Building Rome in a Day

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I love the name of honor, more than I fear death.  - Julius Caesar


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 Typical Roman Legion  Battle Formation

Typical Roman Legion Marching Formation


 Roman Conquests up to 264 BC - Red 500 BC - Peach 338 BC - Red Orange 304 BC - Orange 290 BC - Yellow 264 BC


 SPQR - Senatus Populesque Romanus - The Senate and People of Rome

 An artist's drawing of a Roman Legionnaire


 Carthage in 264 BC

 Computer generated model of a ship with a corvus

Hannibal's Invasion of Italy

A Bust of Hannibal Barca


Roman conquests up to the year 201 BC - Peach 264 BC - Red Orange 241 BC - Orange 218 BC - Yellow 201 BC

    According to Roman legend, after the Trojan war, the Trojan hero Aeneas sailed across the Mediterranean to Italy and founded Lavinium.  His son Iulus later founded Alba Longa.  It is from Alba Longa's royal line that the twins Romulus and Remus descended from and they together founded Rome.  Romulus killed Remus over a dispute concerning where the city should be built.  The city was then named after Romulus and built on the place Romulus wanted it, the Palatine hill, one of the seven hills of Rome, near the river Tiber, in the year 735 BC.  Romulus then became the first of seven Kings of Rome.

    With his new city founded, Romulus next had the problem of populating the city.  He accomplished this by inviting criminals, runaway slaves, exiles and other undesirables and granted them asylum.  By doing this, Romulus was able to pupulate five of the seven hills of Rome.  To provide his citizens with wives, he invited a neighboring Sabine village to a gathering where they abducted the women and brought them back to Rome.  This event became known as "The Rape of the Sabine Women".  War followed with the Sabines, in which Rome was the victor.

    Romulus then divided the able men from those unfit for military service.  Those that were fit became the Roman Legions, each legion consisting of 6000 infantry and 600 cavalry.  The rest of the people became the people of Rome.  Out of the people of Rome, Romulus selected 100 noble men to serve as Senators in an advisory council for the King known as the Roman Senate.  With the merger of Rome and the Sabines, Romulus added 100 members of the Sabines into the Senate.  After 38 years as King and after successful conquests, Romulus had expanded Rome over all of Latium and much of the surrounding area.  Romulus died at the age of 54.

    After Romulus's reign were the reigns of six more Kings.  The last King, Tarquinius Superbus, an Etruscan by birth.  He ruled with such tyranny that he, and with him the monarchy, was expelled by the Senate in 510 BC.  The Senate voted never to allow a King again and organized Rome into a Republic in 509 BC.

    Rome's first greatest challenges were looming on the horizon.  With Rome's conquest of surrounding Italian civilizations, including the Etruscans, Samnites, Rome was encroaching upon the Greek colonies on the Italian Peninsula and the Gauls in the north.  Rome was sacked in 390 BC by the Gauls lead by Brennus, who demanded a huge ransom or he would destroy the city.  When a Senator complained that the weights used to measure the ransom gold were inacurate, Brennus uttered the famous words, Vae Victus - Woe to the vainquished.  Dispite the sacking of Rome by the Gauls, they were not the biggest challenge waiting for Rome. . .

    In 283 BC, Pyrrhus of Epirus arrived on the Italian Peninsula in response to calls for help from the Greek colony of Tarentum.  Pyrrhus was widely considered possibly the greatest military commander since Alexander the Great.  He won three battles with the Romans, suffering enormous casualties as he did so.  Pyrrhus supposedly said, "Another such victory and I shall be lost," coining the term "Pyrrhic Victory,"  a victory so costly that it may as well have been a defeat.  Losing the battles, but winning the war gave Rome enormous military prestige and the Hellenic superpowers in the east began to take notice.

    Through it's colonies and allies Rome had a huge population from which to draw its military forces, giving it the capability to raise legion after legion and continue to fight when other nations would have had to surrender.  Rome was completely unwilling to give up and surrender.  Rome did something unique with the people it conquered.  They were brought under the protection of Rome, granted citizenship, and had rights under Roman law as well as obligations.  Among these obligations were the providing of troops for the Legions.  Conquered peoples then focused on improving their rights in Rome and competing with rival areas in Rome and did not focus on throwing off Roman rule, but contributed to Rome's progress.  In 268 BC, Rome had conquered most of Italy and was looking to the islands of the Mediterranean that were rich with trade.

