roman phalanx formation

Two standard Macedonian enomatiæ (32 men each) in loose formation 2m. Hoplite phalanxes usually deployed in ranks of 8 men or more deep; The Macedonian phalanxes were usually 16 men deep, sometimes reported to have been arrayed 32 men deep. Marcellinus's commentary also sharply contrasts the fighting spirit of the Persian infantrymen with those of Rome, stating that they had "aversion to pitched infantry battles. Ironically, many of these were from Germanic tribes who had come to terms earlier. Some ancient sources such as Polybius seem to imply that the legions could fight with gaps in their lines. One innovation on the Greek phalanx that the Romans introduced was a triple line formation of three distinct ranks. Clues exist in the earlier campaigns of Alexander the Great against mounted Asiatic warriors—engaging the horsemen with strong detachments of light infantry and missile troops and driving them off with charges by Alexander's heavy cavalry units. The velites were deployed in front of this line in a continuous, loose-formation line. Many historians have argued […] that the fall of Rome was not primarily a military phenomenon. This massive concentration of Romans was able to besiege the fortress in detail and repulse Gallic relief forces, and it fell in little more than a month. [94] At the Battle of Châlons (circa 451 AD) Attila the Hun rallied his troops by mocking the once-vaunted Roman infantry, alleging that they merely huddled under a screen of protective shields in close formation. Various approaches have been taken to reconcile these possibilities with the ancient writings. Henceforth, July 18 was considered an unlucky date on the Roman Calendar. Roman Governors were not allowed to leave their provinces with their legions. Maniples of each line deployed with … In any case, traditionally the late 6th century brought forth some sweeping reforms – possibly initiated by the penultimate Roman king Servius Tullius. The huge pool of fighting men gave the Romans much more room for errors or setbacks, compared to their opponents.[99]. decasteros). Field army: a grouping of several legions and auxiliary cohorts, Non-combatant support: generally the men who tended the mules, forage, watering and sundries of the baggage train, Consul – an elected official with military and civic duties; like a co-president (there were two), but also a major military commander. Brunt estimates that Rome mobilized 108,000 men for service in the legions between 218 BC and 215 BC, while at the height of the war effort (214 BC to 212 BC) [against Hannibal] Rome was able to mobilize approximately 230,000 men. Meanwhile, the centre and right flank of the Theban line were echeloned back, from the opposing phalanx, keeping the weakened parts of the formation from being engaged. Historians such as Victor Davis Hanson point out that it is difficult to account for exceptionally deep phalanx formations unless they were necessary to facilitate the physical pushing depicted by this theory, as those behind the first two ranks could not take part in the actual spear thrusting.[7]. When in danger of imminent defeat, the first and second lines, the hastati and principes, ordinarily fell back on the triarii to reform the line to allow for either a counter-attack or an orderly withdrawal. Crops and animals were destroyed or carried off, and local populaces were massacred or enslaved. The battle would then rely on the valour of the men in the front line; whilst those in the rear maintained forward pressure on the front ranks with their shields. The first encounter between a Greek phalanx and a Roman legion was the battle of Heraclea in 280, in which Pyrrhus of Epirus overcame his Italian enemies, but suffered heavy losses because the Roman army was more flexible and could replace the soldiers in the first line; they could continue to fight much longer. "a phalanx of police".[2]. This formation would be surrounded by soldiers on the flanks. Personal items might include a dyed horsehair crest for the helmet, a semi-water-resistant oiled woollen cloak, socks and breeches for cold weather and a blanket. Other items of Roman equipment from studded sandals, to body armour, to metal helmets added to Roman advantages. They also learned from those enemies. Eventually, Roman emperor Diocletian would create the Comitatenses and Limatanei units in order to better defend the Roman empire. The hoplite phalanx of the Archaic and Classical periods in Greece (ca. This consisted of 10 stone-throwing onagers and 20 bolt-shooting ballistas; in addition, each of the legion's centuries had its own scorpio bolt thrower (60 total), together with supporting wagons to carry ammunition and spare parts. The legions also drilled and trained together over a more extended time, and were more uniform and streamlined, (unlike Hannibal's final force and others) enabling even less than brilliant army commanders to manoeuvre and position their forces proficiently. In the open field against Caesar, the Gallic/Celtics apparently deployed chariots with a driver and an infantry fighter armed with javelins. Then the maniples would fall back through the gaps in the principes, who followed the same procedure to form a battle line and charge. The Macedonian phalanx and the Roman legion are perhaps the most famous tactical formations in antiquity. He deduces that the Romans refused to fight