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Roman legion vs medieval army

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posted on Oct, 24 2005 @ 09:25 PM
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in terms of numbers Rome was known at its height to have had 500,000 soldiers, and could consrcipt and train a very large army possibly 5,000,000 men given that they had a total population of 60,000,000 people.

More like 3,000,000 actually if you takes Sun Tzu's assumption and if my mental math is right, "it takes 3 families to support one soldier" remember its a paraphrase I'ld have to look it up.

The average medieval national army at its height would be around 20,000 men, Japan similarily had armies (for individual clans) approching 80,000 men. China's warlord faction in the waring states period could muster forces of over 200,000 men in a prolonged campaign.




posted on Oct, 25 2005 @ 11:56 AM
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An interesting comment that I've heard, on the realtive sizes of armies, is that Roman patroled its empire with an army the size of what was required to defend France, a mere province of it, in the Age of Louis XIV.



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 01:11 PM
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Rome faced many problems similar to Hitler.

Namely, particularly during the second (Imperial) period they started out with large, well trained, _peacetime_ force in which the Vexilatio each consisted of 5-6,000 men. 'Fresh' under the presumption of a 6-7 year period of service. And towards the later end of the Western Empire period had as many as 80 Legio but only of roughly 1,000-1,200 men each. Whereby stop-loss could see expected service periods (before which you were ineligible for full citizenship) of up to 25 years. Which is effectively life without parole and leaves you with a spent-force effect even before the real problems of recruitment and maintaining forces on a fading infrastructure system could be factored in.

It should also be noted that the WORKING unit structure of the later period forces was the Praesental _Army_ which had largely taken over Vexilations with a Legio system and followed on from the Sacer Comitatus and Palatini of the early/mid Imperial times.

As with the earlier force, it consisted of a cadre HQ&M (what we would probably call a Corps) structure with an elite 'Palace Guard' (Praetori) of both mounted and infantry forces around which regional and frontier forces could be built up. Logistics were equally removed as the Emperor financed any standup with a separate recruit tax and appointed a Comes` field commander instead of leading from the front as of old.

Nominally, Imperial Purple could still command the service of frontier forces and provincial (National Guard equivalent) units but more often than not, they would only stand to for actions relevant to their own particular area of interest.

This reflects the reality that much of the federal control by which Rome ruled as a city-state running an Empire which would be considered a fair sized nation today had died in the corruption and simple swamping of the bureacratic system by later Imperial times. And so you saw much more local control by separatist governors hiring mercenary troops as not merely adhoc Socci auxilliaries for their 'specialist' weapons and mission capabilities. But as main-force troops in full up cohortes level forces of 500 or more men.

And because of the great number of migrating/displaced peoples assuming Roman citizenship 'by squatter's rights' and the falling percentages of dedicated frontier Legiones, this further blurred the line between what had nominally be 'citizen soldiers' and mercs into a single, hybrid, very ill-disciplined (partisan to their commanders) force.

Such gets ugly when the Socci demand tribute like the very barbarians (one tribe over) they are supposedly defending against, even as it makes a further hollow-force mess of nominal paper orbats at the 'National Call Up' activation level. With shadowed unit troops supposed to come under the control of one force being actually politically if not organically commited to a standing mission already.

I would also beg to differ as to the effectiveness of late period Roman cavalry vs. Medieval troops. A full strength Vexillationi of auxilliary cavalry could number 500 horse. A regular equitatis cohortes level force on the model of the old Alae 'wing' system could still summon between 120 and 250 dedicated horse troops.

These numbers would _vastly_ exceed the number of knights that any medieval hedgelord could count on as house carl type trained and kitted horsemen. Roman troops would then seek to control local roadways (most of which would still be, ironically, of their own construction) while rolling up each _individual_ resistance before a feudal levy system could raise and marshal an effective defense.

Under such a rollback and death-in-detail containment system, the numbers of a full legion would stand it well as it is likely that the medieval courier system would be paralyzed almost immediately. As would it's incredible ability to construct fortifications in a fairly short time. In this process, they would be foraging off the land so whatever the medievals had for 'field rations', so too would they, but in greater numbers because they would kick over the villages to put the natives into flight (clogging roads and cities) as well as destroying home and hearth for anything they did not intend to occupy.

