The Roman Empire was the most powerful force in the Mediterranian area at its time, and one of the most significant ones in world history. The role of the military in the process of the empire’s expansion was crucial. The Roman army was maintaining the effectiveness for many centuries due its developing of its particular principles of military structure and methods of action. This essay will argue that the main reason for the Roman military’s success was not only strong discipline and hard training but also a careful selection of recruits and attention to the knowledge of warfare. In addition, the wisdom of Roman politicians and military generals in choosing appropriate strategies that may differ in various historical periods contributed to the success of the military.
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Julius Caesar, a crucial figure in Roman history, was a ruler who could expand the state’s territory so considerably that it was declared an empire. Such a success was possible due to the establishment of the military structure and rule that later served as an ideal model of the army for many centuries. Caesar experienced many difficulties in rallying his troops, which he described in his written work The Gallic War. At the time of the war, he understood that the argument, which could have an effect on the officers affected by panic, would appeal both to their reason and emotion. Thus, he used examples from history that proved the power of the Roman army, in light of which the thought of defeat would become impossible1.
An additional factor that increased the effect of Caesar’s speech on the centurions was the call for immediacy in action, and the rhetorical question to the officers about their possibility to join it2. In this situation, the centurions had neither time for thinking nor choice, as they would be blamed for cowardice in case of not joining the campaign. This issue demonstrated that the core of Caesar’s approach was the maintenance of the discipline, and, to a large extent, it depended on the leader’s charisma and oratory skills.
The second case study refers to the document, written by Titus Flavius Josephus. The author was a participant in the Jewish movement against Roman law. In his work The Jewish War, he provided the analysis of the Roman military as a model for building the Jewish army. To conquer the Romans, he argued, it was necessary to be aware of their way to success, as well as apply the most effective measures in their practice. Among the central characteristics considered necessary for success, he mentioned unhesitating obedience and hard training, nurtured in the Roman military. However, besides this, the essential step to the effectiveness of the army, as he stated, was its reorganizing and involving a more significant number of junior officers. Those young commanders could become mediators between the high authorities and the legions. Josephus then proposed to teach them skills of warfare; thus, he considered knowledge as one of the main proves for success.
This document may be compared with another work that appeared later, Epitome of Military Science by Vegetius (380-390 C.E.). The latter relates to the era of the empire’s decline due to the rise of separatist movements within the empire3. As a result of the rebellion of the border provinces, the army decreased in number. In these circumstances, the main aim was the raise of its quality, in the absence of sufficient quantity4. Moreover, as his predecessor Josephus, Vegetius emphasized a careful approach to choosing recruits. He proposed that the rural populace, mainly young, was the most appropriate source of recruits5. As he argued, their austerity and ability to withstand the challenges of the hard work and absence of comfort could make them ideal soldiers6. Such a proposal was wise, as, at that time, all other sources, including previously subordinate provinces, were not available anymore.
The other sources that provide information about the methods of achieving military effectiveness were military diplomas. Those contained the statement of soldiers’ tours, services, and status as a citizen. The latter was particularly important in the Roman Empire, as the status of a citizen was allowing the soldier certain civil rights, such as the right to trade, vote, legal marriage, and owning property. Caesar established the rules of acquiring citizenship and its privileges at the time of the empire’s extension that brought to Italy a large number of men from allied territories, such as Ptolemaic Egypt7. Thus, granting military diplomas was one of the methods to encourage people to join the army and express obedience and excellence of the skills.
Nurturing courage and bravery was a significant characteristic of the Roman military. The roof plaque of the Roman legion, set on the roof on one of the buildings of the Twentieth Legion, situated in Britain, demonstrates it. It depicts charging boar as a symbol of physical power, rage, and ferocity, the qualities that were preferred to be rather exaggerated than insufficiently developed in soldiers. The strategy of the Roman authorities, thus, implied forming self-perception of the soldiers and their ideal of the warrior.
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To conclude, this essay demonstrated that the Roman approach to maintaining the efficiency of military forces was efficient. The core of it was the insistence on discipline and hard training; however, the requirement of warfare knowledge and carefulness in recruitment had no less importance. The appeal to the soldiers’ emotions, such as introducing the symbols embodying rage and ferocity, served the same purpose. The importance of various factors was considered not always equal in different historical periods. Thus, at the time of decline and inability to gain a sufficient number of recruits, the main focus shifted to improving skills and knowledge. It demonstrates that the changing historical conditions require different measures to be applied and that wise and justified choices are the main reasons for success.