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But still, they were able to do it perfectly in the HBO series "Rome". If you can take mere figurants and actors of a movie to do it perfectly, that shows that in good conditions, against a less organised enemy on foot, it was perfectly possible.

I seriously don't think a rehearsed chorus line of actors represents adequate proof of something that isn't documented in Roman sources.

 

I am currently searching primary sources through listing of those ones. I started by reading wikipedia article, find a place where they are talking about that relief system, and see if it's quoted/linked to a source.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_infantry_tactics#cite_note-25

 

I found that the part I'm interested in:

"When the first line as a whole had done its best and become weakened and exhausted by losses, it gave way to the relief of fresh men from the second line who, passing through it gradually, pressed forward one by one, or in single file, and worked their way into the fight in the same way. Meanwhile the tired men of the original first line, when sufficiently rested, reformed and re-entered the fight. This continued until all men of the first and second lines had been engaged. This does not presuppose an actual withdrawal of the first line, but rather a merging, a blending or a coalescing of both lines. Thus the enemy was given no rest and was continually opposed by fresh troops until, exhausted and demoralized, he yielded to repeated attacks."

 

Is from a book "Lt. Col. S.G. Brady, The Military Affairs of Ancient Rome and Roman Art of War in Caesar's Time, The Military Service Publishing Company: 1947"

 

I notice that Brady, like any good officer of the 40's, stresses parade ground precision. I do have objections to this. Firstly, by what mechanism did the front rank realise they were all sufficiently tired and weakened? They were facing the enemy. They were busy in a sword fight. As for the centurion, he was likely in the front rank along with them, and there's no guarantee he was able to observe and command objectively.

 

Secondly, Brady may well be assuming a pyramid commnd structure as he was used to. There is no direct evidence I know of that the Romans used such a system, and the structure of the legion suggests otherwise. Although the Romans stressed individual initiative, it's clear from the sources that there was little of it in practice, and indeed, Roman soldiers who did take the initiative were as likely to be laughed at by their mates.

 

Thirdly, Brady was trained in a different methodology of fighting and his assumptions about how the battle line begaves is a little fanciful. He does not metion how this line relief system dealt with dead and injured legionaries obstructing the process, nor how it coped with rough ground.

 

Fourthly, if, as Brady hints at himself, the relief of the fighting line was done ad hoc, and not by general order, this does not represent a practised drill but simply common sense if you want to present a durable front against the enemy.

 

If Brady was studying battlefield tactics from Caesars time, does he quote where he got this information? Why is Brady regarded as such an informed source?

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But still, they were able to do it perfectly in the HBO series "Rome". If you can take mere figurants and actors of a movie to do it perfectly, that shows that in good conditions, against a less organised enemy on foot, it was perfectly possible.

I seriously don't think a rehearsed chorus line of actors represents adequate proof of something that isn't documented in Roman sources.

 

 

This is not a proof I'm talking about here, but a mere indicator of "Could it be possible to train average people to do that kind of system.

 

I am currently searching primary sources through listing of those ones. I started by reading wikipedia article, find a place where they are talking about that relief system, and see if it's quoted/linked to a source.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_infantry_tactics#cite_note-25

 

I found that the part I'm interested in:

"When the first line as a whole had done its best and become weakened and exhausted by losses, it gave way to the relief of fresh men from the second line who, passing through it gradually, pressed forward one by one, or in single file, and worked their way into the fight in the same way. Meanwhile the tired men of the original first line, when sufficiently rested, reformed and re-entered the fight. This continued until all men of the first and second lines had been engaged. This does not presuppose an actual withdrawal of the first line, but rather a merging, a blending or a coalescing of both lines. Thus the enemy was given no rest and was continually opposed by fresh troops until, exhausted and demoralized, he yielded to repeated attacks."

 

Is from a book "Lt. Col. S.G. Brady, The Military Affairs of Ancient Rome and Roman Art of War in Caesar's Time, The Military Service Publishing Company: 1947"

 

I notice that Brady, like any good officer of the 40's, stresses parade ground precision. I do have objections to this. Firstly, by what mechanism did the front rank realise they were all sufficiently tired and weakened? They were facing the enemy. They were busy in a sword fight. As for the centurion, he was likely in the front rank along with them, and there's no guarantee he was able to observe and command objectively.

