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  • The year is 117 CE, and the Roman Empire under Emperor Trajan is at the height of its economic,

  • political, and military power.

  • The mighty civilisation would hold strong for another several hundred years before finally

  • collapsing, in part because nobody could defeat the empire's legionaries – a well-trained,

  • well-equipped, and rightly feared fighting force.

  • While very few of the empire's contemporaries could stand against these soldiers, what if

  • we introduced a more interesting challenger into the mix: An M1 Abrams tank, commonly

  • used by the modern armies of the United States, Iraq, Kuwait, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and

  • Egypt, transported back to ancient times.

  • That's right.

  • The Roman Empire had plenty of iconic enemiesfrom the brutal Attila the Hun to the

  • elephant-riding Hannibal of Carthagebut few could pose a real threat to the empire's

  • dominance.

  • So, it's perhaps worth asking: If any of these enemies had even one operational M1

  • Abrams tank, would the sum of Rome's legionnaires be able to stand against them?

  • Would the armoured soldiers of the Roman Legion go weak at the knees at the approach of an

  • M1's rumbling caterpillar tracks, or would they stand their ground, and use their advanced

  • military tactics to win the day against their more physically powerful foe?

  • It's an epic battle between some of the grandfathers of military innovation and one

  • of the 20th and 21st centuries most deadly and enduring pieces of hardcore military hardware,

  • employed everywhere from the Persian Gulf War to the modern skirmishes of the Middle

  • East.

  • As in any battle between two legendary forces, we need to first pick our battlegroundthankfully,

  • this is an area where the Roman Empire and the M1 Abrams quite literally have common

  • ground.

  • As we just mentioned, the M1 Abrams cut its teeth in the Persian Gulf wars, otherwise

  • known as Operation Desert storm, in Iraq.

  • Well over a thousand years earlier, the Roman Empire was fighting against the Sasanian Empire

  • in the latter half of the Roman-Persia Wars, in what would now be known as the neighbouring

  • country of Iran.

  • So, the Middle East is where the game is set for this clash of the military titans.

  • In terms of strategic terrain, Iraq and Iran are famous for their rugged, mountainous environment

  • – a battleground bound to be treacherous for any force that isn't adequately prepared,

  • hence why guerrilla forces with prior knowledge of the area have always historically had a

  • home-team tactical advantage.

  • It's important to remember that, largely thanks to improvements in both communication

  • technology and weaponry, modern warfare moves a lot faster than the conflicts of old.

  • The Gulf War didn't last a full yearand the Middle Eastern conflicts with the US that

  • followed haven't lasted thirty.

  • Compare and contrast this to the Roman-Persian Wars, which lasted, in total, 681 years.

  • With the Middle East being a fair battleground between our two combatants, we now need to

  • look at the combatants themselveswho exactly are we dealing with here?

  • What are the skills, the load out, and do either of them have any little tricks up their

  • sleeves?

  • First, let's take a look at your standard Roman Legionary.

  • We're not talking about a gang of reckless, greedy sell-swords here, nor are we discussing

  • a terrified gang of teenagers drafted into service by an oppressive ruler.

  • Roman Legionaries were volunteer troopshalf from Rome proper, and half from other territories

  • in the empire, referred to as the Auxilia.

  • These soldiers are highly trained, highly organised, and highly motivatedboth by

  • a sense of national and military prideor, in the Auxilia's case, the opportunity to

  • be rewarded with full-blown Roman citizenshipand the status and wealth that came with

  • being a highly-regarded member of the empire's heavy infantry.

  • The Roman Empire was actually more progressive than many of today's world powers in the

  • monetary bonuses they offered to their soldiers as motivation for their service.

  • And of course, while being well motivated and having a good payment plan won't necessarily

  • give our Roman underdogs the edge over an M1 Abrams tank, it certainly won't hurt

  • their chances, either.

  • Soldiers that actually want to fight tend to fight better than conscripted armies.

  • Now, we know the Roman Legionaries were highly trained and revered infantrymen, but what

  • about their actual equipment load out?

  • Well, in terms of armour, your standard Roman Legionary would typically be fit with a chainmail

  • underlayer, topped either by shoulder pads, or in more extreme cases, the army's trademark

  • lorica segmentata.

