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Legionnaires vs Knights

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by bladesyz, Sep 24, 2006.

  1. bladesyz

    bladesyz IncGamers Member

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    Legionnaires vs Knights

    This was inspired from the hand-to-hand weapon thread, where it was briefly mentioned about the powers of cavalry vs infantry, and Roman legionnaires vs medieval knights.

    Dondrei mentioned that there was a general degeneration of warfare in the medieval era (let's say, pre-renaissance and pre-firearms, for the sake of argument).

    While it's certainly true that the size of armies and battles got much smaller in the Dark Ages, owing to feudalism and smaller kingdoms, I think military technology has progressed by a lot.

    Roman gladius and pilums can't possibly compare to medieval longswords and warhammers. Legionnaire armors are also far beneath medieval full plates, which are really quite a marvel of engineering in their own right. Add to that the medieval progress in using horses in battle, I think the Romans would've found it difficult to take on a company of French Knights without resorting to overwhelming numbers.

    As for the lack of brilliant generals and military tactics, Charlesmagne and Joan of Arc comes to mind. Although it is true that medieval battles, with the exception of the crusades, were fought on a much smaller scale, so there aren't as many renowned generals who went on to conquer a huge swathe of land.
     
  2. {KOW}Spazed

    {KOW}Spazed Banned

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    Long bows and war elephants would probably own most nights.

    You are putting a single type of unit against an entire army. Legionnaires could focus on many different weapons. A hundred legionnaires would have guys with pikes, bows, and maybe even a chariot. The knights would have horses and their chosen weapon.

    A chariot would easily beat the horses, unless the knights had some way of attacking the driver while not loosing a weapon. A lance wouldn't work because the driver would just duck and hitting the horse would still end up hurting you.

    In a ground battle the knights would be many times slower than the legionnaires and their swords would be only good for hitting limbs. A long sword wouldn't make it through lorica segmentata or even a scutum. They would bend and possibly snap. The romans would only have to get behind the knights(who weren't as good at fighting as a group) and use their shorter stronger swords or even a pilum to pierce the heavy armor of the knights.

    I would say the legionnaires win with minor casualties.
     
  3. superdave

    superdave IncGamers Member

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    what side do the midgets fight for?
     
  4. HAMC8112

    HAMC8112 IncGamers Member

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    For the 6 foot Dwarf king.
     
  5. bladesyz

    bladesyz IncGamers Member

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    War elephants are extremely expensive and rare. They are also much more difficult to train than horses. A rain of fire arrows would spook the elephants enough to trample their own army.

    I'd like to see roman long bows against Welsh long bows. I don't think the Romans would stand a chance.

    Errrmm... no? Chariots were used only when they didn't have horses strong enough to carry people. They became obsolete once the cavalry became widespread. An armored war horse could easily knock over and trample a chariot, even one with spiked wheels. A horse is also more mobile than a chariot, allowing a knight to easily slaughter the horses pulling the chariot with a couple of ride-by attacks.


    A longsword was made to cut through chainmail and possibly plate armor. Roman armor isn't even going to be a challenge for it.

    There's also no way roman short swords can pierce plate. They were NOT stronger. Medieval blacksmiths had a greater mastery of their craft than the Roman equivalents. A pilum would bounce off the plate of a knight. Even a two-handed spear thrust is not strong enough to go through plate, except at weak points, so a one-handed short spear is not going to do it.

    As for battle discipline, that's quite debatable. While legionnaries under Julius Caesar were extremly disciplined, those of the latter Roman periods were pretty poorly trained. Similiarly, knights under the likes of Charlesmagne and Richard Lionheart were also an elite cadre. Crusaders, especially, were driven by religious fervor which gave them an extreme determination and morale.
     
