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Full Version: When was Roman army at the height of its power?
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In terms of manpower, organization, leadership, strategy, and tactics when do you think was the Roman Army at the strongest in a ratio of both quality and quanity?
Andy I will only make my vote if you fix:
Valetenian on Valentinian
Theodosis on Theodosius
Commodos on Commodus
Dioclecian on Diocletian
and quanity on quantity

And why the first one is only post-scipio?Roman army before post-scipio is not viewed worthy enough by you?And what Scipio you have on mind?
Trajan up to Hadrian was the best period in my opinion.
I voted for augstean.

The 2nd century already shows some strong changes in economy probably caused by detrimental effects of globalization.

Also since Domitian, the army became more decentralized and the offensive stance was abandoned. Hadrian put some more nails into the coffin. And no, I don't mean, the walls, but his iurisdictional measures regarding legionairs, veterans, land property and camps.

I guess the so called "Era of the Good Emperors" is overrated, like the Titanic in Southhampton. Everything looked great, but the iceberg was already on its way.
How is the Augustan army more "centralized" than the 2nd century army? Legions were placed on the border, if anything the army of Constantine would be the most "centralized" via Comiatenses.

Hmm the Era of the Good emperors saw the most stable economy and political structure. The Augustan army would be no more "aggressive" than the 2nd century army as Trajan conquered Dacia and Severus did to Mespotamia. For Tiberius would abandon the Germania conquests and Nero did nothing about the Parthian war.
Quote:How is the Augustan army more "centralized" than the 2nd century army? Legions were placed on the border, if anything the army of Constantine would be the most "centralized" via Comiatenses.[quote]

Until Domitian you had double legion camps. You also had more legions under command of a single legatus augusti pro praetore, because some provinces like Pannonia were not splitted yet. And until Claudius' adventure in Britannia you had 3 legions more at the Rhine border. Also the overall distribution of the legions is different. The defensive stance of the roman army is not fully developed during Augustus' reign.
Of course there was no central or regional field army like in the late empire, but some province governors had an comparable exercitus.



[quote="Andy" post=347084]Hmm the Era of the Good emperors saw the most stable economy and political structure.

There is archaeological evidence form analyzing shipwrecks, trash montains near Ostia and such, that the economy of the empire saw a massive change during the 2nd century. Markets and flows of commodities changed dramatically. In Italy and Spain for the worse, in Gallia and Africa for the better. Some historians explain this with globalization effects due to the common economic zone and currency. We should not call it decline yet, but the roots for the economical crisis in the 3rd century are versatile and some processes started already very early.

I also don't see fundamental differences in the political system of the 1st and 2nd century. The political stability from Nerva to Commodus was rather luck than based on political measures.

I would call the 2nd century the Silence before the Storm.
And how does that weaken the army of the 2nd century? If anything poor preformance of the army was not reported till the mid-4th century by Zozimus and Vegetius.

The Emperors of the 2nd and 3rd centuries were much more warlike and less forgiving. Augustus if anything did not prefer expansion, stopping his expansion on the Rhine and ending the war with Parthia. The 1st century army got mauled multiple times, in Germania and in Parthia. Emperor Nero didn't even bother fighting the Parthians.
Why is this a matter of opinion that needs to be voted on?
Quote:Andy I will only make my vote if you fix:
Valetenian on Valentinian
Theodosis on Theodosius
Commodos on Commodus
Dioclecian on Diocletian
and quanity on quantity

And why the first one is only post-scipio?Roman army before post-scipio is not viewed worthy enough by you?And what Scipio you have on mind?

Indeed.
Quote:And how does that weaken the army of the 2nd century? If anything poor preformance of the army was not reported till the mid-4th century by Zozimus and Vegetius.

The Emperors of the 2nd and 3rd centuries were much more warlike and less forgiving. Augustus if anything did not prefer expansion, stopping his expansion on the Rhine and ending the war with Parthia. The 1st century army got mauled multiple times, in Germania and in Parthia. Emperor Nero didn't even bother fighting the Parthians.

Zosimus greatly deepended on older authors but he himself was a fith/sixth century guy and Vegetius?Many people already repeatedly descibed you reliability of this civilian clerk(not soldier,nor expert on military things).
And why are you still so obsessed with duo Zosimus Vegetius like if they were the only persons writing about those days?Have you really read Amiannus Marcelinus for example?Not just some passages but all of it?If you do then it is hard to understand why you so forcibly insist on how bad army of his days was compared with previous centuries.

Ammianus contrary to Zosimus and Vegetius was active soldier who personally undergone some serious fighting he described and he is much more reliable when it comes on situation of late Roman military.Did he thought army of his days was ineffective and poor instrument with soldiers only poorly equipped and poorly acting?Hardly.

Late Roman army in fact won majority of wars and military engagements despite the fact conditions in which they had to fight in dramaticaly changed.Small tribes were replaced by much larger tribal confederacies,Germans were much better equiped and well aware of roman way of fighting so there was often little difference between both opponents.Sassanid Persians were much more Agressive then Arcasids ever were and effective power of persian army virtually matched that of Rome.Invasions were now almost endless and late Roman soldier saw much more action during his service then his predecessor from more stable times.
"
poor preformance of the army was not reported till the mid-4th century
"

what do you mean with it?Because they lost some battles(like Hadrianopolis)or that some regiment like your favorite cavalry again at Hadrianopolis acted for one isolated incident poorly means to you that late Roman army in general served a poor performance?And it was first time such incidents were reported?Really?And what about army in the 3rd century almost constantly rebelling?Isn't this much more poor performance then that they lost one battle out of let's say 10 battles?

