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"Romans - The Different Periods" Topic

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donkey1 Inactive Member19 Mar 2017 2:05 p.m. PST


Can anyone point me at a good website article that will explain to a beginner to me the various different periods of Roman warfare. When I look for romans I get response like "sure which ones do you want" and I'm struggling to get my head round it. These are examples of what I see

Early Roman
Tullian Roman
Camillion Roman
Polybian Roman
Marian Roman
Early Imperial Roman
Middle Imperial Roman
Late Imperial Roman
Patrician Roman



sillypoint19 Mar 2017 2:13 p.m. PST

Don't forget Nikephorian Byzantine etc. Depends on when you feel the Roman Emiure fell…as opposed to Rome the city.
Lost my link to a go to site (re: information about ancients wargame armies).

Personal logo Swampster Supporting Member of TMP19 Mar 2017 3:06 p.m. PST

There is a review of the different periods on TMP somewhere but I can't find it at the moment.

Madaxeman's Field of Glory wiki link has explanation of the periods though they are named differently to the ones above.
Roughly (though there are overlaps):
Polybian = Mid-Republic
Marian = Late Republic
EIR and MIR = Principate
LIR = Domniate
Patrician = Foederate

Some of the Roman pages have figure reviews which give an idea of the look at that time. The armies are explained in FOG terms. He also has the AdlG Wiki giving info using those rules link

Early and Tullian Roman are when they are really just fighting in their own back yard.
Camillan Roman and Polybian Roman is the period where Rome begins by starting to dominate the peninsula and finishes with being the great power in the Med, though not yet controlling all of the coast.Roughly 400 – 100 BC This is the time of Hannibal and Pyrrhus. Other enemies include Celts, Greeks, Macedonians, Spanish

Marian Roman is the late Republic from around 100 BC and includes the really big names – Caesar, Sulla, Pompey etc. Enemies include Spanish, Celts, Pontus, Spartacus, Numidians, Parthia and, most dangerously, this is when the civil wars begin.

Early and Middle Imperial are the period ( roughly 30 BC to late 3rd century AD) mostly of consolidation though Britain, Dacia and various other provinces are added. More civil wars. Enemies include British, Germans, Sarmatians, Dacians, Judeans, Parthians (then Sasanians). This is the period of the classic look of Romans as you get in e.g. biblical epics.

Late Imperial and Patrician Roman. Late 3rd century AD until the collapse of the West towards the end of the 5th centuy. Style of army continues to change – very crudely speaking, cavalry become more important and legions less so. Main enemies include various Germans, Huns, Sasanians and more civil wars.

The Late Romans (including Patricians which sees even more use of 'barbarians') are very popular as an army as they have variety and good mobility. There are some very classic battles in this period but IMHO the range of enemies is less interesting.

Early Imperial is very popular at least partly as that is the look that people think of when they think Romans.

I think Polybian and Marian periods have the most variety of opponents which is why I prefer them.

Mars Ultor19 Mar 2017 7:40 p.m. PST

Very good synopsis by Swampster, though I might add a couple of points about "Early" and Tullian.

Early Roman warfare (despite what Livy envisions about grand armies of Rome vs. Alba Longa)was war band fighting with neighboring tribes, many from the mountain range or Latin competitors. This according to more recent historians (Cornell, Forsythe, and most recently Mary Beard, who really is just summarizing). Tullian starts a shift to a formalize system that sounds a lot like phalanx but need not be exactly like the Greeks, as pointed out by Josh Bowers (?) in more recent AW article. But it's important to understand that the monarchy of Rome was most likely not as Livy envisioned in Augustan time, an overpowering government with standing military, etc. The historians above point out many allusions in the sources to coups and groups of warbands leading family clans and armed followers into battle independently of the central government (the story of the Fabii during the very early republic, the inscription on the Lapis Satricum). Things were a lot rougher around the edgesand and power a lot more up for grabs than Livy envisions.

