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Roman legion vs medieval army

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posted on Oct, 23 2005 @ 01:10 AM
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Ever since watching kingdom of heaven Ive been wondering how the Roman legion will fare up against a medieval army. Now it would seem that this will be a no contest but I would think the Roman legion would develop tactics against the medieval knights and their calvary considering how the Roman legion were resourceful and more maneuverable.




posted on Oct, 23 2005 @ 01:26 AM
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legions were poor defenders tho, they were an offensive force more than anything.



posted on Oct, 23 2005 @ 01:36 AM
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I dont think the Romans were so big on Mounted calvary tactics as were the Knighthoods of Midieval times. More like horse mounted officers directing legions afoot.
Seems to me they do this kind of thing on computer simulations at many of the Military Academys today.
The one I heard about was Wellingtons forces against Alexander the Great and his Macedonian Pikemen. I would have thought the guys with the muskets would have won but the story goes it was a draw or the victory tending twords the Pikemen.
Perhapsed someone else reading this would be more abreast of this than myself.

Thanks,
Orangetom



posted on Oct, 23 2005 @ 02:10 PM
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Legionary equipment isn't really suited to fight heavy cavalry, they are exellent shocktroops, but javelins tend to be hard to throw against fast riding cavalry and their short swords (gladius?) are of little use against armoured cavalry (like knights or cataphratoi)
In Roman Legions cavalry was a supporting arm used to chase down enemys light infantry/skirmishers/archers.
Out of roman forces early Triarii units (spearmen) would have good chance but they were disbanded after Gaius Marius' military reforms, so they wren't avaible at the height of the empire, and at best they were a small elite minority in roman legions.

Greek Hoplites vs. knights would be another story they were the best anti-cavalry force before machineguns, a solid wall of spikes pointed at enemys direction (phalanx) tends to make meatloaf out of attacking cavalry.

But no way the legions would have been easy prey for the knights and they would have most likely given a hellish fight to any medieval army, since the mount of knights/heavy cavalry was very limited... and legionary training would have made them deadly foe against any medieval infatry.



posted on Oct, 23 2005 @ 03:40 PM
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Well lets bring up a scenario. In a first clash between the two armies the romans found themselves ill-prepared against the medieval calvary. For the next battle they bring back the triaii supported by velites or another skirmishers right beside the legions. I would think the romans will raise an army a lot larger than any of the medieval armies. I believe if the romans use right tactics I believe they will overwhelm the medieval armies. So I think the romans would have a good chance if they use everything in their aresnal during their whole span as an empire.



posted on Oct, 23 2005 @ 05:28 PM
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It depends on what era knights 1200s,1300s etc.. we are talking about and from what country French, English?. Also you have to consider Knights the best trained often made up a small portion of a medieval army. Many were just your common ex-farmer given a weapon and maybe some armour if they were lucky.

Roman legoins had much better training as a whole IMHO. But technological differences would be the major factor the Longbow would be the deciding factor in favor of the Medieval army.

Without that unfair range advantage of the Longbow I might go with the Romans they were better disciplined and in close combat they as a whole were better armoured and the Gladius was just deadly in close combat.

Also the Roman Legoins had much better numbers on their sides. Medieval army could consider itself lucky to wield ten thousand men, while Romans could have anything between 10.000 - 50.000.



posted on Oct, 23 2005 @ 10:12 PM
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Roman legion vs Medieval army

Given varying commanders and army make-ups from the two time periods [Roman legion would hypothetically be Trajan period and Medieval would be late 1200 to mid-1300s], the Medieval army would win or it would be one huge arse bloody draw. The argument of discipline will undoubtedly come into play, but IMHO, it is only a slight advantage, being both Roman legion and medieval armies had highly trained units. Such an argument would only lead to examples of how a undisciplined (generally and overall) Hannibal army(s) routinely destroyed Roman Legions. Overall discipline is debatable [but probably leans slightly in favor of the Legions], no matter how much one wishes to persist with such a discipline argument, period. Discipline is but one aspect: tactics, training, equipment, morale, leadership, battle positioning, and formation use and uses, etc. are others, all making up and attributing to the final outcome.

Better all around technology level, equipment, such as the longbow and mounted armoured knights, and tactics.

