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In Ancient Roman warfare, the testudo or tortoise formation was a type of shield wall formation commonly used by the Roman Legions during battles, particularly sieges.
War is a state of armed conflict between states, governments, societies and informal paramilitary groups, such as mercenaries, insurgents and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. Warfare refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant suffering and casualties.
The formation of a shield wall is a military tactic that was common in many cultures in the Pre-Early Modern warfare age. There were many slight variations of this tactic among these cultures, but in general, a shield wall was a "wall of shields" formed by soldiers standing in formation shoulder to shoulder, holding their shields so that they abut or overlap. Each soldier benefits from the protection of his neighbours' shields as well as his own.
In the testudo formation, the men would align their shields to form a packed formation covered with shields on the front and top. The first row of men, possibly excluding the men on the flanks, would hold their shields from about the height of their shins to their eyes, so as to cover the formation's front. The shields would be held in such a way that they presented a shield wall to all sides. The men in the back ranks would place their shields over their heads to protect the formation from above, balancing the shields on their helmets, overlapping them. If necessary, the legionaries on the sides and rear of the formation could stand sideways or backwards with shields held as the front rows, so as to protect the formation's sides and rear; this reduced the speed and mobility of the formation, but offered consistent defensive strength against opposing infantry and excellent protection against arrows and other missile attacks.
Plutarch describes this formation as used by Mark Antony during his invasion of Parthia in 36 BC:
Plutarch, later named, upon becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, was a Greek biographer and essayist, known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia. He is classified as a Middle Platonist. Plutarch's surviving works were written in Greek, but intended for both Greek and Roman readers.
Marcus Antonius, commonly known in English as Mark Antony or Anthony, was a Roman politician and general who played a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic from an oligarchy into the autocratic Roman Empire.
Parthia is a historical region located in north-eastern Iran. It was conquered and subjugated by the empire of the Medes during the 7th century BC, was incorporated into the subsequent Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC, and formed part of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire following the 4th-century-BC conquests of Alexander the Great. The region later served as the political and cultural base of the Eastern-Iranian Parni people and Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire. The Sasanian Empire, the last state of pre-Islamic Iran, also held the region and maintained the Seven Parthian clans as part of their feudal aristocracy.
Then the shield-bearers wheeled round and enclosed the light-armed troops within their ranks, dropped down to one knee, and held their shields out as a defensive barrier. The men behind them held their shields over the heads of the first rank, while the third rank did the same for the second rank. The resulting shape, which is a remarkable sight, looks very like a roof, and is the surest protection against arrows, which just glance off it.
Cassius Dio writes about the testudo when describing the campaign of Mark Antony in 36 BC:
This testudo and the way in which it is formed are as follows. The Baggage animals, the light-armed troops, and the cavalry are placed in the center of the army. The heavy-armed troops who use the oblong, curved, cylindrical shields are drawn up around the outside, making a rectangular figure, and, facing outward and holding their arms at the ready, they enclose the rest. The others who have flat shields, form a compact body in the center and raise their shields over the heads of all the others so that nothing but shields can be seen in every part of the phalanx alike and all the men by the density of the formation are under shelter from missiles. Indeed, it is so marvelously strong that men can walk upon it and whenever they come to a narrow ravine, even horses and vehicles can be driven over it.
The phalanx was a rectangular mass military formation, usually composed entirely of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, sarissas, or similar pole weapons. The term is particularly used to describe the use of this formation in Ancient Greek warfare, although the ancient Greek writers used it to also describe any massed infantry formation, regardless of its equipment. Arrian uses the term in his Array against the Alans when he refers to his legions. In Greek texts, the phalanx may be deployed for battle, on the march, or even camped, thus describing the mass of infantry or cavalry that would deploy in line during battle. They marched forward as one entity.
The testudo was used to protect soldiers from all types of missiles. It could be formed by immobile troops and troops on the march. The primary drawback to the formation was that, because of its density, the men found it more difficult to fight in hand-to-hand combat and because the men were required to move in unison, speed was sacrificed. As "phoulkon", it played a great role in the tactics employed by the Byzantines against their eastern enemies.
The phoulkon, in Latin fulcum, was a infantry formation utilized by the military of the late Roman and Byzantine Empire. It is a formation in which an infantry formation closes ranks and the first two or three lines form a shield wall while those behind them hurl projectiles. It was used in both offensive and defensive stances.
The testudo was not invincible, as Cassius Dio also gives an account of a Roman shield array being defeated by Parthian cataphracts and horse archers at the Battle of Carrhae:
Cassius Dio or Dio Cassius was a Roman statesman and historian of Greek and Roman origin. He published 80 volumes of history on ancient Rome, beginning with the arrival of Aeneas in Italy. The volumes documented the subsequent founding of Rome, the formation of the Republic, and the creation of the Empire, up until 229 AD. Written in ancient Greek over 22 years, Dio's work covers approximately 1,000 years of history. Many of his 80 books have survived intact, or as fragments, providing modern scholars with a detailed perspective on Roman history.
A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalry used in ancient warfare by a number of peoples in Europe, East Asia, Middle East and North Africa.
