Throughout history the Roman armies have been regarded as one of the most effective and strong war machines. Roman armies can be seen in film and in book even today in our modern world discussing their strength and level of fighting. Part of the reason they were so successful in conquering and battling their enemies was there superior armor and weapons that were effective throughout centuries. Below you can find information on some of their most famous and efficient weapons, as well as types of armor that served the Romans well over many years of warfare.
One of the Romans most recognizable weapons is their strong short sword the Gladius. The Gladius is a short sword that was often used in Spain. During the Second Punic Wars Roman General Scipio Africanus liked the sword and began implementing its use in roman forces. The Gladius had a 50 cm two-edged blade. Although it could be used to slash enemies it was much more effective and often used for stabbing your opponent. It was an effective weapon for up close hand to hand combat when a long weapon such as a spear would be ineffective. Roman legionnaires trained extensively for stabbing the enemy in certain vulnerable areas (Romanmilitary.net).
Later version of Gladius
The Romans are well known for their use the Pilum. The Pilum was a roman version of a spear or javelin and could be used in hand to hand combat or thrown at the enemy. The Pilum was often thrown toward the enemy before engaging the enemy with a short sword. There are a few varying types of the Pilum. There is the thin Pilum which is about two meters long. The thick Pilum which is nearly the same length as the thin Pilum, but had a large wooden block connecting the metal head with the wooden shaft. This block also was in place to protect a soldiers hand when stabbing someone with the Pilum. The weighted Pilum was created when later versions of the Pilum were made much lighter than the original. A weight was added on the top of the shaft to help balance out the spear so it can be thrown and used more accurately. The iron head of the Pilum was also made softer so on impact it would bend making it harder for the enemy to throw back the Pilum once the head bent (Romanmilitary.net) Roman soldiers commonly carried two Pilum and threw them at their enemy when charging into battle. This would often shock and injure the enemy making them more vulnerable to the Romans when the battle turned too close quarters fighting. The long Iron head of the Pilum was very effective for attacking the enemy. Not only was it strong and lethal it could also pierce through an enemy’s shield with ease. This would then render the enemies shield useless because of the awkward large spear hanging from it. Often it the Pilum would also leave a hole in the enemies shield weakening it. This made the Pilum a highly efficient weapon when dealing with unarmored or light armored enemies. Once their shield was useless they had little defending them from being killed (Ancientmilitary.com).
From left to right: A thin pilum,
thick pilum, and weighted pilum
The Romans also had an array of long range weapons used to attack the enemy from a distance. One of these weapons was the Plumbata. The Plumbata was a throwing dart weighted with lead making it heavy and able to do serious damage when hitting a target. Plumbata were often carried by Roman Legionnaires, up to six Plumbata could be carried attached behind their shield. This made heavy infantry troops able to attack on their own from a distance as well as up close effectively (Ancientmilitary.com). Roman Roman light armed trooped called Velites often used throwing javelins to engage the enemy from a distance. These were lighter and smaller than the heavy pilum but could be thrown further. The Romans also had roman archers called the Sagittarius which used a composite bow made of wood, sinew, and horn.
Roman armor around the years 200-150 BC was mostly comprised of a shield called a Scutum, a helmet, and some kind of body armor depending on rank and position. The Scutum is a very large oval shield that had one main hand grip. It was comprised of wood that is glued together and covered usually in leather. On the outer rim of the shield metal is added to help reinforce its strength. Roman soldiers often tucked their right shoulder into the large shield and charged their enemies. Once they hit them they would crouch behind their shield and fight around it usually with a sword or spear (Romanmilitary.com).
Similar body armor was worn by all of the different types of heavy infantry soldier. The principes (heavy infantry), hastati (front-line soldiers), and triarii (veterans) consisted had armor consisting of the same materials. They wore a small 20 cm square or round breastplate called a Pectorale. They also wore one greave covering their left leg. This was the leg that would have been exposed in combat. Some of the wealthier soldiers would wore chain-mail shirts that weighed around 15 kilograms. The Velites who were light armed troops usually wore no armor besides having a helmet and a Scutum. This allowed them greater mobility and speed but offered less protection. This would be useful for them to swiftly move, launching javelins from a distance. Calvary troops wore almost identical armor to the heavy infantry troops but had a rounder shield that differed from the Scutum
The Roman helmet changed and evolved throughout its use. The port helmet was made out of iron that had a neck guard going over the back of the soldier’s neck. It also had a topknot that was used to hold the Mohawk looking crest. This helmet evolved the imperial Gallic helmet which is probably what most people now would picture a roman soldier wearing. The Gallic type helmet elongated the neck guard and metal cheek guards running down the face to protect a soldiers face and head. A reinforced metal strip was added along the forehead to protect against downward blows. A crest and feathers were often worn in the helmet in an attempt to make the soldiers look taller and more intimidating to their opponent.
Imperial Gallic Helmet
Romans armor and weapons were so efficient because of their experience with many different types of opponents. They had encountered a vast range of weapons and armor and they took the best equipment they saw in battle and adapted it and innovated it to work for them. The Romans superior weapons and armor coupled with their armies versatility and fighting ability made them one of the most if not the most powerful force to be reckoned with in the ancient world.