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(plural: velites)
3rd/2nd century BC

The velites were lightly armed skirmishers who operated in front of the army in loose formation.
Their role was hence to harass the enemy, to provoke particular units into battle or to simply distract from the manoeuvres of the main body behind them.

Note: Against Hannibal, the velites proved an excellent foil for the elephants, drawing them through and away from the Roman battle lines.

Given his role, a veles needed to be young, fast and agile.
Here he carries a short javelin. It is likely that a veles may in fact have taken a collection of javelins into the field, as they very probably will have been his main weaponry. It is possible that they operated in teams of two, one bearing the weapons and operating as a shield man, the other engaging the foe with javelins.


This page was last updated on 4th June 2008.