Top 10 Roman Generals (Byzantine allowed)

Feb 2019
631
Thrace
A list that includes Pompey but not Sulla is a list that cannot be taken seriously. Again, I'm not going to critique every name on every list, but that one discrepancy is so obvious it's impossible to let fly. For all I've talked up Paullus he doesn't belong in the top 10 either.
Contemporaries and nigh contemporaries beg to differ. Pompey's military achievements were considered as greater than any Roman prior to him except Scipio.

Plutarch: "that which most enhanced his glory and had never been the lot of any Roman before, was that he celebrated his third triumph over the third continent. For others before him had celebrated three triumphs; but he celebrated his first over Libya, his second over Europe, and this his last over Asia, so that he seemed in a way to have included the whole world in his three triumphs."

I'm not saying that he was better than Sulla, but maybe you're being too aggressive saying such opinion "cannot be taken seriously."
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,658
Australia
Surprised there is so little mention of Publis Ventidius Bassus. Inflicting crushing defeats on Nomads (Parthians) is something almost unheard of with an infantry-dominant army.



Amateur nonsense, applies different logic to Scipio and others and really poor analysis. My eyes are hurting from reading that.
There's been so many Rome v.s Parthia threads on this forum correcting this error. Rome beat Parthian armies all the time.
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,658
Australia
Contemporaries and nigh contemporaries beg to differ. Pompey's military achievements were considered as greater than any Roman prior to him except Scipio.

Plutarch: "that which most enhanced his glory and had never been the lot of any Roman before, was that he celebrated his third triumph over the third continent. For others before him had celebrated three triumphs; but he celebrated his first over Libya, his second over Europe, and this his last over Asia, so that he seemed in a way to have included the whole world in his three triumphs."

I'm not saying that he was better than Sulla, but maybe you're being too aggressive saying such opinion "cannot be taken seriously."
Contemporary hyperbolic comments are not a useful measure; everyone tends to get some of them anyway (such and such was "the greatest" or "a god among men" or "the legend of such and such"). He was perhaps more famous than Sulla, but militarily he hasn't any possible case at all tbh.
 
Oct 2018
1,877
Sydney
Well... It's a bit evident, isn't it? I will concede that Herculius wasn't the greatest military mind in the constellation of Roman generals; however, was there a bigger bad ass? Scipio, Julius Caesar, others may have been able to out manouver Herculius, but he surely would have destroyed them all in a fight. I love the almost legendary story of his life. I think he's one of history's most intriguing personalities. I think of outsiders like an Aleric who fought against Rome, yet Herculius remained loyal to Rome. Even more surprising to me is his relationship with Diocletian. Surely Herculius was aware that he was a bad ass and surely he was an aspirational man, yet he seems to have been perfectly content to divide power with Diocletian. Certainly we can infer that Herculius preferred the life of a soldier of fortune and recognized his limitations in other arenas. Lastly, he has my favorite Roman bust! How has he not been the subject of some Hollywood epic?
As far as the others... Magnus... He was something of a one hit wonder. Despite all of his accomplishments in Britannia, he fell on his face once he left. And Marcus Valerius... I don't know. Nobody does. We know so little of him. Given Marcus Aurelius' successes, and especially the fact that Rome continued to exist under Commodus, he must have been quite good. But that's all just conjecture. And Galerius? I can't seriously consider him as a great Roman general. He was; however, great in his asperations, and political trouble making. Although, on second thought, he messed that one up too!
I'm a bit confused by your explanation. Marcus Aurelius and Commodus pre-date the Tetrarchy, and I'm not sure who you're referring to when you say Magnus and Marcus Valerius (Diocletian, Maximian and Constantius all had Marcus Valerius in their nomenclature). I'm talking about a comparison between Diocletian, Maximian, Constantius and Galerius. I think it's an interesting comparison to make, but they all strike me as being pretty badass characters. All four were career soldiers of humble origins. Galerius was a bear-like hulk of a man who, it is claimed, personally scouted Narseh's camp prior to his victory over the Persians. Diocletian very publicly stabbed his political rival Aper to death after declaring him a regicide at a military assembly on the very occasion of his investiture as Augustus - absolutely insane. All four also had notable military successes. In the 280s Maximian defeated the Bagaudae, defended Gaul against Germanic invasions and then invaded Alemannia, although he struggled to defeat Carausius, possibly because Carausius was quite good at naval warfare. He eventually delegated this job to Constantius. In these same years Diocletian conducted campaigns as well, winning victories over Sarmatians and Saracens. Admittedly, however, Diocletian was a better politican and administrator than a general, as is attested by the manner in which he defeated Carinus, losing a battle to Carinus but also organizing for Carinus' own officers and praetorian prefect to kill him.

