In the power created by Rome, interaction with the world of “barbarians” was for the Roman authorities not only a geopolitical border problem, but also an urgent issue of military development and internal social policy. This interaction to a large extent determined the evolution of the Roman military organization, weapons and tactics, the recruitment policy, the spiritual and cultural appearance of the soldiers of the imperial army, as well as the processes of integration into the structures of the Empire of various layers of the provincial population. Contacts in the military field and for the development of the most barbaric periphery, both internal and external, were of no less importance.
These problems have been studied for a long time and in many ways in historiography using the whole variety of sources. Among them, the testimonies of ancient writers who could directly observe what is now called the provincialization and barbarization of the Roman armed forces are of no small importance. The judgments and assessments of the Greco-Roman authors regarding this process will be the subject of our analysis. The collection of relevant opinions is of undoubted interest. First, it can serve as a certain correlate or even a starting point for the analysis of documentary evidence that provides specific material about the ethnic composition and cultural level of the army contingents. Secondly, the statements of ancient authors are indicative in themselves,
One of these key value attitudes, polis in their essence, was that military service was considered a duty and at the same time a privilege of a free citizen, and a fairly wealthy owner and father of a family was preferred as a good soldier. The superiority of the military organization of classical Rome was based, as Polybius noted, on the national-Roman character of the Roman army, recruited from citizens. Accordingly, deviation from these principles in most cases is assessed by ancient authors oriented towards traditional ideology extremely negatively. As the first step on this path, the proletarization of the legions, begun by Guy Marius, was considered, which opened the way to the army for volunteer soldiers from among the poor and homeless, whose moral qualities could not be relied on.
Simplifying the situation somewhat, we can say that the next step in eroding the traditional Roman-civilian foundations of the army was the recruitment of provincials into the legions, and then the transition to regional and local recruitment, which was an inevitable consequence of the creation of a permanent army, stationed mainly in the border areas. This had a paradoxical effect: along with an increase in the recruitment base, the gap separating the army from civil society widened. And although there were no less external wars than in the late republican period, the majority of the population of the Empire lived mainly in peaceful conditions, completely ignorant of military life, and increasingly looked at the soldiers as an alien, marginal group.
The demilitarization of Italy and the inner provinces itself is interpreted ambiguously in our sources. According to Tacitus, such a situation leads to the fact that the Roman armed forces are only strong outsiders, and therefore the population of the demilitarized regions is doomed to remain slavish obedience to the will of the provincial troops and play the role of prey in the civil war. Later authors directly associate the possibility of a peaceful life for Italians and residents of the interior regions with the loss of freedom, the establishment of autocracy and the creation of a permanent army of citizens, provincials and allies. On the contrary, the Greek rhetorician Aelius Aristides is an outspoken apologist for such a perfect, in his opinion, system, when the Roman citizens themselves are not burdened with military service, and the troops are recruited into the peregrine (£ évoi), receiving Roman citizenship as a reward; thanks to this, with the general equality of rights, the army can be placed separately. Aelius Aristides speaks generally of provincial urban communities, without specifying their ethnic and geographic affiliation.
If we turn to the authors of a later time, then the decline of the Roman state and the moral decay of society are quite clearly associated with the barbarization of the army. Thus, Aurelius Victor, emphasizing the disastrous consequences of the barbarization of the army, sees its reasons in the moral worthlessness of the Romans themselves: “… since licentiousness prompted citizens to recruit barbarians and foreigners into the army by their carelessness, morals deteriorated, freedom was suppressed, increased striving for enrichment ”. Elsewhere, he connects the establishment of the rule of the military with the position of the senators, who resignedly agreed with the edict of Gallienus, which forbade them access to command posts in the legions: “enjoying peace and trembling for their wealth …, they cleared the soldiers, and, moreover, almost barbarians (paene barbaros),
Such judgments are quite natural in the mouth of a late writer, who personally observed the results of a long process. However, the first concrete indications of the problem of the barbarization of the Roman army are found even in the authors of the end of the republican period, in particular, in Cicero. In January 49 BC. e. he expresses concern about the approach of “barbarians” to Rome, probably referring to the Gauls who were part of Caesar’s troops. The soldier of Anthony, who was in Aurelius Victor, of course, admits of anachronism, expressing this maxim in connection with the conspiracy of the Praetorians against Caligula. It is interesting to note the author’s remark that the Kherea conspiracy could have saved the republic if only quirites were in military service.
