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Jack W. Englund




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PostPosted: Thu 25 Aug, 2011 8:09 pm    Post subject: Roman tactics vs cav using spears??         Reply with quote

Did the Romans have tactics, using spears ?? Esp. a bx &/or round formation .

Jack
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William M




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Aug, 2011 12:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sure did!

It kind of reminds me of the bayonet formation used to repel cavalry. Essentially the front rank will kneel with their spears/javelins up at a 45 degree angle with the troopers behind them with their spears/javelins forward also.

I saw a roman re-enactment troop last weekend and I took some shots of this formation. I will upload and post them on this thread later on tonight.

Will
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Fri 26 Aug, 2011 7:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
It kind of reminds me of the bayonet formation used to repel cavalry. Essentially the front rank will kneel with their spears/javelins up at a 45 degree angle with the troopers behind them with their spears/javelins forward also


What spears were they using? I did not recall them using spears, though perhaps they used the pilum in this manner?
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Aug, 2011 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ave!

You may want to narrow it down--"Roman" covers over a thousand years! I'm not strong on the Late era, but up through the first century AD I'm not familiar with a specific tactic of kneeling in the face of cavalry. Caesar does mention his troops fighting cavalry by thrusting with their javelins, until they saw him approaching with reinforcements, at which point they threw the javelins and charged. No mention of kneeling that I recall.

From the earlier Republic we are told that the triarii, forming the 3rd battle line, would kneel behind their shields while the first 2 lines (hastati and principes) fought. But this was more to allow them to rest (being mostly older guys) and remain steady, and was done no matter what sorts of troops they were facing.

Roman tactics in the late Republic and early Empire were certainly based on flexibility, but the basic line seems to have been the usual basis. Forming squares or circles would allow the enemy to get behind you, which could be bad for your camp and baggage train! A notable exception was Crassus' campaign into Parthia, for which he marched in a hollow square, with the baggage inside. This was mostly to defend against horse archers, of course, though there was a small contingent of Parthian armored lancers (cataphracti).

I think it's Arrian who writes a hypothetical description of a battle between Romans and Alan cavalry, 2nd or maybe 3rd century AD. His arrangement of the Roman infantry is specifically designed to face a cavalry threat, but I honestly don't recall if he mentions the front ranks kneeling or not.

Are there any actual references to Romans kneeling to repel cavalry?

Matthew
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William M




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Aug, 2011 10:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
Quote:
It kind of reminds me of the bayonet formation used to repel cavalry. Essentially the front rank will kneel with their spears/javelins up at a 45 degree angle with the troopers behind them with their spears/javelins forward also


What spears were they using? I did not recall them using spears, though perhaps they used the pilum in this manner?


Hi there,

The legionaries were using the pilum and the auxiliaries had spears.
Here is a photo of them demonstrating an anti-cavalry formation. This guys are the from the Romanarmy re-enactment group in the UK.

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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Fri 26 Aug, 2011 10:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
The legionaries were using the pilum and the auxiliaries had spears.


These troops would generally not be mixed, correct? Auxilliaries would usually form their own seperate units I though, not mix with the legionairres?
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Aug, 2011 12:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Correct. This is just a typical practice for small numbers of reenactors, massing them together like this. However, I'm afraid this particular formation isn't quite convincing, to me. If there is a Roman source which describes something like this, no problem, I will cheerfully eat my words!

Valete,

Matthew
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Aug, 2011 1:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
I think it's Arrian who writes a hypothetical description of a battle between Romans and Alan cavalry, 2nd or maybe 3rd century AD. His arrangement of the Roman infantry is specifically designed to face a cavalry threat, but I honestly don't recall if he mentions the front ranks kneeling or not.

Are there any actual references to Romans kneeling to repel cavalry?


Arrian's Array against the Alans doesn't mention kneeling.

Formation against cavalry, and the use of pila as anti-cavalry thrusting weapons: "And the front four ranks of the formation must be of spearmen, whose spearpoints end in thin iron shanks. And the foremost of them should hold them at the ready, in order that when the enemies near them, they can thrust the ironpoints of the spears at the breast of the horses in particular. Those standing in second, third an fourth rank of the formation must hold their spears ready for thrusting if possible, wounding the horses and killing the horsemen and put the rider out of action with the spear stuck in their heavy body armour and the iron point bent because of the softness. The following ranks should be of the javelineers."

Against a cavalry charge: "If they do close in though, the first three ranks should lock their shields and press their shoulders and receive the charge as strongly as possible in the most closely ordered formation bound together in the strongest manner. The fourth rank will throw their javelins overhead and the first rank will stab at them and their horses with their spears without pause."