With the co-option of Constantius and Galerius in 293, both Diocletian and Maximian progressively took a backseat role in relation to military campaigns. Constantius campaigned with success against the British emperors Carausius and Allectus, and his overthrow of their regime was a key victory for the Tetrarchic regime. He also conducted various campaigns against the Franks and Alemanni, most notably defeating an Alemannic invasion of Gaul in a battle in which he was almost killed. Galerius, who made it onto my top 10, won the most decisive victory over the Persians of the third and fourth centuries, and also fought campaigns against Sarmatians, Carpi, Marcomanni, Blemmyes, Nobates and rebels in the Thebaid. Diocletian crushed the Egypt-based usurpation of Domitianus and Achilleus (besieging and capturing Alexandria), and campaigned against the Sarmatians and Carpi. Maximian campaigned against Frankish pirates in Spain and Moorish rebels in Africa.

With the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian in 305, Constantius led a campaign against the Picts before dying of natural causes, and Galerius continued fighting campaigns along the Danube. In 306 Maximian then returned to active rule on the side of his son Maxentius, and helped Maxentius to defeat Severus II and take power in Italy and Africa. Maximian then visited Constantine in Gaul, and while he was absent Maxentius managed to hold out in Rome against the army of Galerius, who withdrew back to the east having failed to overthrow the usurper. However, Maximian himself then attempted and failed to overthrow Maxentius, and then attempted the same against Constantine with fatal results. Of course, any comparison between the Tetrarchs is complicated by minimal details and the fact that they often fought quite different enemies. That said, if you want an emperor who could beat any other emperor in a one-on-one, Maximinus Thrax might be the emperor for you.
 
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Sep 2019
125
Vergina
Amateur nonsense, applies different logic to Scipio and others and really poor analysis. My eyes are hurting from reading that.
The criticism of Scipio for failing to block Hasdrubal move to Italy seems to be the primary one and appears in a number of books. Scipio did not pursue Hasdrubal after his victory at Baecula withdrawing instead. He then declined to block Hasdrubal from leaving Spain because he either felt his army wasn't strong enough or that Roman forces in Italy would be sufficient to deal with it. Thus he did neglect his primary mission of pinning the Carthaginians in Spain and Hasdrubal-Hannibal could have potentially united.

The above may be expecting too much from Scipio but fans of Marcellus-Fabius-Nero will surely point to it.
 
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Dec 2017
41
Australia
These aren't in any hard order though the ones closer to the top do tend to be better then the ones that aren't.

1. Julius Caesar
2. Scipio Africanus
3. Belisarius
4. Heraclius
5. John Tzimisces
6. Sulla
7. Marius
8. Aurelian
9. Constantine I
10. Constantine V

Honestly so many of these would be different on a diferent day but I had to pick something. Honourable mentions include: Marcellus, Sertorius, Lucullus, Labienus, Agrippa, Leo III, Constantius III, Stilicho, Trajan, Nicephorus II Phocas, Leo Phocas, Basil II, Narses, John "the bloody" and many more.

So, of course lists of this kind are mostly subjective. Regardless, here is a top ten (in chronological order):

Marcellus
Scipio Africanus
Marius
Sulla
Caesar
Aurelian
Galerius
Constantine
Aetius
Belisarius
Good list. A lot of names with a strong case to be their and Marcellus is a unique but easily defensible choice with a long battle record against Hannibal. I'd only question 2 of your choices: Aetius and Galerius. A bunch of people have mentioned Aetius but I'd rank both Stilicho and Constantius III above him as far as Magister militum's as generals go. Not that he wasn't good but Boniface did beat him, the battle of Chalons is something of a bloody slogging match in which he fails to achieve a decisive victory and most of his other campaigns while notionally victorious don't really seem to achieve much, especially when you consider that we are dependent on Aetian propagandists for a lot of the details (not that this isn't a common problem). Mostly he's exerting pressure on barbarian leaders to sign semi-feudal alliance treaties with him. Treaties they routinely broke. He comes across to me as risk averse, self interested and unimaginative, only trying for minor victories out of a combination of trying to mitigate risk and to build a personal clientele (perhaps to be used against fellow Romans in Italy if the emperor or his mother got ideas) rather then reastablish anything resembling actual structural Roman control in Gaul. For whatever reason Aetius never seems to have tried to achieve truly meaningful results in Gaul.

