Roman Units

Peasants

Peasants

The last option of any desperate army (except perhaps slaves or convicts), peasants are good for increasing your numbers...and not much else. Poorly armed and with little military experience, their morale and discipline are both understandably low. They are cheap to train, however, and their one advantage is an ability to hide well. Peasants should be used as an absolute last resort, or in cases where funds are extremely short.

Town Watch

Town Watch

As the name suggests, the town watch is more of a sentry force than anything else. A militia made up of local townspeople, it is poorly-armed and largely useless against any competent troops. However, when one considers the immense advantages given to the defender in the siege of any fortified town, it is obvious that even the watch can hold off enemies for a substantial amount of time. They are also useful for keeping peasants in line, as can be necessary in towns that have recently been captured, and are not yet entirely resigned to your rule.

Archers & Archer Auxilia

Archers & Archer Auxilia

Archers were used more widely by some cultures than others. The Romans, amongst almost all the peoples of the ancient world, were prominent in their disdain for archers (and indeed for almost any kind of ranged weapons). Nevertheless, archers are sometimes necessary (particularly, for example, in sieges), and the legions therefore recruited them from amongst the poorer sections of society, and from allies. They are not armoured and thus almost useless in hand-to-hand combat.

Velites

Velites

The lightly-armed velites, or skirmishers, were the fourth part of the Republican legion. They were also the poorest, as they could not afford even an infantryman's equipment, but instead were armed only with throwing javelins, which they flung at the enemy before the lines of infantry met. Velites were occasionally used to significant effect, as at Zama where Scipio Africanus used their javelins to drive away charging Carthaginian elephants. Velites disappeared after the Marian reforms, which made the legion a professional army in which men did not have to pay for their own weapons.

Hastati

Hastati

The Roman legion was made up of three kinds of infantry, the first of which were the hastati. Normally the youngest men of the legion, they were armed with two throwing javelins (pila - of shorter range than those of velites) and a sword. As they were less experienced than the other two lines of infantry, and also went into battle first (being in front), they often suffered the heaviest casualties. Those who survived the hastati were eminently qualified to move on to the more experienced principes.

Principes

Principes

These principes were normally men slightly older, in their 20's perhaps. They were, as mentioned before, more experienced, and as such were expected to shift the tide of the battle, after the hastati in front of them had worn down the enemy. They also carried two pila and a sword. Like the other two lines, they had an oval shield called a scutum.

Triarii

Triarii

The cream of the legion, the triarii was made up of men approaching middle age. These hardened veterans were literally the toughest infantry you could find in the ancient world. The triarii, behind the other two lines of infantry, were not always required to go into battle, but when they did, their enemies had reason to be worried. These men carried a long thrusting spear and a sword. Being richer, they could also afford better equipment. There were also less of them than of the other two lines.

Light Auxilia

Light Auxilia

When a Roman legion went to war, it normally had a roughly equal number of allied troops accompanying it. They were known as auxiliaries. The lightest-armed troops amongst these allies were roughly equivalent to Roman velites, playing a primarily skirmishing role. They carried throwing javelins. Being both light troops and non-Romans, they were quite often used as cannon fodder by Roman commanders.

Auxilia

Auxilia

As the light auxiliaries corresponded to Roman velites, the auxiliary infantry corresponded to the Roman legionnaires, although they were perhaps not as skilled. Often deployed on the flanks of the citizen troops, they again could expect to be sacrificed if necessary. Nevertheless, these troops were by no means incompetent, and the outcome of more than one Roman battle could have been swayed by them. In the later days of the Republic they were rewarded for their service with citizenship.

Early Legionary Cohort & Legionary Cohort

Early Legionary Cohort & Legionary Cohort

Roman legionaries are tough, professional troops with good armour and superb weapons. Their hallmarks are discipline, obedience and tactical flexibility. When approaching enemy fortifications, for example, they can use the turtle formation, or testudo, overlapping their shields for protection. Every legionary's flexible banded armour, the lorica segmenta, is of very good quality, as is the rest of his gear: a metal helmet and a large curved shield. They fight with two throwing spears (the pilum, plural pila) and a short stabbing sword, the gladius. Each pilum has a soft iron shaft behind the piercing head that is designed to bend as soon as it hits a target, making it impossible to pull out and throw back. Embedded in a shield a pilum hampers an enemy. Embedded in a man, it usually kills. Once the pila have been thrown, legionaries close and continue fighting with the stabbing gladius. The lorica segmenta armour was adopted because it was cheaper to make and offered more protection as the earlier chainmail.

