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Ask me about Warfare

Aldarion

Inkling
I am aware of the context in which spatha was adapted. But as to the rest of what you've written I'm afraid that you are simply wrong on Principate legionaries. They were not heavy skirmishers but heavy infantry and nothing else. Furthermore they didn't charge in and fight mass of duels but kept a formation of closed ranks in which their use of their shield and the sword came to decimate the opposition.
No, that is incorrect. They were heavy infantry in terms of armor and their basic battlefield role, but look more closely at their equipment: two javelins, and a large curved tower shield. This "curved tower" part is important. Heavy infantry that fights in formation has a shield which protects as much frontage as possible: look at Greek Aspis, late Roman clipeus, Norse rond... all of these shields were intended for combat in the shield wall. They were large and round, which allowed the soldier to protect not only himself, but also the vulnerable (right) side of a soldier next to him. Roman scutum however sucks for the shield wall combat. It is simply too large, too heavy, and not protective enough. What it excels at is giving individual soldier as much protection as possible, especially so in the context of missile combat, but also in individual close-quarters fighting. In other words, Roman legionary was expected to fight either in a loose formation or as an individual, not shoulder to shoulder with his comrades. Further, usage of heavy javelins by legionaries themselves would have been impossible had they fought in close-rank order: and without heavy javelins, you simply don't have the legions of late Republic or early Empire.

Look also at how Republican legions fought against the Macedonian phalanx: first they launched a barrage of javelins, then drew swords and went in close. And usually they lost in a head-on clash. Times when they won? When the phalanx was somehow disrupted, which legionaries would exploit by penetrating ranks of the phalanx in what were essentially piecemeal actions by small groups or even individual soldiers.

You know when scutum disappears? During the late Empire, which is precisely when legions abandon javelins as a primary weapon in exchange for the spear. And again we see the pattern I noted above: shield wall formation = large round shields. Also, do you know when shields similar to Roman scutum reappear? In Middle Ages, specifically as protection for crossbowmen. And granted, heavy infantry could fight from behind the pavise wall, but pavise itself was a response to requirements of ranged combat.

Likewise for a sword. Roman gladius was an adoption of Spanish sword. And you know what is also interesting? Ancient chronicles compared Iberian infantry to Greek peltasts - who were light skirmish infantry. Roman authors specifically noted similarity in equipment and tactics between the Iberian infantry and their own legionaries. In fact, Iberian speirai are a direct equivalent of Roman maniples.

So either Roman authors were lying about Iberian combat tactics, they were lying about their own combat tactics, or you are wrong about Roman legionaries being your typical heavy melee infantry.

Now, it is true that above mostly concerns legions of the Roman Republic rather than those of the Principate. However, equipment of the Principate legionaries is very similar to that of Republican equivalents - whereas late Roman legionaries have equipment completely different from their Principate predecessors. This would also suggest that Principate legions were tactically much closer to tactics of the post-Marian Republican legions than to those of the Late Empire.
 

Gurkhal

Auror
Thank you for taking the time for writing a pretty long trolling post, Aldarion . I reject your conclusion and shall look elsewhere for an answer to my question. Hopefully we'll interact in a more serious way in the future. :)
 

pmmg

Vala
If you are not concerned with the anachronistic elements of this, then I would think they would want the longer sword if they could get it.

Though, I would have to wonder why they would carry the weapon full time if it was only for a broken ground scenario. Do they fight on broken ground a lot?
 

Aldarion

Inkling
Thank you for taking the time for writing a pretty long trolling post, Aldarion . I reject your conclusion and shall look elsewhere for an answer to my question. Hopefully we'll interact in a more serious way in the future. :)
It is not trolling at all. Not everything that disagrees with your opinions is trolling.
 
Define longer sword.

2 things at play here I think. First there is cost. It's only a bit of extra bronze which is needed to make a longer sword. But, 20.000 times a bit (or however many soldiers you have) is still a lot. And that for a back-up weapon.

