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Thread: Comments on Vegetius

  1. #1

    Default Comments on Vegetius

    I'm curious about how Vegetius describes the Roman order of battle. Its slightly different than how its depicted in EB in that he puts Principes as the first line...

    http://museums.ncl.ac.uk/archive/arm...hnica/veg1.htm

    XX. Locus exigit, ut, quo armorum genere uel instruendi uel muniendi sint tirones, referre temptemus. Sed in hac parte antiqua penitus consuetudo deleta est; nam licet exemplo Gothorum et Alanorum Hunnorumque equitum arma profecerint, pedites constat esse nudatos. Ab urbe enim condita usque ad tempus diui Gratiani et catafractis et galeis muniebatur pedestris exercitus. Sed cum campestris exercitatio interueniente neglegentia desidiaque cessaret, grauia uideri arma coeperunt, quae raro milites induebant; itaque ab imperatore postulant primo catafractas, deinde cassides sedere refundere. Sic detectis pectoribus et capitibus congressi contra Gothos milites nostri multitudine sagittariorum saepe deleti sunt; nec post tot clades, quae usque ad tantarum urbium excidia peruenerunt, cuiquam curae fuit uel catafractas uel galeas pedestribus reddere. Ita fit, ut non de pugna sed de fuga cogitent qui in acie nudi exponuntur ad uulnera. Quid enim pedes sagittarius sine catafracta, sine galea, qui cum arcu scutum tenere non potest, faciat? Quid ipsi draconarii atque signiferi, qui sinistra manu hastas gubernant, in proelio facient, quorum et capita nuda constant et pectora? Sed grauis pediti lorica uidetur et galea fortasse raro meditanti, fortasse arma raro tractanti; ceterum cotidianus usus non laborat, etiam si onerosa gestauerit. Sed illi, qui laborem in portandis ueteribus munimentis armorum ferre non possunt, detectis corporibus et uulnera sustinere coguntur et mortes et, quod est grauius, aut capi aut certe fuga rempublicam prodere. Sic dum exercitium laboremque declinant, cum maximo dedecore trucidantur ut pecudes. Unde enim apud antiquos murus dicebatur pedestris exercitus, nisi quod pilatae legiones praeter scuta etiam catafractis galeisque fulgebant? usque eo, ut sagittarii sinistra brachia manicis munirentur, pedites autem scutati praeter catafractas et galeas etiam ferreas ocreas in dextris cruribus cogerentur accipere. Sic erant muniti illi, qui in prima acie pugnantes principes, in secunda hastati, in tertia triarii uocabantur. Sed triarii genibus positis solebant intra scuta subsidere, ne stantes uulnerarentur uenientibus telis et, cum necessitas postulasset, tamquam requieti uehementius inuaderent hostes, a quibus constat saepe factam esse uictoriam, cum hastati illi et qui priores steterant interissent. Erant tamen apud ueteres inter pedites qui dicebantur leuis armaturae, funditores et ferentarii, qui praecipue in cornibus locabantur et a quibus pugnandi sumebatur exordium; sed hi et uelocissimi et exercitatissimi legebantur; nec erant admodum multi, qui cedentes, si proelii necessitas conpulisset, inter principia legionum recipi solebant, ita ut acies inmota consisteret. Usque ad praesentem prope aetatem consuetudo permansit, ut omnes milites pilleis, quos Pannonicos uocabant, ex pellibus uterentur; quod propterea seruabatur, ne grauis galea uideretur in proelio homini, qui gestabat aliquid semper in capite. Missilibus autem quibus utebatur pedestris exercitus, pila uocabantur, ferro subtili trigono praefixa unciarum nouem siue pedali, quod in scuto fixum non possit abscidi et loricam scienter ac fortiter directum facile perrumpit, cuius generis apud nos iam rara sunt tela. Barbari autem scutati pedites his praecipue utuntur, quas bebras uocant, et binas etiam ac ternas in proeliis portant. Sciendum praeterea, cum missilibus agitur, sinistros pedes in ante milites habere debere; ita enim uibrandis spiculis uehementior ictus est. Sed cum ad pila, ut apellant, uenitur et manu ad manum gladiis pugnatur, tunc dextros pedes in ante milites habere debent, ut et latera eorum subducantur ab hostibus, ne possint uulnus accipere et proximior dextra sit, quae plagam possit inferre. Instruendos igitur ac protegendos omni antiquo armorum genere constat esse tirones. Necesse est enim, ut dimicandi acriorem sumat audaciam qui munito capite uel pectore non timet uulnus.

