Legionary disposition

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Legionary disposition

Postby Quintus Marius Primus on Mon Jun 07, 2004 1:50 pm

Salvete

I have read that in the post-Marian legion the strongest cohorts were positioned to the right of the formation.

Does anyone know why this is so? Was it just some sort of historical convention that the right should be favoured or was there actually some tactical rationale behind this?

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Mon Jun 07, 2004 10:27 pm

Salve Quinte Prime

It was an historical convention because it offered a tactical advantage. Historically it is the left flank that collapsed first in ancient battles. Attacking a man on his left, where he holds his shield, he tended to turn and fall on the next person in line. As the line began to compact on itself, its men were less able to use their weapons. Just the opposite happens by attacking from the right. The line begins to spread, which would not benefit a phalax so much, but for the Roman manner of fighting this tended to counter the natural tendency of men in combat to bunch together, leaving them then space to wield their swords more effectively.

In a Roman line the centurians were posted to the right of their maniple. This eased command and control of the line. The line would tend to move towards him as he directed, dress right. So again, applying pressure to the left of a maniple tended to move it onto itself, towards it centurian. Where as the centurian on the right, moving out faster, would tend to wheel the line towards the left, making it easier to assault the enemy's left.
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Postby Quintus Marius Primus on Fri Jun 11, 2004 3:02 pm

Tibi multas gratias ago - that actually makes a load of sense! Now I know why!

I guess the Romans could have introduced one cohort of left-handed legionnaries and positioned it on the extreme left of the legion, in order to prevent the left flank from collapsing. Having played left-handed people in various sports (eg fencing, tennis) I know how confusing it is for right-handed people to face south paws. It would have certainly confused the opposition.
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