The Battle of Carrhae was fought in 53 BC between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire near the ancient town of Carrhae. The Parthian general Surena decisively defeated a numerically superior Roman invasion force under the command of Marcus Licinius Crassus. It is commonly seen as one of the earliest and most important battles between the Roman and Parthian empires and one of the most crushing defeats in Roman history.
For if [the legionaries] decided to lock shields for the purpose of avoiding the arrows by the closeness of their array, the [cataphracts] were upon them with a rush, striking down some, and at least scattering the others; and if they extended their rank to avoid this, they would be struck with the arrows.
The testudo was a common formation in the Middle Ages, being used by the Carolingian Frankish soldiers of Louis the Pious to advance on the walls of Barcelona during the siege of 800–801, by Vikings during the Siege of Paris in 885–886, by East Frankish soldiers under king Arnulf of Carinthia during the siege of Bergamo in 894, by Lotharingians under Conrad the Red at the siege of Senlis in 949, by Lotharingian defenders at the siege of Verdun in 984 and by the Crusaders of count Raymond IV of Toulouse during the Siege of Nicaea in 1097.
During the Euromaidan protests in Kiev, Ukraine in 2014 the Berkut riot police used the testudo tactic to protect themselves.Israeli forces have been known to use the formation.
Marcus Junius Brutus, often referred to as just Marcus Brutus or Brutus, was a Roman politician during the political turmoil of the late Roman Republic. After being adopted by his uncle, Quintus Servilius Caepio, he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but eventually returned to using his original name. He took a leading role in the assassination of Julius Caesar.
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The pilum was a javelin commonly used by the Roman army in ancient times. It was generally about 2 metres long overall, consisting of an iron shank about 7 millimetres (0.28 in) in diameter and 60 centimetres (24 in) long with a pyramidal head. The shank was joined to the wooden shaft by either a socket or a flat tang.
The scutum was a type of shield used among Italic peoples in antiquity, and then by the army of ancient Rome starting about the fourth century BC. The Romans adopted it when they switched from the military formation of the hoplite phalanx of the Greeks to the formation with maniples. In the former, the soldiers carried a round shield, which the Romans called a clipeus. In the latter, they used the scutum, which was a larger shield. Originally it was an oblong and convex shield. By the first century BC it had developed into the rectangular, semi-cylindrical shield that is popularly associated with the scutum in modern times. This was not the only shield the Romans used; Roman shields were of varying types depending on the role of the soldier who carried it. Oval, circular and rectangular shields were used throughout Roman history. T.
The Battle of Asculum took place in 279 BC between the Roman Republic under the command of the consuls Publius Decius Mus and Publius Sulpicius Saverrio and the forces of king Pyrrhus of Epirus. The battle took place during the Pyrrhic War, after the Battle of Heraclea of 280 BC, which was the first battle of the war. There exist accounts of this battle by three ancient historians: Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Plutarch and Cassius Dio. Asculum was in Lucanian territory, In southern Italy.
The Battle of Tigranocerta was fought on 6 October 69 BC between the forces of the Roman Republic and the army of the Kingdom of Armenia led by King Tigranes the Great. The Roman force was led by Consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus, and Tigranes was defeated. As a result, Tigranes' capital city of Tigranocerta was captured by Rome.
The Mesopotamian Civilization had a surprisingly adept grasp of tactics. In fact, they are the first confirmed users of the shield wall tactic later made famous as the Roman "testudo formation". It is unknown who first developed this tactic, but it is thought to have been developed somewhere between 2500 B.C.E and 2000 B.C.E.
Testudo may refer to:
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The Byzantine army evolved from that of the late Roman Empire. The language of the army was still Latin but it became considerably more sophisticated in terms of strategy, tactics and organization. Unlike the Roman legions, its strength was in its armoured cavalry Cataphracts, which evolved from the Clibanarii of the late empire. Infantry were still used but mainly in support roles and as a base of maneuver for the cavalry. Most of the foot-soldiers of the empire were the armoured infantry Skutatoi and later on, Kontarioi, with the remainder being the light infantry and archers of the Psiloi. The Byzantines valued intelligence and discipline in their soldiers far more than bravery or brawn. The "Ρωμαίοι στρατιώται" were a loyal force composed of citizens willing to fight to defend their homes and their state to the death, augmented by mercenaries. The training was very much like that of the legionaries, with the soldiers taught close quarters, melee techniques with their swords. But as in the late Empire, archery was extensively practiced.
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For much of history, humans have used some form of cavalry for war and, as a result, cavalry tactics have evolved over time. Tactically, the main advantages of cavalry over infantry troops were greater mobility, a larger impact, and a higher position.
Quintus Labienus Parthicus was a Roman general in the Late Republic period. The son of Titus Labienus, he made an alliance with Parthia and invaded the Roman provinces in the eastern Mediterranean which were under the control of Mark Antony. He occupied the Roman province of Syria together with the Parthians in 40 BC. He then pushed into southern Anatolia, still with Parthian support. The main Parthian force took charge of Syria and invaded Judea. Both Labienus and the Parthians were defeated by Publius Ventidius Bassus, who recovered these provinces for Mark Antony.
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Roman infantry tactics refers to the theoretical and historical deployment, formation, and maneuvers of the Roman infantry from the start of the Roman Republic to the fall of the Western Roman Empire.