The Amorous Drift of the First Hoplite on the Right Wing
The Battle of Mantinea, 348 B.C.
All armies are alike in this: on going into action they get forced out rather on their right wing, and one and the other overlap with this their adversary's left; because fear makes each man do his best to shelter his unarmed side with the shield of the man next him on the right, thinking that the closer the shields are locked together the better will he be protected. The man primarily responsible for this is the first upon the right wing, who is always striving to withdraw from the enemy his unarmed side; and the same apprehension makes the rest follow him. — Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, V. 71
The amorous drift of the first hoplite on the right
wing to protect his unshielded side from the enemy
was solicitous of his survival and contagious to the
hoplite to his left whose amorous edging behind his
neighbor's shield for the sake of his survival and to
the hoplite to his left and to his left was considered
dangerous by the generals at Mantinea where both
armies having caught it moved in circuitous front lines
the Athenian phalanx the more impetuous the Spartan
though anxious to hold synchrony with the battle flutists'
pace yielding at last to the devious swerve for survival
that would be perilous if not calamitous to the generals'
plans had they not provided multifarious maneuvers
analogous to the anomalous overlapping of their left
flanks to insure they would in the end be victorious
despite the amorous drift begun by the first hoplite on
the right wing just before the ferocious sweep into chaos.