Rome; powerful military
The might of Rome was exemplified by its powerful military. Not only were the Romans skilled tacticians and organizers, They also created or modified some of the most practical and devastating armament in antiquity. The purpose of this paper will be to trace the development of Roman military technology in relation to the enemies She had to face. After Rome was sacked by the Celts ca. 386B.C. Rome began a policy of military improvement. Weapons and armor are only one aspect of Rome's military prowess. This paper will cover advancements in infantry, siege, and naval weapons, such as the ram, Corvus, and shipboard ballistas. Some tactics will be explained, but only those that clarify function and application.
Each new enemy Rome faced presented a new and different set of tactical problems. It was obvious that by the year 390 that the old style Greek Phalanx of the early Republic was too cumbersome for the battles in the eastern parts of Italy where mountainous terrain made too many gaps in the line which made this defensive formation almost useless. In later battles, Rome would use this rough terrain to their advantage. Three very important wars will be discussed that forced the Romans to improve upon their weapons. Often Rome simply copied the technology of their enemies. It was a through combination of superior armament and tactics that Rome was able to defeat her enemies.
The original Etrusco-Roman army founded by Servius Tullius in the sixth century BC consisted of seven classes according to wealth. The early Roman army was citizen based and each citizen was required to pay for his own equipment (Hackett, 136). The equites were the wealthiest and provided the cavalry units. Little is known about the armament of these early Roman horsemen, but a wall painting found at Paestum seems to indicate that they were armed with lances, round shields, a bronze cuirass or breastplate, and a helmet (Warry, 108). Though this image is of a Samnite, it is probable that Roman horsemen were similar because of the trading of military ideas between warring tribes and nations. The first class could afford what seems to have amounted to a Greek panoply. These units fought in the traditional phalanx formation used since the end of Dark Age Greece. These units were armed with a Greek hoplon or round shield, helmet, Greek sword, greaves or leg protection, a cuirass and a long pike that was used in the defensive manner of the phalanx. The second class was armed with helmet, greaves, and a scutum or Italian shield. The third was armed with helmet shield and spear. The last two classes were apparently skirmishers whose job was to tie up the more cumbersome enemy units. The fifth class were armed only with shields and spears, while the sixth went into battle with little more that a javelin or sling (Hackett, 136).
This army, which was effective during the sixth century BC when Rome was still fighting to break Etruscan power to the north, had difficulty fighting the many hill tribes to the east who used javelins and shields. The javelin throwers could easily outrun and outflank the cumbersome phalanx (Hackett, 137). The phalanx was already being replaced when in 390 BC, Rome suffered one of its worst defeats by the Gauls or Celts at the battle of Allia. The Romans, with all of their war experience, did not know how to react against this fierce enemy. The Roman army at that time was used to phalanx and javelin battle, where the attack often came from in front. The Gauls surprised the Romans because of their outlandish dress and battle frenzy, but the defeat of the Romans most likely occurred because the Gauls were armed with long slashing swords unknown to the Romans (Hackett, 138). The round hoplite shield proved inadequate against these attacks from the side and from above. Having no way of properly defend themselves, The Roman army was decimated and the city of Rome was sacked. Luckily for Rome, the Capitol remained untouched because of its formidable fortifications and according to the ancient historian Polybius, after several months the Gauls accepted tribute and left the city (Lewis, 79). This defeat marked the creation of new tactics and especially weapons and armor.
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