PDA

View Full Version : Spartan Hoplite vs. Roman Legionary



poleboy
2008-05-26, 03:24 AM
I'm getting a bit sick of all the super saiyan and space marine vs. threads, so here's a lo-tech one for you.

The combatants:

Spartan Hoplite (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoplite) vs. Roman Legionary (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legionary)

The fight takes place on a more or less featureless flat plain, somewhere in the Mediterranean. We will assume that the combatants are both men in their thirties in good physical shape and with roughly the same amount of combat experience.
- They are armed with the traditional armaments of the era. See the links.
- They have no obvious way of calling in reinforcements.
- There are no bottomless pits nearby, so the Spartan can not "pull a 300" :smalltongue:
- Also, this is a real Spartan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Helmed_Hoplite_Sparta.JPG), not a Frank Miller one (http://www.moviezoo.dk/images/stor/300-SE-2-discs-7321970162851-01.jpg).

Dragor
2008-05-26, 03:52 AM
Hmm. This is a tricky one. On one hand, the hoplite is nothing without his formation- although, of cause, if he gets a stab on target as the legionary charges (assuming the legionary charges).

No hoplite in his right mind will charge, knowing his strength to be in his absolutely huge spear.

*Thinks*

I'm saying the legionary. I'd just have a hunch that the legionary would charge with his shield up, deflect the initial stabs of the spear, and land a solid stab with his gladius. That's just me, though.

konfeta
2008-05-26, 03:53 AM
I have another one. A France policeman against an Italian policeman.

Seriously....? You are putting down 2 individual soldiers who are respectively part of armies whose success was entirely based on ability to work in a group in a fight? Either this thread is parody, or I don't know. What is there to consider? The only difference between these two is essentially equipment.

Or am I committing sin against history here?

kpenguin
2008-05-26, 03:57 AM
The whole point of hoplites was formation fighting. Victory goes to the Roman.

Dragor
2008-05-26, 04:03 AM
I have another one. A France policeman against an Italian policeman.

French Policeman all the way.

kpenguin
2008-05-26, 04:05 AM
I have another one. A France policeman against an Italian policeman.


Depends. Which one is really Sauron and which one is really a Space Marine?:smalltongue:

poleboy
2008-05-26, 04:09 AM
Hmm. This is a tricky one. On one hand, the hoplite is nothing without his formation- although, of cause, if he gets a stab on target as the legionary charges (assuming the legionary charges).

Legionaries (the ones on the frontline anyway) usually fought in the same way as hoplites - the gladius was a sidearm. They would most likely both try to poke each other from a distance to begin with.

Konfeta: They are similiar, I agree. But there are other things to consider, such as the respective training they have received and their reactions to an unfamiliar situation (fighting without formation). I picked Spartans because they were often trained to be warriors from a very young age - they would likely be prepared for fighting one-on-one. On the other hand, the legionnaire would have access to better equipment or perhaps more advanced training because of the Roman empire's status and power.

Renegade Paladin
2008-05-26, 04:20 AM
The legionary has javelins, and therefore wins.

poleboy
2008-05-26, 04:22 AM
The legionary has javelins, and therefore wins.

Interesting. The hoplite has a big-ass shield though, but I agree that javelins would be quite useful against someone who's only equipped for fighting in melee.

Matthew
2008-05-26, 04:46 AM
We already know who won, the Romans did. :smallwink: As for the gladius being a side arm, it wasn't, it was the primary melee weapon of the conventional Marian legionary (after he'd chucked his pila, of course). A Roman Auxillary might have considered his spear to be his primary melee weapon, of course.

A lot depends on period, though. A Spartan Hoplite of 500 BC is quite different than 200 BC, and the same applies to the Roman Legionary.

poleboy
2008-05-26, 04:58 AM
As for the gladius being a side arm, it wasn't, it was the primary melee weapon of the conventional Marian legionary (after he'd chucked his pila, of course)

After a bit of research, it seems you are right. Most of the Roman's heavy infantry had pila and a Gladius as their melee weapon. The spearmen were apparently only used for "clean-up" after the battle was technically won.


In the military of Ancient Rome, heavy infantry made up most of the Roman army. The heavy infantry of the pre-Marian Roman republic included the Hastati, Principes, and Triarii. (although depending how the hastati was armed and armored, it could also be considered light infantry) The hastati, the youngest men in the line, were armed with a sword, or gladius, and two javelins, or pila. The pila (singular pilum) were usually thrown at a charging enemy before they engaged in hand-to-hand combat..."

"...The other heavy infantry were the Triarii. These were armed and armored just like the hastati except for the fact that instead of holding pila to throw at the enemy, they used a large spear known as the hasta. The triarii were usually called in to end the battle and break the lines of the enemy.

So we'll assume that the roman chucks his pila at the hoplite, then charges with a gladius if he's still alive. I'm thinking the hoplite has the advantage here... as long as the Roman doesn't get past his spear.

Ossian
2008-05-26, 05:01 AM
First thing off, the featureless plateau makes sense only when you have Conan and the Witch King against Sauron and Mr. T. Spartans, Romans, 1 on 1? For the sake of Mars and Ares, use the blasted Colyseum! So, here we are, in an oval arena, surrounded by 60.000 Romans shouting at who?

konfeta´s comment was so very true. Formation fighters on a 1 on 1 makes little sense. So, why not swapping the legionaire with a Gladiatoresque guy? (some have even been legionaires).

