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Thread: Triarii WERE phalanx units

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    Talking Triarii WERE phalanx units

    The Early Legion (4th century BC)

    In abandoning the phalanx, the Romans showed their genius for adaptability.
    Though much of the credit might not be due to the Romans alone. For Rome was a founding member of the Latin League, an alliance initially formed against the Etruscans. The development of the early legion therefore might well be seen as a Latin development.
    There were now three lines of soldiers, the hastati in the front, the principes forming the second row, and the triarii, rorarii and accensi in the rear.
    At the front stood the hastati, who were most likely the spearmen of the second class in the previous organization of the phalanx. The hastati contained the young fighters and carried body armour and a rectangular shield, the scutum, which should remain the distinctive equipment of the legionary throughout Roman history. As weapons they carried a sword each and javalins. Though attached to the hastati were far more lightly armed skirmishers (leves), carrying a spear and several javelins.
    The soldiers of the old first class now appear to have become two types of units, the principes in the second line and the triarii in the third line. Together they formed the heavy infantry.
    The principes were the picked men of experience and maturity. They were similarly, though better equipped than the hastati. In fact the principes were the best equipped men in the early legion.
    The triarii were veterans and still much looked and functioned like the heavily armed hoplites of the old Greek phalanx.
    The other new units, the rorarii, accensi (and leves) represented what once had been the third, fourth and fifth class in the old phalanx system.
    The rorarii were younger, inexperienced men, and the accensi were the least dependable fighters.
    source
    yes, they 'abandoned' the phalanx as the front line unit. But, they still kept the triarii as backup and they WERE phalanx units.
    Someone posted a quick and easy mod for the special ability (et. al) here. (i tried to find any references to this in the research thread about phalanxes but nada)

  2. #2
    robotica erotica Member Colovion's Avatar
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    Default Re: Triarii WERE phalanx units

    well a phalanx is basically just a close packed group of spear wielding warriors, so no surprise there
    robotica erotica

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    Member Member Atreides's Avatar
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    Default Re: Triarii WERE phalanx units

    Ok, but without phalanx function, right?

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    Default Re: Triarii WERE phalanx units

    Right, my point exactly. The ingame special function is what's missing...and i simply giggle at the thought of dismissing this with a mere "oh they're just fancy pointy stick troops"

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    Alienated Senior Member Member Red Harvest's Avatar
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    Default Re: Triarii WERE phalanx units

    The whole Roman army was phalanx for quite some time. They abandoned the phalanx in the 4th century BC. The game starts in the 3rd century BC. The triarii were not fighting in phalanx at that time. They no longer used the hoplite shield and the few descriptions we get of them in action are not phalanx style.
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    Robot Unicorn Member Kekvit Irae's Avatar
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    Default Re: Triarii WERE phalanx units

    Personally, I like the fact that Triarii are not phalanx in the game. They are hard hitting to cavalry anyway, and I absolutely need that boost of speed running gives. Plus, it screws up things big time when a phalanx tries to assault a city plaza, whereas a non-phalanx can just run on in. Besides, I can always hire Mercenary Phalanxes anyway.

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    Fidei Defensor Member metatron's Avatar
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    Default Re: Triarii WERE phalanx units

    Your article refers to a timeperiod before the game. Especially because the rorarii and accensi were merged into the velites.

    Anyway:
    The final category of heavy infantryman in the Roman Legion of the mid-republican period (3rd and 2nd century BC). The Triarii were the veteran soldiers who formed the third and final line of the legion, arrayed in ten maniples of 60 men. Unlike the hastati and principes the Triarii were equipped with a long hoplite spear instead of the Pilum although otherwise they were armed in the same way as their colleagues with the Gladius and body shield. The Triarii spend most of the battle kneeling behind their shields waiting for combat. Only if the first two lines of the legion had been defeated would the triarii enter combat and this was normally a sign of a serious crisis.
    [Source]
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    Magister Vitae Senior Member Kraxis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Triarii WERE phalanx units

    There is one simple reason as to why the Triarii wasn't a phalanxtype of infantry. And that is their shield.
    Every account of the Triarii have indicated they fought with the underhand style, meaning their spear was wielded next to their shield.