  • This is the term for the steel strips folded into light but powerful body armour, the appearance

  • of which is actually pretty synonymous with the mental image of a Roman Soldier, from

  • Gladiator to Monty Python.

  • They also wore helmets that covered the entire head, brow, and neck, leaving only the face

  • exposed.

  • Down below, they kept it pretty simple with a leather belt and hobnailed sandals.

  • Another iconic element of Roman Legionary armour is the scutum, a huge, curved, rectangular

  • shield formed of densely-packed layers of plywoodallowing the legionary to not

  • only shield their entire body, but form complex shield structures with their fellow legionaries,

  • though we'll delve more into that later.

  • Equally important as the defence is the Roman Legionary's capacity for offencethat's

  • right, we're talking weapons.

  • What kind of weapons did these legends of the military world wield, and will they hold

  • any water against the M1 Abrams Tank?

  • For warriors so feared, the Roman Legionaries kept things pretty minimalist in their weaponry.

  • Each legionary carried two javelins known as pilums, designed with an armour-piercing

  • pyramidal head on the end of a long, metal shaft.

  • Legionaries would be trained to throw these javelins with devastating accuracy, before

  • charging in to battle whatever's left at close range.

  • This, they'd do with the help of their gladius, a short sword designed for stabbing rather

  • than hacking or slashing.

  • As a last resort, a standard Roman legionary is typically packing a pugio, a stout dagger

  • designed, once again, for stabbing.

  • Considering that most of the Roman Army's offensive potential is based around stabbing,

  • how would they fare against an enemy that could not be stabbed, such as an M1 Abrams

  • tank?

  • We've seen what the Roman Legionaries are capable ofnow let's take a look at

  • the M1 Abrams.

  • Also known as the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank, this piece of terrifying hardware has

  • been a mainstay of the US ground force since the 1990s.

  • Operated by a crew of four, this tank is capable of moving at max speeds of 42 miles-per-hour/69

  • kilometres-per-hour thanks to its 1500 HP Gas Turbine Engine, almost double the speed

  • of the fastest human ever measured.

  • Considering the Roman Legionaries are literally foot soldiers, being massively outpaced by

  • a far stronger foe definitely isn't a good sign.

  • But things get worse for our plucky legionaries when you consider the Abrams' armour: Weighing

  • 68 tons, the tank boasts thick metal armour designed to withstand improvised explosive

  • devices, rocket propelled grenades, and enemy tank fire.

  • The latest iteration is also fitted with M250 six-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers, allowing

  • it to create a blinding smokescreen around itself at a moment's notice.

  • A thrown pilum is likely to inflict the same damage as flicking a toothpick at it, much

  • to the frustration of the unfortunate Roman Legionaries, and don't even think about

  • going at it with a gladius unless you like the idea of being crushed.

  • That, finally, brings us to the weaponry you can expect from a modern M1 Abrams.

  • Namely, a devastating canon, and two different but equally dangerous machine guns.

  • There's the M256 120mm smoothbore cannon, capable of firing M829A4 advanced kinetic

  • energy and advanced multi-purpose (AMP) rounds that would likely turn a gang of even the

  • toughest legionaries into a fine, red mist.

  • The two secondary weapons are the 12.7mm machine gun, and the 7.62mm M240 machine gun, both

  • of which could dish out a devastating level of damage to combatants without modern ballistic

  • armour, like the legionaries.

  • It seems like an almost depressingly one-sided battle.

  • In theory, couldn't a single one of these high-tech death machines mow their way through

  • the entire Roman Empire?

  • Well, on a one-on-one basis, definitely, but the story is never that simple.

  • Two key factors in this battle are numerical advantages and battle tactics.

  • A Roman Legion is formed of an impressive 5,000 troops, divided into cohorts of 480,

  • each of which is then divided intocenturiesof 80 to 100 troops.

  • Much like modern infantries, this allows for not only a large overall force, but a great

  • degree of independence between them, that allows for impressive tactical versatility.

  • An M1 Abrams is a devastating piece of military technology, but it can only fight one battle

  • at a time, and its greatest offensive weaponsthe smoothbore canon and its two machine

  • gunshave finite ammunition.

