Difference between legions at the end of the Roman empire and around the beginning of the Roman Empire

Difference between legions at the end of the Roman empire and around the beginning of the Roman Empire

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I'm currently searching for some information about the Roman legions. Around the time of Julius Caesar and Augustus the legions seem to be more organized and were structured with the same type of troops and numbers.

At the end of the Roman empire I don't find really much information of what kind of troops a legion was shaped of. were these legions much different through the influence of foreigners or were they constructed the same as they were in time of Julius Caesar?

Here's a link that contains everything you're looking for: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Late_Roman_army

If you don't trust Wikipedia itself check the sources they cite.

and @Pieter Geerkens, the marian reforms took place during the late roman REPUBLIC (about 100 BCE), stevedc is asking about the roman EMPIRE.

10 Brutal Facts About the Roman Legions

For nearly one thousand years, the world quaked at their footsteps, and the very sound of their name: The Legions. The elite troops of Rome’s formidable army, which would carve up an empire that stretched from the Highlands of Scotland to the scorching deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. They would kill and enslave millions, pillage and raze cities to the ground, and transform the mighty Mediterranean Sea into the Empire’s own private lake. The only time in human history when the whole of the Mediterranean would be under one single government was under Roman rule. The Roman Legions were such a mighty force in the world, even their own Emperors were afraid of them.

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1. Construct a time-line dated from AD 150 to AD 475. Add to the time-line details of the conflict between the Germans and the Romans.

2. Select sources from this unit that give a good impression of the Germans. Give possible reasons why these writers gave a good impression of the Germans.

3. (i) Describe the reasons why the Germans came into conflict with the Roman Empire. (ii) Explain how these events linked up to help bring down the Roman Empire.

A guide to the Roman army, plus 10 facts about life in the legions

The beat of Roman soldiers’ boots echoed throughout every corner of the empire – but what was it like to serve in the legions? Guy de la Bédoyère delves into the vast archive these soldiers left behind and presents 10 snapshots of life in the ancient world’s most powerful military force

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Published: January 29, 2021 at 6:07 am

Today, the Roman army is remembered as the mightiest fighting machine that the ancient world had ever seen. And with good reason. But it took centuries to grow into the ferocious force that would strike fear into peoples spread across a sprawling empire.

In its earliest days, Rome’s army was raised on an as-need basis from the citizenry based on property qualifications. At the top came men who could provide a horse, right down to the ordinary soldiers, or legionaries, who could afford only a sword. It required Rome’s first two Punic Wars against Carthage in the third century BC for the Roman army to develop into the military behemoth that dominated the ancient world.

As the army’s power grew, the number of men who served in it ballooned. In the Republic, numbers had varied according to requirements. They were mainly in the tens of thousands until the Late Republic (c104–
31 BC), when Rome’s warring generals raised vast forces to pursue their political ambitions. Under the emperors (27 BC–AD 337), the numbers rocketed from around 250,000 to 450,000, made up of citizen legionaries in the 5,000-strong legions and provincial auxiliaries in roughly equal numbers.

But the Roman army was about much more than war. It was almost the only means by which the Roman state exercised its power. Soldiers erected forts, built aqueducts, acted as bodyguards, policed civilians, managed quarries and prisons, and collected taxes. They also had families, petitioned the emperor, marched on campaign, committed acts of great valour and atrocities, and worshipped their gods. Some died from disease, enemy action, or accidents. Others lived to sign on again as veterans, or retired to find their way in civilian life.

Yet despite its many roles in Roman society, the army is still best remembered for its military might. So how did the force manage to be so successful? It wasn’t immune to defeat – far from it. But the Romans had a staggering ability to cope with adversity. Coming back from the disasters of Lake Trasimene (217 BC) and Cannae (216 BC) during the Second Punic War (when the Romans were heavily defeated twice by the Carthaginian general Hannibal who was roaming at will in Italy) was a turning point.

The Roman army was based on organisation and flexibility, always adapting to circumstances. Its soldiers were also exceptionally well-equipped, most notably with the gladius Hispaniensis, the ‘Spanish sword’. It was a vicious weapon that reflected the harsh reality of brutal face-to-face fighting. But in the imperial age the soldiers became all too prone to toppling one emperor after another in search of ever bigger handouts and pay rises, destabilising the empire.

Stories of the army endured long after the last soldiers died – chiefly because the Romans left so much information about it. Historians such as Livy, Josephus and Tacitus loved military history and provide us with a huge amount of detail about campaigns and battles. And the soldiers themselves were also more literate than the general population and were more likely to leave records of their lives, be it in tombstones, religious offerings or letters. This has left a vast archive, and there is no parallel for any other ancient or medieval army.

Some soldiers took new Roman names…

In the second century AD a young Egyptian called Apion fulfilled the exacting criteria for eligibility for the Roman military – he was between the ages of 17 and 46, freeborn, and passed a rigorous medical examination – and signed up to join the fleet. He then embarked on a dangerous journey from his village in Egypt to Italy, coming close to being shipwrecked en route. Happily, Apion safely reached the Roman fleet base at Misenum on the northern side of the bay of Naples, where he joined the company of a ship called the Athenonica and promptly set about writing home to his father.

His letter, which has survived, is in Greek, the everyday language in the eastern Roman empire. “I thank the lord Serapis that when I was in danger at sea he immediately saved me,” wrote Apion. He was also delighted on arrival to have “received from Caesar three gold coins for travelling expenses”. This was a considerable sum of money, equivalent to around half a year’s pay for a member of the fleet. Apion had something else to tell his father, Epimachus: “My name is Antonius Maximus” – this was his brand-new Roman name. Although not every auxiliary soldier took a Roman moniker, some did – and it was a common practice in Apion’s fleet. His new name was typically Roman, and for Apion a matter of pride.