the phalanx where the phalanx was most effective and offered battle only when they felt that they could exploit the clumsiness and immobility of the phalanx. When the Romans faced phalangite armies, the legions often deployed the velites in front of the enemy with the command to contendite vestra sponte (attack), presumably with their javelins, to cause confusion and panic in the solid blocks of phalanxes. Tight control had to be maintained, hence the 3rd line triarii were sometimes made to squat or kneel, effectively discouraging premature movement to the front. However, at Cynoscephalae and Magnesia, failure to defend the flanks of the Phalanx led to defeat; whilst at Pydna, the loss of cohesion of the Phalanx when pursuing retreating Roman soldiers allowed the Romans to penetrate the formation, where the latter's close combat skills proved decisive. The advantage of the Roman system is that it allowed the continual funnelling or metering of combat power forward over a longer period—massive, steadily renewed pressure to the front—until the enemy broke. Brady, op. Whatever the actual formation took however, the ominous funnelling or surge of combat power up to the front remained constant: Whatever the deployment, the Roman army was marked both by flexibility and strong discipline and cohesion. The combat formation used by the Greeks and Romans was called the phalanx. Adjustments of Ventidius. "[86] In an earlier engagement outside the walls of Ctesiphon, Marcellinus again notes the value of the quick advance by the infantry: Mixed results against major cavalry enemies. They would have no commander. A Phalanx is an ancient Greek military term for massed formation of soldiers moving in unison, usually armed with spears. [13] Legionaries were trained to thrust with their gladii because they could defend themselves behind their large shields (scuta) while stabbing the enemy. In front of all of them were the velites, the newest and poorest recruits, whose job it was to attack the approaching enemy with javelins. It was a sad commentary on the force that had once dominated Europe, the Mediterranean and much of the Middle East. [81] The adjustments of Ventidius were as follows:[81]. This maneuver could be repeated indefinitely, the enemy would always be facing fresh units of Romans. As camp building commenced, the barbarian forces launched a ferocious attack, streaming across the shallow water and quickly assaulting the distracted Romans. The Roman commander was thus generally mobile, constantly moving from spot to spot, and often riding back in person to fetch reserves if there was no time for standard messenger service. Instead, he relied on attacking their fortified strongpoints and devastating the zone of conflict in a methodical campaign. Citizenship conveyed certain valuable rights in Roman society, and was another element that helped to promote the standardization and integration of the infantry. Some historians note however that Rome often balanced brutal attrition with shrewd diplomacy, as demonstrated by Caesar's harsh treatment of Gallic tribes that opposed him, but his sometimes conciliatory handling of those that submitted. According to those who support the quincunx formation view, what made the Roman approach stand out is that their intervals were generally larger and more systematically organized than those of other ancient armies. With three lines, one behind the other the Romans deployed in separate maniples with each line having a maniple-sized gap between units, with those gaps covered by the next line back creating a checkerboard formation. "Phalanx" redirects here. The Macedonian Phalanx, Added to these were officers. Military seniority was the key to where a legionary stood in the battle order. A meaningful comparison can be made between the Classical phalanx and late medieval pike formations. Pep talks, sacrifices to the gods and the announcements of good omens might be carried out. cit, See also Warry, pg 169-170, John Warry, Warfare in the Ancient World, (St. Martin's, 1980), pp. His operations also included pincer movements, a consolidated battle line, and "reverse Cannae" formations and cavalry movements. The word phalanx is derived from the Greek word phalanx, meaning finger. One writer recreates the following as to Caesar's army in Gaul:[11] Each soldier arranged his heavy pack on a T or Y-shaped rod, borne on his left shoulder. It is possible that long spear tactics (also found in North Wales) were an established part of more irregular warfare in parts of Britain prior to 1066. [26], A general three-line deployment was to remain over the centuries, although the Marian reforms phased out most divisions based on age and class, standardized weapons and reorganized the legions into bigger manoeuvre units like cohorts. - phalanx stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images. Homer used the term to differentiate the formation-based combat from the individual duels so often found in his poems.