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Wars and the Army as an Integral Part of Roman Society

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Wars and the Military was an integral part of Roman society and most of them are the reason Rome became so big. This can be traced to the founding of Rome where the two brothers Romulus and Remus argued and fought over the location of the city, Romulus won the fight and named the city after himself. Armies were initially volunteers but over time soldiers became paid, so the army was a viable career choice for the poor. Wars were fought for many reasons to capture land and trade routes as well as for personal/political reputation. Due to the importance of the military Rome was not immune to civil wars which were bloody and hard fought. An example of wars fought for land and trade was the Punic Wars 241 – 146BC. Although war was important in Roman society it did not always end well for the Romans an example is the Battle of Cannae 216BC, the biggest loss in Roman history. The Gallic War 58-51BC were primarily about Caesar gaining his reputation which lead to the Caesars Civil War 49-45BC because he became a threat to other powerful Romans, namely Pompey.

The Punic Wars were initially about land and an important trade route; they were made up of 3 wars from 264-146BC they were fought between Rome and Carthage. By the end of first war Rome had annexed Sicily and signed a treaty with Carthage, in which Carthage had to pay Rome reparations. The Second Punic war was from 218-201BC, Wikipedia mentions the war was also known as the ‘Hannibalic War’ or by the Romans as the ‘War Against Hannibal’. Hannibal was a Carthaginian general, who was a child in the first war, and wanted revenge against Rome for the first Punic War. The war featured the infamous Battle of Cannae, the biggest loss in Roman history and even though they had this loss they still won the war. The result of the war was that Rome conquered Carthage, Carthaginian Iberia became part of Rome and the unification of Numidia. The Third Punic war was from 149-146BC and led to the total destruction of Carthage. This was a relatively small conflict when compared to the first two wars and ended in the total destruction of Carthage and the surviving Carthaginians being sold into slavery. It was more of a political battle as Carthage held no real threat to Rome at that time.

As mentioned above the Battle of Cannae 216BC is an example of a great loss for Rome and it also highlights at how well the Roman army was able to rebound from such setbacks. The Battle of Cannae was Hannibals greatest example of strategic ability where he defeated an army that was twice the size of his. Hannibal won due to two factors, firstly the eagerness of the Roman Consuls to try and win the battle quickly and Hannibals supreme strategy. The strategy he used was the double development strategy also known as the pincer movement, as described in the book ‘The Roman Army – The Greatest War Machine in the Ancient World’, edited by Chris McNab. Even though Hannibal had this and other victories in the Second Punic War he never tried to invade Rome itself, which gave the Romans time to regather their forces and repel the Carthaginians and defeat them.

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The Gallic War, 58-51BC, was originally about repelling a threat to Rome but later campaigns were about improving Julius Caesars reputation. It started because the Helvetti were on the move to southern Gaul near Roman territory. Caesar was the governor of the Roman territories in Gaul. Caesar saw this as an opportunity to gain land and to improve his reputation. So, he campaigned every year to conquer more of Gaul, The later campaigns were more about increasing Caesars reputation than actual capture of land as quoted in book ‘The Roman Army – The Greatest War Machine in the Ancient World’ edited by Chris McNab. P108 The two campaigns in 55BC were dictated by events in Rome rather than by requirement s in Gaul, two of his allies and political rivals Pompey and Crassus were in Rome and could get publicity, so Caesar had to do something to keep him in the lime light by being the first Roman to lead an army across the Rhine and over the ocean to Britain.

As a result of Caesars successful campaigns in Gaul his reputation in Rome had increased. His major political rival and former ally Pompey had convinced the Senate to order Caesar to disband his army and return to Rome. This would have effectively ended Caesars political career. So, instead of doing this he marched on Rome with one legion this started Caesars Civil War 49-45BC. Caesar drove Pompey out of Rome into Egypt where he was killed by an Egyptian King. As a result of the war Caesar became dictator of Rome from 49-44BC until his assassination. This war marked the beginning of the Roman Empire and the end of Rome as a Republic as discussed in the book ’The Romans from Village to Empire’ by Boatwrithg, Gargol and Talbert.

During Romes history it had many wars for different reasons. Most of these wars were a victory for Rome. Whether it be in gaining land or territory, removing threats or increasing someone’s reputation as well as internal conflicts the Roman Army’s military prowess and organization was one of the main reasons the Roman Kingdoms/Republic/Empire endured for over 1,000 years. It is also noted that there was no military force as large as the Roman Army for more than 1,000 years after the eventual fall of the Empire.

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