Rome's Greatest General?

Who was Rome's Greatest General?


  • Total voters
    248
Oct 2018
1,734
Sydney
Incidentally, what are people's thoughts on Germanicus, Corbulo and Agricola? They receive considerably praise in the sources, but to what degree is this exaggerated? All three appear to serve as literary foils for 'bad' emperors: Tiberius, Nero and Domitian. Germanicus' life is also regarded like a tragedy of sorts, with Germanicus a victim of Tiberius and/or Livia, and the good emperor that could have been. Agricola was the father-in-law of Tacitus, so he naturally gets a good wrap. I don't know much about their campaigns, so what do other people think about their military capabilities?
 
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Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,635
Ontario, Canada
My knowledge of Agrippa's campaigns against Sextus Pompey and later Antony is minimal. What is it about the context of Actium that you're referring to?
A whole bunch which most sources won't tell you:
1. Antony was neither prepared for, nor planning for a conflict with Octavian
2. That Octavian's war on Antony had more to do with challenging the institution of the Republic than Antony himself
3. That Antony's army had been significantly worn down by campaigns against the Parthians and just overall aging or sick soldiers which could not be replaced since Antony lacked access to the recruitment area in Italy
4. Given the above it is hardly surprising that Antony lacked an adequate fleet, in fact he had to build a fleet during the conflict even taking trees from the sacred groves in Greece and taking out emergency funds
5. Agrippa's campaign itself largely consisted of raiding coastal areas, intercepting naval convoys and taking key ports and then the Battle of Actium itself, which was in fact only prompted by Antony needing to break out from Actium where he had been blockaded by land and sea
6. Which is really the key detail, since Antony had been trapped on both sides of the Ambracian Gulf by Octavian's army, slowly being starved out and men deserting or defecting, by the time of Actium itself Antony had lost a good portion of his naval personnel and was at a severe disadvantage
7. While I would like to give the credit for this maneuver to Octavian, it seems that it was Titus Taurus who was in command of the army, even then Antony tried to stay elusive and avoid battle, basically cornering himself on purpose
8. This then indicates that Antony's army was nowhere near as strong as the sources claim because he neither challenged Octavian's army in the mountains of Epirus nor in the plain of Macedonia and moreover he was completely unable to defend Greece, or Asia, or Syria etc and instead had to withdraw to Egypt
9. Where as the Battle of Actium itself was probably fought by Antony desperately wanting to break out from the Ambracian Gulf and withdraw to another position, as he had been blockaded there, rather than an actual attempt to fight a pitched battle to defeat Octavian's fleet... inexplicably, since that makes absolutely no sense
 
Last edited:

Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
5,635
Ontario, Canada
Incidentally, what are people's thoughts on Germanicus, Corbulo and Agricola? They receive considerable praise in the sources, but to what degree is this exaggerated? All three appear to serve as literary foils for 'bad' emperors: Tiberius, Nero and Domitian. Germanicus' life is also regarded like a tragedy of sorts, with Germanicus a victim of Tiberius and/or Livia, and the good emperor that could have been. Agricola was the father-in-law of Tacitus, so he naturally gets a good wrap. I don't know much about their campaigns, so what do other people think about their military capabilities?
Germanicus is okay but I find him a bit overrated. His father Drusus was certainly more accomplished, as was his uncle Tiberius. In fact I think Tiberius is one of the most overlooked military commanders in history, and a fairly capable ruler. It is a shame that the only successor still alive happened to be Germanicus' brat Caligula.

Corbulo was pretty decent. Two successful campaigns against the Parthians is exceptional by any standard. He is underappreciated.

Agricola... I don't really know what to say about this one. He successfully governed Britannia, put down insurgents and invaded Caledonia. Good enough, but I can't say much else other than that.
 

Mangekyou

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
7,963
UK
Germanicus is okay but I find him a bit overrated. His father Drusus was certainly more accomplished, as was his uncle Tiberius. In fact I think Tiberius is one of the most overlooked military commanders in history, and a fairly capable ruler. It is a shame that the only successor still alive happened to be Germanicus' brat Caligula.
He is criminally underrated as a general. He was clearly the best general Augustus had, even when Drusus and Germanicus were alive. People always Trajan in high regard (militarily) because of his Dacian wars, but Tiberius conquered Dalmatia, Pannonia and Rhaetia, as well as his campaigns in subduing the Germans, when he had that opportunity. Pannonia were especially very dangerous enemies to the Romans because they were trained in the Roman style of warfare, and the terrain they occupied was treacherous.
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,640
Australia
You'd be better off starting a thread about who Rome's second greatest general was. Alternatively, a thread about the top 5 generals not named Julius Caesar. That would be more open to debate. Caesar's resume is such that it's basically inevitable he's going to win. On the other hand, a lot of the Caesar voters might vote for someone other than Scipio Africanus for #2. I sure would. I don't know who #2 would be, but did Scipio really do anything more impressive than Sulla? We have more detail about his tactics, etc, but the actual achievements of Sulla (or Sertorius, etc) look more impressive for mine. I'd also get some more input before you do poll options. These are not the best 10 or so generals from Rome's history. Pompey? Really? Some other guys like Corbulo and Luculus, though they were great generals, are also a stretch. Come on man.
 
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Apr 2018
303
Italy
I would have added to the list also some people as Marcus Claudius Marcellus, Marcus Vipsianus Agrippa, Lucius Domitius Aurelianus, Septimius Severus, Theodosius the Elder, Stilicho and Costantius III. I think the contest is between Scipio, Caesar and Constantine, with a preference toward Scipio since he defeated Hannibal.
 
Aug 2018
337
America
Scipio Africanus is the best, really. Carthage was one of the few truly equal enemies that Rome had. Julius Caesar, on his turn, is massively overrated. His invasion of Gaul wasn't really a military campaign, it was a campaign of extermination against a largely defenceless and powerless population. He can be praised for defeating Ariovistus and later Pompey, but he defeated Ariovistus more because of higher resources than because he was the better general (hell, Caesar's troops were almost routed by him, and it was only the timely intervention of Caesar's reserve force that saved him), and I have my doubts if Caesar could have defeated Pompey decisively anyway had Pompey not gotten executed by Ptolemy.
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,640
Australia
Scipio Africanus is the best, really. Carthage was one of the few truly equal enemies that Rome had. Julius Caesar, on his turn, is massively overrated. His invasion of Gaul wasn't really a military campaign, it was a campaign of extermination against a largely defenceless and powerless population. He can be praised for defeating Ariovistus and later Pompey, but he defeated Ariovistus more because of higher resources than because he was the better general (hell, Caesar's troops were almost routed by him, and it was only the timely intervention of Caesar's reserve force that saved him), and I have my doubts if Caesar could have defeated Pompey decisively anyway had Pompey not gotten executed by Ptolemy.
Almost everything you just typed is false, and has been addressed in depth on this board as being so by me (among others). Carthage was far from one of the few truly equal enemies Rome had, Caesar's military campaign in Gaul is rightly regarded for being incredibly impressive, and the Gauls were far from powerless. Caesar was also hideously outnumbered in most of his campaigns, which mitigates the military advantages he enjoyed to a great degree. Pompey was the overrated general, who was lucky not to be defeated at Dyrachium, and who massively outnumbered Caesar throughout the war. Pompey was fleeing to Egypt, the opposite way to the other Pompeians, and was probably bowing out of the war altogether. He had been thoroughly embarrassed by Caesar from the Rubicon onwards, it's unlikely he'd have had more luck in Africa or Spain (where Caesar again overcame gargantuan odds to win). You're either not being objective or need to go do some more reading.
 
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