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Rome versus Pyrrhus
#46
Quote:Mr Campbell wrote:
Only that I have no interest in the ages of hastati, principes and triarii.

Regardless, I’m sure if the numbers were wrong you would have made it known.

Quote:Mr Campbell wrote:
There are many reasons why a scholar "cannot, or has not been able to, successfully interpret" an ancient source, and not all of them involve deceit. It's not that every previous reader was incompetent, ignorant or deceitful. Just that they didn't realise the implications of what they were reading.)

I think the reason why they miss information is that they have a theory first and only see and understand what they are reading when it complies with that theory. Take that old chestnut Hannibal did not or could not attack Rome because he lacked siege equipment. This theory is postulated by Dodge, De Sanctis, Morris, Lamb, Bradford, Dorey and Dudley, Strauss and Ober, Armstrong, Michael Grant, Sinnigen and Arthur, Boak and Liddell. If memory serves me correct, I think Montgomery of El Alamien also makes this claim in his book on warfare.

Now the fact remains no ancient author states Hannibal did not have a siege train, and a careful reading of the primary sources gives a different picture. Appian (Hann. 5.29) reports the use of siege engines in Hannibal’s attack on the town of Petilia shortly after the battle of Cannae. Livy (23. 16.11-12) mentions siege weapons used by Hannibal during one of his attempts at capturing Nola in 216 BC. The assault failed and Hannibal moved onto Acerrae, where he prepared for an assault. In addition, the town was circumvallated (Livy 23. 17. 4-6). Livy (23. 18. 8-9) notes later that year Hannibal used mantelets and dug saps during the assault on Casilinum. In 215 BC Hannibal made an attempt to capture Cumae. During the assault phase Livy (23. 37. 2-3) describes the use of a high wooden tower by the Carthaginians. During the storming of the citadel of Tarentum, Hannibal used artillery and siege engines in the attack (Livy 25. 11. 10) (Polybius 8. 34. 1-2) and (Appian Hannibal, 6. 33). Moreover, to top it all, Livy reports that during the attack on Locri the Carthaginians build their siege equipment on the spot (Livy 29. 7.4).

Now to protect your theory that Hannibal had no siege engine, the technique of “bricking” comes into play. Here you use only those references in the primary sources that reinforce your theory and literally brick out those that debunk it. So in order to try to understand why Hannibal did not attack Rome, some modern historian invents a reason in total disregard to the primary sources. The tragedy is other historians blindly follow such an unsubstantiated theory. When you follow the paper trial, academics appear to rely more on secondary sources than primary sources. When you rely on secondary sources, you help spread the mistakes of the previous author, and in doing so, when challenged, you cannot defend your stance, as you have no idea how the original author came to such conclusions.

Quote:Mr Campbell wrote:
Similarly, few scholars (in my experience) state their case with "audacity", but rather with neutrality, occasionally even humility. Your experience seems to have been different, which is why I was interested to see examples cited.

Neutrality!!!! Humility!!!! Such commodities are in short supply. Take for example Daly, “Cannae, The experience of battle in the Second Punic War,” Gregory Daly. Preface page ix,

“Most previous work on Cannae has been concerned with such matters as tactics, the topography of the battlefield, and the strategic role of the battle in the context of the Second Punic War as a whole. Since the publication of The Face of Battle, John Keegan’s groundbreaking study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme, military historians have begun to pay attention to the experience of battle for the individuals who did the fighting. Recent studies of Cannae in this mould include articles by Victor Hanson and Martin Samuels, as well as Philip Sabin’s important study of battle mechanics in the Second Punic War (Hanson,1992; Samuels, 1990; Sabin, 1996).

Wait for it, here comes, the humility and neutrality.

Daly continues: “While useful, these articles are all lacking in some way. Hanson’s article is mainly concerned with recreating the experience of Cannae for individual soldiers, and, being extremely short, does not make a serious attempt at analysing the battle’s manoeuvres in any broader sense. Samuels recognises the fact that it is impossible even to begin to understand what happened at Cannae without a solid understanding of the opposing armies; unfortunately, his analyses of the respective armies are fraught with problems, which in turn devalue his conclusions. Sabin’s article is a very useful investigation of battle mechanics in the Second Punic War as a whole, skilfully blending the broad Grand Tactical perspective with the more immediate Keegan-style approach, but owing to brevity does not deal with Cannae or any other battle in detail, instead emphasising features common to the war’s many battles.”

Notice how Daly criticises Samuels and Hanson, who wrote academic papers solely on Cannae. Unfortunately, Samuels and Hanson are given no right of reply. It’s too late, the book in the public sphere. It this what you call humility? And what happened to neutrality? So what we learn from this is Daly is in the Keegan school, so therefore, Keegan’s work is groundbreaking. Let’s turn to page 49, The Introduction to the Roman Army. Here Daly, feeling the love, again expresses it with neutrality and humility:

“Samuels’ conclusions are rarely convincing, frequently relying on careless use of primary sources and questionable assumptions about the nature of the relevant armies, as will be shown below. However, their very improbability is demonstrative of the importance of this approach. His attempt to portray the reality of Cannae is entirely dependent upon his analyses of the opposing armies, and as his analyses are flawed, so too is his reconstruction of the battle.”

Is this the cut and thrust methodology you speak of? The discrediting of others in order to strengthen your theory? What I find incredibly interesting is, after debasing Samuels, Daly cites Samuels in over 25 incidents when Daly has the same analyst. For some unknown reason, Samuels “devalued conclusions” are suddenly reputable. And if Daly believes Samuels work contains “questionable assumptions,” then what about Daly’s assumptions littered throughout the book. They are extremely questionable.

So why can’t academia use the primary sources to argue their case? Isn’t it time academia got off its dead horse mounted on a merry go round.

Quote:Justin wrote:
This is a good point; I believe it was Don Rumsfeld who said "you go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had," so maybe there is no need to reconcile, for example, Ross Cowan's 4,800 man legion with a 5,000 man legion from some other source.

Was it really that hard for an ancient historian to write 4800 men, than it is to write 5000 men?

Quote:Justin wrote:
Even today, it's hard to maintain a completely uniform military. For example, how many men are in one US Army regiment?

It still doesn’t rule out the US army has a standardised regiment on paper. Or are you saying the US makes it up on a daily basis?

Quote:Sean wrote:
Have you read Nathan Rosenstein's “Rome at War”? He makes a strong argument that the vast majority of Republican soldiers were in their teens and early twenties (whereas in your system equal numbers would be aged 18-27 and 28-36 because there were equal numbers of hastati and principes). I also can't see any practical benefit of assigning men to different units based on their exact age.

He may make a strong argument for you, but were is his proof in relations to the primary sources? If this is the book I remember examining at the university, I wasn’t impressed.

Quote:Sean wrote:
Many Romans didn't know their exact age, and there is no garuntee that the number of men in a particular age range would match the number of men needed to fill a particular unit.

