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I am beginning research on a novel that begans with Theodosius's departure from Constantinopolis and culminates with the battle of Frigidus.

Like my first novel, "Promotus" concerning Alaric in the Rhodopes, I want to use this novel as an avenue to both entertain and to educate the reader.

Since most of the novel will play out during the march, I am in need of information about moving an army that large across a friendly landscape.

There is quite a bit of discussion on RAT about the Roman Army marching camps, but those, I assume were built, used, and dismantled while traveling in hostile territory.

The campaign against Eugenius and Arbogast was not a spur of the moment decision, so I am assuming that the Praetorian Praefect (I think that was Rufinus at this date) had been directed to stockpile fodder and rations along the planned route.  I bought the book "Logistics of the Macedonian Army" which gives good detail on how an army that large was moved, but Alexander sacrificed the carrying capacity of oxen for the speed and mobility of mules in his logistics plan.

Do you guys think that Theodosius would have used oxen and be limited to twelve miles a day, or relied solely on mules for material transport?

I assume Alaric and his Goths joined and traveled as part of the army somewhere along the route.  I suppose they used their own transport, wagons probably, to carry their own material, and I assume they formed their traditional carrago camps each night.

Any information or sources of information (books for instance) would be appreciated.

As always, Thank you guys in advance.

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A lot of what is said about Roman logistics is a little exaggerated. The truth is they were not as well organised on a daily basis as is usually claimed. To undergo a march, especially if not planned for, legions would mount a requisition of the local area, basically acquiring anything they thought desirable from the local populace who could do very little about it and risked violence if they did. Legions were capable of great logistical feats but this depended on who was in charge and where the army was - a stationary site was far easier to supply than a marching column and for that matter, troops went with a certain amount of field rations or resources (up to around seventeen days worth at most depending on what they had in store). The situation grew worse in the late empire because there was less enthusiasm and ability to organise. let alone conduct a campaign.

Unlike columns of later eras, Roman armies did not have central supply bases sending trains of wagons to supply them (they did try this for a while in the late empire unsuccessfully). Therefore a lot of Roman logistics was about local foraging - this is supported by the sources - and pre-arranged supply drops by ship if possible, though clearly there was room for disaster in this approach and this was something the Romans were well aware of. In fact, if you notice, the legions were supposed to be as self-sufficient as possible, though by the late empire this ability had eroded.

Later Roman armies were far better at what Goldsworthy calls 'low level warfare' than large scale campaigning. In that style of warfare, small raiding forces move quickly and cannot rely on logistics at all, being dependent entirely on what they carry or can acquire.

 

PS - I did forget to underline that in most cases the Roman legions marched with a wagon train in the column. Although the speed of their marches is sometimes praised, the forced marches would have to dispense with this most basic of supply situation because with a wagon train, the march is at the average speed of the animals which is quite slow. Also with a train in tow a complement of camp followers and adventurous merchants would be tagging along.

Edited by caldrail
Things I forgot to mention

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