shield wall (thing)
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| One of the classic forms of heavy infantry. Just like it sounds, it consists of a wall of overlapping shields designed to protect the soldiers behind them from the enemy. |
The most obvious advantage of being behind a shield is the protection it offers from missiles, but its value close in was also significant. While vulnerable to heavy cavalry, it was very hard to break a shield wall with anything else save another shield wall. And combat between two shield walls was about as ugly as it ever got.
Historically, the most famous shield walls were those of the Greeks (whose Hoplites used a variation with very long spears), the Roman Legions, and the Vikings.
Shield wall tactics, although made obsolete in war by the gun, are still used today by riot police around the world. In fact, the standard riot shield is little changed from the scutum used by the Roman legions, save for the fact that they're made of modern material.