Rome develops gunpowder

Greetings,

This was something of a bit of a joke with some of my friends two years ago (I know that I had watched all of the Sharpes series (Napoleonic War made for TV movies) and some of my mates had watched Zulu (bear with me it gets to a point soon). On our way to a second lecture on the Roman Legions we started having a chat about the recent films, and then one of my mates said 'What would the Legions do with rifles.' My reply was 'First Maniple, Fire. Second Maniple, Fire. Don't you point those bloody spears at me!' (and yes it was a very bad Michael Caine impression before you ask).

So what would happen if the Romans had discovered the use of gunpowder? In the fianl year of Trajans' second Dacian campaign, the Auxiliary archers of the XXX VLPIA VICTRIX were equipped with the NOVVS APPARATVS BELLA SAGITTARIVS (new archers armarment).

This was a arablaest that was very primative but effective upon enemy formations.

What would the Romans do with this new weapon? Would they be able to hold onto their Empire or would it be torn by Civil War? How would the Romans understanding of this technology improve (i.e. would they have muskets in a couple of hundred years or what?

Regards,

Khib Yusa
 
I doubt the Romans would be too keen on muskets; they relied on auxiliaries for missile fire, and I'd be quite surprised if they gave non-Romans the secret of gunpowder. Instead, you'd see the classic Roman love of field artillery being augmented by rockets and cannon.
 
Personally I cannot see why they would replace bows and arrows.

Inferior range, Significantly slower to fire, Dangerous to the user...

Cannon or Similar atleast makes some sence..
 
President Ledyard said:
It can takes years to train a competent bowman, as opposed to mere weeks of training for musket users. Huge, huge advantage.
Which is precisely why firearms (and crossbows, for that matter) were popular in OTL.
 
The Romans used a professional army; the training time wouldn't have been so much of a factor. They simply used heavy infantry as the arm of decision, and so they wanted to be certain that they were the ones with that deciding factor, and let the auxiliaries fill the auxiliary roles. That, and an early firearm wasn't really any more effective than a pilum volley.
 

NapoleonXIV

Banned
Forum Lurker said:
The Romans used a professional army; the training time wouldn't have been so much of a factor. They simply used heavy infantry as the arm of decision, and so they wanted to be certain that they were the ones with that deciding factor, and let the auxiliaries fill the auxiliary roles. That, and an early firearm wasn't really any more effective than a pilum volley.
Even early firearms could go right thru any kind of armor the Romans or anyone else in that time period had or were likely to develop (unless we want to talk about substance development butterflies). Look how quickly firearms swept armor from the field in OTL (The plate armor that was supposed to be effective against them was very expensive and limited to a select few, the Romans surely couldn't have equipped an entire army with it.)

Also, even with a professional army there's a huge difference between having to train for eight hours a day, 6 days a week for five years vs maybe a month or two at the most to get a soldier of about the same effectiveness.
 
Early firearms were no more effective against armor than were bodkin arrows. I've seen a composite bow of traditional manufacture put an arrow through a steel breastplate, the inch-and-a-half-thick wooden pole supporting the breastplate, and the backplate; you don't need any more effectiveness than that. Firearms had only ease of training as an advantage on bows, and only cheapness of manufacture over crossbows; they were, aside those logistical factors, the least effective missile weapon to take the field since the invention of the atlatl.

Why, then, you may ask, were they adopted at all? Surely, if the muskets of even as late as the Thirty Years' War were inferior weapons to traditional arrow-projecting devices, they'd never have been commonly used? As I understand it, the reason was simply this: a state could equip vastly more troops with pikes and guns than they could with heavy infantry gear or cross/bows. If you've got twenty times the troops, because their gear is vastly cheaper and they don't need to be trained much, it doesn't matter that their archers have ten times the rate of fire and accurate range.

The problem is that the Roman model wouldn't account for that. The Roman armies were, for the majority of the period, completely professional forces of dedicated heavy infantry. A legionnaire can't carry a gun along with his scutum, lorica, and gladius, and you're not going to see the Romans drop their infantry trappings without a serious reordering of the entire military structure, which would require a very serious impetus indeed.
 

NapoleonXIV

Banned
Forum Lurker said:
Early firearms were no more effective against armor than were bodkin arrows. I've seen a composite bow of traditional manufacture put an arrow through a steel breastplate, the inch-and-a-half-thick wooden pole supporting the breastplate, and the backplate; you don't need any more effectiveness than that. Firearms had only ease of training as an advantage on bows, and only cheapness of manufacture over crossbows; they were, aside those logistical factors, the least effective missile weapon to take the field since the invention of the atlatl.

Why, then, you may ask, were they adopted at all? Surely, if the muskets of even as late as the Thirty Years' War were inferior weapons to traditional arrow-projecting devices, they'd never have been commonly used? As I understand it, the reason was simply this: a state could equip vastly more troops with pikes and guns than they could with heavy infantry gear or cross/bows. If you've got twenty times the troops, because their gear is vastly cheaper and they don't need to be trained much, it doesn't matter that their archers have ten times the rate of fire and accurate range.