Then there is the fact that it's a back-up weapon first and foremost. This means the soldiers will carry it around in adition to their regular equipment of spear and shield. You don't want to be adding extra weight to your equipment just because you have some rare circumstances where it might be useful. You're much better off simply selecting an advantageous battle field. What's more, these soldiers have a shield, which means that even if they aren't in formation, they'd likely be fighting with sword and shield, not just sword. Of course, you can use the longer sword with a shield as well, there just isn't as much benefit. And the longer sword might be a hindrance when combined with the shield.

The thing to remember here is that warfare was a serious business. While of course random things happened, people also optimized what they had, simply because people don't like dying or losing battles. If it made sense to have the longer swords, then someone who spent their days fighting would have come up with it.
 

Gurkhal

Auror
If you are not concerned with the anachronistic elements of this, then I would think they would want the longer sword if they could get it.

Though, I would have to wonder why they would carry the weapon full time if it was only for a broken ground scenario. Do they fight on broken ground a lot?
Yes, I'm ready to accept anachronistic elements if necessary or if I get a really good idea. If I wanted to write strictly historical I would have written historical fiction.

The idea is that its a Hellenistic inspired world and that Hellenistic-style armies have both come to fight enemies who will happily retreat to or fight in looser formation on broken ground along with inspiration from the historical experience of fighting Rome where broken ground could become very bad news for a phalanx. Therefore they might want to be able to get the phalangites to perform on broken ground as well.
It is not trolling at all. Not everything that disagrees with your opinions is trolling.
In theory I agree and I'm no stranger to hold minority views if those makes sense to me.

But everything you have written flies in the face of everything I read or heard on the matter and what seems reasonable to me. And I know for a fact that you are well read on historical military matters. Thus my opinion that you're trolling me.
Define longer sword.

2 things at play here I think. First there is cost. It's only a bit of extra bronze which is needed to make a longer sword. But, 20.000 times a bit (or however many soldiers you have) is still a lot. And that for a back-up weapon.

Then there is the fact that it's a back-up weapon first and foremost. This means the soldiers will carry it around in adition to their regular equipment of spear and shield. You don't want to be adding extra weight to your equipment just because you have some rare circumstances where it might be useful. You're much better off simply selecting an advantageous battle field. What's more, these soldiers have a shield, which means that even if they aren't in formation, they'd likely be fighting with sword and shield, not just sword. Of course, you can use the longer sword with a shield as well, there just isn't as much benefit. And the longer sword might be a hindrance when combined with the shield.

The thing to remember here is that warfare was a serious business. While of course random things happened, people also optimized what they had, simply because people don't like dying or losing battles. If it made sense to have the longer swords, then someone who spent their days fighting would have come up with it.

I'm thinking about the Roman spatha here. So not bronze weapons but more likely iron or even early steel weapons.

Just something that if the fighting goes to ground where a phalanx is unsuitable then the phalangites would be able to keep fighting and not go the way of Pydna. Now there might be other ways to deal with this but having the phalangites essentially regulated to the side line in that kind of scenario tells me that someone would perhaps have sought a solution to this problem/weakness.

A longger sword might be a problem, so I'm open to other invovations that might help the make the phalangites in a phalanx more adaptable if things are not ideal to them.

I totally agree that warfare was serious business. However lets not forget that Hellenistic style armies mostly fought other Hellenistic armies and that a growing reliance on the "pike push" was a trend that was only challenged by the arrival of the Roman legions, which did force inovation and new ideas, to my knowledge, to be attempted on larger scale.
 

Aldarion

Inkling
In theory I agree and I'm no stranger to hold minority views if those makes sense to me.

But everything you have written flies in the face of everything I read or heard on the matter and what seems reasonable to me. And I know for a fact that you are well read on historical military matters. Thus my opinion that you're trolling me.
It is not trolling, although it definitely is unorthodox.

But personally, I simply cannot see Roman legions fighting as your typical heavy infantry.

Firstly, we have accounts of their combat against the Macedonian phalanx, where victory was a result of individual legionaries and small groups leaving formation in order to exploit the gaps and openings that had appeared in the phalanx thanks to the uneven terrain.

Secondly, as I have noted, legionary equipment is actually well suited to missile exchange.

We also have contrast with late Roman legions which fought in the shield wall, and had completely different equipment.
 
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