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Hello everyone.<br>
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I have a question concerning Roman battle order and behavior. In practically all of the books I read (except in Delbrueck) so far the writers say that in the Republican army the spacing between the manipels was about the size of 1 manipel, in the Imperial legion we have the typical cohort formation with the big spaces.<br>
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Now logically it is the formation for deployment but they can't fight like that. That would put the legion to a serious disadvantage and that would be completely stupid from a military point of view.<br>
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So here's my question as I haven't heard about this yet. WHEN did they close the gaps?<br>
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I know from reading different authors that they usually sent in the first line first (hastati or antesignani however you want to call them). So the other lines would not fight in the beginning. This tells us that the 2nd row Manipels for example didn't march up to close the gaps. So the 1st row must have closed the gaps themselves.<br>
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Did they do it<br>
a) before they started to march towards the enemy?<br>
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b)they marched up to pilum throwing range, and then closed the gap after they'd thrown their pila while they charged (this seems quite unlikely to me as it would put them into danger of being attacked while the gaps are still open)<br>
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thank you <p></p><i></i>
Ave!<br>
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Ah, the gaps. I think small wars have been fought over them! Bottom line, we don't know. There are a number of theories, which I think are nicely summed up over on Gary Bruggeman's site:<br>
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webpages.charter.net/brueggeman/<br>
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Yipes! The site is down! And says it'll be back in March, NOT a good sign. Uh oh...<br>
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Well, in short, I think the gaps were closed before the lines came into javelin range. I even have my own wacky theory that the second line (principes, e.g.) could relieve the first line by filtering straight through them. With a little space between the men, it should be possible for 2 units to inter-file like the teeth of two combs. Obviously the unit being relieved is going to be somewhat disordered, but as long as there is a brief lull in the fighting, that shouldn't cause too much of a problem. The relieving unit will have fresh pila to rock the enemy back for a few crucial seconds, too.<br>
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Those second and third lines were there for a reason, so there had to be SOME way to get them into action! But I wish we knew more.<br>
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Vale,<br>
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Matthew/Quintus, Legio XX <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

Yes, we've discussed this many times before. My view is that the manipular formation (checkerboard) was a formation specifically designed to fight the phalanx. Having the gaps might actually have encouraged phalangites to break formation as they tried to close with the legionaries. The gladius armed and close-combat trained legionaries would have had the advantage in such a situation. Against an enemy who did not fight in such a rigid formation like the Spaniards and Gauls it would definitely have been a disadvantage. <p></p><i></i>
interesting idea about the phallanx.<br>
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The thing confusing me is that there are different reports from which it is difficult to tell what actually happened.<br>
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In Osprey's Ceasar's Legions for example they say the gap in between the manipels had about the size of a manipel.<br>
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Delbrueck on the other hand wrote that those gaps must have been much smaller maybe only one man (6 feet) big. This would mean no checkerboard at all and I know his book is quite old but his approach from a military point of view seems reasonable, namely that such gaps would have a disasterous effect because an enemy could easily exploid them.<br>
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Then we have the reports on Cannae where it is pointed out that Varro reduced the gaps. So they must have been there and it seemes to have been unusual to close them like he did by moving the whole Manipels closer together.<br>
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So my guess is that they must have closed the gap during or shortly before they charged. Filling a gap of that size like that would of course be dangerous and reduce the pressure from the back. because it would mean the attacking manipel would be only around 3 to 4 ranks deep. This raises the question how much a legion depends on depht. Not as much as a phallanx I guess because the legionary's weapon only allows short range fighting anyways which should result in a 1vs1 or something like that and not in a push through mass effect like in a phallanx<br>