Say, Spartan Oplite enters the Colyseum (an out of time Colyseum, so you can use whichever Spartan is the most badass) wielding big-ass shield, huge spear and carrying a sword, Vs a gladiator armed with turtle shield and gladius, wearing shin bracers and helmet, along with one shoulder pad and a justicoat protecting the heart (I give it to the gladiator in this case. more vicious mentality, basically. but not by a huge margin)

O.

Matthew
2008-05-26, 05:27 AM
After a bit of research, it seems you are right. Most of the Roman's heavy infantry had pila and a Gladius as their melee weapon. The spearmen were apparently only used for "clean-up" after the battle was technically won.

There are a lot of theories, it's a great subject for study, but even after a century of modern(ish) scholarship, we still don't know exactly how Auxillaries were used (the exact opposite of the above is also a popular theory ). Still, for the purposes of this discussion, let's assume that they are indeed only the clean up crew. :smallwink:



So we'll assume that the roman chucks his pila at the hoplite, then charges with a gladius if he's still alive. I'm thinking the hoplite has the advantage here... as long as the Roman doesn't get past his spear.

Yes, that is the make or break moment. Given that the Roman legionary fails to kill the hoplite at range with his [I]pila, then he needs to get past the spear to strike. Contrary to one of the above posts, I should point out that a common hoplite tactic was indeed to charge en masse (you can read about it in Xenaphon's Anabasis). One of the purposes of the scutum (large Roman shield) was likely to protect the legionary at this critical moment; once past the point of contact, the legionary would be at a significant advantage if the hoplite did not drop his spear and resort to the sword.

This is where it gets interesting, though. Unusually for Greeks, the Spartans appear to have favoured a very short sword, which in turn suggests a very aggressive sort of 'in your face' melee style. The legionary of the early principate also seems to have favoured a shorter blade than before or later. It would be a close run thing at that point, I might favour the legionary over the hoplite for the quality of his weapons and armour (but even that is a disputed point, as later mass production seems to have undermined any assumption of high quality).

Ceska
2008-05-26, 07:36 AM
The whole point of hoplites was formation fighting. Victory goes to the Roman.
So was the Roman legionary.

That said, I'd guess Roman legionary, even in a one on one, simply for the Pilum. IIRC the Pilum was there to be thrown at the shield, pulling it down and making the enemy unable to use it in battle. It wouldn't seriously penetrate the enemies defence, it would put enough weight on the shield to make it unusable.
That would mean one of the main advantages of the Hoplite is gone. Now, the spear would indeed be a problem, but I'd still think they'd eventually engage in close combat, which a Roman with shield would rather easily win against a foe without one.

Zenos
2008-05-26, 07:48 AM
I think we should rather feature some fifty spartans versus fifty romans, so they can make some kind of formations.

Also, I think the phalanx could work as an offensive tactic, I think I've read about it somewhere on the internet, but then again that was concerning a macedonian phalanx.

Renegade Paladin
2008-05-26, 09:12 AM
So was the Roman legionary.

That said, I'd guess Roman legionary, even in a one on one, simply for the Pilum. IIRC the Pilum was there to be thrown at the shield, pulling it down and making the enemy unable to use it in battle. It wouldn't seriously penetrate the enemies defence, it would put enough weight on the shield to make it unusable.
That would mean one of the main advantages of the Hoplite is gone. Now, the spear would indeed be a problem, but I'd still think they'd eventually engage in close combat, which a Roman with shield would rather easily win against a foe without one.
Legionaries carried two pila; one heavy and one light. The first would be used as you describe; the second could easily kill the hoplite.

Rutee
2008-05-26, 09:14 AM
Clearly, we settle this with Dominions. EA Arcoscephale (Greek standins) vs. EA Ermor (Rome standins).

Dode
2008-05-26, 09:22 AM
History sides with the Legionary.

Centuries of technological advancement didn't hurt either.

bosssmiley
2008-05-26, 09:33 AM
As for the gladius being a side arm, it wasn't, it was the primary melee weapon of the conventional Marian legionary (after he'd chucked his pila, of course).

Yep. Watch the first episode of HBO/BBC's "Rome" for a modern take on the many-armed buzzsaw that was the classic post-Marian Roman infantry legion.

As for history:
Battle of Cynoscephalae (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cynoscephalae) (197BC)
Battle of Magnesia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Magnesia) (191BC)
Battle of Thermopylae (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Thermopylae_(191_BC)) (191BC)
Battle of Pydna (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Pydna) (168BC).

Roman tactical flexibility and missile weaponry ftw. :smallamused:

u-gotNOgame
2008-05-26, 09:42 AM
Roman all the way, the power of a hoplite is all in formation, while the same can be said about the legionary they were trained to hold the line and engage single enemies. The pila would take out the hoplites shield and then the legionary would either
a) throw the second pila killing the hoplite (more likely)
or b) charge (less likely)
in either occasion i think the roman wins, unless some freek chance that he actually gets speared...
50 spears = hard to dodge 1 spear= not so much
after you get passed the head of the spear it has very little use.