How are you sure the Romans did not know their exact age? That is why the Romans developed the census. This allowed them to know how many men they could levy, and the organisation system of the army defined how many men they needed to levy. If the men did not know their age the census would be of no value. Dionysius (4 15 6) on the census asserts the Romans declared their names; property value, names of parents, wives and children and their ages. There are over 10,000 surviving Roman funeral inscriptions giving the age at death, and over 200 epitaphs of marriages recording the ages of the couples. Studies have been done that highlight there was a practice in some regions of Rome of adding two years to their age for each calendar year they lived. Then they rounded their age to numbers ending in 0 or 5. The Roman army is centred on broad age groups rather than specific age groups. Men aged between 18-27 for the hastati is not an exact age, it is a broad age category. And the Roman army loved to end numbers in 0 or 5.

Strabo V 4 and Livy V 33 have the Etruscans organised into 12 cities in each of the three districts. Each city had three consecrated gates and three temples to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva (Serv. in Aen. I 422). Mantua, till late an Etruscan city, had three tribes (Serv.in Aen. X 202). The Bruttians were divided into a confederation of twelve cities (Livy XXV 1). The Iapygians were divided into three branches (Polybius III 88) each of which comprised 12 smaller groups. The Latins had three regions which each region containing 10 cities?

What do all the above have in common? Tripartite division. What does this have to do with the Roman legion? Everything! According to Ovid (yes Ovid Mr. Campbell), the early Roman calendar had 10 months (the vegetation year), then according to Florus, under the reign of Numa it changed to 12 months. This means a new organisation enters the arena. However, rather than throw out the old, the Romans, as is their nature, included the new with the old. You can find this in the organisation of the Roman legion. Taking the 1200 hastati for example, 1200 hastati can be organised into 12 centuries, or 10 maniples of 120 men. The key numbers are 12 and 10. And the number 12 is a tripartite division.
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#47
Steven/Antiochus wrote:
Quote:If memory serves me correct, I think Montgomery of El Alamien also makes this claim in his book on warfare.

...indeed he expressed similar views, ("Maharbal was right when he told Hannibal after Cannae that he did not know how to use a victory" ( A History of Warfare; London 1968) and in addition to those you mention, countless others have blindly followed this view, while the real facts have been there for all to see...

Quote:Now the fact remains no ancient author states Hannibal did not have a siege train, and a careful reading of the primary sources gives a different picture. Appian (Hann. 5.29) reports the use of siege engines in Hannibal’s attack on the town of Petilia shortly after the battle of Cannae. Livy (23. 16.11-12) mentions siege weapons used by Hannibal during one of his attempts at capturing Nola in 216 BC. The assault failed and Hannibal moved onto Acerrae, where he prepared for an assault. In addition, the town was circumvallated (Livy 23. 17. 4-6). Livy (23. 18. 8-9) notes later that year Hannibal used mantelets and dug saps during the assault on Casilinum. In 215 BC Hannibal made an attempt to capture Cumae. During the assault phase Livy (23. 37. 2-3) describes the use of a high wooden tower by the Carthaginians. During the storming of the citadel of Tarentum, Hannibal used artillery and siege engines in the attack (Livy 25. 11. 10) (Polybius 8. 34. 1-2) and (Appian Hannibal, 6. 33). Moreover, to top it all, Livy reports that during the attack on Locri the Carthaginians build their siege equipment on the spot (Livy 29. 7.4).

...were anyone in any doubt as to Hannibal's siege skills, they have but to consider the siege of Saguntum which was the proximate cause of the War. Anyone who has visited the acropolis of Saguntum will know that it is a vast place, almost as large as the city itself, perched on a huge plateau with cliffs for sides, large enough to pasture animals and with plenty of water - an impregnable place in fact. Much to the astonishment of the Saguntines, and of Rome, Hannibal captured the place in eight months, after a regular siege. Indeed Roman confidence in its impregnability was such that it was in no hurry to send aid, ( justifiably so, contrary to those ill-informed critics who criticise Rome for so-doing) and the Saguntines seem to have been equally confident in defying Hannibal.

Most of these assumptions that Hannibal was no good at sieges, or had no siege train ( he could easily build one on the spot any time and often did so - see above ) stem from the rhetorical flourish put into Maharbal's mouth ( the Carthaginian cavalry commander ) by Livy referred to above. None of them seems to have thought that Hannibal, arguably quite possibly the Greatest Military Commander in History, knew his business well.

Consider the following facts:
Carthage 149-146 BC: population probably 200-250,000 ; took 80,000 Roman troops 3 years to capture despite the city having first surrendered all its weapons. Surrounding country supportive of Rome and able to provide food and supplies.
Syracuse 213-212 BC: population probably 250-300,000; took 50,000 or more Roman troops 1 year to capture, by an unexpected lucky ploy on a Syracusan Feast day after all attempts to take the city by assault had failed, and the Romans resigned themselves to starving the city out over years....surrounding country able to supply food and supplies.

Rome 216 BC: population probably 300-500,000 ( i.e. nearly twice the size ) garrisoned by two legions totalling 8,000 troops plus 1500 troops at Ostia, plus a Legion of marines, and another consular army in Cisalpine gaul (c.20,000) which could have reached Rome before Hannibal had settled into a siege......not to mention Rome's Italian allies and their manpower, or Rome's ability to arm its citizens ( consider the 8,000 Volones) !!..... Surrounding countryside hostile, unable to provide food and supplies with Roman armies and their Allies loose.... Hannibal's army, mauled by 8,000 casualties at Cannae probably numbered no more than 32,000 Infantry and perhaps 8,000 or so cavalry effectives. Hannibal would have been outnumbered and trapped between Rome and it's armies.

Readers here need not be a Hannibal to work out that an attack and siege of Rome would be futile, and meanwhile the fruits of the Cannae victory would be thrown away as the Army wintered outside Rome's walls, hungry and cold ( instead of in Italy's second city, Capua), awaiting the arrival of more Legions from Spain, Sardinia and Sicily in the Spring.......

Nor was the Senate frightened that a siege by Hannibal could succeed. In 211 BC Hannibal actually DID march on the city, though it was a desperate feint, to try to draw Roman armies away from the siege of Capua. According to Polybius (IX.6-7) not only did the three armies surrounding Capua stay put, but the Consuls boldly led the troops in the city out to confront him. His bluff had been called, and he withdrew, harried by the Romans.....

Obvious really, isn't it ? And all this information was readily available to all those 'Historians' who blindly followed one another without considering the original sources and their information, as Steven/Antiochus has pointed out......
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#48
Wow, you Antipodeans have been beavering away while I enjoyed the sleep of the just.

I had intended to leave this thread to the strictly "Rome vs. Pyrrhus" enthusiasts, but Steven has made a couple of points which shouldn't go without a reply.

Quote:Take that old chestnut Hannibal did not or could not attack Rome because he lacked siege equipment. ... ... ... ... Now to protect your theory that Hannibal had no siege engine, ... you use only those references in the primary sources that reinforce your theory and literally brick out those that debunk it.
I hope that, when you refer to "your theory" (etc.), you are not imputing these views to me. In fact, in defending (so vociferously) Hannibal's knowledge of siege techniques, you are (as it were) preaching to the converted. (You may be interested to know that my PhD thesis was on the subject of ancient siege warfare, so Mister Campbell is, in fact, a bona fide Doctor -- not that we stand on ceremony at RAT! :wink: ) Indeed, you will be very pleased to know that the next issue of Ancient Warfare magazine has an article on this very subject which (I hope) you will find heart-warming.