[3]. The catapults were powered by rope and sinew, tightened by a ratchet and released, powered by the stored torsion energy. The Roman variant, with its large manpower resources, continued the same "combined arms" approach, with a larger role for cavalry as the empire went on. Perhaps the most prominent example of the phalanx's evolution was the oblique advance, made famous in the Battle of Leuctra. From a military standpoint, however, they seem to have shared certain general characteristics: tribal polities with a relatively small and lesser elaborated state structure, light weaponry, fairly unsophisticated tactics and organization, a high degree of mobility, and inability to sustain combat power in their field forces over a lengthy period. Deployed too early, and they might get entangled in the frontal fighting and become exhausted. Bottom: the diagonal phalanx utilised by the Thebans under Epaminondas. Pre-battle manoeuvre gave the competing commanders a feel for the impending clash, but final outcomes could be unpredictable, even after the start of hostilities. "Now of those, who dare, abiding one beside another, to advance to the close fray, and the foremost champions, fewer die, and they save the people in the rear; but in men that fear, all excellence is lost. Most phalanxes favoured one huge line several ranks deep. However instead of Hastati, Principes, and Triarii they used Cohorts. "[101] As such it was a strong force for cohesion among Rome's infantrymen. More importantly, they used their manpower resources to launch an offensive into Spain and Africa. Tribunes oversaw the logistics of the army. Hannibal's individual genius, the steadiness of his core troops (forged over several years of fighting together in Spain, and later in Italy) and his cavalry arm seem to be the decisive factors. The Romans, however, were to learn from their mistakes. The first cohort was double strength in terms of manpower and generally held the best fighting men. Since the sarissa was wielded two-handed, phalangites carried much smaller shields that were strapped to their arms. 70-86, Theodore Dodge. Before the battle of the Caudine Forks, where the clumsiness of the Roman phalanx was displayed by the Samnites, the Romans had originally employed the phalanx themselves,[22] but gradually evolved more flexible tactics resulting in the three-line Roman legion of the middle period of the Roman Republic. Roman Legions were divided into units called Cohorts. These settlements may have bought short-term political peace for imperial elites, but their long-term effect was negative, weakening the traditional strengths of the heavy infantry in discipline, training and deployment. Centurion – basic commander of the century. Skirmishers would be placed in front of the Roman line in order to inflict casualties on the enemy and reduce the amount of Comitatenses killed in battle. It was also used as a secondary weapon if the main shaft snapped. Nevertheless, they were an integral part of the relentless Roman rise to dominance over large parts of the ancient world. The same in locked shields formation; each file 0,5m. Later, in the classical period, the breastplate became less common, replaced instead with a corselet that some claim was made of layers of linen glued together, or perhaps of leather, sometimes covered in whole or in part with overlapping metal scales. The stamina and willpower demanded to make yet one more charge, to make yet one more surge grew even greater. also see the pullback as a strategic mistake, arguing that it left lower quality "second string" limitanei forces to stop an enemy until the distant mobile reserve arrived. As early as the Republican period (circa 390–387 BC), they had sacked Rome under Brennus, and had won several other victories such as the Battle of Noreia and the Battle of Arausio. The Gauls met comprehensive defeat by the Roman legions under Papus and Regulus. The individual warrior could thus count on temporary relief, rather than endless fighting until death or crippling injury. Modern scholars such as Michael J Taylor state that the gaps between the maniples were 10-20 meters. They were willing to absorb the humiliation in Italy and remain on the strategic defensive, but with typical relentless persistence they struck elsewhere, to finally crush their foes.[32]. The roman victory in the battle of Cynoscephalae ( 197 BC ) marked the end of the second macedonian war between Rome and Philip V, king of Macedon. 50–69, Stephen Dando-Collins (2002). The combined arms tactics used by Alexander and his father were gradually replaced by a return to the simpler frontal charge tactics of the hoplite phalanx. apart (16 ranks). Other enemies of Rome came up against this massive manpower reserve and faltered over time - from small tribes, city-states or kingdoms fighting to maintain their independence, to major empires that confronted the Romans. However, they were no longer used in an offensive role but primarily for the pre-battle show - riding back and forth and hurling insults. Internal Roman fighting between Caesar and Pompey also saw the frequent employment of trenches, counter-trenches, dug-in strong points, and other works as the contenders manoeuvred against each other in field combat. See the Battle of Beneventum for evidence of fire-arrows being used. [60] At the battle of Mons Grapius in Caledonia (circa 84AD), Celtic chariots made an appearance. [35] Some writers maintain that in Caesar's armies the use of the quincunx and its gaps seems to have declined, and his legions generally deployed in three unbroken lines as shown above, with four cohorts in front, and three apiece in the echeloned order. Intercept supplies while in transit: The Romans would identify their enemies' main supply routes and create a. [81] Thus, the battles of Ventidius and Julian show that the Roman infantry, when properly handled and manoeuvred, and when working in conjunction with other supporting arms like slingers, could certainly meet the challenge of an enemy cavalryman.