-UGNG

Piedmon_Sama
2008-05-26, 12:24 PM
The Roman wins because he has iron/steel weaponry, and the Spartan has a bronze shield and cuirass. oO

Don Julio Anejo
2008-05-26, 12:43 PM
A pilum wouldn't do very much against a hoplite (any kind, not just a Spartiate). Why? Because it's used against FORMATION to disrupt them. A few hundred pila thrown at an ordered formation before a charge are bound to cause havoc. One pilum, on the other hand, is easily covered by a big-ass shield, since you know, a hoplite isn't blind. He can then just take the sword and cut it away from the shield.

Also, a hoplite is more mobile - that is he's faster and limber than a legionnaire so he has an advantage right there. And don't forget that they used spears overhand and not underhand (that was the Macedonians with their 6m sarissa pikes), which also gives an advantage.

However, training and fitness wise, a Marian legionnaire owns pretty much any hoplite because most of the latter weren't professional warriors but rich militia (poor ones fought as skirmishers like archers and javelineers), so one on one it would kill any normal hoplite, despite the latter having better equipment for a one on one fight.

Spartans and Sacred Band (Theban version) however... No chance for a REGULAR legionnaire. However people are forgetting that Spartiates are uber-elite units with better training than the Praetorian Guard and more combat experience to boot (since the Greeks had nothing better to do than kill each other).

Off topic: The Romans conquered Greeks not because of superior tactics (Macedonians actually had better tactics than either) but because the latter were divided and also because by the time Romans rolled into Greece, the Greeks and the Macedonians were too poor to afford a half-decent army because of the constant infighting between the Greek city-states, Epiros, Macedonia and [Alexander's] successor states like the Seleucid Empire and Egypt. The Macedonians in fact had almost no hetairoi cavalry left, which left them with just the phalanx, which, however, is fairly easy to kill if you choose the battlefield properly. Because it's extremely rigid and falls apart in hilly terrain, which allows romans to get into holes in the formation and start a'-killin.

PS: in ancient times bronze was miles better than early iron/steel (the former being really soft and the latter really brittle). The reason iron and later steel displaced it is because iron ore is found almost anywhere while copper and tin are pretty rare.

Vikingkingq
2008-05-26, 02:33 PM
Yep. Watch the first episode of HBO/BBC's "Rome" for a modern take on the many-armed buzzsaw that was the classic post-Marian Roman infantry legion.

As for history:
Battle of Cynoscephalae (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cynoscephalae) (197BC)
Battle of Magnesia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Magnesia) (191BC)
Battle of Thermopylae (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Thermopylae_(191_BC)) (191BC)
Battle of Pydna (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Pydna) (168BC).

Roman tactical flexibility and missile weaponry ftw. :smallamused:

Quite correct. The Romans mopped the dirt with the Spartans, mostly because the major downside of Hoplite units is that they tended to rely almost entirely on phalanxes for organization and tactics.

Phalanx tactics boiled down to: Ephodos/Krousis - a forward charge (usually mutual) resulting in a massive clash; Doratismos - stabbing with spears until they all break; Orithsmos - pushing on the other sides front ranks as a unit until they crumble and you roll over them. It's very forwards and backwards, basically unstoppable against a lightly armored and loosely organized foe who stands their grounds, and it's why the Greeks tended to beat Persians in infantry battles. The Spartans were known for being the best in the world due to their superior Dynamis (will to fight).

But what happens when the enemy doesn't accept the charge? What happens if they charge first? What happens if they flank? Well, that's exactly what happened at the battles that Bosssmiley links to.

Cynoscephalae - Spartan phalanxes hold the high ground, actually hold back the Roman infantry for most of the battle. Why do they lose? Romans use elephants (which they had adapted from the Carthaginians and others) to disrupt their right flank. And here's the important point: when this happened, a single Roman Military Tribune took the initiative to move 20 maniples into the gap in the Spartan lines and attack their phalanx formations from the rear and flanks while they were engaged with the Romans at their front. The phalanxes couldn't reform to fight the new threat, and went down massively.
The verdict here is that the Romans were better able to adapt their tactics, and that the mobility and independence of Roman units allowed low-level officers to react to sudden openings. You couldn't really have that in a phalanx, because it all has to move as a unit, and can't turn or move that fast once it's engaged.

Magnesia - Romans up against Seleucid army using Alexandrian composition and tactics, mixes of phalanxes, cavalry, chariots, light infantry, horse archers, and elephants. Very tactically diverse opponent. Seleucid cavalry break the Roman right wing of infantry, but charge the Roman camp. In the meantime, the Romans send their cavalry into the gap in the Seleucid lines and roll up the phalanx center. Again, Romans are able to adapt to new situations, effectively neutralizing the Seleucid chariots and elephants.

Thermopylae - not the first battle against the Persians, but a later battle against the Romans. Instructive as to Roman tactics. The Seleucids take up their position at the Hot Gates, build a big double wall. Romans send up troops onto the hillsides, flank the Seleucids and come down on their rear in force, panicking the enemy into flight. Again, you see the Romans using history and not relying on the forward charge to achieve victory.

