The Legions

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The Legions

Postby JOHN THURSTON » Wed Apr 28, 1999 10:52 pm

When I was reading "Imperial Governor" by George Shipway as a college student, I was entranced to note that the "legions" were not nameless or faceless.

For what it is worth, the Legions (Legiones) in Britain (Britannica) at the time of the famous revolt of the Iceni (ancient Celtic tribe) were: Legio XIV Gemina (later Gemina MArtia Vitrix) Legio II Augusta, Legio IX Hispana (Pretty clear where this Legion was originally raised) and Legio XX Valeria Virtix.

Each Legion was likely to have it's own shield pattern and each Legionary swore loyalty first to the Eagle of the Legion, which may explain why some Legiones as military formations survived from the time of Julius Caesar until the collapse of the Empire in the West. (Around 471 CE).

The Governor (Suetonius Paulinus) of Britain at the time of the of the Revolt (55 CE) had a tough political row to hoe. He had to keep Nero happy (not an easy task) finish Rome's conquest of what are now parts of Wales and tunr Britain into a money making province for the Empire.

Events would conspire against him. Apparently while he was on campaign in the West, the King of the Iceni (who had left his kingdom to the Empire and his two daughters) passed away. Nero's revenue agents were quickly on hand. They allegedly raped his wife and perhaps his daughters and made off with whatever they could load up.

Boudicia (many spellings) the "said" Wife took unkindly to this and the "Iceni flew to arms and stirred to revolt the Trinovantes and others who, not yet cowed by slavery, had agreed in secret conspiracy to reclaim their freedom" (Tacitus).

The tribes ran rampant in the East for a time, sacking Londinium (Lindum) (London) and killing the hastily raised militia there. Paulinus abandoned the City as he could not defend it.

With about one Legione and a half, he later anchored both his flanks with forests and cavalry and destroyed the rebels (numbering 50-75,000)who obligingly pressed themselves against the Roman front so tightly that it was hard for them to anything but fall.


JOHN T

Events

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The Legions

Postby JOHN THURSTON » Fri Apr 30, 1999 4:43 am

Having raised the subject of the legions, does anyone know any decent source material for their training methods?

How about the weapons in use at the time?

I have some answers in this area but would also like some input. I would also like to discuss what the weapons evolved from, what the weapons evolved into and any parallels or remnants in Eastern and Western Martial arts left today.


JOHN T

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The Legions

Postby Jake » Fri Apr 30, 1999 8:53 pm

The customary weapons of the Legions were a short stabbing sword called a Gladius, a long spear, and throwing javelin(s). Other Roman troops did occasionally use slings, bows, ect., but those three are the principle weapons that the legions used
Jake
 

The Legions

Postby JOHN THURSTON » Fri Apr 30, 1999 10:23 pm

Jake:

Thanks for your reply.

In "point" of fact I am further informed that there were at least three "gladius" shapes.

If you can find more information on the types and their usage, I would like to know.

The Early Legion "spear" was not intended for "cut and thrust" and was called a "pilum" and was for throwing. Gibbon likened Legion tactics to a "musket volley followed by a bayonet charge" This is quite an oversimplification. A model I built of a Pilum punched cleanly through four ply plywood at fifteen yards.

The Gladuis was apparently intended for thrust primarily and cut secondarily.

The Legions eveolved in arms and armor considerably over a period of four centuries and any input you might have on their evolution (and evolutions) would interest me.

Initially, or shuld I say at one point in time skirmishers (VELITES) were armed with longer ranged "javelins" (verutum?) and acted in much the same fashion as, I suppose, Voltigeurs might have acted for Napoleon's troops and "Light Companies" for Bristish Imperial Armies of the 18th and 19th Centuries.

The former would seek to disrupt attacking formations and allow, in the case of the Legions, the closer volleys to strike an already disorganized unit.

This can get more complex and interesting.

The Legions, as noted, continually had to adapt to changing terrains, enemies and geography and did so successfully for a long period of time.

Nonetheless, there were many notable instance where significant defeats were heaped on them, which I hope we can go into.


The Gladius and Pilum really have no exact parallel that I have yet found in Eastern Martial History. But I am hoping this "forum" can fill in the blanks a bit.

Zulu Impes and British troops as late as Culloden mimicked certain probable Early Legionary fighting skills and tactics, and I hope we can discuss these as well.

JOHN T



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Postby JOHN THURSTON » Sun Apr 13, 2003 12:36 pm

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