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Total War: Shogun 2 Heaven » Forums » Total War History » Roman Legion VS Catalan Company
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Topic Subject:Roman Legion VS Catalan Company
Alex_the_Bold
Ashigaru
posted 11-04-12 04:06 PM EDT (US)         
I wonder whether a 1st century Roman legion would defeat in battle the Catalan Company at its height, when it hosted 1,500 knights and 4,000 Almoghavars. What do you think?

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
AuthorReplies:
Thompsoncs
Ashigaru
posted 11-04-12 05:21 PM EDT (US)     1 / 10       
A roman legion (usually not at full numbers) would number around 5000 men, if I recall correctly, including a limited number of cavalry. This comparisson seems strange, since a roman legion seldom fought on its own. Usually they were joined by auxilia forces, especially cavalry. In bigger battles there would likely be more than one legion present.

But assuming a legion found itself in such a situation without auxilia:

The Romans have already proven to have a difficult time defeating iberian forces, especially in guerilla style warfare.

On the other hand, the Almogavars were light infantry, and were not known for their discipline. In a direct melee with legionaries they would lose without a doubt.

1500 knights however is a lot versus only one legion. They would hugely outnumber the roman cavalry, which means a huge tactical disadvantage to the romans.

I think this could end in a roman defeat, but the catalan company will have to avoid a direct melee fight as long as possible and lure the romans on ground that favors cavalry or ambushes.
Agrippa 271
Ashigaru
posted 11-04-12 11:14 PM EDT (US)     2 / 10       
Yeah, as Thompsoncs said, a sole legion wouldn't have had anything capable of dealing with 1,500 14th Century knights. So, even considering the massive superiority of the infantry, all the Catalans had to do was play hammer and anvil.

That being said, the comparison probably wouldn't be a very accurate demonstration of how such a conflict would have occurred. The Romans most certainly would have had auxiliaries, which would have probably led to a Roman victory. Given that Medieval armies were so inferior in terms of equipment, discipline, and tactics, the only army I can think of that could beat the Romans, when they had a competent commander and a sizable cavalry force, would be an English army with longbow men. In which case it would likely be a blood bath. The Romans would have to be in testudo formation to even stand a chance against the arrows, leaving them wide open to cavalry charges.

Death is a (vastly) preferable alternative to communism.
"Idiocy knows no national or cultural borders. Stupidity can strike anyone, anywhere." -- Terikel
Alex_the_Bold
Ashigaru
posted 11-05-12 00:27 AM EDT (US)     3 / 10       
If you'd like, let's add a couple of auxiliary units, prferably two cohors miliariae and a cohors equitata quingenaria. Then we should add the 3,000 Turkish horse archers the Catalan Company recruited during their eastern adventures. I believe that the horse archers armed with compound bows, such as the Parthians in Carrhae, would deal a huge blow. In addition, since the Catalan Company was a highly mobile force, legionary artillery would have a hard time hitting them.

Also the Almogavars would avoid direct contact with the legion. It was a common mercenary practice to minimise the casualties sustained. However, I still believe that Roman discipline would carry the day...

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 11-05-12 02:16 AM EDT (US)     4 / 10       
Battles are fought for a reason: the possession of a town or terrain feature, the destruction of an enemy force, or blocking the enemy from the above. And for other reasons.

Should the battle above be a "destruction of force" by the Catalans against teh Romans, I believe the superior mobility and combat power of the knights would prevail. The Catalan light infantry has little or no missiles, but it is large enough of a presence on the battlefield to hold and fix the Roman attention while the knights went to work. As said above, if the Catalan infantry uses its speed to stay away from the legionaries, only to dart in to exploit the havoc wrought by the knights before retreating again, they would most likely carry the day.

The Catalans would probably also carry the day should the battle be a result of a meeting engagement on open plains. As said earlier, those 1500 knights have plenty of combat power and mobility that the Romans just don't have.

Should the battle be for the possession of a town or terrain feature, The Catalans are done for. The Romans were superb in the defense, and moats, walls, and other obstacles were their forte. They are also very good at chaneeling cavalry or cripplin those that try to bull through. If the Romans defend, they win. The same in a denial battle.

So my judgment on the outcome of the above battle would depend on the mission and who is attacking and where.

