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🏛Quo Usque Pro Roma Ibis?🏛  This page is dedicated to the mighty Roman Army. From the Kingdom of Rome to the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire! c. 753 BC - 1453 AD 📜

Book Recommendation: Roman Legionary AD 69-161
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Written by Ross Cowan and illustrated by Seán Ó Brógáin, this book is part of Osprey Publishing's "Warrior" series and a series on Roman Legionaries written by Cowan. Indeed, this was actually the book that properly got me interested in Roman history, and that got me to properly read and study everything related, especially its military! The book is thorough in its detail, and comes with beautiful illustrations and images of artifacts and other archeological evidence, helping the reader get a good idea of what these legendary soldiers looked like.
The book discusses the formation and loss of Roman Legions, and the recruitment of Legionaries as well as their training and equipment. The belief and belonging of the troops is also discussed, along with the organisation of the Legions. Naturally, the book also talks of the Legionaries in battle, discussing things such as the idea of placing the most experienced men at the front ranks to fight, and even the casualty ratio between normal Legionaries and Centurions.
The book is quite short, i should warn, at just 64 pages. So anyone hoping for a broader read on Legionaries will be disappointed, however the book still manages to be highly informative and at the very least gives a good general idea of the Roman army's backbone: the Legionary. Supplementing this book with other Ospreys from Cowan's series on Legionaries or even Nic Fields' "Roman Auxiliary Cavalryman AD 14-197" should provide a reader with a more complete view; there is a review of the latter on this page from last December to those who are interested or have perhaps forgotten and want to check it again. Otherwise, this is a good edition to the library of any historian or history buff even by itself.
#Rome #Roma #RomanArmy #RomanLegion #RomanEmpire #SPQR #History #RomanHistory #AncientHistory #MilitaryHistory #OspreyPublishing #Book #Literature

A page from "The Roman Army" by Dyan Blacklock, detailing Roman raids in enemy territory and ways of foraging food for an army on campaign.
#Rome #Roma #RomanArmy #RomanLegion #RomanEmpire #SPQR #History #RomanHistory #AncientHistory #MilitaryHistory

The Sun Sets

On this day in history, June 22, 168 BC, the Battle of Pydna is fought between the Roman Republic and Macedon.
In 179 BC, Philip V of Macedon had died of old age, leaving his son Perseus to take the throne. Perseus was a highly ambitious and aggressive monarch, eager to restore the greatness of Macedon and its hegemony over Greece, and accordingly he began to increase his influence beyond Macedonia. Playing with fire, Perseus violated the peace terms between Macedon and Rome, and inevitably the Third Macedonian War broke out in 172 BC. By 168 BC, the Roman Consul Aemilius Paulus was able to penetrate into the Macedonian heartland and confront Perseus in a pitched battle near Pydna.
Perseus had good reason to feel confident, as he heavily outnumbered Paulus - the Macedonian army consisted of 40,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry including the elite Agema guard Phalanx and Sacred Squadron of cavalry, while the Roman army consisted of 29,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry and some elephants. On June 22, both armies deployed for battle at a rush, and the fighting began soon afterwards.
The Macedonian Phalanx pushed the Roman Legions back at first, however the latter withdrew in good order to the rough and hilly terrain behind them, where the Macedonians followed their enemies believing victory to be imminent. However the Phalanx at once lost its cohesion, and gaps formed in the Macedonian ranks, gaps that the more flexible Romans exploited immediately. The Macedonian army became disordered on the rough terrain and pressed together, as they were hacked down without mercy by the Roman Legionaries. Due to the clumsiness of the Phalanx, the Macedonian soldiers were unable to inflict any casualties on the attacking Romans in these conditions, while they themselves were slaughtered like animals. The battle had lasted less than an hour, but the pursuit and annihilation of the Macedonians lasted until nightfall, and the casualty disparity was thus immense: 20,000 Macedonians were killed and another 11,000 taken prisoner, against 100 Roman killed and a somewhat larger number of wounded. Disgracefully defeated, Perseus capitulated.

