Teutoburg Forest

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Reconstruction of palisade. The building of this palisade is indicative of Arminius’s careful planning, as was his use of terrain to nullify the superior equipment and training of the Romans.

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Date: autumn AD 9 Location: Kalkriese, Germany

In the field, the bones of the soldiers lay scattered about, each where he had fallen either standing his ground or trying to flee. There were bits of weapons, and the bones of horses amongst them, and human heads had been nailed to the trunks of the surrounding trees. TACITUS, ANNALS, 1.61

Germans

  • c.35,000 men
  • Commanded by Arminius
  • Unknown casualties

Romans

  • 20,000 men
  • Commanded by Publius Quintilius Varus
  • 20,000 dead, plus c. 3,000 civilians

In the early years of the 1st century AD the emperor Augustus tried to bring Germany under his control. An unconquered Germany was uncomfortably close to Italy, and Augustus may have felt that a defensive line along the Elbe was easier to maintain than the current one along the Rhine.

By AD 9 Germany seemed sufficiently conquered for Augustus to send a governor whose main concern was the Romanization of the province. This was Quintilius Varus, former governor of Syria and husband of Augustus’s great-niece.

Varus commanded three legions – the XVII, XVIII and XIX. Also, some of the many tribes of Germany were allied with the Romans. Among the young German aristocrats who served with the Roman legions for military experience was Arminius, son of a chieftain of the Cherusci tribe.

Varus was unaware that the despoiling of his native land had made Arminius a bitter enemy of Rome. From the moment Varus arrived in Germany, Arminius plotted to unite the tribes and bring about the Roman leader’s downfall.

These tribes sent to Varus and asked for garrisons to be stationed with them. Varus agreed readily and sent detachments, thus weakening his main force. Finally, in AD 9 Arminius arranged for reports of trouble in a distant part of the province to reach Varus. It was now autumn, and Varus seems to have decided to move his whole camp and deal with the problem on his way to winter quarters. Another German leader, Segestes, pleaded passionately with Varus not to trust Arminius, but he was ignored.

Action

Arminius’s guides led the Romans astray. Then the Germans attacked. Initially these attacks were pinpricks – ambuscades which melted at the first sign of serious resistance, and the threat seemed minor. The Romans had armour, equipment and training, while many Germans fought naked. Though some warriors had swords, others had merely a crude spear (the frameo), sometimes with only a fire-hardened wooden point. But the Romans were uncomfortable in the dense forest, and were made more miserable by a series of thunderstorms. Near modern Kalkriese, on the edge of the Wiehen hills north of Osnabrück, Arminius had prepared an ambush. Here, the forest extended almost to the edge of an impenetrable marsh. The Roman army was caught on the narrow stretch of land between the two when the Germans attacked.

The Romans were penned in by a wall at the forest edge. This was part-rampart, but mostly a fence woven with branches between the trees, of a type that the Germans used to stop their cattle from straying. The Romans were probably split into pockets by the first attack and unable to coordinate their efforts. In confused skirmishes and a running battle lasting several days, the trapped Romans were steadily worn down.

Outcome

Varus was either killed or fell on his sword. Others followed his example, for the Germans had a grisly way with prisoners. In the end, not one single Roman survived. What we know of the battle is from reconstruct ions, the first by the Romans themselves, who returned to the scene a few years later. They found places where senior Roman officers had been messily sacrificed, and the bones of the dead scattered where they had fallen.

Gradually the site of the disaster was forgotten. A massive monument to the battle was eventually erected at Hiddesen, south of Detmold. This was some 50 km (31 miles) from the actual site of Teutoburg Forest, which was discovered very recently by Major Tony Clunn, an amateur archaeologist. He found Roman metal artifacts which suggested a battle, and professional archaeologists confirmed that this was the site of the Varusschlacht – where Varus’s legions had been destroyed. Arminius’s victory ensured that north west Europe had a Germanic rather than a Latin culture. This in turn profoundly affected subsequent European history, and thus the history of the world.

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Germanicus – Rome’s Revenge

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BATTLE OF IDISTAVISUS

Defeating Arminius

“It was a great victory, and without bloodshed to us.”

TACITUS, The Annals, II, 18

It was the summer of AD 16, and Germanicus Caesar had used a fleet of 1,000 newly built ships to return to the heart of Germany in search of Arminius and his German allies. At midmorning, the Roman army came marching down beside the Weser River from where it had camped for the night. With a small force left at the camp to guard the baggage, the legions were marching in battle order.

This time, the Germans were not only ready for Germanicus, but their leader had chosen the location for a decisive battle, and had sent men posing as defectors to lure the Romans into a trap, in the same way that he had lured Varus into a trap seven years before. The chosen place, called Idistavisus by the Romans, was just east of the Weser on a rolling river plain between ranges of low hills. The so-called Great Forest ran along the eastern fringe of the plain, with grassland extending for 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) over low hillocks from the trees to the Weser. Fifty thousand German tribesmen stood waiting on the grass, massed in their tribes and clans, their ranks extending from the forest to the river. [Warry, WCW]

In addition to Arminius and his Cherusci, tribes represented are likely to have included Arpus and his Chatti; Mallovendus and the remnants of the Marsi, plus the Fosi, Usipetes, Tubantes and Bructeri; the Cauchi, who had captured one of Varus’ eagles, were probably present, along with young men of the Angrivarii—in defiance of their tribe’s latest treaty with Rome; and Tencteri and Mattiaci from the Rhineland opposite Cologne, as well as Langobardi and Ampsivarii from along the Weser and Hunte rivers.

As the Roman army rounded the river bend and met the sight of the waiting German horde, Germanicus, riding in the middle of the column, calmly gave orders for his units to deploy. To the 28,000 men of his eight under-strength legions he had added the 2,000 men of two Praetorian Guard cohorts sent to him from Rome by Tiberius. It was unique for Praetorians to fight in a field army when the emperor was not present. Their presence had more to do with Tiberius’ unfounded fear of his adopted son using his legions to topple him from the throne than from a genuine desire to help Germanicus.

In addition, the Roman army of 74,000 men included 30,000 auxiliaries from Gaul, Raetia, Batavia, Spain and Syria, 6,000 men from allied German tribes, and 8,000 cavalry including 2,000 mounted horse archers. One of Germanicus’ German auxiliary cohort commanders was none other than Flavus, brother of Arminius. Germanicus was not concerned at seeing the Germans waiting for him—the tribesmen sent to lure him here had confessed that Arminius planned to entrap him, telling of the Germans’ location and numbers. [Tac., A, II, 16]

Germanicus was also confident of the morale of his legionaries. In the days leading up to the battle, a German had ridden to the Roman camp ramparts in the night and called out that Arminius would reward every Roman who changed sides, with a German wife, a plot of land, and 100 sesterces a day while the war lasted. Germanicus had heard one of his men yell back, “Let daylight come, let battle be given! Then we’ll take your land, and carry off your wives!” [Ibid., 13]

As the Roman infantry spread with drilled precision in three battle lines, German tribesmen with massive spears up to 12 feet (3.6 meters) long began spilling down the slopes toward them. Germanicus turned to Lucius Stertinius, and ordered him to execute a prearranged cavalry maneuver; the general rode off and led the Roman cavalry at the gallop along beside the tree line. The Roman infantry front line was filled with auxiliaries. The second line comprised the ALR legions: the 1st, 5th Alaudae, 20th and 21st Rapax, with Germanicus and the two Praetorian cohorts in the middle of the line. Behind Germanicus in the third line were the AUR legions, the 2nd Augusta, 13th Gemina, 14th Gemina and 16th Gallica.