    A phalanx' primary function was to present a solid line of unbroken infantry, that is impossible to do with the scutum and a underhandwielded spear. To use the underhand spear to any effect you need some space and thus the line is broken. Further, the Triarii were significantly less in number than the others only 600 per legion, even when they were enlarged for warfare. Thus they would be very hardpressed to present a solid line of equal length to the others (who fought in a rather more open fashion). It could be argued that the maniples kept their double century depth in battle and thus had open lanes, but that is hardly a great plan for the last line of fewer troops in a phalanx (notoriously bad at fighting flanking enemies).
    Thus I can't see them fighting in a phalanx like hoplites, and their spears were far from long enough to present a Macedonian style phalanx (disregarding the need for an arm for the scutum).
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    Amanuensis Member pezhetairoi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Triarii WERE phalanx units

    The Romans learned their fighting lessons from the Samnites who defeated their close-order phalanxes whenever the Romans invaded them, with their own proto-legionaries. Hence I don't think the Romans, who were ever adaptable, would have retained this obsolete (and utterly hopeless) phalanx formation since it had to remain manoeuvrable. Books I have read detail triarii as resting on the ground behind the principes and hastati in battle on one knee, the other leg stetched out before them, and their shield resting on it, their spears pointe at 45 degrees up. When they were committed to the battle and the order came for them to move, they could be up and ready to move in several seconds! Can you imagine triarii doing that with hoplons? Or, for the matter, if the phalanx formation was the norm, can you imagine how the triarii filed through the -gaps- in the cohorts/maniples and still had time to form up to 'fall upon the enemy in one unbroken line' as Polybius described?

    In short, the Triarii never fought as a phalanx. Period.


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  10. #10

    Talking Re: Triarii WERE phalanx units

    hmmmm...well, honestly, i'd come back to comment how sucky my beloved Triarii had become with the screwy phalanx code. lol. But, the underhandwield reasoning seems to make sense in countering my "assumption"...and that 600 man constant does seem a little understrength, in hindsight.

    As a devil's advocate, one could probably ask some LARP fans who're into roman stuff if they ever thought a phalanx could work; As for the 600man thing: you've got to realize that was 600 triarii/1200 principles/1200 hastati - irregardless of the "velite" evolution i could find no discussion of triarii tactical changes. In fact, they could actually have used rounded shields and we are all misunderstanding artistic license on the part of pictures/art (or if it was period art, the figures showing square shields could be hastati/principles instead)
    • hell, even PERIOD artists don't get it right
    *shrug* I'm not nitpicking, and you folks have swayed me away from phalanx functioning triarii, it's just good reasoning going on.

    going to look up Samnite/Roman history tho
    Last edited by MajorFreak; 04-19-2005 at 03:16. Reason: sammy who?

  11. #11
    Amanuensis Member pezhetairoi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Triarii WERE phalanx units

    LARP? What's that? Ah, major, if you find anything on samnite history share it here. I'm a little short on that and all I have is from a Roman military standpoint.


    EB DEVOTEE SINCE 2004

  12. #12
    The drunken Duke Member Suraknar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Triarii WERE phalanx units

    Indeed,

    The Original Triarii were Phalanx Based, as was the Organization of the early Republican Army of Rome.

    However, adaptability and the emediate challenges the Romans faced evolved in to the adoption of the Scutum and the Gladius as well as Pilum which in turn demanded a change of fighting Style and Organization.

    Phalanxes are particularly effective in flat terrain, and the greeks themselves due to the Hoplite and later the Phalanx style of fighting always chose their Battleground carefully.

    Alexander and the phalanx saw particular success to the east also mainly due to the availability of flat areas of terrain.

    In Flat terrain, the Phalanx was and always will be unstoppable head on.

    However, in mountenous Italic Peninsula, the Romans had to face Samnite and Etruscan threats, additionally, they were attacking which meant that often they were not the ones choosing the place of battle and the Greek Phalanx proved ineffective tactically.

    The factors contributed to the devellopment of the Legion System.

    Now Legions themselves were not Organized as Unified compact formations.

    They were subdivided in Maniples, the Maniples themselves consisted of 2 Centuries, except the Triarii that made up single centuries.

    The first line of battle was a mixture of two types of units working in concert and consisted of several maniples of Hastati each containing 2 centuries of roughly 60 men, the second unit was consisted of Velites at a rate of 20 per Hastati Century.