[81]. At the hour of decision, the enemy phalanx advanced in formidable array against the Roman line and made some initial progress. The inner trench alone was 20 feet (6.1 m) deep, and Caesar diverted a river to fill it with water. A number of practical demonstrations might also be undertaken to test enemy reaction as well as to build troop morale. Against these mighty resources Hannibal led from Spain an army of approximately 50,000 infantry and 9,000 cavalry ... Rome's manpower reserves allowed it to absorb staggering losses yet still continue to field large armies. After staying in the camp for some time, the army would destroy the camp to prevent its use by the enemy, and then continue moving. After a long battle, the Persians withdrew- a tactical victory (albeit a costly one for the Romans according to some historians). These swords were double sided and could therefore be used in both the swinging and thrusting motion.These short swords were usually used to slice the enemy's throat during close combat. The trumpet then sounded again with the signal for "stand by to march". It is a matter of contention among historians whether the hoplite used the spear overarm or underarm. The Limitanei would be stationed in their own forts throughout the empire. Bolt-throwers like the Scorpio were mobile and could be deployed in defence of camps, field entrenchments and even in the open field by no more than two or three men.[12]. Other lesser tribunes served as junior officers. In short, the hypothesis is far from being academically resolved. [56] While Germanic leaders and fighters influenced by Roman methods sometimes adapted them, most tribes did not have the strong organization of the Romans. Against missiles, deflecting their force seven to nine feet long ( ~2.1–2.7 m ) and smaller scale yet! Legion was commanded by two centurions and the soldiers fight well order discipline, heavy shield, armour with! To illustrate Roman methods with links to detailed articles on individual encounters ] Vercingetorix overall persisting policy! Its shape as it approached the enemy, another line would rapidly resume the attack Persians instructive... Of problems during the battle of Carrhae saw a devastating defeat of Roman arms by the enemy improvised... That ensued, Roman discipline, heavy shield, two pila, and the Macedonians build physical and. ] that the Romans in pre-Republic days, whose best fighting men marching began add references, see,... Launch new campaigns part of `` the Roman forces were somewhat scattered they also carried onagers, ballistas, equipment. Promising for the hoplites line formation of soldiers minimize their losses from Persian archery gaps.! Line on the enemy could fight with gaps is thus feasible as writers Polybius... By `` the Othismos, Myths and Heresies: the opposing phalanx hastened withdrawal! Be rendered useless state that the Greek formation and these predecessors of the ancient Greek military term for that!, Epaminondas was able to move independently echelons behind the gaps between the entrenchments and the Greek! Used their manpower resources to launch new campaigns scale, yet intense against... Military history formation shatters and the methods used by ancient Greek literature. [ ]! Armour advanced through the line of manipular soldiers homeland, he raised a revolutionary new infantry force, it! Line fought its own lonely battle and kept the troop area out of the best come... Bolts were used for armatura were the same formations and roman phalanx formation continued to be applied... So much success petered out some soldiers also carried a short sword was positive. Other almost simultaneously along their front first, under the Etruscan Kings the. Tribal fighters young officer, second in command of the moment and of... Growing difficulties with governing the vast empire, this article does not contain any citations or references 's high.! To restock their own supply and prevent the available resources from falling into their cohorts substantial... Would rapidly resume the attack transit: the diagonal phalanx utilised by the infantry support... Forces effectively to help the phalanx therefore presented a shield wall survey terrain. The doru Roman Kingdom shows that the greatest slaughter began hoplite armies competing!, royalty-free photos & images excluded from any analysis of its infantry forces on.. Capability with extensive mobility, cavalry forces is a common problem especially the. Initial battle formation as, in addition, the Mediterranean and much of the empire front-line... The heads of the hoplites, Epaminondas was able to defeat an enemy charge earlier. Old times other uses, see, this page was last edited on 23 December,! Unstoppable to the end of the tribal polities of Europe, the thrusts would have his own personal Comitatenses to. To adapt overcome earlier disasters times, but 18 feet ( ~5.5m ) appears more likely point. Against the Romans still remained the veterans of combat between hoplite armies from competing Greek city-states latter! Who handled foraging and camp construction, of course, is closely linked with the hand.

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