Roman Battle Tactics

By: Lucas Fulle

  1. Early Roman Tactics
  2. Military Reform
  3. Battle of Alesia
  4. Works Cited

1) Early Roman Tactics:

By 390 BC The Roman Empire’s military tactics were in dire need of major reform. The soldiers and armies of The Roman Empire were fighting their opponents with outdated tactics and suffered defeats and losses because of it. Although the tactics that were incorporated by the Roman armies were, at one point, successful in fighting against the Greek Phalanx, they soon proved to no longer be effective in combat. One such example is in The Battle of Allia, where the Romans were completely defeated by the hands of the Gallic tribes. Through-out the next fifty years the Romans continued to fight Gallic and Italian tribes with these outdated battle tactics. These battles would most-often end in either a defeat or substantial losses on for the Roman armies. In ancient times, The Romans would gather in herd-like formations and simply charge at the opposing factions army and would fight until either surrender or defeat. Sensing a need for change, Roman military commanders began to reorganize the forces and institute new and more effective battle tactics.

2) Military Reform:

Of the many things that changed in the Roman military, the first to be renovated was the structure of the roman armies as a whole. Instead of just traveling and fighting in a large pack, many new divisions and organizations of troops were used under Caesar. At the lower tier there was the Contubernium that contained 8 men, a Centuria consisting of 10 Contubernium units. Then there was the Cohorts which contained a total of 480 men or 6 Centuries. Normally the highest tier of organization was the famous Roman Legion, this unit was made up of 10 Cohorts for a grand total of 4800 fighting men, along-side support and auxiliary units.

The next issue that was innovated and used by the first dictator of Rome, Caesar, was the actual tactics that the legions would use in combat. Some famous deployments are shown below:
In these battle formations, the troops in the blocks would be deployed into battle via triple-line system. What this means is that the roman forces would form 3 line of infantry; one behind another, this allowed for the soldiers to take a break or to start a retreat in desperate times.

3) The Battle of Alesia:

The Battle of Alesiawas one of the famous battles in which Caesar won during his campaign in Gaul and took place from September to October in 52 BC. The Battle of Alesia is a terrific example of the effective use of Roman military tactics in battle and combat. In this battle Julius Caesar and his 12 legions, with approximately 60,000 troops, laid siege to Alesia, which was under the control of Vercingetorix and his 80,000 men. Caesar fought the Gauls until his army lost a battle against Vercingetorix. From there the Gallic leader decided to avoid another battle with Caesar and retreated to the city of Alesia, then after Caesar rejected an invasion, began to siege the city. The Romans built walls and fortifications to prevent attacks from within the city and from relief forces. In late September of Commius lead a relief army to launch an attack on Caesar’s outer walls while Vercingetorix attacked his inner walls; both proved ineffective and failed. The Battle was over when the Gallic leaders surrendered to The Roman Empire.

4) Works Cited: