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"Command and control?" Topic

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valerio23 Oct 2020 4:16 a.m. PST

A question for the learned: which kind of command and control capability would a squadron commander in classical greece/punic wars have? How many signals would he be able to transmit in battle?

From the account I read, I imagine pretty limited. Things such as: follow me, deploy in line, form column, general attack, retreat. Plus a very specific command for the battle, preliminarily agreed with ship commanders at breakfast, such as: at the red flag, everybody turns right at the same time.

But could they, for example, have their squadron (deployed in line) perform an unexpected wheel? I doubt they had the ability to do so many signals as to cover all possibilities, but..

Any answer with reference to a book or a study is doubly appreciated!

valerio23 Oct 2020 10:11 a.m. PST

Actually, now that I think of it, also wing commander – which orders do you think they'd be able to convey to their squadrons?

williamb26 Oct 2020 9:58 a.m. PST

There is very little, if anything, regarding this in the ancient sources. For more information on this do a google search for galley warfare tactics and read the scenario book for War Galley at

Also, the author of this blog has done extensive research on ancient galleys

valerio29 Oct 2020 9:43 a.m. PST

Many thanks williamb. Yes the Rams ravens and wrecks blog is fantastic! I am now rereading my greek and roman oared ships, which has a chapter on fleet tactics, but not too much details unfortunately

Plasticviking316 Apr 2021 12:01 p.m. PST

I have gathered quite a bit of information on this.Hoping to tease out some tactical titbits. However.. As with land battles one can conjecture there are lots of tactical possibilities and finely polished commands but in reality there is one important order – when to attack. Formations and drills are done to martial an army into position so it is ready for battle. The second important thing is that everybody obeys the order. A flag, shield or trumpet is variously used to signal when to attack. A war-galley fleet was a one-shot weapon even more so than a hoplite army. Practice and selection of personnel was the third key thing -and this needed to be achieved long before the battle was joined.Read about Gaugamela or Cannae to appreciate how hard it was to martial ancient forces with any more complexity than getting them to face the enemy at the right time. Your Alkedo blog is going very nicely also Valerio!

Alkedo17 Apr 2021 2:27 a.m. PST

Many thanks! Yours has definitely been an inspiration. And I do agree with your points. I am in fact reflecting on a battle generation system. Initially I focused on things like terrain or weather, but then concluded that, aside mission specific goals deriving from the strategic situation, the key factor should be how the two fleets meet who s prepared and who s not. I will definitely launch a discussion on this when I clear my mind about it..

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