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Line Relief and Triarii

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Line Relief and Triarii

Post by stephen82 on Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:01 pm

We're looking at a club rule to allow Triarii to also do line relief as well as Hastati and Principes to encourage their deployment on the table.

I was just wondering what the reason is for Triarii not being included in the Line Relief option as it stands. Our interpretation of the histories is that they would have been able to do it.

Is this just to keep the rule simple?

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Re: Line Relief and Triarii

Post by Jim Webster on Mon Nov 20, 2017 7:20 am

I think it stems from a differing interpretation of history.

In a lot of accounts the Triarii formed a single line at the rear and if the Hastati and Principes didn't win, they fell back around the Triarii to regroup.

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Re: Line Relief and Triarii

Post by stephen82 on Mon Nov 20, 2017 9:43 pm

Thanks for response Jim.

I'm aware of the descriptions of the Triarii being a line to fall back behind. The descriptions I have read say Hastati and Principes passed through not around the Triarii so I had taken this to support line relief rather than a reason not to have it.


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Re: Line Relief and Triarii

Post by Jim Webster on Mon Nov 20, 2017 10:15 pm

To me, that falling back is fair enough, but it's not line relief, it's just interpenetration (or units falling back through gaps)
With line relief the rear unit attacks, it doesn't brace itself and let it's friends fall back.
With the Principes in line relief, they will attack the enemy.
With the Triarii, the enemy might (or might not) hit them, it's largely the enemy's choice. It's a way to let the other Roman infantry escape
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Re: Line Relief and Triarii

Post by Gaius Cassius on Fri Nov 24, 2017 3:07 pm

I agree with your observation Stephen. They probably should be included as they too shared in the manipular system. On the other hand, I think you will find that Impetus does not do a great job representing Punic Roman tactics. I've given up trying to replicate it and use my Roman Punic Legions more in the manner of a Marian legion with the Triarii on the wings of a single legion line.
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Re: Line Relief and Triarii

Post by stephen82 on Sun Nov 26, 2017 4:12 pm

I find that the line relief system in Impetus provides a mechanism that has the potential to represent the outcome of the maniple system. By timing the line relief correctly, a player can withdraw a tired unit before it routs and counts towards the army’s demoralisation (VDT). This compares to a large unit whose rear ranks count towards VDT as they are removed.

However, as triarii are not included in the line relief mechanism we are seeing two things, they are either not deployed, or are deployed on the flanks. From looking at other posts on the forum this is a common outcome.

We are planning to introduce the following changes to the list for future use at the club:
1. Units of triarii can swap places with units of hastati and principes following the rules for line relief in Extra Impetus 4. No unit can be involved in more than one swap in a single turn.
2. Use the VBU5 triarii stats from the main rule book for normal and veteran legions. Triarii in raw and penal legions remain as they appear in Extra Impetus 4. As follows the justification in the main rules about them being half as strong as the other lines and at the same time makes them more affordable.
3. At least one unit of triarii must be deployed for every two legions deployed.

We tend to avoid changes rules at the club as it's difficult to get a consensus. As Jim pointed out, different interpretations of history!

Justification is as follows. If anyone is aware of other examples we should look at it would be appreciated.

Were the triarii normally present and deployed?
Yes. We know from both Polybius’ and Livy’s descriptions that the triarii were a standard part of the legions and therefore should assume they were present unless clearly stated otherwise.

There are two instances that mention both the hastati and principes attacking without direct mention the triarii. The first is outside the period for the army list, occurring in around 310BC (Livy 9.35). The other instance is an attack on a Spanish camp in 195BC, “he observed that the left gate was scantily defended, and there he directed the principes and hastati” (Livy 34.15). However, earlier in the passage it states “he [Cato] rode back to the second legion, stationed in reserve, and ordered it to advance as full speed and attack the enemy camp.” And, the previous passage (34.14) says that the Romans drew up their battle-line. This suggests that the normal legion components were there, including the triarii, but that the attack on the camp was led by the hastati and principes of the second legion.

Were the triarii often left to befend the baggage?
There are several mentions in Livy of the triarii making ramparts behind the other lines, but the other lines are not engaged at the time.

