Page 2 of 6 FirstFirst 123456 LastLast
Results 16 to 30 of 77

Thread: What if: Roman legions vs medieval European army

  1. #16
    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
    Join Date
    15 Apr 08
    Location
    Transylvania
    Posts
    5,099
    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    z,



    not by the late medieval period. the crusades plus the growing power of kings changed this.



    nothing like the famed crossbowmen with pavise. the medieval crossbow (or longbow) and pike combination was such that by the late medieval period even knights in full plate were wary of charging them-- the development of early gunpowder weapons was an extension of this.

    part of the reason why the heavy infantry of the roman legions changed in the 2nd and 3rd centuries was because of the difficulty of the heavy infantry in dealing with the parthian horse archer/cataphract threat. rome could beat parthia (and later the sassanids), but they never could do so conclusively.

    to put it another way, given the training and discipline needed to create a pike/shot formation, the medieval europeans could have recreated to some extent the legion of the past. that they didn't go back to gladius and pila (despite romanticizing the Empire in other aspects, see the 'Holy Roman Empire') and instead evolved towards blunt-force trauma weapons and pike indicates that legionary-style warfare wasn't optimal given developments in technology.
    Pike and shot got into mopping floors business when they faced the Spanish infantry in Italy.

    Roman armies changed for a lot of reasons,many of them not military in nature.The old legions had no problem defeating Eastern style armies-cavalry and archer centric using combined arms.As a matter of fact,it was the heavy infantry of the legions that allowed Aurelianus to defeat the Palmyrians.
    The cavalry,be it shock or horse archers really knows only a few tricks.The infantry knows lots of them.

    About the pavise crossbowmen,they have 2 salvoes at most,before they get some sharp swords between the ribs.Not to forget that by the second encounter,the Romans will also have their own auxilia crossbowmen.

    There is a great misconception about Agincourt.It was the English archers doing the killing,but it was not by using their bows.The battlefield was a muck,thanks to rain.Tens of thousands of men trampling it did not helped either.The French ,in their armor ,were exhausted by the time they engaged the English in hand to hand combat.The English were also much more mobile in their light attire.
    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

  2. #17
    Senior Contributor 1979's Avatar
    Join Date
    02 Jul 09
    Location
    Romānia
    Posts
    1,700
    Quote Originally Posted by Dante View Post
    How would the Romans fare against the better technology and the shock tactics of the mounted knight?
    You start by ravaging crops , burning the villages and selling the women and children into slavery.
    J'ai en marre.

  3. #18
    Administrator
    Lei Feng Protege
    Defense Professional
    Join Date
    23 Aug 05
    Location
    Arlington, VA
    Posts
    13,059
    z,

    To an extent, but reading on the French and Catholic wars in Italy leaves a distinct impression that the rank and file was still little better than peasant levies.
    yes, there was a huge variation on leadership and tactics and skill. by the mid-end of the Italian Wars, though, the original levies had transformed from peasants wielding pikes to an intensely flexible combined arms force- arquebusiers, crossbowmen, pikemen.

    European pike developed to counter heavy cavalry, not heavy infantry. Swiss pike v Roman legion I'll bet on the legion as the Swiss would be little better than the Macedonians.
    the pike underwent several evolutions; the swiss later used the halberds for shorter-range work (ironically this disappeared again as firearms got better).

    the swiss formation was significantly different from the former macedonian formation; it was far more flexible, responsive, and underwent drills that the old phalanx could not have done without ruining their formation.

    the swiss grew so good at using the pike that their infantry formations were known to -charge cavalry-.

