Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
  • Time Travel Rome

skel

Decimation

Recommended Posts

what do you guys think of the roman military using Decimation as a form of punishment?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its quick, cheap, and an effective form of control in unruly cities.

 

That said, i think its completely and morally wrong to kill nearly an entire people just because some of them didn't want to be conquered.

 

Reminds me of Gladiator, where Maximus speaks to Quintus before the opening battle:

 

Quintus: People should know when they're conquered.

 

Maximus: Would you, Quintus? Would I?

 

 

Just thought id bring that up, for no reason whatsoever. :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought decimation was when every tenth soldier in a legion was picked out and beaten by the other troops as punishment?

 

If it's what I'm thinking of, then cruel as it may be it seemed to work. Didn't Crassus try that after some failed attempts with Spartacus, and after he tried it he seemed to get better results from his soldiers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest spartacus

Indeed, Decimation was the killing of the tenth man picked out, usually in the form of being beaten to death!

 

As pointed out in the earlier post, Crassus reinstated it during the Spartacus campaign

 

A very effective method of controlling your troops, brutal and inhumane but effective

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

:P My bad, must have been reading too fast. Though i do believe decimation to control the troops wasnt used very often...

 

Even so, to choose 1 out of every 10 soldiers to be beaten by his friends/fellow soldiers is extremely harsh, especially assuming that the 1 person was entirely innocent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^werd, werent the ones chosen to be decimated crusified? or were they just killed? i know the ones envolved in the whole sparticus ordeal were crusified werent they?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

no - you are thinking of the crucifixion of 6000 of Sparticus' fellow slaves along the Appian way as a reminder the the rest of slave population "This is what happens when you......" when a legion or Cohort was decimated - every cohort was split into groups - 10 or 15 I believe, and drew lots - the unlucky chap with the dud lot was then beaten to death by his fellows. It was a punishment for mutiny and flight from battle.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Crassus also decimated during the campaign, a legion that fled from the slave army in an earlier stage of the revolt.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
every cohort was split into groups - 10 or 15 I believe, and drew lots - the unlucky chap with the dud lot was then beaten to death by his fellows.

Every 10th man, hence 'Deci' mation. They were indeed beaten to death by their fellow soldiers, in which the entire century/cohort/legion would've taken part depending on the circumstances.

 

A brutal form of discipline but probably much more effective than later methods of execution for desertion. In this way at least all the 'guilty' had a grim part to play. Fortunately it was used very seldom, and is only really mentioned a few times in the ancient sources. The Crassus incident clearly stands as the most well known.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was given to understand that the cohort somehow choose the men. That it could be either a popularity contest or a way to get rid of bad legionaires (your fellows voting to kill you or the Centurian taking the Decurions' advice on who to execute). That adds an even more chilling thought to the concept of decimation. If I am wrong, feel free to correct me...my sources aren't good on this detail.

 

Then again how different were the mutiny executions by the French Army in WWI compared to this, other than the percentage of troops executed? The "guilty" were chosen by the company comanders and then shot in front of the brigades.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The references I've seen have indicated a drawing of lots, though I wouldn't be surprised if officers may not have bothered with such a formality. In practice I'm sure there may have been some displays of favoritism.

 

As there aren't a great deal of records dealing with the subject, its alot of conjecture, but the numbers make me wonder. I would suspect that the division of men would've been based on the pre-existing contubernium. In theory, this was a unit of 10 men, but in practice was made up of 8 men. Rather than dividing into new groups of '10' wouldn't it make more sense for each contubernium to draw lots. If that were the case, decimation actually would've meant the death of 1 out of every 8 men. Of course, this totally assumes full compliment of men which was rarely the case, especially if the army had done something to deserve decimation. I suppose there wouldn't be any choice but to 'count' using another method.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought it was your tent mates who did the beating,they werent allowed to use weapons just fists.Imagine that,your comrades killing you in that way.I cant imagine many men who had experienced that running from the enemy again. L

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

They did it with clubs and I think it was your tentmates. There is a famous incedent in which Caesar orders decimation for a rebelious legion. He later relents to just have the ringleaders killed but when they are brought before him one of the condemned indicates he wasn't even in camp when the rebelion happened and was being victimized by his Centurion. His comrades confirmed this so Caesar had the Centurion beaten to death with clubs in his place.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a peanut gallery comment, but anyone seen the opening of Enemy at the Gates? The rest of the movie was so bad I couldn't finish, but that first half hour was riveting.

 

For those who haven't seen. The Russian soldiers were ordered to attack, and anyone who retreated was mowed down by fixed position machine gun fire. This was at the battle of Stalingrad.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

dnewhous - yes, reading this thread I was instantly reminded of Enemy of the Gates, where Soviet punishment for retreat was instant death. Not only the standing behind them with Howitzer? guns mowing them down if they started to retreat, but Stalin in general would decimate his military even (especially) high ranking officers if he got the urge to do so. His paranoia after assassinated Trotsky grew so high that he single handedly made the collapse of the Soviet Union imminent, even though his successors would try to maintain it decades afterwards. The single worst thing about decimation was the waste of resources that killing soldiers leads to. It's like spanking, it can achieve immediate results, but if employed often can severely damage the future. A Pyrrhic victory almost...

 

Chris Weimer

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×