  • Any method of defeating the M1 Abrams Tank would likely lean on this vast numerical superiority,

  • with the ability to act independently and draw the tank's attention as necessary.

  • The problem with many of the Roman Legion's most well-known tactics is that they simply

  • weren't designed with a combatant like the tank in mind.

  • Take, for example, the testudoortortoise” – formation, wherein the legion converges

  • and interlocks their shields to deflect projectiles as they move towards their targets.

  • While this would have worked fine for spears, arrows, and other non-explosive hand-thrown

  • projectiles, the plywood scutums wouldn't offer much protection against a hail of bullets

  • or the blast of the tank's canonor even just the crushing weight of the tank's

  • tracks.

  • The same can be said for other traditional tactics, like the triple line and the wedge

  • formation.

  • Tanks are a piece of technology so immune to conventional weapons that a whole new class

  • of anti-tank weaponry had to be built to deal with them.

  • However, there is one feather in the Roman Legion's cap: Long-term endurance.

  • In addition to their weaponry and armour, each legionary would carry a pila muralia,

  • a forked pole carrying miscellaneous supplies including: Up to fourteen days of rations,

  • a wicker basket, a saw, a length of leather, a shovel, a sickle, and a waterskin.

  • Legionaries would also carry a pick axe around their belt.

  • These supplies would not only allow the legionaries to survive on the battlefield for two weeks,

  • but would also give them the tools to live longer off of the natural resources presented

  • to them by the land around them.

  • It's worth remembering that this particular showdown is happening in the mountainous terrain

  • of the Middle East, where adaptable guerrilla-style forces have always had an advantage.

  • The 5,000-man legion could split into its small and manoeuvrable centuries, allowing

  • it to wage a stealthy and covert war of attrition on the M1 Abrams from the hills, making occasional

  • tactical sacrifices but preserving the majority of their forces.

  • For highly trained soldiers up against a noisy and large tank, remaining alert and hidden

  • shouldn't be that challenging a task.

  • An interesting fact worth remembering about the M1 Abrams tank is that, much like the

  • ammo supplies that power its dangerous weaponry, the very fuel that allows the tank to move

  • is equally finite.

  • The tank's engine has great mileage, by all accounts, but ultimately can only really

  • last for 265 miles/426 kilometres before needing to refuel.

  • And while the M1 is actually extremely versatile in the fuel it can utiliseincluding gasoline,

  • diesel fuel and jet fuelyou're highly unlikely to find any of these lying around

  • on the battlefields of ancient Iran or Iraq.

  • And here, the Roman Legion has its perfect advantage, because even if the tank did potentially

  • have reserves of fuel and ammunition elsewhere, the tank would be seriously vulnerable while

  • replenishing their supplies.

  • If the legionaries could keep their centuries spread out and mobile around the battlefield,

  • considering their vast numerical advantage of 5,000 to one, they could deplete the tank's

  • ammunition and fuel until all that was left was a stationary metal hut.

  • At that point, it becomes a type of battle that ancient warriors are far more familiar

  • with: Siege warfare.

  • The Roman Legion would simply camp out around the now immobilised tankpossibly even

  • digging trenches around it with their shovels in order to further prevent its escapeuntil

  • the four operators of said tank ran out of supplies like food and water.

  • Then, they would have only two choices: Go out fighting against a numerically superior

  • force of highly-trained melee combatants, or surrender to the Roman forces and be captured.

  • Either way, in spite of having inferior weapons and armour in pretty much every regard, this

  • is how a roman legionthrough leveraging its numerical superiority and tactical flexibility

  • could defeat an M1 Abrams Tank.

  • The question of what these legionaries will do with their newly captured M1 Abrams Tank

  • is probably a discussion for another video

  • Hungry for more tank knowledge?

  • Check outTop 10 Most Powerful TanksandThe Deadliest Tank of World War II.”

  • Thanks for watching, we'll see you next time!

The year is 117 CE, and the Roman Empire under Emperor Trajan is at the height of its economic,

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How Could a Roman Legion Defeat a Tank?

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    Summer posted on 2020/08/17
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