    Take gunpowder out of the equation and its possible legion like tactics would have returned to deal with pikes just as they did previously
    what the swiss and french and germans did was to use halberdiers and landskechts-- mercenaries whom carried huge two-handed swords-- to disrupt the pike formation, and then push with pike.

    the reason why it's so hard to measure up "legion vs medieval European army" was because they had different opponents in different times. the legion's main enemy were poorly armored/unarmored, poorly-organized barbarian hordes. when they had to fight the parthians they had to switch to a more auxiliary-centered mix, because heavy infantry with swords didn't work very well against a cavalry-centric army.

    the medieval army had to deal with a much more heavy-cavalry based environment, with the development of stirrups.

    so if you put a roman legion in a medieval background i'm fairly sure after a while they'd start using pikes, or perhaps reviving the old hastati.

    similarly, if you put a medieval unit in a roman background, they'd probably start adopting swords or halberds in masse.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  4. #19
    Administrator
    Lei Feng Protege
    Defense Professional
    Join Date
    23 Aug 05
    Location
    Arlington, VA
    Posts
    13,059
    mihais,

    Pike and shot got into mopping floors business when they faced the Spanish infantry in Italy.
    yes, the famous rodeleros. unfortunately, as could be predicted, they were vulnerable to heavy cavalry which the pike was supposed to counter.

    and guess what, after a heyday of 10-20 years they were replaced by tercios...which is pretty much pike and shot.

    The old legions had no problem defeating Eastern style armies-cavalry and archer centric using combined arms.As a matter of fact,it was the heavy infantry of the legions that allowed Aurelianus to defeat the Palmyrians.
    The cavalry,be it shock or horse archers really knows only a few tricks.The infantry knows lots of them.
    i wouldn't say "no problem". crassus had a problem, i recall.

    the point is to defeat the heavy cavalry army the roman legion had to rely more and more on combined arms.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  5. #20
    Administrator
    Lei Feng Protege
    Defense Professional
    Join Date
    23 Aug 05
    Location
    Arlington, VA
    Posts
    13,059
    dante,

    I think that has more to do with the the resources available, while they could recreate maybe one/two legions, that was probably as far as they could go. Also, the romans encountered heavy cavalry, albeit not on the knight scale, and did not fell the need to change they're tactics & equipment towards pike/spear formations , that and Trajan's victory suggests that they could cope with the cavalry threat just fine.
    they changed their tactics and equipment-- they shifted to a more heavy auxiliary based army. note the huge change in the roman legion between early empire and the 3rd-4th century, although as mihais points out this change was not completely due to military necessity.

    besides, the heavy cavalry of the 14th century armed in plate is a damn huge leap from the parthian or sassanid heavy cavalry, or even the 10th century byzantine cataphract.

    Edit: Maybe the shaping factor was not the threat posed by heavy cavalry, but the resources available at you're disposal..
    like i said, look at how the armies were shaped when the big nations of the late medieval period DID have those resources. if the roman heavy infantry was ideal for the medieval situation, i'd expect armies to be shaped with a re-creation of the roman legion.

    and in the isolated cases where we see armies facing a somewhat similar situation-- for instance, the anglo-saxons fighting loosely-organized infantry based armies in the 900s-- they developed somewhat similar analogues to roman tactics like the shield wall formation (vice a testudo).
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  6. #21
    Patron
    Join Date
    06 Dec 09
    Posts
    165
    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    dante,

    they changed their tactics and equipment-- they shifted to a more heavy auxiliary based army. note the huge change in the roman legion between early empire and the 3rd-4th century, although as mihais points out this change was not completely due to military necessity.

    besides, the heavy cavalry of the 14th century armed in plate is a damn huge leap from the parthian or sassanid heavy cavalry, or even the 10th century byzantine cataphract.
    That's just it, I don't think id had nothing to do with enemy or trying to improve , as it had to do with Rome's internal problems. The plague and Caracalla naming all empire inhabitants as citizens didn't help either. In fact the biggest change I can see are in the third century, with legionaries loosing they're status and adopting more and more of the auxiliary weapons and armors, while roman aristocracy was being slowly replaced from the officer corp.
    From there, down they went ...the legion being slowly replaced by non-roman auxiliars in all but name.

    It's more of a involution than evolution, considering that they started with spear armed troops in the first place, and built on that to reach the cohorts, only to slide back to the lesser model.(with the romans themselves being phased out, to boot)

    The heavy medieval cavalry was a leap (I don't know how huge)from the original cataphract, but what works against one will likely work against the other. Also, said medieval heavy cavalry didn't have the advantage of mounted archers, nor would they make the romans chase them all around the batllefied while firing arrows.