Such is _very_ different from Medieval 'orchestrated' warfare wherein the peasants only suffer /after/ occupation.

While the Romans did indeed have heavy cavalry, the likelihood is more that of an 'Me-109 vs. B-17 vs. P-51' scenario. In that the Romans need only get in among the mounted knights on their heavy and slow chargers so that they could choose between turning their backs to an enemy at their flanks and rear quarters (going after the Legionary infantry) or being 'peeled away' to try and chase lighter skirmishers with animals that wind easily in the long run after one good gallop. Cavalry which do not 'thunder through the earth' (freight train effect) MASS are laughed at by infantry as suicide plungers. Cavalry which masses but cannot outrun light harrassing forces get's pulled to pieces from the periphery and often becomes it's own worst enemy as horses founder and trip up those behind them.

On another note, the _steel_ that the Romans made was just fine in terms of armor. The Lorica Segmentata might not match that of an upper class knight but it didn't weigh 70lbs either. And it would DEFINITELY beat the ring and chainmail of the levvied forces simply because it is always better to deflect than to 'catch' an armor piercing tip. Later Imperial armor in fact bore much resemblance to the full-up rigid breastplates of early Medieval period (though admittedly there was also a return to a lot of lower quality protection such as leather and early ring for the frontier forces).

CONCLUSION:
My Bet? The medieval feudal system was like the components of a bomb, unassembled. Isolated in their own little burgs, a local baron was essentially harmless unless he took to banditry on the side (and that only until you made a gory example of him).

OTOH, you bring him together with his ten best drinking buddies and you have a revolution in progress as they all compare how /really/ poor and hopeless their positions are compared to you the rolling-in-it 'king'.

Where pillage and loot is ironically the driving motive for BOTH warfare modes but only the Romans are /encouraged/ to it as a functional, day-to-day basis, centralized rule by a defacto emperor does not last long in the face of absent opportunities and mutual angst that is the second instance.

And so, short of a necessary herd-thinning 'adventurist diplomacy' as typified by the The Crusades; feudal armies tended to be very much for-show affairs, deliberately isolated in home garrisons.

OTOH, the Roman legions were a conquering force and always had been such that, if you get them into motion in their enemy's backfield, digging them out like ticks on an Alabama hound is not going to be pretty.

THIS is how you beat a nominally stronger military force. By destroying it's weak civillian infrastructural logistics and just _keeping on the move_.

Which is something that most Medieval 'armies' would not understand as they were designed to be cellular law enforcement as much as exploratory/exploitative force constructs and would have a hard time with anything but the setpiece battle on a negotiated playing field.

Not least because, when finally put at bay, the Romans will simply erect a fort around themselves and dare you to come get them across a period equivalent to our own killing zone (tank traps, obstacles, 'barbwire', punji sticks the whole gamut) ala Alesia. Something that, in the quest of elevated nobility, had been almost /entirely/ abandoned as a viable warfighting technique until as late as the Civil War (protect your fortification by controlling it's approaches and funneling the enemy into preattrited kill sacks).

In this, Roman siege systems (around whose designs much of the early Medieval systems were /still/ being referenced) would be 'just as good' as anything that the Knights are apt to build (cavalry having too few numbers to be a 'self engineered' force as one of it's principal vulnerabilities in static warfare) and having a decent wall at their back, the Romans would likely be able to sortie cohorts to harry the enemy levies that tried to lock down their own scavenging with no real risk.

Cost the Germano-Gaulic forces 240,000 + 60,000 men to learn that lesson. Against a mere 28,000 Romans...




KPl.



posted on Oct, 28 2005 @ 12:48 AM
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Very interesting. I didnt really think about the type of warfare the romans would of used other than to attack. I knew they would of adapt to anything whatever the medieval armies would of threw at them. I didnt think the medieval calvary would been a problem for the romans because of their small numbers. But when it comes to infantry to infantry fighting I would still think the romans would of have the upper hand even against knights regardless how heavly they were armoured because of the gladuis simple but effective hacking,stabbing, and slashing technique whereas the knights used the long two handed swords which they would become tired rather easily.



posted on Oct, 31 2005 @ 05:39 PM
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the thing about medival armies is that the kings and barons who formed said armies only had an igsignificant portion of the land that Rome once held and could only use a very small amount of wealth in comparrison to make them.

