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I'm talking about the formational fighting show in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJO2UfG9KcI

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?

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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

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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
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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
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@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". en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_infantry_tactics 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 '15 at 23:58

I believe the rotation in battle is commonly accepted - most sources I've read reference it, although my research in Roman history is mostly secondary and tertiary sources, so I'm not an authority. With that as a preface/caveat:

Wikipedia to the rescue

wikipedia 1 describes using the intervals between troops to execute a refresh and support continuous fighting.

"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."[30] same source

Another article references the same concept (I suspect the primary sources are the same, but sometimes different secondary sources can clarify interpretations)

Finally, the Romans had a practical system for the passage of lines, and preferred to reinforce or replace tired units with fresh ones rather than maximizing the depth of the initial fighting line. 1

Just to be clear the reference given in that quote is to " Philip Sabin, "The Roman Face of Battle," Journal of Roman Studies 90 (2000), p. 5

Quoting from Sabin,

However, the primary purpose of the multipleline system seems to have been to allow fresh troops to replace or reinforce tired ones in the front line itself. Livy describes this process clearly for the manipular legion (8.8), albeit in an anachronistically early context, and Caesar speaks of fresh cohorts replacing tired ones at Ilerda and Pharsalus (BC I.45-6, 3.94).28 The ancient authors repeatedly state that it was this advantage of having fresh men fighting tired ones which gave the Romans such an edge over opponents who were in equal or greater overall numbers, but massed in a single fighting line (cf. Livy 9.32, 34.14-I5; Onasander 22). Hence, any model we might develop of Roman infantry combat must be one in which having fresh troops in the fighting line matters at least as much as the physical and psychological advantages of greater formation depth. The second and related point is that our model must be one in which the physical passage of lines to accomplish this line relief would have been a feasible proposition. Scholars have long debated the practicalities of the famous 'chequerboard' deployment of Roman legions, addressing such intractable issues as how wide the gaps between maniples or cohorts would have been, whether and how these gaps were closed before combat, and how they were opened again to allow an engaged first line to admit or withdraw through its supports without making itself catastrophically vulnerable to enemy penetrations in the process.29 It is very hard to find satisfactory answers to these questions, and so any model of infantry combat at the level of individual soldiers which makes it easier to understand how the line relief process may have worked will be much more convincing as a consequence. "

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"Lines" used in your sources in this case seem to imply a line of cohorts rather than a rank of men - or am I mistaken? – Evil Washing Machine Dec 1 '15 at 15:08
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Each cohort was deployed in three lines of men. The legion was deployed in a single line of cohorts. Each cohort had three lines of troops that could be used in position. Two could be used for passing lines, and the third as reserve. In some cases, third line units could be sent off elsewhere, as Caesar did at Pharsalus to defeat Pompey's cavalry. – Oldcat Dec 2 '15 at 0:51

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