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[split] Distances between files and ranks
#1
John wrote: 

amid the silence I have been plodding away. 

Among other things I have been looking at the physical attributes of what we think of as the Roman Army that may have been with SP and also the amount of space that the legions, the auxiliaries and cavalry took up. 

There appear to be some anomalies regarding the distances between the legionaries especially if they were 8 deep. 

Firstly when the pilums were thrown there would have to have been 3 foot between each man to allow for the throw therefore they couldn't have been in close order at that time. 

Secondly if the  legionaries were to be replaced / rotated through the 8 rows they would have to been double spaced to allow for them to step aside to the rear and be replaced by the man in the next row.,

Thirdly when advancing over open ground, close order would not have been possible with overlocking shields and certainly not in a charge. 

The implication is that at 8 deep for the infantry alone each man would have taken up 6 feet which means that just for the infantry the width of the force would have been around 1,800 to 2,000 yards.  

If the cavalry were on the wings this would add to the width of the line although the cavalry could have been behind the infantry before they broke out.

So it would appear that the width of the "throat" would have to be much greater than 1,000 yards.
Deryk
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#2
(08-20-2018, 10:53 PM)Theoderic Wrote: if the  legionaries were to be replaced / rotated through the 8 rows they would have to been double spaced

I think the idea that the lines or individual soldiers were somehow rotated backwards during battle has been pretty much discounted now (there are a couple of long discussions of it here and here). Nobody could work out how it might have operated, and there's no evidence for it anyway! The 'replacement system' probably just involved moving fresh units forward during lulls in the fighting.


(08-20-2018, 10:53 PM)Theoderic Wrote: at 8 deep for the infantry alone each man would have taken up 6 feet 

"legionarius frequens ordinibus", Tacitus says - which means something like 'in crowded ranks'. 'Close order' is probably what he intends here.

So I think we could assume they were shield against shield, at least while they were holding the defile, 3ft per man or so, which would give a width of 3000ft / c.900 metres at 8 ranks deep.

But it could have been more - we really don't know!
Nathan Ross
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#3
Nathan wrote;

But it could have been more - we really don't know!
 
Can you change “we” to “I.”
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#4
(08-20-2018, 10:53 PM)Theoderic Wrote: John wrote: 


The implication is that at 8 deep for the infantry alone each man would have taken up 6 feet which means that just for the infantry the width of the force would have been around 1,800 to 2,000 yards. 
The implication is that at 8 deep for the infantry alone each man would have taken up 6 feet ... yes a six foot grave. There is absolutely no point having heavy infantry 6 foot apart as they are no longer fighting as heavy infantry.

I would post links to videos that would help explain, but last time I posted some idiot removed them (apparently some people don't think Roman battles were violent).
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#5
(08-21-2018, 07:38 AM)MonsGraupius Wrote: There is absolutely no point having heavy infantry 6 foot apart

That is not what he is saying. He is saying that 'each man would have taken up 6 feet', that is, the width of the man and half the distance between him and the next man on either side. Even that is generous. Vegetius says 3 feet (Veg. III.14).
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
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#6
(08-21-2018, 04:55 AM)Steven James Wrote: Nathan wrote;

we really don't know!
 
Can you change “we” to “I.”

I think after 107 pages of posts I can be pretty sure that nobody else knows either!

Unless somebody's hiding something... [Image: shocked.png]


(08-21-2018, 07:38 AM)MonsGraupius Wrote: each man would have taken up 6 feet ... yes a six foot grave.

I believe Deryk is referring to Polybius, 18. 30, 6-8: "Now in the case of the Romans also each soldier with his arms occupies a space of three feet in breadth... and each man must be at a distance of at least three feet from the man next him in the same rank and those in front of and behind him, if they are to be of proper use."

Three feet per soldier plus another three feet between him and the next man makes six feet per soldier.

However, this is the formation for the 3rd-2nd century BC. As Michael points out, Vegetius gives only three feet per man, and I think we can assume that if the troops were arrayed in frequens ordinibus they would only require three feet each, without the gaps between the files.
Nathan Ross
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#7
(08-21-2018, 11:37 AM)Nathan Ross Wrote:
(08-21-2018, 04:55 AM)Steven James Wrote: Nathan wrote;

we really don't know!
 