And so on.

Matthew
2008-05-26, 02:52 PM
A pilum wouldn't do very much against a hoplite (any kind, not just a Spartiate). Why? Because it's used against FORMATION to disrupt them. A few hundred pila thrown at an ordered formation before a charge are bound to cause havoc. One pilum, on the other hand, is easily covered by a big-ass shield, since you know, a hoplite isn't blind. He can then just take the sword and cut it away from the shield.

Nope. A pilum functions almost exactly like any other javelin. It may be blocked and it may miss, but if it hits at a reasonable range and overcomes the protection afforded by armour, then the fight is essentially over.



Also, a hoplite is more mobile - that is he's faster and limber than a legionnaire so he has an advantage right there. And don't forget that they used spears overhand and not underhand (that was the Macedonians with their 6m sarissa pikes), which also gives an advantage.

I can think of no reason at all to suppose that a Roman legionary would be slower than a Spartan hoplite. The amount of gear they carry is roughly equal in weight and both are trained to use it. Polybius says quite the opposite of the Roman legionary, in fact, making great play of their felxibility and maneouvrability.



However, training and fitness wise, a Marian legionnaire owns pretty much any hoplite because most of the latter weren't professional warriors but rich militia (poor ones fought as skirmishers like archers and javelineers), so one on one it would kill any normal hoplite, despite the latter having better equipment for a one on one fight.

Maybe, maybe not. Even post marian legionaries did not necessarily have a lot of training, being often raised for campaigns from the same part time types as Greek hoplites. That said, if we're talking veteran legionaries then we should compare them to veteran hoplites, of which there were plenty serving as mercenaries.



Spartans and Sacred Band (Theban version) however... No chance for a REGULAR legionnaire. However people are forgetting that Spartiates are uber-elite units with better training than the Praetorian Guard and more combat experience to boot (since the Greeks had nothing better to do than kill each other).

I think you are overstating the situation. Veteran Roman legionaries probably had as much or more battle experience as any Spartan; that said, Spartans may have had harder training and have been better physical specimens. In that regard, it is hard to separate the propaganda from the reality.



Off topic: The Romans conquered Greeks not because of superior tactics (Macedonians actually had better tactics than either) but because the latter were divided and also because by the time Romans rolled into Greece, the Greeks and the Macedonians were too poor to afford a half-decent army because of the constant infighting between the Greek city-states, Epiros, Macedonia and [Alexander's] successor states like the Seleucid Empire and Egypt. The Macedonians in fact had almost no hetairoi cavalry left, which left them with just the phalanx, which, however, is fairly easy to kill if you choose the battlefield properly. Because it's extremely rigid and falls apart in hilly terrain, which allows romans to get into holes in the formation and start a'-killin.

Well, the Romans certainly had better strategy, leadership and more resources than the Greeks, but it doesn't follow that they were tactically inferior. as I recall, the Greeks are described as being rather surprised at being beaten. It was hardly the first time they had faced the Romans after all.



PS: in ancient times bronze was miles better than early iron/steel (the former being really soft and the latter really brittle). The reason iron and later steel displaced it is because iron ore is found almost anywhere while copper and tin are pretty rare.

At the very beginning of the iron age this may have been reasonably true, but by 300 BC it had long since ceased to be the case.

Dode
2008-05-26, 03:28 PM
Pilums were specifically sized and designed to penetrate and lodge themselves shields (although if it pierced flesh, great!), making them extremely effective anti-armor weaponry. A shield that had a 5-7 ft long pilum stuck in it was pretty ineffective in a battle, and good luck cutting it off with a blunt bronze sword since the first 3 feet of it were solid iron.

Kind of why 2 of them were standard legionary issue.

Matthew
2008-05-26, 03:35 PM
Pilums were specifically sized and designed to penetrate and lodge themselves shields (although if it pierced flesh, great!), making them extremely effective anti-armor weaponry. A shield that had a 5-7 ft long pilum stuck in it was pretty ineffective in a battle, and good luck cutting it off with a blunt bronze sword since the first 3 feet of it were solid iron.

Kind of why 2 of them were standard legionary issue.


There's actually only one reason to think this, which is a passage from Caesar's Gallic Wars that describes the pila of his legionaries having this effect in one battle. We do not know for certain if this was a secondary or primary effect, but I am willing to bet that it was secondary. The primary purpose of chucking sharp bits of metal at people is to kill them.

Here is a nice informative link (http://www.larp.com/legioxx/pilum.html)

The pre Marian legionaries originally carried two differently weighted pila to be used (presumably) at different ranges. I expect that post Marian legionaries carried two for the same reasons that a modern soldier carries more than one bullet.

Don Julio Anejo
2008-05-26, 03:39 PM
So much misinformation...
Nope. A pilum functions almost exactly like any other javelin. It may be blocked and it may miss, but if it hits at a reasonable range and overcomes the protection afforded by armour, then the fight is essentially over.
Doesn't contradict what I said... I just meant it wouldn't do very much against a soldier with a big shield because he can block it fairly easily (as long as he sees the enemy). It's doubtful it would go through the shield AND hurt the hoplite.