As for Galerius I get he has a generally good record but he did lose his first campaign against the Persians and had to flee Italy when he tried to take out Maxentius. It's clearly a good record overall but It's not really good enough to make up for 2 clear defeats in entire campaigns (the second of which he never avenged) at least not with the details we have to make the top 10

Constantine V seems to be somewhat underrated. He had important successes.
Good observation. Founded the Tagmata, some success against the Caliphate, kicked the Bulgars around more then any Roman/Byzantine not called Basil II and won a civil war against a more experienced general that he capped off by TAKING CONTANTINOPLE BY ASSUALT! I wish I knew the details with that one.
 
Dec 2017
41
Australia
There's no Marius on my list either, and he won a couple of very crucial battles against the Germanic tribes that may have very well saved the city of Rome. But a knock against him, he marched on Rome. So did Sulla, twice. They used their military might to influence the course of Roman politics. The names on my list, with the exception of the proscriptions of the supporters of Sejanus during the reign of Tiberius, didn't truly threaten the status quo. Even Caesar was merely trying to reform the state, and Pompey Magnus fought him in an effort to protect traditions of the Republic. I find him a notable general in a particular way, how he was able to clear the entire western Mediterranean of Cilician piracy in just three months. Not merely just by capturing and killing all of them, but also granting them land and alternative ways of making income. And those waters stayed pirate-free for centuries thereafter. Many of his victories might be seen as "easy" but he was the one to do it. He handed Caesar one of his very, very rare losses, and might've even defeated him had he been a more determined opponent.

I consider Pompey the Great overrated by almost everyone who isn't very familiar with him yet underrated by most who are. Pompey was as Lucullus put it something of a vulture and I wouldn't put him in my top 10 even if the Byzantine period wasn't included but he easily defeated every roman general he faced not called Sertorius or Caesar and their were quite a few and Sertorius and his generals were never able to crush him the way they had crushed most previus generals sent against them. While the resources granted him against the pirates and Mithridates made tactical defeat in either case or strategic defeat in the latter unlikely his piratical and eastern campaigns were shockingly efficient and decisive, achieving far greater results far faster then it seems anyone was expecting. He also won victories against Gauls and defeated Numidian forces along with Roman in North Africa. The breadth of foes defeated and the variety of campaigns are matched by very few in Roman history.

However if your discounting Sulla and Marius on grounds of lack of respect for Roman law and tradition without compensatory interest in important reform I can't see how you can count one of the most legal and tradition underming politicians of his generation (and thats saying something). Afterall the second time Sulla marched on Rome Pompey the teenaged privatus raised a prevate army and joined him, supposedly after flirting with the other side. During the course of said war in Sicily when being critiqued for the arbitrary execution of Roman citizens without trail he is supposed to have said words to the effect of "do not quote laws to those of us who carry swords". Afterwards he exerted military pressure to obtain a triumph from Sulla before being elected to any public office or entering the senate. Later he would use military pressure to obtain a consulship more then a decade before he would normally be eligible by law and again before entering the senate or being elected to any public office. Later still he used his political influence to deliberately undermine Lucullus's war against Mithridates to help secure for himself the greatest special command in authority and scope in the history of the Republic by an order of magnitude. Subsequently he backed Milo's thugs in street battles against Clodius's thugs and when sh*t got out of control took a deal from the senate that granted him Rome's first ever sole consulship in return for leading troops inside Rome to bloodily suppress the mobs.

Pompey's whole career is about one rule for Pompey and one rule for everybody else and he was more then happy to threaten and kill his fellow Romans whenever they got in the way of his whims. Caesar before the civil war pointedly asked for nothing that hadn't already been granted to Pompey in order to protect himself from being put on trail for violations of Rome's laws and traditions that not only paled in comparison to half the sh*t Pompey had done but in much of which Pompey himself was complicit. Pompey didn't give a sh*t about the Republic's laws and traditions, his whole career was one giant middle finger to them.
 
Dec 2017
41
Australia
Scipio Africanus, Caesar, Constantine, Belisarius all around great. Added Flaminius for the victory at Cynoscephalae noting his decision to personally take command of the right. Sulla played an important role in Marius' victories in the Jugurthine War-Vercellae in addition to his own victories over Mithridates. Labienus is an underrated commander nearly crushed Caesar at both Ruspina and Munda. Antony, despite the disasters in Parthia and at Actium, was a very good commander holding against great odds at Forum Gallorum-Mutina and achieving a brilliant victory at Philippi. Severus was all around pretty successful defeating his Roman rivals and sacking Ctesiphon. Stilicho is probably my favorite commander on the list, holding Western Empire together against repeated threats.