"The Emperors of the 2nd and 3rd centuries were much more warlike and less forgiving"

More warlike?How?During 2nd century only Trajanus lead intentional expansive policy.Marcus Aurelius last wish was to participate in prolonged brutal conflicts he was forced to by necessity and Severus ravaging campaigns were motivated mainly by need for getting quick cash-financial injection for declining Roman economy.
What was greater warlikness of 3rd century emperors?That they fought almost as often with Romans as with invading barbarians?Most campaigns they led were only actions from necessity like before Marcus Aurelius had fought not from being more agressive.

And what is meant with them being less forgiving?
Quote:Why is this a matter of opinion that needs to be voted on?

Why, obviously to validate the OP's belief that the late roman army was rubbish.
Quote:
Titus Statilius Castus post=347108 Wrote:Why is this a matter of opinion that needs to be voted on?

Why, obviously to validate the OP's belief that the late roman army was rubbish.

Are you denying the fact that the late Roman army was rubbish?? :evil:

Joking, of course. However, I find this question (if perhaps not the eras selected for options) to be interesting.

I don't think it's hard to argue, that from what we know, Julius Caesar's armies of the Gallic campaigns and the following Civil Wars are Rome's greatest military force. Now, the caveat to this is that in reality, we have very little detail about a great many other wars and periods.
Quote:Julius Caesar's armies of the Gallic campaigns and the following Civil Wars are Rome's greatest military force. Now, the caveat to this is that in reality, we have very little detail about a great many other wars and periods.

Well generally I agree with you but I believe there's a big danger if you make such voting.Danger that people like Andy would virtually completely directed their opinion on Roman army of various periods on the base of such artificial and very simplistic summarizations like this one.
In my opinion it's impossible forget that the Late Roman Army wasn't ever able to deploy more than 10.000 men on the field, we cannot forget that the late army was highly barbarized (look only at the names of the officers in Ammianus!) , we cannot forget that the Late Roman Army lost in 70 years what Rome had conquered in more than 500 years!
We cannot forget that the Legions of 5000 men were vanished only to be replaced by tactical units of 1000 or 2000 men, we cannot forget that this idiotic choice was taken only for internal political reasons!
When the enemy was creating for the first time gigantic armies and new great political entities, when the Germanic Tribes now could field forces of 50.000 or even 100.000 men, when these confederations were on the move, when new dangerous peoples arrived in Europe, as the Huns, when new powerful statal entities were borning like the Sassanid Persia, you ... what do you decide to do?
You decide to break the legions into smaller units!
Against the Dacians Trajan deployed full Legions 5000 strong, and now, against the Alamans, the Goths or the Franks, you deploy smaller units of 1/5 of the original strenght of the old Legions?
You decide to transform a strategic force of 5000 men, into a small tactical unit of 500-2000 men! This is pure demented madness and someone has the courage to write down that they adapted the army to the new conditions! Yes, what conditions? The new Germanic confederations, greater than ever? To face them you reduce the strenght of the Legions? Please! Com'on!

What they actually did was simply preventing the usurpations and dilapidating the manpower of the Empire in more than one century of civil wars!

All the Late Roman authors, Christians and Pagans, like Ammianus, Libanius or Zosimus, they all cleraly were feeling the military crisis ... but no, for some armchair-general, teaching Histroy, in our unfortunate universities, they are all biased sources, they, who were there, were all wrong in their feelings! Please! Com'on! Try to be serious!

The late Roman army was a weak force compared to the Imperial army of the time of Trajan or Hadrian!

Here on RAT you have a wonderful collection of Roman Helmets! look at them, compare an Imperial Italic to a poor two-halved Intercisa exemplar ... job done! :wink:

As always sorry for the quality of my English.
Diocle you and I both know the concept of "Barbarization" is completely false and has been thoroughly disproven since the 60's. The Barbarians were Romanized, the Romans were not Barbarized. The Success of the late army relied on these "barbarians" who were actually Roman citizens, and the Romans mixed Barbarians into regular units and placed them under Roman command to disperse and control them.

The Romans broke up the Legions because the scale of warfare was smaller. The Romans weren't usually facing armies of 10000 or 20000 men. Most of what they fought were warbands of 200-1000men, meaning that it was more effective to have a distributed force of a Legion in 1000 man units. Many Legions continued to total about 5000 men, but were in several places (good examples being V Macedonica and XI Claudia).

The text cannot be taken literally, these authors were alluding to "The good old days" just like authors of every century since Classical Greece.

The Germanic tribes could not field forces of 10000 men. The Visigothic Kingdom of Spain in the 460's could only field a maximum of 25,000 men, the Huns themselves only 30,000 (and never coallesced into that high a number except under Ruga-Attila), and only in confederated empires could they field more, the Hun empire had a MAXIMUM of 70,000 men from all across Germanic Europe in 451.
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