- Aug 2014
The Gauls were very experienced in disciplined formation fighting. They served for centuries as hoplite mercenaries in the armies of the Greek tyrants in southern Italy and the Aegean.
"Legion" is a modern English word. Bede wrote in Latin. We need to know which term Bede actually used. Even if he specifically used the term legiō it was just the best word he could think of to describe an Anglo-Saxon warband. It is folly to try and equate it with Roman formations. It is pretty obvious that the Romans would not have had a specific word to describe an Anglo-Saxon warband.Concerning artistic licence. What are we to make of Bede`s statement that King Penda of the Mercians invaded Northumbria during the Winwaed campaign with thirty legions? Did the venerable one mean legions in the Roman sense, in which case the numbers would have been large, or were these legions just retinues gathered round the banners of various sub-kings allied to Penda? I`m inclined to believe the latter.
And, when push came to shove; Caesar's men, his officer, his generals and himself were simply better at battling than his opponents.No, the Gauls were a warlike people, and had a very structured society based on having the military elite on the top of the "hierarchy" of society, so-to-speak. They weren't a pushover. Caesar's use of logistics and control of supply that was afforded to him via his genius and the Roman army itself was the main factor for his victories in Gaul, in my opinion.
This story ties in well with both this point and your earlier one about Roman hit-and-run tactics.Oh, I should have mentioned--Jon Lendon's "Soldiers and Ghosts" was a real eye-opener, for me, on that subject. He sums up all the little anecdotes that are already pretty well-known, but when you string them all together it really changes your outlook! Caesar's 2 centurions having their Gaul-killing competition; Titus Vespasianus repeatedly saying, "Oh, look, bad guys! Let's get 'em!" and charging off alone, without armor; an impromptu night raid on the wall of Jerusalem by some bored legionaries; 2nd Cremona (ye, gods...); many other bits. Plus that classic scene from Trajan's Column of auxiliaries going into battle carrying severed heads in their teeth, by the hair, I SO want to do that.
Don't get me wrong, it doesn't take a lot of drill practice to have troops that will fall neatly into line and hold their formation and positions pretty well! Heck, that was all part of impressing people, too. But the savagery inside those nice lines, just itching to explode...
I agree. Brunanburh does seem to have stood out in terms of size and carnage.There well may, however, have been a few which were quite large, and I`m thinking of Brunaburh as the prime example.
Me too. There is mention of Penda's sub-kings, so I'm tempted to think that each sub-king attended with his own warband. If we allow 50-100 per warband, thirty warbands could have amounted to 1,500-3,000 top notch fighting men. A formidable force, albeit one that appears to have been weakened when the Gwynedd men legged it/ peeled off for home before Oswiu could catch up with Penda (depending on which scholar you believe).It was obviously a theoretical exercise, as Halsall made clear, and the numbers of fighting men at that clash may well have been smaller.
Concerning artistic licence. What are we to make of Bede`s statement that King Penda of the Mercians invaded Northumbria during the Winwaed campaign with thirty legions? Did the venerable one mean legions in the Roman sense, in which case the numbers would have been large, or were these legions just retinues gathered round the banners of various sub-kings allied to Penda? I`m inclined to believe the latter.