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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VIII Chapter 8: Changes in the Roman Military System.[340 BC]
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The terrible severity of the punishment, however, made the soldiers more obedient to their general, and not only did it lead to greater attention being paid to the pickets and sentry duties and the ordering of the outposts, but when they went into battle for the final contest, this severity proved to be of the greatest service. The battle was exactly like one fought in a civil war there was nothing in the Latin army different from the Roman except their courage. |
Changes in the Roman Military System.
At first the Romans used the large round shield called the clipeus, afterwards, when the soldiers received pay, the smaller oblong shield called the scutum was adopted. The phalanx formation, similar to the Macedonian of the earlier days, was abandoned in favour of the distribution into companies ( manipuli); the rear portion being broken up into smaller divisions. The foremost line consisted of the hastati, formed into fifteen companies, drawn up at a short distance from each other. These were called the light-armed companies, as whilst one-third carried a long spear ( hasta) and short iron javelins; the remainder carried shields. This front line consisted of youths in the first bloom of manhood just old enough for service. Behind them were stationed an equal number of companies, called principes, made up of men in the full vigour of life, all carrying shields and furnished with superior weapons. This body of thirty companies were called the antepilani. Behind them were the standards under which were stationed fifteen companies, which were divided into three sections called vexillae, the first section in each was called the pilus, and they consisted of 180 men to every standard vexillum). The first vexillum was followed by the triarii, veterans of proved courage; the second by the rorarii, or " skirmishers," younger men and less distinguished; the third by the accensi, who were least to be depended upon, and were therefore placed in the rearmost line.
When the battle formation of the army was completed, the hastati were the first to engage. If they failed to repulse the enemy, they slowly retired through the intervals between the companies of the principes who then took up the fight, the hastati following in their rear. The triarii, meantime, were resting on one knee under their standards, their shields over their shoulders and their spears planted on the ground with the points upwards, giving them the appearance of a bristling palisade. If the principes were also unsuccessful, they slowly retired to the triarii, which has given rise to the proverbial saying, when people are in great difficulty "matters have come down to the triarii." When the triarii had admitted the hastati and principes through the intervals separating their companies, they rose from their kneeling posture and instantly closing their companies up they blocked all passage through them and in one compact mass fell on the enemy as the last hope of the army. The enemy who had followed up the others as though they had defeated them, saw with dread a now and larger army rising apparently out of the earth.
There were generally four legions enrolled consisting each of 5000 men, and 300 cavalry were assigned to each legion. A force of equal size used to be supplied by the Latins, now, however, they were hostile to Rome.
The two armies were drawn up in the same formation, and they knew that if the maniples kept their order they would have to fight, not only vexilla with vexilla, hastati with hastati, principes with principes, but even centurion with centurion.
There were amongst the triarii two centurions, one in each army -- the Roman, possessing but little bodily strength but an energetic and experienced soldier, the Latin, a man of enormous strength and a splendid fighter -- very well known to each other because they had always served in the same company. The Roman, distrusting his own strength, had obtained the consuls' permission before leaving Rome to choose his own sub-centurion to protect him from the man who was destined to be his enemy. This youth, finding himself face to face with the Latin centurion, gained a victory over him.