There were rivalries for the best jobs

During Julius Caesar’s Gallic campaign (fought in modern-day France), two centurions (commanders of 80 men) called Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus earned undying fame in the heat of a vicious battle. Caesar was so impressed that he even made a special point of telling their story.

The pair were bitter rivals for the best jobs. One day in 54 BC the legion was under attack from the Nervii tribe (a warlike people who lived in the north of Gaul). Pullo goaded Vorenus, accusing him of waiting for a better opportunity to prove his bravery. Pullo then dived into the fight, leaving Vorenus no alternative but to follow him in case he was thought a coward.

Pullo threw his spear and struck one of the Nervii. But other Nervii flung their spears at Pullo, who had no chance of escaping. He had one spear stuck in his shield, another in his belt, and his scabbard had been pushed out of place. Vorenus dashed up to help, diverting the tribesmen’s attention on to him because they thought Pullo was dead. Vorenus killed one and chased off the others, and during the melee Pullo had been able to get away and bring up reinforcements. They escaped back behind the Roman defences, lucky to have their lives.

Caesar said: “It was impossible to decide which should be considered the better man in valour.”

Sleeves had a secret meaning

An early third-century AD tombstone from South Shields fort reads: “Victor, a Moorish tribesman, aged 20, freedman of Numerianus… who most devotedly conducted him to the tomb.” In the tombstone’s engraving, Victor wears a long-sleeved tunic (men who wore this item of clothing were assumed to have a preference for male partners) and robe while he lounges on a couch. Whether he and Numerianus shared a sexual relationship can only be conjecture, but the unusually affectionate nature of the piece suggests that possibility.

Scipio Africanus, the famous general of the Second Punic War over 400 years earlier, disapproved of such relationships. He once described “a young man who with a lover has reclined (at meals) in a long-sleeved tunic on the inside of a couch, and is not only partial to wine, but also to men. Does anyone doubt that he does what sodomites are accustomed to doing?”

Victor’s tombstone amounts to a visual realisation of Scipio’s words, but replacing condemnation with veneration. It suggests that, by Victor’s time and in this frontier fort, his relationship with Numerianus was most likely conducted openly and in safety.

Bullying centurions

Centurions played a key part in the everyday disciplining of soldiers, and it could backfire. During the mutiny among the Pannonian legions in AD 14, one harsh disciplinarian of a centurion called Lucilius was killed. He had earned himself the nickname Cedo Alteram (‘bring me another!’) in reference to his habit of breaking his vine rod symbol of office over the back of one ordinary soldier after another and calling for a fresh stick to be brought. The VIII and XV legions were on the point of coming to blows over another centurion called Sirpicus, as he also bullied common soldiers. Only the intervention of Legio VIIII saved him.

In that same year, a mutiny was stirred up among the Rhine legions over the way pay and conditions had been ignored. The men’s first target was the centurions “who had fuelled the soldiers’ hatred for the longest”. The soldiers all bore the scars of beatings they had endured. They struck each centurion with 60 blows to match the number of centurions in a legion, killing some and severely injuring the rest, and threw them into the rampart or into the Rhine. Only the general Germanicus was able to calm the men down.

In pursuit of pleasure

Some officers spent their spare time composing poetry or writing, but others had less refined hobbies – and for these men, hunting was often top of the list. In around the third century AD, Gaius Tetius Veturius Micianus, the commanding officer of the Gaulish Ala Sebosiana in northern Britain, triumphantly hunted down a boar that had apparently fought off all other attempts to capture it.

The officer commemorated his kill on an altar that he set up on Bollihope Common. Its text brags: “Gaius Tetius Veturius Micianus, prefect commanding the cavalry wing of Sebosians, willingly set this up to the Divinities of the Emperors and Unconquerable Silvanus [in return] for taking a wild boar of remarkable fineness which many of his predecessors had been unable to turn into booty.”

A civil war tragedy

In AD 69 Rome descended into a vicious civil war that involved four rival emperors who battled it out in turn: Galba, Otho, Vitellius and the eventual victor, Vespasian. As violence raged across the empire, one particularly tragic event occurred.

Legio XXI Rapax supported Vitellius. One of its soldiers was a Spaniard called Julius Mansuetus who had left a son behind at home. Not long after this, the boy reached adulthood and joined Legio VII Gemina, formed by Galba, one of the four rival emperors, in AD 68. But by the time of the second battle of Bedriacum, VII Gemina was on Vespasian’s side.

During the fierce fighting, the young soldier unknowingly fatally wounded his own father. Only when he was searching Mansuetus’ barely conscious body did he realise what he had done. Profusely apologising to his father before he died, he then picked up the body and buried it. Other soldiers noticed what was going on, and they all ruminated on the pointless destruction the war had brought. The historian Tacitus, however, told his readers that it made no difference. Nothing stopped the soldiers carrying on “killing and robbing their relatives, kin and brothers”. Calling it a crime, “in the same breath they did it themselves”.

Laying down the law

The job of centurion carried with it great responsibility – not only were they in charge of soldiers, but some were tasked with civilian administration, too. The centurion Gaius Severius Emeritus oversaw the region around the spa at Bath in Britain. He was disgusted to find that one of the sacred places had been wrecked “by insolent hands”, as Emeritus called them. Frustrated by gratuitous vandalism and the oafs responsible, he had the place restored, and set up an altar to commemorate the fact.

It seems to have been a good idea to keep these powerful men on side, and many tried to bribe them. During the reign of Hadrian, Julius Clemens, a centurion of Legio XXII Deiotariana, wrote to Sokration, an Egyptian civilian who had sent Clemens a bribe of olive oil, and implored: “And do you write to me about what you may need, knowing that I gladly do everything for you.”

The potential for centurions in charge of civilian administration to abuse their positions is obvious. But they weren’t alone. The poet Juvenal, who had himself once commanded an auxiliary unit, was deeply critical of how Roman soldiers threw their weight about, beat up members of the public and flouted justice.

