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A Theory About Vegetius
#1
I once posted this in another forum, as the user Renatus may know, but I once proposed that if Vegetius was writing after the Battle of Adrianople or another catastrophic Roman Defeat, it may be possible that his reference to the lack of armor and discipline may be because it takes time to resupply the army from the fabricae and to train new replacement troops.

I'd like to know if anyone can help with some possible legitimate evidence to support this theory.
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#2
It's not clear why Vegetius stated that the Roman infantry when he wrote abandoned not only body armour but their helmets when Late Roman artwork and monumental works created after Adrianopolis shows infantry wearing body armour and wearing helmets. It may be that the troops Vegetius was grumbling about were Gothic recruits, he was railing against the barbarisation of the army after all.
Adrian Coombs-Hoar
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#3
Vegetius was according to what I've read, not a soldier or historuan. He strikes me as more of a hobbyist quite aware that the Roman army of is day was a far cry from its salad days. I would think that he would have grumbled extensively to anyone who would listen about the slackness, lack of discipline, and unRomaness of the army of his day which had so degenerated from its quality in the time of the Late Republic,Augustus, and Trajan. So he pieced together organisational info from assorted sources and being an armchair general, tossed in some ideas of his own. Unfortunately, who knows regarding this issue? Seems like many non-Roman soldiers could fight as they were used to fighting. Maybe some of them felt like they could fight better unemcumbered? Or maybe they were recruits unable for the moment to provide armor? Quite possibly that late in the game, arming recruits was not as easy as it once was. Maybe the better troops got first crack at the good stuff and the foriegn soldiers had to wait in line?
Caesar audieritis hoc
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#4
It may well be that Vegetius never saw a 'Roman' soldier. He is stated as writing his 'Epitome' before the sack of Rome in 410AD, and its not clear where he was when he wrote it, in a city in the west or east, so he may have encountered the troops of the armies of Alaric and Gainas, both of which were predominately Goths. Depictions of Goths in the pen & ink drawings of the now mostly destroyed Column of Arcadius show Goths in either a mail hauberk or unarmoured, the Column of Theodosius shows the Goths as unarmoured.
Adrian Coombs-Hoar
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#5
Quote:I once posted this in another forum, as the user Renatus may know, but I once proposed that if Vegetius was writing after the Battle of Adrianople or another catastrophic Roman Defeat, it may be possible that his reference to the lack of armor and discipline may be because it takes time to resupply the army from the fabricae and to train new replacement troops.

Didn't Vegetius write that late Roman soldiers "fell victim to archers" because they wore no armor? If so, it would appear the problem applied to regular troops.
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#6
Quote:It's not clear why Vegetius stated that the Roman infantry when he wrote abandoned not only body armour but their helmets when Late Roman artwork and monumental works created after Adrianopolis shows infantry wearing body armour and wearing helmets.

I recall reading Elton but wonder--could the depictions pertain to the eastern army, which had the benefit of more resources?

Quote: It may be that the troops Vegetius was grumbling about were Gothic recruits, he was railing against the barbarisation of the army after all.

Or maybe Roman soldiers of c 450, after the loss of the west's best revenue sources severely limited its ability to pay and equip soldiers?
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#7
Quote:...........
Or maybe Roman soldiers of c 450, after the loss of the west's best revenue sources severely limited its ability to pay and equip soldiers?

Don't forget that nearly all 'civil servants' (incl military) weren't actually 'paid' at all at that period, most of it being covered by 'payments in kind' and just the semi-regular donative's (after Jones).

My own understanding of Vegetius agrees with what's been written before. The single main thrust, very like any other academic who is trying to make a point, of Vegetius is that he (like many others before and certainly after) is looking back with some rose-tinted view of 'things were better in the old days'; thus he decries what he knows of the 'legions', the field army ones now appearing much smaller; more foederati and perhaps Auxila Palatina who may have worn less armour; and most likely a general lessening in the amount of visible discipline of the army; etc...
Mark Hygate - yes, I really am!
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#8
Quote:Didn't Vegetius write that late Roman soldiers "fell victim to archers" because they wore no armor? If so, it would appear the problem applied to regular troops.
We know from other sources that Vegetius was in all probability overstating his case.
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Robert Vermaat
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#9
Quote:
Tim Donovan post=316420 Wrote:...........
Or maybe Roman soldiers of c 450, after the loss of the west's best revenue sources severely limited its ability to pay and equip soldiers?

