of their political structure (quite democratic and not at all structured; only within family groups was there any sort of iron rule).The other major advantage of the Romans was in engineering and logistics. This gave them staying power. And their political processes under the Republic trained them to work the "barbarian" tribes one against the other. (See The Conquest of Gaul.) Julius Caesar had obviously read The Art of War (LOL).
Nobody wants to get stabbed... And there is a good chance you would be, up close and personal... That does get in one's head, and quickly!
Counterpoint: consider what death by old age would be like in those days - you worked until you couldn't any more and then you died. And most likely it wasn't a short agony like a spear through the head on the battle field; you could probably expect to linger for weeks. You never knew what was killing you; if you did it was probably some oracle or soothsayer or priest that had his eye on your possessions when you died.Maybe a battle axe across the noggin or a gladius through the ribs might seem merciful on the face of it....
Sure, right up until you're facing it in that exact moment.
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