Soldiers came from diverse homelands

Although most legionaries came from Italy, Gaul and Spain, the auxiliary forces were raised from all over the Roman empire. Let’s take, for instance, an auxiliary soldier called Sextus Valerius Genialis. He was one of the Frisiavone people and hailed from Gallia Belgica (a region covering modern-day north-eastern France, Belgium and Luxembourg), but he served with a Thracian cavalry unit in Britain and had a completely Roman name.

The ethnic titles the auxiliary units sported – such as Ala I Britannica – are often taken surprisingly literally by military historians and archaeologists, who assume the men in these units must have been of the same ethnicity. However, the records of individual soldiers show that unless very specialised fighting skills were involved (like those of the Syrian archers), the reality was often different. From AD 240–50 the cavalry wing Ala I Britannica had around six Thracian men recruited to its ranks, and these men served with others of Pannonian origin (men from central Europe) – despite the fact that the cavalry wing was supposedly made up of Britons. Similar stories can be found in the fleet, too. A Briton named Veluotigernus joined the Classis Germanica fleet and was honourably discharged on 19 November AD 150 along with veterans from the auxiliary cavalry and infantry units in Germania Inferior.

Forbidden family

Although Roman soldiers were not supposed to marry (the law that prohibited them from taking a wife was only relaxed at the end of the second century AD) the evidence from tombstones and documents is that plenty did. In the late first century – around 100 years before the law was eased – the poet Martial knew a centurion called Aulus Pudens who was married to a woman called Claudia Peregrina (‘Claudia the Provincial’). Martial tells us Claudia was very fertile and that she had “sprung from the woad-stained Britons”. In Egypt, meanwhile, a soldier called Julius Terentianus placed his children and his other private affairs in the hands of his sister, Apollonous, in Karanis. As he refers to the care of his children in letters to her, it is quite possible that this was a case of brother-sister marriage, which was well-known in Egypt. In AD 99 Apollonous wrote to him to say: “Do not worry about the children. They are in good health and are kept busy by a teacher.” More often we know about soldiers’ children only because they died tragically young. For instance, Simplicia Florentina, a child “of the most innocent spirit”, had lived for a scant 10 months before she passed away. Her father, Felicius Simplex, a centurion of Legio VI Victrix, buried her at York. Likewise, Septimius Licinius, who served with Legio II Parthica at Castra Albana in Italy, buried his “dear son Septimius Licinianus” when the boy was only aged three years, four months and 24 days.

Leaving their mark

Just before the battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC Julius Caesar asked Crassinius, one of his centurions, how he thought the battle would go. Crassinius replied: “We shall conquer, O Caesar, and you will thank me, living or dead.” Crassinius was true to his word and covered himself in glory that day, but he lost his life. Caesar gave the centurion’s body full military honours and had a tomb built specially for Crassinius alone, close to the mass burial mound for the rest. Unlike Crassinius, the vast majority of Roman soldiers have no known resting place. However, the tombstones that have survived tell us a great deal about fighters’ individual lives and their mindsets. This is quite unlike other ancient and medieval conflicts, such as the Wars of the Roses, for which there is no equivalent record. For instance, from examining the tombstone of Titus Flaminius, who served with Legio XIIII in the earliest days of the Roman conquest of Britain and died at the legion’s base at Wroxeter aged 45 after 22 years’ service, we can see that he seems to have had no regrets. His tombstone has a poignant message for us: “I served as a soldier, and now here I am. Read this, and be happy – more or less – in your lifetime. [May] the gods keep you from the wine-grape, and water, when you enter Tartarus [the mythical pit beneath the Earth]. Live honourably while your star gives you life.”

Guy de la Bédoyère is a historian and broadcaster. His new book, Gladius: Living, Fighting and Dying in the Roman Army (Little, Brown Book Group, 2020) is available now

The Ancient City State of Rome and its Republic

Rome was a Republic, founded when the last Tarquin king was expelled in 509 BC. Carthage, unlike Rome, was ruled by an oligarchy of powerful families, the most prominent at the time of the Punic Wars being the Barcas. The Republic, however, drew strength from the strong emphasis on family as well as the ideals of Stoicism that stressed duty, honor, and order.

Map of ancient Carthage and Roman Republic at the beginning of Second Punic War from “Historical Atlas” by William R. Shepherd, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1923. Source of image: Perry-Castañeda Library in Texas

Without a naval fleet to protect its shipping until the First Punic War began, Rome was a land power, her legions beyond compare. Aptly demonstrated with the destruction of Etruria and the subjugation of the Latin city-states, the legion was manned by citizen-soldiers. Until the later civil wars and the creation of personal armies begun by Consul Marius, Roman commanders were expected to follow the tradition of Cincinnatus, an early Republican general whose duty to the Republic came before personal considerations.

Rome inherited the trade and commercial enterprises established by the Etruscans and the port city Ostia was poised to become the most significant port in the Ancient Mediterranean after the fall of Carthage. Having provoked the First Punic War, Rome quickly learned to build a navy. Real victory for Rome, however, would not come until the Second Punic War after Hannibal’s attempt to invade Italy from the north.

The Role of the Military

Statue of Emperor Domitian in Vaison-la-Romaine, France – Domitian was murdered in a plot made by a group of high-ranking Senators

Additionally, the Roman Army and the Praetorian Guard held major political power on the edges of their swords. Like the Senate, their support could raise men to imperial power and their dissent usually lead to their deaths. 69 A.D. is known as the “Year of the Four Emperors,” Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian. Following the death of Nero, four provincial governors, and therefore military commanders, became emperor in short succession. The Praetorian Guard killed Galba and the Senate declared Otho emperor. However Otho suffered a military defeat when Vitellius brought some of the best legions of the Roman army onto the field. After the defeat, Otho committed suicide and the Senate recognized Vitellius as emperor. Finally, the legions under command of Vespasian declared him emperor, and Vitellius’s supporters slowly deserted him. Vespasian’s legions took Rome and killed Vitellius, and the Senate then declared Vespasian emperor.