I can think of no reason at all to suppose that a Roman legionary would be slower than a Spartan hoplite. The amount of gear they carry is roughly equal in weight and both are trained to use it. Polybius says quite the opposite of the Roman legionary, in fact, making great play of their felxibility and maneouvrability.

I thought we were talking about heavily armored Marian legionnaires here, not fairly light Polybian Hastati and Principes... Also, around the time Romans started fighting Greeks, the latter started using light linen armor. While it wasn't very helpful against missiles and spears compared to their bronze cuirass, it was A LOT lighter (several pounds at most) and still gave them good protection against slashing blows.


Maybe, maybe not. Even post Marian legionaries did not necessarily have a lot of training, being often raised for campaigns from the same part time types as Greek hoplites. That said, if we're talking veteran legionaries then we should compare them to veteran hoplites, of which there were plenty serving as mercenaries.

The difference is that Marian legionnaires were professional soldiers, who, although may not have had that much combat training or experience if they were stationed in peaceful areas like Spain, would still have much better fitness, if only for the fact that they had to carry 30+kg and sometimes more (up to 50) of gear for 30+ kilometers a day during a march. Builds up your fitness very, very fast.

I think you are overstating the situation. Veteran Roman legionaries probably had as much or more battle experience as any Spartan; that said, Spartans may have had harder training and have been better physical specimens. In that regard, it is hard to separate the propaganda from the reality.

Veteran legionnaires still weren't very good one on one fighters compared to most barbarians or elite units (who got one on one training due to their elite status), that wasn't the basis of their training. And in any case, I was referring to a generic legionnaire, many of whom were stationed in peaceful provinces


Well, the Romans certainly had better strategy, leadership and more resources than the Greeks, but it doesn't follow that they were tactically inferior. as I recall, the Greeks are described as being rather surprised at being beaten. It was hardly the first time they had faced the Romans after all.

I'm talking about Macedonians in this case, not Greeks (in the tactical sense of the word - rigid phalangitai + heavy cavalry vs. hoplites). If used properly, tactically (in theory and on a decently flat area) they should be able to smash legionnaires simple because Romans had very little cavalry and a (Macedonian) phalanx is really hard to kill head on and superior cavalry would prevent any flanking attacks while smashing the Roman flanks and rear themselves. Greeks weren't very flexible on the other hand and could be easily defeated by a good commander.


At the very beginning of the iron age this may have been reasonably true, but by 300 BC it had long since ceased to be the case.
I've read in lots of places that the opposite was true until early middle ages, but I can't claim anything... I'll get back on this later after I do some research.

PS: the pila had an end bit near the tip made of soft iron, specifically so it would bend on impact and couldn't be thrown back at the Romans if it missed the target or was yanked out of the shield.

Matthew
2008-05-26, 03:52 PM
Doesn't contradict what I said... I just meant it wouldn't do very much against a soldier with a big shield because he can block it fairly easily (as long as he sees the enemy). It's doubtful it would go through the shield AND hurt the hoplite.

Actually, it's quite possible.



I thought we were talking about heavily armored Marian legionnaires here, not fairly light Polybian Hastati and Principes... Also, around the time Romans started fighting Greeks, the latter started using light linen armor. While it wasn't very helpful against missiles and spears compared to their bronze cuirass, it was A LOT lighter (several pounds at most) and still gave them good protection against slashing blows.

We're talking about Spartans and 'some sort of legionary'. You can compare lighter armed legionaries to lighter armed Spartans or heavily armed Spartans to heavily armed legionaries, the result will be the same. It's even questionable if all Marian legionaries were armoured.



The difference is that Marian legionnaires were professional soldiers, who, although may not have had that much combat training or experience if they were stationed in peaceful areas like Spain, would still have much better fitness, if only for the fact that they had to carry 30+kg and sometimes more (up to 50) of gear for 30+ kilometers a day during a march. Builds up your fitness very, very fast.

There's not much reason to think this. If the Greek is a farmer, then he's probably pretty fit. If his leisure time is spent carousing around, then he probably isn't going to serve in the phalanx. Point is, you need to compare equivalents, not pick and choose. There were plenty of professional Greek mercenaries available at just about any time and they would have been at least as physically fit as a legionary.



Veteran legionnaires still weren't very good one on one fighters compared to most barbarians or elite units (who got one on one training due to their elite status), that wasn't the basis of their training. And in any case, I was referring to a generic legionnaire, many of whom were stationed in peaceful provinces

What on earth is the evidence for this? Roman legions fought in close and open order and there is no reason to think they fared any worse than a German, Celt or Briton in single combat that I can think of.



I'm talking about Macedonians in this case, not Greeks (in the tactical sense of the word - rigid phalangitai + heavy cavalry vs. hoplites). If used properly, tactically (in theory and on a decently flat area) they should be able to smash legionnaires simple because Romans had very little cavalry and a (Macedonian) phalanx is really hard to kill head on and superior cavalry would prevent any flanking attacks while smashing the Roman flanks and rear themselves. Greeks weren't very flexible on the other hand and could be easily defeated by a good commander.

You're imagining that Romans used only legionaries. They were very bit as flexible as Greeks/Macedonians and made use of combined arms. The Roman Legion contained very little cavalry, but that was because they relied on allied cavalry, and plenty of it.



