The Roman Army Essay Research Paper The

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The Roman Army Essay, Research Paper The Success of the Roman Army Brendan Walsh Ms. Kraljevic NRE 3A1 25/05/00 The ancient world was a dangerous place. An upstart nation always ran the risk of destruction, either by barbarian nations or strongly armed neighbors. How is it that the small nation of Rome managed to survive and conquer for so long, in such a hostile environment? Rome’s success can be attributed to the skill of its legions. The Roman Army was able to expand and maintain the borders of Rome, due to its ability to adopt foreign technology and tactics, its superb organization and its use of the career soldier. The first strength of the Roman Army was their ability to assimilate foreign technologies and tactics. Much of the weapons and armor that helped make the

Roman Army as great as it was, were taken from Rome’s neighbors. The Gauls, a semi-civilized tribe from a northern region in present day France1, and the Greeks, were the main influence for most of the legionaries armor. The Etruscan helmet used by the tribes of Italy was heavily influenced by Greek design, to form the Etrusco-Corinthian model that was used by Roman legionaries from the beginning of Rome until the reign of Julius Caesar2. Odd as it seems, the Gauls were the main contributor to Roman armor. The Gauls developed the ring mail that was used for two hundred and forty years (200BCE-40CE). Before the advent of Gallic ring mail, the only protection a legionary had was a small, ineffective chest plate. The “cross-bun” model helmet, used after the Etrusco-Corinthian

model was retired in 40CE, was also of Gallic design3. This new helmet curved to fit the back of the neck and had ear protectors that covered more of the face, providing better protection for both face and neck. It was designs like these that made Roman armor the best. The Romans also adopted many weapons from their neighbors and provinces. The most significant of these were contributed by the Greeks and the Spanish. The “scorpion”, a mid-size ballista and the Romans’ most widely used siege weapon, was first used by Greek Hoplites4. The scorpion was an effective siege weapon and was light enough to be used on the battlefield as well as in sieges. The Romans also borrowed the Spanish short-sword from the warriors of Spain5. The short-sword allowed for more maneuverability

for stabbing and did not weigh down the legionary’s already heavy load. The scorpion and the Spanish short-sword are good examples of the importance of foreign design on the success of the Roman Army. Though foreign technology was important, the most significant contribution of Rome’s neighbors and provinces to its army, was their tactics. Since the Roman expertise lay solely in the field of close-combat infantry, the Roman Army hired auxiliaries to compensate for what they lacked6. Each province of Rome had a different style of combat to offer. The most important were the mounted units provided by the Gauls, Germans and Spaniards. These made up the Roman Cavalry that protected the flanks of the legionaries on marches in hostile territory as well as fighting in some battles.

Archers, slingers, mixed cavalry and pikemen, provided by Crete, Balearia, Germania and Spain, respectively, were also used to a lesser extent7. Although their numbers were fewer than that of the legionaries, the use of foreign tactics through auxiliary units made the Roman Army well-rounded and thus, combined with foreign technologies, contributed to its success. The second factor essential to the success of the Roman Army was its superior organization. Organization proved key in defeating numerically and physically superior barbarian armies. In Roman campaigns against the Gauls and Germans, the organization of the formations used by the legionaries protected them against the barbarians, who fought as individuals8. The organization of the Roman legions allowed for strong