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Is there any good book on the subject?<br>
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I was thinking about it a bit more but I don't have enough literature on the subject so I can't say if this was already discussed by someone.<br>
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I can understand how it works in a Manipular Army in the Republic cause there you can let the Manipels form the checkerboard. So you have enough hastati manipels which were obviousely set up in checkerboard to close the gaps. Without needing the Principes because you have smaller formations.<br>
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But what about the post Marian legion with the cohorts?<br>
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Can we assume that the gaps between the cohorts were rather small?<br>
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I hope we can continue with this discussion cause I think it's one of the most important parts about the Roman Army and I want to learn how this might have worked. <p></p><i></i>
Hey guys<br>
are you all sure the gauls, spaniards and germans didn't fight in phalanxs? The hollywood image of running and yelling barbarians is quite unlikely. On the other hand we shouldn't be so foolish as to think the phalanx was only the Greek hoplitic one! The phalanx<br>
- tight formation, mutual huddling behind one another, seeking protection of companions - was indeed one of the oldest formations invented once man realized that sheer numbers increased the probability of a quick victory against an enemy. The Hoplitic phalanx was only a highly specialized version of a universal concept.<br>
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I suggest you re-read Ceasar: in particular the description of the battle against Ariovistus' 100% warrior army (Ariovistus was a true war lord), The germans were so tightly huddled behind their shields that some legiornaries lept on top the the german shield wall to try prying the german shield off!<br>
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Maybe the gauls, germans, and spaniards kept some high degree of individualism in their warrior like fighting, but it would be foolish to think they went into battle like individuals without any form of group cohesion such as family/blood ties, tribal structure, charismatic leaders and followers,... and of course INSTINCT (of which the former are cultural manifestations! A human is a group animal after all!). Warrior individualism but in a group context/formation.<br>
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Even the early romans used phalanxs but the use of missiles and individualism was there from the start. In this sense the roman manipular system did not really evolve from greek fighting (influence yes, direct descendancy no). Its flavor was closer to the gaulic/germanic warrior mystique of fighting than the Greek Hoplitic one, already very specialized (Classic) in very early roman history when Rome was still fighting other Latin tribes, Samnites etc.<br>
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I think the roman flexible (manipular) formations could be successful against anyone that thought simplistically that sheer numbers was the way to win; i.e. almost everyone! Why? AGE OLD ANSWER: Once the enemy group formation cracked and the mutual protection jepoardized, the individual felt he had a very small chance of survival. Imagine many individuals feeling the same way, influencing one another (feedback) with incoherent behaviour, and surely things degenerate very fast! How? Roman answer: By systematically creating tensions, asymmetric stresses, shears in the enemy front mass. The aggressive roman battle order system systematically maximized the stresses on the enemy lines.<br>
<p></p><i>Edited by: <A HREF=http://p200.ezboard.com/bromanarmytalk.showUserPublicProfile?gid=goffredo>goffredo</A> at: 8/4/04 10:31 am<br></i>
Quote:</em></strong><hr>Even the early romans used phalanxs but the use of missiles and individualism was there from the start. In this sense the roman manipular system did not really evolve from greek fighting (influence yes, direct descendancy no). Its flavor was closer to the gaulic/germanic warrior mystique of fighting than the Greek Hoplitic one already very specialized (Classic) when Rome was still fighting other Latin tribes, Samnites etc.<hr><br>
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A strong possibility for the origin of the Roman manipular system is adoption from the Samnites, whose mountainous terrain made the phalanx ineffective. The use of missiles and individualism certainly fit this model. I'm less inclined to believe in much Gallic influence... adoption of Samnite and Italic weapons and armor (<em>ergo</em> Samnite fighting styles) rather than Gallic ones argues against it.<br>
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Caesar does use the term "phalanx" when referring to a formation of the Helvetii in Book I of De Bello Gallico. Not sure if and when other Gallic tribes etc. are described in this manner.<br>
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<p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

