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Full Version: Earliest State-Equipped Troops?
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As I understand it part of the Marian reforms involved the switch from self-equipped citizen warriors to volunteers who were armed and trained at the expense of the state, sort of like a more modern army. Were the Romans the very first to implement this type of system? How common was it in the ancient world?
It wasn't done at the expense of the state. The cost of the equipment was deducted from their pay. At best some of this cost might have been subsidized.

Pretty much all of the major Bronze Age civilizations controlled all metal production and issued state-owned equipment to its fighters.
The Roman Republican state had been providing arms to Roman soldiers long before Marius, as Dan Howard noted above. It retained the pretense that these weapons were provided by the soldiers by deducting the cost from their pay. The reforms of Gaius Gracchus, however, did provide for the provision of free clothing to serving soldiers, although by Imperial times soldiers again had the cost of clothing deducted from their pay.

A passage from Ennius (Gellius 16.10) suggests that the Roman state was providing arms to soldiers as early as the 270s BC, if not earlier.

As for other states, it is unclear. There is some reason to believe that Philip II's expansion of the Macedonian infantry force was effected by providing sarissai manufactured from Macedonian royal forest. I can not think of any compelling evidence for state supply of weapons in Hellenistic armies, at least off the top of my head. I would imagine, however, that in certain instances the state had a compelling interest in providing weapons (e.g. the native Egyptian phalanx at Raphia must have been equipped at Ptolemaic expense).

Even in the Roman Empire, however, there is evidence that soldiers owned some, or even most of their equipment, including a loan receipt in which a cavalryman uses his helmet as collateral. (Bishop and Coulston, 2006: 262)
Good post, Michael. In Republic times, when an individual general raised his own army, no doubt he paid for the equipment up front, and perhaps recovered some of it from soldier's pay deductions, too.

Using an army to defeat a city, much of the plunder went into the general's pocket, also. That would go a good distance in paying for food, clothing, weapons and transportation.
Quote:It wasn't done at the expense of the state. The cost of the equipment was deducted from their pay. At best some of this cost might have been subsidized.
As the pay was also at the expense of the state, the cost of equipment was similarly at the expense of the state. Of course, the total amount could remain the same, but as the original quation was about training and arming at the expense of the state instead of from private means, this would qualify as such.

The relation between pay and state-sponsored equipment would change all the time throughout Roman history into Byzantine times, as described quite well by Treadgold (Treadgold, Warren (1995): Byzantium and Its Army, 284-1081 (Stanford)). Apparently the pay would rise, but soldiers would be more expected to buy their own equipment, and vice versa.
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Dan Howard post=289332 Wrote:It wasn't done at the expense of the state. The cost of the equipment was deducted from their pay. At best some of this cost might have been subsidized.
As the pay was also at the expense of the state, the cost of equipment was similarly at the expense of the state. Of course, the total amount could remain the same, but as the original quation was about training and arming at the expense of the state instead of from private means, this would qualify as such.
Doesn't that depend on what the pay rate would have been if soldiers had had to provide their own kit on recruitment? If the pay would have been no higher, than the state was gaining by getting back a large part of the pay in interest. It sounds like Treadgold thinks pay did go up and down in the early middle ages depending on how much kit the recruits had to provide themselves.

If I'm ever looking into this seriously I will track down the Treadgold reference.
Hi Sean,
Quote:Doesn't that depend on what the pay rate would have been if soldiers had had to provide their own kit on recruitment? If the pay would have been no higher, than the state was gaining by getting back a large part of the pay in interest. It sounds like Treadgold thinks pay did go up and down in the early middle ages depending on how much kit the recruits had to provide themselves.
Indeed. Pay rises would be coupled to a requirement to buy more equipment privately, pay cuts would come with the state providing more equipment.
It makes sense if you follow the economics behind it. During times of inflation when the money is under pressure, the state is better off paying 'in kind' by providing equipment.

But anyway, my point was that whether the troops are state-equipped or paid to buy their equipment, both systems count as state-equipped troops.
Quote:During times of inflation when the money is under pressure, the state is better off paying 'in kind' by providing equipment.

I think it would be just the opposite. During times of inflation the state is better off financially by paying currency that has depreciated in value. This is probably one reason we see so many "in-kind" taxes during the crisis period, when emperors routinely debased currency. It is better to demand taxes in hard assets, but pay your own bills in debased coin, during periods of high inflation.

But that is just a nit-pick :wink: , and I agree with your point.
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Vortigern Studies post=289426 Wrote:During times of inflation when the money is under pressure, the state is better off paying 'in kind' by providing equipment.
I think it would be just the opposite. During times of inflation the state is better off financially by paying currency that has depreciated in value.
It could be very dangerous to pay your troops in debased coin. Either you'd have to raise their pay (but then what would you gain?) or face the consequences - underpaid troops are never loyal. :|
Oh yes, it certainly was dangerous. I said the state was better off financially by using debased coin, but other consequences were pushed down the line.

I suspect that if one were to list dates of all the major debasements and rebellions throughout the history of the Roman Empire there might be a rather strong correlation.
Quote: or face the consequences - underpaid troops are never loyal. :|

And overpaid troops in the case of the Praetorians, still were not any more loyal Tongue