  6. Ash Housewares

    Ash Housewares IncGamers Member

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    well... the infantry would likely engage eachother while the cavalry did likewise, seeing as how knights would be most interested in fighting wealthier men they could possibly capture and ransom while allowing their men-at-arms to grind it out with enemy infantry, depending on the nation fighting, you might also have longbowmen or genoese crossbowmen
     
  7. Kaysaar

    Kaysaar IncGamers Member

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    Their religious fervor also drove them to act impetuously. During the battle of Hattin the crusaders carried a "piece of the True Cross" with them to battle, and because they carried the relic, they thought themselves invincible. Because of this, the advanced out of the range of their water supply, and were slaughtered.

    This overall question begs for specification. The relative state of arms and armor in the medieval world varied greatly from the onset of the Dark Ages through the Renaissance. Sure the knights under Richard I were elite, but they still only wore chainmail. It wasn't about until the 100 years war where we begin to see the development of effective plate armor, and it wasn't until about 1500 when we see plate armor at it's peak.
     
  8. HAMC8112

    HAMC8112 IncGamers Member

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    I would say that it would be up to the commanders of such "armies". It doesnt matter if it is 300 against 800 or 30.000 against 80.000, the deciding factor is the commander or general or what ever his rank is.
     
  9. HAMC8112

    HAMC8112 IncGamers Member

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    Double post!
     
  10. bladesyz

    bladesyz IncGamers Member

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    Very true. I was thinking mostly about plate armor, though I think 1500's is a bit too late. Of course, I don't think the reign of the full plate lasted long before it was rendered obsolete by firearms anyway.

    Still, even the chainmail is a vast improvement over roman banded mail: it offers better protection against slashing and better mobility.

    Of course, the state of Roman military also varied greatly over the 1000 year or so they reigned.
     
  11. Kaysaar

    Kaysaar IncGamers Member

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    For the knights, I think a good standard of knighthood would be about 1400, and as for Rome, the Reign of Octavian (Augustus) seems to be a decent peak for the height of Rome.
     
  12. Ash Housewares

    Ash Housewares IncGamers Member

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    stop saying chainmail, it makes the medievalist in me cry
     
  13. jimmyboy

    jimmyboy IncGamers Member

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    Warfare is a progression of technology and tactics. Had Roman tactics, weapons and armor been superior, the Knights would have kept it instead of modernizing.

    It was a progression within the same military culture.
     
  14. Dondrei

    Dondrei IncGamers Member

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    There are way too many factors, I mean if you say "100 legionaries vs. 100 medieval cavalry" the question is way too simple and unbalanced. There are all sorts of things to take into account; relative expense (a medieval knight costs a lot more than a Roman ranker, they wouldn't be able to field equal numbers of them), tactics, strategy, fighting style, terrain, auxiliary companies and on and on.

    But we can debate a few specific points for fun. For one thing, the Roman preference for light armour was a conscious choice, the classical period did have heavy armour (Parthian cataphracts were essentially early versions of the medieval knight, they armoured their horses and everything) but the Romans always chose light infantry (and light to medium cavalry in their auxiliaries) for their mainstay. Heavier armour has its disadvantages as well as its advantages.

    And the quality of the individual layers of armour were not very far off, Roman steelwork was very advanced while metallurgy progressed very slowly in the medieval period (a lot of the earlier knowledge was lost for a while there). The main difference is that medieval knights wore chain AND plate.

    There's no doubt that certain military technologies progressed a lot, the longbow is a good example. Had it been around in Roman times there's no doubt the Romans would've eagerly incorporated longbowman auxiliaries into their legions. If we're going to compare the two one should perhaps look at either the style of combat or the weapons themselves in isolation. I mean, are we debating Roman weapons vs. medieval or Roman military tactics/style vs. medieval?

    I'd say the medieval period had a few technological advantages (probably not crushing advantages though), but their over-reliance on cavalry and other (in my opinion) more primitive military thinking meant that these were not used to their full advantage. Give the Romans a few squads of longbowmen auxiliaries and see how well they do.

    P.S. "legionnaires" is for members of the French foreign legion, etc (comes from the French version of the word). The correct term for members of Roman legions is "legionary".

