The Roman Army in Late


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The Roman Army in Late

  1. 1. The Roman Army in Late Antiquity: Solider and Society<br />As long as man has existed conflict, violence and wars have also existed. This over the passage of time has led to professional armies, during Rome’s dominance of the Mediterranean world standing armies were used for the first time. This new development by Rome set the standard that is still reflected in the armies of the modern world. The history of any armed force, by definition, makes it very easy to get bogged down in statistics; numbers of men deployed, casualties, supplies, and after action reports. The experience, actions and history of a single unit or person can often become lost when looking at the bigger picture, and, when individuals are mentioned in the histories it is almost always an officer. This is quite understandable; commanders conduct the army at the highest level and have the ultimate burden of responsibility should the units under their command fail, it only stands to reason that they should also get the lion’s share of the glory too; after all, commanders win fame through successful campaigns. The objective of this essay is to move the focus away from the commanders and the faceless legion and focus instead of the common soldier. It would be impossible, of course, to single out one individual for the purpose of this essay, nor would it give the reader a broad enough spectrum into the military society in Late Antiquity. The essay will first discuss the recruitment of men into the military. This was the first step into a society that was very different from the one they had know, and, naturally enough many men were reluctant to join it, the essay will explore the reasons for this; stating that it was a combination of apathy of the potential recruits and the administration, lack of interest in the service itself and all that it entailed (such as travel, combat and garrisoning), good prospects in civilian life, abuse by officers and in general the declining moral fibre of the military that drove the army to conscription. Consideration will also be given to the types of men that joined or fled from military life. Another aspect is the recruitment of Roman citizens and barbarians; citizen recruitment is fairly simple to deal with, however, the huge influx of barbarians into to army during this period is a very important point to the essay, were relevant, the far-reaching ramifications of the barbarian recruitment will be discussed. The numbers of men recruited and what class of soldier there were will also be discussed, as this was a factor in the overall society of the army. The essay will then move on actual service and society of the military. It is important to look at how men socially related to each other, and, how this directly related to morale, cohesion, and combat effectiveness. It will also be outlined how the decline of these social relations led to the decline of the military in general which contributed to the downfall of the Empire. Other factors of the military society and their effect on the men will also be considered, such as, the collegia, awards, battle standards and grants of citizenship. Late Antiquity is an interesting era to research when dealing with the Roman army because on the decline and ultimate defeat of that society. The latter part of the essay will focus on this factor, first looking at the decline of the standard of command. This was, perhaps, the most significant decline in the military society; as the essay will show, many the commanders in Late Antiquity had neither the skill nor inclination to perform their duties well, and were often more concerned with the extortion of the local civilians and their own men, than a successful military campaign. When dealing with commanders, the question of barbarians and were their loyalties lay will be considered. Next the essay will look at how this break down in the command structure led to a general lack of discipline, cohesion and morale throughout the army. This, in turn, led to a complete breakdown of the military society and the armies’ fighting ability. Finally the essay will consider how and why the soldiers of Late Antiquity turned on the civilian population they had once been part of. It will be pointed out, that while many abuses toward civilians were a knock on effect of other abuses, many too were the work of the troops themselves. Where it is relevant, and possible, the essay will use Egypt as a reference. This is possible due to the large amount of papyri found there.<br />Before getting into the main text of the essay, it is important to recognise the main source of information on Egypt in Late Antiquity. The papyri found in Egypt give historians, in many ways, a unique insight into the workings of a Roman province. The dry climate has preserved many examples for modern historians to study. This mean that the artefacts found in Egypt, such as papyri, had a better chance of being preserved. It is also important to remember that, after the fall of Byzantium, the Ottoman Empire ruled in Egypt for many centuries. This mean that, unlike most of the former Roman Empire, (Europe, for example), Egypt was quite peaceful in the middle ages, and thus allowed more evidence to survive. However Roger Bagnall, in his book, Egypt in Late Antiquity, is quick to point out that his sources of papyri were limited to finds at only a handful of Egyptian cities; namely, Oxyrhynchos, Hermopolis, Antinoopolis, Panopolis, Arsinoe and a few others. It is clear, then, when dealing with papyri, that one must understand that while they did not suffer the “dark ages” as many stone inscriptions in Northern Europe did, the papyri will not answer all questions about the ancient world; indeed, they may raise more than they answer in some cases. Bagnall claims that very few cities of Roman (or even Hellenistic) Egypt have been excavated. Compounding this issue are several other problems. Many of the potential papyri- rich sites have been looted, or, in some cases, rebuilt, and much of the delicate papyri have been lost forever. Bagnall cites the Nile itself as another source of the destruction of papyri, stating that the Nile’s slow but steady shift east over the past two millennia has, no doubt, wiped out many villages and towns rich in papyri. There is another problem with the papyri that Bagnall points out: In part, it is to do with the many cultures and races that passed though Egypt; this is no great surprise when one considers that Egypt was one of the hubs of trade in the Roman world, the gateway to Africa and the Far East. The result of this is that papyri of Late Antiquity can be found in many different languages. The most common language is Greek; no great surprise as Egypt had very strong links with the Greek world all throughout the history of the Roman Empire. Other languages, such as Coptic, Latin, Syriac and Arabic, were also found quite frequently. This creates something of a problem for the translators, not just in the modern period but also for those in centuries gone by. The fact that there was no universal language in Egypt at the time means that many of the papyri are poorly edited and translated. It seems that, while there are, in relative terms, plenty of papyri sources, many of them are worthless, when considered as academic historical documents.