Don't forget that nearly all 'civil servants' (incl military) weren't actually 'paid' at all at that period, most of it being covered by 'payments in kind' and just the semi-regular donative's (after Jones).

My own understanding of Vegetius agrees with what's been written before. The single main thrust, very like any other academic who is trying to make a point, of Vegetius is that he (like many others before and certainly after) is looking back with some rose-tinted view of 'things were better in the old days'; thus he decries what he knows of the 'legions', the field army ones now appearing much smaller; more foederati and perhaps Auxila Palatina who may have worn less armour; and most likely a general lessening in the amount of visible discipline of the army; etc...

I agree with Mark. Vegetius remains a difficult source (but he'd to be dated in the later 4th c., not the mid-5th c.) who is making a claim for a 'never-never land' that existed 'in the past'. Partly by referring to past times and past practices (which may not even have been 'past') he meant probably to create an audience for himself.
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Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR: Forum rules
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THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#10
Dating Vegetius has vexed many historians. Most appear to agree that he wrote the 'Epitome' before the sack of Rome in 410AD. However, I'm not entirely convinced about this. He does make reference to the 'destruction of many great cities' which perhaps hints at the sack of Rome. He also wrote that he did not need to comment on the arms and equipment of the Roman cavalry as they had 'been brought into perfection after the manner of the Huns, Goths and Alans'. This would imply that the Roman cavalry of his time were either being or had been reequiped with spear and bow. The Goth's had been hired by the Romans in increasing numbers from 323AD when Constantine I inflicted a great defeat on them and had them agree to a treaty to supply troops. He may well have had them for the preparation of his Sasanid Persia invasion which was postponed due to his death at the beginning of the campaign. We know that Constantius II approached the Goth's for troops and may have employed them on several occasions. Julian had 'Sythian auxilliaries' during his invasion of Sasanid Persia. During the reign of Valens Goths were hired not only by Valen's but also by at least one attempted Usurper. Valens himself sent the army of Thrace over the Danube to support Fritigern in the war against his Gothic countryman Athanaric. Valen's was forced to renegotiate the Roman treaty after his abortive attempts at subduing the Goths between 367 and 369AD. Theodosius also renegotiated the treaty after his defeat of the Goths in 383AD. Alans were hired by Gratian in 380AD and may have lead to his murder by Roman jealousy. Huns were perhaps hired as early as 400AD in Egypt, more likely after 420AD, which would date the Epitome after the sack of Rome.
I still believe its highly likely Vegetius may not have actually have seen a 'Roman' soldier, instead only seeing Gothic infantry hired by one of the Later Emperors when he wrote his work and thats why he rails so much against the 'barbarisation' of the Roman army during his day. It may also explain his comments on unarmoured troops as its probably that most Gothic recruits would have just been armed in their native weapons and attire until they could be supplied with Roman arms and equipment, if indeed they were resupplied at all.
Adrian Coombs-Hoar
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#11
Quote: Dating Vegetius has vexed many historians. Most appear to agree that he wrote the 'Epitome' before the sack of Rome in 410AD. However, I'm not entirely convinced about this. He does make reference to the 'destruction of many great cities' which perhaps hints at the sack of Rome. He also wrote that he did not need to comment on the arms and equipment of the Roman cavalry as they had 'been brought into perfection after the manner of the Huns, Goths and Alans'.
Perhaps, and perhaps not. 'Great cities' had been destroyed before, weren't they? Why would only Rome qualify, even with Rome being much, much larger than other cities? As to Huns, Goths and Alans, I think Vegetius never saw Roman cavalry at all? If he had, he would certainly have realised their importance - more likely, he worked from paper only, and found no treatise dealing with cavalry?
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Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR: Forum rules
FECTIO Late Roman Society
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#12
Quote:Dating Vegetius has vexed many historians. .................

