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Caesar’s Army

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Caesar’s Army
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Author(s): Harry Pratt Judson
Date Published: 2011/06
Page Count: 148
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-574-2
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-573-5

Caesar's Army in peace and war

Students of military history have long been fascinated by the history, armies and great commanders of ancient Rome; for within its organisation, strategy, tactics, weapons, campaigns and wars are to be found the origins of each of the military disciplines, demonstrated by often sophisticated methods and practices, developed millennia in the past and yet still able to provide valuable lessons to strategists and tacticians in the modern world. Rome had a long history and in keeping with all empires marched a Hard road to its zenith before commencing an equally long decline. We often look towards the period of Gaius Julius Caesar and his legions to appreciate the Roman military machine in some of its finest hours. This book is an invaluable guide for those interested in the Roman Army during Caesars time. It details army organisation, weapons and equipment. It examines the Legions and the cavalry in detail both on and off the field of battle. Tactics, fortifications and siege engines are fully described, as are methods of fighting afloat. Finally, the enemies of the Roman Empire, from the Gauls to the ancient Britons, are considered and their battle tactics and fortifications examined. In this Leonaur edition the illustrations from the original edition have been enlarged to assist the reader and maps of notable campaigns, battles, sieges and marches are also included.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

§ 106. The Roman infantry sought always to gain the advantage of a higher place (superioris loci). Their favourite position was on the side of a gently sloping hill, so that the enemy were below them. The enemy had then a disadvantageous place (locus iniquus) . If at the foot of this hill there was a plain, and the enemy were at a greater distance than the cast of a javelin (10 to 20 paces; i.e., 25 to 50 ft.), then to the enemy was left the initiative. If, however, their adversaries were at the foot of the hill or had set out to climb it, then the Romans rushed against them.<br>
§ 107. If the distance was considerable, say 250 paces to an enemy just setting out to the attack, or 120 paces to an enemy evidently intending to await the onset, then the cohorts at first moved forward at a walk, probably at an equal pace (certo gradu). Having reached the proper distance, they set out at a run (cursus), sword in sheath, the first ranks with spears raised in the right hand ready to hurl (pilis infestis). At a distance of 10 to 20 paces, the first ranks hurled the spears. This volley at short range threw the enemy into confusion, inflicting numerous fearful wounds. The dead and wounded fell, and thus gaps appeared in the hostile array. Here and there a pilum remained sticking in a shield, and thus embarrassed its bearer; or in the thick phalanx two shields were bound together, and so two of the enemy were rendered useless for the fight, unless they let their shields go and exposed their unprotected bodies to the Roman weapons.<br>
§ 108. As the spears could be thrown only from a short distance, it is clear that sometimes a rapidly advancing enemy would get near too soon,—the right moment would have passed,—and the Romans must then drop their javelins and engage with the swords. But usually the volley of heavy spears preceded the use of the sword.<br>
§ 109. As soon as the first ranks have hurled the spears, they draw their swords and rush forward to take advantage of the confusion and gaps in the enemy’s line. The odd numbers of the first rank spring forward to gain room; the even numbers and the entire second rank follow as a support.<br>
Along the front of the cohort exists now a series of single combats. The third, fourth, and fifth ranks press close up to aid their comrades and to take the places of any who fall, and meanwhile throw their spears over the heads of the combatants among the throng of the enemy behind. The remaining five ranks of the cohort stand fast, as a reserve.
§110. The various acts of the attack are sharply distinguished in military parlance. Advancing to attack was called signa inferre. Then followed the run (concursus), then the volley of spears (emissio pilorum). If the enemy still held out, there remained the last resort, the onset with the swords (impetus gladiorum).<br>
§ 111. It will be seen that each cohort, if only two ranks hurled the spears at once, could attack five times. At Ilerda, each of these attacks consumed at least 20 minutes.<br>
§ 112. Another advantage sought by the Romans must be noticed. We must remember that their favourite vantage-ground was a hillside, down which they could rush against their enemy. Under such circumstances more than two ranks could hurl the pila, and also these weapons would fall with more force.<br>
§ 113. Of course if the volley of spears was cast too soon, they fell harmless on the ground. It was often quite likely, in the confusion of battle, that such a mistake would be made. Moreover, the Romans were accustomed to throw the weapons while on the run themselves, and against an advancing enemy. Should the latter receive the onset standing, as did Pompey’s men at Pharsalia, the volley might easily be ineffective.<br>
§ 114. Running to the attack gave an impetus that was of great value. But if this run should be begun too soon, there was danger that the men would reach the enemy out of breath and tired, and also that the ranks would be more or less spread apart.<br>
§ 115. It was much in favour of this onset to be made on a hillside down which there was a gentle slope. The momentum thus gained would carry the men against the enemy, whether they would or not. Also, the enemy were more likely to become demoralized at sight of this mass pouring down from above. Moreover, the same circumstance which made the attack heavier, would make it less effective for the enemy to make a charge to meet it.