Quote:Neutrality!!!! Humility!!!! ... “Cannae, The experience of battle in the Second Punic War,” Gregory Daly. ... Notice how Daly criticises Samuels and Hanson, who wrote academic papers solely on Cannae. Unfortunately, Samuels and Hanson are given no right of reply. It’s too late, the book in the public sphere. It this what you call humility? ... ... Is this the cut and thrust methodology you speak of? The discrediting of others in order to strengthen your theory?
I'm not sure why you have directed your criticisms of this book to me. Naturally, I am not (and cannot be expected to be) an apologist for Gregory Daly. However, like other writers, he has put his ideas into the public domain, where they can be reviewed and rebutted publicly. That, I think, is the cut and thrust of academic debate. However, if Daly chooses to adopt a combative, abrasive style in presenting his case (which, I think, is your complaint), I would have thought that it would only rebound on him, leaving him open to further criticism (as you have so vehemently demonstrated).

Quote:According to Ovid (yes Ovid Mr. Campbell), the early Roman calendar ...
You disappoint me, Steven. Smile I thought you'd found an Ovid reference relating to the organisation of the legion! Now that would have disturbed my peaceful slumbers.
posted by Duncan B Campbell
https://ninth-legion.blogspot.com/
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#49
Quote:D. Campbell wrote
Wow, you Antipodeans have been beavering away while I enjoyed the sleep of the just.

Beavering!! We Antipodeans call it original research. Big Grin D

Quote:D. Campbell wrote
I hope that, when you refer to "your theory" (etc.), you are not imputing these views to me. In fact, in defending (so vociferously) Hannibal's knowledge of siege techniques, you are (as it were) preaching to the converted.

Sorry not referring to you Mr. Campbell. To quote you, “a slip of the keyboard.”

Quote:D. Campbell wrote
I'm not sure why you have directed your criticisms of this book to me. Naturally, I am not (and cannot be expected to be) an apologist for Gregory Daly.

I used Daly as an example to show you the academic world is not as saintly as you seem to portray, being, as you wrote, driven by humility and neutrality.

Quote:D. Campbell wrote
You disappoint me, Steven. I thought you'd found an Ovid reference relating to the organisation of the legion! Now that would have disturbed my peaceful slumbers.

Actually, I have found something even better! Big Grin D So I haven’t disappointed you. I have found an Ovid reference that outlines the whole Roman modus operandi, which governs both the political and military. Ovid is the only person whose works survive to have touched on the subject. After his digression on the maniple, Ovid (Fasti III 107) writes

“Hence through ignorance and lack of science they reckoned lustres, each of which was too short by ten months. A year was counted when the moon had returned to the full for the tenth time: that number was then in great honour, whether because that is the number of the fingers by which we are wont to count, or because a woman brings forth in twice five months, or because the numerals increase up to ten, and from that we start a fresh round.”

The most important factor of Ovid is his statement “because the numerals increase up to ten, and from that we start a fresh round.” Therefore, whenever they reach a numerical point the Romans start again. This numerical point is one hundred centuries. Now this process is found by comparing the number of centuries in Class I of the Servian constitution of 530 BC, which amounts to 80 centuries, and those of Cicero that amount to 70 centuries. It appears they have been reduced. What the figures show is somewhere between Servius and Cicero, the Romans have started a new cycle. When the 80 centuries of Class I reach 100 centuries, the cycle starts again. This is also found in the Tabula Hebana, which describes the voting method. The 33 tribes (2 exempt) cast their votes into 15 urns, representing the 15 voting centuries. This means 33 votes are reduced to 15 voting centuries. The Tabula Hebana document states there was originally 10 voting centuries but another 5 voting centuries are added in honour of Germanicus. The original 10 voting centuries represent the 90 to 100 centuries band of one cycle of 100 centuries. When the number of centuries becomes greater than 100, as Ovid states, the Romans start a fresh. With the additional 5 voting centuries, the 15 voting centuries is the beginning of a new cycle. In the previous cycle it was 30 centuries (the Romulean three tribes), then doubled to 60 centuries (King Tarquin Priscus as mentioned by Livy and Festus). What Priscus does is add to the original 30 centuries (prior), another 30 centuries (posterior). The next increase takes the centuries to 75 centuries (which is the period of Polybius), then to 90 centuries, then to 100 centuries. Therefore, the increments are 30-60-75-90-100. However, the Tabula Habena tells us the Romans are starting in increments of 15, increasing to 30 then 45, then 60 then 75, then 90 then 100. It is in this late cycle of the Tabula Habena that the legion Hyginus describes will occur. Now a cycle also ties in with the military. Legions are 4000 in number, increase to 5000, then up to 6000 men, then drop to the 5000 man mark, then 4200 as stated by Polybius, then up to 5200 men and finally reach 6000 men again.

The system is one of both simultaneously contracting and expanding. Notice also with the Tabula Hebana how two tribes are exempt from voting. Tribes like legions are paired. The tribal history shows tribes are created in increments of two. This is not mathematical coincidence, but a carefully orchestrated system, based on two formulae’s. Also, look at the pairing of two legions of 5000 men, which equates to 10,000 men, which equates to 10 months of the old Roman calendar. Following this is two legions of 6000 men, which equates to 12,000 men, which equates to the 12 months of the new calendar.

In both examples the 10,000 men of 10 months equates to each century numbering 1000 men, and 12,000 men of 12 months equates to 12 centuries of 1000 men. The figure of 1000 men is the maximum number allowable in a century, before like Ovid states, they start a fresh. The figure of 1000 men has its origin in each of the Romulean tribes having 1000 men per tribe. Therefore, we have a maximum of 100 centuries and a maximum of 1000 men per century. This means each century of 1000 men has ten votes, one per century. As I have already stated, the Romans incorporate any new systems into the old. Take the 12 regions in the reign of Domitian. A figure of 12 regions is a tripartite division therefore divisible by three, which represent the original three tribes and three regions of Rome.

I do hope the above Mr Campbell, does not disturb your peaceful slumbers. Cry Cry Cry I just wanted to make you aware that there is other methods of studying and interpreting the primary sources more powerful and rewarding than many of the popular methodologies applied today, which centre on criticising the primary sources or debunking the conjecture of another academic with their own personally perceived superior conjecture. What Ovid has to say is as important as Livy, Caesar, Appian or any other ancient writer. Instead of casually disregarding them, we should first learn to respect them, and thereby in doing so, we will come to understand what it is they are telling us.
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#50
Quote:
Quote:Justin wrote:
This is a good point; I believe it was Don Rumsfeld who said "you go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had," so maybe there is no need to reconcile, for example, Ross Cowan's 4,800 man legion with a 5,000 man legion from some other source.

Was it really that hard for an ancient historian to write 4800 men, than it is to write 5000 men?

I'm not sure if I'm certain what you are asking, but are we trying to determine the size of a legion according to the information available to that historian, or are we trying to determine the actual number of men present on the battlefield?

