Schiltron

From Academic Kids

A schiltron or schiltrom is a group of men crouching shoulder-to-shoulder under/behind shields while holding their pikes (long, spear-like weapons) slanted outwards. This defensive formation, known to the classical Romans as the testudo (tortoise), underwent further development by the Scots to meet the threat posed by the feudal English knights in the Middle Ages.

Unlike a phalanx where the pikes were concentrated to the front and defence at the side and rear depended on a cohesive battle line with cavalry screens at the side, the schiltrons were circular with pikes in all directions. This allowed the Scots to fight their battles in a far more flexible manner than with the use of traditional formations.

The most famous engagement where schiltrons proved decisive was the Battle of Bannockburn. They were also used at the battles of Stirling Bridge, Flodden Field, Falkirk (1298).

Tactically they are the forbearers of the Napoleonic age infantry squares in which infantry regiments, many of them Scottish, fought at the Battle of Waterloo when attacked by Ney's French cavalry.

The word "schiltron" dates from at least 1000 AD and derives from Old English roots expressing the idea of a "shield-troop".

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