The legionaries stood in their ranks, waiting to meet the German rush, stock still, like statues, the sun glinting on their standards and military decorations, the horsehair plumes on their helmets wafting in the morning breeze. This would be one of the last times that legionaries wore plumes in battle; before long, they would be relegated to parade use only.

One of Germanicus’ aides then pointed to the sky. “Look, Caesar!”

Germanicus looked up. Eight eagles were flying overhead—one for each of Germanicus’ legions. As the Romans watched, the birds dipped toward the forest. Germanicus called to his troops: “Follow the Roman birds, the true deities of our legions!,” then ordered his trumpeter to signal the front line to charge. [Ibid., 17]

With a determined roar, the auxiliaries surged forward. Behind them, a line of foot archers loosed off a looping volley of arrows at the oncoming tribesmen. Soon, Germans and Roman front line were locked together.

Stertinius and the cavalry drove into right flank and rear of the German horde. The impact of this cavalry onslaught drove a mass of Germans away from the trees, where they collided with thousands of other Germans running toward the forest to escape the cavalry attack from the rear. Cheruscans on the hill slopes were forced to give ground by their own panicked countrymen. After his men had charged without waiting for his orders, Arminius, on horseback, had been forced to join them. In the midst of the fighting, he was soon wounded.

Realizing that the day was already lost, Arminius smeared his face with his own blood to disguise his identity, urged his horse forward, and with his long hair flying, headed toward the Roman left wing, by the trees, which was occupied by Chauci Germans from the North Sea coast. These men had fought alongside Arminius in the Teutoburg, but had since allied themselves with Germanicus. Tacitus was to write: “Some have said that he was recognized by Chauci serving among the Roman auxiliaries, who let him go.” [Ibid.]

Arminius escaped into the forest, and kept riding, as, behind him, Germanicus sent his legions into the fight. The struggle between 128,000 men went on for hours. “From nine in the morning until nightfall the enemy were slaughtered,” said Tacitus, “and ten miles were covered with arms and dead bodies.” Arminius’ army was routed. “It was a great victory, and without bloodshed to us,” Tacitus declared. But Arminius himself was still at large. [Ibid., 18]

BATTLE OF THE ANGRIVAR BARRIER

After the bloody defeat of Idistavisus, Arminius was determined to have his revenge on Germanicus and his legions. In years past, when the Angrivari tribe was at war with the Cherusci, they had built a massive earth barrier to separate the tribes. The Weser river ran along one side of the Angrivar barrier; marshland extended behind it. A small plain ran from the barrier to forested hills. It was here at the barrier that Arminius planned to defeat Germanicus Caesar.

Word reached Germanicus that Arminius and his allies were regrouping at the barrier and receiving thousands of reinforcements. From a German deserter, Germanicus also learned that Arminius had set another trap for him, hoping to lure the Romans to the barrier. Arminius would be waiting in the forest with cavalry, and would emerge behind Germanicus as he attacked the barrier, to destroy him from the rear. Armed with that intelligence, Germanicus made his own plans. Sending his cavalry to deal with Arminius in the forest, he advanced on the Angrivar barrier in two columns.

While one Roman column made an obvious frontal attack on the barrier in full view of its thousands of German defenders, Germanicus and the second division made their way unnoticed along the hillsides. He then launched a surprise flanking attack against the Germans. But, in the face of determined defense, and devoid of scaling ladders or siege equipment, Germanicus’ troops were forced to pull back. After bombarding the barrier with his legions’ catapults, keeping the Germans’ heads down, Germanicus personally led the next attack, at the head of the Praetorians, removing his helmet so that no one could mistake who he was. The men of eight legions followed close behind their bareheaded general and the Praetorians. On clambering up the barrier they found a “vast host” of Germans lined up on the far side, commanded by Arminius’ uncle Inguiomerus, who, with blood-curdling war cries, surged forward to repulse the Romans.

The intense hand-to-hand combat continued for hours. Germanicus ordered that no prisoners be taken. The situation was equally perilous for both sides. “Valor was their only hope, victory their only safety,” said Tacitus. “The Germans were equally brave, but they were beaten by the nature of the fighting and the weapons,” for they were too tightly compressed to use their long spears effectively. [Tac., A, I, 21]

Pushed into woods, trapped with their backs to the marsh, the tribesmen were slaughtered. At nightfall, the killing stopped. The Germans had been dislodged from the barrier and butchered in their thousands. Inguiomerus escaped, but took no further part in German resistance. That night, Germanicus was joined by Seius Tubero, commander of the Roman cavalry that had gone after Arminius in the forest. Tubero, a close friend of Tiberius, had certainly prevented Arminius from attacking Germanicus in the rear, but after indecisive fighting had allowed the German cavalry to escape. While the battle at the barrier had been another crushing Roman victory, Arminius had again evaded capture.

The Roman victory was soured when, on the return voyage to Holland, a number of Germanicus’ ships were wrecked in a storm. To prove that the legions were still to be reckoned with, Germanicus immediately regrouped his forces and led a new raid across the Rhine, this time returning with another of Varus’ lost eagles.

The Senate heaped honors on Germanicus, and the adoring Roman people sang the prince’s praises. But Tiberius was unimpressed. When Germanicus asked the emperor for another year to complete the subjugation of the Germans, he recalled him. Germanicus returned to Rome, “though,” said Tacitus, “he saw that this was a pretense, and that he was hurried away through jealousy from the glory he had already acquired.” There would be no further Roman expeditions east of the Rhine during the reign of Tiberius. [Ibid., 26]

After Germanicus celebrated his Triumph in Rome in AD 17, Tiberius made him supreme Roman commander in the East, and in Syria, in AD 19, Germanicus, Tiberius’ heir apparent as emperor, would die—apparently poisoned, with Tiberius the chief suspect. Ironically, in Germany that same year, Arminius would also die, and also at the hands of his own people. Many hundreds of years later, Arminius, or Hermann, would become the hero of German nationalists.

As for Germanicus Caesar, many modern-day historians consider him a mediocrity. Yet Germanicus would be lamented by the Roman people for generations—as late as the third century, his birthday was still being commemorated on June 23 each year. [Web., RIA, 6] Fearless soldier and noble prince, Germanicus was, said Cassius Dio in the third century, “the bravest of men against the foe” yet “showed himself most gentle with his countrymen.” [Dio, LVII, 18]

LONDINIUM

Londinium was equipped with massive defenses: several forts were built along with the immense London Wall, remains of which are still recognizable in the city.

