Ancient Roman warfare was built on the back of the legion. The Roman war machine evolved around the legion like the ancient Greek's war machine revolved around the Phalanx. Rome was built on the back of its legionnaires, they suffered some setbacks but overall the legions swept away any enemy that confronted them in the field. And though the legions formed the major part of the Roman army, the Romans also used auxiliary troops to great effect. Among these troops were the archers.
Archers were a major part of most ancient countries war machines. The Romans didn't use them to the same extent as other ancient civilizations like Egypt they did recognise the importance of archers in the ancient battlefield and placed them with great skill alongside their legions. On Trajans column the auxiliary archers are dressed in their native clothes. Most of Rome's archers were recruited from the middle east, a region that had perfected the use of the bow as a weapon of war. As Crassus, a Roman commander, was to find out when he led an army to defeat at the hands of Persian archers.
The conical helmets, long tunics and chain mail coats all suggest the archers came from the middle east. The Romans were experts at warfare and they turned their skills to archery to get the most power they could from the archers. They employed different types of arrowheads to perform different jobs. The well-known leaf shaped arrowhead was used to penetrate soft targets. These would be used against lightly armored troops. For heavily armored troops these arrowheads were ineffective, just bouncing off the armor.
To inflict damage on heavily armored troops the Romans would use heavier arrowheads with a tripointed end. These arrows would easily penetrate most body armour. They would also stick into shields making them heavy and difficult to maneuver. Arrows were designed to be used only once. The shaft of the arrow would bend once fired and the arrow point would be damaged once it had penetrated armor or a shield.
Roman archers usually carried about forty arrows in their quivers. As well as their normal arrows they also carried small darts. Darts were fired at approaching enemy units to break them up and force them to lose their discipline. Causing confusion and fear among the approaching enemy. The legions would then attack the enemy units with their disciplined formations. Although the legion was the mainstay of the ancient Roman army, auxillery archers played an important role in ensuring the success of the ancient Roman army.
Get our secret Tips and Tricks to your inbox.