A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic

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It is unclear at what precise stage the Romans specifically began to utilize the javelin as their primary offensive weapon. The specific origin of the javelin is somewhat hard to specify as the light javelin vericulum seems to have been the preferred weapon in Southern Italy in Lucania and Apulia, and the heavier javelin gaesum is apparently of Celtic design.

The javelin discovered at Castelruf is the fully developed Legionary pilum, which resembles in form and design the heavier Celtic javelin, that has similarly been found at La Tene in Switzerland c. The Castelruf pilum highlights to the scholar a large gap in javelin development from the fifth century, where experimentation with the javelin began, until the third century where it seems to have evolved into its final form.

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However this heavier pilum may in fact be the primary offensive weapon of the hastati that appeared in the later manipular reforms army. The shank itself was attached to the haft in two ways; the first was the spike tang which appeared to be in use by the first quarter of the fourth century, with the second flanged type appearing later. To ascertain the different types of javelins used in Italy in the fourth century it is necessary to assess the Small "The Use of Javelins in central and south Italy in the 4th Century BC," p.

In the Italian north there is fifth century archaeological evidence of a javelin from tombs at both Montericco near Imola, and Metaponto. Whilst the Metaponto shank is shorter at c. In Southern Italy, namely Lucania, and Apulia the light javelin was popular , certainly the javelin was the most commonly found weapon found in Southern Italian graves, and sometimes the only weapon with which they were buried. The javelins were clearly the primary weapon and the thrusting spear was to be used after the javelins had been thrown.

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There also seems to be uniformity in the numbers of javelins carried by each warrior, with three being commonly depicted. This subscribes to the image of the Roman legionary in the coming centuries and makes it likely that the form and use of the Legionary javelin stems from a mixture of influences originating in both Northern and Southern Italy that eventually developed its final form in Roman hands. What can be said is that, according to pictorial evidence, there were two distinct types of javelin in existence in central Italy by the fourth century.

The amentum increased the effectiveness of the javelin, and as such must also be examined. One of the most practical aspects of the amentum was that it provided the thrower with additional leverage thus increasing the distance that the javelin was able to be thrown. Experiments conducted by General Reffye for the Emperor Napoleon discovered that a javelin could only at best be thrown twenty metres by hand, but could reach distances of 80 metres when thrown with an amentum Alastair Lumsden AncHist 26 arms raised above their head in the act of throwing their javelins with their fingers clearly fixed inside the amentum.

The amentum is also depicted inside a tomb at Chuisi, which presents an Etruscan athlete in the motion of throwing with his fingers through the distinctive loop. A painting at Paestum presents a battle scene where two warriors are each armed with a shield and two javelins, both are carrying a semi-circular loop that is the amentum.

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This evidence indicates that the amentum was widely distributed and was used throughout the Italian peninsula, and therefore was likely to have been utilized by the Roman army of the fourth century, if not beforehand. Thus it is increasingly plausible to argue that the heavy or light javelin was deployed by the Roman army of the fourth century. In conjunction with various models of the javelin, the heavy thrusting spear hasta or kontus was also in use, and it is most likely to have been a dominant close combat weapon of some Roman infantry at the beginning of the fourth century.

The heavy thrusting spear kontus consisted of a small leaf shaped iron head varying from cm long, and 2. The sauroter could double as a second stabbing point should the primary spear head become broken, and gave protection to the shaft when stuck in the ground As Small points out, the spiked butt allowed the spear to be securely driven into the ground at an angle, which made it effective against cavalry.

The spearheads ranged from triangular stiletto bladed shape that may have been designed for armour piercing to a broader quadrangular shape One such head in particular unearthed at Alife measured 45cm long. This may point to the use of the shorter hasta being in common use, alongside the longer hoplite spear before the manipular reforms were completed, and further adds to the notion that the manipular reforms do not specify one date in particular, but rather that Rome was witness to a continual military development beginning in the fifth century.

