Roman Military Conquests Part 1

Now, onto the military conquests of Rome.

Intro

Expansion of the Roman Empire was brought about by the military power of Ancient Romans between 5BC and 2AD. The accomplishment was impressive. Rome’s empire went from all the way from central Italy, beyond the entire Mediterranean across France and into northern Britannia.

Rome had a formidable fighting machine since its earliest days.

How an amateur army from a minor city grew into a force capable of conquering the world is one of the ultimate success stories of history. In its early years of Rome was a democratic republic.

Citizen-Soldiers

Its military was an army of citizens. For centuries it was the proud duty of every citizen to serve in the name of the eternal city.

Even though citizen-soldier were not professional fighting men they were the best trained forces the world had ever seen.

It was an accidental empire. Yet, they found themselves engaged in almost constant warfare.

In battle after battle, Rome was victorious. In 5BC, Rome was a smudge on the map. In two centuries it conquered central Italy.

Despite constant fighting and training they were other keys to the success of the young army. The Genius of the Roman War Machine was not in new weapons or tactics.

Rather, just as in art and technology, the Romans stole innovations of others constantly.

From the Greeks, the Romans took most of the early weapons and armor. Like traditional round shields and thrusting hoplite spears.

From the Gauls- a long javelin called a pilum, which they could throw a hundred feet. Also the oblong shield and chainmail armor.

From the nearby Etruscans, Rome copied the basic organization of her military, Legions of roughly 5,000 men each. The Romans knew how to find an edge anyway they could.

Discipline

Another secret to Rome’s success was extreme, unflinching discipline. If any soldier deserted or ran from battle, his entire unit faced punishment.

Every one man in ten was beaten stoned, or flogged to death. Every Roman soldier knew to retreat was never an option.

In the eyeball-to-eyeball combat of the ancient world, retreat was almost always the wrong move. The bloodiest slaughters occurred when an army panicked, turned their backs and ran.

Thanks to the unwavering discipline the great Roman legions didn’t panic. By 260BC, Rome controlled more than 50,000 square miles.

Carthage

She controlled the entire Italian peninsula south of the Po River, she would not stop there. Rome expansion began to bump elbows with a much older empire- Carthage.

This empire controlled much of North Africa, Spain, Sicily, and Sardinia. First settled by traders by who is now Lebanon, the city of Carthage was founded in 814BC before Rome was even a collection of mud huts.

Called the Great Jewel of the Mediterranean. Carthage was unrivaled by any other city on earth, least of all a young Rome.

Rome claimed her wars were defensive.

It’s doubtful that even Romans believed this once it turned a hungry eye toward Africa.

Rome undertook punitive expeditions as a pretext for colonial adventures. The result was annexations, regime changes or changes in policies of the affected state to favor Rome as a colonial power.

First Punic War

265-241BC was the First Punic War with Carthage, it seemed horribly one-sided. Carthage was a great sea power. Rome had never fought a single battle at sea.

New to naval warfare the Romans had to find a way to turn things to their advantage.

They soon found the answer. Rather than bombarding from a distant ship.

Roman soldiers boarded the enemy ship using a specially designed plank called a ‘Corvus.’

In hand-to-hand combat the Roman legion has been just as deadly as on land. It took 23 years of fighting but the Romans won the first Punic War in 241BC.

Rome seized the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. They forced the King of Carthage to sign a crushing treaty giving the empire’s entire treasury to Rome. A young boy witnessed the humiliation of his people that day.

The son of a Carthaginian General looked on bitter, and vowing revenge.

The child’s name was Hannibal.

Bibliography:

Boak, A. E. (2010 ). A HISTORY OF ROME TO 565 AD. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Univeristy of Michigan Press.

de la Bédoyère, G. (2006). The Romans For Dummies. West Sussex, England : John Wiley & Sons.