<br />Egypt was considered by many to be the jewel in the crown of the Roman Empire, and the Roman Republic before it. Throughout the life of the Empire, it was one of the richest provinces, and Rome relied on it for many essentials of its economy, such as grain, pottery and jewels. Egypt, then, always needed a strong garrison to protect Rome’s interests there. In the 4th ‘Century AD there were over 20,000 men stationed in Egypt. The military was a constant presence in the lives of the people living in Egypt. It is possible that the population may have felt more secure with a permanent legion or garrison; however, in their day-to-day life, it seems that the military could be a source of annoyance (perhaps no surprise considering that many criminals ended up in the legion). Soldiers were sometimes billeted in private homes; while this was, no doubt, the case all throughout the Empire, it most likely disrupted the household’s life, and was quite unpopular. The billeting of troops may have had some far-reaching effects as well. When the army moved into civilian quarters, the distinction between military and civilian became blurred; the army lost some of its elitist boundaries, this may have led to a weakening of the spirit of the army, and a lack of cohesion in general, which, in turn, led to a lower moral. This is a point that the essay will return to later. <br />Civilians had to assist the army on a communal level as well. According to Bagnall, the local populace often had to provide the army with transport, and local officials were expected to assist officers in their duties. Despite the often uneasy relationship between the civilian population and the military, in particular when the two required to come together, (as shown above,) the legion was, in many ways, a society unto itself. The army, it seems, was somewhat sealed off from civilian life, and this was not just the case in Egypt, nor Late Antiquity, but all throughout the Empire, and in all centuries. With that said, though, it is worth mentioning that in Egypt, c.346AD, there was an even greater distinction between the spheres of civilian and military society. It was during this time that there was, in some ways, a move towards what we today might refer to as a “modern” court or justice system. The appointment of the riparius as a civic official allowed to the military to move away from police work and enacting law enforcement on a local level. Up until that point, the army had been quite involved in policing Egypt, and not without risk; one soldier writes in the second century AD; “we are working hard because we are suppressing the uproar and anarchy in the city.” That soldier had himself been badly wounded. This left the army more time and resources to administer and govern their own society. <br />The recruitment for the army in Late Antiquity mainly came from two sources: citizens of the empire, and so called barbarians. This dual resource of recruitment many have existed for several reasons. Perhaps the simplest reason is that the nature and style of warfare, and thus the formation and character of the Roman army were changing. The barbarian fighting style must have been more adapt to this change in the fighting style, it was, after all, the barbarian hordes that would sack Rome three times in the fifth century. The recruitment of the barbarians could also be seen as a natural progression, in terms of the recruitment of auxilia throughout the long history of the Empire. Even in the, (long since passed,) days of the Roman Republic, and from then on, troops were gathered from the provinces and from allies. These men did not usually serve in the legion, but were, in many cases, cavalry or secondary fighting men. Another reason why the recruitment of barbarians may have been more attractive to the Empire was the reluctance of young Roman citizens to join the army. Many young men who could afford to, it stand to reason that many of these men would have come from the equestrian class, as they would have been more likely to be wealthy, illegally paid huge sums of money to gain exemption from military service. While citizens of the Empire were always going to have to do their civic duty and defend the borders, the barbarians were a ready source of manpower to fill the ranks of the auxilia, if not the legion, and one which the Empire snapped up. There were also some levels of society which were not eligible to join the army, namely slaves, and those who were in a profession that was “disgraceful,” such as slavers, innkeepers and cooks. The military clearly wanted to keep, who they felt to be, undesirable individuals out of the service, to stop them debasing military values. There were two major exceptions to this in Late Antiquity; Gildo’s rebellion in 397AD, and Radagaesus’ invasion of Italy in 406AD saw a great call for the enlistment of slaves. In a pinch, the Roman military had no problem selling out its integrity.<br />The recruitment of men to the military was quite a stringent legal affair. Much of the recruitment in Egypt, and throughout the Empire, was local, though it should be noted here that some historians differ on what exactly “local” means. Le Bohec claims that the term “local” is often miss-used by historians, and should only be applied to troops who were stationed in a camp quite near to the town they were from. Whether this is correct or not, one can assume, that, on the largest scale, a historian considers “local” to be the province in general, and on the smallest the local town or village. In charge of the whole affair was always a high-ranking official, or a high ranking member of society; mostly, this was the governor of the province in which the recruitment was taking place; but it could also be another high-ranking man, such as a proconsul. The exact numbers of armed personnel serving in the Roman army in late antiquity is quite difficult to ascertain. This is rather as one would expect. In this period the Roman Empire was in decline; given the great invasions, migrations and general turmoil that came with this decline, it is to be expected, with hindsight, that many of the ancient sources would become scattered and destroyed. None the less, there are some conflicting figures for the strength of the Roman army in Late Antiquity. The sixth-century historian, Agathias, claims that earlier emperors could call on a total of 645,000 men; clearly, this figure must be treated with caution. Who exactly is Agathias referring to when he mentions “earlier emperors?” Another sixth-century source is John the Lydian; he gives a figure of 435,266 men in service during the reign of Diocletian. Zosimus, also a sixth-century historian, gives a figure of 286,000 men for half of the Empire in the year 312 AD. Despite the quite high fluctuation in figures, it seems that an estimation of a standing army of around 500,000 troops is reasonable for the period. This figure can be roughly divided in two; half going to the legion and half to the auxilia. Therefore, one can assume that the Empire, during peace-time at least, needed around 18,000 fresh recruits per year; Le Bohec notes that one must also consider the navy and the garrison of Rome in this figure. It stands to reason that, in times of war, or even in times of heightened tensions with the many barbarian tribes that bordered the Empire recruitment levels would have been higher. It is also important to consider that troops were not recruited from every province in every year; some were taxed in lieu of this. (the aurum tironicum as it was known.) <br /> Some of these new recruits would have been volunteers, mainly those who had little chance of work in civilian life. However, the military was not a very popular choice for young men in general. Bagnall writes that many young men, in particular from the rural areas, were not at all interested in leaving civilian society in favour of the military one. MacMullen agrees with him saying: “But there was little inducement to enter the legions for a young man with any prospects at all in civilian life, whether he belonged to the longer established citizen ranks or came from more of the remote territories.” One of the most obvious exceptions to this rule would be the sons of retired soldiers. The Later Roman Empire did not have a caste system per sae; however, the mentality of the Empire worked in such a way that the son of a soldier was more likely to join the legion. It also seems to be the