    It's true that the Roman foot-soldiers-with-auxiliaries system was better (in my opinion) than a pure cavalry army, but I should point out that the chariot was obsolete by Roman times, they didn't use them. In fact they thought it was quite a novelty when they found the Gauls still used them, they made firewood out of them.

    And they didn't use war elephants either, those things have all the weaknesses of horses times a hundred.

    You're definitely right that their bows would be outclassed, the Romans didn't even have longbows; their auxiliaries used short bows. They also had slingers, by the way.

    There's no doubt bow technology took a big step forward with the longbow.

    That's not true, Roman metallurgy was at least up to the standard of medieval (of course it may depend on exactly what kind of technique, where the steel comes from and so on). Noricum steel was a primitive manganese steel, tough stuff indeed. A lot of knowledge of this sort of thing was lost in the Dark Ages. I think that on this score the armies would be about equally matched.

    Definitely true, Roman military might stagnated in the late Empire and ultimately crumbled. Also, leadership was highly variable at all times, the biggest Roman military weakness was a tendency to appoint incompetent generals for political reasons. But then, good Roman generals were among the best the world has ever seen.

    Erm, Romans had chain too, you know. The officers wore it, although it wasn't just a symbol of rank - I think its usage varied, sometimes they wore lorica hamata (chain) and sometimes lorica segmentata (banded). They also had lorica squamata (scale). Don't underestimate the banded armour either, the Romans seemed to think the two kinds were about equal (since they used them somewhat interchangeably). In fact chain predated banded.

    I'd say Caesar's time and the preceding 200 years though, Octavian himself really marked the beginning of the end of Roman military supremacy. He set the borders to stop further expansion and operated through guile rather than might - I think he knew Rome was denuded of the great generals of the previous generation and tried to keep up the impression of military supremacy without having to put its mettle to the test.

    Pedant.

    Well, kettle and pot I suppose.
     
  15. Dondrei

    Dondrei IncGamers Member

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    Erm, no. I'm afraid it's much more complicated than that. History is not so linear.
     
  16. PatMaGroin

    PatMaGroin IncGamers Member

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    Legionnaire = Rank 9 Horde

    Knight = Rank 6 Alliance

    Legionnaire > Knight
     
  17. {KOW}Spazed

    {KOW}Spazed Banned

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    Are we including artillery? Canons may beat out ballista and catapults, although Their range and shot may not have been as effective(I flaming oil filled jar would cause more problems than a heavy iron ball). Of course range and the mental factor of canons might make up for that.
     
  18. rplusplus

    rplusplus IncGamers Member

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    Dont forget in overall warfare there are other factors that come in.

    Information - knowing where an enemy is and his strenghts and weaknesses. Spy's and the ability for commanders to postion their troops to exploit weaknesses are invaluable to overall victory.

    Weather/Acts of God - Spanish Armada anyone.

    Guerrila warfare - untrained underequiped militias have time after time hounded structured well armed armies.

    The whole realm of intraspecific warfare is much mor complicated than just equipment and training.

    And as for the cost expeditures of conventional warfare sometimes fielding twice as many less armed warriors against fewer well armed combatants can be more effective. In the 80's the military found that if it produced less expensive F16 and F18 fighters as compared to the more heavily ordnance capable F14 and F15's against Russia's numbers proved the better choice and eventually helped win the cold war.

    Yarr++
     
  19. Dondrei

    Dondrei IncGamers Member

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    I thought we were talking pre-gunpowder. Roman seige weapons were superior to the catapults of the Middle Ages.
     
  20. {KOW}Spazed

    {KOW}Spazed Banned

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    If gun powder is taken out then the romans win, they weren't afraid to use fire and had the man power to dig big trenches that stop calvary.


    EDIT: In a full on war the Legions were much more accustomed to living off the land as well. The knights are too well mannered to be a truly effective fighting force.
     

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