    However, The Velites althought attached to the Hastati maniple formation occupied their own line in battle, followed by the Hastati themselves.

    The second Line of battle being the Maniple formation of the Principes which was also formed in 2 centuries per maniple of roughly 60 men, for a total of 120 men per maniple, at 10 Maniples in the Legion it accounted for about 1,200 Principes

    The third Line, well the Triari, however this time each maniple consisted of 1 century of also about 60 men, there were 10 maniples in a legion, which meant 600 Triari, but that was not 600 compact Triarii, it was 10 maniples of 60 for a total of 600.

    The Maniple allowed greater flexibility than the older phalanx in that these separate units of men within the entire formation could be split off from one another to meet various battlefield challenges.

    This is equivalent to the Squad of present day warfare. So you see where this is going, Ancient Time Squad based Tactics, which simply means - Flexibility in combat, which in turn means, death of the powerfull yet very unflexible Phalanx.

    Combining these factors together the new Tactics and weaponry called for Warriors that were capable to stand their own ground - Versus the dependency of warriors in a Phalanx formation - upon any type of ground, wither that being chosen by themselves or the enemy.

    In short this was a higly flexible organization designed to wear down an advancing Phalanx formation disrupt it enough and then permit the swift encirclement and flanking of its unflexible nature for the kill.
    Last edited by Suraknar; 04-22-2005 at 10:10.
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  13. #13

    Question Re: Triarii WERE phalanx units

    i'd read some history about the roman love of the sword (source linked in my first post), and the lot of you have convinced me this was true, but it's always been bugging me why the romans dropped the long spear...especially since the german heavy cavalry finally proved to be the roman's waterloo.

    I've grown up on TotalWar's love of the spear unit, plus stories old the roman legions...I wonder if anyone here has a theory as to why the romans either (1) ignored their weakness (2) weren't aware their legions were vulnerable to heavy cavalry
    • based on the rather dubious "fact" that frontal assaults by cavalry at phalanx formations is suicide...ingame

  14. #14
    Magister Vitae Senior Member Kraxis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Triarii WERE phalanx units

    Quite simply because cavalry at the time wasn't very good at attacking at all. They were mostly there for chasing and protecting flanks. The Parthians (and similar cavalrypeople) and Seleucids took it a bit further and had their cataphracts charge in and give the final nudge when the enemy was weakened enough.
    In general the Romans had nothing to fear from melee cavalry as long as their cohesion was strong. Not even at Carrhae did the legionaries suffer badly to cavalry until their cohesion broke down. In fact the Parthians tried to charge the cataphracts at them early and failed miserably.
    The Romans even invented a special anti cavalry formation in case the enemy did charge. The first row would plant their shield in the ground and stick out their pilum (imperial times so there was only one), the second row would extend the first shield upwards making a nice wall and then they too would stick out their pilum. This would present a seemingly solid wall to the horses, which would normally stop short of the line. At that point the whole formation would throw their pila at the now tangled mess of horsemen milling around in confusion. That would result in quite severe casualties (while a horse can easily survive several arrows a pilum or javelin tends to injure it a lot). Normally that would be enough for the cavalry to brake and flee.

    The incident with the gothic cavalry (battle of Adrianople) is a special one as the Roman infantry was engaged with the Gothic infantry at their laager. When the Romans initially attacked the Goths sent for their cavalry out foraging. They returned in the nick of time (imagine the bluejackets of westerns) and attacked the Romans in the flank and rear. At that point the cohesion had been disrupted and the soldiers were tired. But even then most of them stood their ground and fought until the bitter end.
    And might I point out that the legionaries at the time were not like the Legionary Cohorts of RTW, they had returned to flat oval shields, small plumbata darts (instead of pila) and their no longer had the nice lorica segmentata and their helmets were of inferior design. They also carried the longer spatha sword, which indicated that the Romans no longer desired the close in fighting the Romans of oldendays did (the spatha was too long for that).
    And it must be pointed out that the legionaries were assisted by auxilia troops with spears, and they were the first to run (after the cavalry of course), eventhough they were of good quality. Spears are not universal anti-cavalry weapons, but they help, the real protection is in tactics and formation.

    The goths were even defeated repeatedly by Stillicho later on, so it wasn't because the Goths were better in terms of arms or setup.
    Last edited by Kraxis; 04-24-2005 at 15:14.
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