Given a the numbers game, as pointed out by ShadowXIX, then things may become a bit hairy for the Medieval army: favor towards the larger Roman legion make-up. The problem with the Roman legions were there lack of mobility is such numbers. Given the proper defensive situation, the Medieval army could take on and probably beat the Roman numerical advantage(s), say in an example like the Battle of Crecy, Agincourt, etc., where the Medieval army has the defensive position and the Roman legion(s) are the attackers.

Bearing all this in mind, this topic is purely hypothetical and for and open to speculation, nothing more.








seekerof

[edit on 23-10-2005 by Seekerof]



posted on Oct, 23 2005 @ 10:15 PM
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Keep in mind that individual valour and cool armor is no match for awesome teamwork and discipline. Just look at the way the un-armored Mongol Horde absolutely annihilated the Teutonic Knights in Poland.



posted on Oct, 23 2005 @ 10:20 PM
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Though an interesting hypothosis, in reality it's not a fair question. In military means, they learn the lesson that politicians, people, etc. don't. To forget history is to doom yourself to repeat it. That's why the means of warfare always progresses. The Medieval troop would have a distinct advantage by means and tactics.



posted on Oct, 23 2005 @ 11:00 PM
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The medievals would have:

1) Stirrups.

2) Iron armor

3) Bows; longbows if British

4) Horse Armor

5) Baggage trains pulled by horses with a true horse collar. Romans used oxen which go less than 2 miles per hour.

6) While both side would have problems supplying fodder for livestock, the Medievals would have flour milled by watermills. The romans needed to laboriously grind grain by hand, in a practice unchanged from the neolithic. In fact, skulls of legionaires often show excessive teeth wear from eating un-ground raw grain in the field, without milling it first. Medievals would be much better fed, on a high protein diet of the upper classes.

7) Depsite Gibbon's mischaracterizations of Medieval warfare, the Medieval armies used sophisticated systems of flags and trumpets to coordinate attacts. The fact was that horse-warfare was so powerful that most armies relied on it, to the exclusion of all else. The modern parallel would be tank battles in WWII Africa or Gulf War I.

Think about these serious Roman deficiencies:

1) Bronze Armor. Easily pierced by arrows, not to mention arrows from longbows or lancepoint.

2) No mounted combat troops. The Equestria used horses for transport to the field, and not for combat itself.

3) The javelin used by the legions in the field had a flimsy shaft, which bent on impact. This was to prevent the enemy from picking it up and hurling it back. The javelin would be too flimsly to pierce the serious armor used by the middle ages. This would render the main Roman distance weapon largely useless.


And finally.

The Roman legions Did face Medieval style tactics - - - from the Persians under Suren at the Battle of Carrhae, where Publius Crassus drew up the legions into a "pike" square. This held off the Persian cavalry, but the Romans could not attack without breaking up the square. The results were disastrous for Rome, and ended her drive to the east.

.



posted on Oct, 23 2005 @ 11:20 PM
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To be honest I don't think there's enough of a divide for it to overide factors like the abilitys of the commanders of the opposing forces, or morale, or just plain good luck.

However, relying more upon cavalry than the Romans I'd imagine that a medeval force would be able to dictate the terms of the combat far more easily. No matter how good a legion was, I doubt it'd have been able to match the manouverability of cavalry. They'd have been constantly on the defensive. They either march openly and have a heavy cavalry charge come and stomp them flat, or they sit back and get longbowed into oblivion. I do think however that in a "war" rather than just plucking two armies from the mists of time at random, that the Romans would win.

Rome was always innovating, I doubt it'd have taken them long to work out that pikes stop cavalry charges dead, and free thought, at least as I understand it was somewhat discouraged in medeval times. "It be witchcraft" and such like must have been very scary words for any inventor.

In a seige however, I think the Romans would have lost, simpley because the seige engines and fortifications of the medeval time, as far as I know, were quite far ahead. Huge stone castles that couldn't be easily penetrated until the widespread deployment of cannon would have probably posed quite a problem to any Roman legion.



posted on Oct, 24 2005 @ 02:08 AM
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Originally posted by dr_strangecraft
The medievals would have:

1) Stirrups.

2) Iron armor

3) Bows; longbows if British

4) Horse Armor


Which was useless at Crecy and even more so at Agincourt, see your previous weapon.


5) Baggage trains pulled by horses with a true horse collar. Romans used oxen which go less than 2 miles per hour.


But are much stronger, more docile and more reliable, thus allowing Legions to carry their own forts/stockades with them as they travelled.