I've read in lots of places that the opposite was true until early middle ages, but I can't claim anything... I'll get back on this later after I do some research.

Quality of equipment varies over time and space. Certainly, the Romans described their barbarian opponents as often having to stop to straighten out their swords, but that may well be propaganda.

Check out RomanArmyTalk (http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/), it's full of very well informed people and interesting threads.

Storm Bringer
2008-05-26, 04:02 PM
well, The Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze) is of the opinion that quality bronze was a better metal than iorn, so I think we can call it reasonably safley.


Doesn't contradict what I said... I just meant it wouldn't do very much against a soldier with a big shield because he can block it fairly easily (as long as he sees the enemy). It's doubtful it would go through the shield AND hurt the hoplite.

no, the point remains is that the hoplite now has a large Pilum sticking out of his sheild in a most inconvientient manner. The sheild has served it's purpose, and if he keeps hold of it at least as long as the secong pulim throw, he's negated the legionnares reach advantages and forced him to close within spear range. He can drop the sheild now, or else it would be deadweight that might fatally slow him in the meele.

Once In meele..... harder to call. I the roman can close, then the fight will likey go to him, as he's trained in an agressve sword and board style and the greek isn't. at the same time, the greek is perfectly competant with his spear, and free of his sheild and other hoplties to crowd him, he's likey to be more mobile than the legionary. If he can use his superior reach to keep the legionarre at range, then it's his fight. If he can't stop the Roman form closing, it's the romans fight.

EvilElitest
2008-05-26, 04:15 PM
Depends. Which one is really Sauron and which one is really a Space Marine?:smalltongue:

sauron would win, as he is in fact both French and Italion (Sauron is Napoleon)
from
EE

Matthew
2008-05-26, 04:17 PM
well, The Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze) is of the opinion that quality bronze was a better metal than iorn, so I think we can call it reasonably safley.

Aye, but that's the iron of 1200 BC. The Wiki also says that steel was being produced in Iberia by at least 400 BC and used in the manufacture of swords. That is no doubt a reference to the 'Spanish Sword' adopted by the Romans sometime before 200 BC and described as being a cause of great fear to the Greeks for its effectiveness in botht the cut and thrust.

Don Julio Anejo
2008-05-26, 04:57 PM
Actually, it's quite possible.

With a soft shaft near the tip it's doubtful unless the javelin pierces the shield directly where the arm is.


We're talking about Spartans and 'some sort of legionary'. You can compare lighter armed legionaries to lighter armed Spartans or heavily armed Spartans to heavily armed legionaries, the result will be the same. It's even questionable if all Marian legionaries were armoured.

I believe the original idea of this thread is to compare an "average" legionnary to a Spartiate. Lighter armored Spartans would more likely be support or allied troops (i.e. exactly the same as Auxilia in the Roman army).


There's not much reason to think this. If the Greek is a farmer, then he's probably pretty fit. If his leisure time is spent carousing around, then he probably isn't going to serve in the phalanx. Point is, you need to compare equivalents, not pick and choose. There were plenty of professional Greek mercenaries available at just about any time and they would have been at least as physically fit as a legionary.

The fitness required for farming and fitness required for fighting are completely different, and I know quite a few farmers in real life considering when I was a kid I used to spend some summers in rural Ukraine with my grandmother (in a farming village). Farmers may have decent endurance in the long-term (i.e. several months), but it's highly doubtful they can run for 50 clicks and then still have enough energy to fight a several hour battle, you only get it through constant training. The kind of work you do as a farmer just doesn't build your cardiovascular system very much, at best it builds muscle.


What on earth is the evidence for this? Roman legions fought in close and open order and there is no reason to think they fared any worse than a German, Celt or Briton in single combat that I can think of.
For some reason every single book on Roman history says the barbarians were better fighters one on one and the Romans were afraid of them for this very reason (and for the fact that an average Celt or German was bigger and looked badass with spiky hair/woad/etc).


You're imagining that Romans used only legionaries. They were very bit as flexible as Greeks/Macedonians and made use of combined arms. The Roman Legion contained very little cavalry, but that was because they relied on allied cavalry, and plenty of it.

One, where exactly would they get allied cavalry in Greece (since the only country with decent cavalry there is the one Rome is fighting); and two - they only started developing a decent cavalry force when they had to fight barbarian hordes during the great migration which relied mainly if not exclusively on cavalry. At this time they would only have a small light cavalry arm and some archers/slingers/peltasts, but the Greeks also used these, although in a slightly different role (Romans used them as support troops, Greeks as bait to lure the enemy into attacking the phalanx).


Check out RomanArmyTalk (http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/), it's full of very well informed people and interesting threads.
Thanks, cool link :smile:

Don Julio Anejo
2008-05-26, 05:14 PM
Actually upon looking at this thread, (http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/viewtopic.php?t=21106) I'm starting to lean towards the legionnaire winning the fight.