 

Secondly, Brady may well be assuming a pyramid commnd structure as he was used to. There is no direct evidence I know of that the Romans used such a system, and the structure of the legion suggests otherwise. Although the Romans stressed individual initiative, it's clear from the sources that there was little of it in practice, and indeed, Roman soldiers who did take the initiative were as likely to be laughed at by their mates.

 

Thirdly, Brady was trained in a different methodology of fighting and his assumptions about how the battle line begaves is a little fanciful. He does not metion how this line relief system dealt with dead and injured legionaries obstructing the process, nor how it coped with rough ground.

 

Fourthly, if, as Brady hints at himself, the relief of the fighting line was done ad hoc, and not by general order, this does not represent a practised drill but simply common sense if you want to present a durable front against the enemy.

 

If Brady was studying battlefield tactics from Caesars time, does he quote where he got this information? Why is Brady regarded as such an informed source?

 

I'm not regarding Brady as "Such an informed source. I precised clearly that it was one of the reachable source I could find and I that wanted to go see HIS references. (Tracking down primary source through second and third who used it) I'm just exposing you my overall process in a kind of "Live" way.

 

Unfortunately, I'm in a bag end here: The person who put the text online didn't put the bibliography. I'll either have to give up that hint track, or try to find the book in real itself so I'll get the bibliography and the end of page notes.

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But still, they were able to do it perfectly in the HBO series "Rome". If you can take mere figurants and actors of a movie to do it perfectly, that shows that in good conditions, against a less organised enemy on foot, it was perfectly possible.

I seriously don't think a rehearsed chorus line of actors represents adequate proof of something that isn't documented in Roman sources.

 

 

This is not a proof I'm talking about here, but a mere indicator of "Could it be possible to train average people to do that kind of system.

 

Is it possible? Yes. Anyone who's both been trained and trained soldiers, been in combat and--less often--marched or been marched could point out that the scenario is possible. Certainly the fighting must have been exhausting--no matter what the physical stamina of the soldiers--so some relief in the first line system must have been in place as it was at the larger organizational level.

 

As a practical matter marching over rough ground is more difficult but, with a proper guide system, possible. A more "loose" Roman formation was certainly more capable in rough terrain than the Greek phalanx which by necessity needed to be tighter to be effective [as Pydna showed].

 

It's doubtful an artillery battalion commander [like LTC SG Brady] in the post-War American army [circa 1947] would hold marching in much esteem. Parade marching tends to have been (and still) held in fairly low regard by combat arms units like artillery or infantry.

Edited by Virgil61

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Is it possible? Yes. Anyone who's both been trained and trained soldiers, been in combat and--less often--marched or been marched could point out that the scenario is possible. Certainly the fighting must have been exhausting--no matter what the physical stamina of the soldiers--so some relief in the first line system must have been in place as it was at the larger organizational level.

It's also a first example of invention. Nowehere, as far as 'm aware, do the Romans dicuss a formal manoever to replace the front rank in combat. The Romans were far more down to to earth than that. A massed sword fight is not going to be conducted with their centuries and cohorts in precise order. Although they were trained to present a persistent front (Always moving into a gap ahead of them caused by casualties, thus a 'relieved line', if somewhat less than the parade ground manoever often quoted or in this case filmed for the express rwason of impressing us with Roman organisation as opposed to representing real life behaviour), the realities of a pitched battle mitigate against such line manoevers. In conducting the 'Line Relief', there is a grave danger that an alert enemy could exploit the situation and cause chaos.

 

There is an account of two Roman units fighting in a civil war. Neither side wants to retreat, but the constant physical exercise is demanding, so both sides pull back intermittently, catch their breath, then charge into each other again repeatedly. Think about that. Whilst unit order is important, it must have been nearly impossible to retain a parade ground formation in these circumstances, which renders a 'line relief' system as implausible. Certainly there's no mention of the manoever by the roman author, who simply stresses the aggression and relentless desire to defeat the enemy.

 

it's an important point. Questions about the 'line relief' system revolve around the idea that the Romans are always formed up perfectly. I seriously doubt this was the case. Think about what you see on the news. Police vs rioters, which is the nearest analogy I can think of to Romans vs barbarian horde. The Police line is firm, but not fixed nor necessarily straight, and at no time do the policemen attempt to switch lines with those behind them, either closing ranks or allowing another man from behind to reinforce any gaps occuring.

 

 

 

As a practical matter marching over rough ground is more difficult but, with a proper guide system, possible. A more "loose" Roman formation was certainly more capable in rough terrain than the Greek phalanx which by necessity needed to be tighter to be effective [as Pydna showed].