6) While both side would have problems supplying fodder for livestock, the Medievals would have flour milled by watermills. The romans needed to laboriously grind grain by hand, in a practice unchanged from the neolithic. In fact, skulls of legionaires often show excessive teeth wear from eating un-ground raw grain in the field, without milling it first. Medievals would be much better fed, on a high protein diet of the upper classes.


Actually much of the teeth damage is often attributed to stone-ground grain that is not then sieved, leaving the stone in it. The Saxons suffered much the same problems. As for diet, only the officer class (nobles) had that. And the vast majority of the Legionairres were literate, only a tiny minority of medieval armies were literate.


7) Depsite Gibbon's mischaracterizations of Medieval warfare, the Medieval armies used sophisticated systems of flags and trumpets to coordinate attacts. The fact was that horse-warfare was so powerful that most armies relied on it, to the exclusion of all else. The modern parallel would be tank battles in WWII Africa or Gulf War I.

Think about these serious Roman deficiencies:

1) Bronze Armor. Easily pierced by arrows, not to mention arrows from longbows or lancepoint.


The Romans faced bows and developed archers of their own in response. The Legionairres could also, on command, shift formation in a way that was not possible again until the Grand Armee and Wellesley. On the receipt of a flight of arrows they would deploy into the "Tortoise". The best "medieval" troops were the Swiss, who relied wholly on shock, but there was little infantry discipline.


2) No mounted combat troops. The Equestria used horses for transport to the field, and not for combat itself.


The romans did use mounted cavalry, it was in response to a battle/campaign in which they were confronted by cavalry and had none of their own, however their saddles didn't use stirrups. They carried pilums, just like the infantry, but had small shields.


3) The javelin used by the legions in the field had a flimsy shaft, which bent on impact. This was to prevent the enemy from picking it up and hurling it back. The javelin would be too flimsly to pierce the serious armor used by the middle ages. This would render the main Roman distance weapon largely useless.


The Roman javelin (pilum) bent on impact so that it would weigh down your shield, be very difficult to remove and thus make your main protection useless when the Legionairres went into shock mode and charged swinging their gladii.



And finally.

The Roman legions Did face Medieval style tactics - - - from the Persians under Suren at the Battle of Carrhae, where Publius Crassus drew up the legions into a "pike" square. This held off the Persian cavalry, but the Romans could not attack without breaking up the square. The results were disastrous for Rome, and ended her drive to the east.

.


Roman cavalry would be no match for the shock created by French knights mounted on chargers such as Percherons. Just research what happened to Turks who tried to stand in the crusaders' way. The Turkish light cavalry never stood its ground again.

However, Roman infantry discipline and training would slaughter European peasants conscripted into their fuedal lord's regiment. Just look at what 100 professional soldiers at Rorke's Drift did to 3000 Zulu Impis.



posted on Oct, 24 2005 @ 06:02 AM
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I know you mean the Roman Army of the Ancient World but the last Roman Army to be defeated in battle lost to the Turks in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople. As an institution the Roman Army existed continually from the founding of Rome in the 9th Century B.C. to A.D. 1453 when the the rump remains of the Eastern Empire were finally destroyed. Constantinople survived something like 26 seiges, succumbing only to the Crusaders in the 12th Century, and finally to the Turks.

Roman field artillery was extremely effective and was lethal out to 1,100 yards. European field artillery reall only got this good in the late 18th Century. The Romans also adapted their own equipment to meet the weapons deployed by their enemies, eg. modified helmets during the Dacian campaigns to counter the hook ended Dacian swords. The Roman Legion could adapt.



posted on Oct, 24 2005 @ 07:34 AM
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Originally posted by HowlrunnerIV

However, Roman infantry discipline and training would slaughter European peasants conscripted into their fuedal lord's regiment. Just look at what 100 professional soldiers at Rorke's Drift did to 3000 Zulu Impis.


Impis weren't peasants though. Discipline and tactics of Impis was actually really good. Leather shields and javelins just aren't a match against industrial-age rifles and pistols.



posted on Oct, 24 2005 @ 09:07 AM
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Originally posted by The Amazing Phil


However, relying more upon cavalry than the Romans I'd imagine that a medeval force would be able to dictate the terms of the combat far more easily. No matter how good a legion was, I doubt it'd have been able to match the manouverability of cavalry. They'd have been constantly on the defensive.


I think that is the most telling point, and why I was thinking of the battle of Carrhae.