SurlySeraph
2008-05-26, 08:09 PM
The OP said both fighters have roughly the same level of combat experience. In that case, I go with the legionnaire. The legionnaire could throw his pilum and stick it in the hoplite's shield, thereby making it useless. Without a shield, the hoplite is pretty much screwed. Done.

poleboy
2008-05-27, 01:12 AM
To clarify on the OP: Both combatants are considered to be heavily armored (for their time) front line troops with roughly the same amount of experience in warfare.
They are not necessarily trained in the same way or in using the same tactics. The hoplite is a veteran of several campaigns against neighboring city-states and possibly over-seas combat (though I'm not sure how much the Spartans engaged in that sort of thing). The Roman is a veteran of campaigns against the Galls or something.
The hoplite has a large shield, his spear (the butt can be used in a pinch since it's outfitted with a spike) and a short sword. No ranged weapons.
The legionary is armed with a shield, gladius, a dagger and two javelins. He also has stakes for making camp or killing vampires :smallbiggrin:

EDIT: For the sake of fairness, let us assume that both combatants are wearing bronze armour.

Vikingkingq
2008-05-27, 01:22 AM
One, where exactly would they get allied cavalry in Greece (since the only country with decent cavalry there is the one Rome is fighting); and two - they only started developing a decent cavalry force when they had to fight barbarian hordes during the great migration which relied mainly if not exclusively on cavalry. At this time they would only have a small light cavalry arm and some archers/slingers/peltasts, but the Greeks also used these, although in a slightly different role (Romans used them as support troops, Greeks as bait to lure the enemy into attacking the phalanx).

Thanks, cool link :smile:

The allied cavalry could have been Numidians or Gauls or Illyrians or...etc. The Roman shad a lot to choose from. And as for the Roman army per se, take a look at the forces of T. Quinctius Flamininus at the Battle of Cynoscephalae: "soldiers from the allied Aetolian League, light infantry from Athamania, mercenary archers from Crete, and elephants and Numidian cavalry from King Masinissa of Numidia." That was in 364 BC.

Vikingkingq
2008-05-27, 01:32 AM
To clarify on the OP: Both combatants are considered to be heavily armored (for their time) front line troops with roughly the same amount of experience in warfare.
They are not necessarily trained in the same way or in using the same tactics. The hoplite is a veteran of several campaigns against neighboring city-states and possibly over-seas combat (though I'm not sure how much the Spartans engaged in that sort of thing). The Roman is a veteran of campaigns against the Galls or something.
The hoplite has a large shield, his spear (the butt can be used in a pinch since it's outfitted with a spike) and a short sword. No ranged weapons.
The legionary is armed with a shield, gladius, a dagger and two javelins. He also has stakes for making camp or killing vampires :smallbiggrin:

EDIT: For the sake of fairness, let us assume that both combatants are wearing bronze armour.

One problem with this is that the Romans didn't use bronze armor. Whether we're talking about lorica hamata or lorica segmenta, the Romans overwhelmingly used iron for their armor. Especially if we're talking about a Roman who served against the Gauls, then he's almost certainly using iron/steel armor, not bronze.

I'd go with the Legionary, and just to pick up on a point that I think needs emphasizing: the Legionary would likely have more experience with one-on-one combat, considering that the Roman Legions fought in a much looser formations than the hoplite phalanx, where you're standing literally shoulder to shoulder. A good example of this is their shield work: a Roman shield is designed to protect the individual legionary completely, a Hoplite's shield is meant to protect his left side only, because his right side is going to be guarded by the man to his right.

Matthew
2008-05-27, 02:18 AM
With a soft shaft near the tip it's doubtful unless the javelin pierces the shield directly where the arm is.

Well, better informed folks than me seem to think it entirely likely. I suppose you would have to take it up with them, as I have never thrown a pilum or observed its effect on a target.



I believe the original idea of this thread is to compare an "average" legionnary to a Spartiate. Lighter armored Spartans would more likely be support or allied troops (i.e. exactly the same as Auxilia in the Roman army).

Unfortunatley, the poster does not define his terms, so we're left to guess about that. An 'average' Roman legionary or Spartan hoplite is pretty meaningless in any case, since we have no way to tell what the average was.



The fitness required for farming and fitness required for fighting are completely different, and I know quite a few farmers in real life considering when I was a kid I used to spend some summers in rural Ukraine with my grandmother (in a farming village). Farmers may have decent endurance in the long-term (i.e. several months), but it's highly doubtful they can run for 50 clicks and then still have enough energy to fight a several hour battle, you only get it through constant training. The kind of work you do as a farmer just doesn't build your cardiovascular system very much, at best it builds muscle.

Perhaps, but I think you may be overlooking the significance of being a 'part time' soldier. It doesn't mean just going to arms when required, it means undergoing physical training. Knights were, point of fact, often part time soldiers in the same sense as hoplites. I would dare say a Spartan hoplite (being trained from childhood in nothing but the use of arms) would be better trained than a Roman legionary, but I wouldn't go so far as to say a Roman legionary was likely to be better trained than a Greek hoplite, unless we use more definite language and specific examples.



For some reason every single book on Roman history says the barbarians were better fighters one on one and the Romans were afraid of them for this very reason (and for the fact that an average Celt or German was bigger and looked badass with spiky hair/woad/etc).