Altar of the Temple of Vespasian in Pompeii, Italy

Fortunately for Rome, the chaotic civil wars then ended, and Vespasian established the Flavian dynasty which held stable power for the next twenty-seven years. Yet the Flavian dynasty also ended in blood, when a number of Senators plotted the murder of Domitian and placed Nerva, a steady, older Senator, on the throne. He was largely a placeholder to avoid the wars of 69 A.D., and his choice of successor, Trajan, held the strong loyalty of the army, Senate and people.


Population base of the early empire Edit

At its territorial height, the Roman Empire may have contained between 45 million and 120 million people. [3] Historian Edward Gibbon estimated that the size of the Roman army "most probably formed a standing force of three hundred and seventy-five thousand men" [4] at the Empire's territorial peak in the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (117 − 138CE). This estimate probably included only legionary and auxiliary troops of the Roman army. [4] However, Gibbon states that it is "not. easy to define the size of the Roman military with any tolerable accuracy." In the late Imperial period, when vast numbers of foederati were employed by the Romans, Antonio Santosuosso estimated the combined number of men in arms of the two Roman empires numbered closer to 700,000 in total (not all members of a standing army), drawing on data from the Notitia Dignitatum. However, he notes that these figures were probably subject to inflation due to the practice of leaving dead soldiers "on the books" to continue to draw their wages and ration. Furthermore, it is irrespective of whether the troops were raised by the Romans or simply hired by them to fight on their behalf. [5]

Recruitment Edit

Initially, Rome's military consisted of an annual citizen levy performing military service as part of their duty to the state. During this period, the Roman army would prosecute seasonal campaigns against largely local adversaries. As the extent of the territories falling under Roman suzerainty expanded, and the size of the city's forces increased, the soldiery of ancient Rome became increasingly professional and salaried. As a consequence, military service at the lower (non-staff) levels became progressively longer-term. Roman military units of the period were largely homogeneous and highly regulated. The army consisted of units of citizen infantry known as legions (Latin: legio) as well as non-legionary allied troops known as auxiliary. The latter were most commonly called upon to provide light infantry or cavalry support.

Military service in the later empire continued to be salaried yearly and professionally for Rome's regular troops. However, the trend of employing allied or mercenary troops was expanded such that these troops came to represent a substantial proportion of Rome's forces. At the same time, the uniformity of structure found in Rome's earlier military forces disappeared. The soldiery of the era ranged from lightly armed mounted archers to heavy infantry, in regiments of varying size and quality. This was accompanied by a trend in the late empire of an increasing predominance of cavalry rather than infantry troops, as well as an emphasis on more mobile operations.

Military subculture Edit

The British historian Peter Heather describes Roman military culture as being "just like the Marines, but much nastier". [6] The army did not provide much social mobility, and it also took quite some time to complete one's service. The pay was not the best for the time but could be remedied by advance in rank, loot from wars, and additional pay from emperors. Also, the army did provide a guaranteed supply of food (many times soldiers had to pay for food and supplies), doctors, and stability. In the legions of the Republic, discipline was fierce and training harsh, all intended to instill a group cohesion or esprit de corps that could bind the men together into effective fighting units. Unlike opponents such as the Gauls, who were fierce individual warriors, Roman military training concentrated on instilling teamwork and maintaining a level head over individual bravery − troops were to maintain exact formations in battle and "despise wild swinging blows" [7] in favor of sheltering behind one's shield and delivering efficient stabs when an opponent made himself vulnerable.

Loyalty was to the Roman state but pride was based in the soldier's unit, to which was attached a military standard − in the case of the legions a legionary eagle. Successful units were awarded accolades that became part of their official name, such as the 20th legion, which became the XX Valeria Victrix (the "Valiant and Victorious 20th").

Of the martial culture of less valued units such as sailors, and light infantry, less is known, but it is doubtful that its training was as intense or its esprit de corps as strong as in the legions.

Literacy was highly valued in the Roman military, and literacy rates in the military far exceeded that of the Roman society as a whole. [8]

Private funding Edit

Although early in its history, troops were expected to provide much of their equipment, eventually, the Roman military became almost entirely funded by the state. Since soldiers of the early Republican armies were also unpaid citizens, the financial burden of the army on the state was minimal. However, since the Roman state did not provide services such as housing, health, education, social security, and public transport that are part and parcel of modern states, the military always represented by far the greatest expenditure of the state. [9]

Plunder economy Edit

During the time of expansion in the Republic and early Empire, Roman armies had acted as a source of revenue for the Roman state, plundering conquered territories, displaying the massive wealth in triumphs upon their return and fueling the economy [10] to the extent that historians such as Toynbee and Burke believe that the Roman economy was essentially a plunder economy. Nathan Rosenstein has questioned this assumption, indicating that Rome ran the majority of its campaigns in the 2nd Century BCE at a loss and relied on rare windfalls such as Aemilius Paullus' campaign in the East in 168 BCE to make up the cost of war. [11] Regardless, after the Empire had stopped expanding in the 2nd century CE, this source of revenue dried up by the end of the 3rd century CE, Rome had "ceased to vanquish." [12] As tax revenue was plagued by corruption and hyperinflation during the Crisis of the Third Century, military expenditures began to become a "crushing burden" [13] on the finances of the Roman state. [14] It now highlighted weaknesses that earlier expansion had disguised. By 440 CE, an imperial law frankly states that the Roman state has insufficient tax revenue to fund an army of a size required by the demands placed upon it. [15]

Several additional factors bloated the military expenditure of the Roman Empire. First, substantial rewards were paid to "barbarian" chieftains for their good conduct in the form of negotiated subsidies and the provision of allied troops. [16] Secondly, the military boosted its numbers, possibly by one third in a single century. [9] Third, the military increasingly relied on a higher ratio of cavalry units in the late Empire, which were many times more expensive to maintain than infantry units. [17]