    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    like i said, look at how the armies were shaped when the big nations of the late medieval period DID have those resources. if the roman heavy infantry was ideal for the medieval situation, i'd expect armies to be shaped with a re-creation of the roman legion.

    and in the isolated cases where we see armies facing a somewhat similar situation-- for instance, the anglo-saxons fighting loosely-organized infantry based armies in the 900s-- they developed somewhat similar analogues to roman tactics like the shield wall formation (vice a testudo).
    Which XV century nation had the resources and possibility to recreate the roman imperial legions, especially close to roman numbers?
    They couldn't replicate the system, nor the numbers, so went with what worked for them - few, well trained feudal nobles and mercenaries as the basis, something that reflected the medieval system itself

    - you need free citizens, so no peasants and few nobles, you have to rely on town folk who would want to volunteer for 20 years(!)
    - the idea of a big, all year standing army, composed mostly of free men wouldn't sit well with the medieval system
    - the logistics weren't there, battlefield doctors also disappeared , and so were the roman engineers to provide roads, encampments, baths
    - who would pay for a large, standing, well equipped army, all year around + retirement pensions, bonuses in case of injury, and all for decades.
    - the tactics were forgotten, training methods also, and the carer officer was mostly a memory

    I agree that they can copy one roman legion, to a point, but that wouldn't make it more than it is - a inferior copy, missing the key elements.
    Last edited by Dante; 28 Mar 13, at 00:03.

  7. #22
    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
    Join Date
    15 Apr 08
    Location
    Transylvania
    Posts
    5,099
    Quote Originally Posted by Dante View Post
    I agree that they can copy one roman legion, to a point, but that wouldn't make it more than it is - a inferior copy, missing the key elements.
    The Ottomans.Although we sent those to an early end a couple of times.

    About the knights vs. cataphracts.There is no comparison between the two.First,the Byz whacked the Hungarian knights.Second,the Cat's are the direct descendents of the old cavalry formations.Meaning they don't just charge.They are a combined arms formations,with archers in the middle of the wedge making a breach(or at least supressing the enemy),while the lancers do their thing.In close combat they have maces,which can deal with late medieval armor and helmets.

    Norman or Frankish cavalry had problems breaching a viking or Saxon shield wall.Ioannes Tzimiskes took out the Russians without breaking a sweat.That was when Russian meant Swede
    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

  8. #23
    Patron
    Join Date
    06 Dec 09
    Posts
    165
    Quote Originally Posted by Mihais View Post
    The Ottomans.Although we sent those to an early end a couple of times.
    Mihai, those weren't medieval europeans by any stretch, no matter how much they tried to get in to Europe

  9. #24
    Administrator
    Lei Feng Protege
    Defense Professional
    Join Date
    23 Aug 05
    Location
    Arlington, VA
    Posts
    13,059
    dante,

    That's just it, I don't think id had nothing to do with enemy or trying to improve , as it had to do with Rome's internal problems.
    internal issues weren't the only sticking point. notice how the byzantines never copied the roman legion despite calling themselves roman and having the legacy.

    which XV century nation had the resources and possibility to recreate the roman imperial legions, especially close to roman numbers?
    look at the italian wars, or the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War, or the Battle of Manzikert.

    you're right in that there was no standing army equivalent until the 15th-16th centuries, but given the technologies of the time-- castles/fortresses that were considerably more complex than the old roman forts-- they didn't need it, either. but that doesn't mean the soldiers had poor training; knights were trained from childhood, as were longbowmen. same with the professional pike units.

    the logistics weren't there, battlefield doctors also disappeared , and so were the roman engineers to provide roads, encampments, baths
    not by the time of the crusades. the coordination and logistics to feed, equip, and train huge numbers of european knights from disparate courts was quite impressive.

    similarly, engineers-- the romans never had something like the krak de chevaliers. by the 14th century engineers were making huge strides, especially with the advent of artillery. for the romans, engineering was never systemic, much more rule of thumb.

    albeit a very good rule of thumb.

