Late Roman weapon & arms changes?

Mar 2014
1,916
Lithuania
#21
............. so.

One Pilum, 1,000's of enemies, you'll come into contact with a minimum of 10 different enemies.

Stab rider on the ground lol, you have to get him off his horse first while he's slashing down on your or spearing at you from up on a horse.

What about a Persian Cataphract, armed with a Kontos lance, try getting him off a horse while he ploughes right through you and even when he's mired down your gladius still can't really reach.

No disrespect but you described a very "Action movie" type scenario, realistically its not that easy and one Pilum isn't going to help you defeat multiple opponents.
Density of infantry in any given point of battle will be higher than density of cavalry. So, if 1000 Huns are in this particular area of battle there will be 2000-3000 infantry, so not one pilum but 2-3 will be tossed at every horse and then riders stabbed with swords. Heavy cataparacts might be tricky if they are really good. But such heavy cavalry is always very expensive, so how many of them could be there in the battlefield? I think, that late Roman army weaponry reflected late Roman soldiers. Variety of mercenaries were used and they fought with weapons that they were comfortable with.
 
#22
If you want to know why a particular battle was won, forget about equipment. Look at all of the other factors I listed first. The differences in equipment between the two sides are rarely pronounced enough to have much influence.
But that's just not the subject we're discussing Dan, we're discussing WHY the Romans went from the short melee weapon and tactics of the Classical era to the Late post Diocletian era.

That "why" was the whole point of the thread.

The Romans had reasons behind this change of equipment ......... if it didn't matter they wouldn't have bothered.
 
#23
Density of infantry in any given point of battle will be higher than density of cavalry. So, if 1000 Huns are in this particular area of battle there will be 2000-3000 infantry, so not one pilum but 2-3 will be tossed at every horse and then riders stabbed with swords. Heavy cataparacts might be tricky if they are really good. But such heavy cavalry is always very expensive, so how many of them could be there in the battlefield? I think, that late Roman army weaponry reflected late Roman soldiers. Variety of mercenaries were used and they fought with weapons that they were comfortable with.
Sometimes Huns would out number foot soldiers, it all depends on where they struck and how prepared the army was they were facing.

But lets accept the the scenario you proposed .......... Pilum doesn't have the range of a Hunnic bow and its not just Hun cavalry they would of changed the length of their weapons for, Cavalry was becoming more important in general on the battlefield in the Dark Ages so this would of been a general adaption.

Point is a Gladius is a specialized infantry vs infantry weapon, all a Roman would have is a chance of a highly accurate shot with a pilum and then he's as good as useless, only being able to hide behind his Scutum.
The Gladius even soldier to soldier is a short range weapon, against a 8-10ft high up opponent on a mount its not a good weapon at all.

This is reflected even more prominently in the Medieval era when Cavalry was even more powerful, infantry moved to Polearms to tip the balance back to infantry and then even more so with Pike.......... length became more and more important.

Now compare the Gladius with a Pike or Halberd.
 
Jul 2016
9,305
USA
#24
Flatter Oval Shield and dropping of Segmentata were primarily logistical matters.

Spatha might be a combination of barbarism, advancing metallurgy, and dominant cavalry; which leads us to the next one,
Hasta, which is absolutely a response to cavalry. The oft brainstormed idea is not wrong. Roman infantry was reluctant to engage Sassanid cataphracts. We see again and again in history, anytime there is dominant shock cavalry, swordsmen disappear.

Sassanids even approached Roman lines cataphracts first. To help illustrate, I think the curious inactivity of the Roman cataphracts at Yarmouk against the Arabs is not just an innocent happenstance, nor a simple failure of command, but command falling back on habitual Roman doctrine of the era - that of small unit combined arms supporting each other, no rash moves, and therefore no grand Alexandrian charges (which is ultimately what won the battle), partly because the Romans could not often risk their cavalry moving against the Sassanids

Once again, anytime there is dominant shock cavalry, swordsmen disappear. The exception are giant swords which can hack through man and horse, or at least horse legs, but those need requisite metallurgy; no soft bendy swords suitable for that purpose
So every Roman legion ditched pilum, that worked for centuries, because cataphracts, which they had been dealing with successfully for centuries?

Roman armies were gutting shock cavalry armies throughout the Late Republic, me thinks you need to read about the exploits of Sulla, Luculus, Pompeius Magnus, and the many others that faced cataphract dominant armies and beat them soundly. With, gasp, swords!

And the late Roman clipeus shields were most often dished, not flat.

And what logistic reason was it to ditch the scutum for the clipeus? Or ditch segmentata, a "munitions grade" armor for poor soldiers, for mail?
 
Mar 2014
1,916
Lithuania
#25
Sometimes Huns would out number foot soldiers, it all depends on where they struck and how prepared the army was they were facing.

