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

Conan

Who were the infantry 'Elite' of the Repubican army?

Recommended Posts

And what do you think about the selected soldiers mentioned by Livius and Sallustius (Post #10 of this thread)?

 

Would they qualify as "elite" in a more conventional way?

Our ideas of elite military status are afflicted with the americanesque rambo mentality, the 'special forces', the 'mercenary' as a gun totin' hard man. Romans saw things a little differently. A man must show exceptional courage and skill in combat before elite status came his way, and the roman leaders liked to recognise such achievements as an example of roman military virtue. That I think is the key to understanding elite status in roman eyes. If you were the first man through a breach for instance - sufficient to earn you a corona. That said, the roman leadership wouldn't want these good men getting a bit full of themselves. They still needed to be part of the roman line and historically the romans moved away from individualistic combat. There are examples of men breaking away from the line in the days of the servian phalanxes and fighting heroically, only to be executed for 'deserting their post'. What do I think of the men mentioned? Well, I never met them, so its hard to say, but we're dealing with hardened men who may well enjoy violence. Lets remember that a picked force of bodyguards weren't necessarily there as elite soldiers, they were trusted capable men who would watch the leaders back.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
And what do you think about the selected soldiers mentioned by Livius and Sallustius (Post #10 of this thread)?

 

Would they qualify as "elite" in a more conventional way?

Our ideas of elite military status are afflicted with the americanesque rambo mentality, the 'special forces', the 'mercenary' as a gun totin' hard man.

 

That has nothing to do with the thread, and is nothing more than an insult to Yankee, British, and other lads who break their horns for their countries objects.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
And what do you think about the selected soldiers mentioned by Livius and Sallustius (Post #10 of this thread)?

 

Would they qualify as "elite" in a more conventional way?

Our ideas of elite military status are afflicted with the americanesque rambo mentality, the 'special forces', the 'mercenary' as a gun totin' hard man.

 

That has nothing to do with the thread, and is nothing more than an insult to Yankee, British, and other lads who break their horns for their countries objects.

 

On the contrary. Our perception of military affairs has changed since roman times. As for insults, its nothing of the sort. The 'mercenary' genre is big business now, and despite the neutrality laws of the US, mercenary culture has a fertile ground there, with plenty of media interest and entrepeneurs running schools for this sort of activity. Although there are still idiots and psycho's signing up to adverts in Soldier of Fortune, there are also professional businesses who organise military support. Witness Blackwater, whose staff are getting a reputation for being trigger happy in Iraq. I'm not talking about the armed services of our nation states and therefore no slight on their activities is made. Far from it. I think the armed services of both britain and the US are much maligned for sensationalist news. Sure, they make errors of judgement or act heavily at times. Course they do. They're not policemen, they're soldiers. They are men trained to commit violence in the interests of their nation, and they do pretty much what they're taught to do. If you don't understand what I'm talking about, please have a look outside your own front door before you criticise me for pointing out changes in military culture since 0AD. As for having nothing to do with the thread, the question asked was about the elite status of roman soldiers. The concept of elite status has changed since then. I see no reason why this should be viewed as an insult, especially since I happen to be one of the few people on the internet that doesn't slag off the US military.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*hangs head in shame*

 

Note to self: don't post unless check via expert or are 99% sure

 

vtc

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not at all. Asking questions is the basis of learning. If you don't question existing knowledge then all you do is learn by rote, and that does not produce understanding.

 

Miltary matters have changed considerably since roman times in certain ways, but not others. For the romans, soldiers were ordinary common people. Even when some hero courageously defies death, he gets a mention in dispatches, perhaps a reward, then goes back to his unit as an ordinary soldier again. These days we tend to see the elite soldier as the solo warrior, fearless, totally in control, and highly skilled. A modern soldier who does something heroic might well be presented in the media as such. Not the romans. They wanted their soldiers to know they were part of a legion, that they must adhere to the formation, and must not assume status accorded to others.

 

In some respects this seems hypocritical given the status some slaves like gladiators or charioteers achieved, but these were men who entertained and were intentionally lauded as heroic individuals.

 

With regard to elite units, once again the romans were aware that men who thought too highly of themselves were prone to poor behaviour, and the praetorian guard are classic examples of this. Given elite status by virtue of their role, they used it to feather their own nest more often than not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Were some legions considered elite, like the tenth? werern't they boasted in the media by Caesar?

And, would a legion get mentioned for bravery? That way all of the men were mentioned.

Would bravery on the field connote a promotion as a reward?

 

bit off topic, sorry

 

vtc

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Elite legions? Not strictly speaking, but some legions acquired good reputations. Others didn't, and I have come across refeences to a legion that was disbanded in dishonour. I think thats the key. There wasn't a permanent elite status as such, more a matter of professional pride. Of course, if a general thought a particular legion was worthy he may well treat them in an elite fashion, but that was conditional on their conduct. Legions did get mentioned for bravery. As for the media, that was very limited in roman times, and the victory was more important than any unit that contributed to it. Remember that no roman general is likely to give the kudos for the win to his troops alone - oh no - for reasons of personal aggrandisement and career advancement he'll keep the credit for himself, although he would no doubt praise his men for obeying orders and fighting fearlessly. Courage on the battlefield might assist your promotion prospects, but it wouldn't be guaranteed. If your face didn't fit, you went no further. Promotion wasn't quick in the roman military and experience was valuable for this. So too were your contacts. If your family were important or you had influential friends, your promotion prospects might blossom. However, having said that, take note of the career of Cassius Chaerea (The chap who instigated Caligula's death). He rose to the attention of the influential by virtue of his courageous service in Germania during the reign of Augustus and Tiberius, and eventually rose to become Prefect of the Praetorian Guard.

 

The only real elite formation in the roman military was the praetorians, status that they guarded and exploited. They received better pay than ordinary legions and served for 16 years as opposed to 20 plus another 5 in reserve status.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The only real elite formation in the roman military was the praetorians, status that they guarded and exploited. They received better pay than ordinary legions and served for 16 years as opposed to 20 plus another 5 in reserve status.

Maybe the Legio II Parthica, levied at 197 AD by Septimius Severus and established at Italy (Castra Albana) could be another example, as it acted both as an strategic reserve for any battlefront and as a safeguard against praetorian rebellions.

 

So, it was critical for any Imperial pretender. In fact, during the following years (military crisis of the III Century) II Parthica was on the winner side most of the time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No, not elite, just respected for its success and courage in battle, and favoured at that time. Thats not elite status, just a superior reputation (and ability apparently), but I do understand your point.

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

×