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Old April 6th, 2014, 05:36 PM   #1
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The Achilles Heel of the Roman Empire/Army


According to Gibbon, one of Rome's greatest weakness is its agriculture and privitization of land to rich landowners in "lantifundias." He said that due to this Rome never was big on innovation. Armies can never be as huge like the Chinese(in the hundreds of thousands) or the Persians because the rich needed the farmers to cultivate the land and couldn't have the government stealing their manpower.(the reason why Medieval armies were even smaller.) And manpower is a main reason the Romans preffered allied forces.(Foederetii)

Rome(largely controlled by rich landowners than actual legit politicians) expanded for more land for their agricultural system. Think about it, when the Roman government grabs land it needs money. Who can buy the land? The rich. The more land conquered the more money for govenment and more resources for rich landowners. The Roman people often will never go where conquest doesn't suit them.

Why Rome never conquered Scotland, Germania, and Persia? Scotland's swamps never supported the Roman agricultural system. Neither did the Tygris and Eurphrates Rivers in Iraq. The reason why Hadrian stopped the Empire there.

PLEASE WATCH
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTQFaH1LWHg
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Old April 6th, 2014, 06:53 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Mrbsct View Post
According to Gibbon, one of Rome's greatest weakness is its agriculture and privitization of land to rich landowners in "lantifundias." He said that due to this Rome never was big on innovation. Armies can never be as huge like the Chinese(in the hundreds of thousands) or the Persians because the rich needed the farmers to cultivate the land and couldn't have the government stealing their manpower.(the reason why Medieval armies were even smaller.)

PLEASE WATCH
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTQFaH1LWHg
The biggest part of your hypothesis is that latifundia and the army were both competing for the same manpower. However, latifundium did not employ free labor, they were slave run plantations and were an innovation of the Phoenicians in Africa, southern Italy and Sicily that the Romans learned of after the 1st Punic War that they then adopted in force. As they were slave run, they were no threat to the state in competing for manpower, as the Roman army only allowed free born propertied citizens. What these latifundia did instead was destroy the Roman farming economy, as small level cash crop farming in Italy, the mainstay for the "middle classes" during the early and middle Republic, could not compete with the large plantations. This would be similar to small mom and pop brick and mortar stores competing with super stores like Walmart. Coupled with a culture that was continuously debt driven, it made a large class of unemployed who lost their lands to those same politicians and their rich compatriots. These unemployed filled the slums of Rome and created an economic strain on the govt, who were left to feed them with the grain dole. Agrarian laws by the Gracchi and Marius dealing with the poor would ultimately lead to the events that brought down the Republic. But I don't know if the same could be said about the later Roman Empire.

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Rome(largely controlled by rich landowners than actual legit politicians) expanded for more land for their agricultural system.
The richest landowners during the Roman Republic were the politicians themselves, as the richest and most powerful Romans were nearly all in the Senate, other than the occasional plutocrat like Titus Pomponius Atticus, who instead surrounded himself with senatorial friends. To qualify for the Senate, one must have a net worth exceeding 1 million sestertii and after being either selected or winning election as questor, they were barred in law from any business dealings not affiliated with land ownership. As such, senators were rich and powerful landowners, who controlled vast army of clients, who also controlled Rome's armies and the governing of its provinces through the elected positions involving imperium.

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And manpower is a main reason the Romans preffered allied forces.(Foederetii)
Cost as well, as auxiliaries cost less all around then citizen soldiers (state doesn't need to provide for retirement, less pay). Also, many foreign forces were less hesitant to enlist in an legion garrisoning a region hundreds of miles away from their home.

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Think about it, when the Roman government grabs land it needs money. Who can buy the land? The rich. The more land conquered the more money for govenment and more resources for rich landowners.
When the Roman government gets land, it doesn't need money, as everything on that land is now the property of the Roman government, controlled by the Senate. Land, people, natural resources, everything now belongs to the Roman government. Conquering a foreign people doesn't destroy their economy and force them into debt like it does now, instead it enlarged their coffers and treasury. Conquered land had to be dealt with so way as no one wants to waste arable land when it could be farmed. So naturally, it would be sold. And since poor people rarely have the cash or credit buy land, naturally it would be the rich that ended up owning the newly conquered land.

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The Roman people often will never go where conquest doesn't suit them...
Why Rome never conquered Scotland, Germania, and Persia? Scotland's swamps never supported the Roman agricultural system. Neither did the Tygris and Eurphrates Rivers in Iraq. The reason why Hadrian stopped the Empire there.
I can't speak about Scotland and Germany, though both are known to have very arable regions and are rich in places with natural resources and precious metals, but it is widely known that the Tigris and Euphrates River valley, especially during the classical period when the extensive irrigation systems still existed, was one of the most fertile areas in the world, let alone the middle east. It most certainly would have been capable of being exploited by cheap slave run labor had the Romans captured it and been able to occupy it.