case that the son of a lower-ranking officer, such as a centurion, would have been more likely to be promoted to his father’s rank, if he chose to join up. It seems, at the beginning of this period, that Diocletian enacted a law in 313AD which stated that sons of veteran were obliged to serve, if physically able. Constantine, in 326AD, relaxed this law somewhat. It would seem, then, that the more willing recruits into the legion must have come from the urban poor. This is no great surprise. The urban poor had always been a great source of manpower to the legions, since Marius raised an army of them to fight King Jugurtha of Numidia in 106BC. One can imagine that life in the legion would have been quite an attractive prospect to many of the Empire’s poor, both urban and rural. The legion offered the young men an amount of security in their lives; the legion could, for the most part, keep them fed, and, if they were involved in a successful campaign they could acquire some level of wealth through looting and war booty. More important than this, though, after twenty-five years of service a man in the legion was given a lump-sum of money, land-holdings, or citizenship. Despite this, however, it seems that, in general, many young men of the urban poor were not at all keen to undertake a stint in the legion. As stated above, there were c20,000 troop based in Egypt in the fifth century; most of them in key locations such as Babylon, Memphis and Philai, as well as trouble “hotspots,” such as the desert borders. The garrison population of Egypt was between 0.5-0.8 percent of the total population of the province. Bagnall writes that this is about the average for the Empire as a whole in Late Antiquity. This meant that, the recruitment needed for a garrison that was relatively small compared to the total population of Egypt, maybe 2,000 troops per year. However, what was true for the rest of the Empire was true in Egypt; many young men simply did not want to become part of the legionary society. There can be little doubt that the harsh treatment of recruits went some way towards this. There was something of a wave of paranoia in the military that new recruits would go absent without leave at the first chance. The result of this was that the recruits were intimidated, and treated almost as prisoners, until they were fully inducted into the army. One example of this from Egypt saw a young fourth-century conscript and his companions “...placed in prison each night as they were transported northward along the Nile valley.” As a result of this kind of treatment, much of the time the recruits did as much as they could to get away from the army, while still receiving the enlistment bonus of thirty solidi; “The recruit’s ideal, to be sure, was to keep the cash and somehow escape the actual service...”The military, of course, conscripted young men into the legion, although there is some question as to whether this was the norm, or was only invoked in times of crisis. Whatever the case, there is no doubt that conscription was, at least at times, in place. It is also most likely that those who were conscripted were, in general, more likely to desert.<br />All recruits, whether volunteers or conscripts, were subject to certain requirements. Perhaps the most important were health and fitness. In Egypt these examinations were in conjunction with a local census called the epikrisis. The young men who were eligible for service were usually between eighteen and twenty-one;however, this could be extended up to thirty-five for sons of veterans who had eluded their initial call-up. Recruits also had to be of a certain height; in 367AD this requirement was 5ft 7in. There also must have been other restrictions of weight, eyesight and education. This seems to have been the case, for there were two main standards of troop in the legion. <br />There were two main types of troops in the Roman army in the period of Late Antiquity; the comitatenses and the limitanei, although there were several other types, including scholae, candidate and excubitores. This essay will only discuss the first two. Under the law of Valens, in 375AD, the fitter men were enrolled in the comitatenses and those who were not as fit went to the limitanei. The limitanei troops were stationed at the frontier regions were as the comitatenses were considered the elite field army. It is clear that, while there was, (and in many ways still is,) a division between the two groups each needed the other to function fully. The limitanei were the anchor, to hold the front line against any barbarian expedition into Roman lands; this seems reasonable, considering the increased Germanic raids in this period.(cn) As well as combat, their role was also to protect local community interests, such as keeping communication-lines open, and to be the physical presence for the Empire’s sphere of influence. They made up around two-thirds of the Eastern Empire’s forces, but only about half of those in the Western Empire. The limita- nei’s popularity and position within the Empire seems to have waxed and waned with each Emperor, although this may have been true with every aspect of the Empire. None the less, the limitanei could be used to attack the Emperor, observers sometimes commenting that the troops were poorly trained and showed a lack of commitment to provincial security. This does beg the question that, if the army of Late Antiquity was being used as a political weapon, how much did that corruption damage or hinder reforms, recruitment and moral? And thus, how significant was it in the fall of the Empire? Their position could also depend on each Emperor’s grasp of strategic situations; Justinian re-established the limitanei in parts of Africa, to protect the frontiers of newly-conquered provinces, while Diocletian gave up land south of the First Cataract of the Nile, as the cost of keeping troops there was too high. If the limitanei were the anvil, then the comitatenses were the hammer. These heavy elite troops were not designed to hold territory, but were sent to troubled areas to destroy enemy armies. The comitatenses’ use as a mobile force is also evident in the fact that each unit had five hundred cavalry attached to it, thus giving the army more mobility.<br />The recruitment of barbarians into the later Roman army is worth a mention on its own; about half the troops in the Roman army were auxilia, many of whom were barbarians. While these troops came mainly from Germanic tribes, there were also Atecotti from Ireland and Scotland, Sarmatians from north of the River Danube, Lazi, Tazani, Iberians, Armenians and Persians. Many, but by no means all, of the barbarians who served in the Roman army at this time were prisoners of earlier wars with Rome, who had been allowed to settle on Roman lands in return for service in the army; this system was called laeti. The Emperor Valens seems to have been one of the first to instigate this practice; he allowed many Goths settle in the Empire in 376AD, no doubt viewing them as a future source of manpower. The settlement and recruitment system was on a surprisingly large scale; Jones writes that fourteen cities in Northern Italy, and some twenty in Gaul, were subject to barbarian settlement. The recruitment of the barbarians living in the Empire also gave the Emperors an economy boost. The barbarians, and the provinces in which they settled, were subject to the same conscription as the rest of the Empire. This meant that, in certain years, the conscription could be bypassed, with the payment of the aurum tironicum. Given the high numbers of barbarians settling in the Empire at this time, this would have, no doubt, generated quite a lot of gold for the coffers of Rome. The barbarians, though, had, in general, a great tradition of military service and warfare, which made their young men very good fighters, and they seemed more eager than their Roman counterparts to join the army. This was maybe because they were often placed into specialized units within the auxilia, such as archers from the eastern nations, and cavalry from Gaul and Spain, the most common troops were most likely the Germanic ferderati. The standard of living in the army, especially during peace-time, also helped persuade many barbarians to volunteer for the army. Another reason may have been the differences in how warfare was viewed in the tribal nations, compared to the Roman Empire. Many young men in Rome could work as butchers or stone masons, and see very little or no combat in their whole lives. In the barbarian tribal society, the situation was not quite the same. The more turbulent life-style meant that, for at least some parts of the year, all fit men were expected to soldier. This was even truer of the mass invasions and migrations of Late Antiquity, with the whole tribe moving and fighting as one.