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

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,959
Blachernai
That is a nonsense number. Nobody even knows how much a talent weighed. Estimates today range from 30 to 50 kg. At today's spot price a talent of silver would be anywhere from $17,000 to $28,000. And that doesn't mean anything because precious metal was valued differently than it is today. Better to compare it to a day's wages. During the Pelopponesian war, a talent was valued at the amount needed to pay a trireme crew for a month.
We have some idea about ancient Greek talents: "A talent was always worth 60 minai regardless of their weight. The silver coin-talents from Aegina, Euboea, Attica and probably Corinth, too, consistently weighed 26,196 kg. Since talents for coins and commerce were of the same weight on Aegina, Euboea and in Corinth, the bronze or lead weights used for commerce must have weighed 26,196 kg as well. Only in Athens during the historical period, the weight of coin and commercial talents was not identical, since a coin mina was worth 100 drachmai but a commercial mina 105, 138 and 150 drachmai. As a result of this calculation, talents weighed 27,50 kg (2nd half of the 6th cent. to 430/420 BC), 28,81 kg (430/420 to the 3rd cent. BC), 36,15 kg (3rd cent. to c. 146 BC) and 39,29 kg (c. 146 to c. 86 BC). " - Konrad Hitzl, "Talent," Brill's New Pauly (2007-2011).
 
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Mar 2015
923
Europe
This only happened on a few occaisions where the Romans were concerned.

Slaves were recruited once during the Hannabalic War, once by Augustus during the civil wars,
Yes, but between them, Pompeius Magnus raised cavalry of his slaves when retreating from Caesar. Possibly other occasions?
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,357
The Romans would not have recruited slaves lightly. They did not have the social qualifications to serve Rome as 'warriors'. Nor for that matter were they equal as free people after manumission having been stained with slavery. To the Romans, slavery meant a loss of free will and self determination - the essential qualifiers of mankind as superior to nature.
 
Oct 2011
551
Croatia
Ah, yes, household troops, such as huscarls early on, or liveried retainers later. Those count as professionals, trained and in more or less permanent employ, but right, not landowners. They might be compared to ancient warbands, such as ran around with Romulus and Remus, but for most of Greek and Roman history I get the impression that such groups were basically illegal. They're a very non-centralized thing, not the kind of personal power base you want in a centralized city-state or nation/empire.
In antiquity maybe (and yeah, this section is called "ancient history"), but in Middle Ages Roman generals were often running around with household troops. These were only bodyguard though, and up until Komnenian times at the very earliest no single landowner or group of landowners was powerful enough to resist the imperial military with their own forces - they had to join the army and achieve high rank (such as strategos of a theme) to do anything, as significant power was only obtainable through state apparatus. But they did exist, almost as long as the opposite (500 AD to 1453 AD at least). I am not sure when exactly the practice started - earliest mention I know of is Belisarius and Narses, but it could have been done earlier than that.

The Romans always used a lot of allied troops, for starters. Way back in the Republic, half the army was allied or "Socii", supplied by Italian cities/tribes under Roman rule. But they were raised, equipped, and trained exactly in the Roman style. Beyond that, there would be troops supplied by other allied states outside of Italy--I'm assuming either their ruler was required to do this at his own expense by treaty, or it was a short-term deal of some sort, with money changing hands in some way. (Maybe "I'll send troops, but you have to pay and feed them", etc.?) Under Augustus, many of these groups were regularized as auxiliaries, though by that point they don't seem to have been a lot cheaper than legions. But even after that, Imperial armies often included contingents of foreign troops.

BUT, still no sweeping masses of untrained bums with sticks, ha! You really do need to put some money and effort into an army, even the least of your troops. Or your defeat will cost you a LOT more...

Matthew
To add to this, many of these would have joined under their own leaders and fight in their native way (though how much allowance Romans gave for that varied), as the point was often to recruit people skilled in ways of fighting that were not widespread or even known among native Roman troops. E.g. Balearic slingers, Hunnish cavalry, later also Turkic cavalry, etc.
 
Mar 2018
984
UK
To add to this, many of these would have joined under their own leaders and fight in their native way (though how much allowance Romans gave for that varied), as the point was often to recruit people skilled in ways of fighting that were not widespread or even known among native Roman troops. E.g. Balearic slingers, Hunnish cavalry, later also Turkic cavalry, etc.
I believe that's later, from allies outside of Italy. Originally, the Latin (and then Italic) allies thought exactly as Romans IIRC. This system ended with the social wars and those communities being given Roman citizenship. I don't know whether they supplied their own officers or not however.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,357
In antiquity maybe (and yeah, this section is called "ancient history"), but in Middle Ages Roman generals were often running around with household troops. These were only bodyguard though, and up until Komnenian times at the very earliest no single landowner or group of landowners was powerful enough to resist the imperial military with their own forces - they had to join the army and achieve high rank (such as strategos of a theme) to do anything, as significant power was only obtainable through state apparatus. But they did exist, almost as long as the opposite (500 AD to 1453 AD at least). I am not sure when exactly the practice started - earliest mention I know of is Belisarius and Narses, but it could have been done earlier than that.
Roman commanders had bodyguard units. Not much is said or known about them, other than gladiators were popular as bodyguards from the 2nd century BC onward (possibly some in the prior century, but were they that numerous?). The warlords at the end of the republican era had larger and more formal units to protect them. Augustus would inherit these and formed the Praetorian cohorts from them, and some were re-organised as urban cohorts shortly afterward. Leaders might well have returned to small informal gangs of protectors from that point.