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After serving in Spain as proconsul in 61 BC, Caesar returned to Rome in 60 BC, ambitious for the consulate. Against senatorial opposition he achieved a brilliant stroke--he organized a coalition, known as the First Triumvirate, made up of Pompey, commander in chief of the army; Marcus Licinius Crassus, the wealthiest man in Rome; and Caesar himself. In 59 BC as consul, he secured the passage of an agrarian law providing Campanian lands for 20,000 poor citizens and veterans, in spite of the opposition from his senatorial colleagues, and at the same time won the support of the wealthy equites by getting a reduction for them in their tax contracts in Asia. This made him the guiding power in a coalition between people and plutocrats.
He was assigned the rule of Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul and Illyricum with four legions for five years from 58 BC to 54 BC. The differences between Pompey and Crassus grew, and Caesar again moved (56 BC) to patch up matters, arriving at an agreement that both Pompey and Crassus should be consuls in 55 BC and that their proconsular provinces should be Spain and Syria, respectively. From this arrangement he drew an extension of his command in Gaul to 49 BC. In the years 58 BC to 49 BC he firmly established his reputation during the Gallic Wars.
In 55 BC, Caesar made explorations into Britain, and in 54 BC he defeated the Britons, led by Cassivellaunus. Caesar met his most serious opposition in Gaul from Vercingetorix, whom he defeated in Alesia in 52 BC--essentially ending the wars and reducing all Gaul to fall under Roman control. These campaigns proved him one of the greatest commanders of all time, wherein he revealed his consummate military genius, characterized by quick, sure judgment and indomitable energy. The campaigns also developed the personal devotion of the legions to Caesar. His personal interest in the men (he is reputed to have known them all by name) and his willingness to undergo every hardship made him the idol of the army--a significant element in his later career.
In 54 BC Caesar's daughter Julia, Pompey's wife since 59 BC, passed away, and shortly after, Crassus died in Parthia, essentially ending the First Triumvirate and setting the stage for a jealous Pompey assault agains the returning hero of Caesar. After the First Triumvirate ended, the senate supported Pompey, who became sole consul in 52 BC and Caesar, who had become a military hero and the champion of the people, was feared throughout the senate. The senate feared him and wanted him to give up his army, knowing that he hoped to be consul when his term in Gaul expired. To dissolve their fears, Caesar wrote the senate (50 BC) that he would give up his army if Pompey would give up his--unfortunately this failed to clam their fears, and senate was infuriated and demanded that Caesar disband his army at once or be declared an enemy of the people.
Caesar saw the fallacy of their demand, as he was entitled to keep his army until his Gallic term expired, and after Marc Antony and Cassius Longinus were expelled from the senate for attempting to veto the bill--and both were quick to flee to Ceasar and advise him of the situation. Caesar assembled his army and asked for the support of the soldiers against the senate, a request that the army wholeheartedly agreed with. On January 19, 49 BC, Caesar declared "Iacta alea est" [the die is cast], crossed the Rubicon (the stream bounding his province), and entered Italy. The Civil War began.
Caesar's march to Rome was a triumphal progress--the senate fled to Capua, Caesar proceeded to Brundisium and besieged Pompey until Pompey fled (March 49 BC) with his fleet to Greece, and then turned towards Spain, which Pompey's legates were holding, and pacified that province. Returning to Rome, Caesar held the dictatorship for 11 days in early December, long enough to get himself elected consul, and then set out for Greece in pursuit of Pompey.
Caesar collected at Brundisium a small army and fleet--so small, in fact, that Bibulus, waiting with a much larger fleet to prevent his crossing to Epirus, did not yet bother to watch him--and slipped across the strait. After first encountering Pompey at Dyrrhachium, who enjoyed superior numbers, Caesar fell back to a more strategic location, Pharsylus. Pompey attacked Caesar and was routed (48 BC) and then fled to Egypt, where he was killed.
Caesar, having pursued Pompey to Egypt, remained there for some time, living with Cleopatra, taking her part against her brother and husband Ptolemy XII, and establishing her firmly on the throne. From Egypt he went to Syria and Pontus, where he defeated (47 BC) Pharnaces II with such ease that he reported his victory in the words "veni, vidi, vici" [I came, I saw, I conquered]. In the same year he personally put down a mutiny of his army and then set out for Africa, where the followers of Pompey had fled, to end their opposition led by Cato.
