How the Romans Fight Against a Phalanx
For no speculation is any longer required to test the
accuracy of what I am now saying: that can be done by referring to accomplished facts.
The Romans do not, then, attempt to extend their front to
equal that of a phalanx, and then charge directly upon it with
their whole force: but some of their divisions are kept in reserve, while others join battle with the enemy at close quarters.
Now, whether the phalanx in its charge drives its opponents
from their ground, or is itself driven back, in either case its
peculiar order is dislocated; for whether in following the
retiring, or flying from the advancing enemy, they quit the
rest of their forces: and when this takes place, the enemy's
reserves can occupy the space thus left, and the ground which
the phalanx had just before been holding, and so no longer
charge them face to face, but fall upon them on their flank
and rear. If, then, it is easy to take precautions against the
opportunities and peculiar advantages of the phalanx, but impossible to do so in the case of its disadvantages, must it not
follow that in practice the difference between these two systems is
enormous? Of course those generals who employ the phalanx
must march over ground of every description, must pitch
camps, occupy points of advantage, besiege, and be besieged,
and meet with unexpected appearances of the enemy: for all
these are part and parcel of war, and have an important and
sometimes decisive influence on the ultimate victory. And
in all these cases the Macedonian phalanx is difficult, and
sometimes impossible to handle, because the men cannot act
either in squads or separately.
Flexibility of the Roman order.
The Roman order on the
other hand is flexible: for every Roman, once
armed and on the field, is equally well equipped
for every place, time, or appearance of the
enemy. He is, moreover, quite ready and needs to make no
change, whether he is required to fight in the main body, or
in a detachment, or in a single maniple, or even by himself.
Therefore, as the individual members of the Roman force are
so much more serviceable, their plans are also much more
often attended by success than those of others.
I thought it necessary to discuss this subject at some
length, because at the actual time of the occurrence many
Greeks supposed when the Macedonians were beaten that it
was incredible; and many will afterwards be at a loss to
account for the inferiority of the phalanx to the Roman
system of arming.