From Spear to Flintlock: A History of War in Europe and the Middle East to the French Revolution

By Frederic J. Baumgartner | Go to book overview

4
The Fall of the Roman Empire

On the field of battle it is a disgrace to the [German] chief to be surpassed in valour by his companions, to the companions not to come up to the valour of their chief. As for leaving a battle alive after your chief has fallen, that means a lifelong infamy and shame. To defend and protect him, to put down one's own acts of heroism to his credit -- that is what they really mean by "allegiance." The chiefs fight for victory, the companions for their chief....The Germans have no taste for peace; renown is easier won among perils, and you cannot maintain a large body of companions except by violence and war....You will find it harder to persuade a German to plough the land and to await in its annual produce with patience than to challenge a foe and earn the prize of wounds. He thinks it spiritless and slack to gain by sweat what he can buy with blood.

Cornelius Tacitus, On Germany, translated by Harold Mattingly ( Baltimore, 1948), pp. 112-13. Tacitus was a Roman soldier and administrator of the late first century A.D.

With his domination of the Roman state established, Augustus set about reducing the size of the army and institutionalizing his control over it. The sixty legions he commanded in 30 B.C. were reduced to twenty-eight and in 13 B.C. to twenty-five, which number then rarely changed for the next 300 years. Some 100,000 veterans were pensioned off, mostly with land on the frontier. The number of heavy infantrymen in each legion was raised to 5,500. From 3,000 to 4,000 cavalry and light infantry served as auxiliaries in each legion as well. The legions were posted along the frontiers with the greatest number where the foreign threat was the greatest. In A.D. 23, for example, the Rhineland had eight legions and Syria four. The legions were posted in the same place for decades and even centuries and kept the same name and number; for example, Legio III Augustus was in North Africa for over 200 years.

Augustus was determined to make it impossible for a legion commander to challenge him, so he strengthened the laws keeping legions out of

-43-

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From Spear to Flintlock: A History of War in Europe and the Middle East to the French Revolution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Maps ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Greek Phalanx 7
  • 3 - The Roman Legion 25
  • 4 - The Fall of the Roman Empire 43
  • 5 - The Byzantine and the Arab Empires 55
  • 6 - The Early Middle Ages in Western Europe 67
  • 7 - Feudalism 79
  • 8 - Holy War in the Middle East 93
  • 9 - Castles and Siegecraft 111
  • 10 - War in the High Middle Ages 125
  • 11 - The End of the Medieval Military 141
  • 12 - The Fifteenth Century: Pikes and Guns 157
  • 13 - War in the Renaissance 171
  • 14 - Naval War in the Mediterranean 187
  • 15 - The Rise of the Atlantic Fleets 203
  • 16 - The Sixteenth Century 219
  • 17 - The Dutch Revolt 231
  • 18 - The Thirty Years War 245
  • 19 - The New Model Army and Navy 263
  • 20 - The Wars of Louis XIV 275
  • 21 - War in the Early Eighteenth Century 291
  • 22 - The Wars of Frederick the Great 307
  • 23 - The French Revolution 321
  • Suggested Readings 329
  • Index 337
  • About the Author *
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