If an ancient historian says that there are 5,000 men in a Roman legion, that's fine, but we can't go to him and ask "All the time? Or does that number fluctuate occasionally?"

As Paullus noted earlier, Polybius said a Roman legion would be raised of "four thousand two hundred, or in times of exceptional danger to five thousand" men. But what does "exceptional danger" mean, in Polybius' time and afterward?

Quote:It still doesn’t rule out the US army has a standardised regiment on paper. Or are you saying the US makes it up on a daily basis?

Well that's my point. Even on paper, the size of a US army regiment depends on its mission at any given time. Some only have about 2,000 men, some have over 5,000. They don't even have a standard number of battalions per regiment. It's usually three, but some regiments have four or even five battalions.
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#51
Quote:I have found an Ovid reference that outlines the whole Roman modus operandi, which governs both the political and military. Ovid is the only person whose works survive to have touched on the subject. After his digression on the maniple, Ovid (Fasti III 107) writes ...
For anyone who might be interested in following this up, the reference should be Ovid, Fasti 119-126 (Latin text here / English translation here).

The poem is about how Romulus named the first month of the year after his father Mars. Lines 117-118 are interesting: "A long pole carried the hanging bundles from which the soldier takes the name of the maniple". (It's a poem, so there are all sorts of random Romulan thoughts rattling about.)

I'm less convinced of your incremental counting theory, though. Ovid says that "From that time, Romulus separated the 100 senators (patres) into ten circles, and instituted 10 spearmen (hastati) and he had a body of the equivalent number of front-men (principes) and just as many javelin-men (pilani) and those who legitimately merited horses (Fasti 127-130). I don't see how this can spin out into your gradually incrementing system. It all sounds a little vague and, ... well, poetic.

Quote:I do hope the above Mr Campbell, does not disturb your peaceful slumbers.
On the contrary, I was fast asleep by the time I got to "The original 10 voting centuries represent the 90 to 100 centuries band of one cycle of 100 centuries". I hope your examiners love numbers as much as you do! :wink:
posted by Duncan B Campbell
https://ninth-legion.blogspot.com/
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#52
Quote:D Campbell wrote:
I'm less convinced of your incremental counting theory, though. Ovid says that "From that time, Romulus separated the 100 senators (patres) into ten circles, and instituted 10 spearmen (hastati) and he had a body of the equivalent number of front-men (principes) and just as many javelin-men (pilani) and those who legitimately merited horses (Fasti 127-130). I don't see how this can spin out into your gradually incrementing system. It all sounds a little vague and, ... well, poetic.

You are using information not applicable to my case. I am referring to Ovid's remark about starting a fresh. A cycle so to speak. It is all interrelated. The number 75 in the first cycle as I stated belongs to the Polybian time frame. Take 75 and divided it by 4200 infantry = 56. Take 75 and divided it by 300 cavarly =4. 56 + 4 = 60. This is the period as Vegetius states when the cavalry are on the same roll as the infantry. In the second cycle, of 75, when divided by 6000 = 80. This is the time frame of the Hyginus legion. But the above is about the voting system. As for vague, well part of the equation is missing...on purpose.

Quote:D Campell wrote:
On the contrary, I was fast asleep by the time I got to "The original 10 voting centuries represent the 90 to 100 centuries band of one cycle of 100 centuries". I hope your examiners love numbers as much as you do!

The above is a tool I use to ensure the rest of the mathematics is correct. Just a helpful tool that gives me great insight into the organisation of the legions.
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#53
Quote:Justin Vernold wrote
I'm not sure if I'm certain what you are asking, but are we trying to determine the size of a legion according to the information available to that historian, or are we trying to determine the actual number of men present on the battlefield?

If a legion was 4800 men rather than 5000 men, then it would not be hard for an ancient historian to write 4800 men. However, no writer does.Therefore, a legion of 4800 men cannot exist. But a legion of 5000 men does exist as the primary sources state it does.

Quote:Justin Vernold wrote
If an ancient historian says that there are 5,000 men in a Roman legion, that's fine, but we can't go to him and ask "All the time? Or does that number fluctuate occasionally?"

I believe they are reporting paper strength legions. However, they are inconsistent. Some leave out non combatants others include them.

Quote:Justin Vernold wrote
Well that's my point. Even on paper, the size of a US army regiment depends on its mission at any given time. Some only have about 2,000 men, some have over 5,000. They don't even have a standard number of battalions per regiment. It's usually three, but some regiments have four or even five battalions.

I knew I shouldn't have answered that comment about the US army. Sorry but I find making comparisons of ancient armies to modern mechanised armies irrelevant and misleading. What the US army does could have no bearing to the procedures of the Roman army. If there is, can anyone prove it?
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#54
Quote:If a legion was 4800 men rather than 5000 men, then it would not be hard for an ancient historian to write 4800 men. However, no writer does.Therefore, a legion of 4800 men cannot exist. But a legion of 5000 men does exist as the primary sources state it does.

Polybius says a legion had 5,000 men "in times of exceptional danger," but Rome was in an almost perpetual state of warfare. What is "exceptional danger," anyway?
With the benefit of hindsight we can say, for example, that Cannae and Arausio were cases of "exceptional danger," but from Rome's perspective, a lot of smaller incursions might have seemed worse than they actually were.
And if, say, some demagogic Roman consul overhyped some minor incursion and made it seem extraordinarily threatening in order to highlight the necessity of adding more men to his legions, it wouldn't be the first time in history that a leader mongered fear.

So if Cicero's letter said Pompey had 30,000 men, and Caesar said that was five legions (6,000 per legion), that means we have three possibilities:

1- Plutarch's 5,000-man figure is incorrect; the standard size for a legion was actually 6,000 men but Plutarch published flawed information. But this is a pretty weighty claim. We'd better not say this unless we're pretty certain.

2- Plutarch's 5,000-man figure was correct; that's the paper strength the Romans wanted for each legion, but in practice, the consul rounded up as many men as possible if he felt the mission called for it.

3- Cicero's 30,000-man figure was incorrect. Or maybe he was just giving a rough estimate. Again, let's not jump to this conclusion unless we can be certain.

Quote:Sorry but I find making comparisons of ancient armies to modern mechanised armies irrelevant and misleading. What the US army does could have no bearing to the procedures of the Roman army. If there is, can anyone prove it?

If the Romans were able to levy the precise number of men they needed on command exactly when they needed them, then this would make them unique in history.
We're talking about recruiting men and procuring equipment, and if you argue that the Romans weren't as constrained (at all?) by the same limits that all armies have always faced, then the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate how the Romans were different. I know that Rome had the most well-organized military in the world (not to mention a very fertile Italian peninsula capable of supporting a large population) and these shortages probably weren't nearly as much of a problem as they were for Rome's opponents, but they still had a volunteer army (during Caesar's lifetime).
Maintaining standing units during peacetime is easier, but even then what you recruit is what you get. And I don't mean to belabor this, we're talking about a military that was almost perpetually at war. Maybe Plutarch's 5,000-man legion was the gold standard that all legions tried to replicate, but if tribes were on the march and only 4,800 men were ready to fight, one might have to make due with a 4,800 man legion.

