Ancient Roman Army Formations Facts
The ancient Roman army was the dominant military force in the world for several centuries. The reason why they were so powerful is due to many factors
including discipline, training, advanced weapons, and tactics. Part of these tactics was their battle formations. On this page we list facts about ancient
Roman Army formations. The formations used by the Romans varied based on the time period, the particular situation, the commanding officer, and on the enemy
they were facing. The lists below are meant to give kids and adults alike an understanding of some of the main battle formations implemented by this great army.
Facts about Ancient Roman Army Marching Formations
- The Roman army would march in several columns as opposed to one unit. This was done to increase maneuverability.
- Marching in front of the main body of soldiers was usually a small group of soldiers including scouts and reconnaissance units whose job it was to determine
enemy positions and survey the land. With them was usually an officer who was trained in surveying land on which the battle may take place or over which the
main army would have to march.
- The main body of soldiers was almost always protected by smaller groups protecting their flanks from attack.
Ancient Roman Army Phalanx Formation
- The ancient Roman Army used this tactic for centuries starting in the early days of the Roman Republic.
- This formation involved soldiers lined up closely side by side with shields so close together it formed a sort of wall of shields.
- The Romans adopted the phalanx formation from the ancient Greek civilization which had been the dominant military force on the planet prior to the emergence of
the Roman Army.
- The wall of shields in this formation not only protected the soldiers but were also used to push the enemy with the hope of making them fall or retreat.
- Soldiers standing behind the front line of this formation would replace any soldiers that were killed in the front line thus keeping a solid wall of shields.
Ancient Roman Army Triple Line Formation
- The Phalanx Formation eventually gave way to a triple line formation which separated the infantry into groups named hastati, principes and triarii. These
tactical units (called Maniple) would engage the enemy in a particular order.
- The hastati were the front line of the Roman army and would take on the enemy first.
- The principes were the elite fighters of the Roman Army. If the hastati were unsuccessful in destroying or driving off the enemy then it was the principes
turn. When the principes entered the battle the enemy often had already been driven to exhaustion by the front line (the hastati).
- The third and final tier of this formation was the triarii. They were held in reserve and if the battle was going poorly for the army they represented the
last line able to hold the enemy back buying time for the soldiers of the other groups to reform their lines.
- Each of the three tactical units also could have a group of soldiers called Velites. These soldiers carried several light javelins which they would throw at
the approaching enemy in order to disrupt their formations. After throwing their weapons these soldiers would retreat behind the Roman lines who would then
engage the oncoming enemy.