(cn?)This seems more likely, when it is taken into account that the kingdoms that succeeded the Roman Empire in the West, such as the Frankish or Visigothic, had no standing army. It is clear that, in times of crisis, any available fit men would be brought to arms. The fighting prowess of the barbarian can also be found in the concessions that the Roman army made to these men; many barbarian units were allowed to fight with their traditional weapons and armour; however, they still fought in the Roman fashion, and with discipline. As Divine writes: <br />“The auxiliaries tended to use the weapons of their provinces: the curved sword of the Dacians, the Syrian bow of the Hamians, the sling of the Balearics. The cavalry was drawn primarily from the great horse tribes, but fought in formation and under discipline.”<br />In some cases these barbarian troops would be put under the command of a Roman general; it seems clear that this would have happened most often in the regions deemed more important, or more likely to revolt, by the senate and Emperor. The historian Ammianus remarks though that the Roman officers commanding barbarian troops was becoming less common by the period of Late Antiquity. One could draw many conclusions from this, perhaps stating how the decline or limited numbers of Roman officers, or indeed Roman citizens, in command of the barbarians led to a break-down in discipline, morale, and thus fighting ability. This may not have been the case, however. Jones, citing Ammianus, writes that there is little or no evidence to suggest that the Germanic troops were not reliable, even when fighting their own people. This only tells of the German peoples, though, a people who, at this time, were not fully unified, and fought many wars among themselves. There is less information on the many other races that fought in the Roman army at this time. One wonders if they showed the same loyalty as the Germans. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that the Germans, at least, were quite inclined to join the military, and be loyal to the Roman Empire. Despite this apparent loyalty, (at least for the Germans) and the good fighting ability of the barbarians, some Roman traditionalists believed that their influx into the military weakened the army as a whole. <br />While recruitment was often local, service often was not; senior personnel, and even entire regiments, could be transferred from one end of the Empire to another, depending on the political climate. That is not to say that new recruits would always be shipped to far-off provinces. There is a least one document stating that, in 508AD, two brothers were serving as clibanarii in their own home town of Arsinoe. That said, troops were often sent to the far-flung corners of the Empire, and this many have been, at the very least, part of the reason why many young men had no desire to enter military life. There is evidence to suggest that, at the very least, some of the troops garrisoning Egypt were barbarians, with many from northern Europe and beyond. Artefacts found at different sites confirm this; one of the most striking being an openwork baldric phalerae, which is a buckle on a sword belt, it depicts a she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus. The inscription on the piece is important; it reads; Leg(ionis) VI Ferr(atae) F(idelis) C(onstantis) Fel(icis). While there is no date on the baldric, it is documented that, at the end of the fourth century the 8th Squadron of Vandals, the 7th Squadron of Samatians, the 4th Cohort of Juthungi, the 1st Squadron of Abasgi, the 1st Squadron of Franks, the 1st Squadron of Quadi, the 11th Cohort of Alamanni and the 7th Cohort of Franks were stationed in Egypt. In the reign of Diocletian there also may have been an elite cavalry unit, the equites Dalmatae. Some modern historians, though, are keen to point out that, over time, many of these cohorts and squadrons would have become racially diluted with the local population. The evidence is there that many units were shipped out to garrison provinces far from their homes, even, if over time, they did gain recruits from the local areas. These young men, and in particular those who were rural and worked the land, surely felt a strong bond to their local community.(cn? If possible?) Travel, for both business and pleasure, was not at all rare throughout the Empire in late antiquity(cn?) It was however, for the most part, reserved for nobles, equites, and merchants, most of the lower or even middle-class would make few journeys out of their local areas. It must have been an immense culture-shock for those young men who did enrol, or for those who could not escape the service, to be taken perhaps hundreds of miles across the known world. There was good reason for this dispersal of troops throughout the Empire; many, many times over the history of the Empire a popular general had convinced his men to proclaim him Emperor and march on Rome, more often than not leading to a bloody civil war. The so called “Year of the Four Emperors,” in 69AD, stands out as the most striking example of this. These measures did go some way to stop private armies attacking ones loyal to Rome, but it never fully eradicated the problem. Language surely must have been a problem for newly-trained troops that were stationed far from home; several languages were commonplace in the Empire, and thus the legion, with Latin and Greek being the most common. It stands to reason that for “basic” orders, for example, the language of the legion would have been Latin or Greek, depending on the legion’s location and ethnic majority. It is clear, though, that the officers must have needed to command a good “working knowledge” of other languages, if they were to converse with the men under their command. This seems more likely when one considers that bilingualism, and even trilingualism, were quite common in some areas of the Empire, (Beirut, Alexandria and Marseilles being some examples.) This, however, does not mean that it was common across the board; it clearly would not have applied to the majority of poor, and people living in rural areas. Indeed, MacMullen is keen to point out that “In the back-country, local dialects persisted for a long time...”