Sign up ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm talking about the formational fighting show in this video:

Where did the show's creators get the source material? If so, what was it called, when did this style of fighting start and was it effective?

share|improve this question

1 Answer 1

The Romans would have a tactic of three lines, where first the the second and then the third line would press themselves between the first line when needed to let the first line get a breather and reform.

When the first line as a whole had done its best and become weakened and exhausted by losses, it gave way to the relief of fresh men from the second line who, passing through it gradually, pressed forward one by one, or in single file, and worked their way into the fight in the same way. Meanwhile the tired men of the original first line, when sufficiently rested, reformed and re-entered the fight. This continued until all men of the first and second lines had been engaged. This does not presuppose an actual withdrawal of the first line, but rather a merging, a blending or a coalescing of both lines. Thus the enemy was given no rest and was continually opposed by fresh troops until, exhausted and demoralized, he yielded to repeated attacks.

The formation was called "Acies triplex", which just means "triple line". I can't find any reference to a name of the "rank switching".

Source: Lt. Col. S.G. Brady, The Military Affairs of Ancient Rome and Roman Art of War in Caesar's Time

share|improve this answer
I think you are talking about centuries/cohorts. I am talking about each rank in the fighting formation...please watch the video before you comment. – Evil Washing Machine May 31 '14 at 23:03
I did watch the video, and answered your question. Instead of being confrontative, perhaps you could explain what is unclear? – Lennart Regebro Jun 2 '14 at 7:49
"Acies Triplex" refers to the deployment of centuries and cohorts and not ranks. I was wondering about how each rank in a fighting formation disengaged and let the man behind him continue the fight, and whether any other ancient army did this. – Evil Washing Machine Jun 9 '14 at 10:53
@EvilWashingMachine "Once the machinery was in motion however, the Roman infantry typically was deployed, as the main body, facing the enemy. During deployment in the Republican era, the maniples were commonly arranged in triplex acies (triple battle order): that is, in three ranks, with the hastati in the first rank (that nearest the enemy), the principes in the second rank, and the veteran triarii in the third and final rank as barrier troops". So yes, it refers to ranks. – Lennart Regebro Jun 9 '14 at 10:58
It's been a year but respectively I still disagree. Everybody knows that the Acies Triplex refers to how centuries/cohorts were deployed on the battlefield. I do not know why the wiki article refers to that as 'ranks' but it's using an incorrect term. Once again, if you just watch the video, you see individual rows of troops performing a shield bash at the whistle and withdrawing through the formation. The Acies Triplex refers to entire centuries/cohorts disengaging, unless you're implying that pre-marian legions are all only 3 lines deep with each line being hastati, principe, triarii – Evil Washing Machine Apr 4 at 23:58

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.