Full Version: Generals that personally killed enemy combatants
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For some weird reason I get a kick out of hearing of high ranking officers in any army that personally have killed enemy combatants. Why I don't know. Maybe because it's not something you expect a high ranking officer to do.
As for the Roman army, does anyone know of any generals that have slain men in combat personally? Offhand I can think of only two - Pompey the Great and Titus. Caesar, according to his own memoirs, once grabbed a shield from a legionary and stopped a rout and seemingly participated in combat as well. If he did kill anyone he sure didn't mention it. But apart from Pompey and Titus I just can't think of anyone else.
Any input on this would be greatly appreciated.
I thought Vespasian also personally engaged in combat during both the invasion of Britain and later the Jewish Revolt. And I've never heard of Pompey doing the same but I'm not surprised. Caesar, I agree, is silent on the matter so I'm inclined to think he did not.

I'm sure many, if not most, of the Emperors during the Later Empire also led from the front. Constantine comes to mind as a certainty.

Drusus, the brother of Emperor Tiberius also fought personaly in his campaign in Germania. It was said that he was quite reckless because he didn't heed his own safety and tried to look up enemy leaders on the battlefield.

look also at this thread and the literature I mentioned there.
You should get Ross Cowan's latest book when it's released (imminently), For the Glory of Rome: A History of Warriors and Warfare. It deals with the subject extensively. There's also a taste of it in the Ancient Warfare brochure.
Marcus Claudius Marcellus - the only non-legendary Roman who won the Spolia Opima for personally killing an enemy leader in combat.

[edit] ah, didn't see this is already in the thread Alexandr linked to, sorry

Ross Cowan

There are lots of examples of generals in combat, especially for the mid-Republic, most notably Marcellus (cf. the Spolia Opima thread referred to above by Alexandr). Moving into the late Republic, aside from Pompey: Marius, e.g. Aquae Sextiae; Manius Aquilius in Sicily; Sulla at Orchomenus; presumably Sertorius (can't think of any examples, tho'); Lucullus at Tigranocerta; Caesar also at Thapsus and Munda; Hirtius and Pansa in the Mutina War; Antony is frequently reported in action, e.g. Second Philippi; Crassus in Moesia 29 BC... I imagine there are other examples, especially for the Social War and Civil Wars.

For the Empire, the first emperor to fight in battle was Maximinus (AD 235-238). Note also Decius and the rest of the soldier emperors. Later, Julian was of course killed in battle.

As Jim says, discussion and refs can be found in For the Glory of Rome, chp 3. I don't have a copy or my notes to hand, so apologies for the lack of source references.


What about Tiberius before he became he became emperor?

And another Tiberius; Tiberius Gracchus.

Ross Cowan

Quote:What about Tiberius before he became he became emperor?


Hmm, despite his successes as general, I can't think of any references to Tiberius in hand-to-hand combat (I'll need to look again at the sources), but his brother Drusus was desperate to fight a single combat with a German king or chieftain, so he could claim the spolia opima. Suetonius says Drusus used to chase such Germans across battlefields (no doubt with a large bodyguard in tow), but he never managed to catch any of them!
Quote:Suetonius says Drusus used to chase such Germans across battlefields (no doubt with a large bodyguard in tow), but he never managed to catch any of them!
LOL! :lol: :lol: You want to know what Romans were like in battle? I'm convinced Hooligans (aka Green Street) and The Football Factory are definitely the model to look to.
Yes, as told above by Ross, Flauius Claudius Iulianus, of course. He was always in first line to fight enemies and to support his army: first as Caesar in the gallic campaigns and then as Imperator in the persian campaign where he was killed in action by a javelin (because of the hurry to get the first line after a surprise attack he forgot to wear his cuirass), for doing so, he followed the same hard combat training of his legionaries.

Julian fought during his Persian campaign several times in the front rank. More than one time he endangered the whole expedition - not only the last time when he was killed.
One personal kill is recorded for Julian:
During the siege of Maozamalcha Julian
Quote:took a few light-armed men [certainly from his guard] and went with them on foot himself to make a careful reconnaissance of the city, but fell into a dangerous trap from which he barely escaped with his life. Ten armed Persians emerged from a hidden postern, crawled along the bottom of the slope on hands and knees, and suddenly threw themselves on our men. The emperors dress made him conspicous, and two of them attacked him with drawn swords, but he protected himself by raising his shield. From under its cover he plunged his sword into the side of one with superb courage, while the other was despatched by repeated blows from his escort." AM 24.4
Ammianus explicitly compares Julian with Torquatus and Valerius alias Corvinus who killed enemies personally.
During the Republic, future commanders may well have engaged in hand-to-hand combat, even sought it out because scars were seen as a great mark of distinction in court and in politics (see the "wounds in front" thread). Also, some commanders sought that spolia opimia, though senior officers were not encouraged to engage personally with the enemy, since their job was to direct their men, not do a private's job.

Under the Principate, glory-hounding was likely to arouse the jealousy of the emperor, so most senior officers probably kept a low profile and were careful to give the Emperor all credit for their own efforts and accomplishments. An Emperor, of course, was free to pursue whatever glory he saw fit, and some did.
I also remembered that Nero fought as a gladiator to entertain people - much to their disgust apparently as such things were only done by slaves - but I don't know if he fought men or animals and I can't even remember where I read this.
Quote:And another Tiberius; Tiberius Gracchus.
Where did Tiberius Gracchus fight?
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