The Roman army was an awesome force, their size and power wouldn’t be matched for over a thousand years after the fall of the Roman Empire. The Romans believed they were the decedents of Mars; Mars was believed to be the god of war. This essentially made all romans the children of the God of war. The Roman army started small just farmers and land owners fighting for what was theirs or trying to take over new land because theirs had become un farmable. This group of framer/ citizen warriors over many years began to evolve into a fierce fighting force.
Composed of the most elite soldiers, they became the one of the world’s first fulltime professional Army. The Roman citizens all supported the Army before anything else. Everything was geared towards making the army stronger and building the Roman Empire. Roman women were encouraged to have lots of children so the Roman army would be able to meet the requirements of male soldiers it would need during their times of war. During times of war defeat was never a topic discussed by any Roman, the only option was to win the war. The Romans were not always the massive empire they were right before their fall.
The Romans started out as three different tribes. They were the most primitive of all the Roman army’s. The earliest army’s where armed with slings and spears, little is known about this time in Roman history most of the records were destroyed during the Celtic invasion of 483 BC. The next step for the Roman army occurred during the seventh century BC. The Romans where ruled by the Etruscans for nearly two hundred years. The Etruscans learned much of what they knew about war from the Ancient Greeks. Around 510 BC the romans decided they had had enough of the Etruscans and waged a war against their king.
The Romans copied the Etruscan military style much like the Etruscans had copied it from the Greeks. The Romans used hoplites and Phalanx’s to win this battle. The hoplites where outfitted with shields and swords. The phalanx where equipped with an 8-15-foot-long spear. This was the beginning of what became the massive Roman army. The romans set up what they referred to as the legions. The legions were farmer/soldiers that must fight for their territory and their family. Participation in this was mandatory this was not an issue for the Romans, they had always viewed themselves as the children of the God of war.
With the Etruscan king gone and the newly formed legions this was the birth of the Roman republic. The Romans were using farmers as their hoplite soldiers. This is not nearly as revolutionary as it was when the Greeks first introduced us to the hoplite. The Romans h find a way to advance warfare and take over the neighboring farm land. The Romans developed a new system of warfare known as the maniple system. This took the Roman legionaries a grouped them together in groups of about 120 men. Each group or unit, were arranged in a checkboard fashion.
This gave them the ability to have multiple layers of attacking and defending units. They could interchange units and move the units in and out of the frontline as they saw fit. They could also break one or two of these units off and use it to flank the enemy. This new style of warfare surprised the opposition and helped the Roman reach an easy victory. With this new style of fighting and the progress the Romans were making, they decided it was time for some new weapons. This gave birth to the gladius or the Hispanic sword as the romans referred to it.
The gladius was a small thrusting sword the gladius was the main weapon used by the Roman army. They also developed a heavy duty javelin that the romans referred to as the pilum. Roman legionaries where armed with the pilum, the pilum and gladius were the two main weapons Rome provided to its soldiers. The roman soldiers where a fierce opposing force, outfitted with the gladius the pilum and a full body length shield they won most battles effortlessly. The gladius and Pilum are the two most notable weapons from the roman arsenal but these where not the only weapons of the Roman soldiers.
The hasta was a 6-7-foot-long spear with an iron head. The pugio was essentially the side arm of the Roman legionnaires this was a 9-11-inch dagger that the romans kept on their hip. The spatha was another sword option for the romans it was a longer version of the popular gladius. One of the last weapons the Romans added to their arsenal was the plumbata this was a weighted throwing dart. The romans could equip up to six of these and secure them to the back of their shield. During the Punic wars the Roman military force faced their first big challenge.
The Punic wars began with Carthage the maritime city south of Italy amassing a massive naval fleet and shutting the roman city of Italy off by taking control of the seas around Italy. Carthage had one of the first naval superpowers of the world. The battles at sea where not conducive to the way the Romans liked to fight and it forced them to change their tactics and focus more on naval warfare. Rome had mostly used their ships for transporting goods and soldiers. The Romans copied a Carthaginian trireme warship which was left abandoned on the beach after one of their many battles of the first Punic war.
They took the ship studied it and made a naval fleet of their own using the enemies ship as a blueprint. The trireme was 121 feet in length carried 170 oarsmen. The crew made up of 170 oarsmen and 30 or more non sailors, could spend as long as eight months at sea. The pay was very little but the tenacity and ferocity that the Romans waged war with made the pay seem meaningless to the men onboard. All that matter to this new founded Roman navy was to win the war. This new Roman naval fleet helped Rome win the first Punic war. The second Punic war began in 218 BC and would last until 201 BC.
The Carthaginian general Hannibal went through the Italian hillside in a plan to take over Italy. Hannibal destroyed anything in his way and for 17 years he wreaked havoc on the Italian hillside. He even attempted to have the Italians turn on the Romans and fight the war with him and his men. Hannibal was eventually called back to defend the city of carthage which the romans where waging a massive attack on. The fighting in the hillside and all the battles the Romans had lost once again forced them to change their fighting tactics. Hannibal was taking advantage of the romans and the tenacity in which they fought.
Romans would march into battle with no doubt they were going to win the fight. Hannibal would set traps all along the hillside and watch as the Romans marched headfirst into them. It took the new leader Scipio Africanus to defeat Hannibal. Scipio much like all roman warriors have done so far took the enemies new tactics and strengths and used it against them. Scipio refused to lead troops into the hills just to walk blindly into the traps Hannibal had set. Scipio decided to set traps of his own, leading Hannibal and his men in to the traps. The Roman empire was spreading at a rapid rate at this point.
Romans lost over 100 thousand men in the first and second Punic wars. The men that where left after they had savagely beaten anyone that stood in their way had no trouble taking over the entire Mediterranean. There were lots of battles fought and won during this time. After the first and second Punic Wars Rome set it sights on the Iberian Peninsula. During these battles Rome took over what is today Spain and Portugal. Rome had already foothold in Africa during the Punic wars but this wasn’t enough for them. Rome wage war against the Jugutha and Numida of northern Africa in what became known as the Jugurthie war.
Rome is building an empire unlike anything that has been seen up until this point in time. The romans had conquered many new lands and with this came the spoils of war. The roman soldiers enjoyed the fruits of all they hard work in battle by looting city’s and taking whatever it was they pleased. The roman soldiers where building an allegiance with their generals and leaders that was much stronger then the bond they had with the roman empire. Greed began to take over Roman soldiers who have referred to themselves as the sons of Mars the war god.
Being victorious and winning battles to better Rome was no longer enough these soldiers wanted more. This led to soldiers following orders from their commanders rather than the Roman empire. Many civil uprisings took place during this time. Generals were rewarded for doing well in battle with new farmland and slaves in the areas they conquered. Some of these generals where not satisfied with this and waged war against Rome. There were several civil wars during this time, the roman empire still had a strong military presence and lots of loyal followers.
They were opposed by the generals that once served them and the troops that where outfitted and trained by the Roman Empire. After the civil wars where over and ce was somewhat restored in Rome, the roman army met one of their most formidable opponents yet. Mithridates the Great was the ruler of Pontus, a vast kingdom in Asia Minor. Mithridates wanted to expand his kingdom and the roman empire was the focus of his attacks The Romans by this time have fought in countless wars and know what it all entails. The Romans loved to fight and they loved all the spoils of war they were afforded with their victories.
The romans fought Mithridates in two wars and the roman military was finally victorious in The battle of lycus. Rome was still a super power and was able to expand its control across the globe. The romans where brilliant when it came time to fight, if they lost a battle they used what the enemies used to defeat them against the enemy. The romans set up shipping ports and new roads in all the newly conquered lands. This was a great way for them to be able to trade with neighboring civilizations and also a great way for them to transport troops and weapons in times of war.
The Roman Army was one of the fiercest fighting machines ever seen on this planet. The sons of Mars (the war god) where ready to fight whenever they were told. The Romans where very prideful and greedy nothing could ever fill their hunger, they desired global dominance. Rome kept expanding in to new lands and taking over new civilizations. This can only work for so long, eventually someone is going to take everything the Romans have worked so hard to build. The biggest loss for the roman military happened when Visigoth King Alaric successfully attacked the city of Rome.
The Romans had been encroaching on the land of many different Germanic tribes and had been in battle with them before. The Romans thought they could weather the first attack and rebuild but this was unsuccessful. The Roman army had been dealt what seemed like the final blow. They fought back and tried to reclaim what was there’s but most attempts were unsuccessful. The eastern empire was growing and the Romans where struggling internally. The romans had become very depended on slave labor. This was never an issue when the roman army was taking over new land and supplying the wealthy with new slaves after every victory.
Rome had also spent so much money over the years fighting wars and trying to build the best army anyone had ever seen. This caused taxation to increase and made the gap between the rich and the poor even larger. Poor Roman citizens decided to flee the countryside where they lived in hopes of not being punished for failure to pay their taxes. The Roman army showed the word how to build and empire. Many of the strengths of the Roman army ironically became some of their biggest weaknesses. The romans had fought to many wars and enjoyed a constant influx of money and slaves from these newly conquered lands.
The Roman army loved war and never seemed to back down from a fight. I believe the most interesting fact and strength of the Roman army was its ability to learn from mistakes and losses and take the loss and use it as a learning point. Countless times the Romans had been bested and they always seemed to win the battles by taking what was working for the opponent and using it against them. This constant desire to be at war and the inability to be satisfied with what they had conquered is what led to the demise of the Roman army.