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Roman Army vs. Medieval Army

Discussion in 'World History' started by AceChilla, Oct 25, 2004.

  1. Dell19

    Dell19 Take a break

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    Agincourt was a mistake for the French because they were too confident of victory and also the terrain didn't help them since the area was meant to be marshy and not great for charging horses... Its not an entirely representative battle.
     
  2. Ozz

    Ozz Deity

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    not in a muddy vinefield.

    The French tactics were unworthy of the intelligence of an earthworm.
    a headon piecemeal charge into a sausage grinder.

    The romans would have waited until nightfall (3 hours) or flanked the
    woods with a column.
     
  3. Terje

    Terje The Red Semi-Menace

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    The ground was that bad?
    Hmm. Once again I am mislead by the Viscount of Alamein and his faulty History of Warfare...
     
  4. Dell19

    Dell19 Take a break

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    The Romans didn't always have wonderful generals either...
     
  5. Khaghan

    Khaghan Chieftain

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    The quality of forging used in the Middle Ages had dramatically increased over that of Antiquity. Methods of weapon and armor making also improved. Roman segmented plate was weak compared to the thirdteenth century plate armours, much less the full body plate of the 15th century. Forging technique in Europe during the high middle ages are vastly ahead. Not only were the materials of higher quality, techniques improved. Even without taking the findings of archaeometallurgy into account, the gladius had a shorter blade and lesser reach, and was obviously going to deliver a lighter blow than the weighty Saxon broadsword or the knight’s two-edged slashing sword, as modern tests have confirmed. No Roman armament at the time could stand up against the missile weapons of the medieveal period. In terms of penetrative power, the 700-800 grain arrow could pierce 3½ inches of oak at 100 yards, and 1 inch at 200 yards. The light steel bodkin had an average Vickers Hardness Number of 350 (a function of the test force divided by the surface area of the indent) and could punch straight through a Roman wrought iron Corbridge A or B lorica or Newstead lorica body armour of classical antiquity, both of which rated only about 100, and left the legs and arms unprotected. Consider that the top Hundred Years’ War armour plating had a Vickers Hardness Number of 140, and was itself usually defeated by a bodkin head striking at normal incidence at a range of 100 yards. This is not taking into account the even deadlier power of the steel arbalest. On the contrast, the strongest Roman bows were the Syrian composite bow which merely has a effective range of 220 yards and hardness less than 250. Such arrows would not have been able to even puncture the middle classed plate armour of the 14th century, indeed not even the backram jacket over mail armour of the crusades era.
    And in terms of the science of siegecraft, the field of ballistics had seen notable advances in the intervening millennium and a half, with the appearance of many new types of siege engines such as counterweight trebuchet that could hurl large stones up to a ton over 1oo yards away compared to the vastly inferior torsion type Roman catapults which could hardly hurl much over 100 pounds of that same distance.

    All this is not taking into account the adoptation of stirrup which added to the efficiency of cavalry shock as a coordinated unit which the Roman formation has never faced.

    In contrast to popular believe, knights aren't undisciplined formationless hordes that charge without coordination or as a unit. On the contrast, knights know very well that keeping a formation during a charge is very important, of course, the chivalric attitude of feudalism still persist and certain knights would charge without order for glory, but thats rarely ever the case. Even though Roman discipline was more strict, the amount that the knight possess is already enough when coupled with vastly superior equippment and personnel training.
     
  6. storealex

    storealex In service of peace

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    The Romans wouldn't stand a chance. Time and again, it has been proven that unless an infantry unit is custumized to take out heavy cavalry, it wont. Though the Roman army did change a lot during the years, a standard Roman army would get slaughtered by Knights.
     
  7. Ozz

    Ozz Deity

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    Or I am mislead by Sir Winston S. Churchill and his History of the English
    Speaking Peoples.
     
  8. Ozz

    Ozz Deity

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    Good point, I think the Romans do have as many cases of bad generalship,
    but i believe the Knights have more cases of bad leadership by unit commanders not following battle plans.
     