Armies did march over rough ground. That's a historical fact. My point is that the manoever depicted on HBO's Rome is ahistorical, and unlikely to succeed given the troops have been fighting and casualties would impede it. Further, since the Romans had to keep moving men forward to plug gaps in the line, a formal 'line relief' system was unnecessary.

 

It's doubtful an artillery battalion commander [like LTC SG Brady] in the post-War American army [circa 1947] would hold marching in much esteem. Parade marching tends to have been (and still) held in fairly low regard by combat arms units like artillery or infantry.

On the contrary. Marching is a matter of enforcing group instinct and discipline. Those who moan about it are generally those ordered to carry it out. My experience is that officers thrive on the parade ground manoevers. As to whether the Romans did, I can't say, but they certainly performed similar practises.

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I suppose at some point I should try watching this clip but cannot from this machine.

 

From what I can gather the point of discussion is about a 'formal' as opposed to 'informal' relief of the front rank in a sustained battle.

 

Both Virgil61 and Caldrail have made interesting comments on this with Caldrail's example of a police line particularly aposit for 'informal' actions during combat but the crux is really that in any battle, outside the general period of intense melee, there will be ebbs and flows of combat when units will to some extent pull back from direct contact with each other for a breather.

 

I suspect from re-enactment experience very few units of the period could keep fighting at a sustained level of skill for more than a few minutes at a time, let alone hours, without an increasing number of combatant making a mistakes and being injured or killed.

 

During such 'breaks' in battle badly wounded men can slip to the back of the formation and fresh men take their place while ranks are redressed and if necessary groups of men replaced or at least relieved.

 

The question is how large a unit could be moved forward in relief of another and whether they would have a formal way of doing so and here I suspect the Roman practice of organising units in maniples may come into play.

 

To speculate; one relatively simple method of relief for the Romans would involve training two centuries together with one placed behind the other in battle. Although the front century may have been in battle the rearmost unit hasn't and should to a great extent have retained its original dressing. This would allow the rearmost centurion to order his unit to go into 'double' ranks leaving a space between each 'file' of troops as an opening manouver. If necessary he could run down the line counting off his men.

 

All it would take then would be for the leading man in each file to step forward and tap the rearmost man in his 'sister' century to make him aware that he is the one who has to move. The message is passed to the rest of the maouvering file and at the word of command the front century would open up in a similar way to the rearmost allowing passage to the front of the relieving unit.

 

The advantage of this method is that it can be carried out quickly irrespective of dead or injured men lying about and rough or broken terrain. It also doesn't involve difficult manouvers in the face of the enemy which could leave a unit side on to the enemy while they try to shuffle sideways out of the battle line.

 

IF this is the system the 'coreographed actors' on the Rome DVD carried out then it really is one of the most logical methods that could have been used and one which I am sure the Romans would have thought of using.

 

The additional point to make of course is that for legions to be as effective as they apparently were in the early Principate, irrespective of more modern infantry or artillerymen's views on drill, the Romans would have needed to carry out regular drills in all forms of combat including close formation manouvering. ;)

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There is another issue at stake here. There is something appealing to the human psyche about ordered lines of bright uniforms. That's one reason why wargaming exists as a hobby. We like the idea of organisation, and we have this generic mental image of the Romans as better organised than anyone else (which to some extent they were!) so unless one discards the popular image in an attempt to understand the era, then that's the first thing we latch onto, because we assume that's a level of understanding.

 

I see this in all sorts of genres. People believe certain things and feel comfortable with those ideas. It takes some dedication to look at a body of knowledge objectively and say something that goes against the herd - and peer pressure is a great definer of human thought and deed, as the Romans knew well.

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For completeness' sake, the Youtube of the HBO Rome manoeuvre can be found

. Edited by GhostOfClayton

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Ah 'that' clip from 'Rome'.

 

I would agree highly unlikely to be carried out while in direct contact with the enemy and no real reason to do so in the short period of combat depicted.

 

However by waiting until the enemy have pulled back from immediate contact and by opening out the spacing between the 'files' in essence what I suggested as a possible means by which entire centuries could be relieved.

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Is it possible? Yes. Anyone who's both been trained and trained soldiers, been in combat and--less often--marched or been marched could point out that the scenario is possible. Certainly the fighting must have been exhausting--no matter what the physical stamina of the soldiers--so some relief in the first line system must have been in place as it was at the larger organizational level.

