Rodeleros (Sword and Buckler Men) Questions

Apr 2017
565
U.S.A.
#1
The Spanish Rodeleros (Rodeleros - Wikipedia) were a type of infantry armed with a side sword and metal shield (not always a buckler) that were used to break the deadlock of push of pike. This made them somewhat similar to the classical Roman legions. Interestingly the majority of the Conquistadors were Rodeleros. My question being, how were they used in battle?
Were they put in front of the pikeman or were they held farther back in the ranks and advanced to the front as needed?
Some sources state they were vulnerable to cavalry, did they advance across the battlefield alone to assault enemy pikemen?
Also, one source I read stated they carried javelins to throw before closing on the enemy (like Roman legions), is this true?
 
Nov 2010
6,753
Cornwall
#2
Dont quote me but I thought this was just in N America? A product of the colonial/imperial regimes adapted to the nature of large areas of territory with 'indians' as population. I also wouldn't have said Conquistadores were rodaleros - this was post-conquistador. Conquistadores were heavy armoured Spanish-style soldiers with swords, dogs and cannon. And 'battlefields' were few and far between

I'd have to re-read this:

https://www.amazon.es/Banderas-lejanas-Clio-Crónicas-Historia-ebook/dp/B075RDLND6
 
Jul 2018
150
London
#3
The Rodeleros formed part of the tercio, ideally one third but the percentage varied.
They staid behind 3 or 4 lines of pikemen. When a push of pike formed by the clash of two formations, the first one or two lines went down impaling each other (I wonder how the men in the first two lines were selected...). The remaining pikemen and the third line started fighting at a distance over the dead bodies.
To break the stalemate then, there were different schools of thought.
The Swiss just pushed relentlessly forward, often taking huge losses.
The Landsknechts used halberds and large, double handed swords.
Spanish (and French to a much lesser extent) used the Rodeleros. If armed with a buckler, they were light and agile enough to crawl under the enemy pikes, reach the pikemen who had to drop the pike and draw the sword to defend themselves, thus allowing the opposing pikeman to advance in the gap so created. It is obviously easier said than done.

I made a couple of videos you may be interested in


 
Sep 2017
398
United States
#4
To be honest, I don't know very much about them, but I don't think they were really that similar to Roman legionaries save for the similarity of sword and shield (though Romans used huge shields most of the time, unlike bucklermen).
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
3,971
Portugal
#5
The Spanish Rodeleros (Rodeleros - Wikipedia) were a type of infantry armed with a side sword and metal shield (not always a buckler) that were used to break the deadlock of push of pike. This made them somewhat similar to the classical Roman legions. Interestingly the majority of the Conquistadors were Rodeleros. My question being, how were they used in battle?

Were they put in front of the pikeman or were they held farther back in the ranks and advanced to the front as needed?

Some sources state they were vulnerable to cavalry, did they advance across the battlefield alone to assault enemy pikemen?

Also, one source I read stated they carried javelins to throw before closing on the enemy (like Roman legions), is this true?
If I recall well, one of the first historians that I saw making the comparison between the Rodeleros and the Roman legions was Sir Charles Oman in “The Art of War in the Middle Ages”.

But I would raise here a question: When did in fact this terminology appeared to mention the man armed with sword and a rounded shield. In the colunellas raised by Gonzalo de Córdoba? Was the terminology used in their time? It begin to be used in Italy as I already saw some papers mentioning it?

As for their common use of javelins, I confess that I don’t now. Can you state the source that you are mentioning? The sling and the javelin was used in the Iberian peninsula until quite late, especially for hunting purposes, but between its use and its common/regular use in battle it goes a wide step.
 
Apr 2017
565
U.S.A.
#6
As for their common use of javelins, I confess that I don’t now. Can you state the source that you are mentioning? The sling and the javelin was used in the Iberian peninsula until quite late, especially for hunting purposes, but between its use and its common/regular use in battle it goes a wide step.
I misread a description of the battle of Seminara, in which it described Spanish jinetes throwing javelins.
 
Jul 2009
9,331
#7
In the late 16th century, when "drill manuals" became common, there were drawings or engravings of sword and buckler among the infantry tactics. However, as firearms became more common, the utility of these soldiers declined, and this type of soldier became more ceremonial than tactical. These men can be seen in paintings or other representations while on parade or military funerals, etc.

Expensive manpower could be used more effectively in other ways. With the importance of missile weapons - pistol; musket; harquebus - S & B men were at a great disadvantage. Trying to make the shield, or buckler, proof against gunfire made it too heavy to use.

I don't recall if the Dutch army's Exercise of Armes had engravings for S & B or not. Perhaps there were separate engravings by Jacobus de Gheyn. I have seen some that look like his work.
 
Last edited:
Apr 2018
184
USA
#8
You might be interested in this post by Carlos Cordero

http://myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?p=328457#328457

In short the "rodelero" was never actually an official troop type that showed up in any musters or ordinances at the time. Their frequency and their usefulness for breaking up pike squares seems to have been for the most part just an overreaching assumption Charles Oman made based on very limited evidence. Specifically Machiavelli, and Diego de Salazar, who copied most of his 1536 treatise directly from Machiavelli.

Other 16th century treatises for the most part when they do bring up sword and target troops tend to just put them in the same role as other "short weapons" such as halberds, bills, and two-handed swords. The short weapons were always thought to be at a significant disadvantage against a well-ordered wall of pikes on open ground, but were far more useful than pikes when fighting in confined spaces such as trenches, dense woods, and indoors. They also didn't rely nearly as much on cohesion and good order as pikes did, so they could be very effective in the later stages of a push of pike, when the pike formations on each side started to become disorders and the fighting devolved into a chaotic, close-quarters "pell mell."

The best weapons overall for actually breaking up an enemy pike square were still just other pikes. Although if you want to use a combined formation of pikemen and soldiers with shields, halberds, or other short weapons, then you could try the method Sir John Smythe described: arm the first four or five ranks entirely with pikes, then have them run into the enemy formation at full speed, each one making just one thrust with their pike before continuing forward with their swords. This should cause enough disorder on both sides for the ranks armed with short weapons, charging right behind them, to rush into the gaps and start cutting up the rest of the enemy pikemen.
 
Apr 2017
565
U.S.A.
#9
I misread a description of the battle of Seminara, in which it described Spanish jinetes throwing javelins.
Actually, upon further inspection I found a brief reference on the Wikipedia page of tercios (Tercio - Wikipedia, under compisitions and characteristics/formations) , that states "Within the tercio, ranks of pikemen arrayed themselves together into a hollow pike square (cuadro) with swordsmen – typically equipped with a short sword, a buckler, and javelins – inside; as the firearm rose in prominence, the swordsmen declined and were phased out." This implies javelins were used by Rodeleros in the early Tercios.
 
Apr 2017
565
U.S.A.
#10
The best weapons overall for actually breaking up an enemy pike square were still just other pikes. Although if you want to use a combined formation of pikemen and soldiers with shields, halberds, or other short weapons, then you could try the method Sir John Smythe described: arm the first four or five ranks entirely with pikes, then have them run into the enemy formation at full speed, each one making just one thrust with their pike before continuing forward with their swords. This should cause enough disorder on both sides for the ranks armed with short weapons, charging right behind them, to rush into the gaps and start cutting up the rest of the enemy pikemen.
So by this method the charging pikemen would drop their pikes after charging and then draw their swords in conjunction with short weapon wielders? Interesting.
The linked forum had some notable information, it mentioned the Rodeleros using two darts. Were these small darts or like the fletched javelins used throughout Europe?
 

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