Artillery of Roman Legion

Oct 2011
482
Croatia
I know that Roman Legion deployed a significant artillery train, including ballistae, scorpions, and maybe carroballistae. But how was it utilized tactically - I had read about it being used in open battle, not just sieges, but nothing about specifics of tactical effect and utilization.

Also, what about is known about potential field artillery of Middle Byzantine period?

@Dan Howard
 
Apr 2018
303
Italy
Every legion had 60 artillery piece if i'm not wrong. I red that they were used during the conquest of Daciaby Trajan, and in the Battle of Fanum in 271 by Aurelian against germanic cavalry in the flanks. Trabuchets called cheiromangana were used in 961 during the siege of Chandak by Nichephorus Phokas
 
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Oct 2011
482
Croatia
Every legion had 60 artillery piece if i'm not wrong. I red that they were used during the conquest of Daciaby Trajan, and in the Battle of Fanum in 271 by Aurelian against germanic cavalry in the flanks. Trabuchets called cheiromangana were used in 961 during the siege of Chandak by Nichephorus Phokas
I think I read something similar. IIRC, most of these would have been scorpions, with some ballistae. As for medieval Roman army, they may have used ballistae as well, but yeah trebuchet would have been primary siege weapon; in fact, they may have been the ones to introduce counterweight trebuchets to Western Europe. But that is rather limited information.

Anything that gives more details on Battle of Fanum?
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,610
Dispargum
I'm curious to know if
1) the artillery was initially deployed in front of the friendly infantry and shot at the enemy while still far off, then when the enemy drew closer the artillerymen fell back through the infantry ranks or
2) the artillery deployed behind the friendly infantry and shot over their heads with indirect fire or
3) the artillery deployed on higher ground behind the infantry and shot over their heads in direct fire mode or
4) some other tactic and deployment mode
 
Oct 2018
1,725
Sydney
Anything that gives more details on Battle of Fanum?
I've read a fair bit about Aurelian and I don't recall coming across the claim that Aurelian used artillery at the Battle of Fanum Fortunae. In fact, the battle is only specifically mentioned by a couple of inscriptions and the Epitome de Caesaribus, of which the latter simply says (35.2): 'In Italy, that man was victor in three battles: at Placentia, beside the Metaurus River and the Altar of Fortuna, and, finally, at the Ticenensian Fields.' It has been argued that Dexippus is referring to this battle when he narrates (Skythica, FGH 100 fragm. 6: 'After Aurelian had defeated the Juthungian Skythians by force and put many of them to flight as they were crossing the Ister, the survivors send ambassadors to sue for peace.' If so, the Ister (Danube) is a mistake for the Metaurus (Watson 1999: Aurelian and the Third Century, 216-221). But this doesn't mention artillery either. So I think there has been a mix-up.
 
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Oct 2018
1,725
Sydney
I've read a fair bit about Aurelian and I don't recall coming across the claim that Aurelian used artillery at the Battle of Fanum Fortunae. In fact, the battle is only specifically mentioned by a couple of inscriptions and the Epitome de Caesaribus, of which the latter simply says (35.2): 'In Italy, that man was victor in three battles: at Placentia, beside the Metaurus River and the Altar of Fortuna, and, finally, at the Ticenensian Fields.' It has been argued that Dexippus is referring to this battle when he narrates (Skythica, FGH 100 fragm. 6: 'After Aurelian had defeated the Juthungian Skythians by force and put many of them to flight as they were crossing the Ister, the survivors send ambassadors to sue for peace.' If so, the Ister (Danube) is a mistake for the Metaurus (Watson 1999: Aurelian and the Third Century, 216-221). But this doesn't mention artillery either. So I think there has been a mix-up.
Not that's it's really relevant to the thread, but I should have added that it is an anonymous Byzantine excerptor preserving a fragment of Dexippus rather than Dexippus himself who says that line about a Iuthungian defeat while crossing the Ister.
 
Mar 2018
861
UK
Roman artillery was mostly used in sieges. Either to repel attackers or, because the Romans were more often the besiegers than the besiegees, to drive the defenders from the walls during an assault.

They were only very rarely used in pitched battles, presumably because they simply wouldn't be very effective there.
 
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Sep 2017
771
United States
Roman artillery was mostly used in sieges. Either to repel attackers or, because the Romans were more often the besiegers than the besiegees, to drive the defenders from the walls during an assault.

They were only very rarely used in pitched battles, presumably because they simply wouldn't be very effective there.
I feel like scorpions and cheiroballistas would be able to be used in pitched battles, due to their light weight, mobility, and accuracy. I understand onagers and larger ballistae not being used though.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,234
Italy, Lago Maggiore
I feel like scorpions and cheiroballistas would be able to be used in pitched battles, due to their light weight, mobility, and accuracy. I understand onagers and larger ballistae not being used though.
The scorpion [scorpio] was quite little, accurate and mobile. This actually allowed the Romans to deploy "snipers" ante-litteram. And they were trained to use it from a chariot [so moving around the battlefield]. A legion carried about 60 scorpions with it and it accuracy was well known among the enemy of Rome. Within a range of 100mt it was able to wound or even kill with a single hit. The scorpions stayed behind a protection of infantry and 60 of them fired about 240 bolts per minute.