But lets accept the the scenario you proposed .......... Pilum doesn't have the range of a Hunnic bow and its not just Hun cavalry they would of changed the length of their weapons for, Cavalry was becoming more important in general on the battlefield in the Dark Ages so this would of been a general adaption.

Point is a Gladius is a specialized infantry vs infantry weapon, all a Roman would have is a chance of a highly accurate shot with a pilum and then he's as good as useless, only being able to hide behind his Scutum.
The Gladius even soldier to soldier is a short range weapon, against a 8-10ft high up opponent on a mount its not a good weapon at all.

This is reflected even more prominently in the Medieval era when Cavalry was even more powerful, infantry moved to Polearms to tip the balance back to infantry and then even more so with Pike.......... length became more and more important.

Now compare the Gladius with a Pike or Halberd.
Pikes were mostly counter to heavily armored lancers. Hunnic bow for sure has longer range than javelin, but in all history of Roman empire only one army led by very mediocre general was defeated by mounted archers. This battle was very special case, Persian general had huge supply train loaded with enormous amount of arrows. Average nomad would have quiver of arrows, something like 30. Roman legion from late Republic period with metal armor and large shield would not be defeated by simply firing 30 arrows per enemy soldier.
 
Jul 2016
9,305
USA
#26
But that's just not the subject we're discussing Dan, we're discussing WHY the Romans went from the short melee weapon and tactics of the Classical era to the Late post Diocletian era.

That "why" was the whole point of the thread.

The Romans had reasons behind this change of equipment ......... if it didn't matter they wouldn't have bothered.
No, they didn't always have reasons that made tactical, practical, logistical sense thousands of years later. The idea that some sort of committee was created that brainstormed how to reform equipment and tactics based on a very specific enemy is not how things went.

Easiest answer: Why would legions, that since the late 1st century AD included less and less Italians, continue fighting as Italians, when the generals and troops weren't even Italian anymore?

All those other weapons, equipment, and tactics differing from Republican or Principate era Roman legion equipment or fighting style never stopped being used by Auxilia throughout the Principate era.

What happened just before start of Late Roman era, which is when the army changed? The Edict of Caracalla, which turned all free peoples living in Roman controlled territory into Roman citizens. So suddenly, inside a generation, the Auxilia, who all had a very distinct style of arms, armor, fighting style differing from traditional Italian styles, not to mention ideas about warfare as a whole, stopped serving in Auxilia forces and were incorporated as Roman legions or other citizen units that were raised, trained, funded, and led by non Italian generals.

Why in Hades would they look or fight like Italians?
 
#27
No, they didn't always have reasons that made tactical, practical, logistical sense thousands of years later. The idea that some sort of committee was created that brainstormed how to reform equipment and tactics based on a very specific enemy is not how things went.

Easiest answer: Why would legions, that since the late 1st century AD included less and less Italians, continue fighting as Italians, when the generals and troops weren't even Italian anymore?

All those other weapons, equipment, and tactics differing from Republican or Principate era Roman legion equipment or fighting style never stopped being used by Auxilia throughout the Principate era.

What happened just before start of Late Roman era, which is when the army changed? The Edict of Caracalla, which turned all free peoples living in Roman controlled territory into Roman citizens. So suddenly, inside a generation, the Auxilia, who all had a very distinct style of arms, armor, fighting style differing from traditional Italian styles, not to mention ideas about warfare as a whole, stopped serving in Auxilia forces and were incorporated as Roman legions or other citizen units that were raised, trained, funded, and led by non Italian generals.

Why in Hades would they look or fight like Italians?
Foderati becoming more and more incorporated is still a "reason".
 
#28
So every Roman legion ditched pilum, that worked for centuries, because cataphracts, which they had been dealing with successfully for centuries?

Roman armies were gutting shock cavalry armies throughout the Late Republic, me thinks you need to read about the exploits of Sulla, Luculus, Pompeius Magnus, and the many others that faced cataphract dominant armies and beat them soundly. With, gasp, swords!

And the late Roman clipeus shields were most often dished, not flat.

And what logistic reason was it to ditch the scutum for the clipeus? Or ditch segmentata, a "munitions grade" armor for poor soldiers, for mail?
Interesting though isn't it.

While Romans had bested Sarmatians and Roxolani lancers they got taken to pieces at Carhae against Parthian Cataphract's and Horse acrhers ........... no different really to what the Sarmatians presented.

Maybe numbers had something to do with it or just the general tactic of how it was used, I'd think it highly likely the Parthian's could gather the numbers required to do the job compared to a tribe of Sarmatians?
 
Jul 2016
9,305
USA
#30
While Romans had bested Sarmatians and Roxolani lancers they got taken to pieces at Carhae against Parthian Cataphract's and Horse acrhers ........... no different really to what the Sarmatians presented.
The Romans didn't lose at Carrhae because one system of equipment beat another. Its impossible to readvthrough all primary and secondary sources on that campaign and battle and come up with that as their conclusion. Impossible.
 

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