Were the Ancient Roman legions bullies?

Jul 2017
421
Memphis
They sure acted like bullies to their subject populations, but in times at desperate struggles such as Gaius Marius's struggles with the Germans and the Second Punic War they really manned up in the face of strong opposition, something which I thought bullies weren't supposed to do.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,614
Italy, Lago Maggiore
The question is odd. In ancient time [and actually until early 20th century this can be valid] armies were made by "bullies", in the sense that they bullied and there were no laws or rules to avoid or impede this.

Obviously enough, when an army met a comparable army, the confrontation among bullies were well more balanced [and they had no possibility to bully, on both the sides].
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
They sure acted like bullies to their subject populations, but in times at desperate struggles such as Gaius Marius's struggles with the Germans and the Second Punic War they really manned up in the face of strong opposition, something which I thought bullies weren't supposed to do.
Do you really think you can apply one astoundingly narrow and naive label to millions of people and get a sensible answer to your question?

There were undoubtedly "bullies", according to your school-yard definition, in the Roman army. There were also perfectly good-hearted men who received daily training in one of the most brutal and personal forms of combat yet devised by man, without any lessons in self-restraint. Put men like that into situations of power in areas where they were hated, and you just can't expect sweetness and tolerance and Mr. Nice Guy attitudes. Yes, there were laws and rules and regulations the soldiers were supposed to follow, and we know they were sometimes charged with crimes against local civilians. With harsh penalties.

Sorry, but it was just a very different world from today, and you just can't apply modern definitions to it. Or be surprised when your labels don't fit.

Matthew
 
Jul 2017
421
Memphis
Do you really think you can apply one astoundingly narrow and naive label to millions of people and get a sensible answer to your question?

There were undoubtedly "bullies", according to your school-yard definition, in the Roman army. There were also perfectly good-hearted men who received daily training in one of the most brutal and personal forms of combat yet devised by man, without any lessons in self-restraint. Put men like that into situations of power in areas where they were hated, and you just can't expect sweetness and tolerance and Mr. Nice Guy attitudes. Yes, there were laws and rules and regulations the soldiers were supposed to follow, and we know they were sometimes charged with crimes against local civilians. With harsh penalties.

Sorry, but it was just a very different world from today, and you just can't apply modern definitions to it. Or be surprised when your labels don't fit.

Matthew
I've thought maybe on wrestling TV shows, but not neccessarily prearainged, they ought to have a battle royal for bullies open to schoolyard bullies who can establish their credentials with the battle royal rules of pro wrestling.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
3,030
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
Do you really think you can apply one astoundingly narrow and naive label to millions of people and get a sensible answer to your question?

There were undoubtedly "bullies", according to your school-yard definition, in the Roman army. There were also perfectly good-hearted men who received daily training in one of the most brutal and personal forms of combat yet devised by man, without any lessons in self-restraint. Put men like that into situations of power in areas where they were hated, and you just can't expect sweetness and tolerance and Mr. Nice Guy attitudes. Yes, there were laws and rules and regulations the soldiers were supposed to follow, and we know they were sometimes charged with crimes against local civilians. With harsh penalties.

Sorry, but it was just a very different world from today, and you just can't apply modern definitions to it. Or be surprised when your labels don't fit.

Matthew
Since the Roman Empire lasted for centuries, and and for over a millennium if you count the eastern Roman Empire, many regions were ruled by the Roman state for over a thousand years after first being conquered by Rome.

So why do you talk about Roman legionaries being in positions of power in regions where they were hated? Do you suppose that the provincals were rebellious for over a thousand years in the case of some provinces?

As a citizen of the USA, a country that contains hundreds of native nationalities that were peacefully or violently incorporated into the USA, somewhat similar to the Roman Empire, I have never heard that most present day Native Americans or American Indians hate Anglo Americans or hate the United states of America.

Instead I have heard that the majority of Native Americans or American Indians are both proud of being members of their various tribes and nationalities and also proud of being Americans. Even though those tribes and nations that fought against the USA in the west did so between about 208 (first attack on Fort Madison, Iowa 1809) and 119 (Battle of Leech Lake, Minnesota 1898) years ago, just a few generations.