On average in the dark ages to the middle middle ages i'ld say the average army was 500-1000 men at most and 70% levies with no prior training to on average 10 6000 men legions.

The romans were far more of a disciplined modern army then any other army could be for years and years and years later.



posted on Oct, 31 2005 @ 06:23 PM
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One thing to remember is that Knights were not all they were cracked up to be.

At Agincourt, an English army consisting of around 5000 archers and 1000-2000 Infantry, of varying quality, defeated the creme of the French Nobility and slaughtered 5000 kinghts and took another 1000 prisoner. All this with the loss of around 100 Infantry and 13 archers.

Of course, the battlefiled helped and the weather certainly did, as it caused the ground to turn into a bog where the heavily armourde knights, who in the end had to dismount, got stuck and more or less stood there waiting for the lightly armoured and much more maneuvarable English/Welsh to close in.

They then were butchered as they could not effectivley fight against them, the mud sticking to the armour, weighing them down and holding them in position.



posted on Nov, 1 2005 @ 01:27 AM
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But during the ?first? crusade the European (mostly French) cavalry mounted on their giant chargers decimated a column of Turkish cavalry. Again, the battlefield helped. And the Turks had no idea what the European tactics would be.

You have to remember that most continental armies at the time of Crecy and Agincourt used crossbows, which could go as far and hit much, much harder. Longbows are not super-powerful, as most modern people believe, a recurve can create much more pullback, but they are cheap and they fire fast. Longbow is to windlass crossbow as percussion cap breach-loader is to powder and ball muzzle-loader.

My personal belief is that even behind their shields and javelins, there is no way Legionairres could withstand a charge by European princes and barons. They would have to have tactics similar to Alexanders at Gaugamela where he funnelled the scythe chariots of Darius. Percherons and Draught horses, which is what you need to carry all that armour, are freight trains, once they get a head of steam up, they don't stop.

The difference, as we've all stated, is in the infantry versus infantry fight. And in the engineers. And the supply and communications lines.



posted on Nov, 1 2005 @ 09:22 AM
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once they get a head of steam up, they don't stop.

Just to be clear, these horses don't crash into anyone, the lance hits the target, and there is a tremendous force because of the mass of the horse and its speed. So any charging knight is definitly going to puncture a legionaires scutum and lorica, easily.

But the horse is used as a battle beast precisely because it won't run into people, it will, of its own volition, move between them, and try to avoid stepping on a prickly armoured guy for its own sake (smashing them when appropriate of course).

A legion is large enough to win out, I beleive, if we're just talking about simple attrition then, say a single legion in a tight square versus a knightly command charging and circling and charging again. Heck, the losses would probably be so low as to not even be phhyric.



posted on Nov, 1 2005 @ 06:14 PM
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I agree about horses avoiding people, that's why they're used for crowd control. But just as my Honda Bol d'Or doesn't stop instantaneuosly just because I hit the brakes, so too a horse takes a few metres to pull up from a charge.

Now, if the Romans are behind a shield wall with only their throwing pilum and the Knights charge them...Those shields are only wood and the horses are wearing armour of their own, if the shields remain locked together, the horses have no choice but to crash them, even if they try to pull up against their riders' wishes. Besides which, that's a lot of momentum being carried through a lance. I don't really want to be the man holding the shield.

Hoplites in a phalanx with their long spears, they could do serious damage to charging knights, but Legionairres didn't have 4-6 metre thrusting spears...



posted on Nov, 1 2005 @ 11:06 PM
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Didn't matter, horses don't generally charge into spears they'll usually draw up short the minute they see a wall of spears. Correct me if I am wrong.



posted on Nov, 2 2005 @ 03:09 AM
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That's the point. The Romans didn't have a "wall of spears" they had a wall of shields.

The European knights were the best horsemen available in Europe (I specify in Europe) with excellent control of their horses. The horses could be induced to crash into, if not through, that wall with some stern encouragement. Horses suffer from adrenaline, too.



posted on Nov, 2 2005 @ 09:25 AM
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Originally posted by HowlrunnerIV
You have to remember that most continental armies at the time of Crecy and Agincourt used crossbows, which could go as far and hit much, much harder. Longbows are not super-powerful, as most modern people believe, a recurve can create much more pullback, but they are cheap and they fire fast. Longbow is to windlass crossbow as percussion cap breach-loader is to powder and ball muzzle-loader.