    20.Circumstances dictate that we attempt to recount the types of weapons with which recruits were either armed or protected. But the ancient customs have been completely abandoned, for, although the example of the Goths, Alans, and Huns has been advantageous for cavalry weapons, infantry continued to be undefended. For, from the foundation of the City to the time of the late Gratianus, infantry were equipped with both cuirasses and helmets. But when field training was ended through negligence and laxity, the equipment - which the soldiers seldom put on - began to be seen as heavy. Therefore they first requested the emperor to stop issuing cuirasses, then helmets. So, fighting with unprotected bodies and heads against the Goths, our soldiers were often destroyed by large numbers of archers. And evenafter so many disasters, when destruction came to many cities, none of these troubles led to the restoration of either cuirasses or helmets. So it is, those who are unprotected in battle, exposed to wounds, do not think of fighting, but of flight. For what should the infantry archer do, without cuirass or helmet, unable to hold a shield at the same time as a bow? What should draconarii and signiferi do in battle, wielding spears with the left hand, both head and body remaining exposed? But a cuirass and helmet seem heavy to an infantryman, perhaps seldom training with, or handling, arms. Yet daily use is not irksome, even if weighed down. But those who could not bear the effort of carrying ancient defensive arms, could, with uncovered bodies, sustain both wounds and fatalities and, more importantly, be captured or certainly betray the state by flight. Thus, for as long as they avoid training and exertion, they are cut to pieces like beasts with the greatest dishonour. For why is the infantry army called a wall by the ancients, if not because javelin-armed legions, behind their shields, veritably gleamed with cuirasses and helmets? Even archers were equipped with armlets on the left arm; shield-bearing infantry, however, in addition to cuirasses and helmets, resorted to iron greaves on the right shin. The combatants in the first line called 'principes' (in the second 'hastati', in the third 'triarii') were equipped in this way. But the triarii were accustomed to settle down behind their shields in the kneeling position, in case they were wounded by incoming missiles when standing and, when necessary, as if refreshed attacked the enemy more forcefully, from which it is well known to be a polished victory, when the hastati had crumbled, the triarii stood firm. However amongst the ancients there were infantrymen called levis armaturae - slingers and light missile-armed troops - who were specifically placed on the flanks and with whom it is traditional the combat begins. But the fastest and most practised of these were selected (and there were many not up to the mark) who, if necessary, were used to passing between the front ranks of the legion, so that the battle line remained steady. It remained the custom until nearer the present time that all soldiers were associated with the 'Pannonian' pilleus of skins. For it was kept so that a helmet would not seem heavy to a man, who would always be wearing something on his head. However, the infantry army was associated with the missiles called pila, with a fine triangular iron point of nine inches or a foot at the end, which when stuck in a shield, could not be pulled out, and aimed expertly and strongly could easily pierce a cuirass; weapons of this type are now rare with us. However, barbarian shielded infantry are particularly associated with 'bebrae', and they carry two and even three into battle. Furthermore, with regard to missiles, soldiers must have the left foot forward, for quivering weapons thrown in this way are more powerful. But when it comes 'to the pila', as they say, and fighting is hand-to-hand with swords, then soldiers must have the right foot forward, so that both their flanks are protected from the enemy, so that they are not wounded, and so the right hand should be nearer and able to deliver a blow. It therefore still holds that recruits should be taught about and protected by all kinds of ancient weaponry. For it is essential that, with an armoured head or breast, he should be more keenly courageous in combat, and not fear being wounded.
    Last edited by mcantu; 08-15-2007 at 14:39.
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  2. #2
    Come to daddy Member Geoffrey S's Avatar
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    Default Re: Comments on Vegetius

    Bear in mind that Vegetius refers to later Roman troops than are depicted in EB, with Hastati, Principes and Triarii no longer referring to the distinct troops types used in the Republic but rather being names/functions in the battleline.
    "The facts of history cannot be purely objective, since they become facts of history only in virtue of the significance attached to them by the historian." E.H. Carr

  3. #3

    Default Re: Comments on Vegetius

    Well he refers to them as the 'ancients.'
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    Lover of Toight Vahjoinas Member Bootsiuv's Avatar
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    Default Re: Comments on Vegetius

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoffrey S
    Bear in mind that Vegetius refers to later Roman troops than are depicted in EB, with Hastati, Principes and Triarii no longer referring to the distinct troops types used in the Republic but rather being names/functions in the battleline.
    That still doesn't explain why the Hastati are the second line. Shouldn't the first line be called Hastati (even if they were no longer Hastati per se)?
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    Come to daddy Member Geoffrey S's Avatar
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    Default Re: Comments on Vegetius

    Well, for instance, tanks are still referred to as armored cavalry, so that doesn't mean much per sÚ. But as mcantu said the text does refer to "the ancients", which I missed the first time, but how far back that means? It could just as well refer to the time just after the Marian reforms, when the names also referred more to a section of the battleline rather than a troop type.
    "The facts of history cannot be purely objective, since they become facts of history only in virtue of the significance attached to them by the historian." E.H. Carr

  6. #6

    Default Re: Comments on Vegetius

    Well at the beginning of the section he states...

