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Spartan Warrior vs Roman Legionnaire

Updated on March 27, 2013

The Deadliest Warrior television programme was an enjoyable and interesting piece of entertainment. I really enjoyed the way the programme was set up and the scientific approach was really well thought out and implemented. The only gripe I had with the programme was the actual contestants they matched them up with.

After discussing the programme with friends we all agreed that the pairings were a bit of a let down. The Ninja of the Far East versus the Greek Spartan Warrior was not a like for like match, in a pitched battle the Spartan would be victorious the vast majority of the time. The Ninja was not a warrior who fought in plain sight, so the choice did not seem a good pairing.

So taking a queue from the television series I think I will do a relative comparison of their individual merits. I have decided to compare the Spartan warrior against Romes finest Legionnaire. Now these Warrior's never met on the battlefield as Sparta had melted into obscurity and were nowhere near their legendary peak. The Spartans of old existed a few hundred years before the Roman Empire and it's mighty Legionnaires marched their way over a large portion of the civilized world.

Spartan Warrior
Spartan Warrior

The Spartan Warrior

It was standard practice for a noble son of Sparta to be taken away from his family at the age of Eight. He would then be brutalized by his peers and turned into a Spartan man through years of training. This tough love approach is effectively a basic form of eugenics policy, only the strongest will survive and they will continue Sparta's good name.

By the time the young Spartan has reached the age of 18 he has learnt to fight, to win and to die honourable like a true Spartan. After constant drilling by their superiors the Spartan youth has become a fine tuned killing machine ready for battle. The youth is taught of Sparta's heroes and he is instructed never to surrender, and never back down. By the time his schooling is completed he would have survived in the wilderness and would have killed a member of the Messenian Helot slave class. This murder served a two fold purpose, firstly it culled the number of rebellious young slaves. And secondly it gave the Spartan youth a taste of bloodshed, which will accompany him until his own death.

The US Marine fitness programme is based on the Spartans brutal training principle, although slaughtering an innocent member of the serving class at graduation is not recommended. The Spartan warrior undergoes a decade of training and tests of his endurance and character.


The Legionnaire

The Legionnaire comes into the Roman army in a number of ways, he is either forced into it as he is the second or third son in a poor family. He may have committed a crime and was offered the life of a soldier rather than death, or he may have been a slave sold to the Roman Legion after been abducted from his homeland. Another way a Legionnaire may join up, is if he is an auxiliary attached to a Legion in the occupied territories. He may sign up to be a Legionnaire as he could get Roman citizenship. This would entitle him to a legion pension and land to farm on the end of his service. Like the Spartan's the Legionnaire would be trained repeatedly in Roman tactics and strategies. The Romans fought in the same way as the Spartans, they worked as a single force to crush their enemies.


Roman Legionnaire
Roman Legionnaire

The Weapons

Shields: The Spartans main armour was their bronze shields which was the ancient equivalent of a tank when used in a large group. The Roman shields were of a later design and construction , they were generally made of steel or iron. The Roman shields been more modern and advanced where stronger and larger than the Spartan shield, but the Spartan shield was built to withstand a lot of punishment.


Spear : The Spartan used their long spears to inflict mass casualties from behind their wall of bronze shields. The courage and discipline with the spear allowed the Spartan formation to become a human threshing machine. The Spartans used their spears as javelins preferring the spear to using bows and arrows, the Spartans thought them cowardly. The Romans had spears but their fighting style was to use it more as a defensive or close quarter combat deterrent. The Roman ranks used their short sword in a more hand to hand environment.


A Spartan Warrior.
A Spartan Warrior. | Source

Armour : The Spartan Warrior in battle wore bronze armour, please disregard what the 300 movie showed, the Spartans did wear body armour with their red capes and helmets. They did not have a lot of coverage and as the armour was made of bronze it would have weighed a fair amount. The Legionnaire was covered in a bit more metal but he was afforded some flexibility as the plate mail was slats of steel not a solid mass like a suit of armour. The weak points on the legionnaire was at the joints. The Chestplate and helmet were very functional at saving injury.


Swords: Both sets of warriors used a short sword as their primary weapon in one on one contest. The Spartan Xiphos was designed to go in and around a shields defence in line. Owing to the shortness of the blade the Spartan had to react to the opponents aggression rather than attack long distance and telegraph his attack. The Roman tended to use the Gladius, this was an instrument designed to hack through limbs then run through bodies and move onto the next victim.

Spartan 85/100 LEGIONNAIRE 80/100


Now that I have calculated the scores, it seems that the result is this....

