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

Conan

What were the social impacts of Cannae on Rome?

Recommended Posts

Well not just Cannae but the second punic war at its hight. Rome and it surrounding allied city states would have lost 10,000s of men during several years. Is there any mention of the social impact of this loss in any sources?

 

In the way as in World War I there is the 'lost generation' were so many men were killed its seen as a whole generation of men being wiped out.

 

Is there any indication that birth rate was effected?

 

With so many men killed was there a shift in the social function of women such as seen in World War II?

 

Just a thought I had, that I've never seen covered in these or any other forums.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, the romans lost a considerable number of men. During the course of the Second Punic War Hannibal marched his army around Italy defeating every roman commander sent against him. At least twice roman armies were surrounded and slaughtered, Cannae being the most well known.

 

When you consider the numbers involved, it seems like a huge portion of roman manpower was eliminated, but notice that after each disaster, the romans were able to field more men. True, the romans were brought to a state of panic, but they had access to a large recruitment pool by virtue of their empire, which even then was of a considerable size. This was Rome's advantage. If they lost troops, they simply called for more. Carthage on the other hand was dependent on hired mercenaries to field a professional army, and there was a limited number of these men available on the market, so we have a situation where Rome is playing for time, keeping Hannibal busy, and fighting a war of attrition.

 

On a local level, there must have been parts of the roman world that suffered the lost generation syndrome, although it must be pointed out that families were larger then (a necessary survival characteristic of poor families) and it was unlikely that all the male children went to war. Rome as a whole did not reach that point.

 

I haven't seen any evidence of a fall in the birth rate.

 

The social function of women was unchanged. This was before the increasing leisure time of wealthier families gave women a measure of freedom (that also reduced the birth rate funny enough - they simply had too much fun and childbirth was beginning to be viewed as a serious impediment to their social life). Back in the Punic Wars, the role of women was more traditional, and life for romans generally was more austere than in the Empire anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lex Oppia (215 B.C) was an effect of Cannae. It was limiting womens clothes and jewelery, it was not proper to show luxury wile the state was at the brink of destruction/in crisis.

 

The law was annulled in 194 B.C.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes, the romans lost a considerable number of men. During the course of the Second Punic War Hannibal marched his army around Italy defeating every roman commander sent against him. At least twice roman armies were surrounded and slaughtered, Cannae being the most well known.

Right. According to Brunt, some 120,000 Romans and roughly equal numbers of Italians died in the wars with Hannibal.

 

On a local level, there must have been parts of the roman world that suffered the lost generation syndrome, although it must be pointed out that families were larger then (a necessary survival characteristic of poor families) and it was unlikely that all the male children went to war. Rome as a whole did not reach that point.

I think the main issue is that the young men who would have borne the brunt of the fighting and casualties would have been the hastati and principes, who were younger than the median age (30) at which Roman men married and had children. In terms of affecting Rome's agricultural and demographic output, the critical group is the men who would have served as triarii, who were heads of household. On this see Rosenstein's Rome at War (p 87):

Even during the height of the Hannibalic War, when Rome's manpower demands were at their peak, the burden on men 30 and older need not have increased beyond this point [i.e., more than half of eligible men serving]. In 212, Rome fielded twenty-three legions of citizens. Brunt estimates that these contained about 72,000 men or roughly 3200 each. These figures presumably include cavalry and so, if of a legion of 4500 men, including cavalry, the triarii composed 13.3%, then these would have made up about 426 men of a 3200-man legion and totaled 9798 in twenty-three legions. If all were thirty and older and the total citizen body stood at about 230,000, then the triarii serving in 212 represented about 13 percent of all Roman men between thirty and forty-six. If over the next eleven years of the war the senate kept an average of twenty legions of about 3200 men each in the field, then 93,720 man-years of service on the part of the triarii will have been necessary. Again, if each triarius served three years on average, then 31,240 men will have had to serve at some point during those eleven years, or about 41 percent all men between thirty and forty-six.

 

I haven't seen any evidence of a fall in the birth rate.

Most likely, the birth rate rose after Cannae. The calculations behind this aren't that complicated, so if you're interested, again see Rosenstein.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The ancient sources weren't into statistics or social history, but there were some discernable results of the heavy losses early in the Second Punic war that were revealed in military innovations such as the raising of two legions of freed slaves (the volones) in 216, the reduction of the property qualification and the enrollment of some former proletarii in the legions after 214. There were also signs of exhaustion among the allies as shown when 12 Latin colonies refused to provide their contingents in 209.

 

It is only speculation, but could the independence of the voters in initially rejecting the senates' proposal for war with Macedonia in 200, and the election of Flamininus to the consulship etc be interpreted as a "democratic" reaction on the part of the proletarii who had served in the legions and the fleet in the long war?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The raising of slave legions was due to Augustus if I remember, I don't recall any during the Punic Wars unless you have better sources on that, and as for being an innovation, it wasn't. It was desperate measures, something that the romans wouldn't ordinarily consider under any circumstance. I'm not entirely sure what the positive point might be other than extra recruits who were not supposed to join the legions at all. Notice that Augustus freed them all prior to service and made darn sure they were a second class legion afterward.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The raising of slave legions was due to Augustus if I remember, I don't recall any during the Punic Wars unless you have better sources on that, and as for being an innovation, it wasn't. It was desperate measures, something that the romans wouldn't ordinarily consider under any circumstance. I'm not entirely sure what the positive point might be other than extra recruits who were not supposed to join the legions at all. Notice that Augustus freed them all prior to service and made darn sure they were a second class legion afterward.

