The Sharp Edge of State Policy: The Organization and Tactics of the Roman Military

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  • Topic: Roman Empire, Roman army, Roman legion
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James F. Hagan III
HIST-101-V7
September 30, 2013
The Sharp Edge of State Policy: The Organization and Tactics of the Roman Military It is an organization lauded by historians, and immortalized in works of fiction. Its symbols are still recognized today as something unique and special. Its successes and failures are the topic of countless studies both scholarly and amateur. It is one of the model fighting forces in the history of the world, unlike any other seen before. It is the Roman military, and its organization and tactics are the foundation upon which it is based. These foundations in turn allowed the military to become the instrument which shaped the Empire (Rome: Echoes 135) and allowed Roman policy to be implemented in one of the greatest empires the world has ever known. Overview of the Roman Military

The Roman military was a well-equipped, well trained, organized, and disciplined force. It was the first army of its kind, a truly professional citizen army with the capacity to both destroy and create (Rome: Echoes 135). It was the first army to marry tactical prowess with strategic insight. It was also the first army to combine logistical support with combat power in which allowed extended campaigns of an almost totally self-sufficient manner. Its overall organization not only allowed it to accomplish the tactical goals of conquest and pacification, but the strategic goals of bringing new technology and prosperity to the conquered peoples, allowing them to assimilate into the Roman way of life in a smooth and orderly manner (Rome: Echoes 136). Training

While the role of the Roman army did change over time, the underlying constant is that it remained a disciplined and professional organization. The training regimen is indeed very similar to those of modern armies, including initial daily muster, physical training, weapons training, formation marching, and unit tactical exercises. Gymnastics and swimming were two physical training exercises used to build fitness and strength, and there was great emphasis placed on running and jumping. Individual combat training consisted of using wooden weapons both against training dummies and sparring partners. The emphasis of weapons training was on short stabbing motions with the sword while remaining protected behind the shield. Unit training included learning the various defensive and attack formations used in the army, long route marches to build both stamina and unit cohesion, and drill training where the individuals learned the commands used in the military and how to implement them in combat situations. Finally, the training taught how the integration of different units could be used most effectively in any given combat situation. At the end of the basic training routine, the legionary took an oath of allegiance to either the Senate (Republican Rome) or the Emperor (Imperial Rome), was graduated and sent to join the army (Goldsworthy, 80-81). Equipment

The basic load out of a Roman soldier weighed approximately 60 pounds, consisting of armor, weapons, other equipment, and 15 days food rations. Armor pieces included the helm, which protected the face, head, and neck, the torso covering consisting of overlapping metal plates, and the scutum, the large square shield of the legionary. The weapons load consisted of two pila (spears) and the gladius (short sword). The lighter of the pila was intended for ranged attacks, while the heavier one was used to receive charges from opposing forces or used in a stabbing manner. The gladius was used in a short stabbing motion, and was very useful in any Roman tactical formation (Goldsworthy 122-133). Food rations were carried on campaign or issued when in fort, and were almost always in unprepared form, and consisted of grain, meat, cheese, and sour wine. The members of tent units cooked and ate together (Goldsworthy 97). Other equipment carried could include a saw, pickaxe, sickle, chain, rope, spade, and a...
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