Zulu horns of the bull formation vs Roman manipular formation which would win?

Oct 2015
1,120
California
#1
One thing I have always wondered about is which of these formations would win out if pitted against each other. Let's fix the lack of Zulu body armor by giving them body armor and equipment roughly equal to any iron age civilization; either maille, scale, lamellar etc. and perhaps some cavalry for screening. Let's set this battle during the early Roman Republic, I think the way the Roman deployed their early legionaries in accordance to age; Hastati, Principes, Triarii.

I think another intersting scenario would be Zulu horns of the bull vs, Gauls, both fought bare chested with the Gauls sometimes even fighting completely naked, balancing out the lack of Zulu armor.
 
Oct 2015
1,120
California
#4
Wars aren't won with a gimmick tactic. Wars are won through logistics, resources, equipment, training, experience, discipline, morale. Which of these did the Zulus do better than Rome?
I wouldn't exactly call the Zulu formation as a gimmick tactic. Even with gun powder and horse cavalry the Europeans didn't exactly have an easy go at the Zulus.

Having said that, I'd have to go with the Romans, given that the Zulus abandoned missile weapons in favor of a medium-light infantry, not too dissimilar from the Romans. Fighting with short spears and light shields in mass attack would fair poorly against armored and well shielded formations. Recall the the Romans of the late republic and early principate fought in maneuverable maniples that could form up according to the situation. . Yes, a wide and thin line could sweep past the flanks, but the Romans were trained to adapt. The Romans, even as heavy infantry were not simply static formations.

Against the Gauls it's harder to tell, because Iron Age Gauls and 19th century Zulus were evenly matched technologically. Most Gauls didn't tupically fight with armor, but barechested and even completely nude. if both were equally armored, and in equal numbers its hard to tell. Both were often hard to control from a command perspective with overenthusiastic warriors itching for a fight. The thin line of the center could be more readily penetrated, and then it would be the Gauls expanding the front into the flanks, while the horn flanks would fair decently against the center of the Gauls. If fighting in the high veltd I think the Zulu's would have the edge; while in the theater of battle of Gaulish forest, the edge would be with the Gauls.
 
Mar 2014
1,951
Lithuania
#5
I wouldn't exactly call the Zulu formation as a gimmick tactic. Even with gun powder and horse cavalry the Europeans didn't exactly have an easy go at the Zulus.

Having said that, I'd have to go with the Romans, given that the Zulus abandoned missile weapons in favor of a medium-light infantry, not too dissimilar from the Romans. Fighting with short spears and light shields in mass attack would fair poorly against armored and well shielded formations. Recall the the Romans of the late republic and early principate fought in maneuverable maniples that could form up according to the situation. . Yes, a wide and thin line could sweep past the flanks, but the Romans were trained to adapt. The Romans, even as heavy infantry were not simply static formations.

Against the Gauls it's harder to tell, because Iron Age Gauls and 19th century Zulus were evenly matched technologically. Most Gauls didn't tupically fight with armor, but barechested and even completely nude. if both were equally armored, and in equal numbers its hard to tell. Both were often hard to control from a command perspective with overenthusiastic warriors itching for a fight. The thin line of the center could be more readily penetrated, and then it would be the Gauls expanding the front into the flanks, while the horn flanks would fair decently against the center of the Gauls. If fighting in the high veltd I think the Zulu's would have the edge; while in the theater of battle of Gaulish forest, the edge would be with the Gauls.
It is very likely that Gauls were people that invented mail armor. Some of them might have charged to battle naked, but for sure this was not case for majority of them. In general they had very good metallurgy, better then Romans of the time.
 
Aug 2014
4,574
Australia
#6
There are three possible origins of mail: Gallic, Etruscan, or Greek. Based on the available evidence, a case can be made for all three. IMO the argument for a Greek origin is the strongest. Though I agree that the naked Celt charging into battle is more trope than reality. Elite fighters wore mail or bronze cuirasses just like Greeks and Romans.
 

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,698
Lower Styria, Slovenia
#7
It is very likely that Gauls were people that invented mail armor. Some of them might have charged to battle naked, but for sure this was not case for majority of them. In general they had very good metallurgy, better then Romans of the time.
They may have had better metalurgy, but they couldn't produce armour on the same mass scale as the Romans, which made it cheaper and more available for them. Perhaps a lot of Gauls, who were not high status, would have a hard time afording armour and could muster only equipment similar to Roman Velites.
 
Likes: macon
Aug 2014
4,574
Australia
#8
According to Polybius only soldiers who were worth 10,000 drachmae or more (the first class) wore mail. So, just like the Gauls, mail was only worn by the Roman elite. It became more widespread later on.
 