And even though far too many people in the South and elsewhere think far too highly of the CSA, very few descendants of the Rebels of 1861 to 1865 seriously desire the south to become independent again.

So if the USA is a good example, the descendants of conquered people tend to become assimilated and loyal to the conquering state after just a few generations.

Thus it seems logical to assume that after a few generations of Roman rule, most legionaries stationed in the provinces were not hated for being foreign soldiers, but may have sometimes been hated for being harsh or corrupt government officials who demanded bribes for favors that seemed too high.
 
Nov 2015
757
Australia
Since the Roman Empire lasted for centuries, and and for over a millennium if you count the eastern Roman Empire, many regions were ruled by the Roman state for over a thousand years after first being conquered by Rome.

So why do you talk about Roman legionaries being in positions of power in regions where they were hated? Do you suppose that the provincals were rebellious for over a thousand years in the case of some provinces?

As a citizen of the USA, a country that contains hundreds of native nationalities that were peacefully or violently incorporated into the USA, somewhat similar to the Roman Empire, I have never heard that most present day Native Americans or American Indians hate Anglo Americans or hate the United states of America.

Instead I have heard that the majority of Native Americans or American Indians are both proud of being members of their various tribes and nationalities and also proud of being Americans. Even though those tribes and nations that fought against the USA in the west did so between about 208 (first attack on Fort Madison, Iowa 1809) and 119 (Battle of Leech Lake, Minnesota 1898) years ago, just a few generations.

And even though far too many people in the South and elsewhere think far too highly of the CSA, very few descendants of the Rebels of 1861 to 1865 seriously desire the south to become independent again.

So if the USA is a good example, the descendants of conquered people tend to become assimilated and loyal to the conquering state after just a few generations.

Thus it seems logical to assume that after a few generations of Roman rule, most legionaries stationed in the provinces were not hated for being foreign soldiers, but may have sometimes been hated for being harsh or corrupt government officials who demanded bribes for favors that seemed too high.
Hmmm! Not too sure about all that?

In the case of Romans, I'd think part of the success wasn't due to them being nice guys. I think the thing with the Romans was they were consistent. The conquered knew were they stood. What they could do and couldn't do. Turbulent states, make the act of obedience difficult.
And the US today isn't quite as good as it was in the 'Happy days' of 1955. Until then, most people within its system had experienced their lives getting better, at least economically. In the course of a century the US had gone from impoverished state to world power. But as opportunity drys up, divisions appear. Those that miss out tend not to have positive feelings towards the state. Those that know success, will tend to be loyal to the state that aids their success.
There is loyalty, but it is essentially loyalty to money.The day Rome couldn't pay, it fell. The day the US can no longer pay, it'll split apart.
Empires and nations exist because they protect trade. When the trade vanishes, the Empire vanishes as well.
Us older ones knew a post war generation in the 1st world, when things were still pretty good. But that world is fading. Don't think it would last forever! The cracks are appearing in American society. And all the kings soldiers and all the kings horses, will not repair them. In time, those cracks will grow wider.
The Idealist is a midget in front of the 50 foot tall giant of reality. While the giant is going the midget's way. The midget thinks his absurd ravings are reality. Then one day the giant steps on the midget.
 
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caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,357
Bullying was pretty endemic in Roman society, which for all its positive values was tolerant of violence and thuggish behaviour (which even afflicted some patricians as the description of Rufus Egnatius, a conspirator against Augustus, was described as a man 'more gladiator than senator'.

It isn't difficult to imagine that bullying in the ranks was just as bad if not worse. Since soldiers frequently used any excuse, even simple threats, to separate the public from any goods they wanted, one can see how this worked. There is also the satires of Petronius in which the hero loses his sword as an off duty soldier snatches it away from him out of sheer covetousness. The hero does not argue - and probably wisely, as Cicero (1) mentions how men are severely beaten for attempting to stop soldiers obtaining what they wanted.

(1) In fairness it might have been Juvenal. I'll have to revise their works on this.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
Since the Roman Empire lasted for centuries, and and for over a millennium if you count the eastern Roman Empire, many regions were ruled by the Roman state for over a thousand years after first being conquered by Rome.

