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Hi, I´m very fond of in the Late Roman period, but specially in the fifth century, I know something about this. I think you can help me.

How were the Roman army in this century?

I know that there were two types of units: limitaeni and comitatenses.

I would like to be "illuminated". Big Grin

Regards.[/i]
Quote:Sure.
Just read these threads first:

http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/viewtopic. ... mitatenses
http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/viewtopic. ... mitatenses
http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/viewtopic. ... mitatenses
http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/viewtopic. ... mitatenses
http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/viewtopic. ... mitatenses

It´s vey interesting Robert, but I hope you can explain me with more details. What legions were at V AD? Where they were?... :roll:
I'd like to add new questions to this thread, instead of opening a new one.

For the late Republican legion, and the Early Imperial one, we know the armies were organized into legions of ten cohortes, three maniples each, and each of them of two centuriae of some 60-80 men, which usually adopted the duplex acies or triplex acies formations...

the late Empire armies were composed of legions of about 1,200 men, maybe 1,000 composed of centuriae of some 100 men. And not always was this way, and not all of them.

do we have any information about battle formations, and how this was thought in a tactical deployment for battle?

I know the usual cavalry to the wings thing, but I was looking for something more "fleshy"...

thanks!
I'm not positive, but from things I've read, the field army instituted a new structure for the legion that made legions pretty much "battalion" sized units. The sub-division of the legion was the ordo of 200 men. Each legion contained 6 ordines.

Auxilia units were half the size of a legion and comprised 3 ordines.

This would be true for commitatensian and palatine units. I'm not sure how the limitatensian units were organized. They may have retained the older structure of the legions.

I don't have any evidence, but it's tempting to think of the legions operating tactically in groups of three ordines, which the size of auxilia might suggest. 1200 is a little unwieldy for a tactical unit and 200 is a little small.
Quote:It´s vey interesting Robert, but I hope you can explain me with more details. What legions were at V AD? Where they were?... :roll:
Unknown. Our best evidence, the Notitia Dignitatum, stops at c. 394 AD, with some possibile emendations for the West up to c. 425 AD. After that, extremely little info. Can't give you a list, for it does not exist.

Legions? Forget about legions. just a name, many of them similar to unit not called legions. Think Comitatenses. Think Limitanei. Think seniores, iniores. Think Herculiani, not legio II Herculia. Think Minervi, not Legio I Minerva. Think Secunda Britones, not Legio II Augusta.

Just don't think modern. For instance, we don't know what unit was which size. Old-style legions of nearly 6.000 men were split up, in two's first, but probably along cohort lines later. vexillations with the same name were later as big as the parent unit. A 1.000 will have occurred at some time, 500 too. Don't think of this process as one big re-organisation which was carried out across say ten years, but asan ongoing evolution, leaving one unit totally 'ancient' but the next one unrecognisable. We find cohorts and alae in Britain and along the Danube, intermingled with cunei and other new-style units. If it wasn't, we can't seem to make head or tail of what the evidence give us.

But no doubt at some point the old style had all gone, reorganised, defeated, disbanded. Just don't ask me when. Big Grin
Publius Sartorio sal.

aue!

Quote:I'm not positive, but from things I've read, the field army instituted a new structure for the legion that made legions pretty much "battalion" sized units. The sub-division of the legion was the ordo of 200 men. Each legion contained 6 ordines.

Auxilia units were half the size of a legion and comprised 3 ordines.

That's pretty interesting, because I thought it was the centuria. However, a 1,200 legion is about 1/4 of a late Republican or 1/5 of an early Imperial legion, and that 200 men ordo is the size of a plentyful maniple (120-160 men depending on centuria size), which looks like an excellent compromise, both for tactical deploy as for strength distribution (and, with the usual vacancies, the average strength of an ordo would about the size of a classical, full maniple anyway).

Quote:This would be true for commitatensian and palatine units. I'm not sure how the limitatensian units were organized. They may have retained the older structure of the legions.

Considering the rôle of the limitanei, I would say they would have gotten the newer structure even before the comitatenses or palatinae, as their frontier rôle would need fast movement and redeploy along the limes, and these smaller units look easier to move around than the classical 10 cohortes legion... Also, as the limitanei had a proportionally bigger number or cavalry, they must have adopted the innovative tactical and stragical formations earlier, but I'm just hipothesizing here...

Quote:I don't have any evidence, but it's tempting to think of the legions operating tactically in groups of three ordines, which the size of auxilia might suggest. 1200 is a little unwieldy for a tactical unit and 200 is a little small.

It is, indeed! Besides, 3 ordines would be the size of an "oversized" (pardon the pun) classical Imperial Cohors I, which was bigger by itself. We know it's a very maneageable unit size, and an effective unit force...

Will keep searching, thanks for the insights!
Quote:Legions? Forget about legions. just a name, many of them similar to unit not called legions. Think Comitatenses. Think Limitanei. Think seniores, iniores. Think Herculiani, not legio II Herculia. Think Minervi, not Legio I Minerva. Think Secunda Britones, not Legio II Augusta.

