The Success of the Roman Military Infrastructure

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The Success of the Roman Military Infrastructure
Since the founding of the Roman Republic circa 500 BCE, the ancient civilization sought to conquer and spread its influence throughout the rest of the known world. Following the defeat of the Carthaginian Empire during the First Punic War, Rome established itself as the supreme power in the Mediterranean region.  For the next 200 years, Rome continued to establish its supremacy, and gained control of lands as far west as the Iberian Peninsula, parts of Northern Africa, all of Greece, and as far east as Asia Minor. Despite the collapse of the Roman Republic and its subsequent transformation into the Roman Empire in 27 BCE, Rome continued to spread its influence upon the rest of the world. Rome developed itself militarily, culturally, and economically, and reached its peak size and power around 100 CE. The Romans effectively assimilated their conquered enemies into the empire, and instilled Latin culture far beyond Rome’s own borders. The Roman Empire’s ability to achieve this superiority, however, had almost entirely to do with its military capability. The Roman military campaigned against barbarians as far north as modern day England, through great ingenuity, overcame the Carthaginian navy, decimated the hoplites of Alexander the Great’s descendants in Greece, and built one of the largest empires to ever exist. Because of its complex and highly organized military structure and technology, the Roman military was able to subdue its enemies, and leave a lasting impression on the world as we know it today. The Roman military went through several drastic reforms during its existence. The Roman Republic was founded to break free from Etruscan rule and claim the land of central Italy for themselves. Initially, Rome was only a small conglomerate of tribal villages, and could not match the military might of their Etruscan overlords, nor the Gallic tribes to the north, nor the Samnites to the east. Slowly but surely, the Romans strategically captured Etruscan villages and recruited soldiers to strengthen their military power. The early Roman military was organized by wealth. Those who could afford armor and and weapons were formed into ranks and armed with shields and spears, while the poorest were often skirmishers armed with only javelins. These organized ranks of citizen-soldiers became groundwork for the manipular legions. The formation of manipular legions within the Roman military can be considered paramount to Rome’s ultimate success in the conquest of Italy. Unlike the ranks of the early Romans, the manipular legions were based more so on age and experience rather than just social class. Every citizen of Rome was forced to due mandatory military service. A manipular legion consisted of 5,000 men, which were then further broken down into units. The heavy infantry units, called maniples, consisted of three lines of soldiers, hastati, principes, and triarii (Zhmodikov, 69). Hastati were the first line of infantry, and were equipped with light armor, a shield, a sword known as a gladius, and two pila, or javelins, used to throw at the enemy before charging them in battle(Polybius, 6.29). The second line consisted of the Principes, bore heavier armor but the same weapons as the hastati, and were often veteran and more experienced soldiers. The third line of troops, the triarii, were heavily armed and carried a gladius as well as a pike( Polybius, 6.29). Each legion consisted of 1,200 hastati and principes, and 600 triarii. The rest of the legion was made up of skirmishers called velites who were usually low-class citizens, and cavalry known as equites, which consisted of the wealthiest of Roman citizens (Southern, 92). After more than a century of conflict between Rome and its neighbors, the manipular legions eventually allowed Rome to overcome both the Etruscans and the Samnites, and claimed their dominance over central Italy in 282 BCE. Although Rome had now established its...
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