The Roman Legion

Discussion in 'Historical European Swords and Sword Arts' started by Jonathan Randall, Oct 29, 2006.

  1. Jonathan Randall

    Jonathan Randall Senior Master

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    Some consider the Roman Legion the fiercest and most efficient fighting force in pre-firearms Western History. Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Why?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_military

    "The Roman legion (from Latin legio, legionis, f., from lego, legere, legi, lectus — "to collect") was the basic military unit of the ancient Roman army. It consisted of a core of heavy infantry (legionaries), with auxiliary cavalry and ranged troops, typically skirmishers. The size of a typical legion varied widely throughout the history of ancient Rome, with complements ranging from 5000-6000 men in the republican period of Rome, to the fairly standard number of around 5,400 in the early and middle imperial period and finally to on average 1000-2000 men in the very late imperial period. As legions were not standing armies until the Marian reforms (c. 107 BC), and were instead created, used, and disbanded again, several hundred Legions were named and numbered throughout Roman history. To date, about 50 have been identified. In the time of the Early Roman Empire, there were usually about 28 standing Legions plus their Auxiliaries, with more raised as needed.

    Due to the enormous military successes of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire the legion has long been regarded as the prime ancient model for military efficiency and ability."
     
  2. SFC JeffJ

    SFC JeffJ Grandmaster

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    I don't know about fiercest, but they were probably the most disciplined, professional, and well organized army until you started seeing the more professional fighting men of the late Renaissance.
     
  3. Makalakumu

    Makalakumu Gonzo Karate Apocalypse

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    The Roman legion wasn't always successful. See Hannibal of course. And there conquest of Gaul was largely accomplished by attacking women and children in order to get the opponents lines to break. Julius Caeser, himself, writes about this when he describes is deeds.

    I'm not saying that he wasn't a brilliant tactician in other ways...
     
  4. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    I agree with Jeff. They were likely the first real professional standing Army, but they had there set backs from time to time, more in the later empire than in the beginning.

    And yes, see Hannibal and (sorry I cannot remember his real name of the top of my head) but Herman the German as well. Roman legions could be rather ruthless but I do not feel they were the fiercest. For that I feel you would need to look to the armies of Attila staying in the same period or outside of that era the Mongols.
     
  5. Bigshadow

    Bigshadow Senior Master

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    They may not have been the most ferocious or successful. As Jeff pointed out they were quite professional and I think they were very well organized. At any rate, regardless they were feared by many and they were quite powerful.

    They deserve respect that is for sure!
     
  6. Blotan Hunka

    Blotan Hunka Master Black Belt

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    Ultimately Hannibal lost and Carthage was destroyed by the Romans. In the end Rome fell victim to its own success. They spread to far to maintain a "Roman" identity with the type of communications, transportation and logistics they had.

    Rome is THE model of military organization, training and discipline that influences us to this day. Not to mention that their roads, bridges and aqueducts are still in use today in some parts of Europe.
     
  7. Blotan Hunka

    Blotan Hunka Master Black Belt

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    In terms of "brutality". None of the civilizations of that age can really be compared to our times. Every culture had traditions and customs we would find "evil" today I would guess.
     
  8. michaeledward

    michaeledward Grandmaster

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    Alex, I'll take Ghangis Kahn's Horde for $1,000.00

    Ghangis Kahn's empire was significantly larger than the Roman empire, and as I understand it (my understanding is very limited on this), the Horde was mounted on horses. Cavalry always bests infantry.

    I will say this for the Roman legion, I think it was fascinating that they would march for the day (approximately 15 miles) and then build an entire fortress at the end of the day. Their camps were impressive, and as I understand it, damn near impenetrable.
     
  9. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    You are correct; the Mongols were mounted, incredible god horseman and very good archers. They also tended to be incredibly brutal and ruthless.

    If it was not for Genghis Khan's death, in 1227, they very likely would have taken Turkey and possibly the rest of Europe, but that is of course speculation.
     
  10. SFC JeffJ

    SFC JeffJ Grandmaster

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    Gotta disagree with you on one point. Cav didn't always beat Infantry. Doesn't take a lot of research to refute that. A lot depended on terrain, the tactics used, and the quality of the troops.

    But, Genghis Kahn did kick some serious butt!
     
  11. Makalakumu

    Makalakumu Gonzo Karate Apocalypse

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    Well discipline infantry that used superior tactics could defeat cavalry. The reason cavalry charges were so successful is largely due to shock factor.

