The Roman Legion, 24Ad Essay, Research Paper
The Roman Legion 14 AD-235 AD
The Roman Republic was established in 509 B.C. and lasted until 27 B.C. when the Roman Empire replaced it. During the Roman Republic the Roman army was intentionally composed of landowners. The Roman philosophy behind this strategic maneuver revolved around the belief that landowners would defend their property and country more conscientiously than those who had no vested interest.
The policy of using landowners in the army continued until Rome began to expand its borders. Soldiers were deployed overseas to protect the lands that had fallen to Roman conquest as well as to invade new lands. As a result of its expansionist policies Rome needed more soldiers that it could provide by using landowners. Further justification for a change in policy was that Romans sent oversees were not necessarily as vigilant in regard to protecting land in their ownership since that land was far from where they were stationed. This made the use of landowners no more beneficial than that of non-landowners. The land owner requirement was consequently dropped in 107 B.C.
Rome began to employ alternative strategies in staffing their great armies. When Rome conquered a country they made the conquered peoples citizens of Rome and as such the people of the provinces could volunteer and serve in the army. Since land ownership was no longer a prerequisite, the lower classes were allowed to enter the army also and these volunteers developed into a loyal, professional army. The army grew in numbers until about 20 B.C. when it was about 300,000 strong. The size of the army remained at about the same numbers until the fall of the empire.
The Roman army was divided into elements called legions. A legion consisted of from 4,000 to 6,000 men according to different time periods. During the Roman Empire the emperor appointed a general to command each legion. The general, in turn, was allowed six commissioned officers as aides. These aides were known as tribunes. Somewhere ver 60 non-commissioned officers called centurions, the equivalent of the sergeant in the present-day U.S. military, served under the tribunes. The centurions were effective leaders of the army. Each centurion was in charge of about 100 men in a section called a century.
When going into battle the legion would form into 120 men groups called a maniple. The legion battle formation would be three rows of maniples. In the front row the maniples would leave a space equivalent to another maniple between each maniple. The front row would meet the enemy force and throw their spears then attack with swords. This would allow the second row to charge into the empty space left between the attacking front row maniples and give support with a second wave after initial contact by the front row. The third row would then enter the fight and with thrusting spears secure the battle. These tactics along with the well-trained professional soldiers made the Roman army one of the greatest fighting forces in history.
If efficiency can be gauged by the acquisition of land, the efficiency of the Roman Empire would decline somewhat between the first and third centuries A.D. During this period there were 25 Roman emperors. Although the Roman Empire was at its height of power and prosperity between A.D. 96 and 180 during the reign of Antonines, the Empire expanded its territory very little after the death of Augustus in A.D. 14. The period beginning with the reign of Augustus in 27 B.C. and extending 200 years into Rome s future became known as the Pax Romana (The Roman Peace). This was a period of great stability for the Roman Empire. Warfare did continue but it was somewhat less intense and frequent. In this respect it would be more appropriate to assess the efficiency of the Roman legions as one of stabilization not of declination.
During the peace, however, some major involvements did occur. On Augustus death Tiberius, who was not only Augustus stepson but also his son-in-law, became the emperor of Rome (Asimov 196). His path to the throne leaves many questions which are sure to entertain historians well into the future but he would wisely follow the footsteps of Augustus in not invading Britain, judging that the Empire was already too extensive (Goldsmith PG). Tiberius was succeeded by Caligula and then by Claudius. Caligula would content himself with idle threats against Britain but take no real action (Goldsmith PG). Emperor Claudius would, however, invade Britain in A.D. 43 and Trajan conquered Dacia in A.D. 106 (Connor PG). Even in the notorious British invasion the intensity of warfare which erupted was nothing to match that of the Empire s earlier history (Connor PG). Some say that Britain welcomed the invasion with open arms realizing the potential benefit of Roman rule (Connor PG). The Roman fronts were efficiently manned but all-in-all the likelihood of a legionary engaging in serious warfare decreased during the time period of the Roman Peace.
Beginning with the reign of Marcus Aurelius in A.D. 161 the stability of the Roman Peace would begin to decline. Emperor Marcus Aurelous was threatened by invaders from Germany in the north and the Parthians from the east. Aurelius would be succeeded to the throne by his son, Commodus. With the death of Commodus in 192 the Roman Empire would experience serious disruption. During a 50 year period, spanning between 235 to 284 A.D., 60 different emperors would make their way to the throne seizing power by force. This would be the end of the Roman Peace and the end of Roman stability.
The history of the Roman Empire contains periods of much turmoil interspersed with periods of great stability. While it was true that Augustus himself preferred peaceful methods to warlike methods, his reign had seen much bloodshed (Grant 160). Consequently, the Roman empire saw much expansion and progressions during his the reign of Augustus. The Eastern Frontier was pushed forward, Galatia was formed, Numidia was annexed and Roman troops reached the Elbe River and these were only a small portions of the victory of Augustus and of Rome (Grant 160). During the reign of Augustus the chances of a legion not encountering serious warfare was slight. In contrast, the period beginning in A.D. 14 was a period of great stability and relatively little serious warfare. The period beginning with the reign of Marcus Aurelius in A.D. 161 would once again become a period of turbulence for the Roman Empire. One emperor after another would fight his way to the throne and the military would be shaken from the constant change in power and policy. Although there was still little external warfare of any significance, there were threats by armies invading the Empire. The Roman Empire was beginning a slow spiral of decline, a decline which would end with its demise over 200 years later in 476 A.D.