In this post we will examine and correct the mistakes and stereotypes of this Wikipedia account of Carrhae.
- 1: Size of the Parthian army
As the page says, a common number given for the army of Surenas is a mere 9,000 horse archers and 1,000 cataphracts against a Roman army more than four times its size. However this is a fatal misinterpretation of ancient texts. The guess that there were so few Parthians at the battle comes from Plutarch's description of Surenas where he mentions he has 1,000 cataphracts and 9,000 horse archers and other servants as part of his personal retinue which travelled with him at all times when conducting business and his own affairs. It was in no way meant as an indicator to the size of the Parthian army. Surenas was also accompanied by another Parthian general called Sillaces, who certainly had his own retinue and troops. Plutarch also mentions an episode where the Parthian army was swelled by the arrival of fresh troops. The Parthian army was thus certainly much larger than just 10,000 men, and may have even outnumbered the Romans.
- 2: Size of the Roman army
Crassus did not have his entire army with him at Carrhae, though most of it he did have. He had left behind 7,000 Legionaries and 1,000 cavalry as garrisons in cities that had defected from the Parthians in Mesopotamia. The actual size of the Roman force was 28,000 Legionaries, 4,000 light infantry and 3,000 cavalry.
- 3: Romans using the Testudo
The article claims that at one point in the battle the Romans formed a Testudo to repel the Parthian arrows. This is simply not true.
- 4: Testudo vulnerability
The article claims that the Testudo rendered the Romans vulnerable to charges from cataphracts, but this is again untrue. The defensive Testudo employed against enemies like the Parthians was in fact a superb defense against cavalry charges.
- 5: Parthian casualties
The article claims Surenas lost only 38 men, and that Plutarch recorded the number. Both are untrue, and there are many indicators to heavier Parthian casualties. For example at the end of the battle, the Parthian army was so low on morale Surenas couldn't reliably use them.

Cash Is King

Marcus Licinius Crassus is famous, perhaps infamous rather, for being an extrordinary businessman and money-maker. At a time he was the richest man in Rome, and possibly even the richest man in world history. Crassus maintained a large force of firemen, slave craftsmen and builders, and he had a shrewd way of making money with them too. Fires were common in the city of Rome at the time, and Crassus exploited them to become rich: he bought property that laid in the path of one of these fires cheaply, and he would then send his workers to knock down the buildings and create a firebreak.
In time Crassus would rebuild the destroyed property, and then rent them out for a huge profit. His estates in total came to have a value of 200,000 000 sesterces, enough to give 500 men minimum census to be ranked equestrians. Crassus however wasn't rich just for the sake of it, but applied his wealth to advance his political position too, lowning money to senators interest-free or at low rates. It was rumored that most people in the Roman Senate came to owe Crassus money. Crassus used to joke that one couldn't call himself rich until he had enough to pay for his own army, and still have money left over.
#Rome #Roma #RomanArmy #RomanLegion #RomanRepublic #SPQR #MarcusLiciniusCrassus #Crassus #Businessman #History #RomanHistory #AncientHistory #MilitaryHistory

Flegellum Dei

On this day in history, June 20, 451 AD, the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields is fought between the Western Roman Empire and the Hunnish Empire.
For many years, Rome's two halves of an empire in the west and east had been troubled by the presence of Attila, king of the Huns and head of a vast confederacy of Germanic tribes. Attila had made a number of incursions into the Balkan provinces at the Eastern Roman Empire, and while they proved costly to him he was able to devastate broad swaths of Roman territory. The Eastern Empire was forced to pay a regular tribute to keep the Huns from raiding them. In 450 AD, Attila was looking for his next target, and found it in Gaul at the Western Empire.
Attila was the master at creating pretexts for war from seemingly small issues, and he invaded Gaul that same year ostensibly to "free" the daughter of the Western Roman emperor Valentinian III, and to claim the 50% of the empire's lands he thought he was due. Attila devastated much of Gaul, sacking numerous cities before he was confronted in June, 451 AD by a Roman army under general Flavius Aetius. Both sides had a majority of Germanic allies with them, with the Huns and Romans forming the nucleus of their armies.
The battle that followed was brutal, and both sides sustained heavy casualties. Among the dead was Theodoric, king of the Visigoths and an ally of the Romans. However in the end, Aetius was victoriois and Attila was forced to retreat from Gaul. One theory holds that Aetius allowed Attila to escape in order that the Hun threat would persist and keep Rome's barbarian allies from entertaining thoughts of turning against her once the battle was over. Whatever the reality, the Roman victory at the Catalaunian Fields is often seen as the last great battle of the Western Empire, a final grand display of Imperial power before the empire fell. And fall it would indeed, for while Aetius had been able to stop Attila, the Western Roman Empire was not secure: a little over twenty years later, it would collapse in full.
#Rome #Roma #RomanArmy #RomanLegion #RomanEmpire #SPQR #History #RomanHistory #AncientHistory #MilitaryHistory

