Home Forums Ancients Late Roman troop types

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    Avatar photoDeleted User

    We had our annual Australia Day game day yesterday: this year was SAGA.

    I fielded a Late Roman “warband”*. SAGA don’t (yet) have this army so I devised a list with:

    Gothic cavalry/Clibanarii as Palatini (ie elites)

    Legionaries as Comitatenses(ie Warrior type veterans)

    Goth infantry as Foederati (ie levy types)

    and with Arthur, Dux Bellorum as the Warlord.

    The Palatini are all mounted which is useful for the extra movement they get but the rules make mounted vulnerable to archery.

    So, it would be useful to have a foot option for this troop type.

    My knowledge of Late Romans dries up here. What type of troops am I looking for? What do they look like/how are they armed?


    • I realise its historical stance is very dubious
    Avatar photoMike Headden

    Late Roman armies have access to pretty much anything!

    To keep it very short:

    Elite troops are Palatini, field armies are comitatenses or pseudocomistatenses (probably no practical difference between them once in the field) and border troops are Limitanei or Ripenses who are not expected to be as effective as the field armies. These are all nominally Roman with Roman officers.

    Foedorati are non-Roman troops fighting for the Romans with Roman or native officers.

    The cavalry can include fully armoured lancers on fully armoured horses (cataphractarii), fully armoured men on unarmoured horses (clibanarii), heavy cavalry in a mail shirt with a shield and spear/ javelins, light cavalry with javelins or bow.

    The Late Roman legions are roughly 1200 strong and include around a third of their number equipped as formed archers or light infantry with javelins/ bows/ slings/ crossbows. Legionary heavy infantry wore a mail and helmet and carried a shield, spear, javelins and sometimes large darts called martiobarbuli. Archers were probably not armoured. Light infantry certainly weren’t. Limitanei were probably more poorly equipped than the field forces and may lack armour completely or have leather rather than metallic armour.

    Auxilia are smaller units of troops equipped in similar fashion to the legions but lacking body armour.

    I don’t imagine the Ballistarii legions with their catapults are going to feature in a skirmish game 🙂

    That said the new Saga Arthurian list is basically what I’d expect a Late Roman warband to look like.

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    Hmm. Not sure the distinction between Clibanarii and Cataphracts is that clear cut – any sources?

    I’ve seen people suggest that it was Clibanarii were the heavier but I don’t recall any convincing evidence either way.

    Of course if this is a Saga nomenclature then fair enough (but they are wrong )

    Avatar photoMcKinstry

    I’m very far from knowledgeable on this but the army lists on both Hail Caesar and Impetus show Clibanari/Cataphracts as being fairly rare and separate from the run of the mill heavies with spear. I think part of the issue is when Late Roman stops and Early Byzantine begins as I’ve always been a bit unclear on the line.

    The tree of Life is self pruning.

    Avatar photoMike Headden

    The exact arms and armour used by Cataphracts and Clibanarii are hotly debated and, unless we find new sources, unlikely ever to be completely settled!

    It seems to me that the meaning of the terms changed over time, just to add to our confusion.

    Wargaming convention has been that fully armoured lancers on fully armoured horses are cataphractarii while fully armoured men on part-armoured or unarmoured horses and carrying lance and perhaps bow are clibanarii. Cataphracts seem to be modelled on Sarmation cavalry and Clibanarii on Sassanid cavalry.

    Frankly neither are likely to have appeared in a warband sized force.

    Cataphract comes from the Greek “kataphractos” meaning fully armoured or fully enclosed. Triremes, for example, could be aphract or cataphract.

    CLibanarii is said to come from either “grivpan”, the Persian word for a warrior or “klibanos”, the Greek for a camp oven or a metal furnace. Oven-men or Furnace-men sounds like a good description of what wearing such an outfit must have felt like under the Middle Eastern mid-day sun!!

    </pedant mode> 🙂

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

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