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Gladius Hispaniensis

Legionaries fighting "expediti"

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Not as fast in armour? The Roman system of roads was built for twio reasons, one of which was to expedite long distance marches of troops. Further, whether armoured or not, if a commander needed his men to be somewhere else a bit quicker, he had them force-march. I don't think armour slowed them down as such but it probably have made the troops a little wearier at the end.

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Military tombstones of the 2nd and 3rd Centuries often depict the deceased holding his weapons, but not wearing armor. This could be an artistic convention, or it could mean armor was going out of vogue somewhat.

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Let's resume

 

Legionaries fighting "Expediti"

 

Pre-Marian Reform: Poorer soldiers who couldn't afford armours, posted in the Velites.

 

Post-Marian Reform: Light infantry

 

And later, Vegetius says (in De Re Militari, Book 1:19 "The arms of the ancient")

 

"But negligence and sloth having by degrees introduced total relaxation of discipline, the soldiers began to think their armour too heavy, as they seldom put it on. They first requested leave from the Emperor to lay aside the cuirass, and afterward, the helmet. In consequence of this, our troops in their engagement with the Goths were often overwelmed with their shower of arrows. "

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From that I gather the word was used in a very generic sense. What Pertinax says makes sense. One thing that always bothered me was the picture of legionaries and armoured auxiliaries fighting in the heat of, say, North Africa or the Judean desert in chain mail or lorica segmentata. It might very well be that some of them simply discarded their armour in these areas for simple convenience and comfort.

 

Fighting armoured in Italy, Spain or Greece during summer would have been exhausting too.

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Military tombstones of the 2nd and 3rd Centuries often depict the deceased holding his weapons, but not wearing armor. This could be an artistic convention, or it could mean armor was going out of vogue somewhat.

And later, Vegetius says (in De Re Militari, Book 1:19 "The arms of the ancient")

 

"But negligence and sloth having by degrees introduced total relaxation of discipline, the soldiers began to think their armour too heavy, as they seldom put it on. They first requested leave from the Emperor to lay aside the cuirass, and afterward, the helmet. In consequence of this, our troops in their engagement with the Goths were often overwelmed with their shower of arrows. "

It is understood that Roman soldiers didn't wear armor during everyday duties but only during the combat. Also, commanders usually let soldiers wait until enemy comes close before putting their armor vests on. Armor did make troops more tired and lorica segmentata is also known to be very uncomfortable to wear.

However, make no mistake! No soldier would have been stupid enough to deliberately discard his armor. You won't care if it's too hot or uncomfortable when your life is at stake. As for Vegetius and his controversial statements you should check:

"Late Roman Infantryman 235-565" from Osprey.

1. Vegetius may not have seen any Roman field army at all but only some local garrisons.

2. We don't know when he wrote. Perhaps in the 5th century West, where the regular Roman troops were rapidly being replaced by barbarians and foederates.

3. He may have been over-influenced by an influx of barbarians and foederates who usually fought unarmored, so, he wrongly concluded that regular Roman troops don't use armor neither.

4. He's too negative towards Auxilia Palatine troops. Many AP regiments were recruited from german tribes and some of them continue fighting in their native fashion-lightly armored.

 

Overall, you'll notice that expediti were more a tactical necessity than anything else. Their origin may be traced back to the lanciarii-unarmored fast moving troops who attacked Sassanid heavy cavalry with shower of javelins. In the late empire, every regiment had some portion of unarmored troops that may have been used for rapid action in the battlefield.

It makes a lot of sense since Roman adversaries in the West used speed and aggression as their primary tools of the trade. The Romans were often forced to chase them along the border. It was difficult to pin them down in place and soundly destroy. Even if Romans close on them, the all-heavy troops would have never caught the mobile, light enemies. That's why they needed a portion of light troops that could match the enemy in speed and aggressiveness. Expediti were thus used to catch up with the enemies, ambush them and to cut their extraction routes. The auxilia palatine squads were reported to have performed "special operations" on the Rhine frontier-they assaulted barbarian positions via boats during night and cut them to pieces and they do this without any armor. They used element of surprise and rapid brutal attacks.

Byzantine army continued the Roman tradition in the east. They used troops called peltasts for such a role. They were light, fast assault troops. If anyone is familiar with Byzantine army he knows that such troops were very useful in combat.

Edited by auxilia

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