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    What if: Roman legions vs medieval European army

    What if: a confrontation between the Roman imperial army of Trajan and a medieval European one, before the mass use of gun powder. (XV century, one or more armies of the hundred years war)

    How would the Romans fare against the better technology and the shock tactics of the mounted knight?
    On average, the roman soldier was better trained and lead than his medieval counterpart, but the later enjoyed the advantage of better armor, weapons, and a complete superiority in mounted warfare.

    This has been discussed a lot on other forums, with no clear result, but my money would be on the romans, due to they're better logistics, numerical advantage, overall better equipment and training.

    I look forward to any posts about this

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    Senior Contributor Red Team's Avatar
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    This generalization:

    On average, the roman soldier was better trained and lead than his medieval counterpart, but the later enjoyed the advantage of better armor, weapons, and a complete superiority in mounted warfare.
    often proves unreliable since Knights (at least those raised in nobility) were trained often as early as mid-childhood. A more apt comparison could be made with peasant foot soldiers, of which the regimented discipline of the Romans would probably best.

    Medieval armies greatly differ in styles and doctrine especially when comparing the French with the British. French forces would generally be more geared towards cavalry charges followed by foot soldiers while British forces like to utilize archers to devastate the enemy before finishing them. In contrast, the Roman Legion are split in quality between its foreign conscripts and its more professional core units. The only advantage I could imagine them having over British or French forces would be numbers and maybe tactics. However on equal terms, the Romans would more than likely be obliterated by both the power of French Armored Cavalry and/or British Longbow archers.

    Although they may stand a slightly better chance against the British if the testudo formation (aka mobile shield wall) proves effective enough to protect against archer fire...but I have my doubts especially when considering the raw power of the longbow against the French cavalry in Agincourt.
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    Senior Contributor Stitch's Avatar
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    Agree with Red; either way, an English or a French army would best a Roman army of comparable size. The Romans didn't really have a lot of ranged weapons; they had the pila, but those were fairly short-ranged weapons (100' at most). They were more oriented toward infantry tactics (close-quarter combat). Even the French with their shorter-ranged (than longbows) crossbows would probably be able to take out most of a Roman quincunx before it got to hand-to-hand range.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stitch View Post
    Agree with Red; either way, an English or a French army would best a Roman army of comparable size. The Romans didn't really have a lot of ranged weapons; they had the pila, but those were fairly short-ranged weapons (100' at most). They were more oriented toward infantry tactics (close-quarter combat). Even the French with their shorter-ranged (than longbows) crossbows would probably be able to take out most of a Roman quincunx before it got to hand-to-hand range.
    Dissagree, The Roman legion with its normally attached Auxilla is the superior formation. The average length of service and training blows anything the English or French have out of the water infantry wise. Roman officers are professional soldiers as well. The Legion, not the medieval army is more likely to have the superior technology overall. The Roman scuta was superior to medieval shields, the Lorica Segmentata and coolus helmet offer greater missile protection at less weight than medieval chain. Roman bows though fewer in number equal the long bow in range and power and out perform cross bows. Roman field artillery has no equal in the medieval world. Steel swords don't really mean much.

    The French cavalry is superior to Roman or Auxilla cavalry in the shock role, but much less effective than the Romans at harrying, pursuit and scouting functions. Even the French heavy charge would likely run into problems with the caltrops, unbroken shield wall, anti-cavalry tactics and pilum of the Romans. It would also be in serious risk vs the Roman cavalry in any type of fluid engagement. Think about what the Mongols did to the Hungarian heavies when the Hungarians got strung out. The legions knew how to deal with shock cavalry. The English have the best chance to beat the Romans because they can put out so many arrows, but only if the Romans are in range. But as stated earlier the Roman possession of field artillery makes this iffy at best.

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    Is there a piece of weapon a European Medieval army would have that Romans can't replicate?
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    Senior Contributor Stitch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doktor View Post
    Is there a piece of weapon a European Medieval army would have that Romans can't replicate?
    Early mediaeval cannon are the only thing that comes to mind, but Dante specifically said "before the mass use of gun powder"; however, mediaeval armies were using small pot-de-fers from about 1327 on.
    "There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not there any more." -Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge

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    Senior Contributor 1979's Avatar
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    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.
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    The medieval army would win without doubt. The roman army requires the entire army to fight as one unit, it lacks mobility and flexibility. Medieval cavalry could easily defeat roman cavalry as well as roman infantry unless they are armed with long spears. Medieval bow is useless against roman infantry with their shield wall up, however, the introduction of machines such as ballista and catapult already proves deadly to the tight formation of the roman legions, and in this case, the legions' formation would be destroyed and the roman soldiers has to face less skilled but more heavily armed medieval peasant soldiers as well as super heavily armed knights and hails of arrows fired by more advanced bows

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