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Ave
I have noticed that velites are conspicuously absent in illustrations of the Imperial Roman army. I am assuming this means they were phased out some time before the principate.
Does anyone have any details as to why they were phased out? It's rather surprising to me considering the important role they played as light infantry and skirmishers.
The Imperial army used auxiliaries for light infantry, so I don't think the case is so much that they were phased out of the army as that role was assigned to the auxiliaries

I don't recall if I have seen any depictions of auxiliary infantry armed exactly like a velite, but there are a number of different types depicted on Trajan's Column.
As far as I know, velites disappeared after the reforms of Gaius Marius in 107BC (?).
Quote:The Imperial army used auxiliaries for light infantry, so I don't think the case is so much that they were phased out of the army as that role was assigned to the auxiliaries

I don't recall if I have seen any depictions of auxiliary infantry armed exactly like a velite, but there are a number of different types depicted on Trajan's Column.
Any pictures available Dan?
Connolly reckons that the legionary could perform the same function as the velite since the heavy pilum could be used as a thrusting spear.
IIRC the last mention of velites is for Sulla's army around 80BC in Plutarch.
There was a long discussion about Velites and what afterwards passed for them a couple of months back, I think. [Edit] Looks like I was thinking of Antesignani. Anyway, there are a few threads about them and Velites knocking about. Just type Velites into the search function.

Not sure why it matters that the Pilum could be used as a thrusting spear, Dan. As far as I recall, Polybius' Velites were armed with Javelins?

Matthew James Stanham
Quote:IIRC the last mention of velites is for Sulla's army around 80BC in Plutarch.

The last mention may be by Plutarch around 80BC, but it is possible that they could have lasted much longer in some theatres than in others. Their usefulness in rugged terrain such as Spain may have resulted in them being retained for longer than in, for example, the East where they were vulnerable to cavalry attacks. I hope that NG is not arguing from negative evidence that they ceased at the time Plutarch last wrote of them!! (Hi 'Nicholas' - Ian)

On them using javelins, I always thought that the velites were armed with a much lighter version of the pilum? I also thought that it was these, lighter versions of the pilum that were designed to bend, not the ordinary ones? Mind you, most of the above is based on memories from my (far too distant) days at University, so I could easily be making the entire thing up!

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Ian (Sonic) Hughes
Excuse me Nik Gaukroger, but I have to correct you.
The last mention of the Velites is for Crassus's army in Plutarch.
You can see paragraph 20 and 25

However I believe that the velites didn't disappear from the Roman Imperial army, but simply the ancient writers called them with other name. According to my opinion they became the Lanceariis quoted in the book of Joseph Flavio

Valete

Ross Cowan

Quote: The last mention of the Velites is for Crassus's army in Plutarch. You can see paragraph 20 and 25

I agree that 1st cent. BC legionaries could act as light infantry if required, but how can you be sure that the light troops at Plut. Crass. 20.1 are legionary velites? Allied troops could be described as velites or armed like them (cf. Sallust, BJ 105.2). Frontinus, Stratagems 2.3.17, on Sulla's battles in Boiotia in 86 BC, seems to be the last clear reference to velites, but Harmand suggests that 'velites' was a copyist's error for 'milites', i.e. soldiers:

"In the battle against Lucius Sulla [86 BC], Archelaus placed his scythe-bearing chariots in front, for the purpose of throwing the enemy into confusion; in the second line he posted the Macedonian phalanx, and in the third line auxiliaries armed after the Roman way, with a sprinkling of Italian runaway slaves, in whose doggedness he had the greatest confidence. In the last line he stationed the light-armed troops, while on the two flanks, for the purpose of enveloping the enemy, he placed the cavalry, of whom he had a great number.

To meet these dispositions, Sulla constructed trenches of great breadth on each flank, and at their ends built strong redoubts. By this device he avoided the danger of being enveloped by the enemy, who outnumbered him in infantry and especially in cavalry. Next he arranged a triple line of infantry, leaving intervals through which to send, according to need, the light-armed troops and the cavalry, which he placed in the rear. He then commanded the postsignani, who were in the second line, to drive firmly into the ground large numbers stakes set close together, and as the chariots drew near, he withdrew the line of antesignani within these stakes. Then at length he ordered the velites and light-armed troops to raise a general battle-cry and discharge their spears. By these tactics either the chariots of the enemy were caught among the stakes, or their drivers became panic-stricken at the din and were driven by the javelins back upon their own men, throwing the formation of the Macedonians into confusion. As these gave way, Sulla pressed forward, and Archelaus met him with cavalry, whereupon the Roman horsemen suddenly darted forth, drove back the enemy, and achieved victory."
Quote:Harmand suggests that 'velites' was a copyist's error for 'milites',
I'm not a philologist, but isn't it more likely that an unusual term gets changed to a more ordinary one, rather than the other way around? And certainly milites is more common than velites.

Ross Cowan

Quote:I'm not a philologist, but isn't it more likely that an unusual term gets changed to a more ordinary one, rather than the other way around? And certainly milites is more common than velites.

Good point, but I think Harmand's suggestion is attractive when the apparent velites are followed by levem armaturam. The order for a general clamor suggests the whole army, i.e. milites (post- and antesignani) and light armed, rather than just one of the battle lines.

R
Ave,

If I'm not mistaken, velites were composed of the young men who had yet to prove themselves in battle. After the Marian Reform*, the citizen-soldier were replaced by the proffessional, thus the velites as a group of soldiers dissappeared. Their tactical role did not.

Some suggest that after the Reform, the screening and scirmishing function were filled by auxilliaries, and for the most part, it probably was. However, I find it hard to believe that the post-Marian legion was an all out heavy line-infantry unit. It would mean that the legion was without the means to guard its flanks on march without auxilliaries.

My two cents, anyway.



*On the Marian Reform, Plutarch is a good indication for the theory that Marius has been accredited with more than his share. Although he reformed the recruiting of soldiers to the legions, the over-all structure and equipment was probably a gradual process. Thus velites (by that or another name) could have been in use generations after the after Marius.