Early Legionary First Cohort & Legionary First Cohort

Early Legionary First Cohort & Legionary First Cohort

After centuries of Roman infantry dominance on the battlefield, one almost feels compelled to ask how the reforms of Marius could possibly have made the legion any stronger. Yet they definitely had a substantial impact, and the Roman legionnaire of the late Republic/early Empire was truly a force to be reckoned with. They were no longer divided into hastati/principes/triarii according to the equipment they could afford, but instead had their arms provided by the Roman army, and served 20 year terms, unlike in earlier days, when armies were levied only during wars. The best legionaries in each legion would naturally gravitate through seniority into the first cohort.

Praetorian Cohort

Praetorian Cohort

Although the historical Praetorian Guard was an elite unit specifically tasked with protecting the person of the Emperor (which means they took part in more assassinations than anyone else), we can forgive the creators of Rome: Total War for taking some liberties with these units, for had they not, we would not be able to use Praetorian infantry in battle. And that would be a shame, for these are the best of the best, possibly the strongest infantry available in this game.

Urban Cohort

Urban Cohort

The only thing that Rome had resembling a police force, the Urban Cohort was intended mostly to maintain order in the great city. This is not intended to suggest that they were any less qualified to fight than the legions in the field; in fact, it was quite the opposite, since only the best were chosen to serve in Rome. The Urban Cohort could create a lot of problems for you should you ever choose to march on Rome...

Incendiary Pigs

Incendiary Pigs

This is the unit that everyone has been talking about. The Romans employed groups of pigs, coated in tar and oil and then set on fire, as a sort of primitive artillery. Apart from scaring elephants and horses, they could be useful in disrupting infantry formations. Obviously, the pigs did not survive for very long after being set on fire...

War Dogs

War Dogs

Used occasionally in battle by various nations, these dogs were deliberately starved to make them all the more fierce (and hungry!). They were trained to target horse's hamstrings and therefore could be used against either infantry or cavalry. Although they were obviously never used on the scale possible in the game, they could be a fairly formidable deterrent to any group of infantry.

Velite Gladiators

Velite Gladiators

Amongst the many poor souls who fought for their lives in the Gladiatorial Games, the velites were perhaps the bravest, as they were armed only with a spear and a shield. The Games were started by Roman politicians as a way of pleasing the masses (and therefore receiving their votes); they rose to huge and quite obscene proportions in later years, as hundreds of men and animals were slaughtered for the entertainment of citizens. Velite Gladiators are available only to the Brutii.

Samnite Gladiators

Samnite Gladiators

Samnium was a mountainous area in the South of Italy, and one that had risen in revolt more than once. Samnite Gladiators were tough like the land they came from, and fought with a sword and shield in the arena. Like all the other gladiators, their lives depended both on chance and on the extremely fickle favour of the crowds. Samnite gladiators are available to the Julii.

Mirmillo Gladiators

Mirmillo Gladiators

Mirmillo gladiators are superb individual fighters, unmatched by any ordinary soldiers. They wear apparently impractical armour, but then it is designed to stop a quick kill in the arena, not necessarily keep them alive in a battle. They would normally fight singly as half of a matched pair, against another style of fighter, but on a battlefield they form a unit all of their own. They care little for personal safety as they are part of the damnati: the disgraced, the condemned, the untouchables in society. They fight; they win; they may gain freedom... eventually. Mirmillo Gladiators fight exclusively for the Scipii.

Cavalry Auxilia

Cavalry Auxilia

Of course, the auxiliaries also provided cavalry, although these were often not very well-trained. Armed with throwing javelins, they could be used to pressure an enemy, or chase off their skirmishers, but were largely useless in an actual battle. Do not depend on auxiliary cavalry too much (or at all), for they are weaker even than Roman cavalry, and cavalry was always the weak point of the infantry-dominated Roman legion, one that led to defeat on more than one embarrassing occasion.

Equites

Equites

Service in the Roman legions depended largely on one's economic standing. While the infantry was made up of those who merely owned land (and not even that, after the reforms of Marius), the cavalry consisted of people from the equestrian class - the 'knights' who could afford their own horses and weapons, and who in peacetime were often the businessmen of the middle class. Armed with spears, they were useful for ambushes, for pressuring the enemy flanks, and - more importantly than is often realized - for chasing a fleeing enemy and cutting men down before they could escape.

Roman Cavalry

Roman Cavalry

These Roman cavalry were almost always the richest segments of society, or the sons of aristocrats. In battle, the commanding general always rode with the citizen cavalry. Because of this, they were often incompetent nobles who served in the army only to further their political careers. Nevertheless, the cavalry could be brave, and a fierce charge could on occasion turn the tide of a battle. They were organized into ten turmae of thirty horses each.