Londinium Bridge. This model shows how the Romans built the first bridge across the River Thames, where London Bridge now stands.

It was the geographical features of the area that brought about the foundation of Roman London. There is no strong evidence of any occupation on the site before the conquest in AD 43. London stands at the lowest convenient bridging point of the THAMES. There was a way through the marshes from the south and on the north side two gravel hills (now ST PAUL’S and CORNHILL) stood above the flood plain and gave a firm foothold. The combination of these elements of topography and geology gave the site a military importance in the eyes of Roman army surveyors. There can be no doubt that military necessity provided the impetus for the bridging of the Thames and the establishment of a settlement on the north bank. Both the Roman government and private traders then took advantage of the convenience of the site.

The Thames was much wider and shallower than it is now. Recent excavation evidence, however, plus alignments of roads coming from the south through SOUTHWARK, suggests that the original alignment of the ROMAN ROAD Watling Street centred on the WESTMINSTER area and a possible ford. In about AD 50 new roads in Southwark were built converging on a point across the river from the site of the new settlement. Pottery and coin evidence indicates that the city was not begun until this date. The fledgling city was destroyed soon after in AD 60 during the revolt of Queen Boudicca and her tribe, the Iceni. Tacitus in his accounts notes that at this time London was not yet classified as a full Roman settlement but was an important centre for businessmen. The Governor of Britain, Suetonius Paulinus, raced to reach London but his assembled forces were not large enough to save the town and he evacuated those inhabitants able to leave. Boudicca destroyed the town by fire and massacred those left behind. Colchester and St Albans suffered the same fate. Evidence of the disaster can be found in the layers of burnt debris and pottery.

The archaeological evidence of recent years shows that there was a basic plan from the beginning for the growth of Londinium, ultimately to extend over the 330 acres it was to occupy when walled in the late 2nd century. Fine wares, glass, jewellery and other objects from the Mediterranean testify to the city’s importance as a commercial entrepôt. In the rebuilding after the disaster priority seems to have been given to business premises, no doubt fostered by the benevolent eye of the newly appointed procurator (tax collector), Julius Classicianus. He realized that repression after the revolt would not regain lost taxes and is recorded as having set the province on its feet again. The fragments of his grand tomb, erected by his sorrowing wife Julia Pacata, were found on TOWER HILL in 1852 and 1935 and are now restored in the BRITISH MUSEUM. (A copy of the inscription is in the MUSEUM OF LONDON and on site at Tower Hill.)

The nucleus of the new settlement was on Cornhill and around the walbrook stream, the town’s main source of water. By the AD 70s the settlement had expanded and the main public buildings, the basilica and FORUM, were in place on high ground to the east of the Walbrook. By the end of the 1st century other public buildings, the GOVERNOR’S PALACE, the Amphitheatre and the ROMAN BATHS in Cheapside and Upper Thames Street, had been added.

The commercial vitality and growth of Londinium depended on the port facilities. The waterfront lay about 100 metres north of its present position, just north of UPPER and LOWER THAMES STREET. Excavations near PUDDING LANE revealed a mid-1st-century wooden landing stage which was superseded by a major timber-faced quay some twenty years later. The quay was backed by warehouses which continued in use until the end of the 4th century. New waterfronts were built in the 2nd century and again in the early 3rd century, as shown in excavations at CUSTOM HOUSE, ST MAGNUS and Seal House. This last waterfront extended for at least 550 metres.

Londinium reached its zenith in the early 2nd century. It saw the visit of the Emperor Hadrian in AD 122 and the building of the fort and rebuilding of most public buildings prior to that date indicate some preparation for an imperial visit. Fire again destroyed an area of the city in AD 125–130. Excavations west of the Walbrook provided evidence of the area’s recovery after the fire. It was extensively replanned and rebuilt as shops and houses. However, by the end of the 2nd century the area was abandoned with little trace of later-Roman occupation.

The economic effects of Clodius Albinus’s revolt in AD 192 must have been felt, but were soon overcome when Septimius Severus defeated Albinus and came to Britain himself, to die at York in AD 211. It was about this time that the province was divided into two, with York as the capital of Britannia Inferior, and London the capital of Britannia Superior. It left London less a military and commercial area in the 3rd century and more an administrative city. The encircling city wall was also built around AD 200, evidence for the transportation of its construction materials being found in the Blackfriars barge.

Public monuments of some size were erected in the early 3rd century, including a monumental arch (pieces of which have recently been found as part of the later 4th-century river wall). The TEMPLE OF MITHRAS was built about AD 240 on the east bank of the Walbrook and continued in use until early in the 4th century. An altar inscription, found reused in the river wall, indicates a TEMPLE OF ISIS was rebuilt some time between AD 251 and 259. During the 3rd century, however, the city’s population appears to have changed from that of all classes and occupations to a much smaller population drawn from the wealthier levels of society. A number of large polychrome mosaics from private houses testify to the wealth of certain members of the population, doubtless rich merchants or government officials. With the contraction of the population, many buildings were demolished and not rebuilt and the industrial workshops around the Walbrook were replaced by private houses.

At the end of the 3rd century came the revolt of Carausius (AD 287–93), followed by that of Allectus (AD 293–6). Constantius Chlorus rescued London from being ransacked by Allectus’ army in AD. A mint was established in London by the usurper Carausius in AD 288 and continued in use, after his defeat, until AD 326. It opened again for a short time in AD 383, using London’s 4th-century name Augusta.

At the start of the 4th century, Britain was divided into four smaller provinces and Londinium became the capital of Maxima Caesariensis. This was in accordance with the Emperor Diocletian’s policy of devolution to improve administrative efficiency. The city’s defences were strengthened in the same century. A huge section of wall still in a remarkable state of preservation was found within the TOWER OF LONDON in 1977. This can almost certainly be ascribed to the known restoration work carried out in 396 at the orders of Stilicho, a great general under the Emperor Honorius. Stilicho had kept the Visigoths at bay in Italy, and when he was executed as the result of a palace intrigue in 408 it left a weak emperor helpless at Ravenna. The way was open for the barbarians to attack, which itself led to the recall of the legions from Britain by Honorius in 410. Some 50 years later the walls of London were still high and strong enough to afford protection against the Saxons, but it is not known for how long after the mid-5th century the city remained inhabited.

It was probably not for long. There is little archaeological evidence but the Anglo-Saxons, it is known, especially from several poems, stood in awe and dread and shunned ‘the work of giants’ as they called the Roman buildings, now standing derelict.

London, according to the twelfth-century chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth, was founded in 1108 BC by Brute, a god or demi-god descended from Venus and Jupiter. About a thousand years later King Lud, said to be a close relative of Cassivelaunus, the British chieftain contemporary with Julius Caesar, improved the place and named it Ludstown in honour of himself. John Stow, the Elizabethan historian, derided this explanation of the name, though he failed to offer any convincing alternatives. In more recent times the name was said to be derived from a personal name based on londo, fierce or bold, or from a tribal name. This is now discredited by most modern scholars. All that is certain is that the Romans frequently made use of Latin names and anglicized them and that within a few years of the conquest in AD 43 the place was known as Londinium. There is a late-1st-century ad jug in the Museum of London whose inscription includes the word Londini.

