A Companion to the Roman Army

A Companion to the Roman Army

A Companion to the Roman Army

A Companion to the Roman Army

Synopsis

This companion provides an extensive account of the Roman army, exploring its role in Roman politics and society as well as the reasons for its effectiveness as a fighting force.
  • An extensive account of the Roman army, from its beginnings to its transformation in the later Roman Empire
  • Examines the army as a military machine - its recruitment, training, organization, tactics and weaponry
  • Explores the relationship of the army to Roman politics, economics and society more broadly
  • Considers the geography and climate of the lands in which the Romans fought
  • Each chapter is written by a leading expert in a particular subfield and takes account of the latest scholarly and archaeological research in that area

Excerpt

The guiding principle behind this companion to the Roman army is the belief that the Roman army cannot adequately be described only as an instrument of combat, but must be viewed also as an essential component of Roman society, economy, and politics. Of course, the prime purpose of the Roman army was to defeat the enemy in battle. Whether the army succeeded depended not only on its weapons and equipment, but also its training and discipline, and on the experience of its soldiers, all of which combined to allow the most effective deployment of its manpower. Moreover, every army is backed by a more or less developed organization that is needed to mobilize and sustain it. Changes in Roman society significantly affected the Roman army. However, the army was also itself an agent of change, determining in large part developments in politics and government, economy and society. Four themes recur throughout the volume: (1) the army as a fighting force; (2) the mobilization of human and material resources; (3) the relationship between army, politics, and empire; and (4) the relationship between the armies and the civilian population. Even in a sizeable volume such as this choices have had to be made regarding the topics to be discussed, but the focus in this volume on the army in politics, economy, and society reflects the direction of recent research.

Modern authors often claim that ancient Rome was a militaristic society, and that warfare dominated the lives of the Roman people. Interestingly, the first outsider in Rome to paint an extensive picture of Roman society and whose account has largely survived essentially says the same thing. Polybius was in a position to know, since he was brought to Rome as a hostage after the Third Macedonian War (171–168 BC) and was befriended by one of the leading families. The main task he set himself in his Histories was to explain Rome’s incredible military success during the past decades. To Polybius, the stability of her constitution was one important element, but Rome’s military success is explained by two other elements: manpower and ethos. At the eve of the Hannibalic War, Polybius informs us, Rome was able to mobilize 700,000 men in the infantry and 70,000 horsemen. To be sure, Rome never assembled an army . . .

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