Ancient Roman Warfare

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Mark Cartwright
published on 17 May 2019

With a huge reserve of resources in men and equipment and a culture geared for warfare, the Romans were relentless in expanding their borders and putting their neighbours to the sword. The Roman army, with its well-trained, well-equipped, and highly disciplined professional legions, was both feared and hated across the ancient world.

Technological innovations in weaponry and superb logistics meant that Roman strategies in warfare became ever more varied and certainly more deadly. The Romans did sometimes suffer setbacks such as against Carthage during the Punic Wars, against the Parthians in Asia and, most ignominious of all, against the Germanic tribes. Nevertheless, it would not be until a millennium after its fall that warfare would return to the scale and professionalism that the Roman Empire had brought to the field of combat.

In this collection, we examine some of the unique features of Roman warfare on land and sea. We look at the organisation of the Roman army, its weapons and tactics. And we look at that great spectacle of victory and the dream of every commander: the Roman Triumph.

Julius Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War describes the great commander's attention to logistics, decisiveness, and appearance of confidence and their positive effect on the morale of the troops. He also records the importance of innovation, patriotism, discipline, and fortune. In addition, a commander could greatly strengthen his chances of success before the battle by gathering military intelligence of the enemy from captives, dissenters, and deserters.



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Questions & Answers

What was ancient Rome warfare like?

Ancient Roman warfare often involved brutal hand-to-hand combat. Tactics were aggressive. Roman legionaries made direct attacks in organised and discplined groups, protecting each other with their shields as they charged the enemy.

What did the Romans use in warfare?

The Romans used a wide variety of weapons in their warfare: short swords, pilum javelins, catapults, and ramming naval ships.

How did the ancient Romans fight?

The ancient Romans fought with aggression, discipline, and courage. Soldiers were well-trained, well-equipped, and highly motivated; they usually attacked the enemy in tight formations using frontal attacks. Commanders gathered military intelligence. Terror and revenge tactics were also used.
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About the Author

Mark Cartwright
Mark is a full-time writer, researcher, historian, and editor. Special interests include art, architecture, and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share. He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the WHE Publishing Director.

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