riot, rout, and unlawful assembly, in law, varying degrees of concerted disturbance of the peace. At common law, an unlawful assembly is a gathering of at least three persons whose conduct causes observers to reasonably fear that a breach of the peace will result. When the meeting is a furtherance of a criminal conspiracy, the participation of only two persons will suffice to constitute the crime of unlawful assembly. Under British law, the Riot Act (1716) required that a sheriff, judge, or other authority appear before an unruly crowd and read a declaration ordering them to disperse, on penalty of arrest. Modern statutes have freed the crime of unlawful assembly from some of its technicalities. Thus, there are municipal ordinances that make unlawful an unlicensed street assembly that blocks traffic even if there is no danger of tumult. An unlawful assembly becomes a rout when the participants take some step to achieve their common purpose; e.g., if three men who have assembled to commit arson proceed toward the building that they intend to set on fire, they are guilty of a rout even if they never reach their goal. There is a riot if violence actually results from an unlawful assembly. If a police officer (or other officer of the peace) commands bystanders at a riot to help him in repressing it, they must obey on pain of themselves being deemed rioters. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the "right of the people peaceably to assemble," and has provided protection for many types of assembly, including some forms of picketing and demonstrations.
A rout is commonly defined as a chaotic and disorderly retreat or withdrawal of troops from a battlefield, resulting in the victory of the opposing party, or following defeat, a collapse of discipline, or poor morale. A routed army often degenerates into a sense of "every man for himself" as the surviving combatants attempt to flee to safety. A disorganized rout often results in much higher casualties for the retreating force than an orderly withdrawal. On many occasions, more soldiers are killed in the rout than in the actual battle. Normally, though not always, routs either effectively end a battle, or provide the decisive victory the winner needs to gain the momentum with which to end a battle in their favor.

It can also be a form of evening party.


Historically, lightly equipped soldiers such as auxiliaries, light cavalry, partisans or militia were important when pursuing a fast-moving routing enemy force and could often keep up the pursuit into the following day, causing the routing army heavy casualties or total dissolution. The slower moving heavy forces could then either seize objectives or pursue at leisure. However, with the advent of armoured warfare and blitzkrieg style operations, an enemy army can be kept more or less in a routing or disorganized state for days or weeks on end.


Routs may be feigned to entice an enemy into pursuing the "retreating" force, with the intent of causing the enemy to abandon a strong defensive position or leading the enemy into a prepared ambush. It is thought that Breton cavalry performed this maneuver at the Battle of Hastings. However, this is a high-risk tactic, as the feigned-rout may often develop into a real rout.

Evening assembly

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the word rout was commonly used to mean a large party or fashionable evening assembly, but this is now described as an archaic use.

Other uses of the term

A rout is also a synonym for an overwhelming defeat as well as a verb meaning "to put to disorderly retreat" or "to defeat utterly", and is often used in sports to describe a blowout.

Can also be found as rought in Great Britain.

See also


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