Deuce03 Inactive Member19 Mar 2017 9:35 p.m. PST

To an extent it varies by manufacturer which term they use and what period it denotes.

Early Roman and Tullian Roman are probably often coterminous. However, if treated separately, Early Roman would cover the very early history when Rome's army was little more than warbands under a noble commander. The Tullian period would then cover the phalanx warfare at the end of the monarchy and early Republic. Named for Servius Tullius, sixth king of Rome, who supposedly created the centuries which formed the basis for civil and military organisation. Main opponents in this period are other Italian tribes and cities.

The end of this system would be traditionally dated to around 390BC and the Battle of the Allia where Rome's army was annihilated, but as with all stages of evolution the change was probably a bit more gradual.

The "Camillan army" is the first recognisable stage of the triplex acies formation that eventually led to the most recognisable form of the legion. Five lines of infantry, including rorarii and accensi, and leves and velites as skirmishers. Named for Furius Camillus, who supposedly invented it. Opponents would include Italians, Gauls and Greeks, most notably Pyrrhus.

The Polybian army is a later development of, and similar to, the Camillan one but the leves, rorarii and accensi are no longer seen. The two periods may be combined in some lists, as there isn't a clear date for delineating them. The focus is on the hastati, principes and triarii, still deployed in the triplex acies formation. Armies of this period are often depicted with better armour than their Camillan predecessors. Both the Camillan and Polybian armies are supported by native cavalry and substantial allied Italian legions. Named for Polybius, who wrote about it in some detail. Enemies of this period would include Carthage, Numantia, Numidia, Macedon and the Seleucid Empire.

The Marian period starts from roughly the end of the second century BC. The triplex acies maniples disappear and are replaced by uniform cohorts. Velites and native cavalry conventionally disappear too, replaced by foreign auxiliaries. There are some minor changes in equipment from the Polybian period, and equipment becomes more standardised. After 90BC the Italian allied legions are converted to Roman ones (as the Italians are given Roman citizenship). This is the same period sometimes called Late Republican or Caesarian. Named for Marius, who (again) supposedly invented this system). Opponents: Gauls, Pontics, Parthians, Spanish, slave rebellions, Italians, other Romans.

Early Imperial armies are in organisational terms almost identical to Marian ones when it comes to the legionaries themselves. The main differences are in equipment: Imperial legionaries are more often depicted with lorica segmentata (earlier ones have mail) and rectangular shields, among some other differences regarding helmet types. Roman cavalry are reconstituted. Praetorians are introduced. The Auxilia are officially formed, which leads to some greater consistency in the appearance of auxiliaries. Opponents: Germans, Dacians, Britons, other Romans.

The Middle Imperial period would vary somewhat but tends to refer to the period between the death of Trajan (sometimes a later Emperor in the Five-Good- series) and the time of Constantine (or sometimes a little later). Being heavily marked by civil wars, this period saw a decline in organisation and equipment and an increasing barbarian presence in the army. The lorica segmentata fell out of use. Opponents: Sassanids, Goths, other Romans.

Late Imperial covers the last phase of the western Roman army roughly from the Crisis of the Third Century on. Comitatenses and limitanei are the order of the day. The army has changed substantially from that of the late Republic with foederati much in evidence.

"Patrician Roman" is a term employed in some game systems/lists for the very last period of the Late Empire, starting roughly with Flavius Aetius and then continuing with his successors until the deposition of Augustulus, through the Hunnic wars, sack of Rome, and so on.

Opponents in this last period would include Sassanids, Huns, Franks, Goths, Vandals (et al) and, of course, other Romans.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2017 4:19 a.m. PST

Don't forget the main one in the minds of non players and unfortunatelly officials too ( including culture and unis) the Asterix Roman. Circa 1cent. aD.

donkey1 Inactive Member21 Mar 2017 1:11 p.m. PST

Thanks for all the fantastic info the Polybian period sounds interesting to me in terms of opponents. Followed by Marian.



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