It is true that the crossbow would be more effective against armour, but then the longbow was better suited to firing volley after volley at a much higher rate of fire. Of course I am agreeing with you on the issue, but just wanted to poke my nose in and mention that the longbow was best put to use against infantry formations.



posted on Nov, 6 2005 @ 08:51 PM
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HWIV,

You have to remember that most continental armies at the time of Crecy and Agincourt used crossbows, which could go as far and hit much, much harder.

Crossbows are weapons of siege warfare. Wherein you are shooting thru or at crenellated or slitted openings of your opponents equivalent 'sniper-counter sniper' systems. Hence, so long as you have a _good_ shield or wall to crouch behind and no real concern as to the reload interval, by all means, crank away.

>>
Longbows are not super-powerful, as most modern people believe, a recurve can create much more pullback, but they are cheap and they fire fast. Longbow is to windlass crossbow as percussion cap breach-loader is to powder and ball muzzle-loader.
>>

A man who can crank a 120lb crossbow or pull back it's shuttle with a levered assist _cannot_ keep 4-6 volley-aimed arrows in air against a charging opponent. It takes real upper body strength to do that, coupled to _stern_ discipline to hold your ground while doing so.

The difference is that no serious commander is going to accept a battlefield of his enemy's choosing just to stay within the rules of gallantry. He will instead keep the battlefield fluid and use scout forces (usually skirmishers on light horse in or slightly ahead of the van) to notify the presence of an opfor as well as provide continual updates as to terrain and obstacles.

When he thinks he has his enemy pinned, then and only then will he go from column march to exploit the terrain as much as threat conditions he is in.

CS,
>>
It is true that the crossbow would be more effective against armour, but then the longbow was better suited to firing volley after volley at a much higher rate of fire. Of course I am agreeing with you on the issue, but just wanted to poke my nose in and mention that the longbow was best put to use against infantry formations.
>>

As a volume or 'boxfire' saturation weapon; the longbows trajectory at anything from 150 to it's maximum of 400yds is going to be to be a nearly vertical plunge. This means you have to lead your targets arrival time by quite some degree BUT, if he charges in-rank (winged, following a commander) as opposed to a wide-abreast (linear chaaaarge!) approach, you have the opportunity to hit HIM AND HIS HORSE multiple times within the fall of those 20+ arrows since the only thing you are really doing is TIMING your shot to overlap your fellows.

Just as importantly, you can rapidly turn and engage /another/ wing coming at you from the opposed direction.

These capabilities are entirely absent from the Crossbow of any age. Handheld, outside about 100-200 yards, it's going to hit the dirt under gravity and that will be that even as you cannot begin to summon rapid fire or plunging overlaps using this weapon class.

OTOH, using the Crecy and Agincourt examples, WHY would /anyone/ come slogging across an open, muddy, field with an infantry force? NO. You _own_ the sidelots with their trees or raised terrain and you use that to completely block BOTH types of projectile fire, completely.

Such is again the difference between a Roman legion which is an offensive, conquering, force and a medieval army whose very 'definition' (horse) limits the terrain it can hold as much as exploit.

The Romans had their fair share of problems with cavalry. But it was all light, horse-archer and lancier type stuff which used a contempt of engagement to simply whirl around them and deny all contact with the heavy infantry.

Against such skirmisher-with-effective-projectile-weapon options, a medieval cavalry would do no better, in open terrain sufficient for the use of linear mounted actions. Because the smaller, lighter, faster, horses would ride their flanks and open them up.

Against the Romans, the 'spears' would not be in the hand but in the dirt. Along with pitted stakes and flaming brush and as many other artificacts of exploitable terrain as the Roman leader could think of.

At which point, defeating cavalry is more about holding a line and daring them to come to you through a graduated series of attritionary killing zone methods. Until they break.

WWI and Poland both showed us all how vulnerable Cavalry was in the staged operations necessary for their massing. At best horses give you the ability to bring dismounted troops to combat on multiple APCs worth of fast egress. They are /nothing/ to an experienced force with the time and means to choose it's own battlefield. Because a gopher hole, dug in multiple, in depth, on a controlled approach, will destroy cavalry as utterly as any pike square and with fewer casualties.