The Romans went into the square formation as soon as the Persians attacked. But when the Persian cavalry fell back, the Romans couldn't attack without breaking the square. They did and got slaughtered. As I remember reading, the Persians retreated in 2 different directions at once, feigning a rout. When the Romans gave the order to advance, two different sides of the square charged, and opened up the formation to mounted attacks to the rear.

The point about "plucking an army from the mists of time" is also important. The second the Romans saw the Feudalists, they'd be formulating new strategies. And the medieval army, regardless of how narrow-minded, would also evolve in the direction of whatever was needed for victory. The instant the armies met, they'd begin to change into something other than what we percieve them as.

The sci-fi books by Harry Turtledove demonstrate this beautifully, particularlly "The guns of the South." It's about South African racists who steal a time machine and go back in time, to arm General Lee's Army of Virginia with AK-47's. The South wins independence in the Civil war, but the north manages to dismantle southern society in the process . . . .



posted on Oct, 24 2005 @ 09:53 AM
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Originally posted by Fingon
Ever since watching kingdom of heaven Ive been wondering how the Roman legion will fare up against a medieval army.

Difficult. The legions had trouble with heavy cavalry, and the medevial army, assuming we're talking about a knightly army, would be just that (or minimally have a large component of that).
However, knights are used as shock cavalry, and supposedly, so long as a unit doesn't break formation, they can allways stand up to cavalry charges.


I would think the Roman legion would develop tactics against the medieval knights

THe only tactic would be to hold a close and tight formation and use their pilum like pikes.

The romans legions rather consistently had problems with barbarian cavalry, which was often very light cavarly, not used as shock cavalry.

The knights could give them serious problems it they changed their tactics tho.


namehere
legions were poor defenders tho

!? The legions were excellent at defense. They're heavy infantry, they'll tend to go on the offensive, but they were good at defence.

organetom
More like horse mounted officers directing legions afoot.

Roman society was traditionally divided into three groups, plebs, equites, and senators. Plebs were the general public, senators were the 'seniors', and the equites were the horse mounted knights, the group of citizens who maintained and rode horses, for battle. They had cavalry units and they were effective.


Jeremiah_John
Just look at the way the un-armored Mongol Horde absolutely annihilated the Teutonic Knights in Poland.

And, irnonically, it was hunnic hordes of steppe horsemen that so routinely routed the roman legions too.


Roman deficiencies:

1) Bronze Armor.

The romans used well manufactured iron weapons and armour.

There is a great deal of variety of what consisted a Roman Legion of course, just as there would be lots of variation for a medeval european army.



No mounted combat troops. The Equestria used horses for transport to the field, and not for combat itself.

The knights were a combat order. They weren't heavy cavalry, and they had no stirrups. The did have well made iron slashing swords, good control of their horses, and special saddles that held them nicely in their seats (offsetting, somewhat, the lack of stirrups).


The javelin used by the legions in the field had a flimsy shaft, which bent on impact.

Goood point. After a few charges by the knights, they'd be reduced to using their gladii short swords.



The javelin would be too flimsly to pierce the serious armor used by the middle ages.

Probably, yes. It could peirce iron armour, but a knight's armour is a different sort of thing.


This would render the main Roman distance weapon largely useless.

Then again, the romans had surprisingly advanced ballistic weapons, and I'd bet that a scorpion could punch thru a knight's armour. They even had, at one point, a repeating scorpion, which would prove devastating for knights that sweep by a formation repeatedly.



The Roman legions Did face Medieval style tactics - - - from the Persians under Suren at the Battle of Carrhae, where Publius Crassus drew up the legions into a "pike" square. This held off the Persian cavalry, but the Romans could not attack without breaking up the square.

Crassus was, however, a money man, not a great general. Pompey, of course, was the military man of their triumvirate, with caesar as the people's favourite.

And the parthians in this battle had cataphract cavalry no? IE, armoured heavy shock cavalry, much like knights. Thats one battle, but does show that they'd have some problems. Intersting to see that they were able to hold off the charges, even with bendy pila and short swords.


Just look at what 100 professional soldiers at Rorke's Drift did to 3000 Zulu Impis

But that was preceded by ishawandla and the deafeat of an entire column of redcoats.

For my own part, the roman legion of the early imperial period far outclasses the medeval armies in terms of discipline and training. Knights are, of course, very well trained, having been trained since youth to fight on horseback, but thats not discipline, thats bravado and skill, likesay the hunnic cavalry. They were effective but not nearly as well disciplined as the romans.