An example of this is an engagement with the Boii in 193BC, “On receiving their report as to the strength and position of the enemy he ordered the whole of the baggage to be collected together, and the triarii were told off to surround it with a breastwork” (Livy 35.4.6). The passage goes on to say that the Gauls also stopped to fortify their baggage and the battle started a few hours later. The account of the battle suggests that the triarii were now back part of their legions, “as the legion came up with its men fresh and its maniples complete” (Livy 35.5.6).

There is one account of the triarii being completely left to defend the camp (Livy 40.27) but this was a situation where the Romans were attacking out of their camp and were therefore not deploying for a normal pitched battle.

How were the triarii normally deployed?
All accounts that mention deployment suggest that the traditional three lines were deployed in the normal order; hastati, principes and then triarii. I do not know of any instances of the triarii being deployed anywhere other than as the rear line of the legion for a pitched battle.

Interestingly, there is evidence that even when they may have been the most suitable units they were still deployed to the rear. Polybius mentions a battle with the Insubres (2.33) where the triarii gave their spears to the hastati rather than redeploy the triarii to the front.

The accounts of the Battle of the Great Plains (Polybius 14.8) and the Battle of Zama (Polybius 15.9-14, Livy 30.33-34) have the triarii ending up on the wings. However, in both instances the accounts say they started in the rear of the formation. What we are seeing is a development in tactics by Scipio of expanding his line with the rear units to envelope the enemy. He is doing this knowing that this centre is secure.

Could triarii undertake line relief?
Jim, you suggest that there was a difference between an aggressive line relief between hastati and principes and a more defensive line relief involving the triarii. I am not aware of evidence for this and would be interested to see it.

Livy (8.8) is very clear that the triarii could undertake line relief, and in a similar fashion to the exchange of the principes and hastati. The forward line falls back through the rear line which then forms a single line and advances on the enemy.

"If they [hastati] failed to repulse the enemy, they slowly retired through the intervals between the companies of the principes who then took up the fight, … If the principes were also unsuccessful, they slowly retired to the triarii, …] When the triarii had admitted the hastati and principes through the intervals separating their companies, they rose from their kneeling posture and instantly closing their companies up they blocked all passage through them and in one compact mass fell on the enemy as the last hope of the army."

The front line retreating through the rear line is supported by Polybius (2.33) who comments that in a battle against the Insubres the Consul “Flaminius is thought to have made a strategic mistake in his arrangements for this battle. By drawing up his men along the very brink of the river, he rendered impossible a manœuvre characteristic of Roman tactics, because he left the lines no room for their deliberate retrograde movements; for if, in the course of the battle, the men had been forced ever so little from their ground, they would have been obliged by this blunder of their leader to throw themselves into the river.”

We know that the triarii were veteran soldiers who would have fought as hastati and principes when they were younger, so they would know how to perform line relief.

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Re: Line Relief and Triarii

Post by Gaius Cassius on Mon Nov 27, 2017 2:38 pm

I agree with your overall historical take. We did a lot of experimentation with the Mid Republican Roman list with respect to the Roman legion units (ie. we played a lot of Punic War games.) Nothing seemed to work well. However good luck to you.

A couple of practical observations from our experimentation. We rated the Triarii as VBU 5 B long spear units. So we seemed to have been thinking along the same track as you. Triarii were not, in our opinion, super hoplite Spartans. Rather they were the last Roman battle line and rallying point for the two front lines if they were beaten. We gave the Triarii 3 VD to represent the important morale role they played in the army and reduced the Hastati to 2 VD. In this way players were encouraged to take the Triarii to strengthen their command VD. This seemed historical to us.
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Re: Line Relief and Triarii

Post by Tarty on Wed Nov 29, 2017 5:51 am

Always thought the Triarii were the battle weary 'old vets' pirat ..... more keen on taking a back seat roll hahaha Can't remember where I read that??
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Re: Line Relief and Triarii

Post by Jim Webster on Thu Nov 30, 2017 7:22 am

in some battles they do seem to have been the camp guard
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Re: Line Relief and Triarii

Post by stecal on Thu Nov 30, 2017 12:33 pm

Jim Webster wrote:in some battles they do seem to have been the camp guard

That is how I always viewed it. Let the old men (really 30-40's) with businesses and families guard the camp.

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