Generalís Bodyguard & Generalís Armoured Bodyguard

General's Bodyguard & General's Armoured Bodyguard

A bodyguard was, historically speaking, a functional unit, rather than a type of soldier. In the game, however, they are spear-armed shock cavalry, whose success or failure depends to a large extent on the personal characteristics of the general who they are guarding - his effect on their morale, for example, or on their discipline, will play a large role in determining how they fight. They are in all cases excellent troops.

Legionary Cavalry

Legionary Cavalry

Let us be blunt - the term 'legionary cavalry' is a paradox, since the word legionary itself refers to the infantry that made up most of the Roman legion. Nevertheless - in Rome: Total War, the Legionary Cavalry are a more powerful strain of the Roman Cavalry unit, able to take on almost any foe besides spearmen (which are of course a natural counter to any kind of cavalry).

Praetorian Cavalry

Praetorian Cavalry

Once again we are faced with a largely fictional unit; however, we can figure out its basic properties. Praetorian Cavalry are the toughest units that are available to a Roman player in the game, and can be used to good effect against almost any sort of enemy. The real Praetorians, for the record, who were meant to guard the Emperor, were not defined as infantry or cavalry so much as by their responsibility - looking after the person of the Empire's ruler, that is.

Ballistae

Ballistae

A Ballista is a sinew-powered weapon that looks like an enormous crossbow. It has tremendous range and can skewer files of men with a single bolt! While a Ballista might look like a huge crossbow, its working principles are rather different. The two arms are pushed through ropes made of tough animal sinew. This naturally elastic material is then twisted, and becomes a hugely powerful spring, pulling each arm forwards. The arms are pulled back, creating even more tension, the Ballista is loaded with a missile, and then this is shot at the enemy with considerable force. Providing care is taken to make sure that the two sinew bundles are under the same tension, the Ballista is a very accurate weapon, but because sinew is sensitive to damp a Ballista does not work well in wet weather.

Repeating Ballistae

Repeating Ballistae

The repeating ballista is a semi-automatic artillery weapon. As long as it is loaded with bolts and cranked it will keep firing. The basic design is similar to a ballista: twisted animal sinew ropes provide the power. There is an ingenious winding mechanism that draws back the arms, drops a bolt into place and then releases a catch - and all this happens repeatedly as long as a windlass is turned. This makes it a perfect weapon for creating a 'beaten zone' or targeting large enemy formations, when speed of fire is more important than pinpoint accuracy.

Scorpions

Scorpions

A Roman scorpion is a sinew-powered weapon that looks like a large bow laid sideways on a frame. It has a tremendous range and can skewer a man with a single shot! While a scorpion might look like a huge bow, its working principles are rather different. The two arms are pushed through ropes made of tough animal sinew which is then twisted, becoming a hugely powerful spring, pulling each arm forwards. The arms are pulled back, creating even more tension, the scorpion is loaded with a missile, and then this is shot at the enemy with considerable force and accuracy. Providing care is taken to make sure that the two sinew bundles are under the same tension, the scorpion is a very accurate weapon, but because sinew is sensitive to damp a scorpion may not work properly in wet weather.

Onagers

Onagers

An onager, unlike a ballista, worked similarly to a catapult. These machines could be used to hurl projectiles up to half a mile (with the larger versions). The Roman used them in many different ways: large boulders were flung at walls to help bring them down; many smaller rocks were used against enemy troops as a sort of shrapnel; various burning projectiles were used to try and spread fire; and diseased animal carcasses were flung into the enemy-held city to spread disease.

Heavy Onagers

Heavy Onagers

The heavy onager is an enormous catapult built using the same basic design as its sibling and capable of smashing down stone fortifications. It is powered by a twisted bundle of animal sinew ropes, and is slow to wind back and reload. Its missiles are devastating, and it can also fire incendiary firepots. Range is no more than the smaller onager and this makes the heavy onager susceptible to counter fire. Often, it is best employed alongside smaller artillery to deal with enemy fire.

Roman Arcani

Roman Arcani

They are a shadowy part of the Roman army organised in small groups and competent in camouflage and deception. The arcani exist almost as a secret society whose very name should not be spoken. The armour they wear is finely crafted so that while it offers great protection, it will not slow or tire the fantastically fit arcani troops. Their face masks mean opposing troops may even flee in terror when surprised by a group of these blood-thirsty killers!

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