Author Topic: Rorarii  (Read 983 times)

Mark G

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Rorarii
« on: July 01, 2021, 07:49:40 AM »
Curious wether there are any accounts of the Rorarii actually fighting in a battle.

I rather gathered they are a collective of camp followers and other minions, and not expected to form up or fight. 
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Justin Swanton

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Re: Rorarii
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2021, 07:54:57 AM »
According to Livy they deployed with the rest of the legion on the battlefield:

This body of thirty maniples they called antepilani, because behind the standards there were again stationed other fifteen companies, each of which had three sections, the first section in every company being known as pilus. The company consisted of three vexilla or “banners”; a single vexillum had sixty soldiers, two centurions, one vexillarius, or colourbearer; the company numbered a hundred and eighty-six men. The first banner led the triarii, veteran soldiers of proven valour; the second banner the rorarii, younger and less distinguished men; the third banner the accensi, who were the least dependable, and were, for that reason, assigned to the rearmost line. - History: 8.8.7-8

Duncan Head

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Re: Rorarii
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2021, 03:22:33 PM »
This topic is really in the wrong sub-forum.

Rorarii are javelin-armed light infantry, not "camp-followers and other minions" (though that description might fit the accensi). Adam Anders' thesis on Roman light infantry combat summarises the scanty evidence for the term:

Quote
Varro’s description tells us they ‘were those who started the battle, named from the ros ‘dew-drops’, because it ‘sprinkles’ (‘rorat’) before it really rains.238 Nonius Marcellus tells us something very similar, saying

"Those soldiers are called rorarii who, before the battle lines had met, began the battle with some javelins. This is derived from the fact that light rains precede heavy ones ... "

Lucilius in the fifth book of his Satires gives the following lines: “Five javelins, the golden belted light-armed skirmisher.” ... Again Lucilius in Book X: “In the rear the light-armed skirmisher was standing.”239

The obvious correlation we can make from this is with the velites who had exactly the same role.240 Unfortunately, this relationship is unclear, not only because of the little information we have on the rorarii but also because of the confusion regarding when the velites were formally established. Although the question of the velites’ establishment will be discussed more fully in the section on velites below, there is pertinent evidence on the relationship between the two units from Lucilius. Two fragments show that the term rorarius was still used in the second century BC; one mentioning ‘rorarius veles’ possibly in reference to military rewards, and the other saying ‘pone paludatos stabat rorarius velox’.241 As Oakley has pointed out we can only guess as to what this means for the relationship between rorarius and veles; on the one hand it may be that they refer to the same troops and that veles simply came to replace rorarius.242 Alternatively, we might speculate that there may have been light-armed troops at the back of the legion called rorarii and those at the front called velites, with the former perhaps being more experienced, as per Livy’s suggestion that they were less distinguished than the triarii (rather than the hastati or principes for example, like the velites would have been). Eventually these rorarii may have faded out or joined the velites, since they were both light-armed units.243

Thus, determining specifics about the rorarii is not possible with the little evidence we have, although we do know that they can be classified as light-infantry, and that they used javelins as skirmishers.

I think Livy's battle-description in Book 8, which Justin cites, is the only substantial description of them in action.
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Mark G

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Re: Rorarii
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2021, 08:43:41 AM »
thanks.

so we have just the notoriously unreliable Livy with a definition on something only he attests to and one actual usage example from a campaign in extremis, and that from one of those heroic myth making episodes where it helps to make things look their worst so the hero looks his best.

and the description is of a skirmishing line after the velites, and hastatii, and principes and triarii.  it doesn't sound like a valid combat troop at all.  "pre skirmishing" from the fifth line, indeed.

that's a lot of painting saved, i think.
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Justin Swanton

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Re: Rorarii
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2021, 09:04:35 AM »
Livy does try to be careful about his facts, although he gets creative over the motives of his principal actors. Rorarii can work fine as skirmishers in the rear ranks - missile support from the rear of an infantry line was a common enough practice, and the 'five javelins' are necessarily small and light, hence capable of clearing the heads of the friendly troops and landing among the enemy. The leves presumably throw heavier weapons and need to be closer to the approaching enemy. This is speculative, sure, but it makes coherent sense of the sources.

Or, if the sources are tosh, then feel free to make up your own Latin War legion. Nobody can say you're wrong.

Mark G

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Re: Rorarii
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2021, 06:06:20 PM »
he wasn't very careful about the Punic wars.  what with all those Macedonians popping up at critical moments.

nor does having 5 rank deep skirmishers make the slightest bit of sense.  skirmishers are not ranked, and there is no point in unaimed javelins at a target area you simply cannot see.  that would be something entirely other than skirmishing.   

but anyway, an interesting thesis link to read, and confirmation I have absolutely no reason to paint another troops type.. thats enough for me.
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Mark G

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Re: Rorarii
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2021, 06:35:47 PM »
Adam Anders thesis is pretty sniffy about Livy as a reliable source too.

BTW, the phrase 'notoriously unreliable' was Sabin's description of Livy - I'm pretty sure its in one of his papers that I sent to Justin a few years back too.
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PMBardunias

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Re: Rorarii
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2022, 03:56:20 PM »
In my opinion, Archaic Greek hoplites fought as a shield-wall with hoplites throwing spears and missile troops throwing over the top at the enemy line for along time before the hoplites charged to fight with spears. This is my reading of Tyrtaeus. In Greece the hoplites literally pulled away from their supporting light troops due to the challenge of the Persian line of shields backed by powerful archers being far more effective in a missile duel. If I am correct, then the Italian hoplites, never facing Persians, did not fully switch to the classical hoplite phalanx, where light troops fight before battle, but they get shoed off the field to the wings as the hoplites charge from 100s of meters. Instead they sallied out through the line hoplites, as they had done in the early Greeks, then retired behind the line to keep throwing over the top as the hoplites moved to the range of their thrown spears. The Roman evolution appears to be to move the light troops from behind the wall and make that "sallying phase" the opening deployment, facilitated by the scutum, which essentially makes light troops Medium Infantry.

All that was to preface my thought that the rorarii are simply the remnant of the light troops that would have backed up, and protected the hoplites in the Archaic period and the Triarii are those hoplites (Princeps too at first if they were armed with hasta). Having no missile function of their own, they require a backing of light troops if they engage. Triarii on their own would face the same trouble as the hoplites at Lechaeum. That is why we see the oddity of missile troops way at the back of the formation.  Later they dissappear as the role of the Triarii becomes more of a SHTF end game and the various other light troops could be expected to provide cover.
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Re: Rorarii
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2022, 04:04:53 PM »
Wherever the light infantry started, they'd always end up at the back by the time the heavy infantry got involved.
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Re: Rorarii
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2022, 09:30:14 PM »
Wherever the light infantry started, they'd always end up at the back by the time the heavy infantry got involved.

Not with classical Greeks, they retire to the wings.  It is unclear how many of the light infantry that opened the battle are still in the battle by the time the Triarii got involved.
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