Perhaps more appropriate than the Rumsfeld quotation is one from another famed strategist, Mike Tyson: "Everybody's got a plan until they get punched in the face."
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#55
Quote:If the Romans were able to levy the precise number of men they needed on command exactly when they needed them, then this would make them unique in history.
If I understand Steven correctly, he believes, not only that the Romans levied precise numbers every year, but that these numbers developed and changed throughout history.

Personally, I cannot see such a system working under the Principate, with a professional army recruited all over the Mediterranean world. And I think it would even be doubtful for the Late Republic, when individual generals were recruiting on an ad hoc basis from their own geographical areas. But I am intrigued to learn how it can be proven even for the period of the early and middle Republic.

So far, all we have is a fairly woolly reference from Ovid, that every time a Roman counted to ten, he started over again. I'm sure there must be more ... isn't there? :?
posted by Duncan B Campbell
https://ninth-legion.blogspot.com/
Reply
#56
Quote:If I understand Steven correctly, he believes, not only that the Romans levied precise numbers every year, but that these numbers developed and changed throughout history.

I appreciate his view that ancient historians should be respected unless we can definitively prove otherwise, but my trade is journalism, so whenever I see any figures published, my first instinct is to sniff around for reasonable doubts about their veracity. That's fair, and he's right about modern scholars trashing the ancient sources almost reflexively. Certainly there's a lot of that.
But he seems to put an awful lot of faith in these numbers, given that the writers aren't here to answer follow up questions, and he speaks in absolutes; saying things like "a legion of 4800 men cannot exist. But a legion of 5000 men does exist as the primary sources state it does."

I'm not doubting the sincerity of the writers; I'm sure that when Plutarch, for example, said a legion was comprised of 5,000 men, he made every effort to check his facts, and I'm sure he had a source that he considered reliable.
I just wonder about the differences between paper and practice. I don't think it's a coincidence that Polybius, who served as a cavalry commander, gives leeway in his figures saying that a legion numbers between 4,200 men and 5,000, depending on the situation.

But, given that Steven isn't around to defend himself, I'll wrap it up here.
Reply
#57
Quote:Justin wrote:
So if Cicero's letter said Pompey had 30,000 men, and Caesar said that was five legions (6,000 per legion), that means we have three possibilities:

1- Plutarch's 5,000-man figure is incorrect; the standard size for a legion was actually 6,000 men but Plutarch published flawed information. But this is a pretty weighty claim. We'd better not say this unless we're pretty certain.

2- Plutarch's 5,000-man figure was correct; that's the paper strength the Romans wanted for each legion, but in practice, the consul rounded up as many men as possible if he felt the mission called for it.

3- Cicero's 30,000-man figure was incorrect. Or maybe he was just giving a rough estimate. Again, let's not jump to this conclusion unless we can be certain.

How about a fourth possibility.... they are all correct. Isidore (Isid. Etym. IX, 3. 51) states a legion consisted of 60 centuries, 30 maniples and 12 cohorts. Isidore gives the size of a cohort as 500 men. Therefore, 12 cohorts of 500 men amount to 6000 men. Taking Isidore and applying it to Pompey’s 30,000 men, Pompey can form an army of 50 cohorts at 600 men, or 60 cohorts at 500 men. This equates to five legions at 6000 men or six legions at 5000 men. However, the primary sources tell us Pompey elected for five legions, but is it five legions of 6000 men organised into 12 cohorts of 500 men. Maybe Caesar did not have that luxury (enough men to form a legion of 6000 men) and settled for a legion of 5000 men.

Quote:Justin wrote:
We're talking about recruiting men and procuring equipment, and if you argue that the Romans weren't as constrained (at all?) by the same limits that all armies have always faced, then the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate how the Romans were different.

That is exactly what I am doing with the book. And I do present my research to the university to be attacked. I am widening this field and contacting some academics in England like Professor E. Wheeler to examine my research. I have selected him because he has a reputation for being very critical.

Quote:Justin wrote:
Maybe Plutarch's 5,000-man legion was the gold standard that all legions tried to replicate, but if tribes were on the march and only 4,800 men were ready to fight, one might have to make due with a 4,800 man legion.

If this were correct, then Plutarch or any ancient historian would have no problem stating a legion was 4800 men. Not one ancient historian does so. However, there is no difficulty in the ancient historians claiming legion sizes of 4000 men, 4200 men, 4500 men, 5000 men, 5200 men, 5500 men, 5600 men, 6000 men, 6200 men and 6600 men. So far no one can explain to me why the ancient historians find it difficult to write a legion amounted to 4800 men.

Quote:D Campbell:
If I understand Steven correctly, he believes, not only that the Romans levied precise numbers every year, but that these numbers developed and changed throughout history. Personally, I cannot see such a system working under the Principate, with a professional army recruited all over the Mediterranean world.


Well then, we are in agreement. Sometime back in other posting, I wrote with the approach of Principate it becomes hard to track.

Quote:D Campbell:
And I think it would even be doubtful for the Late Republic, when individual generals were recruiting on an ad hoc basis from their own geographical areas. But I am intrigued to learn how it can be proven even for the period of the early and middle Republic.

Well in that case, you are going to be in for a surprise. My observation of the postings on this group and many other discussion groups, plus in the many academic journals and books I have read on the Roman army, is the author’s own prejudices block him/her from further their understanding of the Roman army. It is these beliefs, formulated by what you have read that lead one to a dead end. If you wear red glasses, you will see everything as red. To change your perception you will have to remove the glasses.

Quote:D Campbell:
So far, all we have is a fairly woolly reference from Ovid, that every time a Roman counted to ten, he started over again. I'm sure there must be more ... isn't there?

Now Mr Campbell, I made gave a general outline of a system of contracting and expanding. I never mentioned Ovid’s ten men. But alas, you do like to redesign what I say. In case you are not aware of a system of expansion and contraction, compare Hyginus’ century of 80 men with Vegetius’ centuries of 110 men. Vegetius legion is 50 or 55 centuries, and earlier legions are 60 centuries. Therefore, early legions have more centuries and a smaller number of men per century, while Vegetius’ legion has fewer centuries and more men per century.

Quote:Justin wrote:
But he seems to put an awful lot of faith in these numbers, given that the writers aren't here to answer follow up questions, and he speaks in absolutes; saying things like "a legion of 4800 men cannot exist. But a legion of 5000 men does exist as the primary sources state it does."