Just don't think modern. For instance, we don't know what unit was which size. Old-style legions of nearly 6.000 men were split up, in two's first, but probably along cohort lines later. vexillations with the same name were later as big as the parent unit. A 1.000 will have occurred at some time, 500 too. Don't think of this process as one big re-organisation which was carried out across say ten years, but asan ongoing evolution, leaving one unit totally 'ancient' but the next one unrecognisable. We find cohorts and alae in Britain and along the Danube, intermingled with cunei and other new-style units. If it wasn't, we can't seem to make head or tail of what the evidence give us.

But no doubt at some point the old style had all gone, reorganised, defeated, disbanded. Just don't ask me when. Big Grin

Very interesting Robert, I still believed that in spite of these units, they will be "fixed" :roll: in a legion (for example, I Italica,...)

Quote:I'm not positive, but from things I've read, the field army instituted a new structure for the legion that made legions pretty much "battalion" sized units. The sub-division of the legion was the ordo of 200 men. Each legion contained 6 ordines.

Auxilia units were half the size of a legion and comprised 3 ordines.

It´s a 1/4 of a Late Republican Army, more or less, no? Confusedhock:


Quote:Considering the rôle of the limitanei, I would say they would have gotten the newer structure even before the comitatenses or palatinae, as their frontier rôle would need fast movement and redeploy along the limes, and these smaller units look easier to move around than the classical 10 cohortes legion... Also, as the limitanei had a proportionally bigger number or cavalry, they must have adopted the innovative tactical and stragical formations earlier, but I'm just hipothesizing here...

I agree with your hipothesis David, I think that the limitaeni would have adopted these tactics earlier. :wink:
Quote:Very interesting Robert, I still believed that in spite of these units, they will be "fixed" :roll: in a legion (for example, I Italica,...)
Well you can believe that but there's no evidence whatsoever for that belief. Legions like I Italica were cut up or disbanded before the 5th c. In any case, it was custumary for two units to be banded together, we see these pairs all through the 4th c. But never were several units combined into one 'old style' legion.
Quote:I'm not positive, but from things I've read, the field army instituted a new structure for the legion that made legions pretty much "battalion" sized units. The sub-division of the legion was the ordo of 200 men. Each legion contained 6 ordines.
When would you say this subdivision existed?

Quote:Auxilia units were half the size of a legion and comprised 3 ordines.
Why?

Quote:This would be true for commitatensian and palatine units. I'm not sure how the limitatensian units were organized. They may have retained the older structure of the legions.
Why not very similar to the comitatenses? Since we see many of them being 'upgraded to 'the comitatyenses (pseudocomitatenses), why not a similar organisation? True, we see cohorts and alae on the frontiers, but also many new-style uits. So why see a universal organisation for both comitatenses, palatini, auxilia and limitanei when clrealy we see much differentiation in organisation inside these groups?
Same goes for the unit strenght. I've yet to read a publication where it is proposed that unit strenghts are know...
I get the sense that practical unit size in the 5th Century was becoming more dependent on what an officer could get to do the job he had been tasked with, with regional variation, recruiting success vs losses and the odd corrupt officer keeping dead men on the books to keep drawing their pay.

By the time of Maurice's Strategikon, in the late 6th Century & in the East, the sizes and names of unit types appear to be fairly fluid - the 'bandon' seems to be the basic unit, of 3-400 & apparently also referred to as a 'tagma' (implying a formation?) or an 'arithmos' (= numerus perhaps as in 'unit').

A 'chiliarchy' should be 1000, but is equated with a 'moira' of 2-3000, & these grouped into a 'meros' of 6-7000.

Being a sneaky Byzantine, Maurice actualy advises that the various units are of unequal strengths, so as to make it harder to estimate total numbers in the force. He also regards it more important for men to serve with others that they know than to be in neat units.

He describes 'the past, when the legions were composed of large numbers of men' & an infantry tagma was theoretically 256 (16 files of 16), 64 of which made 'a battle line' (Dennis) of 16,384, supported by 8000 light infantry.

I haven't looked at it, but something in the Vindolanda tablets made me think that even the neat formations of earlier centuries could be well under theoretical strength due to illness etc
Perhaps a hint that the nominal (very likely less in reality) number of men in a unit was either 400 or 600 is that there was a rank of DUCENTENARIUS - Leader of 200 men in addition to the CENTENARIUS - Leader of 100 men. If your unit doesn't have a group of 200 men within its structure the rank of DUCENTENARIUS would be pointless
Quote:Being a sneaky Byzantine, Maurice actualy advises that the various units are of unequal strengths, so as to make it harder to estimate total numbers in the force. He also regards it more important for men to serve with others that they know than to be in neat units.

Clever guy that Maurice. His Strategikon is a fantastic read.