 

8000 slaves (volones) formed 2 legions after Cannae disaster, being promise freedom and franchise on discharge. Livy 22.57. Another 6000 were raised from criminals awaiting punishment and debtors, who were promised amnesty. Livy 23.14

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The raising of slave legions was due to Augustus if I remember, I don't recall any during the Punic Wars unless you have better sources on that, and as for being an innovation, it wasn't. It was desperate measures, something that the romans wouldn't ordinarily consider under any circumstance. I'm not entirely sure what the positive point might be other than extra recruits who were not supposed to join the legions at all. Notice that Augustus freed them all prior to service and made darn sure they were a second class legion afterward.

 

8000 slaves (volones) formed 2 legions after Cannae disaster, being promise freedom and franchise on discharge. Livy 22.57. Another 6000 were raised from criminals awaiting punishment and debtors, who were promised amnesty. Livy 23.14

 

The Romans also recieved mercenaries. After Trebia, King Hiero of Syracuse sent 1,000 archers and slingers, who were meant to counter the balearic slingers that served Hanniba. The Romans also had Cretan archers in their service. Some historians suggest that this might have been the first time that the Romans used mass archers in warfare.

 

The Romans also lowered the property prices for inclusion into the army from 11,000 asses to 4,000. This allowed the proletarii (who were usually exempt from military service) to join the legions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I remember correctly after Cannae the romans also resorted to human sacrifice.Something certainly not common in Rome and not done afterwards as far as I know. This always struck me more than anything that despair and fear must have been acendant. That is a big social impact and one for which they were not proud.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tales of human sacrifice are not so unusual. Augustus is said to have sacrificed three hundred of his enemies early on in his career, but Suetonius is a bit dubious about that and I suspect the story concerning the aftermath of Cannae must also be treated suspiciously. For the romans, human sacrifice was something barbaric. Whilst they were quite capable of executing thousands, they did so for reasons they considered expedient, not because they wanted to indulge in un-roman rites. Remember the horror the romans felt when they discovered the sacrifices in the teutoberg forest for instance. I would like to know the source on this, because I suspect this is a story designed to underline the desperation of Rome's plight. It might therefore be propaganda?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would like to know the source on this, because I suspect this is a story designed to underline the desperation of Rome's plight. It might therefore be propaganda?

Well I read it here Livy 22 "A Gaulish man and a Gaulish woman and a Greek man and a Greek woman were buried alive under the Forum Boarium. They were lowered into a stone vault, which had on a previous occasion also been polluted by human victims, a practice most repulsive to Roman feelings". a really good account of Cannae here. http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/txt/ah/Livy/Livy22.html and here http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roma...ellus*.html#3.4 but it seems they justified it as a directive from the Sibylline Books http://home.scarlet.be/mauk.haemers/colleg...n_sacrifice.htm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Two other social effects - not necessarily of Cannae but of the entire second Punic war. One was the extensive devastation of the economic base of south Italy, which took generations to recover, and considerably increased the creation of Latifundia and urbanization of the dispossessed. The other is more controversial, and points out that the Roman invasion of Greece was akin to a massive slave raid, and the tens of thousands of Greeks shipped to Italy would have compensated (albeit a generation later) for much of the lost manpower.

 

The immediate aftermath of Cannae, as I recall, was that the Romans became more Roman. The surviving consul (whom Roman historians regard as the culpable general) was not criticized, but thanked for not despairing of the Republic and returning to Rome. Young Scipio Africanus made all his colleagues swear to continue the good fight, and the survivors of Cannae - who had not done anything wrong apart from not getting killed - were sent to rot in disgrace in Sicily. A more long-term effect was that the Romans, who were very poor at forgiving and forgetting, came to the conclusion that 'Carthago delenda est' which they duly did in the third punic war.

 

Oh, and on the Carthaginian side, his victory stopped Hannibal getting any help from Carthage, as the city decided that their general was evidently doing well enough without it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Two other social effects - not necessarily of Cannae but of the entire second Punic war. One was the extensive devastation of the economic base of south Italy, which took generations to recover, and considerably increased the creation of Latifundia and urbanization of the dispossessed. The other is more controversial, and points out that the Roman invasion of Greece was akin to a massive slave raid, and the tens of thousands of Greeks shipped to Italy would have compensated (albeit a generation later) for much of the lost manpower.

 

The immediate aftermath of Cannae, as I recall, was that the Romans became more Roman. The surviving consul (whom Roman historians regard as the culpable general) was not criticized, but thanked for not despairing of the Republic and returning to Rome. Young Scipio Africanus made all his colleagues swear to continue the good fight, and the survivors of Cannae - who had not done anything wrong apart from not getting killed - were sent to rot in disgrace in Sicily. A more long-term effect was that the Romans, who were very poor at forgiving and forgetting, came to the conclusion that 'Carthago delenda est' which they duly did in the third punic war.

 

Oh, and on the Carthaginian side, his victory stopped Hannibal getting any help from Carthage, as the city decided that their general was evidently doing well enough without it.

Interestingly the two legions of unfortunate survivors of Cannae (one wonders at the "justice" in punishing the grunts, who did their duty rather than the officers who caused the disaster), after 12 years of exile in Sicily, were the core of the army Scipio took to Africa in 203 and defeated Hannibal at Zama.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The punishment of grunts is very necessary in roman eyes. To fail is to show lack of commitment. This is an extension of their modernesque training and drill. If you do something wrong, you get someone shouting at you, and its peeling potatoes, running round the drill square, or doing it all over again until you get it right. In terms of losing a battle, it carries with it connotations of cowardice or incompetence, a failure to fight at you best, and even though the commader may actually be at fault he cannot be singled out for punishment. Everyone failed, hence all must bear the shame and guilt.

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

×