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Military formations of ancient Romans

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Romans changed their fighting style many times in the history of the state. During the monarchy and the early republic, the Roman army was based on a phalanx and relied on pushing an opponent. Changes only took place in a mature republic. Reforms of Marcus Camillus and Gaius Marius shed a whole new light on tactics and Roman formations. Since then, they counted mainly on the skill of their legionaries and on disciplining the troops. During the battle, the legion had only one goal, to smash the middle of the formation and cause panic and take away the desire to continue the fight. This way of fighting could have catastrophic effects when the opponent was a tactic master. And indeed, in the battle of Cannae, the Romans suffered the greatest defeat because of their tactics. Hannibal backed out and hit the wings, smashing the entire Roman army.
This event forced the Romans to seek further solutions. However, until the end of the empire, they relied heavily on heavy-armed infantry, leaving the cavalry only side quests.

Deployment of Republican troops

During the republic, the Roman army had a strictly defined system of setting up troops, which was modified depending on the conditions and the enemy. As a rule, however, the arrangement of the Roman army was as follows. In the middle stood both Roman legions, and next to them legions of allies. The ride was set on wings. In combat formation, hastati set into a rectangle of 120 people (10 rows of 6 soldiers, each century, when velites were included in the manipulation, both centurions stood on one line) forming the first line. There was a gap between the manipulas covered in the second line by the manipulator principes. The triarii manipulates covered the gaps left by principes, so that the army’s positioning oblique chessboard shape.

The legion started to fight in stages. The first attacked hastati throwing javelins at the enemy and fighting in melee. In the event of victory they went ahead and the other lines followed them. In the event of a defeat, they withdrew in an organized order, and stood principes in the forefront, fighting. At the same time, the triaras knelt on one knee, shielded themselves with their shields, and stuck their spear forward, forming a wall behind which new troops regrouped hastati forced to retreat. When the enemy also replied principes, the units of triarii entered the final and decisive counterattack.

Thanks to this combat tactic, troops could fight in any situation. their mobility was further enhanced by velici, usually independent of the centurion they belonged to, because they formed its last two ranks or entered between both manipulators in a situation requiring the creation of a continuous front of attack. Sometimes they were put out in front of the front line and then they started the attack, dragging the enemy into skirmishes. Cavalry stood on the wings (cornua) pushing light-armed riders forward.

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