An illustration of Roman infantrymen of the 4th and 5th centuries AD from "The Complete Roman Army" by Adrian Goldsworthy, coming with useful pointers and texts explaining of the equipment they carry.
#Rome #Roma #RomanArmy #RomanLegion #RomanEmpire #SPQR #History #RomanHistory #AncientHistory #MilitaryHistory

Iron-clad

A very unheard of type of gladiator from ancient Rome is the Crupellarius, being basically the Roman version of the archetypal Medieval Knight. It originated in Roman Gaul some time in the early 1st century AD, and was designed as a defense-oriented fighter in the arenas of the Roman Empire. The Crupellarius was very heavily armored, which indeed was its defining feature, being clad from head to foot in Lorica Segmentata - articulated plate armor, which gave superb protection from missiles and in close quarters combat, whilst the legs were protected by greaves. The arms were also clad in an armored sleeve called the Manica. On their head was a bucket-type helmet that very much resembled a Medieval greathelm. It was armed with a short sword optimized for stabbing, as well as a shield.
The Crupellarius fought in a defensive manner. Using its heavy armor to resist the attacks of its enemy, it would stay on the defensive until its opponent had been tired out, giving him the opportunity to counterattack with his sword. However the Crupellarius was also very slow and cumbersome, and the ammount of armor he wore made him liable to fatigue. As such, only men of an extrordinary muscular build could possibly fight as Crupellarii. In 21 AD, the Gallic rebel Julius Sacrovir raised a corps of gladiators into his rebel army which included Crupellarii. They fought at Augustodunum against the Roman army of Silius, but were badly defeated - see the previous post for Tacitus' account of the battle, which reveals the strenghts and weaknesses of the Crupellarius very well.
#Rome #Roma #RomanArmy #RomanLegion #RomanEmpire #SPQR #Gladiator #Arena #History #RomanHistory #AncientHistory #MilitaryHistory

Cracking Cases

In 21 AD, a revolt flared up against Rome from the Gallic provinces, where the rebels were lead by the Aeduan nobleman Julius Sacrovir. The Romans moved swiftly against the rebellion, and after local Gallic Auxiliaries had fought some skirmishes with the rebels, Sacrovir was confronted near Augustodunum by a proper Roman army made up of two Legions and Auxiliary units from the battle-hardened army of the Rhineland - a total force that probably ammounted to a little over or under 20,000 men, lead by one Silius. Sacrovir had twice the number of troops, 40,000 men, but only 8,000 were well equipped in the Roman manner, and his forces also included a corps of heavily armed gladiators. Sacrovir made the fatal decision to fight the Romans in a pitched battle; Tacitus tells the outcome:
"Our cavalry enveloped the enemy's flanks while the infantry made a frontal attack. The Gallic flanks were driven in. The iron-clad contingent caused some delay since their casing resisted javelins and swords. However, the Romans used axes and mattocks, and struck at their plating and its wearers like men demolishing a wall. Others knocked down the immobile gladiators with poles and pitchforks, and, lacking the power to rise, they were left for dead."
Sacrovir and his supporters fled to Augustodunum, and from there elsewhere to Gaul. But realizing their cause was lost, they committed suicide: the revolt had ended before it had even truly begun, and hardly had been popular either. In fact, the Senate back in Rome did not even know the rebellion existed until the emperor, Tiberius, wrote of its outbreak and extermination within the same letter!
#Rome #Roma #RomanArmy #RomanLegion #RomanEmpire #SPQR #History #RomanHistory #AncientHistory #MilitaryHistory