Thing is though Anony didn't hold at Mutina, he got barely mauled and retreated across the Alps and Phillipi was more of a slogging match conducted by generals not up to the task of commanding that many men.


Agrippa was certainly superior at naval warfare his victories over Sextus Pompey and bottling up Antony's navy at Actium confirms this. However overall I don't think he can match Antony's record.


Under Caesar in Gaul, Antony commanded the Roman cavalry at the Battle Alesia. During the Civil War he managed to trick the Pompeians and facilitate the movement of the main army to reinforce Caesar in Greece. He then commanded Caesar's left wing at the decisive Battle of Pharsalus. After Caesar's assassination at the battles of Forum Gallorum-Mutina he fought against terrible odds inflicting heavy losses on the enemy and killing both Roman consuls. He then managed to extricate his army and cross the Alps in the face of famine conditions. The victory at Philippi was also largely due to Antony and should not be understated as the entire Liberator army was forced to surrender. Even in the retreat during the disastrous Parthian Campaign, Antony according to Plutarch won eighteen engagements over the twenty seven days preventing his army's total destruction.

Agrippa didn't match Antony's record he eclipsed it. Antony was only one of many lieutenants of Caesar at Pharsalus and certainly not the commander of all his cavalry. The most senior officer after Caesar there was Titus Labienus who played probably the most important role in the victory after Caesar with many other legates also playing their part. Antony isn't even mentioned in the Gallic wars by name as for Parthia while he did manage to extricate a lot of his army it was still a severe defeat and tales of his heroics are likely highly influenced by pro-Roman and Pro-Antony sources. We know Quintus Dellius wrote a history dealing with the Parthians and was a partisan of Mark Antony and we also know Plutarch used him as a source (though I don't know whether he's referneced by name during the Parthian debacle), in any case Antony majorly f*cked up the only question is precisly how much.


Agrippa had the advantage of having superior naval force and being the defender. Antony having brought his army-navy to Greece effectively hit a brick wall. Octavian refused battle and Antony could not transport his army across leaving him at a strategic dead end. Antony after being worn down a bit decided to withdraw and fight another day on better terms. Actium was more of a breakout then a decisive battle. Antony's goal was for a chunk of the fleet, along with the crucial treasury, to breakout by sea and make for Egypt while the land army under Canidius was then to preform its own march back east. This plan effectively succeeded as Cleopatra's force was able to breakthrough and escape. The main issue is that Antony misjudged Canidius' ability to keep the morale of the land army which quickly surrendered to Octavian and doomed his cause. So to conclude Agrippa failed to prevent Cleopatra from escaping and had Antony's army not surrendered the war could have continued indefinitely.


Now I don't want to sell Agrippa short as he strategically bottled up Antony and prevented his move into Italy. My main point is that overall his record doesn't compare to Antony's.

The main issue is that it was a terrible plan even if we assume that that was the plan and he didn't just panic. The army is what mattered. Roman soldiers are what kept Antony's client kings loyal and were by an extremely wide margin his best troops, their position was severely compromised and their morale was already low. What's more Antonian troops had a history of defecting in large numbers to Octavian and a longer history of sympathising with him when their boss transparently would prefer they didn't. The idea that this force would be able to and stay loyal during such a difficult and long withdrawel as all other forces and client kings defect along their path is daft. Before Actium defections of men and officers had already begun and during the battle itself a general/admiral changed sides. They were already pretty damn screwed but the remote chance of victory was still probably their best chance. Their would be no fighting another day after losing much of the fleet and running back to Egypt and its basically worthless army. Antony was outplayed on every level by Augustus and Agrippa at Actium, on intelligence, networking, morale, public image, fleet manueuver, land skirmishes, naval battle. He lost out on every single one. As a result he doesn't just lose but loses anticlimacticly and pathetically. Against a dream team like Augustus and Agrippa defeat is expected but Antony cocks it up so badly he doesn't even put up a fight. As for Agrippa we don't have the details for most of his numerous land campaigns but they were reasonably extensive and succesful unlike Antony's splotchy record add to that his accomplishments as an admiral and theirs just no comparing one of Rome's finiest military leaders and a paper tiger.
 