 

It's also a first example of invention. Nowehere, as far as 'm aware, do the Romans dicuss a formal manoever to replace the front rank in combat. The Romans were far more down to to earth than that. A massed sword fight is not going to be conducted with their centuries and cohorts in precise order. Although they were trained to present a persistent front (Always moving into a gap ahead of them caused by casualties, thus a 'relieved line', if somewhat less than the parade ground manoever often quoted or in this case filmed for the express rwason of impressing us with Roman organisation as opposed to representing real life behaviour), the realities of a pitched battle mitigate against such line manoevers. In conducting the 'Line Relief', there is a grave danger that an alert enemy could exploit the situation and cause chaos.

 

I'm at a loss to know who you are arguing with. I'm wasn't arguing for the line-relief method used on HBO [or any specific method for that matter]. The question asked was a

Edited by Virgil61

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I suppose at some point I should try watching this clip but cannot from this machine.

 

From what I can gather the point of discussion is about a 'formal' as opposed to 'informal' relief of the front rank in a sustained battle.

 

Both Virgil61 and Caldrail have made interesting comments on this with Caldrail's example of a police line particularly aposit for 'informal' actions during combat but the crux is really that in any battle, outside the general period of intense melee, there will be ebbs and flows of combat when units will to some extent pull back from direct contact with each other for a breather.

 

That's an observation--the ebb and flow of the ancient battle--quite few have made that passes the 'smell test' as we say.

 

I suspect from re-enactment experience very few units of the period could keep fighting at a sustained level of skill for more than a few minutes at a time, let alone hours, without an increasing number of combatant making a mistakes and being injured or killed.

 

During such 'breaks' in battle badly wounded men can slip to the back of the formation and fresh men take their place while ranks are redressed and if necessary groups of men replaced or at least relieved.

 

The line-relief at the small unit level issue aside, the bottom line--we agree on--is that there is a distinct advantage to getting fresh soldiers into the battle.

 

The additional point to make of course is that for legions to be as effective as they apparently were in the early Principate, irrespective of more modern infantry or artillerymen's views on drill, the Romans would have needed to carry out regular drills in all forms of combat including close formation manouvering. ;)

 

I think the issue was the writer's attributed fondness for excessive formality or reliance on strict dress-right-dress formations on the battle line.

 

But you're right, there is a wide range of options between a toy-soldier like disposition and that of an unruly armed group of Germans heading in your direction like a mob of fat wives making a bee-line through Macy's doors for the Christmas sales.

 

Off topic but interestingly here are 'drills' which have replaced marching drills in the sense of marching drill's usefulness on the front line [in the Napoleonic manner] - LINK. A much different animal.

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Ah 'that' clip from 'Rome'.

 

I would agree highly unlikely to be carried out while in direct contact with the enemy and no real reason to do so in the short period of combat depicted.

 

However by waiting until the enemy have pulled back from immediate contact and by opening out the spacing between the 'files' in essence what I suggested as a possible means by which entire centuries could be relieved.

 

Except at that stage they would not be perfectly formed as depicted. It remains speculation based on an unsubstatiated exprapolation of modern ideas.

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Except at that stage they would not be perfectly formed as depicted. It remains speculation based on an unsubstatiated exprapolation of modern ideas.

 

While agreed that this is speculation it is based on a few basic premises including several that even if we have no specific records the Romans were perfectly capable of working out for themselves. Neither do they necessitate modern ideas on military manouvering.

 

i) All large units would have to organise themselves in such a way that they can move quickly from point a to point b.

ii) Trajan's column et al depict large units of men moving in column with multiple men abreast.

iii) Arrian specifically describes (possibly suggested) tactics against the Alans which includes a description of how units were arranged on the march and De Munitionibus Castrorum (About the Fortifications of Military Camps) usually now attributed to "Pseudo-Hyginus" desribes camp layouts.

iv) To change from column to line abreast to face the enemy you have limited options in how this can be done.

v) If you find you need to replace one unit with another in the face of the enemy again you have limited options

vi) QED my suggestion as one possible way in which untis could be exchanged if needed

 

BTW Nowhere did I suggest that it was done in this way and my original post made clear that such a manouver could probably best be organised based on actions by the rearmost unit whose 'dressing' would have largely remained intact irrespective of how badly the front unit was 'chewed up'.

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