The problem is that the Roman model wouldn't account for that. The Roman armies were, for the majority of the period, completely professional forces of dedicated heavy infantry. A legionnaire can't carry a gun along with his scutum, lorica, and gladius, and you're not going to see the Romans drop their infantry trappings without a serious reordering of the entire military structure, which would require a very serious impetus indeed.
An army of 50,000 barbarians raised in a few weeks vs say 10,000 Romans in an equivalent area might be seen as a rather serious problem.
(and yes, my figure for the Roman soldier's training is vastly too long, best I could find on the net was 4 months, but I think it was longer. The 5 years might be for a reliable vet vs a raw recruit. I do remember it was from a source but forget what, I will look.)

I will admit that the Romans were conservatives and that early firearms were less effective than many think, but your own admission that you could raise a much larger army much quicker is an advantage that would not be lost on them.

Quite possibly, they would keep the professional infantry and supplement them with auxiliary musketeers. And given the Roman attitude toward weapons, I would not expect that the guns would remain that ineffective for that long
 
Guys, gunpowder will not automatically give you muskets. It has an effect centuries before you get to that point. My guess would be that initially, you have a new and improved incendiary, which the Romans would mix with fat ad resin and throw from their catapults. Then at some point someone puts it into a siege mine to speed up combustion and we get to see the interesting effect of rapid combustion in enclosed spaces. Entertainment, too, will be a factor with applications from stage lighting and gladiatorial displays finding military applications as they crop up - rockets, maybe, eventually guns. By the time you come to the point of having muskets, never mind rifles, the shape of warfare will already have changed to a degree where the legions will look very different from OTL's prototypical Asterix trooper.

And a legionary CAN carry a rifle or musket - it even makes sense in a tactical sense. late 3rd century troops were equipped with darts to supplement the number of javelins. No reason not to let this kind of thing happen ATL.
 
Greetings,

Ok this was just a bit of a joke but...

First off, Zor, I apologise for posting this when you have already done it (I only joined a couple of weeks ago. Sorry). I am going to carry on though. I'll read your thread later on though, so apologies if I appear to have nicked any of your ideas, I am doing this off my own back.

Roman equipment changes (Standard Legionarys only. So you must be a Roman Citizen to have access to this technology).

Since the ARCVBALLISTAS (your name was better DominusNovus {shorter too!}) can be made faster and cheaper than the standard Roman equipment only four COHORTS of the 10 Legionary COHORTS in the Legions were armed as heavy infantry. Up to the standard for the Roman Legions of the Second Century AD in the actual TL.
EQVITES are armed the same and their function is the same as the normal TL.
The other 6 COHORTS were semi-armoured and carry a smaller SCVTVM, GLADIVS (Mainz type) and the new ARCVBALLISTA arablaest. With the advent of these new weapons the Romans could load and fire two shots into their opponents at a greater range and with a better penetrating power than a PILVM. The power of a SCORPIONES in the hands of 2880 men instead of one per MANIPLE (80 men). After these two shots were fired these lighter armed infantry would fall back behind the Heavy Infantry and drop their ARCVBALLISTA at the rear of the Roman battle lines. They then would move in to support the Heavy infantry and the EQVITES.

AVXILIA

These guys have the same equipment and tactics as they had in the Roman World. Mainly to provide archer fire, disposable troops and cavalry.

Artillery

The Romans could develop cannons or something similar to a larger sale arablaest to use for siege or with grapeshot against infantry/cavalry. The ONAGER, BALLISTAE and SCORPIONES would still be present in greater numbers than these cannons (would BESTIA {brute} do)? since the cannon is a direct fire weapon (any form of adjustment would be done with the charge. Any mechanism would be a total pain to keep working with the kickback of the BESTIA). The ONAGERS being bombardment weapons would be more useful on the battlefield unless you wanted to place BESTIAE on the front of the Roman battle lines with stupid amounts of grapeshot (feel sorry for cavalry).

What do you think?

Regards,

Khib Yusa
 
What if the legionnaires had crude hand grenades and were taught to throw them at the enemy when they approached about 30-40 paces from them?
 
If a reliable striker could be found, with a preset fuse, I can see the legions replacing pila with grenades; it doesn't actually change tactical doctrine much, just makes it considerably more effective.
 
Hand grenades are fun to play with, but unless you have a pretty sophisticated understanding of explosive chemistry and materials, they are a bit fickle. I doubt the legions would go for them. Now, auxiliary slinger units...
 
That's why I included my caveats. Demonstrate a dozen grenades which all explode at the same time after the striker is struck, and you'll win yourself a contract; fail, and if you're lucky you'll be alive to regret the failure.
 
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