Full Version: How did legionaries defend walls?
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Given the limited normal missile armament of two javelins how did Caesar's troops defend the fortifications he enclosed Alesia with? In some translations of Caesar's Gallic Wars he refers to siege spears. Were these very heavy javelins intended to be thrown from the advantage of a greater height whose mass would render them particularly effective against ground targets and difficult to throw back?

Would the number of javelins each legionary carried be increased? Were they armed with slings perhaps? I know many would be manning the light siege engine type weapons but certainly not all and these could not generate enough volume of fire to repulse a mass assault.
The references in Caesar are to "pila muralis", as I recall, basically "wall javelins". I don't think there is much evidence as to their form, but I'd guess something quick and dirty, like a shortish length of iron rod hammered into a point and stuck into a wood shaft. These could be cranked out very quickly and simply stacked around the perimeter for use as needed. No reason for them to be especially heavy. Rocks are always an option, too.

"Volume of fire" is nice if you can get it, but not necessarily essential. I'm sure legionaries would be perfectly willing to deal hand-to-hand with anyone who made it across the ditch and up to the top of the rampart. Any opponent coming up that way would be at a severe disadvantage, possibly crawling on hands and knees, shield not properly held up, feet slipping, not able to raise a weapon. Even a bop with the scutum would take care of him!


Also, men on walls can throw stones, turfs, baulks of wood, and other simple projectiles. See for example Gallic War 7.81 "Our troops, as each man's post had been assigned him some days before, man the fortifications; they intimidate the Gauls by slings, large stones, stakes which they had placed along the works, and bullets." That does sound like legionaries used slings, and the catapult operators were probably Romans too. And Caesar had slingers, archers, and javelinmen.
By killing anyone that tried to cross over the wall? :mrgreen:

I was under the impression that as a rule the Romans did not use fortifications for actual battle but more to control the movement of the enemy. The Romans would prefer to move onto the field and battle their foes directly.

This can be seen in how legion camps were not built to be intentionally defensive positions until much later in the empire.