S.P.Q.R Essay

3542 words - 15 pages

Veni, vidi, vici. I came, I saw, I conquered, a quote ushered forth by the late Julius Caesar, long time dictator of Rome. The Roman Legion, the ultimate military machine of the ancient world, was the catalyst that spread Roman conquest and civilization throughout the known world. Nowhere else did the Roman talent for organization and assimilation show itself so clearly as in its army. The Romans had plans for everything, from arranging sieges to killing pachyderms. Their army was well equipped, their soldiers highly trained and their generals extremely experienced. No wonder their empire was so vast and stretched from Persia in the east, to Spain in the west.The Roman military was a highly ...view middle of the document...

Most military commanders of the day simply had their troops rush wildly at the enemy, relying on superior numbers, better soldiers, or luck to carry the day (Compton). The Romans realized that they could not always rely on these, so they turned to strategy (ibid). Each situation was handled differently, taking into account terrain, the type and strength of the opponent’s troops, and the type and strength of the Roman’s troops (ibid). The default arrangement for a full legion in battle was this: the cavalry rode up front, on the sides where they could protect the flanks (Butterfeild). In between them were two rows of five cohorts(ibid). The rightmost cohort consisted of 1100 infantry and 30 mounted troops, while the others contained 550 infantry and 65 cavalry(Webster). Behind the main group were seven units of light troops, followed by seven units of reserves(ibid). When the legion was in transit, a very different arrangement was required. The main part of the cavalry rode up front as a vanguard, followed by the infantry, in a long column of cohorts. Behind them came the army’s baggage, servants, and vehicles, guarded by several units of cavalry. At the end came the best units of both infantry and cavalry, to defend against attacks from the rear. The lighter units were arranged around the edges to act as scouts(ibid). Throughout any situation the Romans were prepared. As the ancient Roman historian Titus Livy wrote; “Consilia res magis dant hominibus quam homines rebus” or Men's plans should be regulated by the circumstances, not circumstances by the plans which was evident in all roman tactics.“A general whose troops are superior in number and bravery should engage in the oblong square, which is the first formation” (Victori). This tactic, designed for level terrain, assumes that your wings are more powerful. Should the enemy make their way around your flanks, the reserves will be able to counter. Once their wings are vanquished, you may press the center (Butterfeild). “He who judges himself inferior should advance his right wing against his enemy’s left. This is the second formation” (Victori). This formation, considered by some to be the best, took advantage of the fact that the left side of a soldier, and so the left side of the army was considered to be weaker, because it had to support the weight of the shield. The right wing moved around the opponent’s left, and attacked from the rear. The left wing kept its distance, while the reserves supported the left wing or guarded against the enemy attacking the center (Butterfeild). “If your left wing is strongest, you must attack the enemy’s right, according to the third formation” (Victori). The third formation was considered something of a desperation move, to be used only when your left wing, usually the weaker side, was stronger than your right. In this attack, the left wing, supplemented by the Roman’s best cavalry,...

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