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The Military of ancient Rome Portal

Animation of the growth and decline of Rome throughout its history.

The Military of ancient Rome relates to the combined military forces of Ancient Rome from the founding of the city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. Originally The Roman military consisted entirely of the Roman army, but a small navy was first added during the Samnite Wars and later significantly expanded. The Roman military was intertwined with the Roman state much more closely than in a modern Western nation. Josephus describes the Roman people as "as if born ready armed." and the Romans were for long periods prepared to engage in almost continuous warfare.

For a large part of Rome's history, the Roman state existed as an entity almost solely to support and finance the Roman military. The military's campaign history stretched over 1300 years and saw Roman armies campaigning as far East as Parthia, as far south as Africa and as far north as Britannia.

The makeup of the Roman military changed substantially over its history, from its early history as an unsalaried citizen militia to a later professional force. The equipment used by the military altered greatly in type over time with the Romans adapting to circumstance and showing a willingness to utilise the technology of their enemies, though there were very few technological improvements in weapons manufacture, like the rest of the classical world. For much of its history, the majority of Rome's forces were maintained at or beyond the limits of its territory, in order to either expand Rome's domain, or protect its existing borders.

Selected article

Roman auxiliary infantry crossing a river, probably the Danube, on a pontoon bridge during the emperor Trajan's Dacian Wars (101–106 AD).
Auxiliaries formed the standing non-citizen corps of the Roman army of the Principate (30 BC–284 AD), alongside the citizen legions. By the 2nd century, the auxilia contained the same number of infantry as the legions and in addition provided almost all of the Roman army's cavalry and more specialised troops. The auxilia represented three-fifths of Rome's regular land forces at that time. Like their legionary counterparts, auxiliary recruits were mostly volunteers, not conscripts. Auxiliary troops were mainly free provincial subjects of the Roman Empire who did not hold Roman citizenship and constituted the vast majority of the empire's population in the 1st and 2nd centuries. Auxiliaries also included some Roman citizens and probably barbarians. This was in contrast to the legions, which only admitted Roman citizens.

The auxilia developed from the varied contingents of non-Italian troops, especially cavalry, that the Roman Republic used in increasing numbers to support its legions after 200 BC. The Julio-Claudian period (30 BC–68 AD) saw the transformation of these motley temporary levies into a standing corps of regiments with standardised structure, equipment and conditions of service. By the end of this period, there were no significant differences between legionaries and most auxiliaries in terms of training, or combat capability. Auxiliary regiments were often stationed in provinces other than the one in which they were originally raised, both for reasons of imperial security and to foster the process of Romanisation and integration of the provinces. The regimental names of many auxiliary units persisted into the 4th century, but by then the units in question were different in size, structure, and quality from their predecessors.


Selected biography

Statue picturing Emperor Trajan.
Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus, commonly called Trajan, lived from September 18, 53 to August 9, 117. He was a Roman Emperor from 98117. He was the second of the "Five Good Emperors of the Roman Empire". From 101-102, and then from 105-106 he launched the Dacian Wars, ending with Dacia being added to the Roman Empire as yet another province. From 113-116, he led the successful invasions of Armenia, Persia, and Mesopotamia, bringing the Empire to its greatest territorial extent. He died soon after the invasions in 117, and his adopted son Hadrian took the throne. Soon after Hadrian took the throne, he lost most of the eastern territory, yet Dacia remained a Roman province.

Did you know...

Did you know...

  • that there was a Roman saying 'It has come to the triarii' which described a desperate situation?
  • that the Colosseum's construction was funded by treasure taken from the temple of Jerusalem after the Romans sacked the city in AD 70?
  • that Hannibal Barca swore as a young child that he would never be an ally to Rome,and he upheld that oath until he committed suicide in 183 BC?
  • that the word "palace" came from the Palatine Hill in Rome? On that hill was built the palace of the Roman Emperors.
  • that the year AD 69 was a year in which Rome had four emperors, ending with Vespasian who then ruled for ten years?
  • that on the night July 18 to July 19, 64, the city of Rome suffered from a great fire? The emperor Nero blamed Christians for the fire, but some suspect that it was he who was the arsonist.

Categories

Quotes

  • Roman, remember that you shall rule the nations by your authority, for this is to be your skill, to make peace the custom, to spare the conquered, and to wage war until the haughty are brought low., Virgil, Aeneid
  • Alea iacta est (The die is cast), reportedly said by Gaius Julius Caesar before crossing the Rubicon
  • Silent enim leges inter arma (Laws are silent in times of war), Cicero
  • War gives the right of the conquerors to impose any conditions they please upon the vanquished. , Gaius Julius Caesar
  • The outcome corresponds less to expectations in war than in any other case whatsoever, Livy
  • A bad peace is even worse than war. , Tacitus
  • Veni, Vidi, Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered), Gaius Julius Caesar
  • I found Rome brick, I left it marble., Caesar Augustus

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