KPl.



posted on Nov, 7 2005 @ 12:42 AM
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Originally posted by ch1466
HWIV,

Crossbows are weapons of siege warfare. Wherein you are shooting thru or at crenellated or slitted openings of your opponents equivalent 'sniper-counter sniper' systems. Hence, so long as you have a _good_ shield or wall to crouch behind and no real concern as to the reload interval, by all means, crank away.


That may be true, but they were still used by armies on the move, if for no other reason than no-one likes to carry a weapon they can't use. If you've humped the damn thing halfway across France, you might as well fire it at someone.

>>
Longbows are not super-powerful, as most modern people believe, a recurve can create much more pullback, but they are cheap and they fire fast. Longbow is to windlass crossbow as percussion cap breach-loader is to powder and ball muzzle-loader.
>>


A man who can crank a 120lb crossbow or pull back it's shuttle with a levered assist _cannot_ keep 4-6 volley-aimed arrows in air against a charging opponent. It takes real upper body strength to do that, coupled to _stern_ discipline to hold your ground while doing so.


Which part of that disagrees with what I said?


The difference is that no serious commander is going to accept a battlefield of his enemy's choosing...


Except, of course, for the example we're using, Agincourt. Hey, William the Batard had to accept Hastings (actually Battle) in 1066.



Just as importantly, you can rapidly turn and engage /another/ wing coming at you from the opposed direction.

These capabilities are entirely absent from the Crossbow of any age. Handheld, outside about 100-200 yards, it's going to hit the dirt under gravity and that will be that even as you cannot begin to summon rapid fire or plunging overlaps using this weapon class.


Again, it seems that for the first time we are agreeing.


OTOH, using the Crecy and Agincourt examples, WHY would /anyone/ come slogging across an open, muddy, field with an infantry force? NO. You _own_ the sidelots with their trees or raised terrain and you use that to completely block BOTH types of projectile fire, completely.


You tell me why the Constable of France did just that, then (well, a cavalry force).


Because a gopher hole, dug in multiple, in depth, on a controlled approach, will destroy cavalry as utterly as any pike square and with fewer casualties.


Except at Beersheba. But, of course, that was Light Horse, not cavalry.



posted on Dec, 10 2005 @ 09:08 AM
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I did not see anyone mentioning just how long it took to become a longbow archers specifically ( but any for that matter) and i thought it best be said that a much of sundays were reserved for training in the art all over Britain... You can in theory give a man a crossbow and have him hitting enemy formations in short order but the same is not true for archers.

Great posts again Ch....

Stellar



posted on Dec, 20 2005 @ 04:46 PM
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About the horses. You guys don't know what you are talking about. I would love to bet someone a large amount of money that I can train a horse to charge straight into a large crowd of people at full speed with the horse kicking pawing and biting them. As for if they were charged into a large wall of spears well I would think that would be the human that would not wish to charge into a large wall of spears. If you really want to push the point one could simply put forward viewing blinders on horses so they could not see ahead. Calvary horses were very well trained and were an extension of the rider. Horses defiantly can be trained to smash into people and other animals. However I doubt any commander would be stupid enough to charge a large tightly packed group of spearmen from the front in a direct charge.



posted on Dec, 20 2005 @ 05:56 PM
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Well, I tell you what,

You train horses to do that, and I'll believe it can be done. If your city has a police horse unit, go and ask the Sergeant, or whoever, in charge of the training how much training goes into those horses to get them to face hostile crowds.

And that's modern, scientific training.

At Gaugamela Alexander nullified the effects of Darius III's scythe chariots by giving the horses avenues down which to run. Horses make for the gaps instinctively. (The movie depicted it pretty well).

Horses may appear big and clumsy, but they are very careful of where they put their feet (hooves).



posted on Dec, 20 2005 @ 06:10 PM
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Yes it does take alot of horse training to get the horses prepared for crowd control because of the chaos. A horse needs to be trained to respond to the rider and not the surrounding environment. Surely you don't think that calvary were riding untrained horses?



posted on Dec, 20 2005 @ 06:11 PM
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Imho a medieval army with longbow men would beat roman legions. Well trained, very powerfull and long range. What can a legion do against that?



posted on Dec, 20 2005 @ 06:13 PM
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The tortoise.





damned one line response...



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