I do put a lot of faith in the numbers in the primary sources because they have proven to me to be reliable. All legion numbers integrate with their foundation organisation, which is the Servian constitution. As for absolutes, I am no different to anyone else. Academics speak in absolutes. Take for example Ross Cowan, whom has published a book telling his readers Caesar’s legion numbered 4800 men. So why am I being singled out for speaking in absolutes? When the primary sources state a legion amounted to 4800 men then I will take it as a certainty. I find it interesting that Isidore refers to maniples, as does Tacitus and Ammenius, but no one seems to want to wrestle with this. Caesar makes three references to maniples, so in Ross Cowan’s Caesarean legion of 60 centuries of 80 men, how does the maniple reconcile with such an organisation. Or must we accept this another case of dismissing four ancient writers as being confused or the sources are corrupt.
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#58
Quote:
Justin:19cgk6l9 Wrote:So if Cicero's letter said Pompey had 30,000 men, and Caesar said that was five legions (6,000 per legion), that means we have three possibilities:
1- Plutarch's 5,000-man figure is incorrect; ...
2- Plutarch's 5,000-man figure was correct; ...
3- Cicero's 30,000-man figure was incorrect. ...
How about a fourth possibility.... they are all correct.
Sounds like special pleading. I understood your thesis to state that legions had to be a specific size.
Quote:Isidore (Isid. Etym. IX, 3. 51) states a legion consisted of 60 centuries, 30 maniples and 12 cohorts. Isidore gives the size of a cohort as 500 men. Therefore, 12 cohorts of 500 men amount to 6000 men.
I think you have another incorrect ref. In my copy, it's Isid., Etym. IX.3.47 (for the legion) and IX.3.52 (for the cohort).

By the way, Isidorus is quite a late source to be pinning so much hope on. (Vegetius, too.)

Quote:Taking Isidore and applying it to Pompey’s 30,000 men, ... this equates to five legions at 6000 men or six legions at 5000 men. However, the primary sources tell us Pompey elected for five legions, but is it five legions of 6000 men organised into 12 cohorts of 500 men. Maybe Caesar did not have that luxury (enough men to form a legion of 6000 men) and settled for a legion of 5000 men.
Correct me if I'm wrong (... I'm sure you will), but isn't your entire thesis predicated on the fact that the size of a legion can be exactly predicted and stated?

Quote:
Justin:19cgk6l9 Wrote:Maybe Plutarch's 5,000-man legion was the gold standard that all legions tried to replicate, but if tribes were on the march and only 4,800 men were ready to fight, one might have to make due with a 4,800 man legion.
If this were correct, then Plutarch or any ancient historian would have no problem stating a legion was 4800 men. ...
Again, you seem to be arguing that there were set sizes that must be adhered to. But you yourself have just suggested that Caesar may not have had enough men to form what you would consider to be "the correct size" of legion, so he "settled for a legion of 5000 men". Is there some reason why Justin can't settle for his legion of 4,800 men?

Quote:My observation of the postings on this group and many other discussion groups, plus in the many academic journals and books I have read on the Roman army, is the author’s own prejudices block him/her from further their understanding of the Roman army. It is these beliefs, formulated by what you have read that lead one to a dead end. If you wear red glasses, you will see everything as red. To change your perception you will have to remove the glasses.
Prejudice is such a nasty word. People all have their own views, and it is your job to persuade them otherwise. It's as simple as that. (And my glasses are clear glass; if I take them off, it certainly will change my perception -- I won't be able to see a d*mn thing. :wink: )

Quote:Now Mr Campbell, I made gave a general outline of a system of contracting and expanding. I never mentioned Ovid’s ten men. But alas, you do like to redesign what I say.
Not so. The entire poem is about 10s, ergo your theory must depend on 10s if it is to seek support from Ovid.

Quote:In case you are not aware of a system of expansion and contraction, compare Hyginus’ century of 80 men with Vegetius’ centuries of 110 men. Vegetius legion is 50 or 55 centuries, and earlier legions are 60 centuries. Therefore, early legions have more centuries and a smaller number of men per century, while Vegetius’ legion has fewer centuries and more men per century.
That seems counter-intuitive. So you propose a system where a "century" starts off as not being 100 men and gradually works its up, through the years, until by the time of Isidorus it actually has 100 men? I'd love to see the evidence for that.
posted by Duncan B Campbell
https://ninth-legion.blogspot.com/
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#59
Quote:D Campbell wrote:
Sounds like special pleading.

Communication via email has been recognised as being a major source for misunderstanding due to the lack of identifying emotions. Therefore, Mr Campbell, with all due respect, you are misguided in believing you are an authority on my emotions? I don’t need to plead, I am very confident of my work. This confidence has come about by being able to use most of the empirical data in the primary sources, plus textual. It has been scrutinised and no one has been able to remotely fault it (well not true….I got some commas and grammar wrong… and my Latin plurals and singulars, are sometimes crap).

Quote:D Campbell wrote:
I think you have another incorrect ref. In my copy, it's Isid., Etym. IX.3.47 (for the legion) and IX.3.52 (for the cohort).

There are differences to the references I give and those you have. Some of mine come from old editions; I have borrowed from the University library. Some come from academic papers as footnotes. I have noticed many changes in the reference numbers in new and old versions, plus some academic papers.

Quote:D Campbell wrote:
Correct me if I'm wrong (... I'm sure you will), but isn't your entire thesis predicated on the fact that the size of a legion can be exactly predicted and stated?

Correct. And I have them listed for 700 years. It can be done (has been done). At present I have worked back from Caesar concerning the antesignani. I found the same mathematical ratio going back to the Servian army. Dionysius also mentions antesignani for the Servian period. Regardless, if this is anachronistic, the numbers are constant from 530 BC to 200 AD. The antesignani work with the cavalry and Caesar always has 300 troops always in light order to assist the cavalry. Isn’t it a coincidence the number of leves in a legion as given by Livy is 300 men. Livy claims special legionaries were trained to fight with the cavalry. Does the Roman cavalry number 300 men? Do the 1200 velites have among their number 300 antesignani?

Quote:D Campbell wrote:
Again, you seem to be arguing that there were set sizes that must be adhered to. But you yourself have just suggested that Caesar may not have had enough men to form what you would consider to be "the correct size" of legion, so he "settled for a legion of 5000 men". Is there some reason why Justin can't settle for his legion of 4,800 men?

Justin can have any legion size he wants, but if the size cannot be found in the primary sources, how does he know it to be correct? According to Holmes (page 560) Plutarch (Cicero 36) states Cicero had 12,000 infantry and 2600 cavalry when proconsul in Cilicia, however, Cicero claims he has the nominal command of two skeleton legions. This example on the surface appears to be very perplexing. However, the answer lies in understanding their methodology, not number crunching. This can be a problem when you take one source giving numbers and another source indicating the number of legions. Caesar claims Pompey took 5 legions to Greece, Appian gives 30,000 men. Appian doesn’t say five legions nor does Caesar say 30,000 men.

Quote:D Campbell wrote:
Prejudice is such a nasty word.

I define prejudice as a barrier to understanding. I would classify ignorant as a nasty word. The meaning is in the beholder, and not set in stone.

Quote:D Campbell wrote:
Not so. The entire poem is about 10s, ergo your theory must depend on 10s if it is to seek support from Ovid.

Oh dear, you disappoint me. Nevertheless, I should not be surprised; you approach the material in typical academic style. Let’s look at Vegetius II 8. Now before I even start I am sure of the type of response I will receive. Vegetius has 400 soldiers in the first line, 200 in the second, 150 on two occasions and 100 triarius prior. The Servian constitution has 40 centuries in the first class, 10 in the next three, 15 centuries in the last. Firstly, it’s important not to be word eccentric in this exercise and focus on numbers. 40 (centuries) by 400 men = 10. We have a 10 to 1 ratio. The 15 centuries by 150 men = 10. The 200 men (two classes each of 100) = 10 per class. The same for the triarius. Vegtius’ numbers aligns with the many changes made to the Servian constitution overtime, and so is the factor of ten.

