According to tradition, the city of Rome was founded on the banks of the Tiber River in 753
According to tradition, the city of
After expelling the last of the Etruscan monarchs in 510
The Roman victory over Veii was followed by defeat on the
Eventually Rome’s influence managed to spread beyond the neighboring communities of Latium and into southern Italy. Greek cities, established there centuries earlier, called on Pyrrhus of
Rome then turned to Sicily, vying for control of the island with Carthage, a powerful city on the North African coast. During the First Punic
A generation later, the Second Punic War (218-201
Hannibal’s alliance with Philip
Soldiers of the Roman Republic, bearing spears, swords, shields, and standards with the initials SPQR, for “Senatus Populusque Romanus,” or, “the Senate and People of Rome.”
At Pydna (168
The number of the main infantry division, the
The supreme magistrates of the state, the two
The general’s senior officers included the military
The real strength of Rome’s military was the
In addition to infantry, the legion had three hundred
After assembling with their arms, the soldiers would be ordered to pitch
Yet the camp remained an integral part of Republican strategy. As an entrenched fortress, it provided a base for attack and a safe retreat in the event of defeat. The guarding of its gates therefore required discipline. Those who fell asleep during the night watch were usually stoned to death. This harsh discipline extended to the field of battle, where a maniple, giving ground without good reason, could be, literally,
On breaking camp, procedure had to be followed. On the first signal, the soldiers took down their tents. On the second, they loaded the pack animals. On the third, their march began. When attack was not expected, all moved in one long train, the extraordinarii leading the way. In times of danger, a different marching order prevailed. The hastati, principes, and triarii formed three parallel columns. When the enemy appeared, the maniples turned to the left or to the right, clearing the baggage trains and confronting the enemy from whichever side necessary. Thus in a single movement, the army placed itself in good battle order.
When engaging the enemy, the legion approached in three lines: first, the hastati; second, the principes; third, the triarii. Each line consisted of ten maniples, drawn up with gaps between them, equal in width to the maniples. These gaps usually alternated in each row, like dark spaces on a checkerboard. Thus the gaps in the first line adjoined the maniples in the second line. Likewise, gaps in the second line adjoined maniples in the third.
Traditionally, the battle followed a more or less schematic plan. Forming a light screen, the velites opened with a hail of javelins and retired to the rear through the gaps. Then the hastati, closing the gaps in the first line, offered a united front against the enemy. After surging forward in unison and striking with their swords, the soldiers soon recoiled, rested, and tried again. If the assault continued to fail after many attempts, the hastati retired through the gaps in the line of the principes, who next advanced and attacked in the same manner. If the principes also failed, then they retired through the gaps in the line of the triarii, who proceeded to the final trial of strength, reinforced by survivors from the first and second lines. The Romans thus refused to expose all their forces to a frontal assault, keeping part of them in reserve, while the rest engaged the enemy.
On the whole, Roman strategy aimed at the destruction of the enemy in pitched battle. This strategy sometimes employed flexible tactics. In 169
Under a strong general, the storming and plundering of a city proceeded by well-defined stages, announced by signals. First the troops slaughtered. Next they
Saluted as imperator by his troops, the successful general looked forward to a
Although late second century
As in past crises of state, Marius opened the ranks to the capite censi, citizens who failed to meet prescribed property qualifications for military service. He likely viewed this measure as a temporary emergency action, but later generations followed his example. Immersed in wars both foreign and domestic, Marius’s successors abandoned all restrictions on liability for service and recruited more troops than ever before. Because most of these soldiers came from poor families, the State equipped them at public expense. So variations in arms and armor soon disappeared.