Can you change “we” to “I.”

I think after 107 pages of posts I can be pretty sure that nobody else knows either!

Unless somebody's hiding something... [Image: shocked.png]


(08-21-2018, 07:38 AM)MonsGraupius Wrote: each man would have taken up 6 feet ... yes a six foot grave.

I believe Deryk is referring to Polybius, 18. 30, 6-8: "Now in the case of the Romans also each soldier with his arms occupies a space of three feet in breadth... and each man must be at a distance of at least three feet from the man next him in the same rank and those in front of and behind him, if they are to be of proper use."

Three feet per soldier plus another three feet between him and the next man makes six feet per soldier.

However, this is the formation for the 3rd-2nd century BC. As Michael points out, Vegetius gives only three feet per man, and I think we can assume that if the troops were arrayed in frequens ordinibus they would only require three feet each, without the gaps between the files.

Light infantry might fight 6foot apart - but not heavy. Indeed, when it came to the fight, heavy infantry end up even closer together and nearer 1.5feet  than 6foot - which is why you need the depth of line, because it quickly collapses under assault.

Because if you then account for the dead and the chaos of battle as lines get stretched, a line that starts out at less than 8 deep (3foot apart) can rapidly become one man deep - and then it only takes a single casualty to break the line allowing the enemy to rush through.
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#8
(08-21-2018, 12:15 PM)MonsGraupius Wrote: Light infantry might fight 6foot apart - but not heavy.

Am I missing something? Who, apart from you, has said anything about men standing six feet apart?
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
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#9
A while back i started writing up the various possible battle plans. I've just had a look and I didn't get very far. Can anyone remind where I can get the information.
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#10
Renatus wrote:

Am I missing something?

I am sorry to cause any confusion - what I meant was 3 feet between each man in "open order" between files.

I do have a question which I would appreciate some help with.

If there were 8 rows of men of 10 files in each century with each row being 9 feet apart in "close order", it would be easy to move to "open order" by each alternate file stepping back a roman pace (two steps or about 4 and a half feet)) which would allow the pilums to be thrown without hitting the man on either side during t he throw.

It would be then easy to reform to close order by the alternate files stepping forward a pace.

My question is ,that if this was the case, the last line would be around 90 feet from the front line which would mean that the pilums would be unlikely to reach their target.

Is there a way around this conundrum?


.xlsx   Closed and Open Order.xlsx (Size: 9.39 KB / Downloads: 7)
Deryk
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#11
(08-21-2018, 06:15 PM)Theoderic Wrote: 8 rows of men of 10 files in each century with each row being 9 feet apart in "close order"... the last line would be around 90 feet from the front line

Why are they 9 feet apart? Polybius (and you, in fact!) says there were three feet between ranks, just as there are between files in 'open order'.

I would imagine the pila are thrown at relatively close range - as each rank throws pila they close up with the rank in front, so as the enemy advance they are struck by rapid volleys of missiles delivered from about the same distance.



(08-21-2018, 12:15 PM)MonsGraupius Wrote: Light infantry might fight 6foot apart - but not heavy.

Nobody is talking about men standing 6 feet apart. The 6-foot-per-soldier thing is from Polybius (see above), and he is describing legionary tactics, not light infantry. If you find this unlikely, or you own experience of the ancient battlefield suggests otherwise, best take the matter up with him!
Nathan Ross
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#12
Nathan Ross wrote:

Why are they 9 feet apart? Polybius (and you, in fact!) says there were three feet between ranks, just as there are between files in 'open order'.

I agree that the files  are 3 feet apart in the "open order" configuration whereas in the "closed order" there would be no gaps between the files BUT(on reflection), if in the "closed order" the ranks were only 3 feet apart, it would be impossible to transition into "open order" as the alternate files would in fact step into the row behind them filling the gap that the previous soldier had just vacated therefore making those rows "closed order" again

Although I am not that familiar with Polybius - looking at the the post that Mons Graupius quotes,  I think that it says "and each man must be at a distance of at least three feet from the man next him in the same rank and those in front of and behind him, if they are to be of proper use." .

So is he saying that if they are too close they are not as effective?