On his return to Rome, where he was now tribune of the people and dictator, he had four great triumphs and pardoned all his enemies. He set about reforming the living conditions of the people by passing agrarian laws and by improving housing accommodations. He also drew up the elaborate plans (which Augustus later used) for consolidating the empire and securely establishing its defense. In the winter of 46 BC-45 BC he was in Spain putting down the last of the senatorial party under Gaeus Pompeius, the son of Pompey. He returned to Rome in Sept., 45 B.C., and was elected to his fifth consulship in 44 BC. In the same year he became dictator for life and set about planning a campaign against Parthia, the only real menace to Rome's borders.
His dictatorial powers had, however, aroused great resentment, and he was bitterly criticized by his enemies, who accused him of all manner of vices. When a conspiracy was formed against him, however, it was made up of his friends and protégés, among them Cimber, Casca, Cassius, and Marcus Junius Brutus. On March 15, 44 BC, he was stabbed to death in the senate house. His will left everything to his 18-year-old grandnephew Octavian (later Augustus).
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Augustus ascended to the throne as the sole ruler of Rome, and after establishing himself as the heir apparent, by hunting down and killing all the implicated accomplices to Julius Caesar's murder, he found himself with a large army and no further enemies to pursue. As such, the great Roman army was slowly reduced in the first organized 'downsizing' (to borrow the modern term)--and it began in 30 BC. He needed a way to reduce his 300,000 strong force without merely dismissing them (to avoid a new threat via revolt), and did so by first reducing the number of active legions from 50 to 25, and made their service an expense of the state. In order to keep them from trouble and to establish security on the Empire frontiers, most of these legions were posted on the borders--including Sicily and Gaul. Next, using his own wealth, he began colonizing throughout the Empire by settling soldiers into new areas, and paid the towns and landlords fairly for the land he gave to the veteran soldiers (he claimed to have created 28 new settlements of veterans (of the Civil Wars) within Italy alone. For the defense of Rome itself he established the cohortes vigilens, cohortes urbanae, and the Praetorian Guard, and through this establishment of a stripped down force abroad, and a close knit mostly un-militaristic force at home, he changed the role of the Roman Empire army from that of aggressor to that of a strategic defense--a change that lasted for over 200 years.
Entering the third century, the Roman Empire under Hadrian continued its expansion of the Augustus emplaced defense of the Empire, rather than continual expansion. Thus, the Roman grand strategy became a passive one, based upon the simple concept of perimeter defense. This perimeter defense consisted of legions stationed within fortresses on the Roman frontier, and some were even accompanied by large stone walls (the most famous being that of Hadrian's Wall in North England). Another factor that made it easy for the Romans to adopt this type of perimeter defense strategy was the reputation of it's army, that is, the Roman army was so tactically superior to it's enemies, that it was in itself the biggest deterrent to would-be attackers, not necessarily the fortresses and walls placed along the perimeter.
Another advantage of this strategy was the low cost of army/troop maintenance; in fact, the Roman Empire at one point defended an empire of 50,000,000 people with an army of merely 300,000. This low cost and small army was directly related to the fact that Rome did not employ a central reserve in order to protect the internal empire should the outside perimeter collapse. It was instead based on a defensive system of networked roads and rivers, through which, the small special units tasked with interior defense could quickly travel to reinforce a troubled area. Thus, all available manpower could be brought forth along the main line of battle and this further enhanced the fighting spirit of the troops already engaged on the front line--they knew that they had a strong and dedicated army coming to reinforce them, and they fought harder because of it.
However, despite that at the time this was a tried and true strategy and use of military manpower, it must be understood that a grand strategy of a nation consists of more than just it's military--but also it's politics, diplomacy, economics and, sometimes, religion. It was these latter reasons that soon brought about the extinction of the perimeter defense concept--civil war and internal rebellion soon caused the diversions of legions from the front lines to internal skirmishes; and therefore, the perimeter defense was no longer effective.
In 284, Diocletian had risen through the ranks, and seized enough power to claim his right to rule. After he had reclaimed the frontiers that had been lost before his reign, Diocletian increased the size of his army (to about 400,000 to 500,000), and introduced a heavy reliance on the skirmisher arms and on cavalry. He introduced specialized units to the Roman military; cavalry lancers, Companions, shock troops, crack infantry, and imperial bodyguards soon found their way into the Roman ranks.