ROMAN FORT • London Wall, EC1.

Still preserves the line of the Via Praetoria (main street). The Via Principalis of the fort ran at right angles to it. The fort was built to the north-west of the city in the early 2nd century according to the coin and pottery evidence. Since it would have had little defensive effect it probably served as a barracks for the garrison attached to the Governor’s Palace. Substantial portions of the barracks are buried under WOOD STREET police station. The area of the fort was about 12 acres with the usual playing-card shape associated with such forts – about 270 metres north to south by 220 metres east to west. Although the stone walls were quite substantial they were not felt to be strong enough when the fort was incorporated into the LONDON WALL at the end of the 2nd century. The north and west sides were thickened on their inside face by additional layers of masonry with rubble infill that brought these walls up to the required width. The two parts side by side can be seen in the remains in the public garden in NOBLE STREET. In a room at the west end of the underground car park (entrance from London Wall) are the remains of the west gate of the fort and part of a guardroom excavated in 1956.

ROMAN ROADS

London was the hub of the Roman road network in Britain, but to understand how the system developed it is necesary to go back a little farther, to pre-Roman times. The River THAMES was the most important factor. Before the embankments were built in the 19th century, it was wide and shallow. In the Roman period, the land level was higher than at present, and the tide would not have risen much above WESTMINSTER, which became a convenient fording place for traders wishing to cross the river. Travelling inland from the Kentish ports, travellers would have crossed the Westminster ford, and then struck north or west to the important tribal capitals at Wheathampstead (near St Albans) or Silchester, west of Reading. An east–west route would also have developed, aiming for the third of the main tribal centres, at Colchester, following a track which kept to high ground along the line of OXFORD STREET and OLD STREET. It is likely that Roman engineers made use of these routes; the two main alignments of WATLING STREET north and south of the river converge on the early river crossing. When LONDON BRIDGE was built (within 15 years of the Roman invasion of AD 43), short connecting tracks would have been made to the nearest established roads.

The long straight alignments of Roman roads resulted from the method of surveying used by the engineers who built them. The roads were set out by sighting between points on high ground, the actual lines being carefully chosen to avoid, if possible, steep inclines and marshy ground. Roads would deviate from the direct line if there were advantages such as better ground conditions; a good example is the diversion of Stane Street at Ewell, which follows the chalk formation and stays clear of the difficult London clay for several miles. Important Roman roads were usually about 7 metres wide, and were frequently set on an embankment about 1.5 metres high, known as an agger. Excavations of buried roads reveal the original surface layer of fine stone chippings.

For much of their length, the Roman roads in London are still in use as modern thoroughfares.

Watling Street • This approaches from Dover, Canterbury and Richborough along the line of SHOOTERS HILL, before taking a curving route through DEPTFORD and NEW CROSS much like the present road. Northward, the alignment is followed almost exactly by the present road from MARBLE ARCH to EDGWARE. The substantial construction of the original road has been disclosed by excavations for pipe-laying.

Ermine Street • This was the main artery to Lincoln and York, and its course from BISHOPSGATE is closely represented by Kingsland Road, Stoke Newington Road and Stamford Hill.

Colchester Road • It is followed by present roads east of STRATFORD. The River LEA was crossed at OLD FORD, where remains of Roman masonry have been found near Iceland Wharf. From this point, a road must have gone direct to ALDGATE and on, if not to the bridge, at least to the main east–west street through LONDINIUM. Evidence is scant for such a road.

Silchester Road • This was the main artery to the west of England. It is represented by the course of OXFORD STREET, NOTTING HILL (a possible surveying point), HOLLAND PARK and GOLDHAWK ROAD, where remains have been excavated. Eastward, the road must have connected to NEWGATE, with a branch to OLD STREET, OLD FORD and STRATFORD; much of this route is now lost.

Ludgate–Hammersmith • A Romanized form of the early trackway followed the line of the STRAND through KENSINGTON, to join the main western road at CHISWICK.

Stane Street • It connected London with Chichester, the tribal capital of Sussex, and its course is approximately that of the present road from BOROUGH HIGH STREET to TOOTING. Traces have been found under buildings in Borough High Street, and the buried road surface directly under NEWINGTON Causeway. With the passage of time, the modern road has deviated in places; BALHAM HIGH STREET is about 55 metres from the original line, and CLAPHAM COMMON South Side almost a quarter of a mile further west, but Clapham Road and Kennington Park Road are on the Roman line.

London–Brighton • This was an important road for the traffic in corn and iron from Sussex. It probably branched from Stane Street at Kennington Park, on the course of Brixton Road, Brixton Hill and Streatham Hill.

London–Lewes • This road also served the corn-growing and iron-producing areas of Sussex. Its course in London has been traced by careful probing and digging in gardens and allotments. Branching from WATLING STREET at Asylum Road, PECKHAM, it followed the alignment of Blyth Hill, CATFORD, where the buried agger remains intact. It then ran through west WICKHAM to a point on the North Downs. The only section of this road in use today is the three mile straight length through Edenbridge, but the route has survived in the form of parish boundaries and property divisions. Thus, it is represented through Peckham and NUNHEAD by the alignment of back garden fences and walls.

London–Stevenage • This road left the CITY at CRIPPLEGATE, and the course is marked by REDCROSS STREET and GOLDEN LANE, Highbury Grove, HIGHBURY PARK and parts of Blackstock Road. Traces of an agger here have been found in the grounds of ALEXANDRA PALACE, and there are more substantial remains north of Potters Bar.

Theodosius and the Goths I

The psychological impact of Adrianople was immediate. Pagans at once interpreted the defeat as punishment for the neglect of the traditional gods. In distant Lydia, the pagan rhetor Eunapius of Sardis composed what has been termed an instant history, to demonstrate that the empire had headed inexorably towards the disaster of Adrianople from the moment of Constantine’s conversion. For Eunapius, it seems, the Roman empire itself had ended at Adrianople: ‘Strife, when it has grown, brings forth war and murder, and the children of murder are ruin and the destruction of the human race. Precisely these things were perpetrated during Valens’ reign’. From a distance of longer years, and with considerably greater penetration, Ammianus made the same argument, choosing the disaster as the terminal point for his history and loading it with coded venom towards the Christians on whom he, like his hero Julian, blamed the empire’s decline. No Christian response was immediately forthcoming, though Nicene Christians seem to have blamed Adrianople on divine punishment for the homoean beliefs of Valens, and Jerome ended his Chronicle in 378, just as Ammianus did his history. This dialogue of blame and excuse, the pagan side of which is now largely lost to us thanks to suppression by the Christian winners, went on throughout the fifth century, exacerbated by Alaric’s sack of Rome. After all, how could the barbarian scourge have stung so painfully if God or the gods were not murderously displeased?

