Great Success of the Roman Army

Introduction for the paper Rome went from being one of the many city-states in the Italian Peninsula to be one of the greatest and most powerful empires in the world during the fifth century BCE and the first century CE. The creation of the greatest empire of Western Civilization would not be possible without the establishment and maintenance of a large and strong army.

The Roman army was one of the bases for the development of the Roman civilization from its beginning. During the Monarchy and part of the Republic, the army was commanded by the patricians, and recruitment was compulsory, especially among the plebeians. From the fourth century BCE, the Roman state undertook a series of military conquests whose initial purpose was to integrate cities that they conquered into their own society. The purpose was to expand the Empire, increasing the supply of soldiers for military campaigns, fertile lands to grow crops, and to increase allies, therefore, expanding the territory. Population growth and improved tactical experiences from military battles transformed the Roman Empire. Over five centuries, the Romans conquered regions in Africa, Asia and Europe.

The mechanisms of subordination and control of the Roman army were extremely strict. When soldiers failed to obey an order or deserted, they could be punished by forced labor, beatings and, in more serious cases, by decapitation. On the other hand, those who stood out with military excellence could receive great tributes and be rewarded with lands and luxurious articles. This created a discipline and a reward system among the army that allowed to successfully conquer several regions.

Another factor of success in the Roman military project is closely related to the fact that they do not possess a permanent army. When necessary, the Romans and other subordinate peoples were summoned to participate in some important military assault. In order for the rapid grouping of soldiers to take place, the Roman state had the foresight to build a set of roads that interconnected the various and distant regions of the empire. It is also relevant to state that the fact that Romans incorporated several cities into their empire allowed to have an enormous supply of soldiers. In some cases the Romans won a battle because the enemy did not have as many men as the Romans did.

An example of this fact is the battles against the Greek general Pyrrhus of Epirus. “Pyrrhus, (319 – 272 BCE), king of Hellenistic Epirus whose costly military successes against Macedonia and Rome gave rise to the phrase “Pyrrhic victory.” His Memoirs and books on the art of war were quoted and praised by many ancient authors, including Cicero.” (Encyclopedia Britannica). Although winning several battles against the Romans, Pyrryhus had to give up due to the fact that he could no longer supply warriors to the battlefield. Why did the Roman state require soldiers to own property? At the beginning of the Empire soldiers were required to own land and provide their own equipment to fight battles. Only people with property could be eligible to join the army and share the rewards of military campaigns. Rome required soldiers to have land because by owning land their had something to lose if Rome was not successful. Their land, their property was at stake Land was also the reward the matters. Land had a symbolic meaning; the symbolic meaning of status.

Rome rewarded a great majority of soldiers by gifting them with land. By owning property, soldiers would feel appreciated as there was a purpose to fight for the Empire. Furthermore, soldiers would be loyal to Rome. They would see that there was profits by fighting for Rome. Plus, as Rome was expanding its territory it needed more soldiers to defend such a territory; acquiring more soldiers, Rome needed more land. One process influencing the other. Gifting soldiers with land to cultivate was also a mechanism to control regions of the Empire. Romans were expanding their territory and needed soldiers and people to cultivate and populate those areas. Another relevant concept is that by giving land to their soldiers, Rome was motivating the soldiers with a promise of a future reward. Land was a symbol of status and power.

The development of Rome provided great achievements to the empire; however, it was also marked by social tensions that put the Republican regime at serious risk. Unable to solve all problems, the Patrician class began to lose its political prestige for the victorious generals who controlled the army. Some generals, taking into consideration their importance and popularity, began to aspire to positions of magistracy. At that time, Gaius Marius (157-86 BCE) reached the position of general at a rather peculiar time. The Romans suffered with the invasion of the Teutons and Cimbros.

At the same time, army troops were wearing off with the fighting against the kingdom of Numidia, led by King Jugurtha. In order to overcome such difficulties, Marius restructured the army by hiring mercenaries. In addition, he rewarded legionnaires with salaries, luxury artifacts, and lots of land at the end of military service. Marius proposed a series of reforms for the Roman army, “While preparing to head to Africa to clash with Jugurtha, he enlisted Romans of all classes into his army, including the poor. This was contrary to Roman policy.

However, it greatly expanded the Republic’s recruitment pool and eventually became standard operating procedure in old Rome.” (Hyden, 2017). Allowing every citizen to join the army was an important maneuver by Marius. The poor people for instance, were willing to accept any kind of reward for their service. The new model of organization of the Roman army transformed the generals into important figures of enormous political influence under his command. The responsibility to control the value of salaries, rewards for soldiers, and lands to be distributed was of great importance in transforming military authority into an instrument of political influence.