Diocletian continued to expand upon the strategy of perimeter defense; however, he adopted a separate approach. He was a firm believer in developing roads and forts, through which he could better maneuver his armies and while the reinforcing army was enroute, the forts could provide longevity (via protection) to the soldiers already engaged on the front line. He also divided the frontiers into four military theaters of operation--each with its own Augustus in command: they were the tetrarchs; Trier, Milan, Nicomedia, and Sirmium, and they provided stricter supervision than any frontier army had been provided before. As the high demand of road improvements and the need for a larger army increased, so too, did the cost of maintaining an increased army. Additionally, as the army began expanding, the willingness of new recruits to join the army, only to be stationed further from home by the expanded borders of the new empire, decreased, and consequently, Diocletian found it necessary to introduce annual conscription to the world.
Up to this point, the Roman grand strategy of perimeter defense had not really changed, only the way in which it was executed had altered. However, after Diocletian' death, the new emperor, Constantine the Great, drastically and completely overhauled the grand strategy. Constantine introduced a large mobile army (probably 100,000 or more) by pulling resources from the frontier armies to collaborate one large centrally located army. His new strategy was defense-in-depth, and relied heavily on a central mobile army.
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Defense-in-depth was based upon the assumption that the outer frontiers could not be made impenetrable, and even if they could at what cost? And since they would eventually be penetrated, a small reserve army that traveled to the point of attack would be insufficient should an attacking enemy penetrate more than one frontier area at one time. Such an invasion could only be stopped if the frontier defense was realigned with strong forts that were built in a deep band, that is, staggered not only along the front lines, but behind one another to form a "running" defense, with the strong mobile army to respond (by region) to any attack.
These in-depth fortresses were, in the beginning, realistic and valuable. That is, they continuously thwarted the Barbarians (who still lacked any grasp of siege operations) from extended attacks upon forts (for fear of attack by the mobile army), they provided a logistical support center, in which supplies could be made available to the Roman army while they were denied to an attacking force, and they were invaluable to intelligence operations and emergency protection. However, as time passes, this new strategy of reliance on the mobile force took its toll upon the standard Roman militia: the infantryman. Because the majority of funding and training and recruitment efforts focused on the "elite" forces, and the traditional Roman infantry tactics, harsh discipline and constant training, simply disappeared, slowly deteriorating the idea of Roman military superiority.
Constantine also introduced and heavily favored German troops, which led to the eventual barbarization of the Roman army. Additionally, he was responsible for reducing the size of the legion from 5,000 to 1,000 men, and he disbanded the old Praetorian Guard, only to replace them with the specialized imperial guards of cavalry regiments--although most of these new guards were German, as well. The overall effect of all of Constantine's labor was, unfortunately, the foundation of the Roman army's decline. That is, although under Constantine the army fought with the same spirit and discipline as previous armies, the limited use of the frontier armies led to their gradual decline through both military efficiency and its esprit de corps.
To reiterate, the defense-in-depth approach was based upon the assumption that the outer frontiers could not be made impenetrable, and, since they would eventually be penetrated, a small reserve army that traveled to the point of attack would be insufficient should an attacking enemy penetrate more than one frontier area at one time. Such an invasion could only be stopped if the frontier defense was realigned with strong forts that were built in a deep band, that is, staggered not only along the front lines, but behind one another to form a "running" defense, with the strong mobile army to respond (by region) to any attack.
As also was previously discussed, the ultimate conclusion of the defense-in-depth was the deterioration of the Roman Infantry, wherein problems seemed to stem systematically from the very strategy that was to uphold the Empire. The limitanei (frontier troops), were no longer expected to defeat the enemy, and before long, they no longer wished to even engage the enemy. All of the training and expectations of actually defeating the enemy fell on the shoulders of the mobile army, thus, reducing Rome's overall combat manpower effectiveness. This is not to say that these effects were felt instantaneously upon the Empire, in fact, the defeats in Persia and at Adrianople were more from leadership failure than from lack of training or fighting spirit--but, nonetheless, the seeds had been planted from the conception of the defense-in-depth strategy.
The limitanei actually maintained some resemblance to their predecessors although up into the fifth century, at which point, they dissolved into a peasant militia, mostly due to the 'federation' of barbarian forces. So, if the limitanei were still somewhat effective, how did the defense-in-depth help cause the fall of the Roman Empire? Simply, it was not the overall concept of the strategy that failed, but rather, the execution of the strategy. For example, the drastic decline in the emperor's ability to conjure and commit military forces to the frontiers, and once committed, the lack of trained, disciplined, and shock (via psychologically--the Roman armies had been consistently defeated in skirmishes between the late third and early firth centuries) infantry made the overall basics of the defense-in-depth null and void. The strategy was also further damaged by the internal feuding of the generals for power, which divided even further the amount of troops that could be relied upon as the "on-call" grand mobile army of Constantine.
