Were the Ancient Roman legions bullies?

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,357
There was no assimilation. Really, there wasn't. Emulation existed, and given the elite had strong feelings about the superiority of Roman culture, it isn't suprising that the dominating culture had an equally strong effect on subject populations, who were never required to dress or behave like Romans unless they so chose, though it would help if they wanted to impress an important person. There was a certain amount of carrot and stick however, which I do concede. Settlements were rewarded by tax breaks and monopolies by the Senate if they significantly developed along Roman lines (The Augustan Franchise), and what would please a Roman provincial governor more than to hear that a town's senate had voted to build an aqueduct, however humble?

Barbarian fashions became something of a problem as time wore on. Traditionalists did not want new forms of dress and behaviour, especially those originating from ethnic, or as the Romans saw it, 'barbarian' sources. The western emperor Gratian was much criticised for wearing a gothic style cloak. Laws were even passed banning long hair and trousers, but like all Roman laws introduced to solve a minor issue, these regulations fell into disuse as more and more people ignored them.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
There was no assimilation. Really, there wasn't. Emulation existed, and given the elite had strong feelings about the superiority of Roman culture, it isn't suprising that the dominating culture had an equally strong effect on subject populations, who were never required to dress or behave like Romans unless they so chose, though it would help if they wanted to impress an important person. There was a certain amount of carrot and stick however, which I do concede. Settlements were rewarded by tax breaks and monopolies by the Senate if they significantly developed along Roman lines (The Augustan Franchise), and what would please a Roman provincial governor more than to hear that a town's senate had voted to build an aqueduct, however humble?

Barbarian fashions became something of a problem as time wore on. Traditionalists did not want new forms of dress and behaviour, especially those originating from ethnic, or as the Romans saw it, 'barbarian' sources. The western emperor Gratian was much criticised for wearing a gothic style cloak. Laws were even passed banning long hair and trousers, but like all Roman laws introduced to solve a minor issue, these regulations fell into disuse as more and more people ignored them.
Yes, I didn't mean to imply "assimilation" as in everyone in Gaul or Syria trying to dress like Cicero, or tearing down their houses to build proper Pompeiian architecture. More of just an acceptance of being part of the Empire, over time. We do know there were places that still thought of themselves as "Roman" right through the middle ages--someone just recently posted a wonderful account from Lesbos, I wish I'd saved it!

Matthew
 
Feb 2011
309
NY, NY
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].
I agree with what Alpinluke says, but were you asking were the occupying armies bullies, because, yes, they were, the worse the commander or Governor the greater the oppression and atrocities often leading to the greatest resentment and finally rebellion. Boudica's revolt was just such a response.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,357
Oppression? Most of that is the imagination of the modern world, itself still within living memory of occupations, pogroms, and a particularly harsh genocide. It was not Roman policy overall to oppress occupied areas unless it was absolutely necessary, because they wanted peace and oppression created the resentment that led to rebellions - something the Romans were quite adept at avoiding. Subject peoples were not forcibly Romanised (good grief, does anyone actually believe that they did?) and as long as they obeyed laws and paid taxes, the Romans didn't care in the slightest what manner of culture they retained. Their leaders were encouraged to go Roman, so that they could be plugged directly into the Roman political scene and thus employ local networks of loyalty. In fact, oppressors were sometimes dealt with quite heavily by the Senate - Pontius Pilate lost his career for his brutality. I also recall Galba in Lusitania around 150BC. He committed what might today be considered war crimes and was summoned to trial at the Senate (which he escaped a harsh sentence by the ruse of bringing in his kids who were crying their eyes out because daddy was going to be exiled. The senators could not bring themselves to sentence the man)

Boudicca's revolt is unusual. Firstly, her husband, Prasatagus, had bequeathed his realm to Nero to remain a client state. What he actually did was give half to the Romans, half to the family. The soldiers did get out of hand (Nero's man fled to Gaul because he was terrified at how hated he was as a result) - It probably isn't rue that the Roman legionmaries were ordered to flog Boudicca and rape her daughters directly - that's unusually nasty behaviour for human beings, but soldiers will be soldiers, and thus when tasked to sort out a diplomatic spat with a British tribe, the result was they indulged themselves. naturally Boudicca wasn't happy. Notice however she was able to rouse other tribes than the Iceni to revolt.
 
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