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Vegetius describes (I.26) the formation of an "acies quadrata": "Tertio praecipiendum, ut [milites] quadratam aciem repente constituant, quo facto in trigonum, quem cuneum uocant, acies ipsa mutanda est."
From what we could understand there is a link between the acies quadrata and the cuneum, but while "cuneum" is a pretty common term in sources, we don' t have many other account of an acies quadrata.
So, do you know other source describing an acies quadrata?
The Cuneus means "Boar's Head" and seems to have been (usually) a mass of soldiers in a roughly trapezoildal shape jutting out from the main line, to act as a "punch" and break the enemy center.

The quadrata could have been similar; 4 lines, the back one being the longest, the third second longest, the second the second shortest, and the first line the shortest, which would have created a similar shaped "trapezoid."
Actually I have another interpretation of the acies quadrata, but i can' t be sure and I could be wrong, because the only source i found about it is the one from Vegetius...but is interesting to note that in Maurice's strategikon is desribed a similar manouvre...and so i' would like to find other references.
Quote:The Cuneus means "Boar's Head" and seems to have been (usually) a mass of soldiers in a roughly trapezoildal shape jutting out from the main line, to act as a "punch" and break the enemy center.

The quadrata could have been similar; 4 lines, the back one being the longest, the third second longest, the second the second shortest, and the first line the shortest, which would have created a similar shaped "trapezoid."

Actually in Latin the word 'Cuneus' doesn't mean 'boar head', Evan.

The expression 'boar head' can be translated in Latin using the expression 'Caput Porcinum'. :wink:
Yes 'Caput Porcinum' is the usual term for 'Boar's Head'. I am not sure why MMFA states that cuneus which I believe is generally understood to be a wedge formation is a boar's head? MMFA?
I've always heard it translated as "Boar's Head." Vermaat would know, but he's busy with real life right now.

Someone can elaborate further. Diocle is correct in that the literal meaning is "Wedge," but not everything can be taken literally.

I think the explanation was that Cuneus was adopted from a Germanic or Celtic word (Cunig or something, I don't remember) and in that language it means "Boars Head."

In the Huns it refers to a tactical unit, partly based on ties between clans (as Otto M.H. suggests). This is not the same thing though.
Quote:I've always heard it translated as "Boar's Head." Vermaat would know, but he's busy with real life right now.

Someone can elaborate further. Diocle is correct in that the literal meaning is "Wedge," but not everything can be taken literally.

I think the explanation was that Cuneus was adopted from a Germanic or Celtic word (Cunig or something, I don't remember) and in that language it means "Boars Head."

In the Huns it refers to a tactical unit, partly based on ties between clans (as Otto M.H. suggests). This is not the same thing though.

That would be....bizarre, I've never seen that one proposed. It can't be a Latin native word because a) the /u/ is short and b) the eus ending is largely tacked on to loanwords due to how the Latin inflectional system works. Given the problems with vowel quantity its unlikely to be Latin, though some have theorised that its a false cognate and originally would have been pronounced with a long /u/ and therefore rendering it cognate with other PIE words like the Sanskrit /su:ka/. That being said there is a Latin folk spelling with ou for u which suggests a lost length...but as to how representative it is, especially since Italian inherited conio which suggests the shorter was more widespread.

I'm aware of someone arguing for an Etruscan etymology, perhaps via Greek for corner, but the vowel quality doesn't seem to much up. I'm jokingly tempted to suggest its from the same root as scrotum but...while that would sort of match its semantically pretty far off.

Essentially, an etymology is difficult to ascertain and relatively interesting. I'm curious as to who could suggest it to be a Germanic loanword for boars head. Not that it matters tbh since Etymology is silly in 9/10 cases.
Quote: I am not sure why MMFA states that cuneus which I believe is generally understood to be a wedge formation is a boar's head?

It's from Vegetius:

A 'wedge' [cuneus] is the name for a mass of infantry who are attached to the line, which moves forward, narrower in front and broader behind, and breaks through the enemy lines... Soldiers call this tactic a 'pig's head' [caput porcinum]'. (Epitoma Rei Militaris, III.19)

V goes on to describe the 'forceps' as an anti-wedge tactic, plus the 'saw' and 'globe'. The 'wedge' was probably intended to relate to the use of wooden wedges by carpenters and masons to split wood and stone. 'Pig's head' would describe more properly the blunt shape of the formation, plus perhaps evoking the ferocity of a charging boar or wild pig!

'Boar's head' or 'snout' is also used to translate the (apparently) Viking tactic svinfylka, more properly 'swine array', which seems to have been something very similar. I believe this was used in Anglo-Saxon warfare. Whether it had any connection with the Roman term besides a coincidental metaphorical similarity is anybody's guess...
Quote:
Longovicium post=350014 Wrote:I am not sure why MMFA states that cuneus which I believe is generally understood to be a wedge formation is a boar's head?

It's from Vegetius:

A 'wedge' [cuneus] is the name for a mass of infantry who are attached to the line, which moves forward, narrower in front and broader behind, and breaks through the enemy lines... Soldiers call this tactic a 'pig's head' [caput porcinum]'. (Epitoma Rei Militaris, III.19)
This has to be understood in context. Caput porcinum is a wedge-shaped infantry formation and appears to be a soldiers' slang term for what might properly be called a cuneus. However, this is not the only use of cuneus. As has already been said, its literal translation is 'wedge' and it is used in that sense in a variety of civilian contexts. It also appears in the Notitia Dignitatum as the name of a unit of cavalry. 'Pig's head' would not be an appropriate translation for this usage. MMFA overstates his case when he says that he has "always" heard cuneus translated as 'boar's head'. It can be understood as such in the limited circumstance of the wedge-shaped infantry formation, otherwise not. In short, caput porcinum is a cuneus but a cuneus is not necessarily a caput porcinum.
Quote:a soldiers' slang term for what might properly be called a cuneus.

Yes, I think a slang term or nickname is what Vegetius means here. Soldiers throughout history have developed their own unofficial terms for certain tactics, weapons etc, which may in time have been adopted by more official nomenclature. I'm reminded of the note in Ammianus that 'people call' the armoured cavalry clibanarii - this too might imply a sort of nickname.


Quote:It also appears in the Notitia Dignitatum as the name of a unit of cavalry.

True, and might this suggest something about the intended tactical use of these particular units? As sort of 'shock troops' perhaps?
Like Renatus and Nathan said^^
To get back on track...

My view is that what Vegetius is describing is a formation where you have three lines of 'heavy infantry', and then one line which is made up of 'skirmishers'.

I base this on this description of his Legion-

'DRAWING UP A LEGION IN ORDER OF BATTLE

We shall exemplify the manner of drawing up an army in order of battle in the instance of one legion, which may serve for any number. The cavalry are posted on the wings. The infantry begin to form on a line with the :first cohort on the right. The second cohort draws up on the left of the first; the third occupies the center; the fourth is posted next; and the fifth closes the left flank. The ordinarii, the other officers and the soldiers of the first line, ranged before and round the ensigns, were called the principes. They were all heavy armed troops and had helmets, cuirasses, greaves, and shields. Their offensive weapons were large swords, called spathae, and smaller ones called semispathae together with five loaded javelins in the concavity of the shield, which they threw at the first charge. They had likewise two other javelins, the largest of which was composed of a staff five feet and a half long and a triangular head of iron nine inches long. This was formerly called the pilum, but now it is known by the name of spiculum. The soldiers were particularly exercised in the use of this weapon, because when thrown with force and skill it often penetrated the shields of the foot and the cuirasses of the horse. The other javelin was of smaller size; its triangular point was only five inches long and the staff three feet and one half. It was anciently called verriculum but now verutum.

The first line, as I said before, was composed of the principes; the hastati formed the second and were armed in the same manner. In the second line the sixth cohort was posted on the right flank, with the seventh on its left; the eighth drew up in the center; the ninth was the next; and the tenth always closed the left flank. In the rear of these two lines were the ferentarii, light infantry and the troops armed with shields, loaded javelins, swords and common missile weapons, much in the same manner as our modern soldiers. This was also the post of the archers who had helmets, cuirasses, swords, bows and arrows; of the slingers who threw stones with the common sling or with the fustibalus; and of the tragularii who annoyed the enemy with arrows from the manubalistae or arcubalistae.