    Anyway, BH has a good point. Roman civilization laid the groundwork for a massive amount of what we see today. From our military, to our government, to our ideals, etc.

    However, I have to disagree as to whether we are more civilized. I think that if you took a typical roman of the day and showed them the carnage of WWI and WWII they may think that we have sunk into the ultimate pit of depravity.

    Heck, at the Somme there were almost a million casualties. NOTHING even touches that in the ancient world.
     
  12. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    This may sound strange coming from me but if you base this on michaeledward example of Genghis Kahn then I have to agree with him.

    They were incredibly successful against infantry. But it was not just the shock factor of cavalry that made tem successful. It was also the fact they were very much like tanks of the day. They started with mounted archers firing into they poor individuals that had to face them.

    They were also incredible tacticians and highly skilled horseman. They were not your typical Cavalry, since the majority of them had been riding horses and training for war since the day they were enough to get on a horse.

    But I do not disagree that a well discipline infantry could be victorious against a cavalry. They just weren’t in the case of the Mongols.
     
  13. Makalakumu

    Makalakumu Gonzo Karate Apocalypse

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    One thing to keep in mind is that Mongol tactics were very sophisticated...much more sophisticated then the kingdoms they were facing.

    They used the mobility of their horses, their weaponry, and the battlefield terrien to their advantage.

    I often wonder what would have happened if the mongols had faced the mixed force of pikes, longbows, and cavalry that made them so successful in France.

    Heck, if you look at Agincourt, the French feilded a force that was primarily dominated by cavalry...and the longbows cut them down.
     
  14. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    No doubt the Romans were organized, experience, paid professionals and because of this they were very, very successful. Professional soldiers generally take out unprofessional military forces in a rather quick manner.
    They were certainly one of the premier forces of their time.
     
  15. SFC JeffJ

    SFC JeffJ Grandmaster

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    I'm not trying to imply that Kahn's Cav wasn't highly effective. I just had issue with the blanket statement. Another amazing thing about them was the portable siege equipement they had. It could be set up and torn down quickly enough to be used on the field of battle, not just in seige warfare.

    Jeff
     
  16. Blotan Hunka

    Blotan Hunka Master Black Belt

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    It was the stirrup and its ability to transfer the power of the horse to the weapon being used that made calvary dominant. Up till then its use in organized warfare was mostly for scouting and exploiting the enemies flanks.

    Personally, I think the Mongols would have won if the Romans would have been dumb enough to meet them on the steppes. I think that in rough terrain, with Romes engineering ability they would have bullt walls, towers and channelized the horde. -I seem to recal a Ceaser victory where he beat a more mobile enemy that way-I also think it would have depended on the Roman leader. Facing the horde in a stand-up formation based array would have been slaughter. I think Ceaser would have beat them in the long run. But Im speaking in general terms of strategy and tactics. To compare two armies from such vastly different points of history is kinda pointless.
     
  17. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    They were impressive and I agree it would have been interesting to see the outcome of the Mongols against a more modern military such as the French at Agincourt (25 October 1415) But then this is roughly 200 years after the Mongol Empire pretty much ended with the death of Genghis Khan (1162 - 1227). Much I have read on the Mongols seems to say that if it were not for his death the Mongols very likely would have taken Europe. But when he died thy stopped and went home to elect a new Kahn and in order to have a say in the matter or to be in the running you had to be there. So they stopped and went home and elected Genghis’ son ruler to avoid civil war and went on to things eastern, China and Korea and left Europe alone. But this is WAY off post.

    They were impressive and ruthless. Marching prisoners in front of them to attack was used and the prisoners were caught between being killed by their own people, which tended not to happen, and being trampled by Mongol horses once the Mongols got close enough, which tended to be what happened.

    It would have been interesting but the Mongols were not organized under Genghis until after Rome was pretty much no more.

    Sorry for going off post

    To stay within post I as I said before the Romans were the first paid standing professional Army and incredibly successful. But if you want just plain mean and successful in roughly the same era I vote the Huns under Attila.
     
  18. Hand Sword

    Hand Sword Grandmaster

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    Anyone can a few here and there. Bottom line, In the end the Romans were the ones left standing. The only group to beat them was themselves. They affected more of the world than anyone else.
     
  19. Touch Of Death

    Touch Of Death Sr. Grandmaster

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    Hey maybe we aren't so different from them after all.
    Sean
     
  20. Hand Sword

    Hand Sword Grandmaster

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    Neither is the enemy we are facing.123
     

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