It was, in my opinion, the policy of defense-in-depth that led to the eventual "barbarization" of the Roman army. First, from its conception, Constantine was emphatic on using Germanic troops, especially as his "special" or elite troop--which instantaneously detracted from his own army's training and discipline. However, the powder-keg event that allowed this to happen came through Theodosius's (and later Gratian's) agreement with the Visigoths to settle within the borders of the Roman frontier, and eventually graduated to 'federate' status. This simple agreement, that the Roman settlers would help provide food, housing, clothing to the Visigoths in exchange for their service as fighting allies, was the beginning of the end for all Roman army tradition and discipline.
Books Referenced in addition to required readings:
Ferrill, Arther. The Fall of the Roman Empire. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 1986.
Keppie, Lawrence. The Making of the Roman Army: From Republic to Empire. London: Routledge Limited, 1998.
after serving spain proconsul caesar returned rome ambitious consulate against senatorial opposition achieved brilliant stroke organized coalition known first triumvirate made pompey commander chief army marcus licinius crassus wealthiest rome caesar himself consul secured passage agrarian providing campanian lands poor citizens veterans spite opposition from senatorial colleagues same time support wealthy equites getting reduction them their contracts asia this made guiding power coalition between people plutocrats assigned rule cisalpine transalpine gaul illyricum with four legions five years from differences between pompey crassus grew caesar again moved patch matters arriving agreement that both pompey crassus should consuls that their proconsular provinces should spain syria respectively from this arrangement drew extension command gaul years firmly established reputation during gallic wars made explorations into britain defeated britons cassivellaunus most serious opposition gaul vercingetorix whom defeated alesia essentially ending wars reducing fall under roman control these campaigns proved greatest commanders time wherein revealed consummate military genius characterized quick sure judgment indomitable energy campaigns also developed personal devotion legions personal interest reputed have known them name willingness undergo every hardship idol army significant element later career daughter julia wife since passed away shortly after died parthia essentially ending first triumvirate setting stage jealous assault agains returning hero after first triumvirate ended senate supported became sole consul become military hero champion people feared throughout senate senate feared wanted give army knowing that hoped consul when term expired dissolve their fears wrote would give would give unfortunately this failed clam fears infuriated demanded disband once declared enemy people fallacy demand entitled keep until gallic term expired marc antony cassius longinus were expelled attempting veto bill both were quick flee ceasar advise situation assembled asked support soldiers against request wholeheartedly agreed with january declared iacta alea cast crossed rubicon stream bounding province entered italy civil began march rome triumphal progress fled capua proceeded brundisium besieged until fled march with fleet greece then turned towards spain which legates were holding pacified province returning held dictatorship days early december long enough himself elected then greece pursuit collected brundisium small fleet small fact bibulus waiting much larger fleet prevent crossing epirus bother watch slipped across strait encountering dyrrhachium enjoyed superior numbers fell back more strategic location pharsylus attacked routed then fled egypt where killed having pursued egypt remained there some time living cleopatra taking part against brother husband ptolemy establishing firmly throne egypt went syria pontus where defeated pharnaces such ease reported victory words veni vidi vici came conquered same year personally down mutiny africa where followers cato return tribune dictator four great triumphs pardoned enemies about reforming living conditions passing agrarian laws improving housing accommodations also drew elaborate plans which augustus later used consolidating empire securely establishing defense winter putting down last senatorial party under gaeus pompeius returned sept elected fifth consulship same year became dictator life about planning campaign parthia only real menace borders dictatorial powers however aroused great resentment bitterly criticized enemies accused manner vices when conspiracy formed however friends prot among them cimber casca cassius marcus junius brutus march stabbed death house will left everything year grandnephew octavian later augustus augustus ascended throne sole ruler establishing himself heir apparent hunting down killing implicated accomplices julius murder found large further enemies pursue such great roman slowly reduced organized downsizing borrow modern term began needed reduce strong force without merely dismissing avoid threat revolt reducing number active legions service expense state order keep trouble establish security empire frontiers most these posted borders including sicily next using wealth began colonizing throughout empire settling soldiers into areas paid towns landlords fairly land gave veteran soldiers claimed have created settlements veterans civil wars within italy alone defense itself established cohortes vigilens cohortes urbanae praetorian guard through establishment stripped force abroad close knit mostly militaristic force home changed role roman aggressor strategic defense change lasted over years entering third century under hadrian continued expansion emplaced rather than continual