The kneeling formation, if not a modern invention, might be based on artwork rather than literature.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Aug, 2011 4:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Correct. This is just a typical practice for small numbers of reenactors, massing them together like this. However, I'm afraid this particular formation isn't quite convincing, to me. If there is a Roman source which describes something like this, no problem, I will cheerfully eat my words!

Valete,

Matthew

It may be an interpretation of the version of the foulkon described in Strategikon 12a7. But that's 6th century AD, designed for longer spears and different shields, and has two ranks kneeling or squatting. So I'm a little suspicious of seeing it in a High Imperial reenactment!
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Aug, 2011 6:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
It may be an interpretation of the version of the foulkon described in Strategikon 12a7. But that's 6th century AD, designed for longer spears and different shields, and has two ranks kneeling or squatting. So I'm a little suspicious of seeing it in a High Imperial reenactment!


Aha! Thanks, Sean. I can hardly complain, since we use Maurice as the basis for our marching drill. Kneeling like that just looked a little 18th century to me!

And thanks for digging up Arrian, Timo! I probably have a copy buried around here somewhere...

Valete,

Matthew
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Jaroslav Kravcak




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PostPosted: Sat 27 Aug, 2011 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William M wrote:
Gary Teuscher wrote:
Quote:
It kind of reminds me of the bayonet formation used to repel cavalry. Essentially the front rank will kneel with their spears/javelins up at a 45 degree angle with the troopers behind them with their spears/javelins forward also


What spears were they using? I did not recall them using spears, though perhaps they used the pilum in this manner?


Hi there,

The legionaries were using the pilum and the auxiliaries had spears.
Here is a photo of them demonstrating an anti-cavalry formation. This guys are the from the Romanarmy re-enactment group in the UK.



Might I ask how they imagined this would work against 4m contos? (Or would any special formation be needed if they simply threw caltrops infront of their line and then pilas as they approached)
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William P




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PostPosted: Sun 28 Aug, 2011 10:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

my question regarding use of pila is regarding the characteristics of pila themselves, their thin iron shanks being prone to bending when they impact a target

ive always wondered how well pila would actually perform

my understanding (i once heard) was that another anti cavalry tactic was, again not unlike the redcoat infantry square, instead of muskets though, throwing their pila to blunt the cavalry charge (personally i wouldnt be too keen at the idea of being showered by pila. which unless im mistaken are quite heavy compared to the more typical skirmishers javelin.

one last (and slightly off topic) question regarding pila. a common assertion regarding the pila was that one of the two had a lead weight, and the leadone was always thrown either first or second but i dont know in which order, which is it?
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Aug, 2011 6:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
my question regarding use of pila is regarding the characteristics of pila themselves, their thin iron shanks being prone to bending when they impact a target

ive always wondered how well pila would actually perform


Should work well enough. There is some debate about the bendability of the shank, but I think the answer is simply "It varies!" Some are thicker than others, and we have historical references to bending shanks as well as surviving bent shanks, so it clearly happened at least some of the time. In any case, the bending should only be caused by sideways pressure of some sort, so a straight thrust should do its damage before the shank bends.

Quote:
my understanding (i once heard) was that another anti cavalry tactic was, again not unlike the redcoat infantry square, instead of muskets though, throwing their pila to blunt the cavalry charge (personally i wouldnt be too keen at the idea of being showered by pila. which unless im mistaken are quite heavy compared to the more typical skirmishers javelin.


Yah, that should work, too! A nice shower of pila into a moving cavalry force would be all kinds of fun.

Quote:
one last (and slightly off topic) question regarding pila. a common assertion regarding the pila was that one of the two had a lead weight, and the leadone was always thrown either first or second but i dont know in which order, which is it?


Originally, a legionary carried a heavy and a light one, throwing the lighter one first. By the Empire, there doesn't seem to be any real difference any more--the various styles (tanged and socketed) seem to be about the same weight range. About mid-first century AD, we sometimes see an added weight in artwork, though not all the time, and there have been none recovered so far. We're guessing it's lead, and my own theory is that the pilum had been getting lighter over the centuries so a weight was added to give more punch. Reproductions of the weighted pilum can get hillarious, by the way, massive battering rams that are nearly impossible to lift, let alone throw!

Matthew
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William P




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Aug, 2011 8:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
William P wrote:
my question regarding use of pila is regarding the characteristics of pila themselves, their thin iron shanks being prone to bending when they impact a target

ive always wondered how well pila would actually perform


Should work well enough. There is some debate about the bendability of the shank, but I think the answer is simply "It varies!" Some are thicker than others, and we have historical references to bending shanks as well as surviving bent shanks, so it clearly happened at least some of the time. In any case, the bending should only be caused by sideways pressure of some sort, so a straight thrust should do its damage before the shank bends.