Quote:D Campbell wrote:
That seems counter-intuitive.


This is what I mean by personal prejudice. If you believe it to be counter-intuitive, then that will be your personal barrier to understanding the Roman system. Without having all the information at our disposal, much would seem counter-intuitive.

Quote:D Campbell wrote:
So you propose a system where a "century" starts off as not being 100 men and gradually works its up, through the years, until by the time of Isidorus it actually has 100 men? I'd love to see the evidence for that.

Well, Caesar claims a century was 120 men and Hyginus it was 80 men (legionaries or auxiliaries?). Maybe the 120 men of Caesar’s time are then split into two divisions of 60 men and then increase overtime. Ovid states everything then starts afresh and he is not the only writer to express this.

“Vegetius (II 21) For soldiers are promoted as if in a circle through different cohorts and different administrative departments, so that a man promoted from the first cohort to any grade goes to the tenth cohort, and then comes back as his years of service increase with higher grades through the other cohorts to the first again.

Here Vegetius clearly describes the process of starting again, or the circle. There are many parallels and repeating patterns in the primary sources like Varro (VI 34), when describing the “measurements of land writes “There are many things which the ancients delimited with a multiple of twelve, like the actus of twelve ten-foot measures.”

Again, simultaneous combinations of the numbers 10 and 12, which is the old Roman calendar working with the new Roman calendar. However, I will point out, like Vegetius centurion example of promotion, the Romans used the cycle system on all mathematical levels, so 100 is a limit, as is 500, as is 1000. The cycle occurs on every level. The premise of my discussions Mr Campbell is to highlight without giving the game away, there are other methodologies that can be employed to gain a better understanding of the Roman legion.
Reply
#60
Hello all. I hope it's OK to recharge on old thread; I came across this a couple years ago and always meant to contribute. I have been away from contributing for a long time (some serious and intense family problems, but now all is well), but not from scouring. I am very happy to see the gorgeously glossy Ancient Warfare magazine on the stands! I very much like Paul McDonnell's and Duncan Campbell's, et el, style.

Fascinating question, Timothy, as a plausible overall answer drawn from our traditional sources reveal some substantial data, and reflect the manipular system at this time - during the war against Pyrrhus - one of vestigial transformation.

Firstly, as you've been addressed earlier in the thread, the swords wielded by the Roman soldier prior to the standardized gladius were surely ones akin to the extant Greek hoplites and their Italic brethren. The kopis, xiphos - or at least very similar Italic variants -, and larger antennae Villanovan style, etc., were all used as a secondary weapon, probably also symbolizing some form of social status. By 225 BCE, the nascent gladius was indeed the primary cut-and-thrust offensive weapon used by the Roman legionary (Polybius, The Histories, Book 2.30.9, and 2.33.6, respectively, in describing the Romans' superior swordsmanship over the Cisalpine Gauls).

Kudos to the erudition of the poster Steven James, but all these instances provided as state-supplied arms amid the regal period were instances when the tumultus was declared (viz., a military emergency in a time of crisis), hence the proletarii were armed at the state's expense under critical circumstances to aid in the defense of the Commonwealth (a reflection of the prodigious flexible adaptability of the Roman system to meet various challenges down the ages). Otherwise, indeed, the Roman armies of the earlier centuries before the onset of the 4th century BCE constituted a citizen militia in a timocratic society, in which all those drafted were to arm themselves at their own expense. As the Roman army expanded and spent longer periods of time in the field beyond a single campaign, the policy of stipendium was instituted (imputed to the siege of Veii in 406 BCE as the the catalyst of this substantial change) - pay for the army, which was originally weighed out before coinage was used to count it out. Moreover, the institution of tributum was contemporaneous with state issued army pay - indemnities levied upon defeated peoples. Both army pay and levied tribute are regularly linked, but mentioned often quite anachronistically by Livy (cf. Michael Crawford, Coinage and Money Under Roman the Roman Republic, pp. 22-24). Following the massive monetary gains for the Roman coffers following the plunder of Macedon (specifically, the mines there) as of 167 BCE, citizens became exempt from the tributum, being levied only rarely thereafter (Roman warfare increasingly fed of itself as the 'empire' evolved). It was not universal, however, until 123 BCE (amid the reforming policies of Gaius Gracchus), which saw the bill that called upon the state to pay for the arms and equipment of all legionaries (cf. Diodorus, Book 34/35.25.1; Asconius, Pro Cornelio, 68c).

For all the flexible changes commensurate to exigent conditions the Roman army undertook, a Roman century was never larger than 120 men, let alone that amount being a part of one, which - alluded here on the thread in assessing various sizes of tactical units - we do indeed read in the MSS. of Julius Caesar's Civil Wars, Book 3.91, within the backdrop of his famed victory at Pharsalus: '120 picked men of the same centuriae' - indicating that in this century 120 'picked men' would comprise a small percentage of it - is surely a scribal error when the MSS. was compiled, and in this case, Caesar actually embarked for Greece with quantitatively under-strength legions. Certainly, cohortis, not centuriae, was meant.

When the manipular system began to take its shape, a primary catalyst which triggered the change was probably when the Roman phalanx (Dionysius of Halicarnassus mentions the Roman 'phalanx' - in his Greek terminology - forming up against the Latin League in c. 496 BCE, at the Battle of Lake Regillus; Roman Antiquities, Book 6.5.4-12.6, but the Loeb English translation simply interprets this as 'battle-line'), whatever its true alignment (probably not an exact duplicate of the traditional one of that used among the Greek states; social and geographical circumstances were not exact), was absolutely trampled into the ground by the more maneuverable Gauls in 390 BCE (despite its rhetorical glibness, the famous anecdotes in the Ineditum Vaticanum reflects an overall basis in fact: the wars against the hardy and hilly Samnites certainly were also events which necessitated reforms, perhaps much involving marching camps and communications, etc.); it seems to carry merit that the initial progressions of the manipular system had the hastati as the second-line troops wielding the hasta (the basic hoplite spear), and the principes ('most important', thus initially 'in the first line' when this was worked out at first) formed the first line; why would the hastati be singled out as 'spear-bearers'? Surely because the front-line principes - at the onset of the manipular system - wielded throwing spears as their primary weapon. The etymology in ascribing these terms, of course, is probably more often than not quite cognitive. As this martial system became viable along a slow, piecemeal and vestigial process (not mainly transformed amid wartime; after all, we read of nominal ad-hoc cohorts as early as 211 BCE in Spain, but they would not replace the maniples as Roman doctrine until probably not long before 109 BCE, when Sallust describes the war against Jugurtha, where we first read that the maniple seems defunct), the paramount Roman attribute of virtus could manifest - the manipular array could accommodate the pressure to display masculine courage, and the brave deeds of the younger velites and hastati could be showcased with the the more experienced soldiers behind them in support (see the fine breakdown of this theory in The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare, Vol. I, pp. 509-513). Thus one possible reason for the switching, if it occurred, of the two front lines, albeit the etymology was retained. But no annalistic evidence supports this, and this is one of many cases where the often murky work by them was illustrated (in terms of facts), no less while wallowing their early history in a schematic manner for their patriotic readers (this is quite arbitrary on my part, by all means). But this is not meant to mean 'literary' always means 'fictional'; all the rhetoric and propaganda can still be used to pinpoint probable historicity. Our most accomplished modern experts on this topic have far from evaded tackling this, and their are as voluminous as they can be elucidating.