<br />The Roman army offered a new lifestyle to those recruits who accepted it. They entered a society that was cut off, for the most part, from the civilian one they had known. This has been the case for most regular armies throughout history, but the Roman army, more than most, lived in its own society. Despite this fact, the Roman military was in almost constant contact with civilians. Many permanent or semi-permanent camps attracted a whole host of civilians to sell their wares, even in harsh landscapes. The two groups were “mutually useful and symbiotic.” On occasion though friendships could cross military-civilian lines, to what extent depended on a range of factors: language, ethnic makeup, localized guerrilla warfare or a history of recent conquest. That said as the period of Late Antiquity went on, the military began to act more aggressively towards the civilian population. This military society that the recruits entered could, by its very nature, be a hard one, and was subject to great corruption. It is quite difficult to gauge just how much of closeness was felt between the men of the legion; MacMullen points out that “...inscriptions offer little help. They record only moments when units acted as such both during service and afterwards.” Young men who are snatched from civilian life and thrust together in potentially dangerous situations have no choice but to make friends quickly; that is common in armies all throughout history. The training they underwent changed their mindset, in most cases; ideas of how to behave in the military society were formed during this time. From the moment they entered the military they marched, paraded and undertook ceremonies with their unit; this went a great way toward unit cohesion. It also conditioned them into having good social relationships with their peers, which no doubt made adjustment to military life much easier. Living space was very cramped when the men were in standing camps; with only nine square meters per man and even less in marching camps. The troops referred to those whom they liked, (in most cases, these were the men they lived with,) as contubernales which means “tent-mate,” with eight men to a tent. This, though, was far more than just a word; it was an idea and a philosophy. Indeed, one gets the sense that it was almost a rite of passage to be called contubernales by one’s fellow soldiers. The soldiers who considered themselves to be contubernales lived and died beside each other; their bonds saw them eat, work, march and fight together. <br />Another term used by soldiers was commilito, or “fellow soldier;” this term was often favoured by officers why wished to flatter the men. Some groups of men formed unofficial groups within the army, called collegia, these groups practiced rituals to different Roman Gods,this means that the troops identified with their Gods through the legion. Perhaps more importantly than this, the collegia gave a solider some sense of security in his life; the collegia provided members with aid, in particularly for funeral benefits in the event of their death. The collegia also had some more practical benefits. The collegians often broke down the normal divisions within the army; at least one collegia, CIL VIII 2553, had optiones, valetudinarii, pequarii, a libraries and discentes capsariorum in its ranks. This was very important for a soldier wishing to network; much of the advancement and promotion in the Roman army was through benefactor and patronage, networking was vital to this process, the collegians gave aspiring soldiers the opportunity to do this. There were other official sub divisions within the legion; the auxilia and cohorts were organized out of the tribes or regions from which they came. This system would have been very beneficial to unit cohesion and the military society in general. It seems the bonds men formed in their time in the army did not end when they left the service; many left their worldly goods to their contubernales, or the legion they had served in. Men are more likely to bond with each other if they have something in common; this can be as simple as being of the same tribe, or from the same region. In the earlier periods of Roman history there were some cases of whole regiments raised en masse from one area, and so soldiers would have found themselves serving alongside and under men of similar cultural backgrounds. In Late Antiquity, though, the huge influx of barbarians into the army meant these divisions became racially diluted; one small unit is recorded as having “ African, one Norican, two Britons, one Raetian, three Spaniards and twelve Gauls.This is just one example of the huge racial dilution of the Roman army. This dilution reduced the cohesion of the army and thus its combat effectiveness; men are quite unwilling to fight and die with people they have no social connection with.<br />When the mechanics of the military society did work it brought men together in a very meaningful way. The best known, official, sub-society within the legion was the century; it was also most likely the most important to the men, as it was the smallest, and therefore the most intimate, and they had a “...strong feeling of identity and belonging.” This was a place where the men could call home away from home. The century was not just a social group, though; the social connections formed in that society turned the group into an efficient fighting machine. The men proudly displayed their cohort’s number on their shields, not only for display purpose, but also to maintain contact with their contubernales, should the battle-line degenerate into a mêlée. The shield seems to have being a very important element of the soldier’s kit; not only did it have obvious combat value, it was, in many ways, his cohort’s signature, it showed others that he was part of that unit and all its accomplishments. It was a symbol of his belonging to something that was greater than himself, the military society. If Tacitus is to be believed, then the only men who volunteered for the army were those who had failed completely in civilian life; this may be even truer of Late Antiquity; given the lack of willing volunteers in that period, those who did join up must have had no other option and no prospects in civilian life. The shield, though, was not the only symbol that the soldiers used, the sword and sword-belt were also very important; they, perhaps more than anything else, identified a man as a soldier; showed that he was a representative of imperial power, and had an elevated position in provincial society. The fact that so many belts and swords were lavishly decorated is evidence as to how important they were. Indeed, symbols were an integral part of the military society, and were very important to the men on a personal level. Commanders often awarded troops who had shown bravery in battle, this was a great honour, and men fought hard for these awards, called dona in Latin. Men often went to great lengths on the battlefield, taking great risks, and even entering into single combat to gain such rewards. They were worn by the men with pride; in battle it was usual for men to advance with all their honorific symbols showing. These symbols would have shown that, not only had the man who wore them been accepted into his centuries’ society, but he was among the best of them; it reflected well on the man and on the unit as a whole. This in turn gave the man increased self-respect and confidence, which had a knock-on effect throughout his whole unit. Vegetius claims that the desire to be granted these rewards also helped keep the men in line during a campaign. Whole units could be granted honours, as well as individuals; these usually came in the form of names or new battle standards. The battle standard was held in very high regard by the auxilia; many of their standards had themes from their own country of origin, which no doubt, improved their identity with their unit. The auxilia were also sometimes rewarded in other ways; these rewards could include a grant of citizenship. The importance of these symbols also had another effect; it improved the men’s appetite for combat, by introducing a level of rivalry between units. This would have also gone some way to improve the social relations in smaller groups such as the centuries; it gave the troops something extra to pull together for. It would be wrong to go so far as to say it gave men a common foe; they were all part of the Roman army, after all, and, if nothing else, it united them in their desire to “beat” other units. Good commanders, it seems, often played on this fact; during rousing speeches they would remind the troops of what their units had