Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

BOOK Roman state and the small and isolated tribes of bar

VI.

Decay of discipline.

Liability of Ron an

citizens to military service.

Paid and unpaid military service.

barians.

The warlike spirit and discipline among the soldiers also decreased in proportion to the incapacity of the generals. The Italians, though originally possessed of fine military qualities, not unfrequently lost even their courage, the first and most important condition of success.' But as regards military spirit, discipline, order, subordination, and indifference to fatigue or privations, these virtues became so rare that every new general who was sent from Rome and who, like Scipio Emilianus, recognised the importance of these things, was obliged to begin by reorganizing the army and accustoming the men to work, to march and to practise self-denial, order, and obedience.2

The organization of the army was still based upon the same foundations which had come down to the republic from primeval times, and had been constantly adapted to times and circumstances. The most essential part of it was this, that every Roman citizen was liable to military service. This institution, it is true, was by no means peculiar to Rome. It was in principle the law of every ancient state. But the Romans organized this universal military service with particular care and skill; they carried it out strictly, and preserved it at a time when the Greeks had long given it up and were accustomed to employ mercenary troops. It has been repeatedly pointed out 3 that the superiority of the Romans over the Carthaginian mercenaries was owing to the fact that their armies were composed of citizens.

It is a striking proof of the natural aptitude of the Romans for military life that we find even in the earliest times the people organized as an army according to classes and centuries, by which means they contrived with much skill to adapt the military service to the different ranks and degrees of citizens. This arrangement was made to suit a time when regular military pay was 2 Vol. iii. p. 404.

1 Vol. iii. p. 399.
3 Vol. ii. pp. 110, 461.

Vol. i. pp. 62, 68.

not yet known. As wealth began to increase, and as society became more artificial, it became necessary to devise means for rewarding the soldiers for their services. This gave rise to the introduction of military pay (400 B.C.), by which the difference of the five property classes in the army necessarily was made to vanish. From this time forward the organization of centuries remained only in use for regulating the voting in the comitia centuriata. It no longer corresponded with the actual arrangement of the army, and the latter underwent considerable changes.

and

CHAP.

IV.

The cavalry was now no longer formed out of the Infantry eighteen political centuries of knights, but of all those cavalry younger men indiscriminately who were fit for that kind of service, and it soon began to take a more important position in the army. The men were now heavily armed, whereas they had previously been light-armed. They received three times the pay of the infantry, and were principally chosen from among the sons of wealthy families, because they were obliged to provide their own horses. As the care of these horses naturally devolved upon them also in time of peace, and as they therefore could not-like the foot-soldiers-retire from their profession after a campaign, they formed the beginning as it were of a standing army. To these horsemen were joined the knights of the old eighteen centuries of cavalry, who had in earlier times received a horse from the state (equus publicus) and money for its keep (æs equestre)-a custom which was now retained in form, though probably in form alone. Among them were the young noblemen-the sons of magistrates and senators-who performed their military service in the

1 Polybius, vi. 25, 3: ὁ δὲ καθοπλισμὸς τῶν ἱππέων νῦν ἐστι παραπλήσιος τῷ τῶν Ἑλλήνων· τὸ δὲ παλαιὸν πρῶτον μὲν θώρακας οὐκ εἶχον, ἀλλ ̓ ἐν περιζώμασιν ἐκινδύνευον. This passage is of the greatest importance. It altogether disposes of the stories which represent the Roman knights of the earliest period as the principal and most effective part of the armies.

The expressions equum adimere, vende equum, employed by the censors on the occasion of drawing up the lists of the equestrian order, had no more reference to actual horses than the 'acceptance of the stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds,' professed by an English member of Parliament, has to that ancient and honourable office.

BOOK

VI.

Relative import. ance of these branches.

cavalry, mostly as orderlies, or in the select body-guard of the generals. It is not probable that they furnished many effective horsemen for the ordinary cavalry of the legions, for it became customary by degrees that the members of the eighteen centuries should not quit them when they had reached an advanced age and could no longer perform actual service.1

Thus the Roman cavalry in the period after the reform of the oldest military system-i.e. after Camillus-was made up of two distinct parts, the old knights of the eighteen centuries who received no pay, and the paid cavalry, who were chosen from among the more wealthy citizens, though there was as yet no regular census equester before the time of Gracchus. The value of this latter portion of the army in actual war must not be estimated very high. The strength of the legions always lay in the infantry, even after the cavalry had been heavily armed. The military history of Rome excludes all doubt on this. score at least, in those times of which we have trustworthy information. The Roman cavalry was not a match for either the Numidian, the Gallic, or the Thessalian horse; nor was it ever able to contribute materially to secure victory. The old stories about the heroic deeds of the knights in the battle of Lake Regillus and elsewhere are probably mere fictions. Another circumstance proving the inefficiency of the Roman cavalry is that the contingents of the allies were always far larger than those of Roman citizens. It was not until it became general to

This custom was probably introduced at an early date by equites who had served their time, and who, having no centuriæ seniorum assigned to them, continued to vote with the knights in actual service. In fact, there must at all times have been members of the centuriæ equitum forming a kind of This circumstance was the first step in the change from the military character of the equestrian body to mere voting centuries. The cavalry became more and more ineffective. Hence the motion of Cato to increase the number of centuries. See Cato's Fragm. ed Jordan, p. 66.

reserve.