Taxation Edit

As military size and costs increased, new taxes were introduced or existing tax laws reformed in the late Empire to finance it, even though more inhabitants were available within the borders of the late Empire, reducing the per capita costs for an increased standing army was impractical. A large number of the population could not be taxed because they were slaves or held Roman citizenship, both of which exempted them from taxation. [18] Of the remaining, a large number were already impoverished by centuries of warfare and weakened by chronic malnutrition. Still, they had to handle an increasing tax rate [19] and so they often abandoned their lands to survive in a city. [20]

Of the Western Empire's taxable population, a larger number than in the East could not be taxed because they were "primitive subsistence peasant[s]" [20] and did not produce a great deal of goods beyond agricultural products. Plunder was still made from suppressing insurgencies within the Empire and on limited incursions into enemy land. Legally, much of it should have returned to the Imperial purse, but these goods were simply kept by the common soldiers, who demanded it of their commanders as a right. Given the low wages and high inflation in the later Empire, the soldiers felt that they had a right to acquire plunder. [21] [22]

Readiness and disposition Edit

The military capability of Rome – its preparedness or readiness – was always primarily based upon the maintenance of an active fighting force acting either at or beyond its military frontiers, something that historian Luttwak refers to as a "thin linear perimeter. [23] This is best illustrated by showing the dispositions of the Roman legions, the backbone of the Roman army. (see right). Because of these deployments, the Roman military kept a central strategic reserve after the Social War. Such reserves were only re-established during the late Empire when the army was split into a border defense force and mobile response field units.

Power projection Edit

The Roman military was keen on the doctrine of power projection – it frequently removed foreign rulers by force or intimidation and replaced them with puppets. This was facilitated by the maintenance, for at least part of its history, of a series of client states and other subjugate and buffer entities beyond its official borders, although over which Rome extended massive political and military control. On the other hand, this also could mean the payment of immense subsidies to foreign powers [24] and opened the possibility of extortion in case military means were insufficient.

Sustainability Edit

The Empire's system of building an extensive and well-maintained road network, as well as its absolute command of the Mediterranean for much of its history, enabled a primitive form of rapid reaction, also stressed in modern military doctrine, although because there was no real strategic reserve, this often entailed raising fresh troops or withdrawing troops from other parts of the border. However, border troops were usually very capable of handling enemies before they could penetrate far into the Roman hinterland.

The Roman military had an extensive logistical supply chain. There was no specialised branch of the military devoted to logistics and transportation, although this was to a great extent carried out by the Roman Navy due to the ease and low costs of transporting goods via sea and river compared to overland. [25] There is archaeological evidence that Roman armies campaigning in Germania were supplied by a logistical supply chain beginning in Italy and Gaul, then transported by sea to the northern coast of Germania, and finally penetrating Germania via barges on inland waterways. Forces were routinely supplied via fixed supply chains, and although Roman armies in enemy territory would often supplement or replace this by foraging for food or purchasing food locally, this was often insufficient for their needs: Heather states that a single legion would have required 13.5 tonnes of food per month, and that it would have proved impossible to source this locally. [26]

Policing Edit

For the most part, Roman cities had a civil guard used for maintaining peace. Due to fear of rebellions and other uprisings, they were forbidden to be armed at militia levels. Policing was split between the city guard for low-level affairs and the Roman legions and auxiliary for suppressing higher-level rioting and rebellion. This civil guard created a limited strategic reserve, one that fared poorly in actual warfare.

Engineering Edit

The military engineering of Ancient Rome's armed forces was of a scale and frequency far beyond that of any of its contemporaries. Indeed, military engineering was in many ways institutionally endemic in Roman military culture, as demonstrated by the fact that each Roman legionary had as part of his equipment a shovel, alongside his gladius (sword) and pila (spears). Heather writes that "Learning to build, and build quickly, was a standard element of training". [27]

This engineering prowess was, however, only evident during the peak of Roman military prowess from the mid-Republic to the mid-Empire. Before the mid-Republic period, there is little evidence of protracted or exceptional military engineering, and in the late Empire likewise, there is little sign of the kind of engineering feats that were regularly carried out in the earlier Empire.

Roman military engineering took both routine and extraordinary forms, the former a proactive part of standard military procedure, and the latter of an extraordinary or reactionary nature. Proactive military engineering took the form of the regular construction of fortified camps, in road-building, and the construction of siege engines. The knowledge and experience learned through such routine engineering lent itself readily to any extraordinary engineering projects required by the army, such as the circumvallations constructed at Alesia and the earthen ramp constructed at Masada.

This engineering expertise practiced in daily routines also served in the construction of siege equipment such as ballistae, onagers and siege towers, as well as allowing the troops to construct roads, bridges, and fortified camps. All of these led to strategic capabilities, allowing Roman troops to, respectively, assault besieged settlements, move more rapidly to wherever they were needed, cross rivers to reduce march times and surprise enemies, and to camp in relative security even in enemy territory.

Rome was established as a nation by making aggressive use of its high military potential. From very early on in its history, it would raise two armies annually to campaign abroad. The Roman military was far from being solely a defense force. For much of its history, it was a tool of aggressive expansion. The Roman army had derived from a militia of main farmers and the gain of new farmlands for the growing population or later retiring soldiers was often one of the campaign's chief objectives. Only in the late Empire did the preservation of control over Rome's territories become the Roman military's primary role. The remaining major powers confronting Rome were the Kingdom of Aksum, Parthia and the Hunnic Empire. Knowledge of China, the Han dynasty at the times of Mani, existed and it is believed that Rome and China swapped embassies about 170 CE. [28]

Grand strategy Edit

In its purest form, the concept of strategy deals solely with military issues. However, Rome is offered by Edward Luttwak and others as an early example of a state that possessed a grand strategy which encompassed the management of the resources of an entire nation in the conduct of warfare. Up to half of the funds raised by the Roman state were spent on its military, and the Romans displayed a strategy that was more complicated than simple knee-jerk strategic or tactical responses to individual threats. Rome's strategy changed over time, implementing different systems to meet different challenges that reflected changing internal priorities. Elements of Rome's strategy included the use of client states, the deterrent of armed response in parallel with manipulative diplomacy, and a fixed system of troop deployments and road networks. Luttwak states that there are "instructive similarities" between Roman and modern military strategy. [29]

Rome would rely on brute force and sheer numbers when in doubt. The soldiers were trained to memorize every step in battle, so discipline and order could not break down into chaos. They were largely successful because of this.

