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Is there any proof of severe penalties (particularly offences that would have attracted flogging or death) being reduced in number or relaxed in the 3rd and 4th century as an extra inducement to attract 'barbarian' enlistment ? If so, would these have been applied 'universally' throughout the army?
My limited sources (Elliot, Morgan, Peddie, Salway), perhaps justifiably, do not mention this aspect.

Any info would be most welcome.

Regards,
I have not come across this. You have Elliott, I glanced though Southern/Dixon, Elton, Nicasie, Milner-Vegetius.
I would have thought that the attractiveness of the army during late antiquity would have severely diminished for citizens thus meaning the likeliest recruits would be non-citizens (presuming that economic conditions outside the frontiers were less attractive than within the empire) or those from impoverished areas eg illyricum, isauria where agriculture was a hardscrabble existence.

Treadgold references the consequence of dramatically increasing the size of the army and bureaucracy was a decrease in pay so other than the opportunity for larceny (shaking down merchants and the like) a peasant would be better off staying on the farm.

I remember reading that in order to prevent desertion sometimes the army resorted to shackling their soldiers in the barracks and those harboring deserters would be liable to execution. There does seem to be a trend in late antiquity towards greater use of punishment/coercion right across society, one would expect the army to be no different.

I recall that some would cut off their thumbs to avoid recruitment although the army when pressed would even take these so the army must have been a poor option indeed. But given the power of the wealthy landowners in late antiquity it is likely they would keep the best workers for themselves and hand over the schlubs to the army recruiters and there would be little the government could do which only serves to reinforce the trend towards recruiting outside the frontiers.

It is likely that as the western empire came to a close the issue of harsh discipline would be less of an issue as the barbarian soldiers would serve under their own chieftains directly rather than be subordinated through the roman army and these leaders given their societal structure would need to rely far more on persuasion rather than coercion.
Do you have sources for these assertions? A lot sound like period or place specifics practices. We must not let "folk wisdom" about the Middle Ages to supplant source-derived facts about more ancient times.
Hello,

For problems with discipline and the quality of soldiers in late antiquity see Chapter 28 Companion to Roman Army and Chapter 12 Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare volume 2.

For the issue of cutting off thumbs and the problems the late empire had in recruitment see Theodosius Empire at Bay by Williams and Friell p16

For general discussion on the diference in motivation of professional soldiers = Rome versus warriors = Barbarians I would recommend Azar Gat's War in Human Civilization or Van Creveld's Transformation of War.

For corruption I would Treadgold as mentioned, Goldsworthy How Rome Fell and MacMullen's Corruption and the Decline of Rome
Excellent. Thank you.
Thanks very much for the source info.
More specifically, would you think it likely that the limitanei units on say, Hadrians Wall, within their last 70 years of service would have 'enjoyed' a more relaxed military regime ? Paul Elliott contends (The Last Legionary, p74) that many of these soldiers were able to take up 'jobs on the side', learn an alternative trade and to acquire 'a network of customers'. On the same page he describes the troops as resembling 'part-time militia' but nevertheless quite able to respond to serious military requirements on an as and when basis. I can't imagine the full weight of military discipline applying in these conditions.

Regards,
We have to remember that the later period sees much of the time of the Limitanei taken up with craft skills to supplement a meagre and rather inadequate income from the army. By AD400, the pay had not increased for over 200 years and as such inflation meant that the soldiers pay and benefits would not support families. For those in areas such as Hadrians wall, border raiding by parties from the north were highly unlikely to have taken up the full time of stationed troops - and as such, enlisted men were given certain flexibilities to become involved in highly lucrative cottage economies.

It makes perfect sense...
Hi Nick,
Quote:Thanks very much for the source info.
More specifically, would you think it likely that the Limitanei units on say, Hadrians Wall, within their last 70 years of service would have 'enjoyed' a more relaxed military regime ? Paul Elliott contends (The Last Legionary, p74) that many of these soldiers were able to take up 'jobs on the side', learn an alternative trade and to acquire 'a network of customers'. On the same page he describes the troops as resembling 'part-time militia' but nevertheless quite able to respond to serious military requirements on an as and when basis. I can't imagine the full weight of military discipline applying in these conditions.
Define those 'last 70 years' please. Are you referring to c. 410 as the end of that period?
Paul is right about the 'jobs on the side, but i would be careful with interpretations in words like 'part-time' militia. As Paul rightly writes, these forces could be counted on as regular forces. It's too often said that the 'jobs on the side' would have rendered the Limitanei next to useless as frontline troops, but their usefulness is clearly attested by the possibility of incorporating them in the field armies when the need arose. We see the same in later Roman times, when the 'part-timers' of the Byzantine themes owned their own lands (and tilled them) but at the same time proved to be very effective defending them.

Hi Claire,
Quote:We have to remember that the later period sees much of the time of the Limitanei taken up with craft skills to supplement a meagre and rather inadequate income from the army. By AD400, the pay had not increased for over 200 years and as such inflation meant that the soldiers pay and benefits would not support families. For those in areas such as Hadrians wall, border raiding by parties from the north were highly unlikely to have taken up the full time of stationed troops - and as such, enlisted men were given certain flexibilities to become involved in highly lucrative cottage economies.
It makes perfect sense...
I'd careful with overstating that. Sure, pay did not rise much for a long time, but soldiers' incomes are made up by more than pay alone. As Treadgold showed, pay could sometime be cut in half, but augmented by other means, such as donations of food and equipment. Often when the pay was cut, the state provided higher amounts of food. When pay was raised, it also often meant that the troops had to buy their own equipment.
For all we know, the income of Limitanei units may have been meagre in coin, but large enough in other means to be comfortable enough, without forcing them to become farmers.

Treadgold, btw, writes that 'tracing with any accuracy the level of military pay during the continuing bronze inflation of the fourth and fifth centuries and through various changes in donatives and commutions seems not only impossible but pointless'. (Byzantium and its army p. 155.).
Hi, Vortigern.
Yes. I was working on the 'last 70 years' as starting with the death of Constantine and the 'chain of events that were to prove very serious for Britain' (Salway). I know that c.410 etc is seen as something of a cliche in some circles, but it is, nevertheless, a defining period of time. Salway (Oxford illustrated version) Ch. 16 p306 et seq (for me anyway) is a compelling version of events.

Regards,