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22.10.

Were the Marian reforms the doom for the Roman Republic?

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Take a look at the previous years to see how the roman army recruited. The interest of the soldiery was to protect the land which they already had. As rome expanded the traditional campagning season expired and extend in to campagning years, therefore the landowners could not return afterwards to tend to what they had fought to protect. Marius opened the ranks to the lower classes to fill the gaps which was previously occupied by the landowners but he needed to give these lowerclasses incentive, therefore rewards with land, pensions ect. This practice is continued today in the form of pensions within plenty of modern armies. Marius' mistake was not to identify who was responcible for these pensions. To gain sole loyalty of the legions to the state the state MUST provide the reward however this provision was left to the generals who then inturn gained the full loyalty of his legions giving him the tools to use the legions has he pleased. Marius was not to blame for the doom of the republic, his reforms were visionary but he missed the point of identifying who was to be the master who fed the dog.

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The rationale for the Marian Reforms was simply to make raising levies easier. Why waste time recruiting men when you have legions on standby? Why waste time sorting out which social group does what when all your citizens can be trained to fight one way? What you say about 'foreign wars' does underline the desire of Marius to make provision for campaigning as an activity in itself, rather than just defence or political necessity. Maybe we shouldn't be suprised. Rome was a chauvanistic and inherently martial society, thus when confidence and size made such warfare practicable, they indulged in a little extra-curricular seizure of land, goods, and chattel. The question then would be to what extent these wars were necessary, or biased toward profit.

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Why waste time recruiting men when you have legions on standby?

Are you suggesting the empire could have been maintained without a standing professional army? It wasn't until the 2nd Punic War that the Roman army became standing. That war brought the heyday of the Republic to an end.

 

Why waste time sorting out which social group does what

I simply don't believe that Rome could have continued to be successful with the continued policy of assigning specialization (like cavalry) based on socioeconomic status. That's a very medieval way of doing things, and notice that modern armies aren't organized that way.

 

What you say about 'foreign wars' does underline the desire of Marius to make provision for campaigning as an activity in itself, rather than just defence or political necessity. Maybe we shouldn't be suprised. Rome was a chauvanistic and inherently martial society, thus when confidence and size made such warfare practicable, they indulged in a little extra-curricular seizure of land, goods, and chattel. The question then would be to what extent these wars were necessary, or biased toward profit.

The Roman empire was amazingly risk averse when it came to conquests. Trajan is the only emperor post Julius Caesar to make any significant gains, and he gave them all up before he died because he was concerned with putting too much pressure on his successors to maintain the conquests.

 

My own favorite causation is that skilled Greek slaves ruined the Roman middle class. But it isn't the only one.

 

In fact, the more I think about this it is my intuition that the Marius "reforms" were recognition of changes that had already taken place. Just as the US army cheats on eligibility requirements when it becomes hard to recruit, I expect that recruiting the landless urban poor is something that was already practiced. With the twin pressures of a devastated middle class and maintaining a standing professional army on the frontier, I don't see how the reforms could have waited until the first century BC.

Edited by dnewhous

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Why waste time recruiting men when you have legions on standby?

Are you suggesting the empire could have been maintained without a standing professional army? It wasn't until the 2nd Punic War that the Roman army became standing. That war brought the heyday of the Republic to an end.

No, I'm not. I'm suggesting that Marius had particular motives appropriate to his day. The Roman Empire of his time wasn't so large and back then, Rome relied on a militia levied according to need. Given the very traditional mindset of the Romans it's unlikely they would have considered a standing army as necessary, since they desperately wanted to avoid having to do that for it would turn against them - the entire rationale behind sharing command of the consular armies of old. Marius had more immediate concerns. He had struggled to raise units against Carthage because he couldn't find enough veterans to fill his rear ranks. His reforms were designed to avoid that circumstance in case of emergency.

 

Why waste time sorting out which social group does what

I simply don't believe that Rome could have continued to be successful with the continued policy of assigning specialization (like cavalry) based on socioeconomic status. That's a very medieval way of doing things, and notice that modern armies aren't organized that way.

Since when were the Roman legions modern? That's a ridiculous anthropomorphic argument. Of course the Romans weren't a modern army. They lived two thousand years ago in a different socio-political and military world. The idea that the Romans clicked their fingers and invented modern armies is a fallacy. They never invented anything unless they had to, and in fact, the Romans had no permanent army structure until the late empire.when increasing size, troop diversity, and security issues made it impossible to do without them.

 

Who ran the legions? It wasn't career military officers. The legions of the Marius Reforms were not regiments in an army, but strategic mini-armies themselves, with a sentatorial overseer to enforce the authority of the Roman state. In fact, the legions had represented a military cross section of Roman society (as indeed you might expect a citizen levy to do), but post-Marian Reforms were designed as a convenience for the state to defend, or prosecute wars if they so chose, by applying a measure of commonsense and practicality to the system.

 

The Roman empire was amazingly risk averse when it came to conquests. Trajan is the only emperor post Julius Caesar to make any significant gains, and he gave them all up before he died because he was concerned with putting too much pressure on his successors to maintain the conquests.

