Roman Battle Axe

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Roman Battle Line Formation: Changes and Developments

The victory of a state during wars is not solely due to the weapons they have or the armors that they use as protection, but also because of the formation that they execute in the battlefield. Yes, you read it right. Protection and weapons, such as roman shields and viking helmets are not the only things you need in winning a battle. By planning carefully the formation that they will use in the battlefield, they can have a great advantage over their opponents.

For those who are not familiar with battle line formation, a battle formation is made up of three lines:

• Hastati. This infantry is placed at the first line. At first, Hastati was made up of poor warriors who can only afford to buy cheap equipments, such as a big shield and a light armor. But as times go by, the warriors making up this line changed. These days, this line is made up of the youngest warriors of the state.

• Principes. They make up the second battle line in the formation. The warriors composing this battle line are those which are at the prime of their lives and are relatively rich—they have the best weapons and protection there is. Before, they were considered as spearmen or swordsmen during the early Roman Republic.

• Triarii. Coming as the third line in the battle formation, this infantry is composed of the oldest and most experienced men in the army. They are also considered the wealthiest ones. They carry quality shields and heavy armors to protect themselves from the enemies.

However, this battle formation were replaced by a new one during the new Imperial Roman Army. During that time, they used a battle formation consisting of two lines with 5 cohort on each line. But, at times, they also use formation with three lines that have four cohort in the front line with three cohort in the middle and at the back. The first cohort is positioned at the extreme right of the battle formation. This is because they are the most experienced warriors and are considered as Veterans of the army. Because of the knowledge, skills and experience that they have, this line is regarded as the most advantageous one in the formation.

Usually, battle formations were designed by placing the greatest and best cohorts in the wings and the center while the newest and weaker cohorts in between them. By following such formation, they will be ensured that the most important line will be protected and that they will not easily lose their morale.

In the beginning of the battle, right before the army will come near the enemy, they would first fire a barrage of missile. This is to scare away and take any confidence that the enemies have.

The formation of battle lines changes every now and then. This is to enhance the way they fight and to add greater protection to the warriors.

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