In other words, opening the army to all people, especially those that had nothing, allowed generals to exercise a great influence among the soldiers. Soldiers became utterly loyal to generals instead of being loyal to Rome itself. During the periods of the Roman Social War, it was a period in which commanders were using their armies in order to take control over the city of Rome. Soldiers became loyal to their commanders as they were being the ones rewarding them for their service. The loyalty of such legions was what enabled Marius and Sulla, for example, to march their armies within the city of Rome to take control and provide political reforms. Sulla another great Roman general, did rise to a position of great power, scaring those in power. After holding six consulships and going for retirement, Marius was brought back to Rome to fight Sulla. “Their rivalry broke out into open hostilities when Sulla was elected consul in 88 B.C. , and was also chosen to lead an army against Mithridates.

The populares however, favored Marius to lead the army, and revoked Sulla’s commission, so that the leadership of the army became a point of contention between the two political parties, thus turning what had been a political rivalry into a contest of wills between two powerful generals.” When the populares faction prevailed, Sulla fled to his army, camped outside the city, and then, for the first time in history, he led a Roman army into the city itself, in gross violation of all principles of government. He was welcomed by the senate however, who considered the election of Marius an illegal act. Sulla restored the Senate through reforms.One of them was limiting political offices for Roman, trying to eliminate ambitions among those that wanted to hel multiple offices.

What impact did these changes have on the political life of Rome? This demonstrated that general and commanders could raise armies and intimidate opponents through military force. A great example of a person that raised an army with his own money and without ever holding political office was Pompey.

Pompey the Great (106-48 B.C.) was as Roman that took possession of his father attributes at an early age. His father, Pompeius Strabo, was not liked but knew how to make himself indispensable. Much of his knowledge was passed down to Pompey that, throughout his career, also made himself seem indispensable for the Roman Empire. Pompey observed how his father behaved and understood the leverage his father could exercise. Pompey had military capabilities, as well as political ambitions. Pompey went to Sulla with an army of his own and provided service for Sulla in order to gain respect and honor for himself. He was never appointed general before or never held political office, he named himself commander of his troops, “After this, Pompey, who was only twenty-three years old and had never been appointed general by anyone, appointed himself to the command. He set up his tribunal in the marketplace of the large city of Auximum and issued an edict ordering the chief men there to leave the city. He then proceeded to raise troops.” (Plutarch, Life of Pompey 

Pompey raised an army with his own money and marched this army into the main city of the region in order to depose those loyal to the regime of Carbo and Cinna, consuls that were opponents of Sulla. Later on giving the city to Sulla. Its relevant to state that Pompey raised his own forces. His pays for his own army by himself. He takes how own initiative and his own forces in order to fight for Sulla and get some respect. He kills Carbo and started to be seen as crazy, and people did not know what he would do next. This became a political tool as he was unpredictable and fearer.

His is 23 years old, never voted general, no political office, no legitimacy, and crazy enough to rebel. Pompey outgrew Sulla with his forces, becoming indispensable to the Roman Empire. Pompey had forces and those forces were loyal to him; he is in command because he has a private army. Moved from an outsider to someone that can take control of the Republic established by Sulla. Owning a private army allowed Pompey to become such a prestigious Roman. Runs for consul without helding any prior office, he was 35, needed to be 40. People could not say no because he was considered crazy enough and people did not know how he would react. He had an army so people could not go against him. He was able to implement pressure thought his military power.

The Roman Empire became the most powerful empire in the world in the first century BC. This was achieved through an integration of its various powers. The military power, political flexibility of being able to change, economic expansion and changes in the monetary system. This expansion created changes in the Roman Empire and also changed the Mediterranean. New institutions were created in the empire to control the vast territory, such as the creation of the provincial government to help deal with the management of the empire. The Roman, likewise, suffered changes.

It could be understood that Romans eliminated land ownership requirements as a form of keeping control of their military force. Marius was able to raise an army by opening it to everyone, so not only those who had land could participate. Marius enable a system that soldiers would be content with any kind of reward, such as cash. Land was no longer such a relevant reward to give. Generals could raise armies if they successfully rewarded their soldiers. Plus, use military force to impose their will as demonstrated with Sulla and his reforms, as well as with Pompey and his pressure in Rome. 

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Great Success of the Roman Army. (2021, Oct 13). Retrieved October 26, 2021 , from
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