Quote:
my understanding (i once heard) was that another anti cavalry tactic was, again not unlike the redcoat infantry square, instead of muskets though, throwing their pila to blunt the cavalry charge (personally i wouldnt be too keen at the idea of being showered by pila. which unless im mistaken are quite heavy compared to the more typical skirmishers javelin.


Yah, that should work, too! A nice shower of pila into a moving cavalry force would be all kinds of fun.

Quote:
one last (and slightly off topic) question regarding pila. a common assertion regarding the pila was that one of the two had a lead weight, and the leadone was always thrown either first or second but i dont know in which order, which is it?


Originally, a legionary carried a heavy and a light one, throwing the lighter one first. By the Empire, there doesn't seem to be any real difference any more--the various styles (tanged and socketed) seem to be about the same weight range. About mid-first century AD, we sometimes see an added weight in artwork, though not all the time, and there have been none recovered so far. We're guessing it's lead, and my own theory is that the pilum had been getting lighter over the centuries so a weight was added to give more punch. Reproductions of the weighted pilum can get hillarious, by the way, massive battering rams that are nearly impossible to lift, let alone throw!

Matthew


then maybe there is somethig to the legionaires advance in gladiator after all. i thought they were ludicrous for advancing with levelled pila nstead of drawn swords. and not throwing the pila either.

but as for anti cavalry my understanding of the pilums purpose has changed abit, it used to be the intend of, kill the guy but if you hit the shield itll just disarm him.. and hang and make it too awkward to carry

now i look at the functioning of the pilum this way

my understanding is that if the head of a projectle, an arrow, a javalin, etc, is overall bigger in width than the shaft behid it, once the head of the pilum makes that hole in the shield the hole being wider than the shaft means the shank will easily slip thoughthat hole because it doesnt need to push aside any more material to penetrate further. . and thus likely kill the guy BEHIND the shield. due to the long length of the shank..

that said, this view is somewhat challangedby the fact some pila had wide barbed heads.

in otherwords it was designed to simply punch THROUGH the shield, and kill the guy holding it.

were pila capable of doing that latter function to

actually is there any evidence of the pila being used by troops other than legionairs, like for example, skirmishing javalineers both on foot and monted. im merely asking because post marian reform (yes, there is a specificly timed message stating the marian reforms, and it replaces your hastati, triarii principes velites and equites with foot and munted auxilias and legionaires ) units in rome total war are portrayed as doing this.. im wondering if theres anything to this or is it anothe piece of artistic liscence by the makers?
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Tue 30 Aug, 2011 5:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
then maybe there is somethig to the legionaires advance in gladiator after all. i thought they were ludicrous for advancing with levelled pila nstead of drawn swords. and not throwing the pila either.


Nope, it's still complete BS. They would be holding their pila overhand, ready to throw or thrust. Most of the "Germans" in that movie were infantry, anyway (Zulus, judging by their war chants....).

Quote:
but as for anti cavalry my understanding of the pilums purpose has changed abit, it used to be the intend of, kill the guy but if you hit the shield itll just disarm him.. and hang and make it too awkward to carry

now i look at the functioning of the pilum this way

my understanding is that if the head of a projectle, an arrow, a javalin, etc, is overall bigger in width than the shaft behid it, once the head of the pilum makes that hole in the shield the hole being wider than the shaft means the shank will easily slip thoughthat hole because it doesnt need to push aside any more material to penetrate further. . and thus likely kill the guy BEHIND the shield. due to the long length of the shank..

that said, this view is somewhat challangedby the fact some pila had wide barbed heads.

in otherwords it was designed to simply punch THROUGH the shield, and kill the guy holding it.


Yup, pretty much what I've been saying for many years! Basically it can do all those things, plus the disruption of having a few thousand pointy sticks arrive on your battle line as you are just starting to charge. You have to worry about tripping over them or your fallen buddies, or you may just be thinking "Let's not go there!" A volley of pila doesn't have to actually kill very many men to be effective.

Quote:
actually is there any evidence of the pila being used by troops other than legionairs, like for example, skirmishing javalineers both on foot and monted. im merely asking because post marian reform (yes, there is a specificly timed message stating the marian reforms, and it replaces your hastati, triarii principes velites and equites with foot and munted auxilias and legionaires ) units in rome total war are portrayed as doing this.. im wondering if theres anything to this or is it anothe piece of artistic liscence by the makers?


Pilum points are found in places like auxiliary forts, though there is some thought that they may have been carried by legionary contingents in those forts. The arguments get circular! Early on, the velites used javelins which were very similar to pila. And later on you get the gaesum, spiculum, and other derivatives. So we don't actually have clear accounts or depictions of auxiliaries from the early Principate with pila, but it could have happened.