For the modern scholar, too, the battle of Adrianople is a turning point of major importance, though we seek historical rather than divine explanations. The causes of the disaster lay not in any single event but in a series of human errors. The aftermath of the battle, however, represents a new phase in the history of both the Goths and the Roman empire. In this new phase, the historian’s framework of analysis changes dramatically. We can sum up the core of the change quite simply: until 378, Gothic history was fundamentally shaped by experience of the Roman empire. The central fact of Gothic existence was the Roman empire looming on the other side of the frontier, and much of the political and social life of the Goths can be explained by reference to their relations with Rome. For the empire, by contrast, the Goths were one of dozens of barbarian neighbours, and by no means the most important. They were a marginal force even in the political life of the empire, and invisible to its social and institutional history. After 378, however, the Goths were a constant and central presence in the political life of the empire. Even though the material damage of Adrianople was repaired more rapidly than anyone at the time could have imagined possible, tens of thousands of Goths now lived permanently inside the Roman frontiers. In a very short time, that fact profoundly altered the way in which the imperial government dealt not just with the Goths, but with barbarian peoples more generally. Before long, imperial institutions from the army to the court changed in response to the challenges of the new situation, and the social world of many regions was profoundly altered. In many ways, the Gothic settlement in the aftermath of Adrianople laid the foundation of the new and changed world of the fifth century.

Julius and the Asian Massacre

Contemporaries found making sense of the disaster a slow and painful process, but practical responses could not wait. In the Balkans, the immediate aftermath of Adrianople was chaos, just as one would have expected. Gratian halted at Sirmium, where he was joined by those generals who had escaped the slaughter. He went no further east. The Goths laid siege to Adrianople itself without success, then pressed on to Constantinople where they were again repulsed, in part thanks to a troop of Arab auxiliaries so bloodthirsty that they terrified even the triumphant Goths. Not until 381, three years after the battle, did most of the Balkan peninsula again become safe for Roman travellers. In the interim, to those outside the region, Thrace produced nothing but rumour. So confused was the situation that, for the latter part of 378 and much of 379, the eastern provinces had basically to operate without reference to any emperor at all. Government ticked over in the hands of those imperial officials who were in place in August 378, and they were left to make their own decisions as best they could. Most of all, they had to decide how to stop the Balkan unrest spreading into the rest of the eastern empire.

This was a real possibility, as is demonstrated by events in Asia Minor. There, and perhaps in other parts of the East, riots broke out amongst native Goths in various cities. The exact outline of the episode, and the extent of it, has always been unclear, because Ammianus and Zosimus, the latter relying on Eunapius, give very different accounts. Ammianus says that in the immediate aftermath of Adrianople, the magister militum of the East, Julius, forestalled the eastward spread of the Balkan troubles by systematically calling up all the Gothic soldiers from the ranks of the army and having them massacred outside the eastern cities. Ammianus favoured this approach as the correct way of dealing with barbarians, but when he wrote – in the 380s – he may have been holding up the bracing harshness of Julius as a reproof of the emperor Theodosius’ Gothic treaty of 382. Zosimus tells a different story. According to him, when Julius found himself unable to contact the emperor or anyone in Thrace, he instead sought the advice of the Constantinopolitan senate, which gave him the authority to act as he thought best. With that licence, he lured the Goths of Asia Minor into the cities and there had them massacred in the confines of urban streets from which they could not escape. Zosimus, moreover, suggests that these slaughtered Goths were not soldiers, but rather the teenage hostages who had been handed over to the Roman government in 376 to guarantee their parents’ good behaviour. Finally, Zosimus dates the massacre not to the immediate aftermath of Adrianople, but rather to 379.

Although the patent contradiction between these accounts is often resolved by accepting Ammianus over Zosimus, additional evidence suggests an alternative. Two sermons of Gregory of Nyssa, the younger brother of Basil of Caesarea, mention depredations by Scythians in Asia Minor in 379. This corroboration of Zosimus points the way forward: Ammianus, for polemical purposes, has telescoped a long process into a single swift move by Julius, while Zosimus preserves the longer time frame and the sense of uncertainty that followed a battle which left no one in real control of the eastern empire. What probably happened is that Julius, knowing that there were Goths in the local army units as well as any number of young Gothic hostages of very nearly military age and prone like all teenage males to violence, decided to prevent any repetition of the Thracian debacle. He began with the forts in the frontier provinces – the castra mentioned by Ammianus – but his actions were either meant to, or interpreted as meaning to, prefigure a systematic massacre of Goths in the eastern provinces. As word spread, those Goths who were in a position to riot did so, and were killed in large numbers across Asia Minor and Syria.

The Accession of Theodosius

That so many – presumably quite innocent – Goths should have been done away with in this fashion emphasizes as nothing else can the scale of the dangers, and also the scale of the confusion. For us, looking back dispassionately and trying to work out what happened, it is easy to forget how hopeless of repair the whole situation must have seemed. But we can only explain the failure of Gratian and his generals to coordinate a systematic response if we remember the depth of the shock that Adrianople caused. Rather than system or coordination, survivors switched to habitual, automatic responses to deal with the crisis. We have seen this already with the response of Julius and, presumably, other eastern officials as well. Most of them carried on doing what they normally did, the state continuing to function without any clear notion of what it was continuing for. Gratian’s immediate reaction was a similarly conditioned response: with the Balkans in chaos and the Goths running riot, he turned not to the immediate problem, but rather to the Alamanni, a foe that was always worth fighting and against whom he had a reasonable chance of success. As we saw, some Alamanni had attacked Gaul the minute they heard that Gratian intended to march east. Given Valens’ catastrophic failure, Gratian must have felt it necessary to hurry back to the West lest equivalent disaster strike there.

Into this vacuum stepped Theodosius, a thirty-three-year-old Spanish aristocrat and the son of one of Valentinian I’s great generals, also named Theodosius. The younger Theodosius would go on to become augustus and, as with all emperors, our sources are coloured by retrospective judgements. Just as Valens was indelibly marked by the catastrophe of Adrianople, so Theodosius was forever after associated with the defence of Nicene orthodoxy and the suppression of paganism. In the ecclesiastical histories of the fifth century, Theodosius became Theodosius the Great, a name which he still bears in the casual usage of modern historians. The appellation was bestowed more for his pliability in theological matters than for any signal achievements in public policy, but the image of greatness seeped into every other corner of his reign as well. Thus a recent biography of Theodosius is subtitled ‘the empire at bay’, conjuring the image of a wounded empire, turning with its last strength to savage the attackers besetting it on all sides. However compelling that image might be as theatre, it is hardly in accord with the reality of an emperor who never won a major battle under his own command and who rarely campaigned at all after 381. However easy it is to let later ecclesiastical authors colour our impression of Theodosius’ greatness, the difficulties of his early reign are suggested by the darkness that shrouds his accession to the purple.

