The Cavalry of the Roman Republic: Cavalry Combat and Elite Reputations in the Middle and Late Republic

The Cavalry of the Roman Republic: Cavalry Combat and Elite Reputations in the Middle and Late Republic

The Cavalry of the Roman Republic: Cavalry Combat and Elite Reputations in the Middle and Late Republic

The Cavalry of the Roman Republic: Cavalry Combat and Elite Reputations in the Middle and Late Republic

Synopsis

In this original and revealing work, Jeremiah B. McCall challenges the generally accepted view of the Roman cavalry and explores the fundamental connections between war and society in republican Rome, c.300-100 BC.McCall describes the citizen cavalry's equipment, tactics, and motivation in battle, and argues for its effectiveness in the field. This success is proof that it cannot finally have been disbanded for purely military reasons; he shows that victories in the law-courts, and lavish displays of wealth, came to supersede cavalry service as a way of building the reputations of the Roman elite.The clear structure and fresh approach of the book, combining insights from both Roman military and social history, will be useful to readers at all levels of study.

Excerpt

Throughout the middle Republic the wealthiest Roman citizens supplied a cavalry contingent to every field army. Each cavalryman was liable to serve a maximum of ten years between the ages of 17 and 46. Cavalry service was a distinguished form of service and an important mark of elite status. Nevertheless, in the early first century B.C. tactical units of citizen cavalry disappeared and foreign auxiliaries supplied all of Rome's cavalry. The Romans had ended an institution that had lasted for centuries.

The traditional explanation for the end of the Roman citizen cavalry corps has persisted for the better part of a century and received wide support from historians. The Romans, according to this explanation, were simply poor cavalrymen. They lacked any native tradition of cavalry service, were unskilled as mounted warriors, and were ineffective against enemy cavalry. Only too aware of the deplorable abilities of their citizen cavalrymen, the Romans looked for a solution. Foreign auxiliary cavalry were the answer. Foreign peoples-particularly the Numidians, Spanish, and Gauls-possessed cavalry forces categorically superior to the Roman citizen cavalry. Consequently, the Romans began to rely increasingly upon these superior foreign cavalry forces in the second century. Over time the auxiliaries replaced both the citizen cavalry and the Italian allied cavalry. By the first century there was no military need for the poor quality Romano-Italian cavalry, and they disappeared from the legions.

This traditional argument has substantial problems. No one has ever demonstrated the citizen cavalry's ineffectiveness. To date there is no systematic analysis of the Roman cavalry's military

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