    the tactics were forgotten, training methods also, and the carer officer was mostly a memory
    way too general. the swiss pikemen formation was innovative, just as pike and shot was...as was longbowmen + man-at-arms combination. plus, medieval commanders-- the literate ones anyway-- had the advantage of having learned from the romans. tacitus, for instance.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  10. #25
    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
    Join Date
    15 Apr 08
    Location
    Transylvania
    Posts
    5,099
    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    mihais,



    yes, the famous rodeleros. unfortunately, as could be predicted, they were vulnerable to heavy cavalry which the pike was supposed to counter.

    and guess what, after a heyday of 10-20 years they were replaced by tercios...which is pretty much pike and shot.



    i wouldn't say "no problem". crassus had a problem, i recall.

    the point is to defeat the heavy cavalry army the roman legion had to rely more and more on combined arms.
    Roman armies relied on combined arms against everybody,since Manius Dentatus and particularly Scipio.Crassus was a one time wonder.Against Antonius they managed a difficult draw and later on they relied on strategic depth.

    True the Tercios replaced the looser formations.But there was also a sort of change of the enemy.The Imperial armies faced the Ottoman cavalry in the East and the French one in Flanders.They proved their point against the Swiss or the German pike formations.
    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

  11. #26
    Senior Contributor
    Join Date
    05 Sep 06
    Posts
    4,027
    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    the romans never had something like the krak de chevaliers.
    Krak de Chevaliers isn't really all that impressive beyond the fact that it is still pretty much in its original state.

    Defensive fortifications with concentric mutual defense structures the like of Krak - but considerably more expansive in area covered - were built by the Celts 250 years before the Romans arrived north of the Alps. The Franks began copying them a millenium later after the last vestiges of the Roman oppressors were removed, becoming the core from which medieval concentric castles - conceptually collapsed into pure garrisons - were developed over the next 500 years.

  12. #27
    Staff Emeritus
    Military Professional
    Contrary by Nature.
    zraver's Avatar
    Join Date
    22 Oct 06
    Location
    Arkansas
    Posts
    14,550
    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    z,



    yes, there was a huge variation on leadership and tactics and skill. by the mid-end of the Italian Wars, though, the original levies had transformed from peasants wielding pikes to an intensely flexible combined arms force- arquebusiers, crossbowmen, pikemen.
    Flexible compared to what had immediately preceeded it, not compared to the legions.

    the pike underwent several evolutions; the swiss later used the halberds for shorter-range work (ironically this disappeared again as firearms got better).

    the swiss formation was significantly different from the former macedonian formation; it was far more flexible, responsive, and underwent drills that the old phalanx could not have done without ruining their formation.
    Call me a doubting Thomas here but I don't see it.

    the swiss grew so good at using the pike that their infantry formations were known to -charge cavalry-.
    and... Infantry can charge cavalry, happened all the time, they just cant catch them under normal circumstances.

    [quote]what the swiss and french and germans did was to use halberdiers and landskechts-- mercenaries whom carried huge two-handed swords-- to disrupt the pike formation, and then push with pike.[/qute]

    The Romans used the scutum to lock the pikes, pull them apart and then let the Legionaries inside the pike formation to let the blood flow true.

    the reason why it's so hard to measure up "legion vs medieval European army" was because they had different opponents in different times. the legion's main enemy were poorly armored/unarmored, poorly-organized barbarian hordes. when they had to fight the parthians they had to switch to a more auxiliary-centered mix, because heavy infantry with swords didn't work very well against a cavalry-centric army.
    Boo... The conquest of Southern Italy, Scicily, the Balkans, Greece, the Levant, Egypt and aprts of North Africa and Spain were often Macedonian or Hoplite pike/spear infantry armies.

    the medieval army had to deal with a much more heavy-cavalry based environment, with the development of stirrups.
    And the germanic/frankish/romanesque cultures that spawned them.

    so if you put a roman legion in a medieval background i'm fairly sure after a while they'd start using pikes, or perhaps reviving the old hastati.
    Maybe, but doubtful, heavy cav is a one trick pony and easily countered by trained troops.

    similarly, if you put a medieval unit in a roman background, they'd probably start adopting swords or halberds in masse.
    likely.