Abruna, you make a good point regarding the Ducentenarius ... I need to learn more Latin.
Yes Nick,
Good thought, but since a centurion was not commanding 100 men, a ducentenarius would not necessarily be commanding 200.. Maybe he was on double pay? [Image: hypocrite.gif]
But yes, I tend to agree with you.

Nicasie estimates the following unit strengths:
scholae - 500
legiones (comitatenses) - 1000
legiones (limitanei) - 3000
auxilia palatinae - 800
infantry units (limitanei) - 300
cavalry units (limitanei) - 350

Legions
The traditional legion was 6000 strong. Johannes Lydus also mentions this high number (De Mag. I.46). Vegetius mentions two very strong legions of 6000, but he stresses that legions 'in his day, although the name legion still existed, were much smaller in size.' (I.17, II.3). Vegetius' 'old legion' numbered 10 cohorts, the first numbering 1105 infantry and 132 cavalry, the others 555 and 66, totalling 6100 infantry and 726 cavalry (II.6). However, it is generally assumed that if this organisation ever existed, it probably belonged to the early 3rd century.

It was Mommsen who first noticed that old style legions were probably broken up into 6 detachments of a 1000, each of these commanded by one of the 6 tribunes of the old unit. Only the legions of the limitanei were still commanded by praefecti. Only Nischer proposed that 'new' legions existed of two units of 500, drawn from every border legion, but his theory lacks evidence. However, the Beatty papyrus mentions detachments of 500 men. One vexillatio consisted of 1000 men from legio III Gallica and legio I Illyrica. Another, legio II Traiana, consisted of two 500-men units. Two vexillationes of legio III Diocletiana numbered 1100.

Border legions seems to be much larger than field army legions, because they are usually divided over as much as 7 stations.

When in 359 AD 7 legions (including equites indigenae, two units of superventores, praeventores and comites sagittarii) were trapped at Amida, they numbered 20-25000 men together with the inhabitants and refugees (XIX.2.14). Two of these legions suffered 400 casualties during a sortie (XIX.6.11). If we assume there were 7500 civilians, this hardly allows for more than 1500 per legion, if the garrison was not a legion of 6000 or if there weren't even more civilians than assumed.

All in all, it seems that Late Imperial legions numbered between 1000 and 1200.

Infantry cohorts
During the time of Septimus Severus, a reorganisation apparently resulted in cohorts 550 strong (up from 480), possibly those meant by Vegetius (II.6). But see below.
Ammianus mentions that Julian sent detachments of 300 men from each unit to Constantine (XX.4.2). In 378, Gratian sent detachments of 500 men to storm the position of the Lentienses (XXXI.10.13). Also in 378, Valens sent detachments of 300 from each legion to meet the Goths at Adrianople (XXXI.11.2).
It is thought that some of these detachments never returned to their parent unit but retained the original name (hence the repetition of such names in the Notitia Dignitatum lists). It is also possible that many of the field army units were split up into iuniores and seniores, reducing the original strength of these units.
Infantry units mentioned by Ammianus number 300, 500, 800, 1000 and 1500 (XVII.1.4, XVIII.2.11, XXIV.1.6, XIV.1.2, XXIV.6.4, XXV.6.13-15, XXV.7.3).
Johannes Lydus mentioned cohortes of 300 and vexillationes of 500 (De Mag. I.46).

Cavalry units
The old style alae numbered 500 and seem to have remained that way. On paper at least. On the basis on the Beatty papyri, Duncan Jones calculated that around 300 AD in the Thebaid (Egypt), a unit of equites was 121 strong, an ala 116 and a cohors 164. These may not have been complete units, or else very much understrength.
Nothing much is known about cavalry unit strengths. The ala III Assyriorum was organized in old-style 11 turmae, giving it a possible strength of 350 (ChLA XVIII 660). Ammianus mentions that the cataphracti defeated at Strasbourg were 600 strong, which is echoed by Johannes Lydus who says that alae were that number, and turmae 300 but also 500 (De Mag. I.46). Ammianus also mentions two turmae at Amida numbering 700 together (XVIII.8.2). Procopius has various sizes, between 200 and 800 strong (800: Bella VI.5.1, VI.7.25-6). Some units are larger, between 1000 and 1500, but it is unclear if these are units grouped together, or maybe allied forces (1500: Bella V.27.22-3 and VII.34.42). Maurikios mentions cavalry units should be between 300 and 400, but in any case not less than 200 and not above 400; if understrength, they should be combined.

Finally, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions that in a battle in 457 AD, '4 units' of Britons were destroyed, while another version of the text mentions a number of 4000. (ASC. Laud Chronicle year 456, Parker Chronicle year 457).

Two main conclusions can be drawn of Late Roman units (Nicasie):
a) in practise, the actual number of troops fielded will have been lower than the paper strengths.
b) it seems possible that Late Roman units did not have fixed establishment strengths at all, but varied between a certain minimum and maximum according to need.
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