expansion thus grand strategy became passive based upon simple concept perimeter perimeter consisted stationed within fortresses frontier some even accompanied large stone walls most famous being hadrian wall north england another factor easy romans adopt type perimeter strategy reputation tactically superior itself biggest deterrent would attackers necessarily fortresses walls placed along another advantage strategy cost troop maintenance fact point defended merely cost small directly related fact employ central reserve order protect internal should outside collapse instead based defensive system networked roads rivers through which special units tasked interior could quickly travel reinforce troubled area thus available manpower could brought forth along main line battle further enhanced fighting spirit troops already engaged front line they knew they strong dedicated coming reinforce they fought harder because however despite tried true military manpower must understood grand nation consists more than just also politics diplomacy economics sometimes religion these latter reasons soon brought about extinction concept civil internal rebellion soon caused diversions front lines internal skirmishes therefore longer effective diocletian risen through ranks seized enough power claim right rule reclaimed frontiers been lost before reign diocletian increased size introduced heavy reliance skirmisher arms cavalry introduced specialized units cavalry lancers companions shock troops crack infantry imperial bodyguards soon found into ranks diocletian continued expand upon adopted separate approach firm believer developing roads forts could better maneuver armies while reinforcing enroute forts provide longevity protection already engaged front line divided frontiers four theaters operation each command tetrarchs trier milan nicomedia sirmium provided stricter supervision than frontier been provided before high demand road improvements need larger increased cost maintaining increased additionally expanding willingness recruits join only stationed further home expanded borders decreased consequently found necessary introduce annual conscription world point grand really changed only executed altered death emperor constantine drastically completely overhauled constantine introduced large mobile probably more pulling resources frontier armies collaborate centrally located depth relied heavily central mobile depth based upon assumption outer impenetrable even what since eventually penetrated reserve traveled point attack insufficient attacking enemy penetrate area such invasion stopped realigned strong forts built deep band staggered along lines behind another form running mobile respond region attack depth fortresses beginning realistic valuable continuously thwarted barbarians still lacked grasp siege operations extended attacks fear attack provided logistical support center supplies available while denied attacking invaluable intelligence operations emergency protection passes reliance took toll standard militia infantryman because majority funding training recruitment efforts focused elite forces traditional infantry tactics harsh discipline constant training simply disappeared slowly deteriorating idea superiority constantine heavily favored german troops eventual barbarization additionally responsible reducing size legion disbanded praetorian guard replace specialized imperial guards cavalry regiments although guards german well overall effect labor unfortunately foundation decline although fought spirit discipline previous armies limited gradual decline both efficiency esprit corps reiterate approach assumption outer impenetrable since eventually penetrated reserve traveled insufficient attacking enemy penetrate area invasion stopped realigned built deep band staggered lines behind form running respond region previously discussed ultimate conclusion deterioration infantry wherein problems seemed stem systematically very uphold limitanei longer expected defeat before long longer wished even engage training expectations actually defeating fell shoulders thus overall combat manpower effectiveness effects felt instantaneously defeats persia adrianople leadership failure lack fighting spirit nonetheless seeds been planted conception limitanei actually maintained some resemblance predecessors although fifth century dissolved peasant militia mostly federation barbarian forces limitanei still somewhat effective help cause fall simply overall concept failed rather execution example drastic decline emperor ability conjure commit forces once committed lack trained disciplined shock psychologically consistently skirmishes between late third early firth centuries basics null void damaged feuding generals power divided amount relied call opinion policy eventual barbarization conception emphatic using germanic especially special elite troop instantaneously detracted discipline powder event allowed happen came theodosius gratian agreement visigoths settle within eventually graduated federate status simple agreement settlers help provide food housing clothing visigoths exchange service fighting allies beginning tradition developed policy assigning land near naturally included barbarian well given land already achieved federate status many germans qualms serving true barbarianism germans used scale german problem compounded increasingly victorious gothic allies those allies demanding rewards independence drill organization independence quickly fueled dissention among long exposure barbarian qualities centuries ruins become little itself barbarianized lost tactical superiority fell onrush barbarianism page ferrill books referenced addition required readings ferrill arther fall york thames hudson keppie lawrence making republic london routledge limited
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