So why do you talk about Roman legionaries being in positions of power in regions where they were hated? Do you suppose that the provincals were rebellious for over a thousand years in the case of some provinces?

As a citizen of the USA, a country that contains hundreds of native nationalities that were peacefully or violently incorporated into the USA, somewhat similar to the Roman Empire, I have never heard that most present day Native Americans or American Indians hate Anglo Americans or hate the United states of America.

Instead I have heard that the majority of Native Americans or American Indians are both proud of being members of their various tribes and nationalities and also proud of being Americans. Even though those tribes and nations that fought against the USA in the west did so between about 208 (first attack on Fort Madison, Iowa 1809) and 119 (Battle of Leech Lake, Minnesota 1898) years ago, just a few generations.

And even though far too many people in the South and elsewhere think far too highly of the CSA, very few descendants of the Rebels of 1861 to 1865 seriously desire the south to become independent again.

So if the USA is a good example, the descendants of conquered people tend to become assimilated and loyal to the conquering state after just a few generations.

Thus it seems logical to assume that after a few generations of Roman rule, most legionaries stationed in the provinces were not hated for being foreign soldiers, but may have sometimes been hated for being harsh or corrupt government officials who demanded bribes for favors that seemed too high.
Sure, some areas assimilated over time. I just tend to think first century AD because that's what I know the best. And I didn't mean to imply that Roman soldiers were hated everywhere, though I suspect even Italians would rather not have had troops stationed near their homes! I was thinking more of Judea or Britain, hotspots of rebellion and really not models of assimilation.

And no, the US is rarely a good comparison... (Though I understand your examples can be an *illustration*!)

Matthew
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,357

Let us first consider the benefits common to all soldiers, of which not the least is this, that no civilian will dare to thrash you; if thrashed himself, he must hold his tongue, and not venture to exhibit to the Praetor the teeth that have been knocked out, or the black and blue lumps upon his face, or the one eye left which the doctor holds out no hope of saving. If he seek redress, he has appointed for him as judge a hob-nailed centurion with a row of jurors with brawny calves sitting before a big bench. For the old camp law and the rule of Camillus still holds good which forbids a soldier to attend court outside the camp, and at a distance from the standards. "Most right and proper it is," you say, "that a centurion should pass sentence on a soldier; nor shall I fail of satisfaction if I make good my case." But then the whole cohort will be your enemies; all the maniples will agree as one man in applying a cure to the redress you have received by giving you a thrashing which shall be worse than the first.

The Satires (Juvenal)
 
Jul 2017
421
Memphis
Since the Roman Empire lasted for centuries, and and for over a millennium if you count the eastern Roman Empire, many regions were ruled by the Roman state for over a thousand years after first being conquered by Rome.

So why do you talk about Roman legionaries being in positions of power in regions where they were hated? Do you suppose that the provincals were rebellious for over a thousand years in the case of some provinces?

As a citizen of the USA, a country that contains hundreds of native nationalities that were peacefully or violently incorporated into the USA, somewhat similar to the Roman Empire, I have never heard that most present day Native Americans or American Indians hate Anglo Americans or hate the United states of America.

Instead I have heard that the majority of Native Americans or American Indians are both proud of being members of their various tribes and nationalities and also proud of being Americans. Even though those tribes and nations that fought against the USA in the west did so between about 208 (first attack on Fort Madison, Iowa 1809) and 119 (Battle of Leech Lake, Minnesota 1898) years ago, just a few generations.

And even though far too many people in the South and elsewhere think far too highly of the CSA, very few descendants of the Rebels of 1861 to 1865 seriously desire the south to become independent again.

So if the USA is a good example, the descendants of conquered people tend to become assimilated and loyal to the conquering state after just a few generations.

Thus it seems logical to assume that after a few generations of Roman rule, most legionaries stationed in the provinces were not hated for being foreign soldiers, but may have sometimes been hated for being harsh or corrupt government officials who demanded bribes for favors that seemed too high.
I knew that. I was just trying to keep it brief. Typing is hard for me.