The phalanx (Ancient Greek: φάλαγξ, Modern Greek: φάλαγγα, phālanga) (plural phalanxes or phalanges (Ancient and Modern Greek: φάλαγγες, phālanges)) is a rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, or similar weapons. The term is particularly (and originally) used to describe the use of this formation in Ancient Greek warfare. The word phalanx is derived from the Greek word phalangos, meaning the finger.
The term 'phalanx' itself does not refer to a distinctive military unit or division (e.g., the Roman legion or the contemporary Western-type battalion) but to the general formation of an army's troops. Thus a phalanx did not have a standard combat strength or composition.
Many spear-armed troops historically fought in what might be termed phalanx-like formations. Indeed, the word has come into use in common English to describe "a group of people standing, or moving forward closely together" ; c.f. "a phalanx of police" . As well, the bone structure in the hands and feet earned its name, the Phalanx bones, from the arrangement of bones and joints which, when viewed from the sides, appear to be standing in a phalanx formation.
This article, however, focuses on the use of the military phalanx formation in Ancient Greece, the Hellenistic world, and other ancient states heavily influenced by Greek civilization.
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