Late Roman Legionarii

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ShrubMiK
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Post by ShrubMiK » Sun Jan 02, 2011 10:59 am

I'm still waiting to see what this "substantial evidence" for a change to offensive spear is.

Hint - the Ammianus quote given above does not really cut it, for a number of reasons which have been repeatedly stated, and repeatedly ignored. Is there something more substantial?

zocco
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Post by zocco » Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:15 am

ShrubMiK wrote:I'm still waiting to see what this "substantial evidence" for a change to offensive spear is.

Hint - the Ammianus quote given above does not really cut it, for a number of reasons which have been repeatedly stated, and repeatedly ignored. Is there something more substantial?
All I can say about my case is read my previous posts in this thread - there is adequate evidence there - literary, artistic and contemporary reenactment groups. As I have said Roman legionaries were able to fight in a number of different styles (at least in FOG terms) and clearly one of them is shieldwall (ie akin to say Anglo-Saxons - ie Off Sp).

What is wrong with AM's evidence by the way....I confess it seems good enough for modern scholars (eg Rance whom I would recommend).

ShrubMiK
1st Lieutenant - 15 cm sFH 18
1st Lieutenant - 15 cm sFH 18
Posts: 824
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Post by ShrubMiK » Sat Jan 08, 2011 4:26 pm

Ah yes...sorry that was so long ago I had forgotten that post.

I still remain to be convinced.

Let's respond to a few easy points first...

1. Please let's not consider re-enactment groups an authority ;) A cardinal rule of historians is to go to primary sources. Too much time has been spent over the years arguing based on secondary sources who manage to at best disagree on the interpretation of primary sources, or at worst simply perpetuate blindlylong outdated interpretations.

2. Impact foot based on warband from DBM? That's highly debatable. Have any of the authors ever alluded to that? And using debatable assumptions as evidence for your line of argument is best stayed away from. To me it seems in fact like backward reasoning. You clearly believe that legionaries should not be classified similarly to "warband" troops, ipso facto any rules that do so must be flawed. I in fact agree with you somewhat here, but my viewpoint is that imapct foor legionaries are about right, and it is the loss of a differentiated "warband" troop category that is a bit wrong.

So leaving those aside as essentially irrelevant...

3. References to "close order" doesn't really say very much. Are you seriously suggesting that any infantry formed in close order should be considered off spear (except presumably for pikemen and def spear)? Not to mention that it is a relative term, so exactly what it means on the ground is uncertain.

4. I'm not sure I like Vikings as Offensive Spear, so I wouldn't use them as comparative evidence in this sort of debate. They certainly don't seem to fit naturally alongside Greek hoplites to me. I guess the list authors feel that it produces the right sort of effect.

5. "Shieldwall" is a bit vague as well. Legionaries throwing spears of some sort and then fighting in close order with adjacent shields and controlled swordplay is a fairly standard idea throughout the lifetime of the legionary as a distinguishable troop type, but presumably wouldn't qualify as "offensive spear". (I'm reminded in this context of arguments revolving around description of certain troops as operating in "phalanx", and whether that implies they should be categorised as pikemen or not.)

Testudo certainly doesn't seem to fit the bill for offensive spearmen. Used seldom in open battle as far as I know, more so in sieges, and designed to minimise vulnerability to missiles, at the cost of decreased mobility and offensive power.

6. As far as I know, Ammianus (and feel free to provide additional quotes to the contrary here) refers to Romans sometimes retaining spears in hand to thrust, whilst still suggesting that that was the exception rather than the norm. So I don't feel that provides particularly compelling evidence for a rethink.

7. And in any case, if you are arguing for increased use of defensive tactics by legionaries in later periods, locking shields and bracing spears to repulse cavalry (and this applies to the Arrian anti-Alan countermeasures as well), doesn't that suggest in game terms def spear rather than off spear? That would make more sense to me from an evolutionary perspective too - later still Roman (i.e.; Byzantine) foot become defensive spearmen. Envisaging the transition as happening earlier than currently represented in the lists is a simpler theory than interpolating an additional evolution in a completely different direction, then back.

Other thoughts...

There is another line of argument to follow that might suggest later Roman legionaries should be differentiated from earlier ones. What does reversion to oval shields and change to longer swords say about how their tactics might have changed? I've wondered that for some time, without any particular conclusion, but if anyuthing I feel it suggests more emphasis on more open order (more room to swing the longer sword, and less point to having parallel sided shields which fit together neatly). And in similar vein I also found myself disagreeing with Phil Barker's reasoning in DBx lists - he says that detached lanciarii were amalgamated into new elite legions, and that later legionary equipment changes made them similar to the old lanciarii so superceded their function. That line of though seems to suggest to me that following his own logic he should have graded later legionaries as Bd(F), especially as he sill seems to follow the unarmoured line of thought.

