How much it costs to raise an army in Ancient times?

May 2019
393
Earth
Non-landowning troops weren't equipped with anything because there were no non-landowning troops. They were known in Rome as the capite censi ("head count") because they had no property to be counted during the census. If a citizen didn't have a certain level of property, they were not permitted to enlist in the legions.
I see. So there was no equivalent in those societies to the medieval peasant levy?
 
May 2019
393
Earth
No. You need feudalism for that.
I wasn't thinking about literal feudal levies, just an ancient equivalent to cheap units recruited from among the lower orders. Feudal levies or Soviet conscript troops, whatever comparison you want to make...
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,153
Australia
That didn't happen in Rome until the capite censi started to be enrolled in the legions.
 
May 2019
393
Earth
That didn't happen in Rome until the capite censi started to be enrolled in the legions.
So when did that happen? And when it did, how was it done? Were those capite censi paid wages? Was their equipment provided by the military, and if so was the cost taken out of their wages? Was there a difference in how they were kitted out compared to other legionnaires?
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
I see. So there was no equivalent in those societies to the medieval peasant levy?
Medieval "peasant levies" worked the same way: you were required to have a certain minimal amount of functional military gear, depending on your wealth. That might have been shield and spear and sidearm of some sort. by the 11th century we see that the lowest requirements are for gambeson, spear, and helmet. But the same rule applied, if you could NOT afford the lowest level of gear, you were not eligible for military service. The whole idea of mobs of untrained farmers in rags with pitchforks is a myth.

Matthew
 
May 2019
393
Earth
Medieval "peasant levies" worked the same way: you were required to have a certain minimal amount of functional military gear, depending on your wealth. That might have been shield and spear and sidearm of some sort. by the 11th century we see that the lowest requirements are for gambeson, spear, and helmet. But the same rule applied, if you could NOT afford the lowest level of gear, you were not eligible for military service. The whole idea of mobs of untrained farmers in rags with pitchforks is a myth.

Matthew
My point is that feudal levies were recruited from among non-landowners. Tenant farmers and other peasant classes were liable for military service. Dan Howard said there were no troops in Roman society from the non-landowning classes, so I was curious if there were any ancient equivalents to troops that were drawn from non-landholding classes and organized into (comparatively cheap) units.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
So when did that happen? And when it did, how was it done? Were those capite censi paid wages? Was their equipment provided by the military, and if so was the cost taken out of their wages? Was there a difference in how they were kitted out compared to other legionnaires?
Gaius Marius gets most of the credit for this, just before 100 BC, though it had happened already in a few emergency situations. Marius was filthy rich, and equipped headcount recruits at his own expense. There is very little information on how they were equipped, but my guess is that they had the same shield, helmet, sword, and javelins as legionaries had long carried, but probably not body armor. Up to that point, most legionaries had worn a little round or square pectoral plate, about 9" across, while only the wealthiest had worn mail (or scale armor). We do tend to see mail becoming more common over the next few generations, but it is pretty clear that even under Augustus, not all legionaries had body armor. That's okay, it's no disgrace and not suicidal! We just have to be careful about our assumptions.

Matthew
 
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Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
My point is that feudal levies were recruited from among non-landowners. Tenant farmers and other peasant classes were liable for military service. Dan Howard said there were no troops in Roman society from the non-landowning classes, so I was curious if there were any ancient equivalents to troops that were drawn from non-landholding classes and organized into (comparatively cheap) units.
Okay, gotcha. Mind you, it's been too long since I read up on medieval things! But the impression I get is that even those minimal standards may have been too high for a lot of peasant farmers. Many of those levies may have been from towns and cities, where there was a bit more money around in general. And by that point, it was more common for a wise commander to hire professional mercenaries for his infantry (and even some of his cavalry) to supplement his feudal noble cavalry, and use levies only for laborers or rear-echelon support troops. But overall, you get a similar situation, masses of poor farmers or laborers with no training, who will only make good troops if you recruit them as volunteers, pay them, equip them, and train them up hard for a few months. Most of the fighting is going to be done by a very small percentage of your population, nobility or "landed gentry" backed by professionals like household troops or mercenaries, until you get into a full-time standing state army.

Matthew
 
May 2019
393
Earth
Many of those levies may have been from towns and cities, where there was a bit more money around in general.
They could be, but afaik it was not unheard of for rural nobles or knights to bring a retinue of men with them when they reported for duty, and these men could be free tenants of that lord. Not the bonded dung-farmers that, as you said, are often stereotyped as medieval infantry, but still not landowners in their own right.

And by that point, it was more common for a wise commander to hire professional mercenaries for his infantry (and even some of his cavalry) to supplement his feudal noble cavalry, and use levies only for laborers or rear-echelon support troops.
Sure, I never tried to say that levies were going to be used as effective front-line professionals. But they did have the benefit of not being nearly as expensive to maintain as a band of knights or professional mercenaries. As you pointed out, they were often required to bring their own gear (or at least gear that was provided by their landlord) and were only raised for a limited period of time. Since this thread was about the cost of armies in ancient times, I got curious what some of the cheaper alternatives to professional legions might have been back then...