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Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,698
Lower Styria, Slovenia
#9
According to Polybius only soldiers who were worth 10,000 drachmae or more (the first class) wore mail. So, just like the Gauls, mail was only worn by the Roman elite. It became more widespread later on.
What about other forms of armour? Would those be more accessible for the Romans than the Gauls or would it still be the about same?
 
Mar 2019
106
Victoria, Australia
#10
I wouldn't exactly call the Zulu formation as a gimmick tactic. Even with gun powder and horse cavalry the Europeans didn't exactly have an easy go at the Zulus.
Most of the times, the Europeans were vastly numbered. I don't think it has as much to do with tactic as it is with simple numbers. Also, i do believe the zulus knew that their power and chance in winning was in close combat. They, therefore, behaved accordingly.

...Gauls, both fought bare chested with the Gauls sometimes even fighting completely naked, balancing out the lack of Zulu armor.
Against the Gauls it's harder to tell, because Iron Age Gauls and 19th century Zulus were evenly matched technologically. Most Gauls didn't tupically fight with armor, but barechested and even completely nude. if both were equally armored, and in equal numbers its hard to tell. Both were often hard to control from a command perspective with overenthusiastic warriors itching for a fight. The thin line of the center could be more readily penetrated, and then it would be the Gauls expanding the front into the flanks, while the horn flanks would fair decently against the center of the Gauls. If fighting in the high veltd I think the Zulu's would have the edge; while in the theater of battle of Gaulish forest, the edge would be with the Gauls.
I'll disagree with you on most of these points. The Gauls did not always fight bare-chested or naked. There is only a handful of accounts of gauls fighting naked. One of them where some of the Gauls under Brennus when he attacked Rome. It is noted that some fought naked. But the reason given for it is difficult to say or determine. They may well have simply been trying to make their movement easier.

I would also disagree in stating that the 19th century zulus and iron-age gauls were evenly matched.

The whole "barbaric" celtic warrior is largely due to their way of fighting. They believed in using a strong 'shock' values and believed in the 'celtic charge'. They used carnyxes, fancy colours, warcries and what not to try and disturb the enemy. make themselves look bigger and more powerful. A bit like a bluff. Then they did it whilst charging and they were very proefficient at it. However, the vast majority of warfare by the gauls were on small numbers -- raiding and the likes between tribes. At least, that is one way to interpret the way they fought based on accounts, depictions, etc.... Either way, Julius Caesar himself did note that the gauls were formidable fighters and considered them to be superior to that of the romans. But it's also possible that this was a politically motivated text with the intention to making his exploit all that much bigger.

Also, the gauls were able to fight in formation if necessary and did certainly fight with armour (at least their warriors class "Cingetos" and the richfolk did). It is just that a large percentage of their armed forces were levies and did not necessarily have the funds to arm themselves (or at least this much is assumed given that they were somewhere between serfs and peasants) -- however, they still would have armed themselved with some kind of makeshift armour - that only makes sense. Even if it just a large shield (which acts as good as any armour in experienced hands). Also, their society was a lot more 'socialist' than ours and radically different. Either way, most what we see "gauls" depicted as comes from mostly main-stream media, guesswork, hollywood or myths.


Having said that, I'd have to go with the Romans, given that the Zulus abandoned missile weapons in favor of a medium-light infantry, not too dissimilar from the Romans. Fighting with short spears and light shields in mass attack would fair poorly against armored and well shielded formations. Recall the the Romans of the late republic and early principate fought in maneuverable maniples that could form up according to the situation. . Yes, a wide and thin line could sweep past the flanks, but the Romans were trained to adapt. The Romans, even as heavy infantry were not simply static formations.
I would not so easily dismiss the zulus. Plus, the roman way of fighting is radically different to that of the zulus. I would say it would be extremely interesting to watch, but I would no so easily dismiss the zulus as "out-done" by the romans.


It is very likely that Gauls were people that invented mail armor. Some of them might have charged to battle naked, but for sure this was not case for majority of them. In general they had very good metallurgy, better then Romans of the time.
The romans themselves considered mail to be a gallic invention. Now-a-days, it is typically accepted that the gauls invented it and that is for the most part supported by archeological evidence so far discovered (to my knowledge at least).

Celtic metallurgy is still unsuprassed now-a-days in some aspects. the way they make torcs with such precision is completetly unknown to us. The gauls are often disregarded when it comes to what they have created and invented. Soap being one of them. The image of big brutish unclean barbarian is largely a myth. We know for a fact that the celts placed extremely high value on looks and cleanliness. For instance, they believed that a full beard was "uncouth" but a large moustache was very masculine.
 
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