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It cannot be said with any authority that any one spearhead design in particular can be of a specific regional or ethnic origin. The evidence ranges from Lucanian red-figure vases such as the bell krater in Vienna that depict a warrior equipped with a helmet and shield advancing with a thrusting spear to tomb paintings at Paestum and Capua.

These were a popular import into Etruria and suggests that heavy spears were in use during this period.

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There is archaeological evidence ranging from tomb paintings at Paestum, to artistic ware in Etruria, and the physical remains of spear-heads and javelins found throughout Italy. Italian spear-heads and javelins varied widely suggesting a range of influences, and designs which the Roman army is likely to have encountered in some form during the fourth century. The presence of spear-heads and javelins when viewed in conjunction with previously discussed shield types, suggests that two distinct configurations of warriors were fighting in the fourth century. The first as a heavily armed infantryman, equipped with a clipeus and a thrusting spear, and the second as a warrior who fought at range with javelin and scutum.

Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the spear and the javelin were the most common weapons of the battlefield in the fourth century, which holds important and significant implications for the style in which the Roman army fought. The increasing reliance on the spear and javelin as the primary offensive weapon in Italy can also be related to two additional factors. Firstly a soldier had to be trained to wield a sword effectively, which required considerable time and effort.

In contrast a soldier trained to wield a spear or javelin required less training to be effective than that of a swordsman. There is evidence of three major types of swords that were in use in Italy by the Fourth century, all were made of iron. The first and most common was the double edged antennae sword found at Alalia in Corsica, Alfedena, and on the Capestrano warrior. The blade length ranged from 60cm — 70cm and was designed to act as a cut and thrust weapon.

There is also lesser evidence of similar shaped single blade swords of roughly the same length that were weighted towards more cutting than thrusting. Finally there is considerable evidence of a one edged curved sword kopis that bears a resemblance to the Spanish falcata in which the blade is weighted so that, when used in a slashing motion, it develops considerable power, but has little balance for thrusting.

A fifth century c. The heavy head of the kopis acted in a similar way to an axe head mounted on a wooden haft, increasing the momentum of the Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, p. An Etruscan kopis has also been discovered at Alalia, and there is a Samnite wall painting of a kopis in the Naples Museum. A swordsman was restricted to close quarter combat, his killing zone was dictated by the length of his sword, and this placed the warrior at a disadvantage when facing enemy equipped with an eight foot thrusting spear, or a ranged missile like the javelin.

A swordsman, in order to overcome this reach disadvantage, and physically inflict wounds on the enemy would have found it necessary to close this gap as quickly as possible.

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As a result it appears conceivable that swords were only used to quickly decide the outcome of a battle, either in the form of an initial charge aimed at breaking their rivals will to fight or in the final phase when the enemy had been sufficiently weakened by repeated javelin fire. The depictions of axes appear to show that the axe was used by soldiers in Italy.

The Italic axe was single bladed, with a wedge shaped head and hafts of c. An example of an Italic axe was unearthed in the tomb of the Warrior at Lanuvium.

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Folia Archaeologica 29 p. The evidence pertaining to swords and axes further concludes that there was a range of close quarter weaponry likely to have been in use during the fourth century in Rome. This variety does not however indicate any real sense of uniformity of arms between soldiers making it likely that, as a secondary weapon, swords and axes were subject to the personal preference of the particular soldier.

The different types of melee weapons also represent a variation of close combat methods likely to have been employed by solider during the fourth century. The antennae sword was physically longer in the blade making it suitable for thrusting and slashing widely, and reasonably effective in both a defensive and offensive use. The kopis and the axe on the other hand were not designed with defence in mind, they were powerful offensive weapons used a downwards chopping motion to smash into their opponent. The development of swords and axes in Italy appears to mirror events in Macedonia, where the kopis became the preferred secondary weapon of the phalangite.

This evidence, does not suggest that the Roman military fought in uniformly armed ranks as spearmen and javelineers.

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It does illustrate that soldiers were likely to fight with what they could afford, or chose to equip themselves with. Thus it is important to consider how soldiers with this diversity of weaponry fought together tactically on the battlefield. The potential cost of a bronze cuirass and helmet, clipeus, thrusting spear and possibly either a sword or an axe would have most likely excluded the majority of Roman citizens from equipping themselves as heavy infantrymen.