Sep 2019
125
Vergina
He was outnumbered heavily at Mutina and managed to kill both consuls. Not a victory but a very good showing. Plutarch recounts Antony showing great leadership in the retreat keeping his men's morale up by drinking spoiled water and such.

At Philippi, Antony brilliantly turned the enemy position leading to their defeat forcing a massive Roman army to surrender. Cassius' suicide was due to Antony's attack on his camp. Meanwhile Octavian and maybe Agrippa (no one knows if he was present but probably) were been pushed back by Brutus.

You may want to reread Gallic Wars and Civil Wars. It clearly states 11.89.3. CW "He placed Antony in charge of the left wing" at Pharsulus even the map on wiki has it. He is also mentioned multiple times in the later portion of GW, Antony was a very useful lieutenant to Caesar in the final phase of the Gallic War. Caesar even left him in charge of his winter camp over 52-51 and it attests to him preforming a number of tasks. Labienus you are correct was Caesar's second in command and I have a high opinion of his generalship as well.

If you have an alternative source for Antony's Parthian War then Plutarch I'm happy to take a look.

The idea that Antony benefits from positive source work isn't what I've read. Antony is normally labeled a drunk who is madly in love with Cleopatra, Plutarch parallels him to Demetrius. More likely Roman era sources exaggerate Octavian-Agrippa skill.

At Actium, Agrippa had all the advantages that being the defender and having larger naval forces brings. He could also count on the name of "Caesar" to bring over Antony's army. However I'll even cede that at Actium, Agrippa age 31 may have been superior in generalship to Antony age 52. However in totality his record does not match Antony's.
 
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Oct 2018
1,877
Sydney
As for Galerius I get he has a generally good record but he did lose his first campaign against the Persians and had to flee Italy when he tried to take out Maxentius. It's clearly a good record overall but It's not really good enough to make up for 2 clear defeats in entire campaigns (the second of which he never avenged) at least not with the details we have to make the top 10
It's admittedly rather difficult to give an assessment of Galerius. He receives little positive attention, in part due to the lack of known details about his campaigns, and in part because Christian sources derided him for his persecution of the Christians. Nevertheless, he strikes me as being the strongest military commander among the Tetrarchs, and I generally have respect for the career soldiers-turned-emperors of that period, men who managed to pull the empire out of a period of crisis.

He did the most campaigning among the Tetrarchs, and Diocletian assigned him the war against Persia (c. 296-298), the most important campaign of the period. Galerius' devastatingly decisive victory over the Persians was considered to have redeemed Rome and avenged the Romans upon Persia after the military embarrassments against the Persians during the mid-third century (one emperor killed, another captured, Antioch twice sacked, three armies destroyed, fortresses destroyed, a humiliating treaty, Palmyra taking matters into its own hands, etc). Famously, in the contested kingdom of Armenia Major, Galerius performed a surprise attack on the Shahanshah Narseh's camp, seizing much wealth and taking many important captives, including Narseh's wives, daughters and sisters. Supposedly he had personally scouted the enemy camp. Narseh fled into his own territories, and Galerius counter-attacked, invading Media, Adiabene and Persian Mesopotamia before linking up with Diocletian in Nisibis. The Persians sued for peace, and were forced to give up Armenia and seven trans-Tigritanian territories. The Persians would not regain these territories until the war of 359-363.

Galerius also won two campaigns in southern Egypt and Nubia against Blemmyes, Nobates and Thebaid rebels (293-295), and fought numerous successful campaigns against the Carpi, Sarmatians and Marcomanni (299/300 - 307/8).

He was also a successful general before he became Caesar. He was a career soldier who at some point in time became Diocletian's son-in-law, and is reported as campaigning on the Danube in c. 290.

As for defeats, many of the great generals of history (and most of those listed in this thread) suffered them, but to look more specifically at the two mentioned, I'll begin with Callinicum. It appears that this defeat has been exaggerated, perhaps in part because of the probably fictional story that Diocletian made a defeated Galerius run before his carriage. Concerning the historicity of this story, it would have been ludicrous for Diocletian to so humiliate his heir apparent, and Lactantius does not mention it, which he could have made suit his invective-laced narrative of a Galerius discontent with being Caesar (cf. Kolb 1987, Diocletian und die erste Tetrarchie, 136). Rather, hostile sources probably misinterpreted a show of deference during an aduentus ceremony, or a symbolic display of Galerius' determination to succeed (see e.g. Rees 2004, Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, 14; Corcoran 2008, Diocletian, in Barrett, Lives of the Caesars, 233).