Campaigns Edit

Although Roman iron-working was enhanced by a process known as Carburizing, the Romans are not thought to have developed true steel production. From the earliest history of the Roman state to its downfall, Roman arms were therefore uniformly produced from either bronze or, later, iron. As a result, the 1300 years of Roman military technology saw little radical change at the technological level. Within the bounds of classical military technology, however, Roman arms and armor were developed, discarded, and adopted from other peoples based on changing methods of engagement. It included at various times stabbing daggers and swords, stabbing or thrusting swords, long thrusting spears or pikes, lances, light throwing javelins and darts, slings, and bow and arrows.

Roman military personal equipment was produced in large numbers to established patterns and used in an established way. It, therefore, varied little in design and quality within each historical period. According to Hugh Elton, Roman equipment gave them "a distinct advantage over their barbarian enemies." Elton, Hugh, 1996, "Warfare in Roman Europe, AD 350-425", who were often, as Germanic tribesmen, completely unarmoured. However, Luttwak points out that whilst the uniform possession of armor gave Rome an advantage, the actual standard of each item of Roman equipment was of no better quality than that used by the majority of its adversaries. In Luttwack, E., "The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire", JHUP, 1979, Luttwack states that "Roman weapons, far from being universally more advanced, were frequently inferior to those used by enemies. The relatively low quality of Roman weaponry was primarily a function of its large-scale production, and later factors such as governmental price-fixing for certain items, which gave no allowance for quality and incentivized cheap, poor-quality goods.

The Roman military readily adopted types of arms and armor that were effectively used against them by their enemies. Initially, Roman troops were armed after Greek and Etruscan models, using large oval shields and long pikes. On encountering the Celts they adopted much Celtic equipment and again later adopted items such as the "gladius" from Iberian peoples. Later in Rome's history, it adopted practices such as arming its cavalry with bows in the Parthian style and even experimented briefly with niche weaponry such as elephants and camel-troops.

Besides personal weaponry, the Roman military adopted team weaponry such as the ballista and developed a naval weapon known as the Corvus, a spiked plank used for affixing and boarding enemy ships.

Need for specialized care Edit

The expansion of the Roman Empire was achieved through military force in nearly every case. Roman culture as a whole revolved around its military for both expansion and protection. [30] Geographic areas on the outskirts of the Empire were prone to attack and required heavy military presence. The constant barrage of attacks and the increase of expansion caused casualties. Due to attack there was a need for specialized medical care for these armies in order to keep them in operational status. [31] The specialized form of care however, was not created until the time of Augustus (31BC-14AD). [31] Prior to this there is little information about the care of soldiers. It is assumed soldiers were self-reliant, treating their own wounds and caring for other ailments encountered. [32] They would also turn to civilians for help throughout the villages they would come across. This was considered a custom of the time, and was quite common for households to take in wounded soldiers and tend to them. [32] As time progressed, there was an increase in care for the wounded as hospitals appeared. The idea was held by the Romans that a healed soldier was better than a dead one and a healed veteran was better than a new recruit. [33]

Roman hospitals Edit

With the need for soldier health a growing concern, places for the sick to go in the army were starting to show up. Dates ranged from AD 9 to AD 50, but this is when the first evidence of hospitals was seen in archeological remains. [31] These hospitals were specific places for only military members to go to if they were injured or fell ill. Similar hospitals were set up for slaves in areas where slaves were used in large numbers. Military hospitals were permanent structures set up in forts. These buildings had clear patient rooms and were designed to accommodate large numbers of soldiers. [31] The size of these hospitals varied based on their location. Some of the large facilities, such as the hospital in Hod Hill England, was large enough to accommodate roughly 12% of the force within the hospital. In more stable areas such as Inchtuthil in Scotland, there was room for as little as 2% of the force within the hospital. In areas with more conflict, there were larger medical facilities as they saw more casualties. [31] These hospitals were solely designed for the use of the military. If a civilian fell ill or needed surgery they would likely go to the physician's home and stay, not a hospital. [31] Prior to these permanent structures there were tents set up as mobile field hospitals. Soldiers suffering from severe wounds were brought to these for treatment. These were quickly assembled and disassembled as the army moved. The tents served as a precursor for the permanent structured hospitals. [32] These permanent hospitals and mobile treatment centers were a relatively new concept in this time period.