 

My own favorite causation is that skilled Greek slaves ruined the Roman middle class. But it isn't the only one.

 

In fact, the more I think about this it is my intuition that the Marius "reforms" were recognition of changes that had already taken place. Just as the US army cheats on eligibility requirements when it becomes hard to recruit, I expect that recruiting the landless urban poor is something that was already practiced. With the twin pressures of a devastated middle class and maintaining a standing professional army on the frontier, I don't see how the reforms could have waited until the first century BC.

It is true that Marius adopted measures that were in existence already, but in fairness, his decision to create legions based on one class of swordsman is his alone, since before that, it was an emergency measure only and one he had personal experience of.

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The Roman empire was amazingly risk averse when it came to conquests. Trajan is the only emperor post Julius Caesar to make any significant gains, and he gave them all up before he died because he was concerned with putting too much pressure on his successors to maintain the conquests.

 

What was Claudius' conquest of Britain, a ball game? :no2:

 

In fact, the more I think about this it is my intuition that the Marius "reforms" were recognition of changes that had already taken place. Just as the US army cheats on eligibility requirements when it becomes hard to recruit, I expect that recruiting the landless urban poor is something that was already practiced. With the twin pressures of a devastated middle class and maintaining a standing professional army on the frontier, I don't see how the reforms could have waited until the first century BC.

 

But never had it been so explicit. Moreover if the recruitment of the landless poor had been going on. Wouldn't it have been to eke out legions instead of creating them en masse out of proletarii?

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What was Claudius' conquest of Britain, a ball game? :no2:

 

Yes, basically, it was the ass end of the earth. And I don't know that Rome ever generated surplus tax revenue from England and Wales.

 

But never had it been so explicit. Moreover if the recruitment of the landless poor had been going on. Wouldn't it have been to eke out legions instead of creating them en masse out of proletarii?

 

When you move to a standing army permanently garrisoned on the frontier there is no way around the fact that you are no longer going to be able to rely on middle class people taking a break from their day job to form the rank and file of your army.

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The Roman empire was amazingly risk averse when it came to conquests. Trajan is the only emperor post Julius Caesar to make any significant gains, and he gave them all up before he died because he was concerned with putting too much pressure on his successors to maintain the conquests.

 

Our modern capability of prosecuting warfare is far beyond that of the Romans and it colours our attitude toward their motives. It is true however that the Romans were naturally conservative, and as for risks, the politicians who led the legions onto the battlefield were risking credibility and their careers first and foremost.

 

A little stunning? The risk to life and limb is one thing. We are talking about a culture with martial values. However, a glorious death would be admirable, a matter of honour, a point in your favour when the ferryman took you across the river.

 

But a lifetime of shouldering failure? Dishonour? Shame? Romans committed suicide for those reasons among others. But it isn't just personal risk or the possibility of destroying your career. The gods might decide you are not to succeed. Romans habitually consulted divination rites of one sort or another before battle. Their world was mysterious, their culture emboldened by their mastery of its dangers, and what seems to us a tragic natural event would be an act of a vengeful god.

 

In fact, the average legionary was worse than his commanders. There are instances of soldiers hesitating to step ashore, frightened by unexpected astronomical events, or worried by thunder. In a world where curses held real and vital power, the unknown can be conquered only by the exercise of more courage than simply facing violence.

 

Just as the US army cheats on eligibility requirements when it becomes hard to recruit, I expect that recruiting the landless urban poor is something that was already practiced. With the twin pressures of a devastated middle class and maintaining a standing professional army on the frontier, I don't see how the reforms could have waited until the first century BC.

 

Whilst there's something in that, I don't think you appreciate how conservative Roman culture was. There was a religious significance to recruitment, a tradition carried over from the oaths taken by raiding bands in their earliest days. Even after the Marian Reforms this religious significance continued in a mutated form as the legions carried symbols of imperial power and reverence before them.

 

Also, the idea of a standing army was not to mount guard on the frontier, which was a strategic policy that emerged after the facility of permanent legions, but intially to ensure that Rome was not caught short by manpower shortages, a circumstance that Marius had personal experience of.

 

It was the rapid increase in the size of the empire after the Marian Reforms that brought about a desire to secure a potentially hazardous frontier defined by conquest. Before that, Rome was bordered by more civilised realms with established relationships that mitigated against the permanent station of troops. Better to let people go home and tend their farms and businesses in times of peace.

 

It was of course the Punic Wars that began a change in attitude from the civilian militia to the professional military of the post Marian era, but bear in mind it wasn't until Augustus that the concept of the civilian militiaman was finally laid to rest.

 

Also, we should be wary of assigning the Roman legion modern aspects. The whole idea of the Roman legion as a professional army ignores the essential truth. These men were not quite the military tradesmen of the modern era, despite exhibiting some practises we recognise today, but rather they were indentured warriors rewarded for their dedicated service to the state.

 

However, before we get carried away with the usual superlatives that the Roman legions normaly inspire, bear in mind the reality often fell well short of our fantasies. The battle readiness of legions during the war against Spartacus is noted as poor. Crassus resorted to decimation to motivate his men. The reforms were one thing - learning how to handle a permanent army was another matter.

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