Last edited by attila006; April 6th, 2014 at 07:39 PM.
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Old April 6th, 2014, 07:00 PM   #3
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I can't speak about Scotland and Germany, though both are known to have very arable regions and are rich in places with natural resources and previous metals, but it is widely known that the Tigris and Euphrates River valley, especially during the classical period when the extensive irrigation systems still existed, was one of the most fertile areas in the world, let alone the middle east. It most certainly would have been capable of being exploited by cheap slave run labor had the Romans captured it and been able to occupy it.
According the video the Romans due to the system never went forth on advanced agricultral systems, so never exploited the Tigris and Euphrates river.
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Old April 6th, 2014, 07:15 PM   #4

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Latifundia used largely slave-labor. The Late-Imperial army used manpower largely from outside the Empire.

My issues with your hypothesis.
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Old April 6th, 2014, 07:37 PM   #5
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Why Rome never conquered Scotland, Germania, and Persia? Scotland's swamps never supported the Roman agricultural system. Neither did the Tygris and Eurphrates Rivers in Iraq. The reason why Hadrian stopped the Empire there.
Rome were not keen on Scotland and Germania because they found it tough coping with the wild, warlike native tribes who were most at home fighting in their own thickly forested terrain. Persia was too strong for Rome to fight and win comfortably. As for the Tigris and Euphrates, you gotta be kidding. The Land between Two Rivers (i.e. Meso-po-Tam-Ia) was fertile enough to hv made the home of not one but several of the world's oldest civilisations.
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Old April 6th, 2014, 08:10 PM   #6
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Rome were not keen on Scotland and Germania because they found it tough coping with the wild, warlike native tribes who were most at home fighting in their own thickly forested terrain.
Forests of Scotland?
Germania, maybye. Scotland no. The land was unsuitable.

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Persia was too strong for Rome to fight and win comfortably.
What battle? The Romans just marched to the capital and stopped.

Oversimplistic military theories.

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As for the Tigris and Euphrates, you gotta be kidding. The Land between Two Rivers (i.e. Meso-po-Tam-Ia) was fertile enough to hv made the home of not one but several of the world's oldest civilisations.
And you do realize the funds and ability to man such a terrain feature? Again the Romans were not used to the agricultral system of the middle east.
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Old April 6th, 2014, 10:01 PM   #7

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Forests of Scotland?
Germania, maybye. Scotland no. The land was unsuitable.
Scotland was once heavily forested.

According to Trees for Life - Deforestation

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By the time the Romans arrived, over half of our native forests had been lost. Some historical accounts suggest that the forest was a huge unbroken blanket of woodland at the time, although this is a myth, as it had in fact already been hugely depleted, and was never really a solid 'blanket' in the first place.
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Old April 6th, 2014, 10:14 PM   #8
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What battle?
Carrhae, Misiche, Edessa, Barbalissos, to name a few.

Julian won at Ctesiphon against Shapur II, but was not strong enough to take it. He had to retreat along the Tigris. He was harried and killed in a skrmish by fighters of Shapur II. The Persians trapped the Romans on the Euphrates' eastern bank. Julian's successor Jovian made a peace deal with Shapur II, giving away major concessions in return for safe passage for Romans out of Persia.

Last edited by Dreamhunter; April 6th, 2014 at 10:34 PM.
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Old April 6th, 2014, 10:19 PM   #9
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Carrhae, Misiche, Edessa, to name a few ...
I was talking Hadrian era lol.
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Old April 6th, 2014, 10:30 PM   #10

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A part that I have visited the last wide forests in Scotland [in Argyle, Argyll today] ...

As usual, thinking to the "weak point" of the Roman Empire, scholars create imaginative scenarios to explain why it fell down.

Well, the Roman system allowed the Urbe to conquer substantially all Western and Middle Eastern world, with some parts of Africa too ... Not a bad result for that historical context!

So, such a reasoning can be valid to explain why the Roman Empire wasn't able to resist to the pressure coming from North-East [the so called "Barbarian invasions"], not to explain why it didn't expand more.

The Roman Empire, for that historical moment was simply the greatest administrative system possible.

The comparison with the Chinese Empire can be useful to understand this: which was the extension of the Chinese Empire? Compare it with the geographical extension of the Roman one and then wonder why, if the Chinese Empire was so better about military manpower, the Eastern Empire wasn't well wider ... [let's take the Chinese Empire during Han dynasty, about 206 BCE - 220 CE, as factor of comparison].
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