Marius also made fundamental changes in tactical organization, preferring the cohort to the maniple as the basic unit within the legion. Marius’s new cohort consisted of three maniples, one drawn from each line: hastati, principes, and triarii. As a result, his cohort was a microcosm of the old legion. The First
Marius’s new legion drew up for battle in three lines. There were four cohorts in the first line, three in the second line, and three in the third. The cohorts likely had a standard size, which under the Empire was 480 men. Thus the new legion seems to have had a strength of 4,800 men, organized into ten cohorts and thirty maniples. The velites were apparently abolished. Eventually the Roman army incorporated contingents raised outside Italy. These new contingents carried their national weapons and were called
In the press of battle, standards, banners on long poles, served as a rallying point. Marius gave preeminence to the
Along with these changes, Marius modified the
In Marius’s later years, violence spread across the Italian peninsula, with serious repercussions for the Republic. Weary of Rome’s stern ascendancy, the Italian allies rose in revolt. Fearful but wise, Rome promised citizenship to all who laid down their arms. Although the Social War (91-88
Almost inevitably, civil
Only a few years later, bold adventures began to unfold in
Caesar followed tradition by relying upon the cohort and the centurion, although his military tribunes were mostly young men with political charges. Yet Caesar’s legates, ten in number, played an essential role in his command structure. Acting as subordinate commanders, some commanded legions and auxiliary forces, while others managed the camp and secured the surrounding region. Perhaps even more important, Caesar’s battle order responded dramatically to topography. He exploited flank attacks, for example, and often held troops in reserve for the decisive onslaught. Caesar thus helped to liberate Roman warfare from the traditional scheme of advance and assault.
Like a great Hellenistic king, Caesar raised siege towers, built bridges to span fierce rivers, and dug elaborate entrenchments around enemy bases. His formidable artillery included giant catapults, which fired heavy stones, and smaller scorpions, which fired arrows with extraordinary accuracy. Apart from his tactical expertise, Caesar’s personal qualities also invited his success as a commander. More often than not, his decisiveness and instinct compensated for his reckless daring.
Despite the continued Roman military success, by 49
Through civil war Caesar’s heir, Octavius (63-14
In conclusion, the military institutions of the Republic proved extremely durable and successful. With great adaptability, the Romans learned from their opponents, borrowing weaponry and improving tactical structure. Rome’s forces were also guided in a few critical moments by generals of genius. Yet the most fundamental reason for the Republic’s success lay in its manpower, fueled by the populations of Italy, which allowed the Romans to ignore defeats. Thus Rome’s military evolved from obscurity into a remarkable institution, which eventually dominated the ancient Mediterranean and shaped one of history’s longest-lived empires.
Most historians contemporary with the Republic discussed military affairs, yet few of these scholars were actually eyewitnesses to councils of war and victories on the battlefield. However, there are two notable exceptions. First, the Greek author
Bishop, M. C., and J. C. N. Coulston. Roman Military Equipment: From the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome. London: Batsford, 1993. Campbell, Duncan B. Siege Warfare in the Roman World, 146 B.C.-A.D. 378. Illustrated by Adam Hook. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 2005. Chrissanthos, Stefan G. Warfare in the Ancient World: From the Bronze Age to the Fall of Rome. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2008. Dando-Collins, Stephen. Caesar’s Legion: The Epic Saga of Julius Caeser’s Elite Tenth Legion and the Armies of Rome. New York: Wiley, 2002. Erdkamp, Paul, ed. A Companion to the Roman Army. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2007. Fields, Nic. The Roman Army of the Punic Wars, 264-146 B.C. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 2007. Gabriel, Richard A. “Republican Rome, 500-28 b.c.e.” In The Ancient World. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2007. Gilliver, Kate, Michael Whitby, and Adrian Goldsworthy. Rome at War: Caesar and His Legacy. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 2005. Keppie, Lawrence. The Making of the Roman Army from Republic to Empire. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble Books, 1984. Rich, John, and Graham Shipley, eds. War and Society in the Roman World. London: Routledge, 1993. Rosenstein, Nathan Stewart. Rome at War: Farms, Families, and Death in the Middle Republic. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. Sage, Michael M. The Republican Roman Army: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge, 2008. Salvatore, John Pamment. Roman Republican Castrametation: A Reappraisal of Historical and Archaeological Sources. Oxford, England: Tempus Reparatum, 1996. Santosuosso, Antonio. Soldiers, Citizens, and the Symbols of War: From Classical Greece to Republican Rome, 500-167 B.C. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997. Sekunda, Nicholas. Republican Roman Army, 200-104 B.C. Illustrated by Angus McBride. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 1996. Legions of Rome: Gallic Wars. Documentary. Kultur Video, 2007. Legions of Rome: Punic Wars. Documentary. Kultur Video, 2007. Rome. Documentary series. BBC/HBO/RAI, 2005-2007. Rome: Power and Glory. Documentary. Questar, 1998.
Greek Warfare to Alexander
Greek and Hellenistic Warfare from Alexander to Rome
Roman Warfare During the Empire
Tribal Warfare in Central and Eastern Europe