achieved before they were in service. If he was good enough, the commander could mould his men to his way of thinking in regards to how a solider should act. Troops, in general, would also fight harder when a commander they respected was looking, and thus earn his praise, and perhaps a reward. Although well out of the time-frame of this essay, Caesar often found this to be true; it can be safely assumed that this was the case throughout the history of Rome. <br />The morale of the later Roman army is a very important issue to address when discussing the military as a society, and when looking at the downfall of that society. The Roman army was, for several hundred years, the elite in Europe, if not the world. In Late Antiquity, though, the Romany army was no longer the elite; it was been overtaken by the barbarian peoples and the desert-dwellers. Hand in hand with the physical and tactical decline of the army went the decline in the morale of the troops; indeed, the two are inseparable. Soldiers who are relatively happy will, in general, have higher morale; this improves their loyalty, discipline, fighting ability and their will to win, all of which could be summed up with the catch-all: esprit de corps. Morale is a hard factor to gauge. It may be easy to see when an individual’s morale is low; however, when looking at this factor spread out over a unit of men numbering in the thousands, to say nothing of a standing army of hundreds of thousands, it becomes far more difficult. Other factors, such as cultural psyche and tradition, as well as group-dynamics, come into play, as well as psychology and sociology. This is further exacerbated by the fact that these young men have been, in many cases, exposed to the stresses of combat. A good example of this comes from the First World War: the German High Command were frustrated by their attempts to gauge the morale of the British Expeditionary Force. The British often sang songs about their desire to return home the Germans saw this as a decline in British morale. This was not however, the case; British morale remained relatively high during the war; the singing was simpley a means of entertainment for the troops. That said it is quite difficult to compare the morale of soldiers form the First World War to Roman soldiers from Late Antiquity; indeed, it is difficult not to use terms such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One must remember that these terms did not exist in late antiquity; indeed, much of the thought process that the modern world has about combat did not exist. Combat today is a very different affair from that of that era. While modern armies are very well trained, it is a rather simpler affair to kill someone with a rifle with a sword; an astute student could be effective with a rifle in a few hours, whereas combat with a sword takes a much longer time to master. This prolonged training not only conditioned the body, but also the mind for combat; aggression was a characteristic praised in young men in the Roman Empire. War was not the plague upon humanity that it has now become; it was a path a young man could use to gain wealth and glory, as well as doing his duty for the good of the Empire. That is not to say the men did not suffer, and feel the effects of prolonged combat; they were human, after all. Like modern armies, those of the later Roman Empire fought some gruelling engagements, with the Battle of Adrianople, in 378AD, being perhaps the worst of the late Empire. Historians and scholars agree that defeats like this did lead to a general “war weariness” throughout the Empire, not just in military society, but also in the civilian one; though studies in the twentieth century have shown that the a dip in the morale of civilians will lead to a dip in morale of soldiers.(cn) In Late Antiquity the Empire was under constant attack from all sides, it should not be taken that there were constant large battles on all fronts; it was more of a case that, on any given day, Roman troops somewhere would have contact with hostile forces. How much combat a solder of the Empire saw depended, in general, on where he was stationed. It stands to reason that troops on the Rhine and Danube would have seen more action then those in Italy; of course, these troops could be put on the line in times of crisis. Some troops, it seems, finished dealing with one border raid just in time to be sent to another one. This, in turn, led to a general decline in morale of these exhausted men. There were many other, much more specific, reasons, though, for the decline of the morale of the army. One of the most visible effects of this was the way the army bonded, or lack thereof. The influx of the barbarian troops into the army had a big effect on the cohesion of the men, and thus affected the combat effectiveness of the army in general. As shown above, military society was a very sensitive and complex entity, where men shared a level of interaction that was not readily found in civilian life. Ramsey MacMullen states that unit cohesion goes beyond banners, symbols and military regalia; these things on their own are not enough; a man must place high value on his fellows, and the society he serves in, for him to be an effective solider. There was, it seems, in the Roman army-much as in modern armies-a need by men “not to let the side down;” it was truly a case of serve in the army for your country, but fight for the man next to you. Some level of unit cohesion was natural for men who spent a lot of time together, and even more likely when under the stresses of combat; the smaller the body of men, the higher the level of cohesion seems to be the general rule. The high numbers of barbarians entering the Roman army in Late Antiquity upset this cohesion somewhat. As stated above, the barbarians made fine soldiers, both for the Romans and for their own people, they were however not Roman. The distinction between Roman and barbarian was, at this time, blurring; the racial difference was still very much there though. Though the military did try to keep Romans and non-Romans separate, interaction did happen, and (as stated above) many units were mixed, depending on many factors such as demand for troops and a unit’s location over a period of time. Where units are mixed there was, it seems, a detrimental effect to the unit and the army as a whole. It should be noted, though, that some scholars believe that the decline of the Roman army was more to do with barbarian lack of standardization in training and discipline than racial diversity. None the less, there is evidence that others (such as MacMullen) are correct. He cites a work by a Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall, written after the Second World War; Men Against Fire. The point that Marshall makes in the extract is that soldiers, in general, fear losing the respect of the men they know and respect more than their lives. The opposite of this is also true; if a soldier was in combat with men whom he did not know, had no respect for, or had no social identity with he was less effective in combat, and more likely to flee from the face of the enemy. As MacMullen puts it, this factor determined whether men would fight or run. Another, if less obvious, effect on cohesion was the marked increase of troops being billeted in civilian dwellings. The billeting was more cost-effective, of that there is little doubt; but it cost the army in other ways. The distinction between soldier and civilian was broken down; this led to general weakening of the unity of the army. Even more important than this, though, when billeted the army would have been spread out over a wide area of the city. The men would not have been in as close contact as they would have been if they were in camp; this led to a breakdown of relations between men, and, perhaps more importantly, officers. The troops billeted were so troublesome to civilians that at least