The rating of the fighting capacity of ancient peoples (according to Titus Libya)
By the time of the birth of Christ, the Romans managed to fight almost all of Europe, part of Asia and a little with Africa. I had to fight with some nations several times, and with someone, for example, with the Gauls, and many times. And, of course, Roman historians were well aware of the fighting qualities of various peoples, knew their strengths and weaknesses. Let’s look through Titus Livius , the author of the most fundamental work on the history of Rome, and see which of the enemies the Romans respected, and whom, on the contrary, were treated as despicable slaves.
1. The Macedonians
Perhaps the biggest problems on the path to world domination of Rome brought the Macedonian kingdom . The Romans fought three times with the heirs of Alexander the Great and not a single victory came at an easy price (in the first case, there was no victory as such). As you know, there were also three wars with Carthage – Punic, but the successes and staunchness of the Punians were not explained by the fighting qualities of their army, but by the natural cunning and treachery peculiar to the Carthaginians, as well as the genius of Hannibal . Another thing is the Macedonians. Being themselves a warlike, “frantic” tribe, as Titus Livy notes, theyadded to this a brilliant organization (the Macedonian phalanx more than once or twice forced the Roman legions to flee) and discipline. As for the great Macedonian, Alexander became a role model for many prominent Roman generals – and Pompey, and Caesar , and Emperor Trajan , in which Rome expanded its borders to the maximum.
By their anger in battle and by the force of the onslaught, the Gauls – the most bosom enemies of the Romans – were not inferior to the Macedonians. Even surpassed them. What can I say if the Gauls are the only opponents of Rome during the republic who managed to capture the Eternal City. Remember the sametrophies Brena ? Or how did the geese Rome save? In fact, they did not save.
Taking the Gauls to flight was very difficult, and defeating him almost always cost the Romans great losses. Here is what Livy writes about the outcome of the stubborn battle of the consul Lucius Cornelius Merula with the Celtic tribe of battles near Mutina in 193 BC:
“That day, fourteen thousand battles were killed, nineteen two hundred people were taken alive, of them seven hundred twenty-one horsemen with three of their leaders, two hundred and twelve battle flags; sixty-three carts. The victory was not without blood for the Romans: over five fell thousand of soldiers – the Romans and allies, twenty-three centurions, four prefect of the allies and the military stands of the second legion Mark Genius, Quintus and Marc Marcia. ”
For comparison, in the decisive battle of the Roman legions with the huge and heterogeneous army of the Syrian king Antiochus III the Great under Magnesia, 500 Romans died from the force.
The brave, furious, and selfless Gauls were let down by what was the advantage of the Macedonians mentioned above — organization and discipline. Neither their stamina, nor sometimes the highest fighting spirit, could fill this shortcoming. The Gauls were like barbarians, and so they remained until the end of their days.
No less brutality and rampant was observed among other barbarians, whom the Romans had to deal with from time to time, the Thracians . Their rage was fully felt at one time, even before the rise of Rome, the closest neighbors of the Thracians – the Macedonian kings. Even such great ones as Philip II and Alexander could not conquer Thrace. And in Rome it did not work out on the first try. It is enough to recall how much strength it took Trajan, what sacrifices he should have defeated the Dacians – one of the largest Thracian tribes.
With how the relatives of the legendary Spartak know how to fight , the Romans became closely acquainted during the 3rd Macedonian War. The Thracians were part of the army of King Perseus and in the ensuing battle literally demolished the Italian cavalry – far from the weakest unit of the Roman army.
“First of all, the Thracians, like wild animals languishing in cages for a long time, rushed with such fury and such a loud cry to the right flank, where the Italians cavalry stood, that this people, fearless in nature and seasoned in battle, were dismayed,” writes Titus Livy.
4. Iberians, they are Spaniards
The Spaniards also caused much trouble to the Romans. As in the case of the Gauls and Thracians, the indigenous population of Iberia lacked discipline and generally organization, but they loved and knew how to fight. The army of Hannibal, which inflicted several very sensitive slaps on Rome, largely rested on the Spaniards.
“These tribes were particularly terrifying with the huge growth of warriors, and with all their guise: Gauls, naked to the navel, Spaniards in tunics of dazzling white, bordered in purple, ” Livy describes the Iberian infantry as part of the Carthaginian army.
And another episode showing the dedication of the Spaniards. When to the Iberian city of AstapaRoman cohorts approached , male warriors drove wives and children to the forum, 500 young men detached to guard them, and themselves, without waiting for the Romans to storm, they opened the gates and rushed at the enemies with a wild cry. They fought like animals, they all perished. And as soon as the outcome of the battle outside the walls became known in the city, the young men began to slaughter women, the elderly and infants, after which all the survivors committed suicide. Spanish fury bordering on insanity.
5. Ligures, Samnites and other Italians
The Italian tribes – the Etruscans, Volsky, Samnites, Ligurians and others – in the “table of ranks” probably stand a little lower than the Spaniards. Although the Romans had to tinker with them. Ligurians , for example, whom Livy calls either “robbers” or “tribes hardened in wars” often practiced the “holy law” . Its principle is simple: if you go into battle, then you have only two options – either win or die. Like in Sparta in her best years: with a shield or on a shield.
No less formidable opponents of Rome in the era of the conquest of Italy were the Samnites . To conquer this tribe, it took three wars.
“The Samnites stand firmly, although they receive more blows than they inflict. The battle lasted a long time, a fierce battle was in full swing around the Samnite banners, but no one thought about fleeing – that’s how they were determined to die only to death,” Livy describes from the battles.
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6. The Greeks
With the Greeks, everything is not easy. At the time when Rome began its expansion in the Mediterranean, the morale of the Hellenes, according to Libya, if not completely evaporated, then noticeably weakened. There were no longer those Spartans whostood a wall in the Thermopyllian Gorge , the brilliant hoplites of Argos, who had once driven the very Spartans around the Peloponnese, had never heard of the Athenian soldiers at all. And the Asian Greeks, from Phokea, Ephesus, Miletus … These are not warriors at all, says Titus Livy. It is significant that during the time of the tyrant of Nabis , at the end of the III century, walls grow around Sparta. In the classical era, as you remember, the Spartians believed that they themselves were the walls of Sparta.
Times are changing, nations are degenerating, although not all. The Romans and among the Greeks were worthy opponents. At the time when Rome fought in Greece and Macedonia, the only Greeks who offered serious resistance were the Aetolians . The harsh highlanders for hundreds of years resisted the onslaught of Macedonia (and managed to survive!), And then brought problems to Rome.
7. Phrygians, Lydians, Syrians … In a word, Asians
In the last place of the “respect rating” of the Romans are the eastern peoples: the Carians, Phrygians, Lydians, and especially the Syrians. To fight with them, the Romans thought, then to fight with women. “The most insignificant little people, born slaves,” Titus Livy calls them through the lips of one of his heroes. Many of the Asians were descendants of the formidable Macedonians, the very ones that Alexander the Great brought to the East, but over the centuries Asia in their soul finally defeated Europe.
Here is a good example. Speaking to the meeting of the Achaean Union, the Roman consul Tit Quintius Flaminin , the author of the epic defeat of the Macedonians at the Kinoskefalah, spoke about the motley army of the Syrian king Antiochus, which he brought to Hellas. And in expressions he was not shy:
“What can be said about the king’s military forces that were just boasted here?” The consul says, Titus Livius. the Syrians, which means the souls are more likely slaves than warriors. “