Dated: Dated May 27, 1998, updated February 20, 2006
The earlier Roman army, being influenced by the Etruscans, fought much like the Greeks, in phalanxes. However, changing times brought new and different enemies against which the phalanx was not much good. Wars with their Latin neighbors introduced them to a new style of fighting which they promptly copied. This new style of fighting was much more flexible and worked well against their fellow Latins as well as the much more dangerous enemies, the Celts, which were appearing from the North.
In the front were the skirmishers, lightly armed with throwing javelins, whose jobs were to disrupt and harass the enemy and would retire when threatened by the main body of enemy. Their job was not to engage the main body. A Napoleonic equivalent would be the French voltigeurs. These Romans were called velites and were the youngest combatants. Today, these would be akin to our teenagers or high schoolers.
The first line of the main body were the Hastati. These were young and fit men, possibly akin to our college students or young people of college age. They could afford and wore the simplest of armor, large bronze metal plates front and back, a bronze helmet and an oval shield. They were armed with 2 pila. They would run up, throw the first pilum, throw the second pilum and then engage the enemy with swords. This would be akin to an artillery barrage and following up with infantry. If the Hastati failed to break the enemy or tired they would retire and the second line of fresh infantry would attack.
This second line were the Princeps. They were similarly armed and a little better armored than the Hastati. These men were older than the Hastati and could probably afford some mail armor. Their modus operandi would be the same, throw both pila and then engage with swords. Generally, the first two lines would do the trick, if they both failed to break the enemy, the last line would engage.
The last line were the Triari. These were men in the prime of their life, men who had families, heads of households, mature men, men who had experience. They were generally the best armored. They were also the vestiges of the old phalanx and were armed with spears. It was rare that the third line would fight and sometimes they would even be detached for guarding the camp.
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