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OF THE ORGANISATION OF THE ROMAN AND GREEK ARMIES.
THE Roman army was divided into legions, each legion answering to our division; and was supposed to be complete within itself.
The infantry was divided into Light and Heavy armed.
The Light-armed infantry — called, until the Siege of Capua, Rorarii, afterwards Velites — carried the short cut-and-thrust Roman sword twenty and a half inches long, a small round shield, and seven light darts, each four feet long with a sharp iron point.
Heavy Infantry. The Heavy-armed infantry was composed of three classes : Hastati, Principes, and Triarii.
The Hastati formed the first of the three lines in which the legionary heavy infantry was drawn up.
The Principes formed the second line.
The Hastati and Principes were armed as follows :Each soldier wore a breastplate or coat of mail, brazen greaves, and a brazen helmet with a lofty crest of scarlet or black feathers, and carried a large oblong shield. His offensive weapons were the short cut-and-thrust sword worn on the right thigh, and in his hand, besides a lighter javelin, he grasped the formidable pilum. This weapon was a ponderous javelin, nearly eight feet long, having a shaft of four feet and an iron head of nearly equal length; and although very inferior to the modern musket, since it was capable of only one discharge, yet when it was launched by a strong and practised hand at the distance of ten or twelve paces, there was not any shield or breastplate that could withstand its shock.
The Triarii formed the third line. They consisted of veteran soldiers who carried the same equipment as the Principes and Hastati excepting that in place of the pilum and javelin they were armed with pikes about eleven feet in length.
A small body of Cavalry formed a component part of each legion. The Cavalry soldier was armed originally
in the same manner as the Rorarii or Light infantry; but afterwards the Greek equipment was adopted and the trooper was armed with a helmet, cuirass, buckler, and greaves; and for offensive weapons with a spear and sabre.
The strength of the legion varied at different periods, and with it the strength of the different lines, although their proportion to each other remained the same.
During the Second Punic war the infantry of the legion was fixed at 5000 men.
Each line was subdivided into ten maniples, each maniple again into two centuries.
A maniple of Hastati or Principes consisted therefore of 160 men, formed in ten ranks of sixteen files each.
A maniple of Triarii, of sixty men, formed in five ranks of twelve files each.
The files as well as the ranks stood three feet apart, that is to say, each file occupied three feet of front as well as three feet in depth.
The centuries were commanded by officers called Centurions. But the Roman infantry unit was the maniple, which consisted of two centuries in line; and was commanded by the senior of the two Centurions.
During the second Punic war the heavy Roman infantry was usually formed in three lines, at distances apart of about 100 yards.
The ten maniples of which each line was composed had intervals between them equal to the front of a maniple; and instead of covering those of the line in front of them, the maniples of the second and third lines covered the intervals.
This open order was convenient for marching, but was unsuitable for fighting any but an enemy who adopted the same formation. When the legion was opposed to troops ranged in close order, it became necessary to conform to that order; and this was effected by the simple advance of the maniples of the second line to fill the intervals of the first.
The open order was, moreover, especially dangerous where the enemy had a superior cavalry, as the relative nature of the two arms at the time we refer to enabled cavalry to approach, with impunity, within fifteen yards of infantry; and to dash at any weak point with great effect.
The battle was invariably commenced by the light troops who, formed in four or five ranks, skirmished in front of the legion; but when the time came to charge they passed through the intervals of the heavy infantry, and formed up in the intervals between the maniples of Triarii.
Then, advancing to the charge, the men of the first line discharged first their javelins at an approaching
enemy; afterwards when within twelve paces, their pila; after which they drew their swords for the hand-tohand contest.
The Cavalry of the legion was fixed at 320 men and horses, divided into ten troops, each troop being formed in four ranks of eight files. Three officers called Decurions were attached to each troop, which was commanded by the senior Decurion.
Every Roman legion had attached to it in the field a legion of Italian allies, of precisely the same strength and organisation as above stated, excepting that the legionary allied horse numbered 600 instead of 300. Therefore, for the strength of every legion of the Roman army employed in the field, we may compute 10,000 infantry and 900 cavalry.
The front occupied by two such combined legions, or by one legion, under which term they are invariably comprised by the historians of the period, is thus calculated :
20 Legionary maniples of 16 files, each file occupying one
yard, and with intervals equal to the front of a maniple, viz.: 20 x 16 x 2
640 yards 900 cavalry in 4 ranks of 225 files, each file occupying 1 yard 225
At a later period the formation by maniples was replaced by that of cohorts.
One cohort consisted of one maniple of each of the three lines, either covering each other or having the