OK, to the war with Pyrrhus and the terrific question by Timothy.

For Livy the manipular system was in being by 340 BCE, but nothing can be more jaw-droppingly dichotomous than what he apprises and what Dionysius of Halicarnassus does, the other primary source for all this.

Roman influence began eroding Tarentine influence at this time (280s BCE), and a Roman garrison in Thurii set a dangerous precedent to the political climate with their military presence within Tarentum's sphere of influence (actually, here in 280 BCE is one example of crisis when the Romans recruited soldiers who had no property qualification at all, not unlike what they resorted to after the disaster at Cannae). The Tarentines were soon able to eject the Romans in Thurii within a few years, and Thurii was compelled back into the southern 'Italic League' of the time, but this was a part of a gradually rising escalation of tension between Rome and Tarentum, which culminated in war. Enter Pyrrhus...

At the Battle of Asculum in 279 BCE, Plutarch tells us that the Romans fought Pyrrhus' phalanx 'fiercely with their swords against the Macedonian spears, reckless of their lives and thinking only of wounding and slaying, while caring naught for what they suffered' (Life of Pyrrhus, Ch. 21.6). Four years later in the action at the battle of Beneventum, Dionysius of Halicarnassus tells us some explicit and tantalizing stuff, Roman Antiquities, Fragments (Book 20), no. 11 (stress on the fragments of his works),


[indent]"...It was bound the happen, as might have been expected, that hoplites burdened with helmets, breastplates and shields and advancing against hilly positions by long trails that were not even used by people but were mere goat-paths through woods and crags, would keep no order and, even before the enemy came in sight, would be weakened in body by thirst and fatigue.

Those who fight in close combat with cavalry spears grasped by the middle with both hands and who usually save the day in battles are called principes by the Romans..."
[/indent]

Wow! That's very clear at face value - the principes (specified) still wielded spears - grasped by the middle by the bearer with both hands no less, and in stark contrast to all or many of the views of the Roman annalists (and their sources) on the early Republican army, whether Livy and Co. naively assumed that the late manipular system had existed since regal times, or those who realized on the basis of antiquarian evidence that at one time the phalanx had been in use, than the words above of Dionysius. The Greek writers dealing with this, obviously, took a keen interest in the war against Pyrrhus, and they probably were availed the works of Hieronymus of Cardia (sadly lost to us), as well as those of one Proxenus, the court historian of Pyrrhus; Dionysius is our primary Greek writer for this backdrop, and he was writing for a Greek audience, hence the wording of 'cavalry spears' wielded by the (now, presumably) second line of the Roman acies triplex of infantry; the Roman mounts of Dionysius' day wielded light spears (longche, for the sake of imputing relevant etymology) with one hand, and not all were, presumably, the same; but the potentially deadly contus (or kontos), was still far in the future. The description constituting the arms of the principes at Beneventum can probably be explained by the assumption that such a description would make sense to those familiar with the vaunted Macedonian xystophori (Alexander and his Companions, along with their Hellenistic successors, displayed a singular ability with the xyston). Moreover, what indicates Dionysius' care is his usage in the present tense of the verb 'they call', hence this was not his own addition, as the principes neither existed in his time.

Furthermore, in his previous book, Dionysius tells us that a Ferentan leader named Oblacus attacked Pyrrhus on his horse (this was during the the Battle of Heraclea, the first field clash in this conflict, in 280 BCE):

Roman Antiquities, Book 19.12.1-3,


[indent]"...The Ferentan Oblacus, having thus found the opportunity for which he was waiting, charged with his companions into the midst of the royal squadron; and breaking through the crowd of attendant horsemen, he bore down upon the king himself, grasping his spear with both hands..."[/indent]

In the Royal Squadron?...Companions?; familiar to a Greek audience with a Greek source, no? Oblacus could very well have been an allied cavalry officer, as he broke through his attendant horsemen, meaning Italic cavalry (at least Ferentan) in the early 3rd century BCE wielded heavier spears than their Roman counterparts. This story per se probably falls in line with apocryphal tales of ancient historiography, but the information of weaponry rings true, IMHO.

I feel Plutarch can be sustained in this particular case regarding the Roman swordsmanship at Asculum (though he doesn't specify who was armed with the swords), so in conjunction with Dionysius, I propose that the hastati in the war against Pyrrhus were armed with the pilum (or at least a forerunner of it), being that the change to the looser manipular tactics - now well into its evolving stage - entailed missile power with close-combat; the hastati hurled their throwing spear and moved in wielding swords (a forerunner of the gladius); the second-line troops constituted the principes who now used the thrusting spear as their primary weapon, still in a phalanx-style method (this would mean, however, that they surely didn't yet use the scutum as their shield). In the decades following the First Punic War, the triarii alone used thrusting spears. The pila may have been in use by 250 BCE, if Polybius' etymology of the 'rapid shower of javelins and spears' is not retrojected (The Histories, Book 1.40.12; at the very least, we have another forerunner of a supreme Roman weapon which became standard). However, one of our reputable scholars on this, Dexter Hoyos, swings the other way: he feels that Dionysius may have been copying a Pyrrhic-era source which saw the principes 'armed in the old way', and uses the same description by Plutarch - that of the Romans fighting with their swords - as the 'new way', and that the latter probably refutes the former (Hoyos, along with Peter Connolly, opine that Livy's extant mid-4th century BCE manipular system need not be anachronistic; cf., A Companion to the Roman Army, p. 70; Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, pp. 126-128). Maybe, and Hoyos does concede the possibility (the lesser possibility, he feels) of the phalangial and manipular elements overlapping at this time. But there are just too many confusions and inconsistencies in this context with Livy, and it seems too explicit and concise with Dionysius, IMHO. Certainly food for thought, either way.

Invaluable sources for this topic include Elizabeth Rawson (The Literary Sources for the Pre-Marian Army (Papers of the British School at Rome, Vol. 39, November 1971); Stephen P. Oakley, A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X, pp. 451-476; Michael M. Sage, The Republican Roman Army: A Sourcebook; Jonathan P. Roth, Roman Warfare; Adrian Goldsworthy, Roman Warfare and The Complete Roman Army; Paul Erdkamp (editor), A Companion to the Roman Army; Nic Fields' relevant books by Osprey are particularly illuminating, too, as are the few I mentioned earlier in the post.

Thanks, and it feels great to post here on RAT again!

James K MacKinnon Smile
"A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are built for."

James K MacKinnon
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