Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Article excerpt

Advertisements encouraging men and women to join the army emphasise that their religious beliefs, sexual orientation and emotional needs will be no barrier to making a career. Very nice too, but what sort of come-on is that? Is there no positive reason for joining up in the first place?

In the ancient world, war was a constant, and men had to be ready to die in battle for the very survival of their country, wives and children. So the motivation was very powerful -- self-preservation. There were also rewards: the prospect of booty and honours. We hear of one Spurius Ligustinus, an ordinary foot-soldier from a one-acre farm who 'four times within a few years held the rank of chief centurion; 34 times I was honoured by my commanders with rewards for bravery. I have received six civic crowns. I have fulfilled 22 years of service in the army...' -- and now at 50 he wanted to sign on again. Soldiers like that made the Roman army what it was.

When the Roman army was professionalised under the Emperor Augustus in the 1st century bc, selection became a big issue. …

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