On the campaign itself, I'll quote Leadbetter 2009, Galerius and the Will of Diocletian, 90-91: 'Some commentators assert that Galerius, attacking rashly, was routed by the Persians and lucky to escape with his life. The sources permit a more nuanced and less clumsy reading of what must have been a genuine military crisis in the Roman east. Eutropius’ full narrative is useful: "At first, Galerius Maximianus, coming against Narseus between Carrhae and Callinicum, suffered a defeat, although he fought foolishly rather than ignobly, since he came against a great and most numerous army with a small force." Other sources provide similar narratives. Lack of immediate resources meant that the Romans could only respond with cunning and guile. Aurelius Victor relates the events of the campaign thus: "Meanwhile, Iovius having departed to Alexandria, the task was assigned to Maximianus Caesar that he should proceed across the border into Mesopotamia in order to hinder the assault of the Persians." A frontal battle was out of the question. Galerius’ advance into Mesopotamia was only intended as a holding action. The sources refer to a number of battles in the vast area “between Carrhae and Callinicum”. Callinicum, which had been recently refortified by Diocletian may have been Galerius’ base of operations. Orosius states that three battles were fought, of which the last was the decisive defeat of Galerius’ force. These are, no doubt, records of skirmishes rather than pitched set-piece battles. Roman tactics, in the circumstances, must have been similar to those of other generals in the same region with the same objectives. The Parthian general Suren, for example, had also harassed rather than confronted, eroding the morale of Crassus’ army until it collapsed. Suren, unlike Galerius, had a considerable cavalry advantage over Crassus’ legionaries. That enabled him to avoid battle. In Galerius’ case it was more likely that Narseh enjoyed the advantage in mounted troops, and so could locate, pursue and destroy Galerius’ skirmishing force. Despite the loss in the field, the campaign was not a failure. Narseh’s force did not cross into Roman territory. Persian success was elsewhere, perhaps indicating their immediate aims. In 297 Narseh occupied Armenia, expelled Tiridates and reclaimed the territory ceded by Vahraran in 287. The Romans were unable to protect their client since their focus was, for the moment, on other matters. Reinforcements were urgently needed in the east. Galerius was sent to the Danube to gather them; Diocletian himself remained in Syria to prepare for the following year’s campaign. Galerius’ mission could not be completed swiftly. He was not merely calling up old soldiers but also raw recruits who required some training. In addition, Jordanes attests that he enrolled some Gothic mercenaries and this surely required some negotiation. Roman problems were augmented by another revolt in Egypt. Persian victories no doubt tempted the provinces’ many disaffected into rebellion. An emperor of their own, Domitius Domitianus, was proclaimed. Diocletian was obliged to take his Syrian army and march on Alexandria in order to quell the revolt. Galerius was left to continue the war alone.' In other words, Galerius conducted a necessary holding action and then returned with sufficient manpower to reverse the calamitous situation on his own, an effort that actually proved much more victorious than a mere reversal of fortune.

As for Rome in 307, it must be said that Maxentius appears to have been an exceptionally skillful politician. This was the man who played the 'one true Roman' card better than anyone, and who managed to turn his father's own troops against him, many of whom may well have served him for one or two decades beforehand. If we want to criticize Galerius as a politician, I think that's fair. But with Maxentius sitting tight behind the imposing walls of Rome, using subversion to undermine Galerius' army, and with Maximian and Constantine to his north and thus in a position to corner him in Italy (Constantine was not at war with Galerius, but there was uncertainty surrounding his loyalties), there was only so much Galerius' military skills could do in that situation. Many of Galerius' soldiers also disliked the idea of attacking Rome as a practical effort and as a matter of principle, and many considered his action against a son-in-law to be impious. Galerius clearly felt obliged to crush the man whom he deemed a usurper, but he had to gamble on Maxentius marching his army out of the city and doing battle. But Maxentius didn't risk it. After all, Galerius most likely would have defeated him in such a situation. The situation was different when Constantine marched against Maxentius in 312. By then Rome had been suffering from food shortages, and taxation and a praetorian riot had encouraged civil unrest. Moreover, Maxentius' generals had challenged Constantine at Turin and Verona and lost battles in the process. The dangers of remaining in a restless city and not proving his military worth to his subjects were much more acute than they had been in 307, thus Maxentius' decision to risk a battle. Galerius was never given that opportunity. He next assigned the task of retaking Italy to the emperor Licinius and withdrew from active campaigning as illness took hold. Licinius himself was too cautious against Maxentius, and Galerius was dead by the time Constantine defeated him.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on Galerius.
 
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