This suggests that the variables of social class and wealth seem to have been important factors in determining the types of equipment that an individual soldier was able to outfit themselves with. A Roman solider potentially was able to afford a clipeus and yet they could present themselves for service wearing an Etrusco-Thracian helmet and a linen cuirass.

The reasons for this included a badly damaged cuirass, that the soldier and was unable to afford either the repair or replacement costs. Alternatively, the soldier may have also looted his weaponry from the battlefield. This then increased the likelihood of the next soldier in the rank presenting themselves in a mixture of arms and armour.

The lack of uniformity in arms and armour throughout Italy then proffers a very tenable illustration of the Roman army in the fourth century being equipped with similar, but not the same arms and armour. The role played by the heavier, and potentially more experienced troops resembled that of the triarii in the manipular legion described by Polybius VI. The design of the clipeus may also have accounted for the heavily armoured infantry standing their ground during the initial phase of the battle. The archaeological evidence previously examined in this paper identifies two broad categories of soldier, in Italy during the fourth century, heavily armed spearmen, and more lightly equipped javelineers.

The physical characteristics and limitations of weaponry dictate the tactics in which warfare is conducted. Therefore it is likely that soldiers equipped with the spear or the javelin influenced the way in which warfare was conducted. For reasons, such as Ibid. The Campanian vase depicts an Etruscan warrior equipped with an array of weapons including a thrusting spear, a bronze helmet and a singular disc cardiophylax as well as a warrior depicted equipped with a triple-disc spongia, bronze helmet and clipeus on Campanian vase.

It is possible therefore that in light of this evidence a more flexible armour and full body shield was preferred in order to maximise the effect and use of the javelin. Examples of this occurring include a tomb painting of an Etruscan warrior on the Sarcophagus of the Amazons and bronze figurines of both an Etruscan warrior discovered at Todi c.

There are no surviving Roman first-hand accounts detailing exactly how Roman battles were tactically fought in the fourth century. The picture that emerges from the archaeological evidence is an army composed predominantly of lightly armed troops with javelins, and heavily armoured spearmen. This image is portrayed on both the Chigi vase c. Alastair Lumsden AncHist 35 and the physical evidence of javelins and spears in tomb deposits.

These share similar characteristics with the evidence discovered in Italy. Therefore in order to construct a clear hypothesis of how Roman warfare in the fourth century was conducted; it is necessary also to examine examples of similar military equipment in use in Greece, and Macedonia between the mid-seventh to at least the second century.

The research of Fernando Quesada Sanz, argues that the Roman and Spanish armies of the second century conformed to the same essential military weaponry and tactics. Paul Cartledge, Peter Krentz, and Anthony Snodgrass have proposed convincing theories arguing that the development of the Greek hoplite and the phalanx in which they fought were subject to a long process of piecemeal absorption of equipment and tactics. These examples demonstrate that the Greeks were using javelins, and that they could potentially play a devastating role against heavily armoured melee troops, if they were not adequately countered.

It also illustrates that warfare in Italy and Greece was fought with a combination of troops primarily armed with either the javelin or heavy thrusting spear from the mid-seventh century onwards.

The Macedonian army of Alexander the Great in fourth century constituted of a core of phalangites, heavy Companion Cavalry, and light skirmishers; peltasts or Agrianian javelineers. Hans Van Wees London, p. Lynette G. Mitchell, and P. Rhodes, London Routledge, p. Wheeler and Barry Strauss.

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Indeed the evidence from the burials at Sindos reveals the presence of both heavy and light spears until the late fifth century. Rather he argues that the light troops armed with javelins positioned around the heavily armed spearmen who were able to both expand when launching volleys, and contract around the spearmen when faced with melee combat. In conclusion a key feature in the development of the Rome and subsequently the Roman army during the fourth century was inclusive expansion.

A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic
A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic
A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic
A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic
A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic
A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic
A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic
A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic
A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic

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