THE ROMAN ARMY
- The Early Roman Army
- The early Roman army was no different than the Greek phalanx, mainly because it was fashioned after the Etruscan army.
- Roman soldiers must have resembled the Greek hoplites.
- A key change in the organization of the army came with the introduction of the census. For the first time, citizenry could be classified according to their social status and, thusly, be graded into different military classes. We see the emergence of five classes:
- First Class: This was the wealthy, land-owners. Since this grouping has the money, they tended to be the most heavily armored. A member of this class would have a helmet, round shield, greaves and breastplate, and a spear and short-sword.
- Second through Fourth Class: These classes would have lessening degrees of armor and armament according to their relative station.
- Fifth Class: These soldiers tended to have no armor and were only armed with slings.
- These classes were, in turn, led by army officers of cavalry. The cavalry were the leading citizens, enrolled as equites.
||82 centuries (2 of which were engineers)
|Second, Third, and Fourth Classes
||20 centuries each
||32 centuries (2 of which were trumpeters
- Shortly after the Celts sacked Rome in 387 B.C. and humiliated the Roman Army, important strides were taken to improve the military's design. The changes are traditionally attributed to Fluvius Camillus.
- The use of the Greek phalanx was abandoned, as it was not flexible enough for Italian warfare.
- The substitution of iron helmets in place of bronze ones, as bronze helmets proved ineffective against the long-sword of the "barbarians".
- The introduction of the scutum, a large rectangular shield.
- The complete reorganization of the army into the legion.
- The Early Legion (4th century B.C.)
- There are now five lines of soldiers:
- Hastati: These troops were located in the front of the army. More than likely, these were the spearmen of the Second Class of the Roman phalanx. This group contained the dependable, young fighters of the army. They were armored and carried a rectangular shield (scutum) instead of the round one earlier used. Each hastati also carried a sword and javelin. Attached to this troop were the leves, or lightly armed skirmishers, carrying spears and javelins. The leves contained soldiers from the former Third, Fourth, and Fifth Classes.
- Principes: These were the soldiers of the old First Class. This was the heavy infantry unit and were picked men of uncommon experience and maturity. The principes were the best equipped men in this early legion.
- Triarii: These men were also the soldiers of the old First Class, but continued to look and act like the hoplites they mimicked in the old army.
- Rorarii: This unit was made of a mix of the old Third, Fourth, and Fifth Classes. The rorarii tended to be the youngest, most inexperienced group of soldiers.
- Accensi: These troops were the least reliable of the soldiers, also made of the old Third, Fourth, and Fifth Classes.
|15 groups of leves (attached to the hastati)
|15 maniples of hastati
|15 maniples of principes
|45 maniples (15 ordi) of triarii, rorarii, and accensi
|Total fighting force (without horsemen)
- The hastati would engage the enemy and could fall back through the lines of heavy cavalry if their losses were too great. They could then later re-emerge for counter-attacks.
- Behind the principes, the trarii would be able to charge forward with their spears if the heavy infantry was pushed back, shocking the enemy with new troops. This would also allow the the principes to regroup.
- The triarii was thought of as the last defense. If the battle was lost, the hastati and the principes would retire behind the triarii who would close ranks, allowing the army to attempt a withdraw.
|Hastati + Leves
- In the early third century B.C., this new Roman army got its chance to show what it could do when it defeated King Pyrrhus of Epirus and the Greeks. It is not fully known how the Romans won, but their seemingly endless supply of fresh troops was a factor. The experience gathered by fighting Pyrrhus gave the Romans important lessons in military tactics. These tactics would have to be employed later against the old foe of the Celts and the new foe of the Carthaginians.
- Scipio's Reforms of the Army
- Scipio Africanus (Publius Cornelius Scipio) was apparently present at the Roman decimations at Trebia and Cannae, where Hannibal and the Carthaginians embarrassed the Romans.
- Knowing the Roman army needed "new blood", at the age of 25technically too young to hold the position legallyScipio was given command of the entire Roman force in Spain.
- Scipio immediately instilled the following:
- All soldiers needed to be in top physical condition.
- All soldiers needed to understand tactical movements.
- All soldiers needed to be trained in tactical maneuvers.
- Scipio's reforms marked a change from simply over-powering the opponent to trying to out-maneuver them.
What does this allow the Roman army to do?
- The Roman army now no longer needs to outnumber an opponent.
- The Roman Legion (2nd century B.C.)
- Reorganized Army
- Velites: This was a mix of the rorarii and accensii and were located in the front of the army.
- Hastati: This unit now went back to the use of bronze armor, with the wealthier members wearing chain mail coats. These soldiers also began to wear purple and black feather plooms on their head to increase their apparent height, therefore appearing more intimidating. Weapons consisted of the pilum, a well-crafted wooden spear with an iron tip, and javelins. Although the javelins were only four feet long, they had a head nine inches long. This head was designed to bend on impact so the javelin was a one-time-use weapon and could not be volleyed back. The other ranks of the army were similarly equipped, but they used the hasta, or long spear, instead of the shorter javelin.
- Triarii: These soldiers brought up the back of the army, protecting its flank.
- The divisions of the army were now of ten maniples, with each maniple having 160 men. Each maniple was commanded by two centurions, one for the right and one for the left.
- There was also a cavalry force of 300 divided into ten turmae, or squadrons.
What constraints on the military would expansion of the Roman Republic cause?
- More and more citizens would be involved in commercial enterprises, making enforced army service a nuisance.
- Rome would have to rely on allies to a greater extent.
- A chance at riches could cause corruption and, as a result, competent leadership became harder and harder to find.
- By 152 B.C., popular opinion forced the Roman leadership to rethink their time-honored method of enlistment. Soldiers were now chosen by lottery from the citizenry pool and served terms of six years of continuous service.
- Marius' Reforms of the Army
- Most of the reforms attributed to Marius were actually began by Gaius Gracchus. The Gracchus reforms were:
- He made the state responsible for the supply of equipment and clothing.
- He forbid youths under seventeen from enlisting.
- He filled the ranks of depleted troops with volunteers from the capite censi, or head-count. These people were the poor, who owned no property.
- Marius took the next logical step and implemented some interesting changes:
- He opened the army to any poor person that was willing and fit to fight.
- He did not supplement his ranks with the capite censi; rather, he made these poor an entire army. These volunteers would sign up as soldiers for much longer terms than the wealthy, since they had nothing better to go back to than farm work. This formed the first professional army in the history of Rome.
- He was also careful to enlist experienced soldiers by offering special inducements to veterans.
- He replaced the metal pin that held the head on the pilum with a wooden one. This allowed the head to be made stonger than before, while still ensuring the head would break off when it hit and could not be returned in a volley.
- He instituted the idea of a pension; that is, he promised each legionary land on their demobilization.
- He equalized the legion by deleting the three lines and giving every soldier equal armor and armament.
What would these reforms do to Rome?
- Marius' reforms would do two things:
- Provincial governors could now summon recruits to fill dimished ranks. Before, this was a right and privelage retained only by the consuls.
- The loyalty of the soldiery was transfered from Rome to the commanding officers. Before, only the rich served in the military and they had a stake in the going-ons at home. The poor don't have lands or businesses to care about, so their allegiance lies with the man who can provide them with lootthe victorious commander.
What could this shift in loyalty mean for Rome?