Ultimately all this historical interpretation/debate is interesting, but misses the point. The classification of troops in FoG should be chosen to produce the right effect on the table.

What exactly about impact foot/light spear classification seems to you to produce the wrong effects, that off spear would fix?

zocco
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Post by zocco » Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:04 pm

There is another line of argument to follow that might suggest later Roman legionaries should be differentiated from earlier ones. What does reversion to oval shields and change to longer swords say about how their tactics might have changed? I've wondered that for some time, without any particular conclusion, but if anyuthing I feel it suggests more emphasis on more open order (more room to swing the longer sword, and less point to having parallel sided shields which fit together neatly). And in similar vein I also found myself disagreeing with Phil Barker's reasoning in DBx lists - he says that detached lanciarii were amalgamated into new elite legions, and that later legionary equipment changes made them similar to the old lanciarii so superceded their function. That line of though seems to suggest to me that following his own logic he should have graded later legionaries as Bd(F), especially as he sill seems to follow the unarmoured line of thought.

Ultimately all this historical interpretation/debate is interesting, but misses the point. The classification of troops in FoG should be chosen to produce the right effect on the table.

What exactly about impact foot/light spear classification seems to you to produce the wrong effects, that off spear would fix?
ShrubMik - Apologies for the long delay in replying;

Regarding offensive spear giving a better outcome than say light spear or impact foot.

I’d firstly point you to part of the wiki article on the Late roman army….

‘In the late army, while the role of archers and cavalry remained similar, the infantry's tactics were less aggressive, relying less on the charge and often waiting for the enemy to charge.[235] During the battle, the Roman line would exert steady pressure in close formation. The thrusting-spear (2–2.5 m long) had replaced the gladius (just 0.5 m (1 ft 8 in) long) as the primary mêlée weapon.[297] The extended reach of the thrusting-spear, combined with the adoption of oval or round shields, permitted a battle array where shields were interlocked to form a "shield wall". (Spears would protrude through the 'V' shaped gaps formed between overlapping shields).[298][299] The late army also relied more heavily on missiles, replacing the single volley of pila with a more prolonged discharge of javelins and darts.[235]

This kind of combat was consistent with the aim of minimising casualties and its efficacy is illustrated by the Battle of Strasbourg. The battle was primarily a struggle of attrition where steady pressure on the barbarians resulted in their eventual rout. Despite a long and hard-fought struggle, Roman casualties were negligible.[300]’

This view is supported by the work of Hugh Elton and Philip Rance who both wrote key chapters in the authoritative Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare. Rance states quite categorically that the ‘volley and charge’ method was replaced by a shieldwall supported by massed missile based system leading to a more attritional (but nonetheless effective) style of infantry combat.



In game terms it also makes more sense as offensive spear is less vulnerable to mounted troops – eg Sassanian Cats. And this is doubly important now that V2 is likely to increase the effectiveness of elephants – which impact foot and light spear are vulnerable too – check the POA’s ). Currently one would have to wonder how the Dom Roms defeated Sassanian elephants as they only have a solitary unit of LF (4 bases only) allowed and the rest of the army is quite vulnerable to them. In reality the Sassanians seemed to have kept their elephants at the back in most of their battles (so obviously they thought theRomans knew something about beating the critters).

Whether Roman foot should be Offensive or Defensive is the question – it seems to me that Dom Roms HF at least should be Offensive Spear as they could fight either defensively (eg Strasbourg) or offensively eg in some of their encounters vs the Sassanians or at Adrianople. The main decider was possibly whether they had missile superiority (eg vs western barbarian foot they would want to prolong the missile exchange whereas against Sassanian HC they would want to close and force it to close combat).

I think later romans (eg Early Byzantine) are likely to be Defensive Spear and Foederate Romans possibly as well. I think for the MF types they could probably remain light spear/swordsmen.

To sum up what I’m saying is pretty much the scholarly view – the current FOG view is very old hat . I might also add that it could be given as an option (ie all/0 HF offensive spearmen). When you compare the slack that is given to some troops (eg Sassanian Levy defensive spearmen – is there really any evidence for these guys using shieldwall tactics ?? and to Arab Conquest foot – they have swords but the authors made them Offensive Spearmen for effect – maybe but one would have to say there is a lot more evidence for Late Roman offensive spearmen.

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