HMRRBS-789R Nine Hastati with Red Shields, The Roman Army of the Mid-Republic
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Hastati (singular: Hastatus) were a class of infantry employed in the armies of the early and Mid Roman Republic.
They were originally some of the poorest men in the legion, and could afford only modest equipment. Later, the hastati contained the younger men rather than just the poorer, (though most men of their age were relatively poor.) Their usual position was the first battle line. The hastati were formed into 10 maniples of 120 men each, therefore 1,200 men per legion. Battles were conducted in a similar fashion; the velites would gather at the front and fling javelins to cover the advance of the hastati. If the hastati failed to break the enemy, they would fall back on the principes. If the principes could not break the enemy, they would retire behind the triarii, who would then engage.
The Roman army of the mid-Republic (also known as the manipular Roman army or the “Polybian army”), refers to the armed forces deployed by the mid-Roman Republic, from the end of the Samnite Wars (290 BC) to the end of the Social War (88 BC). The first phase of this army, in its manipular structure (290–ca. 130 BC), is described in detail in the Histories of the ancient Greek historian Polybius, writing before 146 BC.