Book Recommendation: Alesia 52 BC
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Written by Nic Fields and illustrated by Peter Dennis, "Alesia 52 BC" tells the story of Julius Caesar's decisive victory over Vercingetorix at the Siege of Alesia, part of Osprey Publishing's "Campaign" series. The book is of typical length for an Osprey title at approx. 100 pages, but despite being evidently quite short it in fact contains details and history aplenty for any interested reader of Roman, or Gallic, military history.
The books begins with a good explanation on the clash of the Roman and Gallic cultures, as well as explaining the culture and organisation of the latter. It then gives a chronology of Caesar's campaigns in Gaul preceding the operations in 52 BC, and while only meant as a summary account they still do a good job at filling in the gaps between the start of the Gallic War and its final phase at the Alesia campaign. A description on the opposing commanders is then given, as well as detailed accounts of the opposing armies and their plans for the campaign. The various battles fought just before Alesia are also described, before moving on to the climax at Alesia which Fields describes in good detail from Caesar's impressive siege works to the violent clashes themselves. The book concludes by explaining the immediate aftermath of the campaign and explaining of what the fate of Gaul under Roman rule.
Alesia is one of the most important battles in history, pioneering the spread of Roman civilization further to Western Europe and from a military perspective alone being an absolute masterpiece of a battle on Caesar's account. It obviously deserves documentation, and Fields does that well in this book. To those who dont know of this important battle I highly recommend getting this, and I believe even those who have more extensive knowledge of the matter will find this a good read.
#Rome #Roma #RomanArmy #RomanLegion #RomanRepublic #SPQR #JuliusCaesar #GallicWar #Alesia #History #RomanHistory #AncientHistory #MilitaryHistory #Book #Literature #OspreyPublishing

Rus Fury

On this day in history, June 18th, 860 AD, the outskirts of Constantinople are raided by forces from the Rus Khaganate.
The Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire had come into contact with the Rus in the year 839 AD, and since then the two sides had exchanged blows in a series of expeditions and clashes. In 860 AD, tensions between the two powers heated up when the Byzantines assisted the Khazars in the construction of the fortress of Sarkel, which restricted their trade along the Don River.
The Byzantines however were not expecting an attack from the Rus, evident from the fact that the frontier with them had scarcely any troops and that the units which were supposed to guard the capital of Constantinople were absent, along with the dreaded Byzantine navy with its famed Greek Fire projectors. The Byzantines were engaged in a bloody war with the Abbasid Caliphate to their east, and resisting them effectively required the transfer of troops from the Balkans. Even the emperor, Michael III, was absent from the city as he was overseeing the war with the Abbasids.
The timing was thus perfect for an attack, and the Rus sent an expeditionary force of 200 warships and 5,000 soldiers to attack Constantinople by sea, the intent being to raid the city and not actually capture it. The Rus caught the Byzantines completely offguard, who were unable to mount any effective resistance against the attackers. The outskirts of the Imperial capital were devastated and many people in its suburbs were slaughtered. Such was the inability of the Byzantines to resist the unexpected attack that the Rus invasion would continue until August 4th, 860 AD.
#Byzantine #Byzantium #ByzantineEmpire #EasternRomanEmpire #Rus #RusKhaganate #History #ByzantineHistory #MedievalHistory #MilitaryHistory

Aurelian's death did not end the Crisis of the Third Century, but it was the beginning of its end and less than a decade later it would indeed be over. Half a dozen other emperors ruled between 275 and 284 AD the latter of which marked the assencion of emperor Diocletian. These six emperors all fought one another and other rebelling Roman governors across the span of nine years they reigned, and yet despite this the empire was all the safer: the major internal enemies with the Gallic and Palmyrene Empires had been dealt with by Aurelian.
And even if these emperors reigned only briefly they met with great success against Rome's foreign enemies. In typical Roman fashion Aurelian had crushed the two greatest revolts Rome had witnessed in decades by striking at the heartland of the Palmyrene Empire in Syria and then again in Gaul around the region of Champagne for the Gallic Empire, decisively putting an end to the two greatest dangers for the empire. Rome's foreign enemies could be formidable at times, but otherwise the empire faced no serious threats from abroad to its survival: none of Rome's enemies were ever equal to her strength. Rome's biggest threats came from within.
In 284 AD the final civil war for the next approx. three decades was won by Diocletian, who became sole emperor of Rome and managed to restabilize the empire in full. He established the Tetrarchy, and divided the Roman Empire into four parts each ruled by its own court and with its own army, in order to ease the burden of government. Diocletian himself remained at his capital of Nicomedia in Bithynia with the best Legions and cavalry units for himself. The Crisis had passed, and Rome would do what she had always done: adapt and move on. The problems of the empire didn't end with Aurelian or even Diocletian, but both men in their own right certainly did help it survive through these troubles times in the Crisis. If for nothing else, one has to give credit to these men for that, especially Aurelian and his herculean efforts.

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