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  • Roman Army Question

    Hello all,

    What was the distance between each individual legionaire in battle formation? I have a little more than a basic knowledge of tactics and overall how battles were fought. The gladius was a thrusting weapon so the room required to use that type of sword would have been much smaller than gallic swords but you need room to be able to move back and forth, side to side. To me it would seem that it would be closer to a cluster fuk if they were tightly packed for everyone would be bumping into each other with little to no room to fight hand to hand. I know recieveing the initial charge they would have been tight but they would spread out.

    The only time i have read about them being in tight formation was when Caesar landed on Britain for they were unaware of british tactic.

    To reiterate my question what is the approx. distance between each soldier in formation. I would think it would be about a yard at most. Iam under the impression that they did not fight like a shield wall so if you have any specifics or not please let me know.

    Thank you
    Last edited by GungaDin; 24 Jun 10, 04:41. Reason: added a thank you

  • #2
    Good question and Welcome to ACG.

    Generally the Legionary had about 3 feet for his fighting space and the ranks themselves would be 6 feet apart. This is not gospel however, but an approximation.
    BoRG
    "... and that was the last time they called me Freakboy Moses"

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    • #3
      Arthwys is correct...about three feet normally. Indeed you are correct that they did not generally fight as a shield wall, theough they could of course form one if the situation called for it.
      Satis elouquentiae sapientiae parum

      Diadochi Wars GAME:http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...d.php?t=140484

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      • #4
        Huh, interesting...

        I have a question- and Google was no help at all.

        I thought that Mangonels were just larger versions of the Balistae, but the pics I found were interchangeable with the Onager (mule) type of catapult.

        Were there any large siege machines from back then that fired stone balls horizontally?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by GungaDin View Post
          Hello all,

          What was the distance between each individual legionaire in battle formation? ....To reiterate my question what is the approx. distance between each soldier in formation. I would think it would be about a yard at most. Iam under the impression that they did not fight like a shield wall so if you have any specifics or not please let me know.

          Thank you

          Here is a diescription from Polybius comparing legion to phalanx:

          With this point in our minds, it will not be difficult to imagine what the appearance and strength of the whole phalanx is likely to be, when, with lowered sarissae, it advances to the charge sixteen deep. Of these sixteen ranks, all above the fifth are unable to reach with their sarissae far enough to take actual part in the fighting. They, therefore, do not lower them, but hold them with the points inclined upwards over the shoulders of the ranks in front of them, to shield the heads of the whole phalanx; for the sarissae are so closely serried, that they repel missiles which have carried over the front ranks and might fall upon the heads of those in the rear. These rear ranks, however, during an advance, press forward those in front by the weight of their bodies; and thus make the charge very forcible, and at the same time render it impossible for the front ranks to face about.

          Such is the arrangement, general and detailed of the phalanx. It remains now to compare with it the peculiarities and distinctive features of the Roman arms and tactics. Now, a Roman soldier in full armor also requires a space of three square feet. But as their method of fighting admits of individual motion for each man---because he defends his body with a shield, which he moves about to any point from which a blow is coming, and because he uses his sword both for cutting and stabbing---it is evident that each man must have a clear space, and an interval of at least three feet both on flank and rear if he is to do his duty with any effect. The result of this will be that each Roman soldier will face two of the front rank of a phalanx, so that he has to encounter and fight against ten spears, which one man cannot find time even to cut away, when once the two lines are engaged, nor force his way through easily---seeing that the Roman front ranks are not supported by the rear ranks, either by way of adding weight to their charge, or vigor to the use of their swords. Therefore, it may readily be understood that, as I said before, it is impossible to confront a charge of the phalanx, so long as it retains its proper formation and strength.


          So they were not as tight as a phalanx, but tighter than the loose formations of the barbarians. Depending on the situation, their interval could differ.

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