Hi all<br>
In the old question of the gaps, we should think, why those gaps?<br>
1) To allow units to march and deploy without getting intermingked and disorganized<br>
2) To allow units in the front line (skirmishers, and routed units) to retreat through those gaps without disorganizing the units in the second line<br>
Those functions are clearly showed in other armies and times, nothing particular to the Roman army. the thing particular to it is the supposed big size of those gaps. I think that size equal to the manipulus is a misunderstanding. As we know that the units in the second line at some point could replace those in the first line, then the gaps should be wide enough to allow the manipulus in the second line to pass. However, it is clear from other armies and periods that units can pass thorugh other units in open order, with small disruption. So, IMO there were gaps, yes, but they were much smaller, functional gaps to serve 1 and 2 <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

I think we sould not be surprised to find those barbarian phalanx, not all celtic warriors fought with a big sword, most carried an spear and a shield, so it is only natural that they fought in close formations similar to hoplitic phalanx <p></p><i></i>
If I may be permitted a comment, I would hesitate to use the term phalanx broadly. The Greek phalanx was a specific formation, with a specific and rather peculiar shield that encouraged certain behaviour. Their are other formations with shields and crowding which do not necessarily act in the same way. A Viking shield wall fits the criteria of shield size and crowding, but (in the original usage) seems to have been a primarily defensive formation. The Greek phalanx was in essence an offensive formation; and the Vikings made use of axes and longer slashing swords which had no place in a Greek phalanx. Celtic warriors certainly used large shields, but it is rather different.<br>
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(everyone may already know this, my apologies) The apsis or hoplon was arm-mounted rather than hand gripped, as the Celtic shields usually were. The greek shield was further different in that it was arm mounted with the center of the shield at the user's elbow; later medieval and renaissance arm-mounted shields have the center generally over the mid-forearm. This puts one-half of a greek shield to the left of its user, unlike any other shield I can think of. To be covered by a shield(s) the hoplite relied on his right-hand comrade's shield. Close formation was inevitable. The tendency of phalanxes to drift to the right was predictable. Neither of these is the case when you have fighters with individual body shields which cover the bearer. <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

Hi Felix<br>
I can think of the urnfield round shield, very similar in size and grip to the hoplon, and more or less contemporary to the early geometric period <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

I did some research on this topic before writing this reply. I recommend "The Roman Army At War 100-BC to AD 200" by Adrian Goldsworthy for a good explanation of the problems with researching Roman battlefield tactics and how the battles were fought. He provides some good information in Chapter Five "The Unit's Battle".<br>
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Goldsworthy cites the research done by John Keegan as presented in "The Face of Battle", particularly the discussion about the Battle of Agincourt. Generally, Goldsworthy follows the approach used by Keegan to examine Roman battles. Unfortunately, what may have occurred is still unclear as we cannot ascertain specific details about the course of these battles.<br>
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There is information about Roman tactics and formations, but a paucity of information about how these actually influenced the course of the fighting. How well did the Romans maintain their formation and employ their tactics is certainly a question that has eluded me.<br>
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My own personal experience training with riot gear during a 25 year military career sparked my own interest in learning about Roman battles. I still am unsure about how long a Roman soldier could fight before being replaced and exactly how replacement occurred. The theory has been passed down through the ages but not much about the reality. Just how long was a Roman soldier expected to fight before fatigue rendered him ineffective or dead?<br>
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Did the opposing forces maintain contact along the front lines or were their pauses with the two sides separating in some way? Breaking contact may have been very difficult if the rear ranks or file closers were pushing forward. The reality may have been more like the pushing and shoving that happens as crowds try to access things like buses or trains. This is certainly one theory suggested in a British television programme about the Battle of Agincourt. Unfortunately I do not know its title.<br>
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This theory suggests that the movement of the French troops towards the English army was the cause of most of the casualties rather than the English arrows. The front ranks of the French were literally crushed and then trampled by the rear ranks until sufficient space was created to avoid being crushed to death.<br>
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Barbarian forces may have been subject to similar problems as they advanced into melee. The front ranks composed of the leaders and their retainers moved with purpose towards the Romans at varying speeds with gaps opening because of the different movement rates and a significant reluctance by the less eager members to fight by moving very slowly if at all.<br>
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The result may have been an advance in waves with the first one having significant impact and this energy lessening as the rear ranks closed up.<br>
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Is there any information about how long a battle lasted before one side broke off because of fatigue or some other factor.<br>
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Perry <p></p><i></i>
I frankly do not think the word phalanx is specific enough to have any special status. It is a generic term!<br>
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Those that fear confusion are the very same that too quickly think of the hoplitic one. Without opening a discussion on "purisms" of the origin of the word "phalanx", without quoting Dictionary definitions, I humbly suggest, to be specific, that we use more focused terms like "hoplitic phalanx", of "macedonian phalanx",...<br>
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I also disagree that phalanxs, except the hoplitic one, were defensive. What about the macedonian one? You do of course admit the macedonian phalanx was a different beast than the hoplitic one, don't you? This gets me back to my first point above. Lets try to focus.<br>
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Phalanxs were invented once sheer numbers became the "main stream" approach to battles, as opposed to earlier more primitive ways of fighting characterized by indiviual dueling amoung smaller numbers of duelants.<br>
True battles (many fighters) bacame the norm once the inhabitants of a geographical region progressed to the point of having large numbers of adult males available. It was only a matter of time that a Lord, King, what ever, realized he could kick the arse of another Lord by calling up a larger number of retainers. Sheer numbers could win a battle!<br>
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To defeat a mass of men you need another mass of men. A numerous group of men, to have any real effective weight, must be in a formation of some minimum density, else no degree of useful cohesion can be ensured. PERIOD.<br>
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That a hoplitic phalanx could be used aggressively is banal to the extent that one of the two sides in a battle was trying to win. The OTHER hoplitic phalanx was defending. By the same logic (someone is trying to win!) a generic phalanx could and would be used to attack and break thru a defending formation.<br>
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All other details -perfered weapons and way of striking at enemy, with spear of sword, type of armor, use of very heavily armored and shield to shield formations or less dense, more open ones- are variations that some armies specialized in, or, a given army might apply in various tactical variations. The best ancient exmple of the latter is the flexible roman army.<br>
<p></p><i>Edited by: <A HREF=http://p200.ezboard.com/bromanarmytalk.showUserPublicProfile?gid=goffredo>goffredo</A> at: 8/5/04 11:37 am<br></i>
Hi,<br>
this is indeed a hotly debated topic. What a pity Gary Brueggeman's site doesn't work.<br>
Goldsworthy's book is really full of interesting ideas.<br>
I would also like to recommend some other articles, where you can find other theories and ideas:<br>
Sabin, P. The Face of Roman Battle, JRS 90, 2000, p. 1-17.<br>
Sabin, P. The Mechanics of Battle in the Second Punic War, in: Cornell, Rankov & Sabin (eds,), The Second Punic War: A Reappraisal (London: Institute of Classical Studies Supplement 67, 1996), p. ??.<br>
Zhmodikov, A.: Roman republican heavy infantrymen in battle, Historia 49, 2000, p. 67-78 (can be downloaded here: www.fenrir.dk/imperium/ga...iblio.php)<br>
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There has been a nice discussion about this on the forum some time ago even with participation of Dr. Zhmodikov, however I'm not able to find the thread. Probably it has been deleted...<br>
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Greetings<br>
Alexandr<br>
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I have expressed the following before in other threads.<br>
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I think the romans made a system of changing the front men. I haven't figured it out though. In the following I at least want to try to identify some first principles of any ancient battle.<br>
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Firstly I believe, as armies of all times have, and modern armies do today, that a system gives an advantage in a battle because anything that reduces the imponderables/unpredictables of a battle is useful to survive! A system gives both concrete goals to achieve and hence psychological robustness to both groups and individuals. Training is useful!<br>
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The two ancient battle goals, maintain formation and maintain the pressure on the enemy until he breaks his, are tightly interconnetced! Indeed for any system to work you have to keep the initiative: the enemy is certainly NOT going to let you do what you would like to do hence you must neutralized him. The enemy must be kept too busy to desparately maintain his own formation than to try to keep you from doing the very same!<br>
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In an ancient battle you can imagine lulls, and all sorts of things happening, but certain basic things are clear in my mind: second line men moving with difficuty around/over wounded or dead men of the front line, tired men with damaged shields or broken/lost weapons trying to get out of harms way. One urgency is to recompose the front line before the next enemy barage or charge. Another urgency is to charge the enemy in an effective way before the enemy's line is recomposed! When it is not yet recomposed and is still hampered by confusion, THAT is the best moment to charge! If instead you let them recompose then the new fight is going to be more even. Best be quicker than them in recomposing and catch them off balance!<br>
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To win you must erode the enemy's abilty to stage a coherent attack by making them be passively on the defensive in an increasingly confused way until the enemy breaks. To win the keys are to take the initiative and avoid the enemy taking it away from you. To work a system has to be keep the initiative, yes, and to do so it has to impose the rythm of the fight.<br>
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Now try to imagine how, without special training, without some pre-rehersed method, a group brave men could keep up a long fight in a heated battle. Imagine what could make things go wrong: what would make the cohesion break? what would make the individual bravery errode? what would make the survival rate of the individuals drop so fast as to make most panic? Imagine the enemy is just at harms length and the group has just been bombarded by all kinds of missiles and there are wounded, dead and all kinds of confusion. Imagine the formation too dense and there is no plan and no way on how to rotate the frontliners that were so brave/rash/unlucky to be stuck up front. These guys would be thinking "Wasn't this f**king battle supposed to end quickly?" Imagine on the other hand the formation too dilute so that none of the advantages of mutual protection are working and imagine this broken formation being charged by a coherent enemy formation. "Run for it!".<br>
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Things deteriorate very fast once a minium decoherence set in. The formation that begins to crack first is in big BIG trouble. I find it hard to imagine a way to keep it from exploding without RESERVES. Mind you roman reserves seem to have not been direcly in contact with the battle lines. This makes sense because it ensuredthe would-be-reserves not get infected by the confusion of those involved in the fighting. Panic can propagate to and thru those in contact with those in the very front line, in the killing zone. Best keep a healthy gap between the panic zone and the true RESERVES. The romans were good at this.<br>
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In the roman system I believe refreshing tactics happened at all levels. Not only with RESERVES, but also at the individual level. I really find it hard to believe that a roman legionary individual in the very front line was left to himself to collapse out of fatigue, wounds or death, to get replaced! If lulls did occur in the fighting, then THAT was a moment to change! Better yet to impose a rythm to the lulls by aggresive fighting. Each legionary would perform better if he knew that the system allowed for him to be replaced in a well reheresed way. The fact each legionary was equipped and trained so that he was, at least on paper, equivalent to everyone else, means to me that, on paper, he was expected to rotate up-front. Less organized armies did not have a mechanism for rotation: frontlines were the bravest, or best fit, or something else. The battle was supposed to end quickly anyway; indeed the guys behind were there only to ensure a minimum mass.<br>
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I am not saying the romans did not try to win quickly and I am not saying that they put up front, before the battle started, just anyone. What I am saying is that the romans had the flexibility to fight a prolonged battle, on the upbeat without resorting to superhuman feats by the unfortunate fellows stuck up front! To work the roman system had to train everyone to a minimum level.<br>
To work it had to be agressive (kept the initiative) by trying to make cracks in the enemy formation.<br>
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<p></p><i>Edited by: <A HREF=http://p200.ezboard.com/bromanarmytalk.showUserPublicProfile?gid=goffredo>goffredo</A> at: 8/9/04 7:26 am<br></i>
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