Spartan Score is an average of 89.0

Roman Score is an average of 89.2

So by a small amount the Roman soldier should defeat a Spartan Warrior in the field of battle. Is this surprising? The Roman is using technology more advanced than the Spartan so that alone should swing it. What I am unable to factor in is variables such as fatigue, morale, experience of battle and what they are fighting for. The Legionnaire dominated nearly 500 years of history changing tactics and equipment very little but they eventually where destroyed by less drilled but more hungry enemies.

Your Opinion

Who would win in an Equal fight

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    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 3 years ago from England

      Thanks for the feedback Trax, appreciate the information!

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      Trax 3 years ago

      Late reader here. Just going to address some errors. Hoplites rarely actually used the bronze cuirass as it would weigh down the soldier packed in tight formations. Instead hoplites favored the leather cuirass which gave almost equal the protection at a lower cost.

      The Greek xiphos was never a primary weapon as it would take away the advantage of the phalanx. The spear and sarissa was always their primary (as written by Herodotus for example).

      Second point of the xiphos. It was a leaf shaped straight sword which couldn't really reach around a shield. The sword you're referring to is the kopis which was pretty hard to make do to its curved shape. Weapons and armor where given by retired soldier so only soldiers from a rich family would be using one.

      Sources: Ancient texts and a degree in ancient warfare and geopolitics.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 4 years ago from England

      Interesting points thank you for the contribution. At their peak-both warriors were formidable.

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      Brenden 4 years ago

      Remember the spartan hopolite formation wasn't the same formation that the Macedonians used with their extremely long pikes. The Spartan tactics were outdated pretty quickly because I think the thracians kicked their asses after the wars between Athens and Sparta. Another thing this doesn't take into account is that the roman legionnaire was a professional swords men and that the spartan formation would of lost shields because the way the roman spears were designed.

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      Rome 5 years ago

      Such a comparison is somewhat ridiculous, one only has to look at the absolute dominance of the Roman Military to conclude that they are superior. Deadliest Warrior is a horrible show because they do not treat things realistically. EG the Rajhput somehow defeating the Romans when in fact the Romans do not fight this way, therefore armies must be compared at which point the Romans overwhelmingly dominate the field...So when comparing two warriors especially as a Spartan or Roman with the heavy infantry lockstep style, one must compare armies as a whole rather than simple individuals. As the Romans demonstrated an army is so much more than the sum of its parts.

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      ACE 6 years ago


    • profile image

      DDuana 6 years ago

      Re: konstantin alexiou

      Actually, the Macedonian Army fielded by King Perseus lacked one thing that King Alexander had: Combined Arms Tactics. Back during King Alexander's time, he had a great mix of troops, fighting beside the Phalanx, such as Peltasts, Shield-Bearers, light-infantry, maybe archers, I am not sure, and most importantly, the Macedonian light cavalry. When the Sarissas act as an anvil to the Macedonian Cavalry's hammer, nothing could stand in its way.

      Whereas when King Perseus fought the Roman Legions at Pydna, he had forsaken the Combined Arms approach and reverted back to a full Phalanx force, the kind of force his ancestor King Alexander had defeated many a times with his Combined Arms approach. And at the beginning of the battle, the Macedonian Phalanx did succeed in pushing back the Roman Legions, but without good support troops guarding the flanks, the Macedonian Phalanx was susceptible to being out-flanked by the more nimble and flexible Roman Legions, and they WERE out-flanked.

      This does not really mean that the Greek Phalanx was flawed as a fighting system. It was just that the Greeks were and had always been too busy fighting amongst themselves, so that they could not fight the Romans as a united front, and for some unknown reason (at least unbeknownst to me, maybe it was a matter of cost), Macedonians had rid themselves of the Combined Arms Approach that had conquered them much of the known world (Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Afghanistan, and all the way into Northern India 0_0 :O ... !!! ).

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      Neo 6 years ago

      Spartan never fought the Roman. Spartan died 400 year before Roman Empire.

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      konstantine alexiou 6 years ago

      The fight of the phalanx of the Macedonian Greeks (antiquated as it was) vs. the legions of the city of Rome resulted in seven major engagements in which both had three victories and three losses it was the last Hellenistic Macedonian King Perseus at Pydna where the large sarisa's ( spears ) of the Macedonian Phalanx could not maneuver quickly enough to face the fast moving legions. Sadly the Spartan Army never faced the Romans. Spartan supremacy wained in Greece and after several defeats to the city of Thebes due to and the same inability to advance tactics and equipment they too became a fighting icon of the past. The victorious Romans recruited betallions of the few remaining Spartans after they controlled southern Greece and gave them special status in the Roman Legions. Thusly it can never be tested weather the Roman Legionary or the Spartan phalangite at the height of their powers would dominate in individual or full on battle.

    • Marcus Teague profile image

      Marcus Teague 7 years ago

      This fight has already been done in history. Greek Hopolites already fought against the Roman Legion, and the Greeks lost very horribly.