Velites (Singular: "Veles") were a class of infantry in the Polybian legions of the early Roman republic. Velites were light infantry and skirmishers who were armed with a number of light javelins, or "hastae velitares", to fling at the enemy, and also carried short thrusting swords, or "gladii" for use in melee. They rarely wore armour, as they were the youngest and poorest soldiers in the legion and could not afford much equipment. They did carry small wooden shields for protection though, and wore a headdress made from wolf skin to allow officers to differentiate between them and other heavier legionaries.

Velites did not form their own units; a number of them were attached to each maniple of hastati, principes and triarii. They were typically used as a screening force, driving off enemy skirmishers and disrupting enemy formations with javelin fire before retiring behind the lines to allow the heavier armed hastati to attack. They were normally the ones who engaged war elephants and chariots if they were present on the field; their high mobility and ranged weaponry made them much more effective against these enemies than heavy infantry. An early Roman legion contained approximately 1,000 velites. Velites were eventually done away with after the Marian reforms.

Equipment and organisation

Velites were the youngest and usually the poorest soldiers in the legion, and could rarely afford much equipment.]

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  • VELITES — Festo fuêre, milites expediti, sic dicti, quasi volantes: de quorum institutione ita Val. Max. l. 2. c. 3. ex ult. Velitum, inquit, usus eô bellô primum repertus est, quô Capuam Fulvius Flaccus Imperator obsedit. Nam cum Equitatui Campanorum… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Velītes — Velītes, (v. lat.), 1) (röm. Amt.), in Rom seit dem zweiten Punischen Kriege die Leichtbewaffneten, welche den Legionarabtheilungen beigegeben waren, s.u. Legion 2); 2) (Veliten), das ungarische berittene Aufgebot, von welchem jedem ungarischen… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Velites — Velĭtes, die Leichtbewaffneten der altröm. Legion …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Velites — Velites, bei den Römern die leichten, der Legion vorangehenden Truppen, die nur mit Pfeil, Wurfspieß u. Schleuder kämpften. Unter Napoleon I. gab es v. zu Fuß u. zu Pferd, eine Art Freiwilliger, welche zur alten Garde gerechnet wurden …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • velites — [vē′li tēz΄] pl.n. 〚L, pl. of veles (gen. velitis), akin to velox, swift & vehere, to carry: see WAY〛 in ancient Rome, lightly armed foot soldiers * * * …   Universalium

  • velites — [vē′li tēz΄] pl.n. [L, pl. of veles (gen. velitis), akin to velox, swift & vehere, to carry: see WAY] in ancient Rome, lightly armed foot soldiers …   English World dictionary

  • Vélites — Un vélite, según ilustración de Theodore Ayrault Dodge en 1861.[1] Los vélites (del latín: velites, singular veles) constituían una unidad de infantería ligera que luchaba al frente de la …   Wikipedia Español

  • Velites — Die Velites (Singular: veles, deutsch: Plänkler) waren eine Formation in der römischen Republik. Sie stand noch im ersten Treffen vor den Hastati, und begann die Schlacht, meistens durch ein Geplänkel mit den feindlichen Speerwerfern. Die Velites …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • VÉLITES — s. m. pl. Soldats légèrement armés. Ils étaient, dans la milice romaine, ce que sont aujourd hui dans nos armées les troupes légères.  Il se dit aussi d Un corps de chasseurs qui avait été créé, en France, par Napoléon …   Dictionnaire de l'Academie Francaise, 7eme edition (1835)

  • Vélites — Vélite  Cette page d’homonymie répertorie différentes unités militaires partageant un même nom. Le terme vélite peut référer : au vélite, fantassin léger de la Rome antique ; au vélite, chasseur léger du Premier Empire. Ce document …   Wikipédia en Français

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