one group, living in Thebaid, Egypt built a hostel specifically to house the soldiers. <br />Military leadership in Late Antiquity was in general decline, at all levels. Good leadership was paramount in battle, as it was often the only thing between a victory and a rout. However, it was just as important to have good leadership in peace-time. In peace-time an army can easily find itself with little to do; idle men can become restless, and restless men (who are armed) can become dangerous. A good officer can command how men behave on an individual level, and thus on a group level. The Roman army in Late Antiquity still could be an effective fighting-force, true, it has lost some of its best men by this stage, none- the-less it was still a force to be feared, when led properly. Southern and Dixon claim the men serving were “ courageous and potentially effective as their counterparts had been in the preceding centuries of Rome’s history.” The Roman army did not forget how to fight; but it was not being led as well as it once had been. A leader must inspire his troops to face battle; often being right there with them is enough; the great Republican general Gaius Julius Caesar was famous for this. The officers of Late Antiquity seemed to lack the back-bone of their forefathers; Ammianus makes reference to some officers showing cowardice in battle. Most commanders, it seems, were more interested in financial gain than being effective leaders. The wages awarded to officers by the government in this period was “paltry,” according to Southern and Dixon. Indeed, given the long history of corruption, on all levels, both civilian and military, one gets the feeling that the government almost expected commanders to supplement their wages by extortion and war booty. Most of the officers went at this task with gusto. Not only did they steal from civilians, but also, in some cases, from the men in their charge. The historian Libanius paints a bleak picture for troops on the receiving end of this corruption; <br />“Then there is what they [the commanders] can get from the regimental ration returns: here they can keep the dead alive and themselves draw rations in the dead man’s name... the gold that should properly stay in the hands of the men... finds its way into those of the commander. As a result the fight man is pauperized, his morale lowered, as he wears his scraps of boots and his ghost of a uniform. And quite often the contribution he makes is from his belly, so that they lead into action starving bodies.” <br /> This corruption by the commanders had far-reaching ramifications for the troops of the army, civilians, and thus the Empire at large. It had a huge impact on morale in the army; troops need their commanders do be better than they are, not only on the battle-field but in every aspect of life, only that way can they respect and be willing to kill and die for him. However, commanders can only be put on a pedestal when they earn the respect of the men; something as simple as knowing a man’s first name can be enough to endear a commander to his men. No man could respect a commander that was stealing from him so openly; this meant that he was less likely to follow orders, and less likely to fully commit to combat. When this is the case right across the Empire, it is clear that combat-effectiveness was greatly reduced. The corruption of the officers in turn corrupted the enlisted men; their needs were not being catered for by the systems in place, so the troops used their own corruptions to do so. This does not mean, though, that all Roman soldiers were good men, that were forced into this situation by their commanders; many, no doubt, would have turned to corruption of their own accord. The corruption of the officers set off a chain of events, that not only reduced the armies’ effectiveness, but also created a sense of loathing between the civilian and military societies.<br />The corruption of the army in Late Antiquity led to a general lack of discipline, which further degraded the military society, and its morale. Any large bodies of men (and. in particular those who are armed) will be undisciplined. It is, in a way, only natural, and to be expected; these men will have been trained to be aggressive. This has been present all throughout human history; the era of the Roman Empire was no different, with many cases of ill-disciplined troops, which led to conflict with civilians. Even if troops were fairly well behaved, a large group of soldiers in one place are going to have a significant effect on civilians and on local settlements. Michael Whitby backs up this point: <br />“... since a sizeable body of soldiers, young men trained to be combative, will seldom be popular with members of the civilian society with which it has to interact, whether in Aldershot or Edessa. The military ethos would encourage contempt for the non-fighters, whose main function, from a military perspective, was to feed, water, house and generally support the more important activities of the military.<br />As stated above, the most likely time for ill-discipline was went the army was at rest; it was then the role of the officers to maintain that discipline. This discipline had been, for centuries, Rome’s strongest ally in war. Rome’s armies often faced much larger forces, but could rely on their steadfast discipline to win the day; it was the hallmark of the legions. In Late Antiquity however, there was a distinct lack of discipline, both on the battle-field and off, (though the two go hand in hand). The root cause of this, along with poor officers, was a general lack of training across the board. For example, before the disastrous battle of Adrianople, in 378AD, the magister militum Sebastianus only had the time, resources or inclination to train a mere 2,000 of his troops, two thirds of which were wiped out in the battle. The Roman army had been defeated before -not very often- but it had known hard times in the past. In those hard times, though, there was always a core of veteran troops ready to replace the ones that had been lost, thus keeping the standard of Roman fighting men high. This however was not the case in this period; as written above, young Roman men were not keen on joining the army. Military service was so hated that many potential recruits attempted to evade service by committing self-mutilation. Barbarians joined in larger numbers but, while brave fighters, did not fit into the military system as well as Roman citizens; many of them served under leaders of their own culture and were not subject to the same disciplinary standards as Roman citizen troops. Although it should be noted that Whitby points out that recruitment of veterans sons often did go smoothly. Compounded by this there was a lack of interest in the officer corps to ensure that the men who did join up were fully trained or equipped. This would not have given the fresh units much confidence in battle; a man plucked from civilian life, given a spear and some very basic training is far more likely to flee battle or surrender. This lack of training, apathetic commanders, lack of equipment and general frustration often manifested its self into violence and attacks on the civilian population, indeed some civilian communities became more fearful of their own soldiers then the enemies. In this way the soldiers could make up for the loss of income and equipment they suffered due to the commander’s corruptions. Some of the officers were so caught up in their own scramble for loot that many troops had a free hand to act as they wished; Propcopius writes: <br />“but any of the soldiers who so wished were allowed to neglect their duties; mean while there was only an insignificant garrison on the walls, and even this received very little attention. For those who chanced from day to day to be assigned to guard duty were freely permitted to sleep, since no one was put in command of them who might possibly take some notice of such an act: nor did any officers consent to go the rounds of the fortifications ... and inspect the guard to see what they were doing...”