|Quae ubi frequens conuenit, 'quandoque' inquit, 'tu, T. Manli, neque imperium consulare neque maiestatem patriam ueritus, aduersus edictum nostrum extra ordinem in hostem pugnasti et, quantum in te fuit, disciplinam militarem, qua stetit ad hanc diem Romana res, soluisti meque in eam necessitatem adduxisti, ut aut rei publicae mihi aut mei [meorum] obliuiscendum sit, nos potius nostro delicto plectemur quam res publica tanto suo damno nostra peccata luat; triste exemplum sed in posterum salubre iuuentuti erimus. me quidem cum ingenita caritas liberum tum specimen istud uirtutis deceptum uana imagine decoris in te mouet; sed cum aut morte tua sancienda sint consulum imperia aut impunitate in perpetuum abroganda, nec te quidem, si quid in te nostri sanguinis est, recusare censeam, quin disciplinam militarem culpa tua prolapsam poena restituas + i, lictor, deliga ad palum'. exanimati omnes tam atroci imperio nec aliter quam in se quisque destrictam cernentes securem metu magis quam modestia quieuere. itaque uelut demerso ab admiratione animo cum silentio defixi stetissent, repente, postquam ceruice caesa fusus est cruor, tam libero conquestu coortae uoces sunt, ut neque lamentis neque exsecrationibus parceretur spoliisque contectum iuuenis corpus, quantum militaribus studiis funus ullum concelebrari potest, structo extra uallum rogo cremaretur, Manlianaque imperia non in praesentia modo horrenda sed exempli etiam tristis in posterum essent. fecit tamen atrocitas poenae oboedientiorem duci militem; et praeterquam quod custodiae uigiliaeque et ordo stationum intentioris ubique curae erant, in ultimo etiam certamine, cum descensum in aciem est, ea seueritas profuit. fuit autem ciuili maxime bello pugna similis; adeo nihil apud Latinos dissonum ab Romana re praeter animos erat. clipeis antea Romani usi sunt, dein, postquam stipendiarii facti sunt, scuta pro clipeis fecere; et quod antea phalanges similes Macedonicis, hoc postea manipulatim structa acies coepit esse: postremi in plures ordines instruebantur [ordo sexagenos milites, duos centuriones, uexillarium unum habebat]. prima acies hastati erant, manipuli quindecim, distantes inter se modicum spatium; manipulus leues uicenos milites, aliam turbam scutatorum habebat; leues autem, qui hastam tantum gaesaque gererent, uocabantur. haec prima frons in acie florem iuuenum pubescentium ad militiam habebat. robustior inde aetas totidem manipulorum, quibus principibus est nomen, hos sequebantur, scutati omnes, insignibus maxime armis. hoc triginta manipulorum agmen antepilanos appellabant, quia sub signis iam alii quindecim ordines locabantur, ex quibus ordo unusquisque tres partes habebat + earum unam quamque primam pilum uocabant. tribus ex uexillis constabat ordo; sexagenos milites, duos centuriones, uexillarium unum habebat uexillum; centum octoginta sex homines erant. primum uexillum triarios ducebat, ueteranum militem spectatae uirtutis, secundum rorarios, minus roboris aetate factisque, tertium accensos, minimae fiduciae manum; eo et in postremam aciem reiciebantur. ubi his ordinibus exercitus instructus esset, hastati omnium primi pugnam inibant. si hastati profligare hostem non possent, pede presso eos retro cedentes in interualla ordinum principes recipiebant. tum principum pugna erat; hastati sequebantur; triarii sub uexillis considebant, sinistro crure porrecto, scuta innixa umeris, hastas suberecta cuspide in terra fixas, haud secus quam uallo saepta inhorreret acies, tenentes. si apud principes quoque haud satis prospere esset pugnatum a prima acie ad triarios se sensim referebant; inde rem ad triarios redisse, cum laboratur, prouerbio increbruit. triarii consurgentes, ubi in interualla ordinum suorum principes et hastatos recepissent, extemplo compressis ordinibus uelut claudebant uias unoque continenti agmine, iam nulla spe post relicta, in hostem incidebant; id erat formidolosissimum hosti, cum uelut uictos insecuti nouam repente aciem exsurgentem, auctam numero, cernebant. scribebantur autem quattuor fere legiones quinis milibus peditum, equitibus in singulas legiones trecenis. alterum tantum ex Latino dilectu adiciebatur, qui ea tempestate hostes erant Romanis eodemque ordine instruxerant aciem; nec uexilla cum uexillis tantum, uniuersi hastati cum hastatis, principes cum principibus, sed centurio quoque cum centurione, si ordines turbati non essent, concurrendum sibi esse sciebat. duo primi pili ex utraque acie inter triarios erant, Romanus corpore haudquaquam satis ualidus, ceterum strenuus uir peritusque militiae, Latinus uiribus ingens bellatorque primus, notissimi inter se, quia pares semper ordines duxerunt. Romano haud satis fidenti uiribus iam Romae permissum erat ab consulibus, ut subcenturionem sibi quem uellet legeret qui tutaretur eum ab uno destinato hoste; isque iuuenis in acie oblatus ex centurione Latino uictoriam tulit. pugnatum est haud procul radicibus Vesuuii~ montis, qua uia ad Veserim ferebat.|