Matthew
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Tue 30 Aug, 2011 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Basically it can do all those things, plus the disruption of having a few thousand pointy sticks arrive on your battle line as you are just starting to charge. You have to worry about tripping over them or your fallen buddies, or you may just be thinking "Let's not go there!" A volley of pila doesn't have to actually kill very many men to be effective.


Exactly. It's similar to the use of massed bowmen vs cavalry. They don't have to kill too many cavalrymen to disrupt a charge - wound and spook a couple of horses, down a few and it really disrupts a charge as a down horse or two can really screw up a charge causing other horses to trip, go around or over.

Bad thing about the Legionairres - the Javelin was short ranged, so it got to be a game of chicken between charging horse and legionairres - would the legionairres stand fast and launch pilum, knowing a second or two later the cavalry would impact with them? Or do they run? Fortunately, Legionairres were pretty well trained and steadfast, at least until towards the end of the empire.

Good thing abuot the Pilum armed troops - unlike archers, they could launch at the last second and still be in a fighting formation - Shield and gladius is not the ulimate anti-cavalry weapon, but it's batter than "drop my bow and grab something" Big Grin

I used to think that javelins were not a real useful weapon, though I know they were used thoughout the ages by foot and horse alike, even into the late middle ages by the Jinettes in Europe, and probably til this time or longer in the east.

But I looked at some tests in joules of energy produced by javelins verses bows. An olympic javelin thrower produces about 2 times the joulles compared to a 140 pound warbow.

Now, the javelin thrower is an optimum athlete under optimum conditions - but I would guess that a middle ages javelin thrower should be able to generate at least 50-75% of that, making it a better penetrator than the 140 pound bow. And if momentum, not joulles is what defines the ability to pierce armour, javelins would be that much better.

And mount that javelin thrower on a cantering horse, and you can probably generate energy simlar to that of the olypic javelin thrower.

Horse armed Javelins were great against non missile infantry for this reason - however they were at a disadvantage to either mounted or foot bow because of the range issues.
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William P




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PostPosted: Tue 30 Aug, 2011 11:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

to be completely fair to ridley scott, the germans chant was done apparently on purpose as a tribute to the movie zulu.

the 'game of chicken matthew descibes regarding thrown pila to stop cavalry, is a dilemma faced by rredcoats when in square, the dilemma was de to the rate of fire of the smoothbore musket, 3 shots a minute on average, if the men fire too early they wont do much casualties and wont be able to reload before the cavalry are upon them, but if they fire too late, sure they might pretty much wipe out half or a quarter of the horsemen, but theres a huge risk that a dead man or dying horse will fcrash into the lines of the square, this will disrupt the bayonet hedge presented, and create a gap in the lines that the rest of the cavalry will exploit, chopping up the square from within and without.

and like roman infantry british infantry squares are often arranged in checkerboard array to allow mutually supporting crossfire zones.

if a square is broken up, sometimes infantry fleeing the square will try and find safety in neighbouring squares, to do so they have to push past their comrades andnd if more than a few men do that to the side of a square at once will again create exploitable gaps, that cavalry can exploit, chop up the square from within, cause refugees , which break up and disrupt more squares..

its like a viral infection or a uranium chain reaction meaning one delayed firing order by a square can result in potentially a good portion of the army thrown into complete disarray, if not total ruin, and in either case be badly shaken by the experienceif that had happened to the squares at waterloo history may very well have turned out alot differently from then on

as for the power of javelins, one place this power verses most bows is reflected is medieval 2 total war and even more accurately in the crusader era mod broken crescent. in BC especially most horse archers will do little damage to high armoured units like the commanders bodyguards, cataphracts and other troops which are typically heavily armoured, but mounted javelineers will do a hefty amount of damage against them. one or two batallians using about 2 volleys of javelins will to the same damage as 2-3 times that number of horse archers firing twice the number of arrows each.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Wed 31 Aug, 2011 1:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
the 'game of chicken matthew descibes regarding thrown pila to stop cavalry,


Ahem....that was me Big Grin
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William P




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PostPosted: Wed 31 Aug, 2011 6:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
Quote:
the 'game of chicken matthew descibes regarding thrown pila to stop cavalry,


Ahem....that was me Big Grin

woops...
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Sep, 2011 5:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One thing I remember is the account in Plutarch's Life of Mark Antony, where the Roman legionaries were ordered to wait for a Parthian cavalry charge and then spring up and counterattack with their pila once the Parthians had drawn very close. What I can't recall is what array they were supposed to wait in; it could have been kneeling, or it could have been a testudo, and my Plutarch is not close at hand (so I can't check it up yet).
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