Late Roman weapon & arms changes?

Sep 2012
1,022
Tarkington, Texas
#31
The Legions changed their preference in arms and armor while they took in more and more Germans. The Germans were trained on flat shields, spears and long swords. If you have a long period to train Germans, they could convert to Roman style fighting, but in the middle of a campaign it makes sense to give them what they have trained with. There is no reason why a Legionary can not carry a Pilum or two with a spear.

Pruitt
 
#32
I don't doubt that arms and armaments evolved to a large degree because of the incorporation of non-Italian men as soldiers, but I remember reading (I can't remember the source) that Hadrian had his men trained to fight with spears in anticipation of a campaign against the Sarmatians. Similarly, Caracalla had his men trained with spears in anticipation of a fight against the Parthians. The latter is mentioned by Dio, Herodian or both, and was framed as Caracalla training his men to fight like Macedonians because he was an Alexander wannabee. These situations could be read as instances of cavalry-heavy armies influencing the use of close-combat spear by Romans.
 
#33
I remembered where I found the information in the preceding post. From Strobel's chapter 'Strategy and Army Structure between Septimius Severus and Constantine the Great' in A Companion to the Roman Army by Erdkamp. Pp. 276-277:

'The infantry legion remained the basic military instrument of the Roman army in the third century ad. Tactics and drill were based on the contubernium of eight men and half-contubernium of four men, forming marching columns of four men or battle formations of twice four ranks (eight lines deep), as demonstrated in Arrian’s array against the Alans. This system was established some time after Vespasian’s Jewish War and before the time of Hadrian. The basic system of four/eight men continued into Byzantine times, as is attested in the Strategikon of Pseudo-Maurikios c. 580/600 ad. An innovation in the use of the legion, or more accurately of the vexillatio-legion, in the field armies of the later third century was the organization of a legionary infantry reserve, which was named triarii after the republican legionary unit.
The necessity of having javelin throwers, archers, and slingers directly combined with the first combat lines of heavy armored legionary infantry to gain greater long-distance effectiveness had already developed in the second half of the second century ad (Cassius Dio 75[74]7.2.4; 76[75]6.6). A new differentiation of arms developed within the legions. Light-armed legionaries already appeared on the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome. The new dominating role of spears and lances in fighting, characteristic arms of late antiquity, started early. By the time of Hadrian’s rule one group of legionaries was equipped with the pilum, the other with lanceae. Arrian described his battle order against the Alani as a Roman variation of the Hellenistic phalanx: a dense phalanx out of the first four lines of infantry using the pila-like pikes against the armored cavalry of the Alani; the lines in the rear had to throw the lanceae, heavy javelins with projector-belt, which were a weapon of the auxiliaries and imperial guards, of the speculatores and special elite units selected from the legions in the first century ad (Josephus, B. Jud. 3.120; 5.47; Suetonius, Claud. 35.1; Galba 18.1). Phalanx-like formations were always an option in the Roman tactical doctrine and became the dominating formation of the late Roman and Byzantine heavy infantry. In preparation for his Parthian campaign, Caracalla ordered the army to be trained in the Macedonian phalanx tactic and selected 16,000 men to fight in a phalanx-like formation (Cassius Dio 78[77]7.1–2; 18.1; Herodian 4.8.2; 4.10.3). The intention was without doubt to protect the lines against Parthian cavalry attacks, and not because of Caracalla’s wish to imitate Alexander the Great. Most likely the legions’ first combat lines were trained to act as a phalanx as attested in Arrian’s Ektaxis. Severus Alexander did the same in his Persian War when the phalangiarii of six legions were formed into a phalanx (HA, Sev. Alex. 50.4).'
 

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