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Roman Battle Tactics & Weaponry

Gladius •

Main weapon

Used for stabbing through chainmail

Best suited for short range combat

Pilum •

Hand held spear

Tip would crumple upon impact

Drew inspiration from Greek phalanx

Pugio •

Standard sidearm


Best used for stabbing at very close range

Spatha •

Primary weapon for cavalrymen

1 meter in length

Replaces the gladius throughout the infantry

The Tortoise •

Protection from projectiles


Curvature of the shields allowed great visibility without sacrificing much defense

The Orb •

Implemented when surrounded

Enemies kept at bay by the reach of the soldiers’ sword or spear

Cavalry Repulsion •

Front line would force a horse to stop advancing


Second line would launch spears at all who came too close to the formation


Multiple waves of cavalry would push the first lines into the spears

The Wedge •

Designed to break enemy front lines

Legionnaires behind wedge formations would push the formation forward

Skirmishing •

Allowed greater mobility of individuals

Used primarily by Velites


Used to hurl spears at large groups of enemies in front of the main infantry, and to clear out enemy skirmishers

Marching Formation •

Entire legion marched single file and the line could stretch for miles

Flankers on all sides protect the formation from enemy attacks

Formation led by cavalry, with cavalry at the end as well

Works Cited •

Cowan, R. (Jul 24, 2007) Roman Battle Tactics 109 B.C.- A.D. 313, Westminster, MD, Osprey Publishing -Used for descriptions of formations

“Formations of the legion”, Victory-The Roman Military-Strategies & Tactics, retrieved 3/26/14, -Used for descriptions and pictures of weapons

Joseph Campanella (Narrator), (1999), The Roman War Machine (Documentary), United States: History Channel -Used for descriptions of formations, and weapons

“Tactics”, Illustrated History of The Roman Empire, retrieved 3/26/14, -Used for descriptions of formations

Roman battle tactics final  
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