Theodosius had in the early 370s stood on the verge of a prominent military career: he was dux Moesiae, a rather senior post for so young a man, no doubt secured for him by his father’s influence. In 374, as dux, he had won a victory over the Sarmatians. In 376, however, the elder Theodosius fell victim to the palace intrigues that followed Valentinian’s death. His eponymous son chose prudent retirement to family estates in Spain, lest he too die by the hand of an executioner. Isolated in his Spanish exile, Theodosius was abandoned by most of his former friends, a man irrevocably damaged by his father’s disgrace, or so it seemed. It is thus very hard for us to imagine why Gratian should have chosen to call him out of retirement in this moment of crisis and send him to deal with the Balkan emergency. In fact, only one source – the ecclesiastical history of Theoderet of Cyrrhus – records this summons of Theodosius by Gratian, and its accuracy has correctly been impugned. Theoderet wrote his ecclesiastical history in the later fifth century, when the legend of Theodosius’ greatness and orthodoxy were firmly established as true. Part of his story of Theodosius’ accession is palpably fictionalized. Far more significant is the silence of nearly contemporary sources, particularly the orators Themistius and Pacatus, on the route by which Theodosius climbed to power. Had that path been clean and simple, both panegyrists – and particularly the propagandizing Themistius – would have trumpeted its details in full. Instead, they veil in a deep silence the relationship of Gratian and Theodosius in the immediate aftermath of Adrianople. A more plausible scenario, which makes good sense in light of the period’s confusion, has recently been suggested. Already in 378, when the extent of the Balkan violence and Gratian’s plan to march east were generally known, Theodosius and his remaining friends at court spotted an ideal opportunity to engineer his return to favour. Making much of his Balkan experience and his now-distant success as dux Moesiae, they secured his reappointment to that post either shortly before or immediately after Adrianople. Theodosius probably campaigned in the eastern Balkans during late 378, but achieved nothing decisive before his proclamation as augustus on 19 January 379.

Theodosius and the Goths II

Although that was only four months after Adrianople, it would take another two years before Theodosius gained control of the Balkans. Why the reconquest took so long is a matter of controversy, but it might be explained if Theodosius’ proclamation had not initially been intended. In fact, there are some grounds for thinking that his accession was the result of a quiet coup by the surviving Illyrian generals who wanted nothing to do with the regime of Gratian. Earlier successes of Theodosius could provide the necessary excuse, and might be magnified in the propaganda if that would make the point. Theodosius duly became augustus, but Gratian need neither have appreciated the move nor had anything at all to do with it. Rather than brand Theodosius a usurper and thereby worsen further the crisis in the eastern provinces, he decided to acquiesce. He received Theodosius’ imperial portrait with full respect and began to issue laws in their joint names. But he had no great cause to welcome his new colleague and never did much to help him. Instead, he consigned the Balkans to Theodosius as an insoluble mess, happy enough if the burden of inevitable failure fell squarely on the new emperor’s shoulders. The evident absence of western aid certainly helps account for the slowness with which Theodosius brought the Balkans back under imperial control.

Theodosius’ Gothic Campaigns

In the year and a half that followed his imperial accession, Theodosius made his base at Thessalonica. He did not enter Constantinople, the city he would transform from an occasional imperial residence into the capital of the Roman East, until November 380, nearly two years after his appointment as augustus. That in itself tells us a great deal about the continuing Gothic problem: Thessalonica had good access to the Balkan interior, but could if necessary be supplied entirely by sea. The city was therefore almost impervious to disturbances inland, and could serve as an imperial residence even when the interior was completely occupied by the Goths. The eastern army had been shattered by Adrianople. Sixteen whole units were wiped out without a trace and never reconstituted. One of Theodosius’ first concerns was therefore to provide himself with troops. Many of the army units known from the Notitia Dignitatum, a thorough but chronologically composite listing of the imperial bureaucracy that describes the eastern army as it existed in mid-394, were first raised by Theodosius between 379 and 380. Several imperial laws from the same years address recruiting problems, and the Syrian rhetor Libanius describes the calling up of farmers. Zosimus tells us that some of the new recruits were hired in from across the Danube, although they soon proved every bit as ineffectual as those raised locally. The new emperor also needed victories. In the decade after Adrianople, we have evidence for nearly half as many victory celebrations as are attested in the seven previous decades combined. That is a formidable statistic. It illustrates how desperately Theodosius needed to be seen to be dealing with the Gothic problem.

Our only real source for reconstructing the campaigns of 379–382 is the summary of Eunapius that survives in Zosimus’ New History. We have referred to Zosimus on more than one occasion in the course of our narrative, but his defects are particularly apparent here, where the abridgement of Eunapius is severe and nonetheless still includes confusing doublets. So far as we can tell, in 379, Theodosius and his generals concentrated on clearing Thrace itself and eliminating the immediate threat to Constantinople and Adrianople. The general Modares, himself a Goth in imperial service, won some sort of victory in Thrace before the end of the campaigning season, though its significance may not have been too great. By 380, the different Gothic groups had been driven westwards into Illyricum, but whether that constituted an improvement for anyone but the inhabitants of Thrace is debateable. In that same year, Theodosius suffered a severe setback. Some Goths, perhaps led by Fritigern, marched into Macedonia and confronted the emperor at the head of his new recruits. These promptly failed in their first combat, the barbarians amongst them going over to the victorious enemy, the others deserting en masse – no surprise, then, that Theodosius soon had to issue laws on desertion. With this signal success, the Goths were able to impose tribute on the cities of Macedonia and Thessaly, which is to say northern Greece and the southwestern Balkans. A failed Gothic attack on Pannonia even brought Gratian back east in the summer of 380, when we find him at Sirmium, making no effort at all to confer with Theodosius. By the end of the year, he had returned to Gaul, and Theodosius felt able to make his way to Constantinople for the first time in his reign. In 381, Gratian’s generals Bauto and Arbogast drove the Goths away from the frontiers of the West and back into Thrace. It must by now have been obvious to Theodosius that his western colleague, far from helping solve the Gothic problem, would do no more than bar the western provinces to the Goths while leaving the eastern Balkans to suffer.

The Peace of 382

Theodosius thus bowed to the inevitable. Seeing no point in throwing still more troops into what was clearly a losing battle, he opened peace negotiations that were finally concluded on 3 October 382. The fact that this peace might well have seemed disappointing, especially after four years of confidently predicted triumphs, was anticipated by such mouthpieces of the imperial court as Themistius. Already in 382, Themistius was arguing that it was better to fill Thrace with Gothic farmers than with Gothic dead, and that because of the peace, the Goths themselves gained so much that they could celebrate a victory won over themselves. He hammered the same point at inordinate length a year later in his thirty-fourth oration: this masterpiece of political spin rewrites the history of the previous half-decade in order to absolve Theodosius of any imputations of incompetence in failing to wipe the Goths out altogether.