The proportion of cavalry furnished respectively by the Romans and their Italian allies was not always uniformly the same. Sometimes the allies had to supply double, sometimes three times, the number of horse furnished by Roman citizens. The latter proportion may be considered the rule.

employ foreign-especially Gallic-horse that the Roman armies were supplied with a cavalry not inferior to their infantry.

CHAP.

IV.

dination of

The above-mentioned organization was not altogether Insuborfavourable to military discipline. It was the horse that the horseshowed the first indications of a tendency to effeminacy, men. and among them the first traces became visible of cowardice and insubordination. The story of the young noblemen who, after the battle of Cannæ, discussed the plan of leaving Italy is perhaps a little exaggerated for the glorification of Publius Scipio, who is said to have frustrated this ignominious design. But it is not a pure invention; and it shows to what extent the élite of the Roman cavalry had then degenerated from the true Roman spirit. This degeneracy had become apparent even in the first Punic war. In the year 252 B.C. the cavalry openly refused obedience when the consul Aurelius Cotta commanded them to work at entrenchments, so that he was obliged to appeal to Rome for the punishment of the refractory knights.3 The sons of those men who became more and more conspicuous in the great mass of Roman citizens as a distinct class of rich merchants, speculators, and farmers of the public taxes, were a material too delicate to be employed as common cavalry soldiers. They occupied more and more a privileged position

1 A corps of 600 Gallic horse is mentioned in the year 168 B.C., in the war with Perseus. Liv. xliv. 21, 7: Consul iussus est Cn. Servilio Galliam obtinenti provinciam literas mittere, ut sexcentos equites conscriberet.

2 Vol. 1. p. 238.

3

Frontinus, Strateg. iv. 1, 22: Aurelius Cotta consul cum ad opus equites necessitate cogente iussisset accedere eorumque pars detrectasset imperium, questus apud censores effecit, ut notarentur: a patribus deinde obtinuit, ne eis præterita æra procederent: tribuni quoque plebis de eadem re ad populum pertulerunt omniumque consensu stabilita disciplina est. Valerius Maximus (ii. 9, 7) completes this interesting account by telling us that the number of refractory knights amounted to 400, and that the punishment of the censors was their degradation to the ærarii.' What strikes us most in this extraordinary episode of Roman military life is this, that the imperium of the consul seems to have been inadequate to punish offences of this kind, and that it was necessary for him to appeal to the civil government at home, to the senate, the censors, and even to the tribunes of the people.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Qualifications for military service.

like their comrades of the nobility who made up the eighteen centuries of knights; and the actual cavalry service was by degrees transferred to the allies and foreign auxiliaries. But it was Caius Gracchus who first organized the knights by a high census as a distinct class of citizens. Up to this time the families of the rich citizens who were engaged in business but did not belong to the nobility never formed by law a special order. They were de facto a connecting link between the nobles, who were privileged to rule the state and forbidden by law and custom to carry on business, and the mass of small tradespeople, peasants, artisans, and labourers.

As in the cavalry so also in the infantry of the Roman legions, the old so-called Servian system of classes and centuries could not remain intact at the time when the introduction of pay had made it a matter of indifference whether a man, enlisted to serve as a soldier, was rich or poor. In the most prosperous period of the republic the old organization of the army was therefore obsolete. Instead of the five lines of the old phalanx, corresponding to the five classes of the Servian comitia centuriata, we find four classes of soldiers in the legion-the velites, or light-armed troops, and three divisions of heavy-armed men, called hastati, principes, and triarii. These four classes were selected on the ground of personal qualification, such as bodily strength and youth, without much regard to the amount of each man's property.' The old class

There is no foundation for the assertion generally made, that the ordo equester as it existed in later times is older than the reform of Caius Gracchus. All that we hear is that There was no equestrian census before that time. the knights were taken from the wealthy families, but the line of demarcation between these families and the rest of the people was certainly not drawn before C. Gracchus.

2 The velites were taken among the youngest and poorest,' according to Polybius, vi. 21, 7 : διαλέγουσι τῶν ἀνδρῶν τοὺς μὲν νεωτάτους καὶ πενιχροτάτους εἰς τοὺς γροσφομάχους (velites)· τοὺς δ ̓ ἑξῆς τούτοις εἰς τοὺς ἁστάτους καλουμένους· τοὺς δ ̓ ἀκμαιοτάτους ταῖς ἡλικίαις εἰς τοὺς πρίγκιπας· τοὺς δὲ πρεσβυτάτους εἰς TOÙS ǎσTáTOUS. Polybius further relates (ib. c. 23, 15) that the soldiers whose property amounted to more than 10,000 drachmæ wore chain armour instead of breastplates. These men of 10,000 drachmæ were citizens of the first class of the old Servian constitution. It appears, therefore, that in the

« IndietroContinua »