Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome

By Victor Davis Hanson | Go to book overview
Save to active project

10.
Holding the Line:
Frontier Defense and the Later Roman Empire

PETER J. HEATHER

ACCORDING TO AN ANALYSIS FIRST OFFERED BY EDWARD LUTTWAK in the mid-1970s, the Roman Empire consciously moved from a frontier policy based on expansion to one based on defense in depth from the Severan era at the start of the third century AD. From this point on, its military effort was directed toward strategically planned belts of fortifications designed to absorb small-scale threats, backed by mobile, regionally based field armies held in reserve and carefully placed to deal with larger-scale incursions.1 In the summer of 370, for instance, some Saxon raiders used ships to avoid the frontier defenses of the northern Rhine and landed in northern France. Substantial raiding followed, until the local Roman commander gathered sufficient heavy cavalry and infantry units to ambush and destroy the now unsuspecting Saxons, who had been lulled into a false sense of security by a truce that ostensibly permitted them to withdraw unharmed.2 This is a textbook example of the kind of frontier strategy Luttwak identified, but on closer inspection, and despite the continuing influence of his work, which has remained solidly in print for more than thirty years, his analysis is substantially mistaken.

For one thing, while successive moments of energetic activity along the frontier are detectable in the archaeological record, some of which affected the many thousands of kilometers separating the mouth of the Rhine from that of the Danube, campaigns and fortress building can sometimes be shown to have had rather more to do with internal political agendas than with rational military planning. Keeping the

-227-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 265

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?