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[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 11-05-2012 @ 05:13 AM).]

Alex_the_Bold
Ashigaru
posted 11-05-12 04:29 AM EDT (US)     5 / 10       
I should have mentioned in the OP that this is about a pitched battle. It is definitely not a siege battle. In addition, both generals are of the same skill...

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 11-05-12 05:24 AM EDT (US)     6 / 10       
Very few battles (relatively speaking) were one army running into another, both deploying, and then fighting. Most were some sort of attacker moving in, finds the defender deployed or near to it, deploying himself, then the attacker tries to dislodge the defender.

Give the Romans a few hours to set up, and they'll have a covered ditch across their frontage with spikes lining the bottom, their flanks tied in with abatis, caltrops lining the other side of the ditch, and maybe even a turf wall to give the auxiliary archers and lgionary artillery (scorpions mostly) a better view of the target.

Conversely, if they are attacking and the Catalans defending, they'd have to neutralize those knights first and foremost. The four thousand light troops- spearmen with no missiles- they could probably safely ignore, given their tactics and discipline. Should the Almoghavars move in, three cohorts could probably send the lot of them running- first pilum shower, then gladius in the guts, step forward, rinse and repeat. The Romans would not crack, and if deployed in century wedges, would be hemming the spearmen in and breaking their formation. It would ebcome a contest as to who can hold out longer- and that is a contest the Romans could easily win. Okay, maybe four cohorts. It depends on the terrain and how they can keep the spearmen ahead and not be flanked.

The outcome would therefore not be decided by the Catalan infantry, but by the use of the Catalan knights. It is they who would ultimately decide the battle: if they can keep their mobility and use it wisely- and avoid casualties to either man or mount- they would have the edge. If they got tied up in melee and bogged down, they're toast.

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[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 11-05-2012 @ 07:30 AM).]

Alex_the_Bold
Ashigaru
posted 11-05-12 07:17 AM EDT (US)     7 / 10       
I totally agree with you Terikel, but I'm not so sure that the Almogavars were such an easy prey. They were hardened, experienced warriors who used cunning tactics, such as ambushes and would never attack a prepared foe. In addition, if four cohorts were sent to deal with the Almogavars, six cohorts are not enough to defeat the knights. I mean, 3,000 (6x500) legionaries against 1,500 knights? It would depend on how long would the Almogavars hold. In addition, as shown by the battle of Cephisus, the Catalan Company could utilise terrain as well as the Romans...

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 11-05-12 07:35 AM EDT (US)     8 / 10       
The Roman use of cohorts would depend on the terrain and the set up of the Catalan.

Should the Catalan attack with its infantry (undisciplined and spear-wielding, as mentioned in the wiki) and keep the knights in reserve, then I give the Romans the victory- they would break the infantry attack and that leaves the knights alone on the field. They would witness the destruction of the infantry and probably not risk themselves.

Should the Catalan attack with its knights and use the infantry to sweep up the cohorts shattered by the knights, I would probably give the Catalan Company the victory. It would depend on how they survive the pila shower (horses pile up quite nicely and break their legs), or if the Romans use the pila as spears (as done before).

Too many variables. It would be a toss up.

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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Pitt
Daimyo
posted 11-06-12 02:44 AM EDT (US)     9 / 10       
Presumably both sides would take care to maximize their advantages before being willing to fight a battle. It was often quite difficult to force another army to stand and fight if they didn't want to. This is why sieges were so common in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, because one side was fixed at a place it had to defend.

Battles took place largely by mutual consent. It took hours to deploy a moderate-sized army from marching order into battle lines. The exception, of course, is ambushes.

"Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French." - P.G. Wodehouse, The Luck of the Bodkins
Alex_the_Bold
Ashigaru
posted 11-06-12 08:34 AM EDT (US)     10 / 10       
Actually, Terikel, I've read that the Almogavars did throw javelins during the battle of Cephissus. In addition, they successfully faced different opponents, from Arab and Turkish light troops to Byzantine organised army and the heavily armoured Western European knight. I believe they knew how to deal with an organised enemy. In addition, as most mercenary companies did, they wouldn't attack in order to minimise their casualties. They would fortify and harrass the Romans with their light troops...

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
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