In the later empire, the romans were rather consistently defeated by armeis that made good use of cavalry, but, agian, not shock cavalry. The knights were an invention specific to the medeval era.

The more disciplined an infantry the more it can withstand a cavalry charge. So the romans can definitly resist charging knights, and they can definitly kill them, if the knight's tactics consist of series of charges, which is what knights did and what medeval armies did, having their focus on the knights.

I don't know if a legion in tortoise formation can stand up to a series of barrages from Longbowmen tho, and it becomes especially difficult when you have to switch to an entirely differnt formation to fend off cavalry charges. If any army can do that though, its the Legion.

[edit on 24-10-2005 by Nygdan]



posted on Oct, 24 2005 @ 10:06 AM
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Originally posted by Jeremiah_John
Discipline and tactics of Impis was actually really good

Another interesting thing to note is that the zulus fought almost exactly like ancient era germans, massed formation with good but rudimentary tactics (the horns of the bull, etc etc), with spears and shields, even going so far as to similarly snap their spears and use them as short thrusting swords, like the germans.


The sci-fi books by Harry Turtledove demonstrate this beautifully, particularlly "The guns of the South."

Perhaps a better question is, what happens when the zulu impis met Draka infantry supported by Magna Roman artillery?



posted on Oct, 24 2005 @ 10:40 AM
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Might be Julius' experience against the Teutonic commander Aristobulus.

Ceasar writes in the war commentaries that the Teutons didn't even use saddles. Their ponies were used as "extremely light" cavalry - 2 mounted troops would share one animal, and they would both ride it up to the battle line. The horses, tho slow, were still faster than Roman legions afoot. They would create a light assault, and then retreat, dropping the infantry off to cover the rear of the mounted force as it withdrew.

Again, the superior Roman infantry would have to break out of its inpenetrable defensive formation in order to go on the attack against a more mobile opponent.

They were definitely inferior to Romans in every category except numbers, and still put a serious scare into Caesar's legions.



posted on Oct, 24 2005 @ 07:18 PM
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Originally posted by Nygdan

Originally posted by Jeremiah_John
Discipline and tactics of Impis was actually really good

Another interesting thing to note is that the zulus fought almost exactly like ancient era germans, massed formation with good but rudimentary tactics (the horns of the bull, etc etc), with spears and shields, even going so far as to similarly snap their spears and use them as short thrusting swords, like the germans.


And yet the Horns of the Bull, as supposedly created by Shaka was used very few times successfully in battle.

Yes, at Isandhlwana the redcoats were slaughtered, to a man. They were attacked at dawn (superior use of tactics) before they were organised and could use their own tactics and weaponry. Later in the day the Zulus turned captured rifles on the South Welsh Borderers. And the superior discipline of the Welsh carried the day. What else do you call it but superior discipline when 100 men stand and fight and die in place without breaking while facing such odds? (Suicidal Bushido crap if you're Japanese)

As good as the Zulus were (and they were good enough to build their own empire), they didn't have RSMs and the Brits did. The Zulus were warriors, the British were not. A single Zulu in hand-to-hand combat would always have my bet over a single redcoat, but en masse? that's when training takes over. Look at what happened to Bonnie Prince Charlie's Scots at Culloden.

It was superior British infantry discipline that kept them in their squares through Napolean's bombardment at Waterloo. If they hadn't held their squares then they could not have withstood the cavalry charges that followed.



posted on Oct, 24 2005 @ 08:18 PM
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How many Heavy Cavalry (Knights) were typically in a nations force in Medieval times? I am under the impression that relatively speaking, the cavalry was quite a small force compared to the typical Legion setup. Perhaps I am wrong in my assumption, Medieval warfare didn't really interest me. Most of a medieval force was poorly trained and equipped conscripts. The amount of well trained and well disciplined troops that Rome could place in the field would overwhelm the poor trained but technolgically advanced medieval average soldier.

Granted it would always depend on who is the attacker and defender and the terrain involved as well. The Roman Legion was a fairly flexible unit. It would be an interesting fight given the right circumstances. They should do a series like this on the Discovery channel sort of like the "who would win Croc vs Tiger ect".

My favorite would be who would win: Alexander the Great's Macedonians vs Temujin's Mogol Horde. I think that would be a great battle.




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