By having the ranks in "closed order" at 9 feet that allows for the transition back and forth and also allows for a rotation of men in either configuration through the gaps left.

I am beginning to realise that it must have been the ability to take the fighter out of the battle to recover, a fresh man to take his place in the line and then relieve the fighter again and the get the rested man back into battle in a structured manner.

 In this way a man could fight at full exertion for say 10 minutes and in an 8 rank closed order configuration could have an hour's rest between bouts. 

I think that it was the strength of the army born out of discipline. Effectively the Roman Legionaries made up a  a machine of flesh and blood that could keep going long after their opponents were spent.

Interestingly Caesar notes ,that is how the chariots were used with the warrior being delivered to the front line, fighting for a while then picked up, taken to rest and then re-inserted into the fray. 

The principle was the same just that the Roman Army was far better at it.
Deryk
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#13
Nathan wrote:

I think after 107 pages of posts I can be pretty sure that nobody else knows either! Unless somebody's hiding something... [Image: z8+fv48QECAwECAwECAwECAwECAwECAwECAwECAw...Onz0AAOw==]
 
Everything is out in the open. One only has only to read Livy 8 8. Yet 107 pages and growing, approach the problem in the same manner. Maybe people should start re-examining their model of the Roman legion. Look at the last couple of posts, it’s always centred on formations eight deep. Just maybe, that could be wrong. But does anyone explore the possibility?
 
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#14
Steven James wrote:

Maybe people should start re-examining their model of the Roman legion. Look at the last couple of posts, it’s always centred on formations eight deep. Just maybe, that could be wrong. But does anyone explore the possibility?

There does seem to be very little information regarding the actual methodology of how the Roman Army fought on the battlefield when it comes to transitioning from one type of formation or configuration to another.

As can be seen from this thread there appear to be a number of thoughts of distances between files and ranks and how the pilum was discharged in a group and how far a pilum was expected to be thrown etc. Were the most experienced men on the front rank or the rear rank? How did men get out of the battle through the various ranks? This must have been possible so that the wounded could be taken away to the hospital (whether there was a way of rotating men from the front rank is a point for debate).

So is it worth trying to work out (possibly in another thread) how the army moved from "closed order" to "open order" swiftly and effectively and how formations like the "wedge" were formed from the "close order" of a shield wall to enable a charge to take place. 

These moves and commands must have been standard throughout the army and therefore must have been easy to implement under great pressure but very effective. How they were communicated over the noise of battle is another interesting thought.

The obvious place to start is with the re-enactment groups and I have attached some information regarding commands and methods allegedly from Flavius Mauricius Tiberius Augustus (known also as Maurice) who ruled Byzantium from 582-602 AD. I accept that this is centuries after our battle but may throw some light on the methods used. 

Why I see this as being important to this thread is how deep a standard formation in battle could be eg: 8 deep in "close order" or 8 deep in "open order"

I am not convinced that having a close formation of 8 ranks would be particularly beneficial whereas an open formation of 8 ranks might be and if that was the case SP would have been able to extend his battle line further which has an influence on the site of the battle or what reserves might be available.


.pdf   2010_Jul_18_Commands_Revised.pdf (Size: 213.79 KB / Downloads: 4)

 
Deryk
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#15
Request to Admins - could we perhaps split the posts from #1588 onward into a new thread about Roman battlefield formations, or something?


(08-22-2018, 01:43 AM)Steven James Wrote: it’s always centred on formations eight deep.

Yes, we don't know how deep the formation was at this particular battle. But I think we can assume it was quite deep - there's the note about frequens ordinibus, and Paulinus was holding a 'narrow' valley, and the formation needed to be deep enough to charge outwards in a cuneus and split a very large horde of advancing enemy warriors. That all suggests at least eight ranks deep, possibly more - this is following Arrian, our only detailed source for earlier imperial deployment ("They should deploy in eight ranks and their deployment should be close ordered").

It could be that Paulinus's men were organised in ranks of 6, as Josephus seems to imply. So they could have been 12 deep, or two lines of 8... as I say, with the evidence we have available here there is no possibility of certainty.

But we do know that he had 8-10K infantry. And unless they're in some sort of phalanx block formation, they would probably take up a width of around 800-1000 metres, I think.
Nathan Ross
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