Despite Themistius’ grandiloquence, actual evidence for the treaty is minimal. Synesius claims that the Goths were given lands, Themistius echoes the classic topos of swords being beaten into ploughshares and locates his Gothic ploughmen in Thrace, Pacatus claims that the Goths became farmers. This sort of rhetoric was routine in describing any agreement with barbarians, and permits no conjecture as to the mechanisms or location of the settlement. Perhaps the Goths paid, or were meant to pay, taxes: Themistius is studiedly ambiguous. Perhaps the Goths continued to live by their tribal customs: Synesius tells us as much twenty years later, but embedded in a hysterical diatribe against the imperial employment of barbarians, his assertion proves next to nothing. Theodosius surely welcomed the disappearance of the whole generation of Gothic leaders that had won the battle of Adrianople: after 380, neither Fritigern, nor Alatheus and Saphrax, nor Videric are ever heard from again. But that does not imply a deliberate policy to sideline or eliminate them, a task that was, moreover, beyond imperial abilities. All of which is to say that – unfortunately for the modern historian in search of answers and just as with Constantine’s treaty of 332 – we cannot work backwards from later events and assume that what did happen was intended to happen in 382. What little we know for certain can be summed up very simply: in 382, the Goths who had terrorized the Balkans since Adrianople ceased to do so, while Roman contemporaries all agreed that the Gothic threat was over.

In the decade that followed, many Goths were called up into regular units of the eastern field army. Others served as auxiliaries in the campaigns that Theodosius led against the western usurpers Magnus Maximus (r. 383–388) and Eugenius (r. 392–394). Many, though not necessarily all, of these Goths were survivors of the group that had won the towering victory at Adrianople and then led Theodosius on a merry chase round the Balkans for nearly three years. For the most part, however, we have little solid evidence for any of the Goths inside the empire until the immediate aftermath of the Eugenius campaign and Theodosius’ premature and entirely unexpected death in January 395. Beginning in that year, the young Gothic leader Alaric raised a rebellion that lasted for fifteen years and culminated in the sack of Rome, with which our story began.

Roman External Relations

Roman external relations were defined by territorial ambitions and interests on the part of the Roman state at different stages of its development. These relations shifted during Roman history as it evolved from a republican city-state based in Italy and eventually became a vast empire encompassing three continents.

Early in the republic, most of Rome’s relations were primarily with its Latin, Italic, Greek, and Etruscan neighbors in the Italian peninsula and were focused on guaranteeing its economic health and security in the region. However, Roman military and economic expansion into Europe, the Mediterranean littoral, and the Near East brought the Roman republic (and then the empire after the principate of Augustus) into direct contact and conflict with the Celts (Gauls), the Carthaginians, the Hellenistic kingdoms, and the Parthians, thus expanding its relations from the circumscribed world of the Italian peninsula. Later in the third and fourth centuries CE, in light of its declining military and political strength, the preservation of the Roman empire rested on maintaining friendly relations and alliances with Germanic ethnic groups in its European borderlands, which were characterized by vast German migrations from central Eurasia. Early in the republic, much of Rome’s inter- action with local Italian city-states in terms of trade, alliances, and warfare centered on Roman expansion vis-a-vis these entities. Growing Ro- man preeminence in the central Italian peninsula brought it into direct conflict with other Latin city-states (collectively referred to by historians as the Latin League). Direct military confrontation between Rome and the Latin League in the Latin War ultimately resulted in Roman victory in the Battle of Lake Regillus in 499 BCE. The Latin War ended with a formal treaty (foedus Cassianus) that established normal relations between the Romans and the Latin League and created an alliance for collective security. However, this diplomatic maneuver on the part of Rome was in response to the growing threat of migrations of Volsci and Sabines into Roman and Latin areas in the fifth century. Subsequent warfare with the Volsci and the Gauls made the alliance with the Latins pivotal to Italian security. However, in the midst of the Samnite Wars (the Saminites were erstwhile allies of the Romans) the Latin League grew suspicious of Ro- man hegemony, resulting in a revolt in 340 BCE. Upon the defeat of the Latin League, Rome pursued a policy of incorporating the Latin cities through intermarriage, citizenship, and growing economic bonds, thereby securing their hegemony in Italy. By the end of the Third Samnite War in 290 BCE, they too became incorporated as part of the Roman state, as did the Etruscans and Gauls in subsequent years.

Roman diplomacy shifted onto the great Mediterranean region with the defeat over Epirus in the Pyrrhic Wars and Carthage in the Punic Wars in the third and second centuries BCE. Rome and Carthage had maintained friendly relations prior to the Punic Wars, only insofar as they saw a com- mon enemy in the Greeks and Etruscans. However, with Roman incorporation of these regions, hostility against Carthage in Sicily, Spain, and North Africa resulted in the Punic Wars. In the midst of these wars, Rome garnered support and hostility from adjacent Hellenistic states (some were Carthaginian allies), bringing them into the orbit of Roman national interests. While there were Roman emissaries and what could be construed as diplomats and diplomatic institutions in the modern sense sent or exchanged with these kingdoms, the actual work of diplomacy was done through the Roman military and bureaucracy following orders from the Senate.

In the second to first centuries BCE, small Greek kingdoms, seeking greater autonomy from the Hellenistic kingdoms (that is, the empire of Alexander the Great and his generals), sought Roman support. Roman intervention in Greek affairs brought them into dynastic intrigues and regional disputes, resulting in Roman military actions against Macedon (200 BCE-197 BCE), Syria (190 BCE), and Greek city-states (particularly illustrative with the Roman sack of Corinth in 146 BCE). Rome gradually incorporated these Greek regions as Roman provinces as they were defeated. Roman acquisition of Pergamum in Asia Minor through the will of its last monarch in 133 BCE granted them substantial territory in the East as well. While friendly relations existed with Ptolemaic Egypt, the last of the great Hellenistic kingdoms, Roman political strife combined with Mark Antony’s alliance with Cleopatra also resulted in the conquest of that region by Octavian in 30 BCE.

The Roman empire, particularly during the principate, was a potent force in the ancient Mediterranean world, bringing it into contact with the Parthians in the East and with German cultural groups along its European borderlands. As Rome expanded into Britain, the Levant, and Mesopotamia, it was expedient to rule through client-kings in a form of indirect rule. However, due to revolts such as those in Judea by the Jews (particularly the Zealots) and in Britain by the Iceni in the first century CE, Roman authority was established through the direct incorporation of these regions as Roman provinces subject to direct political and military authority. Relations with Parthia were also characterized by the establishment of formal diplomatic recognition of this Persian kingdom as an equal through the exchange of hostages during times of peace. While wars did characterize this relationship, the inability of either power to force the other to complete capitulation forced this mutual recognition. However, as Rome’s military and political power declined in the third and fourth centuries CE, Rome was forced to develop a series of alliances with neighboring Germanic tribal states along its periphery for mutual defense by allowing Germanic settlement in Roman lands, for Germanic mercenaries, known as foederati, were crucial to Roman defense. In the midst of a massive migration of Germanic peoples coming from central Eurasia and exerting pressure on Roman borderlands, it was pivotal for Rome to establish such relationships to counter its weakening military. While some of these Germanic peoples became thoroughly Romanized and ad- opted Christianity, by the fifth century the Roman empire in the West was no more, having gradually evolved into a series of Germanic successor states. In the East, the Byzantine empire survived for another millennium but through most of its existence as primarily a Greek state based in Anatolia and the Greek peninsula.