Physicians Edit

Doctors serving in the army were considered to be a member of the military. Just like everyone else they would take the military oath and be bound by the military law. They would also start among the lower fighting ranks. Even though they took the military oath and were among the lower ranks it did not mean they would be fighting among the masses. [34] These doctors were not always professionals or career physicians. Oftentimes they were slaves who were forced into that career. The Medici was also a group that treated wounded soldiers on the battlefield. These men were not trained physicians even though they played the role of one. Typically they were soldiers who demonstrated they had knowledge in wound treatment and even simple surgical techniques. [35] These men were used before the actual trained doctors were largely implemented. Physicians got their knowledge from experience and information being passed down from person to person. Likely they never used medical texts, as it was not commonplace even in the civilian field. [35] Generals and Emperors were exceptions, as they would typically have their physician with them. This was a common occurrence as Emperors such as Marcus Aurelius employed famous physicians such as Galen. There were also physicians among the ranks of the Roman soldiers. [33]

Distinctions in practice Edit

With any large number of people being in close quarters, there was a constant threat of disease. When one individual in a large group gets sick with a communicable disease, it spreads to others very quickly. This premise remains true even today in the modern military. The Romans recognized the difference between disease and wounds, each requiring separate treatment. [34] Drainage of excess water and waste were common practices in camps as well as the permanent medical structures, which come at a later date. As the medical corps grew in size there was also specialization evolving. Physicians surfaced that specialized in disease, surgery, wound dressing and even veterinary medicine. Veterinary physicians were there to tend to livestock for agricultural purposes as well as combat purposes. The Cavalry was known for their use of horses in combat and scouting purposes. [36] Because of the type of injuries that would have been commonly seen, surgery was a somewhat common occurrence. Tools such as scissors, knives and arrow extractors have been found in remains. [37] In fact, Roman surgery was quite intuitive, in contrast to common thought of ancient surgery. The Roman military surgeons used a cocktail of plants, which created a sedative similar to modern anesthesia. Written documentation also showed surgeons would use oxidation from a metal such as copper and scrape it into wounds, which provided an antibacterial effect however, this method was most likely more toxic than providing an actual benefit. [38] Doctors had the knowledge to clean their surgical instruments with hot water after each use. Wounds were dressed, and dead tissue was removed when bandages were changed. Honey and cobwebs were items used to cover wounds, and have even been shown today to increase healing. [38] Because of the wide array of cases, it was not uncommon for surgeons to begin their careers in the army to learn their trade. Physicians such as Galen and Dioscorides served in the military. Most major advancements in knowledge and technique came from the military rather than civil practice. [38]

Diet Edit

Diet was an issue that is often discussed through this time, as an aspect of medical care. Since our idea of modern technology did not exist, the diet was a simple way for Romans to attain a healthy life. This remains true in the Roman Military as the soldiers required appropriate nutrition in order to function at high activity levels. [39] Because of the number of the people requiring food, there were unique circumstances in the acquisition of food. During a campaign, the soldiers would often forage food from their enemy's land. In fact, as part of the standard kit, Roman soldiers would carry a sickle, which would be used to forage food. They would carry a three-day ration of food in case they were in a situation where foraging was not available. [40] This would largely consist of items such as wheat and barley. During a time of peace, the Roman Army would have had a typical diet consisting of bacon, cheese, vegetables, and beer to drink. Corn is mentioned in their works as well, however this was a common term that was applied to their use of grain. The Roman use of the term corn is not to be confused with maize, which did not come to Europe until the discovery of the New World. Items such as poultry and fish were also likely part of the standard diet. The soldier was given a ration, which was taken from his pay. [40] This shows that the soldiers were well-fed in times of peace. If the soldiers were well fed, they were healthier and able to maintain a high level of physical activity, as well as to stave off disease. The disease is easier to prevent rather than treat. This idea holds in the event a fort was under siege certain food items were rationed such as poultry. The reasoning behind this was that poultry was very inexpensive to maintain and in the event of a siege, it did not require a lot of resources to maintain. It was also noted that poultry had benefits for those who were sick. This demonstrates the idea was present that the army needed to maintain the health of its members regardless of circumstances. [40] These discoveries were made while looking at the remains of Roman military sites. By excavating these sites and looking at fecal matter found, scientists were able to determine what was eaten. [41] It is a simple fact that poor diet negatively affects a military's combat readiness. The variety of food found shows the Romans were not focused on just caloric intake, as they knew a variety of food was important to health. [39]

Scale Edit

By the time of Trajan (53AD-117AD), the medical corps was well on the way to being an organized machine. At this time, Physicians were attached to nearly every Army and Navy Unit in all the Roman Military. By this time the Army was massive, consisting of twenty-five to thirty legions, each of which contained nearly 6,000 men. Each one included both soldiers and physicians. [38] Despite these massive numbers there was still no formal requirements for being a physician. [34] At this point all physicians were either self-taught or learned their trade through an apprenticeship. Despite this, there was an attempt at organization, as the army did have a medical manual that was passed out to its physicians. The Medici were used on both the front line as emergency care providers and in the rear as the main physicians. The Capsarii were mainly used as the front line care providers and bandages, but also assisted the Medici behind the lines. [38]

Source of knowledge Edit

Romans received their medical knowledge largely from the Greeks that came before them. As Rome started to expand, it slowly embraced the Greek culture, causing an influx of medicinal information in Roman society. [42] Because of this influx, it allowed this knowledge to become the foundation of all western medical tradition. The Greek theories were kept alive and their practices continued well into the future. [42] This knowledge was also the foundation used in military medicine since it contained the overarching ideas of their medical knowledge. As time progressed these medical texts would be translated into Arabic and then back into Latin as the flow of information changed. Based on this, we can presume that some of the information in these texts has been lost in translation. Despite this, we are still able to illustrate a clear picture of what military medicine was like during the reign of the Roman Empire.

27 Interesting Facts About The Roman Empire

Roman Empire is one of the most popularly known Empires in the history of the world. But if you don’t know much about it, worry not. For here we are presenting the interesting facts about The Roman Empire and making you familiar with it.

