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Why was the Roman Army so Successful?

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Why was the Roman Army so Successful?

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  • October 29, 2008
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Why was the Roman Army so Successful?

The legions of Rome were one of the biggest factors in Rome's success as an empire. They conquered vast quantities of land, and were often used by the government to improve the morale of people living in cities, which often had parts that were cramped and unsanitary. The legions were set apart from contemporary armies due to their level of organisation and especially as they fought as a unit and not as individuals, as many tribes did.

The swords of the Roman Legionaries were different to many people at the time. This figure shows a sword, or _gladius_, found by archaeologists. Though the hilt, guard and pommel have rotted away - showing that they were probably made primarily from wood - the tang and blade remain. The sword was narrow, so that it could fit between small gaps between shields in the close formations favoured by the Romans, and also so that it could easily slide between the ribs, reaching the internal organs and maximising damage, although soldiers were often encouraged to go for the throat and groin; the location of several major arteries. The thicker fuller of the blade tapering away at the edges allowed for sharper blades. A slight discolouration running down the centre of the blade may indicate a 'blood groove', through which blood could run so that the sword did not get stuck in the wound as easily. The sword was also very narrow, and this was probably done purposely, in order to stop soldiers overextending or slashing away, and encouraging thrusting, which was and is harder to parry, as the sword has to be knocked from its path, rather than just blocked.

Flavius Vegetius Renatus, in 'De Re Militari Book I: The Selection and Training of New Levies', which was written in 390 A.D, says that "a stab, though it penetrates but two inches, is generally fatal", as well as citing the reason that "the body is covered while a thrust is given", whereas when slashing, "it is impossible to avoid exposing the...