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ordered retreat and line changes
Much of the 3-line manipular tactics employed during the republican period was for an "ordered retreat", as if the Hastati were tired out or suffered too many casualties, they could retreat through the gaps between the principes, who if also failed, could retreat through the gaps of the Tirarri.
But in reality, has such an ordered retreat ever been documented?

I often wondered how an "ordered retreat" could be possible? Because a retreat would mean that soldiers would turn their backs at the enemy, and unless another unit has already begun the attack the enemy at another part of the line, wouldn't the enemy just pursue the retreating units and cut down any of them at will?

Are there any videos which actually show how such ordered retreats, or line changes, would practically take place on the battlefield?
24 July 2013

I saw a segment on youtube some time ago it was a living history
presentation by the Ermine Street Guard

There is a scene at the end of the documentary where they charge
a hill of spectators not sure if they are featuring a textbook withdrawal
technique or improvising.

Its my best guess that brass Horns were used to give commands on
battlefields much like the 19th Century Cavalry used them-agian its
a just guess?...In the last few hundred years of military history European,
British and American that is how things functioned for a withdrawal or retreat
from battle.

notice reenactor Mike Garlick has a brass (Cornu?) horn
on his shoulder It seemed that they used brass horns in some way while
marching in formation.
There are two types of brass horns one shaped like an @ Cornu? curled
and the other shaped like a J do not know the name of it.

Mr. Myers has had them for sale on Sole of The Warrior
the sites address is not its name though.

I could be wrong. I would be very interested to read about how the use of signal horns
or (drums? were used if any like the 17th,18th and 19th century European military establishments
also like to understand the use of brass horn like bugles to signal commands to the troops if this
is a correct guess.

Can some one more educated than I direct me to the nearest reference book
dealing with Roman Army Signal use?

Please, it will further help me to understand the hobby.
Here are some ancient writers references to Roman Legion signals that I have collected:
John Kaler MSG, USA Retired
Member Legio V (Tenn, USA)
Staff Member Ludus Militus
Owner Vicus and Village:
There are many examples of orderly retreat in the texts. Turning your back on the enemy was not necessary but not doing so meant that the retreat would be much slower. There are many instances in which an army really turns about in order to give the impression of flight -this is something that is very often misinterpreted, most often, turning about signaled an "orderly flight" that many times disintegrated into an inorderly flight. So, often, when we read of "flight" in the texts it is not the scattering panicked run we think it is-. Anyways, the Romans, the Greeks and other cultures also employed tactical retreats without tuning about and the usual term for that is "epi poda" or "ypo poda" (The Romans at Cynoscephalae, Polyb.18.25.4, Philip at Chaeronea, Polyaen. 4.2.2., the Jews at Jerusalem Jos. DBJ, 5.95 etc). The thing with the triple acies is we cannot be sure how they utilized them. There are accounts where we have the line in front retreating behind the line on its rear and many more accounts in which the line on the rear actually supports the line in front as a whole or in parts. To me, the most probable explanation is that both methods were utilized according to circumstances. That retreat behind a rear line was a valid tactic is mostly confirmed by the later Byzantine manuals, where, as a tactic it is considered the norm, even though, and that is very important, these mostly speak of cavalry lines.
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George C. K.
῾Ηρακλῆος γὰρ ἀνικήτου γένος ἐστέ
We use 'cede' and have the ranks move backwards while facing the enemy.
Robert Vermaat
FECTIO Late Romans
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
Thanks for responding on this topic.

My unit had the symbol of horns in its design
as was a signal unit.

there motto was quinque per quinque

Geoffrey Ives
Although it is relatively straight forward for a unit to withdraw in an orderly fashion in contact it does create two problems.

The first is that it gives those you are fighting get a morale boost as they think they are winning and they fight harder. The most violent situations you will face in any riot is when you are withdrawing and as an added bonus everything they have thrown at you becomes available for them to throw again.

The second problem is how you pass through the relieving unit. They need to create a gap for you to get through but this gap will always be narrower than your frontage so you have to contract as you withdraw to get through the gap. They also need to be able to close that gap as soon as you are through before those you are fighting can get through as well which is easier said than done. It might be possible to leave gaps between each file instead but you are still going to have the same problems, just on a smaller scale and all across the front.

We actually find it easier for the unit in contact to create a gap and the relieving unit to go forward. I don't know of any videos of us doing it online but I found a couple of the Met doing it. It is at 1:12 in this video although that is a bigger gap than normal because they are letting a mounted unit through.

I would be really interested if anyone had an insight into how the Romans actually passed one unit through another.

No man resisted or offered to stand up in his defence, save one only, a centurion, Sempronius Densus, the single man among so many thousands that the sun beheld that day act worthily of the Roman empire.
There is plenty of evidence of Roman formations being pushed backwards. Yet it is odd that aside from the locus classicus of Livy 8.8, which describes a 4th century legion, we almost never see the hastati falling back to be relieved by the principes, and so on. By the 2nd Century, Plautus could say to his audience" sit back and relax, just like the triarii." (agite nunc, subsidite omnes quasi solent triarii) This may mean that the triarii very literally sat down on the battlefield, although it also seems to imply that they were not expected to do much fighting.

At the battle of Zama, where Polybius reports the hastati fought through two lines of Carthaginin infantry, it is notably that Scipio did not relieve them, but kept them in his center and then deployed the other lines as flanking elements, not relief. Polybius does imply that in 222 BC, the consul Flaminius makes a grave mistake: (2.33)
"the Consul Flaminius being thought to have mismanaged the battle by deploying his force at the very edge of the river-bank and thus rendering impossible a tactical movement peculiar to the Romans (τὸ τῆς Ῥωμαϊκῆς μάχης ἴδιον), as he left the maniples no room to fall back gradually." (οὐχ ὑπολειπόμενος τόπον πρὸς τὴν ἐπὶ πόδα ταῖς σπείραις ἀναχώρησιν).

On one hand, Polybius implies that the mistake is based on a general tactical principle (always have a line of retreat. But his statement that it is "particular to the Romans" seems to suggest the sort of line relief described in Livy 8.8. It is also possible that the sort of line relief developed in the 4th century fell out of use by the 3rd, even if it remained in the the sort of military manuals that Polybius (or his source, here likely Fabius Pictor) was consulting.

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