With regard to prowess, I doubt you'll find that is the case for every book. If you can find some serious academic material that claims this and actually provides any evidence to back it up, I would be surprised. Romans fought great as a unit, but it does not then follow that they fought badly individually.

Certainly, there is talk of the size of the Celts/Germans being intimidating, but bigger doesn't mean better. In fact the gladius and scutum combination may well have been designed to offset any reach advantage on the same principle that they worked against spears .



One, where exactly would they get allied cavalry in Greece (since the only country with decent cavalry there is the one Rome is fighting); and two - they only started developing a decent cavalry force when they had to fight barbarian hordes during the great migration which relied mainly if not exclusively on cavalry. At this time they would only have a small light cavalry arm and some archers/slingers/peltasts, but the Greeks also used these, although in a slightly different role (Romans used them as support troops, Greeks as bait to lure the enemy into attacking the phalanx).

The Romans bring their cavalry from the same place they bring their infantry or from other places. they don't recruit legionaries in Greece. I do not know what time period you are referring to, but if you're talking about the time of the Roman-Graeco Wars (say around 200 BC) then the Romans had plenty of cavalry and combined arms forces. Indeed, Scipio Africanus pioneered the increased use of cavalry in his war with Hannibal. At Zama in 202 BC nearly a quarter of the Roman army was said to be cavalry.

For a more specific example, see The Battle of Corinth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Corinth_%28146_BC%29) (the deciding battle of the Roman conquest of Greece) where the Romans were supposed to have had 23,000 infantry and 3,500 cavalry versus 14,000 Greek infantry and 600 cavalry.



Thanks, cool link :smile:

No problem. It's well worth reading up on the threads there.



One problem with this is that the Romans didn't use bronze armor. Whether we're talking about lorica hamata or lorica segmenta, the Romans overwhelmingly used iron for their armor. Especially if we're talking about a Roman who served against the Gauls, then he's almost certainly using iron/steel armor, not bronze.

Well... the poorer pre Marian legionaries might have made use of bronze armour (the poorest wore a bronze pectoral or small plate) and bronze helmets were certainly common. Post Marius, it is possible that Roman officers made use of bronze musculta (though this is highly debated) and bronze squamata wouldn't be entirely improbable. That said, you are right that the majority of body armour was more likely iron.



I'd go with the Legionary, and just to pick up on a point that I think needs emphasizing: the Legionary would likely have more experience with one-on-one combat, considering that the Roman Legions fought in a much looser formations than the hoplite phalanx, where you're standing literally shoulder to shoulder. A good example of this is their shield work: a Roman shield is designed to protect the individual legionary completely, a Hoplite's shield is meant to protect his left side only, because his right side is going to be guarded by the man to his right.

Yep, the curvature of the Roman [I]scutum does indeed suggest that it was designed for individual combat, rather than close formation. That Auxillaries used flat shields may indicate that they saw a lot of close formation fighting. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that legionaries were equipped with flat shields for close formation fighting (as we see some differentiation on Trajan's column).

poleboy
2008-05-27, 02:34 AM
Unfortunatley, the poster does not define his terms, so we're left to guess about that. An 'average' Roman legionary or Spartan hoplite is pretty meaningless in any case, since we have no way to tell what the average was.

If you're thinking gear, I thought we had this cleared up. Both are wearing what would be considered heavy armor at the time. Cuirass, helmet, possibly greaves. Both have shields.

From what I read, the romans used both bronze and iron armor. But okay, let's say that the Roman gets iron armor and the hoplite is decked out in bronze. All weapons are made of/tipped with iron.

Matthew
2008-05-27, 02:44 AM
If you're thinking gear, I thought we had this cleared up. Both are wearing what would be considered heavy armor at the time. Cuirass, helmet, possibly greaves. Both have shields.

From what I read, the romans used both bronze and iron armor. But okay, let's say that the Roman gets iron armor and the hoplite is decked out in bronze. All weapons are made of/tipped with iron.

No, not gear. More like period of existence and level of training/experience. There was apparently a huge difference between the quality of Caesar's legions and the quality of Crassus' legions.

A more specific question would be "Who would win, Spartan just prior to Thermopylae or a Roman legionary veteran of Caesar's Gallic Wars?"

As for equipment...

Roman Legionary
Gallic Helmet (bronze, weighs 2-3 lbs)
Lorica Hamata (iron mail shirt, probably about 15-20 lbs)
Bronze Greaves (maybe, their use was sporadic)
Two Pila (identical iron headed javelins of about 6' or so)
Scutum (large wooden curved shield, about 12 lbs or more, 0.25 to 0.5" thick)
Gladius (steel cut and thrust sword with a blade of probably about 20-24" at this time, weighing about 2 lbs or less)

Spartan Hoplite
Bronze Corinthian Helmet (I'm guessing, probably about 3 lbs)
Bronze Cuirass (10 lbs or more, seen a few different estimates, some considerably lower)
Bronze Greaves (presumably)
Doru (iron headed long spear with a bronze butt spike, probably 8-9' and 6 lbs or so)
Aspis (large bronze faced shield, also about 12 lbs or more - some estimates 30 lbs +, but these are likely spurious)
Spartan Xiphos (reasonable quality iron or bronze sword, with a blade of probably about 12" and weighing about 1 lb)