  9. joacqin

    joacqin Prince

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    It wasnt the longbow which was the deciding factor at Agincourt. Battlefield Detectives on Discovery did a show about the battle and they concluded that the general attitude of the French nobles, the soil which sucked stuck men, the lay of the land which created a funnel like area and riot like conditions and the longbow decided the battle in English favour. The French knights ignored the peasant rabble which was the archers thus opening themselves up to them.

    Saying the longbow was the deciding factor of Agincourt is like saying that the German tanks were the deciding factor in the conquest of France.
     
  10. Ozz

    Ozz Deity

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    Score one for WSC
     
  11. MattII

    MattII Prince

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    Too hard to say. the Romans could probably have beaten a large French force on open ground but not an English force in a bottleneck. Try to be a bit more specific about both the combatants and the terrain.
     
  12. BOTP

    BOTP Warlord

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    With the fall of the Roman empire and the descent of Europe into feudalism, many of the earlier advancements in civilization and technology were lost or forgotten, and military technology took a big step backward as well. The new ways of war that emerged appear to have been dictated more by social and economic conditions than by military effectiveness, and were, in many ways, inferior to the Roman military system. Deprived of the stability supplied by Roman civilization, individual settlements had to find ways to defend themselves against bands of marauding barbarians. Military forces were smaller, less disciplined, less well-equipped, and less well-supported logistically. Perhaps they were more suited to dealing with fast-moving raiders than to fighting large-scale wars. However, there appears to be no reason to think that the legionaires of old would have been any less effective on the Medieval battlefield than they had been in their own era. As they had done in the past, they probably would have found a way to deal with the threat of heavy cavalry, and would have outclassed almost any infantry opposing them.

    Over time, in fact, it appears that many lessons from antiquity were eventually rediscovered or relearned. For example, the old Greek phalanx was thought to have been made obsolete by the advent of the Roman legion. However, it was resurrected multiple times in the form of pikemen who proved very effective. Examples include the Scottish schiltron and formations of Swiss pikemen, who had the flexibility to fight on uneven ground. The lesson in all of this seems to be that newer is not necessarily better. We cannot assume that just because a practice or idea has fallen out of use (or out of style) that it is wrong or inferior. Rather, we must examine the reasons behind its drop in popularity, and judge it by its own merits rather than by its supporters (or lack thereof). Those who have gone before us were not any less intelligent than we; our age is an age like any other, with its own common errors and misconceptions.
     
  13. luiz

    luiz Trendy Revolutionary

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    A later Medieval Army, such as the English Army of the Hundreds Year War, would no doubt anihilate a Roman Army. They were as disciplined as the romans, were familiar with roman tactics and had superior equipment, notably the Longbow that was so efficient in slaughtering the french. Also the siege technology had improved alot, as well as fortifications.
     
  14. BananaLee

    BananaLee Fruity Penguin

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    It depends on which Medieaval era we are talking about.

    A Dark Age army (Carolingian era) or even an 11th century army (Senlac Hill, etc.) would find the Roman legions to be more than a match.

    It was only during the dawn of the Renaissance (started in the late 14th - early 15th century) when military technology saw a massive improvement in arms (the bodkin arrow, etc.) and organisation.

    The Roman legion had a company (cohort? maniple? not too sure) of spearmen to augment the main gladius-weilding troops. I think they are capable of halting a Carolingian cavalry charge. After all, if the Saxon infantry could hold off Norman cavalry charges during Senlac Hill aka Hastings, the Romans should do a better job. Add the pilums flying through the air, killing horses and we have some carnage on the mainly horse troops.

    However, during the Late Middle Ages or Early Renaissance, infantry began to play a more important role, hence the addition of archers and whatnot.

    So a Roman legion would win against a feudal army of the early and mid Middle Ages but would lose to an infantry-heavy army of the Late Middle Ages.
     
  15. Doc Tsiolkovski

    Doc Tsiolkovski Deity

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    IMHO, the use of Longbows/Crossbows already resembles the technical status of a post-medieval Army. A 'real' medieval Army is more what the 2nd Crusade fielded (e.g. Barbarossa's Knight Army). This kind of army was exactly what was cut into pieces by the Mongols at Wallstadt...

    A Knight army consists of:
    a few Knights (what a surpise ;) )
    lots of Infantry- Pikes, Swords, Axeman
    "Regular" Bowmen - no assorted Longbows/composite bows, so nothing really fancy
    Very little overall command structure - every noble was in command of his own supporting units, a "General" and even more capable, accepted subcommanders are a rarity; that especially was why the Mongols could defeat them.
    No Horse Archers, of course.

    Now back to Roman Legions:
    No doubt, their Cavalry was no match. No doubt, the lack of Pikes (not all-purpose Spears, to fight naked Celts, or throw them), would have made a single Knight a near invincible behemout. The Gladius compared to thrice as long Swords....don't ask.
    Superior discipline compared with superior mobility would have defeated a Knight Army even with inferior weaponry.
    But face it, a Legion on an open battlefield had no chance.

    However, I'm pretty sure Caesar's army against the Gauls would have been able to defeat France a millenium later as well, due to superior logistics and strategy - even if the losses would have been high. Who says they'd have to meet Knight forces in the open? Fortifications to cut supply lines, city sieges etc would have needed some time - but since the Roman Army wasn't needed at home to bring in the harvest, who cares?
     
  16. Khaghan

    Khaghan Chieftain

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    "However, it was resurrected multiple times in the form of pikemen who proved very effective. Examples include the Scottish schiltron and formations of Swiss pikemen, who had the flexibility to fight on uneven ground. "

    The fundamental principle of the Swiss pike is very different from the Ancient Macedonian phalanx.



    "A Dark Age army (Carolingian era) or even an 11th century army (Senlac Hill, etc.) would find the Roman legions to be more than a match."

    No, thats overlooking the obvious, only the early Caroginian army befoer Charlegmane might have some toruble considering their lack of stirrup and archery. But Charlemagne's army was quite discipline, with heavily armed cavalry tha are irresistible in charging power, its archers were composite type and was mor powerful than any Roman missile.
     
  17. BananaLee

    BananaLee Fruity Penguin

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    I'm not too sure about that. Weren't the Norman cavalry at Hastings (Senlac Hill) disciplined as well? And weren't they the products of the post-Carolingian era? Sure they're Vikings and all but the cavalry concept is Carolingian.. They still could not break through the Saxon infantry shield wall in spite on continued charges.
     
  18. Khaghan

    Khaghan Chieftain

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    The English army in Hasting is protected on all sides and could mass their army without the fear of been outflanked. The typical early middle age army is with a leader and his retinue, or comitatus, sometimes of three hundred footmen, would take up a position around his standard, roughly twenty men wide and fifteen deep, the best-armed in the front four ranks, armed with swords and iron-headed spears called angons, with those behind supporting with bows and javelins. As it charged, this mass became a triangular wedge that attempted to break through the enemy’s centre. If its momentum were checked it would flatten out as men from the rear spread out to the flanks to attempt envelopment. If faced by a superior force, Germanics would take up a defensive position and form the familiar, overlapping shield wall. Eastern Germanics on the move were also known to circle the wagons and form up behind them, keeping the enemy at bay with a storm of missiles. The battle is described that the English would form shield wall and swing their axe and cut down the charging Normans. And part of the reason they were able to successfully execute this easily is because their flanks and rear is protected by natural barrier. Roman's typical weapon is the gladius which is used for infantry fighting and short distance hand to hand. The axe is not a weapon of choice. Bows was rarely used greatly after Charlegmane, and dicipline declined afterwards. But it has increased during the high middle ages.
     
  19. Khaghan

    Khaghan Chieftain

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    Harold positioned his troops on a 10 mile ridge. Its because of this protection, Harold boldly made his troops closely packed together, which made them were hard to break, but were also easy targets for William’s highly archers. Also to note that in the end, the English were still wore down and defeated by alternating cavalry charges and archery attacks repeatedly.
     
  20. DreadCthulhu

    DreadCthulhu Warlord

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    The type of terrian matters quite a bit here. The legions beat the phalaxes on very hilly or forested land in Macedionia, but on the more level ground in northern and eastern Europe, the pikes of the medieval era would beat legions. Knights would also do a lot better on this terrian.
     

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