Roman civilization began around 1,000 BCE. In its early days, the Romans had to fight off celtic barbarian tribes. These battles provided practice and initiative for the Romans to build their fighting force. In 396 BCE, the Romans drove out their Etruscan friends and began what would become one of the most powerful Nations of its time.
Much like the Greeks, the Romans used a Phalanx as their main formation. The Phalanx proved to be very powerful in its Greek days, and served the Romans well. The phalanx was a formation in which there were lines of men in the front with shields defending the formation, and lines behind them with Javelins resting on the front line shields. Rows behind this second line also had Javelins raised, ready to come down should the second line fall. Later on, however, the Romans moved on to using menables, or “handfuls” of men instead of a phalanx.
The Romans had a very sophisticated line-up of armor for their time, called the Panoply. The Roman helmet, or Galea improved on the Greek one by still offering good protection of the head, however not restricting hearing or vision. The Roman helmet was more than one piece. The top piece covered the top of the skull, and metal flaps came down over the cheeks for more protection. The Roman shield, or Scutum was in the beginning round and flat like the Greek Shield. Later on, it evolved into a larger, rectangular, curved shield. During the days of the Roman Republic, the Scutum was made of layered wood, canvas, leather, and Iron bindings. As Rome evolved, so did its shield. In Rome’s imperial days, the shield was called a Scuta. This was when the shield turned from oval and flat to rectangular and curved. The curved aspect of the shield allowed it to protect the body from a wider angle. The height of the shield also helped protect the lower body better than the Greek Shield did. The Romans also innovated the suit of Armor by armoring their troops with plates of metal and Chainmail. These two combined armors provided great protection. Chainmail was a good defense against slashing attacks, however not as good for stabbing ones.
Roman weaponry was also superior to their enemies. The typical Roman soldier had a throwing Javelin, or Pilum, and a short sword for stabbing, called a gladius. The Roman javelin had a softer tip, that bent on impact, so the pila could not be thrown back at the Romans.The gladius was broad at the base, and tapered off to a sharp tip. The gladius was a great stabbing weapon, and allowed soldiers to cut down enemies after throwing their pila.
The main Roman war unit was the legion of 4,800 men. This legion also had 300 cavalry (included in 4,800). The legion was split up into 10 cohorts of 480 men. Cohorts were split up into 6 centuries of 80 men. Centurions led the centuries, and were responsible for disciplining and training the men. Centuries had at least 15 years of experience.
Cavalry would first harass the enemy and break up their formation, then the Phalanx (or menable) would destroy the enemy. Fleeing foes would be chased down by the Cavalry.
At this point in time, Rome’s enemies were not ready for Roman war sophistication. This is what made Rome a War Machine. Rome had superior weapons and armor, and groundbreaking tactics. Rome’s enemies were no match.