The Romans
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Mare Nostrum

Roman Weapons and Tactics

by T. J.


The Roman Empire was one of the greatest military powers the world had ever seen. They conquered a large portion of the civilized world. They did it by using superior weapons and tactics.

Basic Equipment

  • Cassis- helmet
  • Lorica Segmentata- armor
  • Gladius- sword, 18-24 in. long
  • Pilium- medium-length throwing spear
  • Scutum- shield
  • Red Battle Cloak
  • Sandals

The cassis was a bronze general issue helmet. Many say it resembles a pot.

The armor was the lorica segmentata. It consisted of many plates of armor layered upon the one before it.

The gladius was a very effective sword. It was a smaller sword used for thrusting instead of a long, heavy one, because a long, heavy one took to much energy to fight with.

The pilium played a vital role in battle. It was a metal point attached to a wooden rod. The pilium was jabbed into the shield of an enemy and would break. The enemy could no longer use his shield, making him more vulnerable to death.

The Roman soldier's frontal protection was the scutum. It was a shield that stood 40 inches tall, and 30 wide. It was curved to give protection from the flank as well.

A long red cloak was worn during battle also. This no only kept the soldier warm, but it put fear into the eyes of the enemy as well.

A soldier is nothing without shoes. At that time, they had sandals. They were rugged and easy to repair.


Many men never saw the men they killed. They were the artillery men. They killed the enemy from hundreds of yards away. Four main artillery pieces were used:
  • Scorpio
  • Ballista
  • Onager
  • Catapult

The scorpio was similar to a crossbow of the later middle ages. It fired an arrow by pulling a strap back as far as it would go and letting it go.

The ballista was similar to a catapult. It flung large rocks over walls of a town. It was also fired by pulling back a strap.

The onager was a smaller version of the ballista. It flung medium-sized rocks in the same fashion of the ballista.

The catapult is probably the most famous of the four. It had a spring which was coiled and released and caused the rock to fly through the air and inflict injuries to the enemy.

Note: The stone flinging artillery used many types of ammunition. Flamming balls of pitch are one example. They were not limited to just rocks.


  • Sheild to Sheild
  • Battle Readiness
  • Starvation
  • Training

In battle, the Roman soldiers would stand with the shields in front side by side, and in the rows behind, with the shields on top of the heads of the ones in front. It made an advancing group of Romans a giant tortise, and less vulnerable to artillery fire. This also made the group of soldiers a giant wall that couldn't be broken without many casualties.

During a fierce battle, a soldier can get easily get tired. The Romans solved this. A soldier would only be at the front of a fighting column for fifteen minutes, then move to the back. This was invaluable to the soldiers.

Starving a sieged town into submission was a favorite of the Romans. The town would be surrounded, plastered with artillery, and wait for the supplies to run out. But if this took too long, siege towers were built. These allowed the Roman soldiers to scale walls of a town easily. Together they worked like a charm.

Training was the most important tactic to the Roman Army. The Romans were trained to fight hard and improvise. Every soldier was trained like an engineer. They could make anything out of anything.


The real reason the Roman Empire was so victorious in its military conquests, is because the men were so close to each other. Each man thought of the next as his brother. If he ran from battle, he was letting down his family, this was unbearable to think of, so men stayed by their brothers no matter what the odds of the battle were.

Works Cited