That's interesting - I had not particularly worried about the exact dating of Vegetius before, being more interested in trying to understand the context of the detail he was imparting.

To that end I had blithely accepted the understanding in my translation (Clarke's) that his writings were dedicated to Valentinian II as that seemed to make good sense (given the allusion to Gratian (thus not Valentinian I) and not mentioning the sack of Rome itself, which would surely have been a pretty noteworthy event. :wink:

What could change that?
Mark Hygate - yes, I really am!
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#13
Quote:Dating Vegetius has vexed many historians. Most appear to agree that he wrote the 'Epitome' before the sack of Rome in 410AD. However, I'm not entirely convinced about this. He does make reference to the 'destruction of many great cities' which perhaps hints at the sack of Rome. He also wrote that he did not need to comment on the arms and equipment of the Roman cavalry as they had 'been brought into perfection after the manner of the Huns, Goths and Alans'. This would imply that the Roman cavalry of his time were either being or had been reequiped with spear and bow. The Goth's had been hired by the Romans in increasing numbers from 323AD when Constantine I inflicted a great defeat on them and had them agree to a treaty to supply troops. He may well have had them for the preparation of his Sasanid Persia invasion which was postponed due to his death at the beginning of the campaign. We know that Constantius II approached the Goth's for troops and may have employed them on several occasions. Julian had 'Sythian auxilliaries' during his invasion of Sasanid Persia. During the reign of Valens Goths were hired not only by Valen's but also by at least one attempted Usurper. Valens himself sent the army of Thrace over the Danube to support Fritigern in the war against his Gothic countryman Athanaric. Valen's was forced to renegotiate the Roman treaty after his abortive attempts at subduing the Goths between 367 and 369AD. Theodosius also renegotiated the treaty after his defeat of the Goths in 383AD. Alans were hired by Gratian in 380AD and may have lead to his murder by Roman jealousy. Huns were perhaps hired as early as 400AD in Egypt, more likely after 420AD, which would date the Epitome after the sack of Rome.
I still believe its highly likely Vegetius may not have actually have seen a 'Roman' soldier, instead only seeing Gothic infantry hired by one of the Later Emperors when he wrote his work and thats why he rails so much against the 'barbarisation' of the Roman army during his day. It may also explain his comments on unarmoured troops as its probably that most Gothic recruits would have just been armed in their native weapons and attire until they could be supplied with Roman arms and equipment, if indeed they were resupplied at all.

In that case it could be implying that he was writing during Constantius III's campaigns against the Suebes/Alans/Vandals in Spain; as the Romans had hired a large Number of Gothic troops to supplement thier army And Stilicho had already hired Hunnic Troops int he past I believe.
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#14
Sorry to drag up an old thread but I have been reading a few articles about Vegetius lately and I read a paper from Academia but the author's name  escapes me at the moment as I am using my phone but he made mention that Vegetius must have written his Epitome Rei Militaris at least a while after 394 and could be referring to the Battle of Frigidus  when he mentions in Book III Chapter 14. How the line should be drawn up to render it invincible in battle that "the provident general should take care of the future lest a little while later as the day wears on, the changed position of the sun may be harmful or headwinds that habitually arise at a regular time, during the fighting” and how these “headwinds deflect and depress your missiles, while aiding the enemy’s."

Just a quick look at Wiki about the battle mentions on the second day how and I am doing a rough quote from Wiki here This time nature was on their side as a fierce tempest—apparently the "bora", a regular occurrence in the region—blew along the valley from the east. The high winds blew clouds of dust into the faces of the Western troops (legend also says that the fierce winds even blew the Western troops' own arrows back at them). Buffeted by the winds, Arbogast's lines broke and Theodosius gained a decisive victory.
Regards

Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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#15
Although I like the idea, I fear that one reference to what must/should be something any general would take into account, is no proof that this is a unique reference to the battle of the Frigidus.
_________________________________
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR: Forum rules
FECTIO Late Roman Society
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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