1. The Start

The ancient Roman Civilization started on the Italian Peninsula during the 8 th century. Funded in 753BC by its first king, Romulus, it grew into a rich and powerful city during the next few hundred years. By AD 117 the Roman Empire included the whole of Italy, all the lands around the Mediterranean and much of Europe, including England, Wales and parts of Scotland.
Source: ngkids.co.uk, Image: pinterest

For amazing Roman Empire inspired merchandise, click below: 2. Twinning

Roman legend says that Romulus had a twin brother named Remus. They were abandoned in the area which later became Rome when they were babies. A she-wolf found and raised them, but when they grew up, Romulus fought and killed Remus and became the first ruler of Rome!
Source: ngkids.co.uk, Image: wikipeida

3. Strong Army

The Romans built a huge empire and conquered new lands, thanks to their strong army. The Roman army could march up to 40 km a day! That’s not surprising since they had such a huge territory and no car.
Source: ngkids.co.uk, Image: wikipedia

4. Life Expectancy

Life expectancy in Ancient Rome was just 20-30 years. This view was propounded by Keith Hopkins in 1966.
Source: books.google.com

5. World’s Population

Even at its peak, The Roman Empire just occupied 12% of the world’s population. Militarily, the Roman Empire never controlled most of the world.
Source: gatesnotes.com

Though we talk so big of the Roman Empire, it was not really “big”. It was just 28 th biggest Empire in the world.
Source: wikipedia

7. Not Just a Fighter

The Romans didn’t spend all their time fighting they were amazing architects and engineers too! They built roads and walls too. Their architecture like The Colosseum Museum, The Masion Carree, Leptis Magna etc. are all very popular.
Source: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

8. Longest War

The war between Romans and Persians lasted for an unbelievable 721 years. Yes, you heard it right. 721!
Source: wikipedia, Image: ancientromewar.com

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honor of the deity Saturn, held on 17 December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to 23 December. During this period, the master and the slaves would switch places. The poet Catullus called it “the best of days”. Well, why wouldn’t it be? …for slaves.
Source: wikipedia, Image: ancientromefacts.com

For amazing Roman Empire inspired merchandise, click below:

The Romans liked to enjoy their food lying down on a couch while eating with their hands. They occasionally used a spoon, but they would never ever use a knife and a fork. Rich Romans liked to pamper their taste buds with exotic food, such as stork, roast parrot and even flamingo! Hungry?
Source: ngkids.co.uk, Image: ancientromefacts.com

11. Densely Populated

It was approximately 8 times more populated than the present day NYC
Source: theguardian.com

12. Toilet God

The Romans are alleged by some to have had a toilet god in the form of Crepitus, who was also the god of flatulence and was invoked if a person had diarrhoea or constipation.
Source: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

13. Sewer God

The sewer goddess, Cloacina was borrowed from Etruscan mythology and was seen as the protectoress of the Cloaca Maxima, Rome’s sewage system. She was later merged with the better-known Roman goddess, Venus and was worshiped at the Shrine of Venus Cloacina in the Roman Forum.
Source: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

14. Roman Dress

Tunics, two pieces of woolen fabric sewn together at the sides and shoulders, with openings for arms and head, were the most common clothes in Rome. Some Romans also wore togas, a kind of woolen shawl, to show how wealthy they were.
Source: wikipedia, Image: flickr

Urine was used to wash clothes in those days. If it didn’t make you say the title of this point, you’re lying.
Source: classics.uwaterloo.ca

Paris was a Roman City called Lutetia. Thank God it is just plain and simple “Paris” now.
Source: wikipedia, Image: europeandesigns.co.uk

17. Atheists

Early Christians were called “atheists” by the Romans for they did not follow the ritual of paying tribute to the Pagan Gods.
Source: wikipedia

18. Horsenator?

The emperor, Gaius Caligula, made his horse a senator. Hold your horses, man!
Source: bbc.co.uk, Image: wikipedia

19. Not Worth the Salt!

A soldier’s pay, consisting in part of salt, came to be known as solarium argentum, from which we derive the word ‘salary’. A soldier’s salary was cut if he “was not worth his salt,” a phrase that came into being because the Greeks and Romans often bought slaves with salt.
Source: content.times.com

20. Beauty Secret

Hear up girls! Wanna know the secret of beautiful Roman dames? It was the sweat of the Gladiators which they used to enhance complexion and beauty. Now you know it.
Source: wikipedia, Image: historyundivided.com

21. Statue of Liberty

Wondering where did US come from in a Roman article? Well, the fact is that Lady Liberty was inspired by the Pagan Goddess, Libertas.
Source: wikipedia, Image: paroftheempire.co.in

22. The Roman Mall

Trajan’s Market, the Roman mall, is a large complex of ruins in the city of Rome, Italy, located at the opposite end to the Colosseum. The arcades in Trajan’s Market are now believed by many to be administrative offices for Emperor Trajan. The shops and apartments were built in a multi-level structure, and it is still possible to visit several levels.
Source: history.com, Image: wikipedia

23. Parricide

Poena cullei, under Roman law, was a type of death penalty imposed on a subject who had been found guilty of parricide. The punishment consisted of being sewn up in a leather sack, sometimes with an assortment of live animals, and then being thrown into water.
Source: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

24. Hallucinating Fish

No, the fish doesn’t hallucinate but it can make you if you eat it! Salema porgy, known for its hallucination “properties”, was eaten in Rome as a recreational drug.
Source: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

25. Oh Yoo-lee-us!

In ancient Rome, Julius Caesar was pronounced as YOO-lee-us KYE-sahr.
Source: ancienthistory.about.com, Image: wikipedia

For amazing Roman Empire inspired merchandise, click below:

26. Same-Sex Marriage

The first Roman emperor to have married a man was Nero, who married two other males. The first was with one of Nero’s own freedmen, Pythagoras, with whom Nero took the role of the bride. Later, as a groom, Nero married Sporus, a young boy, to replace the teenage female concubine he had killed and married him in a public ceremony. A friend even gave the “bride” away as required by law.
Source: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

About the author

Dr Neil Faulkner is an honorary lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. He is editor of the popular magazines Current Archaeology and Current World Archaeology, and has written four books, including The Decline and Fall of Roman Britain and Apocalypse: The Great Jewish Revolt against Rome. His TV appearances include Channel Four’s Time Team, BBC TWO's Timewatch, and Channel Five's Revealed.

Watch the video: Roman Army Structure. Vindolanda Museum