In the rear of all the lines, the triarii, completely armed, were drawn up. They had shields, cuirasses, helmets, greaves, swords, daggers, loaded javelins, and two of the common missile weapons. They rested during the acnon on one knee, so that if the first lines were obliged to give way, they might be fresh when brought up to the charge, and thereby retrieve what was lost and recover the victory. All the ensigns though, of the infantry, wore cuirasses of a smaller sort and covered their helmets with the shaggy skins of beasts to make themselves appear more terrible to the enemy. But the centurions had complete cuirasses, shields, and helmets of iron, the crest of which, placed transversely thereon, were ornamented with silver that they might be more easily distinguished by their respective soldiers.

The following disposition deserves the greatest attention. In the beginning of an engagement, the first and second lines remained immovable on their ground, and the trairii in their usual positions. The light-armed troops, composed as above mentioned, advanced in the front of the line, and attacked the enemy. If they could make them give way, they pursued them; but if they were repulsed by superior bravery or numbers, they retired behind their own heavy armed infantry, which appeared like a wall of iron and renewed the action, at first with their missile weapons, then sword in hand. If they broke the enemy they never pursued them, least they should break their ranks or throw the line into confusion, and lest the enemy, taking advantage of their disorder, should return to the attack and destroy them without difficulty. The pursuit therefore was entirely left to the light-armed troops and the cavalry. By these precautions and dispositions the legion was victorious without danger, or if the contrary happened, was preserved without any considerable loss, for as it is not calculated for pursuit, it is likewise not easily thrown into disorder.'
I have to be honest: That point of Vegetius confused me the first time I rode it and still confuse me now. We have ten cohorts, five of principi and five of hastati, and then in addition we have a third line of triarii...

Anyway I'll try to explain my interpretation of an acies quadrata: Vegetius (I.26) describes 3 kinds of "acies": simplex, "duplex" and at last quadrata. We can see how the second acies has a double deep compared to the first one(duplex means double) and how the third acies has a double deep compared the the second one...infact quadrata in latin means cubed.
How i said before, in the end of Maurice's Strategikon, is described a drill to double and to split in half the deep of a standard formation, the same manouvre a duplex acies should do to obtain an acies simplex or quadrata.
I think that this simple drill is at the bottom of the old manipular sistem...
Vegetius, according to Milner's translation, is describing the drills and formations of line infantry within the legion. What he seems to be illustrating is the standard formations required to maintain discipline and cohesion under battle and the progression of these formations as the recruits learn their drills:

First is the line formation with sufficient spacing that is neither too wide nor too narrow between legionaries in the line.

This is then developed via drill into a double-line for assault purposes.

Then comes the quadrata which which Milner translates into a simple square formation - the old agmen quadrata - for marching and protecting the baggage-train.

Next comes the wedge or cuneus formation - a marching formation in which two converging columns move towards a single point in the enemy formation to combine missile and attack.

Finally, the legionaries rehearse moving into the orbis for defensive purposes if the line is breached.

These drills seem self-explanatory: a line forms the basis of an acies; single or multiple lines can double up for added depth and power; then the square formation on the move (the British Army square in the 19th C being an example in Sudan); next into a converging 'wedge' of two advancing columns; finally the defensive circle of overlapping shields if the lines and formations have been breached.

Vegetius is specifically talking about recruits or tiros learning drill here and the emphasis seems to be on the basic line formations as opposed to an entire legion and its cohorts in deployment - at least according to my reading of Milner's translation.
Quote:Then comes the quadrata which which Milner translates into a simple square formation - the old agmen quadrata - for marching and protecting the baggage-train.

Maybe You are right, the acies quadrata is the agmen quadratum...but from wath I know while the word "agmen" defines a marching army, "acies" means a deplyoied army...
Indeed I'm pretty sure that cuneus wasn't made by two converging columns, but i think it had a square shape (in spite of the name)

Anyway, this is just an hypthesis, but you make me reflect...
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