Bibliography Eilers, Claude, ed. Diplomats and Diplomacy in the Roman World. Boston: Brill, 2008. Lee, A. D. “The Role of Hostages in Roman Diplomacy with Sassanian Persia.” Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 40(3) (1991): 366-374. Mattern, Susan P. Rome and the Enemy: Imperial Strategy in the Principate. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Scullard, H. H. A History of the Roman World: 753- 146 BC. 4th ed. New York: Methuen, 1980.

The Roman War Machine – Fifth Century BC

Roman infantry are described by Livy as organised into centuries by class, performing manoeuvres on the battlefield and frequently pressing their officers to provide more aggressive orders rather than charging disobediently. They are therefore classed as regular and the 1st class, equipped as armoured hoplites, as superior. The 2nd and 3rd class had the oval Scutum as their shield instead of the round hoplon or aspis and had only minimal armour. The 4th class are described by Livy as having spear and javelins but no shield, but by Dionyssos as also having shields. Livy describes the 5th class as slingers, Dionysios as slingers and javelinmen.

At the end of the fifth century BC, Rome was still, like the towns around her, emerging from an agricultural society driven by an agrarian economy. Rome was different because she became increasingly larger than her enemies and she was extraordinarily receptive to outside influences – melding the best facets and successful practices from friend and foe alike. Militarily, Rome had a facility for adapting tactically and developing weaponry and armour based on extensive combat experience. Every battle fought, even those she lost, was a lesson in military science for the Romans.

In early summer each year, the army was summoned and trooped out to the latest theatre of war. Every autumn, the army, or what was left of it, was discharged until the call to arms the following year. The armies were usually led by two consuls, or by consular tribunes, or by dictators in times of tumultus, times of dire crisis. These consuls usually operated in concert with each other, not always harmoniously. They often brought no experience in leading an army or prosecuting a campaign. Time spent in the army or navy was simply another rung on the ladder of the cursus honorum, the political career path of the elite Roman. The army, and war, came with the career, and the successful execution of the military element went some way to contributing to longterm glory and success. This, in turn, fostered a belligerent attitude amongst Roman politicians-cum-commanders. Victory in war meant success in politics; success in politics was often dependent on victory on the battlefield.

The lower ranks of the army, the heavily armed infantrymen known as classis, were self-financing and recruited from farmers. Below the classis was the infra classem, skirmishers with less and lighter armour which required a smaller financial outlay. Above the classes were the equites, patricians with some wealth who made up the majority of the cavalry, officers and staff. Their money often came from land ownership. Soldiers were unpaid in the early days, providing their own rations, arms and armour.

War was not kind to the classes. It usually meant that they were away from their lands, forced to neglect their very livelihood for increasingly long stretches of military service. Moreover, they suffered virtual ruin when their farms were depradated by enemy action. The longer they served, the greater the chance of being killed or badly wounded and disabled, rendering them unfit to work on their lands. A ready supply of slaves to work on the lands of the wealthy was fuelled by prisoners of war, reducing the Roman or Italian agricultural worker’s value in the job market to little better than slaves themselves. Military duty plunged some classes into debt and led to virtual bondage to patricians – an ignominious semi-servile arrangement, nexum, which forced a farmer or farm worker to provide labour on the security of his person. Defaulting led to enslavement. Richer landowners could bear losses better as they were the beneficiaries of this bond-debt process, which allowed them to procure yet more land and cheap labour at the expense of the classes and infra classes. In short, the rich just got richer, a process helped also by their favourable share of increasing amounts of booty. Once Rome had conquered the Italian peninsula, the poorer workers could not even be helped out by land distribution; after 170 BC, land distribution stopped altogether. This, of course, led to resentment, which was only assuaged by personal allocations from tribunes and generals. Land allocations overseas were not considered an option until the time of Julius Caesar.

Oakley has tabulated the number of prisoners of war captured and subsequently enslaved by Rome in the nineteen battles between 297 and 293 BC, and recorded in Livy: approximately 70,000. Even allowing for some exaggeration, this clearly illustrates the impact conquest had on the careers and employment prospects of many agricultural workers. It did not stop there, of course: when Agrigentum was captured in 262 BC, no less than 25,000 prisoners were reportedly taken, all swelling the already competitive job market.

Roman warfare was then inseparable from Roman politics and from Roman economics; land questions and the Conflict of the Orders provided a constant soundtrack to the early wars.

The soldier depended on the value of and income from his land for financial clout, the ability to qualify for service and pay for his armour and weapons. The Conflict of the Orders ran from 494 BC to 287 BC and was a 200-year battle fought by the plebeians to win political equality. The secessio plebis was the powerful bargaining tool with which the plebeians effectively brought Rome grinding to a halt and left the patricians and aristocrats to get on with running the city and the economy themselves – the Roman equivalent to a general strike. The first secessio, in 494 BC, saw the plebeians down weapons and withdraw military support during the wars with the Aequi, Sabines and Volsci. That year marked the first real breakthrough between the people and the patricians, when some plebeian debts were cancelled. The patricians yielded more power when the office of Tribune of the Plebeians was created. This was the first government position to be held by the plebeians, and plebeian tribunes were sacrosanct during their time in office.

Servius Tullius, Rome’s sixth king, may have gone some way to militarizing Rome when he divided the population into wealth groups – their rank in the army determined by what weapons and armour they could afford to buy, with the wealthiest serving in the cavalry due in part to the cost of horses. Servius was certainly responsible for changes in the organization of the Roman army: he shifted the emphasis from cavalry to infantry and with it the inevitable modification in battlefield tactics. Before Servius, the army comprised 600 or so horse reinforced by heavily-armed infantry and lightly-armed skirmishers; it was little more than a militia of landowning infantry wielding pilum, shield and sword (gladius), operating like Greek hoplites in phalanx formation. The rest were composed of eighteen centuries of equites and thirty-two centuries of slingers. (A century was made up of ten conturbenia, amounting to eighty or so men.) The Etruscans, and then the Romans, absorbed Greek influences when they adopted full body armour, the hoplite shield and a thrusting spear – essential for phalanx-style close combat warfare.

Men without property, assessed by headcount, capite censi, were not welcome in the army, in much the same way that debtors, convicted criminals, women and slaves were excluded. However, slaves were recruited in exceptional circumstances, notably after the calamitous battle of Cannae and the manpower shortage it caused. Servius also reorganized the army into centuries and formed the parallel political assemblies, reinforcing the inextricable connection between Roman politics and Roman military. His ground-breaking census established who was fit – physically and financially – to serve in the Roman army. Recruitment extended from between age 17 and 46 (iuniores), and between 47 and 60 (seniores), the more elderly constituting a kind of home guard. The lower classes were not required to report with full body armour; this led to the use of the long body shield, the scutum, for protection, instead of the circular hoplite shield.