<br />The army could also be a problem for civilians when it was on the march or on campaign. If the supply train was unable to get food and supplies to the men then they often went and took what civilians had a sword point. This most readily happened if a garrison was besieged by an enemy army; when Roma was besieged in 546AD the commander, Bessas, took grain from the civilian populace to feed his troops. While this may seem like cruelty Bessas most likely had little choice; he needed the army to hold together and hungry men are far less likely to do that. As well as that the troops mist likely would have just stolen the grain from the civilians of their own accord, this would have no doubt led to bloodshed. Another striking example of this was during the reign of the Emperor Anastasius I; during his wars against the Persians the city of Edessa became an important base for the army. The commander of the army, no doubt fearful of a Persian counterattack, demanded that each household supply ten pounds of iron for last minute repairs to the defences and that bread must be provided for soldiers. While again these measures seem harsh there is an element of “for the greater good” at play. The troops were there to defend the city and province in case of attack, all would have know that the civilian population most likely would have been killed or sold into slavery if the city had been taken by the Persians. That is not to say that the soldiers had the civilians best interests at heart, there are plenty of cases of robbery, violence, rape, drunkenness and murder at Edessa while the army was there from 502-505AD. There were undoubtedly some cases of violence against civilians in Egypt, but to what extent is quite difficult to ascertain; there is quite a broad spectrum of thought, with Ramsey MacMullen at one end stating that violence was quite common and Paul Swarney at the other saying that Roman Egypt was relatively peaceable. Whatever the level of frequency of violence in Egypt, it did happen. Zosimus writes on one such event;<br />“...but while the Egyptians marched quietly through the cities and bought what they needed at a fair price, the barbarians proceeded in disarray and behaved selfishly in the markets. ...while the barbarians began to be arrogant. And when one of the traders in the market-place asked payment for the goods he had sold, the barbarian used his sword on him.”<br />It is clear then that, Egypt, like the rest of the Empire suffered from the decline of the military society.<br />In conclusion, it is clear that, the military was a society unto itself and was, for the most part, isolated from that of the civilian world. The military and the men who served in it had different needs to civilians; the men relied, almost completely, on the government to equip, clothe, pay, feed and house them. As well as this other men, the officers, held a lot of power over them, they could be the difference whether a soldier received his wages or his ration of food, and, above all this the officer could be the deciding factor whether a man became a veteran or was a casualty. These were the basic needs and wants of the soldiers of the Roman army. When these needs were met the military society functioned quite well, even in the later years of the Empire; when the men’s basic needs were been attended to they could focus on the finer point of soldiering and form good social connections with their peers, this in turn improved their fighting ability. It was at this stage, when the whole system was working well, that the rewards of battle standards and citizenship came into their own; these could push individuals, and even entire units, to great feats on the battle-field, and keep them disciplined in peace-time. That said it is clear from the evidence that, for the most part, the military society was not functioning to the best of its abilities in Late Antiquity. The troops basic needs were not being met, mainly due to corrupt officers, but also due to the government’s general apathy towards the army, which the central administration now view as expensive, corrupt and unsuccessful. Despite the obvious (with hindsight) fact that the military was only unsuccessful because of government apathy and corruption. It is because of this that, most young Roman men had no interest in joining the military, especially those who had any prospects in civilian life. Why would a young man give up a life of work, home and family, to live in a dangerous and corrupt society? That is not to say civilian life was perfect, but for many it must have seemed like the better option. The government’s policy of conscription only served to inspire even more resentment towards the military, although it did, no doubt, keep numbers of recruits, relatively, high in Late Antiquity. These negative factors in the army had a massive impact on the men who served; morale, cohesion, discipline and fighting ability all declined a fact which, no doubt, contributed to the fall of the Empire. Another, more visible, result of this was the army’s attitude towards civilians. All soldiers had been civilians at one stage or another, and many would have had family in civilian life, yet, during the later Roman Empire the troops turned on the civilians they were charged with protecting. This can be directly linked back to the poor quality of officers; when discipline breaks down on the highest level it has a ripple effect down through the ranks of any army. Late Antiquity was, in general, a more aggressive and harsher world then the modern one, there was no police force and the efficiency of judicial systems varied from place to place; theft and murder was quite common place, more so in urban centres, and some soldiers were involved in this, all throughout Rome’s history. However, the extortion and corruption in the army in this era meant more and more men were prepared to extort civilians to make up for their own short falls, or simply because they could get away with it. This created a deep sense of loathing between the two parties and increased general disillusionment throughout the Empire. Underling and compounding all these issues were the barbarians. These men were fine fighters and eager to join the Roman army, however, too many were accepted and two fast. In a short period of time the face of the Roman army changed, and the structures were not in place to deal with it. This essay has considered both arguments for and against the barbarian’s effectiveness in the army, and, while they did make good fighters, they were not really suited to serve in a standing army. The barbarians created massive segregation within the army which lead to a decline of cohesion, social relations and thus fighting ability and increased conflict with civilians. It may be true to say that the later Roman army could not have functioned without the barbarian recruits, however, when they did enrol, they came in such numbers and so quickly that the sprit, discipline, ideals of the army; so much so that the core foundations of the military were rocked, and thus the systems in place broke down, this when coupled with all the army’s other problems, doomed the army and the Empire to ultimate defeat.<br />Bibliography<br />Ammianus Marcellinus, History of Rome, Vol. III. William Heinemann Ltd, <br />London, U.K. 1952. Translated by, John C. Rolfe. Edited by, T.E. Page, E. Apps, W. H. D. <br />Rouse,L. A. Post and E. H. Warmington.<br />Agathias, The Histories. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, Germany, 1975. Translated by Joseph D. Frendo, taken from<br />John the Lydian, On the Months 1.27. Taken from Southern and Dixon, The Late Roman Army.<br />Zosimus, Historia Nova 2.15.1-2. 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