Ancient Warfare Vol XI, Issue 5: Riding into Battle - Ancient mounted warfare

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Ancient Warfare Vol XI, Issue 5: Riding into Battle - Ancient mounted warfare

The first thing to point out about this edition is that the focus is on mounted warfare, not on horse cavalry. We thus get two articles on elephants, one on dromedary, one on infantry who fought alongside horses, and two on horses. This is a good balance.

We start with a look at the Pydna monument, erected at Delphi by the victorious Roman commander after the battle (using a partly completed monument ordered by the over-confident King P of Macedon). The focus here is on a series of carvings showing a mix of Roman and Macedonian troops, comparing the author’s views with another well regarded account to make the point that any artistic source can be interpreted in many different ways.

The tombstone of Q. Atilius Primus provides us with a very different view of life outside the Roman borders – most histories tend to focus on periods of instability and warfare, but here we have a man who was able to set himself up as a merchant thirty miles across the border, after a career in the Roman Army, and who lived in an area that was stable enough for his heirs to consider it worthwhile erecting a Roman style gravestone.

The theme on mounted warfare covers a wider topic than just horse based cavalry. There is an interesting article on the dromedary troops used to patrol some of the Empire’s desert borders, and a completion of methods used successfully against elephants (from flaming pigs to Scipio’s famous infantry tactics). Elephants also get a second article, looking at the last time the Romans encountered or used them, the battle of Thapsus during Caesar’s African War.

We then move onto an article looking at the Hamippoi, a type of infantry who fought alongside the cavalry, but who are rather badly documented. The aim here is to bring together all of the possible references to this type of soldier, which shows that they were used across a long time period, but does run the risk of including very different troops who perhaps fought in very different ways and with different roles. Finally we reach one article looking at horses, in this case directly looking at the evidence for the veterinary care provided by the Roman Legions.

Away from the main there is an interesting article suggesting that the pilum was actually the main weapon on the Roman battlefield. Personally I don’t find this article convincing, as it appears to be based around the idea that the two pilum carried by each soldier would be enough to sustain hours of battle, but it is a thoughtful idea.

Finally there is a look at a fairly obscure troop type mentioned in a Roman military manual, coming up with a convincing explanation for who they were.

GGo to Ancient Warfare Magazine Website

Patrolling the desert - Roman dromedary troops
Bane of behemoths - Anti-elephant tactics
Final fight with elephants - The battle of Thapsus, 46 BC
The Hamippoi - Running with the horses
Keeping the horses fit - Veterinaries of the Roman Army
Physical Sources - The Pydna monument
A man of many talents - Q. Atilius Primus’ tombstone
Pila on the battlefield - Tekne Taktike, part V
Serving under a banner - who were Hyginus’ vexillarii?

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