Ancient Roman Army Tactics Facts
The ancient Romans were masters at the art of warfare. Ancient Roman army tactics were well thought out and usually executed with precision. In fact these tactics were one of
the main reasons how they were able to conquer most of the known world during the peak of their civilization. Below you will find a list of interesting facts and information
about the tactics of the Roman army written in a kid-friendly format.
Interesting Facts about Ancient Roman Army Tactics
- Much of what we know about ancient Roman Army tactics comes from the writings of a Roman military historian named Flavius Vegetius Renatus (often simply called Vegetius) who
lived in the 4th century AD.
- An important part of Roman Army tactics was the selection of the battlefield. The commanders would, when possible, attempt to choose ground favorable to their army. For example
the high ground was a major advantage for observation and increasing weapon range. The Roman generals would also carefully choose the terrain that the battle would take place
on; for example rocky terrain could be used to slow down an enemy's cavalry or infantry.
- The Roman Army commanders preferred to have the sun behind them during an attack in order to make it difficult for the enemy to see their positions and the movements of their forces.
- The army preferred to have the wind at their back when engaging a foe, blowing towards the enemy. This tactic would allow missiles hurled at the enemy to travel further and may also produce dust that could make it difficult for the enemy to see.
- The ancient Romans perfected siege tactics with weapons that could deliver missiles (rocks, arrows) long distances into the enemy's positions; one such weapon being the catapult.
- The Roman army would march in several columns as opposed to one unit. This was done to increase maneuverability.
- Prior to engaging the enemy with infantry and Calvary the Romans would often attempt to weaken the enemy by bombardment with ancient forms of artillery. These weapons, such as the ballista, would deliver missiles such as huge rocks and arrows into the enemy lines which was often quite effective at destroying enemy formations and morale.
- For most of its history the ancient Roman Army took a conservative strategy towards battle. Their tactics involved avoiding battle, if possible, when the enemy was too strong. They also employed tactics, when possible, that would avoid engagement of the army and the inevitable loss of soldiers if there were other means available by which to defeat the enemy such as a siege. These tactics became more prevalent in the later years of the empire whereas the army during the republic and early empire was less cautious and less conservative.
- The ancient Roman Army employed the tactic of vastatio; which means lay waste or devastation. When capturing or moving into the enemy's territory they would lay waste to it.
The Roman army would destroy the enemy's homes and other buildings, burn crops, and kill or enslave the people. This destruction was done for two main reasons. The first reason
was to destroy all the resources the enemy had that may be used against the Romans in the future. The second reason was to strike terror into the enemy and to others who would
hear about the destruction so that they would think twice about taking on the Roman Military.