  13. #28
    Staff Emeritus
    Military Professional
    Contrary by Nature.
    zraver's Avatar
    Join Date
    22 Oct 06
    Location
    Arkansas
    Posts
    14,550
    Quote Originally Posted by Dante View Post
    Ok, but this should not be centered around equal numbers, the sheer size of what the Romans could bring is a an advanatage.
    For example, what if Trajans army , the one that he commanded on the Parthian campaign was transported in time before Agincourt?

    That is 11 legions plus supporting auxilla with a years worth of supplies.... Something between 100,000 and 200,000 men. Loose that type of an army in Europe before 1500 A.D. and you recreate the Roman empire. The Roman army compared to the combined forces at Agincourt (low end estimates for all three combatants) of 9:1 overall as well as more cavalry than the French and archers equal in number to the English. The Romans would also have field artillery and engineers. Europe was heavily castilated by that point but no matter how well stocked sieges only end one way unless relieved.

  14. #29
    Administrator
    Lei Feng Protege
    Defense Professional
    Join Date
    23 Aug 05
    Location
    Arlington, VA
    Posts
    13,059
    z,

    to wrap this up as i think we've made our points.

    Boo... The conquest of Southern Italy, Scicily, the Balkans, Greece, the Levant, Egypt and aprts of North Africa and Spain were often Macedonian or Hoplite pike/spear infantry armies.
    i think it's a mistake to equate swiss pikemen or the professional pikemen of the medieval era to the ancient macedonian phalanx. the weapons were different, the tactics and drill were different, the armor was different. same with a comparison between roman archery and english archery or french crossbowmen.

    the difficulty with this comparison is, what's your "average" roman legion? even harder still, what's your "average" medieval army?

    i have no doubt that caesar's veterans of the gallic war could go through an equal number of viking berserkers, or 9th century village militia, like a dose of salts. but what about the sophisticated armies and veterans of the italian war? or, interestingly, the byzantine armies of justinian led by belisarius? and what if instead of caesar's veterans, they were one of the constabulatory legions in the middle of the pax romana?

    a million different factors; location, numbers, generalship, etc.

    i'm not sure how to isolate it so that one could decisively make a judgment one way or another.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  15. #30
    Staff Emeritus
    Military Professional
    Contrary by Nature.
    zraver's Avatar
    Join Date
    22 Oct 06
    Location
    Arkansas
    Posts
    14,550
    Well the one comparative offered up is the legions that marched in to Parthia in 115 vs the English and French at Agincourt. Accounting for size to make things numerically equal that would be roughly 12,500 legionaries and 8500 axullia (half light infantry and 1/4 each missile and horse) vs 1500 heavy cav, 7000 bow/light infantry, 1500 crossbow, and 11000 heavy infantry.

    The Roman cav isn't heavy in the European sense but does have lances and horn bows. Roman saggitarri troops while not as numerous as the English have equivalent technology and out range and out pace the Genoese crossbowmen. They also have field artillery (organic to every legion) The legions have shields, missile shedding armor organization and training.

    The Europeans have heavy shock cav, unorganized heavy infantry in mail (some in mail and plate) and scads of longbowmen. At close range the bodkin points can pierce Roman armor, but bodkin injuries are less likely to be lethal.

    I think Belisarius is a second tier commander and had an army inferior to what Rome had earlier.
    Last edited by zraver; 28 Mar 13, at 06:33.

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. What if? Roman Army vs. USMC MEU
    By joshduck541 in forum Ground Warfare
    Replies: 280
    Last Post: 03 Feb 12,, 20:35
  2. How big were ancient and medieval armies?
    By Spongegod in forum Ancient, Medieval & Early Modern Ages
    Replies: 65
    Last Post: 05 Jan 10,, 17:23
  3. Poll: Best ancient, medieval militaries
    By Ironduke in forum Ancient, Medieval & Early Modern Ages
    Replies: 54
    Last Post: 11 Apr 08,, 04:07
  4. German proposes a European army
    By Ironduke in forum Europe and Russia
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 19 Nov 06,, 02:40
  5. Medieval and Renaissance World Maps
    By Ironduke in forum Multimedia & Jukebox room
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 30 Aug 04,, 04:10

Share this thread with friends:

Share this thread with friends:

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •