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Legio X

Romans instead of Greeks at Thermopylae?

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What had been the result if the invading persians faced late-empire legions instead of Spartans at Thermopylae?

 

Interesting question. Two ways of looking at it:

 

1. Were they militarily effective enough to defeat the Achaemenid Persians? Of course they were. They were able to defeat the more advanced Sassanid Persians of their own time period.

 

2. Were late Roman Soldiers willing to sacrifice their lives for a greater cause? Probably not. If they were significantly outnumbered as the Spartans were, they probably would have retreated.

Edited by barca

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...If they were significantly outnumbered as the Spartans were, they probably would have retreated.

The Romans were mostly significantly outnumbered. As I believe Tigranes scoffed at Luculus' army, "To large to be an embassy, to small to be an army." Luculus' army went on to kick his proverbial butt.

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...If they were significantly outnumbered as the Spartans were, they probably would have retreated.

The Romans were mostly significantly outnumbered. As I believe Tigranes scoffed at Luculus' army, "To large to be an embassy, to small to be an army." Luculus' army went on to kick his proverbial butt.

 

Are you saying that 300 Romans could have held off the Persians?

 

Luculus was outnumbered but had several thousand men.

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I'm a big Spartan fan, but my two pence is this. If there were equal amounts of soldiers (IE - 6000 Romans), I reckon that the fellas that were tasked with guarding the "back door" wouldn't have been caught short like the Phocians were (I think it was the Phocians, I'm not googing it or anything). If this had been legionaries or auxiliaries guarding the goat path, then I imagine they'd have put up really stiff resistance, resulting in a kind of mini-Thermopolae, which in turn would have sapped morale from the Persians. I'm not saying that they wouldn't have won in the end, but I reckon that the overall professionalism of the Roman Army would have paid dividends here. If there had been 6000 Spartiates, the war probably would have ended there and then, and history would be different. But there weren't and it wasn't.

 

But these are always fascinating discourses, I love them.

 

Cheers

 

Russ

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Are you saying that 300 Romans could have held off the Persians?

 

Luculus was outnumbered but had several thousand men.

 

Are you saying there were only 300 troops among the Greeks? Respectfully, I don't think so. There were also 700 Thespians and 400 Thebens...and probably a lot more as well as a couple thousand helots in support at the final battle. Before that final day, there were several thousand other Greek allies who retreated only when it appeared hopeless.

 

A late Empire army means less discipline, less training, and even less loyalty. It also spells a more likely defeat of the Romans. On the other hand, let's consider Persian wicker shields vs. a well-disciplined Roman killing machine of a Julius Caesar. :wine: Throw in a few hundred auxiliary Roman archers and Balearic slingers. More interesting. The Battle at Thermopylae (at least initially) was a frontal encounter in a limited area. This would play to the legion's strength.

 

guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy

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...If they were significantly outnumbered as the Spartans were, they probably would have retreated.

The Romans were mostly significantly outnumbered. As I believe Tigranes scoffed at Luculus' army, "To large to be an embassy, to small to be an army." Luculus' army went on to kick his proverbial butt.

 

Are you saying that 300 Romans could have held off the Persians?

 

Luculus was outnumbered but had several thousand men.

Not at all, men are men and 300 spartans/romans would still have had the same result. But there wasn't just 300 spartans there, in total there was around 5000 for the battles. Most of the greeks were dismissed by Leonidas once they knew the game was over but I think 700 thespians elected to stay anyway. All I was saying was in most encounters we find the romans out manned, just not outclassed.

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A late Empire army means less discipline, less training, and even less loyalty. It also spells a more likely defeat of the Romans. On the other hand, let's consider Persian wicker shields vs. a well-disciplined Roman killing machine of a Julius Caesar. :wine: Throw in a few hundred auxiliary Roman archers and Balearic slingers. More interesting. The Battle at Thermopylae (at least initially) was a frontal encounter in a limited area. This would play to the legion's strength.

guy also known as gaius

 

True.

But a Late Empire army could also mean professional soldiers, veterans of vicious battles against a variety of enemies, competently led by experienced officers selected by merits not birth. It can also mean a mix force with roman infantry, berserk germanic auxiliaries, cataphract heavy cavalry and some hunnic horse archers for added punch.

 

As a purely blocking force defending a position that could not be turned against much lighter armored opponents the hoplite phalanx was perfect for the job. So for the first phase at least the Spartans were very good with only macedonian sarissa phalanx - Alexander's veteran argyraspides - as an even better option. After all Alexander did conquer the Achmenid Empire with them.

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Are you saying that 300 Romans could have held off the Persians?

 

Luculus was outnumbered but had several thousand men.

 

Are you saying there were only 300 troops among the Greeks? Respectfully, I don't think so. There were also 700 Thespians and 400 Thebens...and probably a lot more as well as a couple thousand helots in support at the final battle. Before that final day, there were several thousand other Greek allies who retreated only when it appeared hopeless.

 

A late Empire army means less discipline, less training, and even less loyalty. It also spells a more likely defeat of the Romans. On the other hand, let's consider Persian wicker shields vs. a well-disciplined Roman killing machine of a Julius Caesar. :wine: Throw in a few hundred auxiliary Roman archers and Balearic slingers. More interesting. The Battle at Thermopylae (at least initially) was a frontal encounter in a limited area. This would play to the legion's strength.

 

guy also known as gaius

Now when i wrote "late empire", i meant non-republic, an army after the Marian reforms. Not an army from the the downfall time of Rome, but like around 30BC- 150AD. But i agree that the romans wasn't as loyal or had the same condempt of death as the Spartans. Sorry my bad english, I'm from Sweden ya know :D

Edited by Legio X

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It is very interesting to compare these armies. Both were well traiined, dedicated to war. Both were well armed and armoured, their weapons designed or adapted purely for their own style of combat. Both were eccelently cohesive, tough and loyal!

Also, both used unit cohesion as their main weapon. Both used the strenght of the group, not the individual

I think the Romans had an advantage of manoeverability over the phalanx of the greek style, and more officers, leading to clearer communication. Yet that far from home, the Romans would have not been fighting to save their homes and families, and passion is a strong power in inspiring men.

 

I suspect that the outcome would have been somewhat similar, unless you account for the Romans superior organisation, leading to no mistakes (such as the not protecting the pass aqaquetly)

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It is very interesting to compare these armies. Both were well traiined, dedicated to war. Both were well armed and armoured, their weapons designed or adapted purely for their own style of combat. Both were eccelently cohesive, tough and loyal!

Also, both used unit cohesion as their main weapon. Both used the strenght of the group, not the individual

I think the Romans had an advantage of manoeverability over the phalanx of the greek style, and more officers, leading to clearer communication. Yet that far from home, the Romans would have not been fighting to save their homes and families, and passion is a strong power in inspiring men.

 

I suspect that the outcome would have been somewhat similar, unless you account for the Romans superior organisation, leading to no mistakes (such as the not protecting the pass aqaquetly)

 

 

Not exactly the same scenario, but the Romans did win at Thermopylae:

 

Thermopylae 191 BCE

 

The Syrian War became inevitable when the Roman general, after defeating king Philip V of Macedonia, decided to leave the Greek cities "free and autonomous", a gesture that created a power vacuum that was, as all the world knew and the Romans must have been hoping for, too tempting for the Seleucid king Antiochus III to resist. And indeed: in 192, he allowed himself to be invited to Greece by the Aetolians. Seleucid armies overran Euboea and parts of Thessaly, but soon discovered that the Romans were ready strike in the theater of war they had selected to meet Antiochus.

 

In 191, the Seleucid king tried to defend Thermopylae against the legions, led by Manius Acilius Glabrio; when a division of the Romans, commanded by Marcus Porcius Cato, used the mountain path, and Antiochus decided to retreat. Greece was evacuated, and Rome had -after Carthage and Macedonia- humiliated another Hellenistic superpower.

 

The story is told by Appian of Alexandria (Syrian War, 18-20), and Livy (History of Rome since its Foundation, 36.15-19).

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Interesting. If it were imperial legions of the Pax Romana period, it would probably have been be 300 legionaries with supporting auxiliaries. baysically an understrength cohortI think they would not get caught off guard with that pathway like the Spartans did, but ultimately I think the Romans would have held their ground, as they would have no where to run, and would be run down by the Persians after they retreated. They would have put up a good fight, but I am unsure if the Roman short swords would have been as effective to kill Persians with than the Greek spears, which kept the Persians away at distance. But it would all come down to the commander I suppose. If it were an experienced Centurion with experienced men, they would have held, but with green troops they would have failed. Well trained imperial legions could have done the job.

 

But late imperial legions? They were not very good. The allies would probably be numeri or other untrained barbarian mercenaries. I doubt if they would have put up half a fight the earlier legions would have, and would have most likely retreated after heavy losses from waves of Persians.

 

I do not believe late imperial soldiers could have stopped them, but early imperial soldiers might have been able to.

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300 Spartan soldiers and additional 5000 Greek soldiers, why it's almost a legion. Can you imagine how much havoc a well disciplined and motivated legion can do.

The light and maneuverable Persian infantry wouldn't stood a chance. Roman legionnaire were professionals at slaughtering light infantry in close quarter battles.

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