    For, from the foundation of the City to the time of the late Gratianus, infantry were equipped with both cuirasses and helmets
    But that doesnt nail down what period he is referrencing at the end
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    Voluntary Suspension Voluntary Suspension Philippus Flavius Homovallumus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Comments on Vegetius

    He's talking about the mid-Republic and he's simply wrong. He was probably confused because "Hastatus" means litterally "spearman" and Princeps means roughly "first man" this likely comes from the old Servian battle order but Vegetius is here reffering to the Camillian of Polybian system.

    Vegetius is griping about the state of the late Imperial army, which was frankly disgraceful.
    "If it wears trousers generally I don't pay attention."

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    Member Member Reno Melitensis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Comments on Vegetius

    Polybius is generally assumed by historians to be more accurate than Vegetius.
    The former lived when the Manipular system was at its best, and a friend of Scipio Aemilianus, so he knew what was he writing.

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    "Technocrat Politician" Member C.LVCIANVS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Comments on Vegetius

    Wonderful post.
    Actually in EB i use camillian principes on the first line, with hastati on the second for supporting with pila and attack flanks or behind of units engaged by principes. This because hastati are lightly armored and use gladius for secondary weapon, having a greater kill ratio than principes. Spears of principes also prevent my first line to be charged by cavalry, while hastati could have much more casualties instead, and the same is for enemy missile weapons vs. principes better armour. Triarii remains on third line, ready to enter in battle for hold the line with their "classical hoplite shield wall ability" (using BI_exe ). This tactic associated with a quincux battle formation allows me to destroy entire phalanx-based greek, epeirotic or punic armies reporting few losses.
    After the polibian reform, the better armed and armoured hastati gain finally the first acies, for weaken and tire the enemy before principes engages.

    I think that EB reform & unit system represents well the changes of roman army in 3rd century BC.
    The Camillian era shows the manipular warfare adopted in samnitic wars, still with great dinstinctions between different classes of roman society and experience.
    The Polibyan reform shows the final stage of the process, with a role-consolidated three battle line army where equipment and census makes much less difference than past times; this uniformation permits more versatility and allows to the republic to deploy more numerous armies to face successfully new enemies outside the peninsula, like carthaginians, macedons, greeks, celtic and iberian tribes.

    This goes until Marius' times, where the lack of recruitable men forced to abolish census requisites for create a true professional army. Marius ends a cycle started 230 years before, with the roman defeat at the forcae caudinae in 321 B.C. by Samnites. In that circumstance the senate reformed for the first time the army: the legions passed from 2 to 4 and every legion was divided in 30 maniples of 120 milites each one. With this new manipular army, the Res publica conquered definitively Italy, destroying an italic-coalition army on the river Sentinus in Umbria, in 295 B.C. (italic casualties were reported as 100.000 for contemporary Durides of Samo, 25.000 for Livius.) Five years later, Samnites surrendered and the roman victory at Maleventum in 275 B.C. get Pirrhos definitively out of western affairs, leaving Tarentum to its destiny in 272.

    Plebeian fights for civil rights during all the republican period contributed also to army reforms, gradually eliminating differences in equipment and warfare. Masses of citizens-infantrymen needed always a better equipment, as like as their political weight grew up. With the Leges Liciniae Sextiae in 367 B.C. the patricii cannot continue to take all the ager publicus for them, and one of the two consuls must be of plebeian origins. In 287 B.C. plebiscites assume lex valour; in 300 B.C. plebeians obtain the right of access to the last public charge denied, the pontifex maximus. The process goes on, till Tiberius and Caius Gracchus times and the successive division between the "boni" optimates and the populares, also in the senate.

    Bored? Yes, thanks. Oh, and sorry for my ainghlish

    BTW: The names of the three lines of soldiers, hastati, principes et triarii (or Pilani ?) comes from the pre-manipular formation: Principes, the principal force of the legion, the best men, formed the first line; Hastati, younger and poorer, armed with an hasta, then passed to the first line with their pila; Pilani or Triarii, maybe armed with pila in ancient times, then armed with hasta in polibian time.
    That's for Arnold Toynbee in "Hannibal's Heritage".
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