Rome in the fall of 44 BC e. the orator directly calls them barbarians, anticipating the impression that, a century later, the army of Vitellinus who arrived from Germany from Germany will make on the Romans. The fact that the soldiers of the era of civil wars were perceived as barbarians can be evidenced by some of Virgil’s lines. In “Bucolics” Melibey complains that a godless warrior, a barbarian, took possession of his field and crops. This perception is not surprising if we remember that it was during the era of civil wars that entire legions emerged, formed from the natives of the provinces and even the barbarians themselves; in particular, from the Transalpine Gauls Caesar created the famous legion of “Skylarks”, Alauda (cf. also the Indigenous Legion, created by the Pompeians in Spain from Celts, Iberians and slaves).
Already at this time, the long stay of the legions in the provinces and close contact with the local population contributed, as sources note, to a certain barbarization of the Roman soldiers. For example, Caesar, noting that the soldiers of Pompey in Spain, from constant wars with the natives, got used to a kind of barbaric way of fighting, explains this by the fact that the soldiers are generally influenced by the customs of those countries where they are stationed for a long time: “… the soldiers who from a long stay [in the provinces] have already become provincials. ” About the soldiers left behind in 55 BC e. Gabinius to protect Ptolemy Avlet, Caesar writes that they got used to the Alexandrian free life, forgot about the name of the Roman people and about discipline, having managed to acquire wives and children. A century later, a similar situation will be stated by Tacitus in Syria, where good relations arose between the provincials and the soldiers, family and business ties developed. According to Tacitus, such close contacts with the local population generally have a corrupting effect on the army.
Ancient sources record various signs and manifestations of the “barbarization” of Roman soldiers – from the borrowing of weapons, combat techniques and customs (for example, the Parthians of the III Gallic Legion adopted the custom of shouting to greet the rising sun) to the manner of dressing (it is noteworthy that the leader of the anti-Roman uprising in Gaul The classic, taking the oath of allegiance from the Roman legions of loyalty to the power of the Gauls, came to the camp, adorned himself with the signs of the dignity of the Roman commander). If the openness of the Romans to foreign military experience, including barbarian, is generally assessed positively, then the barbaric features in the external appearance of Roman soldiers and commanders cause an emphatically negative assessment in literary sources. For example, Tacitus notes that the commander Vitellius Cecina, among the townspeople and colonists of Italy, caused indignation by the fact that dressed like a Gaul, wearing long trousers and a short striped cloak, he allowed himself to talk to people dressed in togas. Just like the real barbarians, ordinary Vitellian soldiers who came to Rome looked in the eyes of the capital’s inhabitants: dressed in animal skins, unaccustomed to the city bustle, they inspired fear and awe everywhere with their appearance no less than with robberies; even the climate of Italy was bad for them.
The troops recruited by Nero in the provinces and the VII Galbanian legion, which arrived from Spain, looked just as “unprecedented army” in the capital. According to Tacitus, the Vitellian legionnaires, with their fierce appearance, harsh speech and insolence, struck even the soldiers from the troops stationed in Illyria when they arrived there to agitate for their leader. It is characteristic that during the siege of Placencia, the praetorians of Otho called the Vitellians peregrinum et externum, reproaching them with the fact that, wandering in a foreign land, they forgot about their homeland. And elsewhere, Tacitus himself declares that both Vitellius and his army indulged in cruelty and profligacy like barbarians. To Dion Cassius, Herodian and Scriptores Historiae Augustae, the Illyrian legionaries of Septimius Severus also look like real barbarians, with all the connotations of rudeness, bloodthirstiness, wild appearance and speech. On the contrary, Pliny the Younger,
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