    Staring back at Rome from the other side of the Tyrrhenian Sea, was Carthage, well entrenched in the trade routes of the Mediterranean and was the strongest power in the western Mediterranean with the exception of Rome. Carthage had a powerful navy, but did not maintain a standing army, but hired mercenaries to do the fighting.  Between 246 and 164 BC, Rome and Carthage at last came to blows in a series of three wars known as the Punic Wars.

    The First Punic War began as a conflict in Sicily.  Local tensions escalated and drew in the Romans and Carthaginians who then engaged in full-scale war against one another.  The First Punic War was mostly a naval war after a defeat at Agrigentum the Carthaginians resolved not to take on the powerful Roman Legions on the land and focused on winning on the water.  Carthage was initially successful against the amateur Roman Navy.  Rome responded by expanding its navy, possibly copying Carthaginian ship design as well.  Within two months, Rome had built a fleet of 100 warships.  In order to force the war on the sea to be fought on the Roman's terms, they added a "corvus" to their ships which acted as a bridge between vessels allowing the legions to become a factor in the navy.  After Rome winning almost every battle except for a few defeats, including the disasterous invasion of Tunis, Carthage decided that it had had enough and signed a peace treaty in 241 BC and gave Rome total control of Sicily. 

    Carthage spent the following years expanding its holdings in Spain under the Barcid (Barca) family and improving its economy.  Rome was occupied with its war in Illyria.  The Barcid family had not forgotten the Carthaginian defeat in the First Punic War and its most famous or infamous member, Hannibal Barca, swore an oath never to become a friend of Rome.  In 221 Hannibal attacked a Roman ally in Spain, the city of Segentum, and began the Second Punic War.  Hannibal was a brilliant tactician.  He minimized his own weaknesses and magnified the Roman weakness.  He knew the Roman cavalry were not their strongest point.  He employed more effective Numidian light cavalry and Spanish and Gallic heavy cavalry.  His cavalry superiority allowed him to devastate the Roman Legions once he had destroyed or driven off the Roman cavalry.  After his assault on Segentum, Hannibal went straight for the jugular, Italy itself.  He lead his mercenary army as well as the elephants he is famous for bringing over the Alps and into Italy.  He won stunning victories at Trebia and Lake Trasamine in which he destroyed legion after legion.  At the Battle of Cannea Hannibal won an astonishing victory against both Roman Consuls with eight legions under their command.  Hannibal enveloped the numerically superior Romans and killed or captured an estimated 60-70,000 men including the consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus and eight Senators.  The Battle of Cannae ranks among the bloodiest battles of all human history.  Lacking the siege equipment and enough men to take on Rome itself, Hannibal tried to turn Roman allies in southern Italy against Rome.  Only a few were willing defect, among these cities was Capua.  Despite Hannibal devestating Italy and giving Rome a run for its money, most of Rome's allies remained faithful.  Hannibal never recieved significant reinforcements even though he plead time and time again for them.  This lack of reinforcements prevented Hannibal from taking Rome by storm.  Rome was also incapable of bringing Hannibal to his knees.  Not only were they fighting him in Italy and his younger brother, Hasdrubal in Spain, but Rome was also engaged with the first of its wars in Macedonia.  Hannibal continued his campaign in Italy for sixteen years.  At one point, in 211 BC, he marched right up to the gates of Rome, but was unable to lay siege to it and made camp.  Making the ultimate insult, the land upon which the Carthaginian army was camped was auctioned off, while they were still there, at full price.  Meanwhile in Spain, a young Publius Cornelius Scipio was leading Roman forces to victory against Hasdubal.  This was actually unconstitutional because he was not a consul.  Hasdrubal, defeated, attempted to cross the Alps and reinforce Hannibal.  His forces were utterly destroyed.  Scipio captured Carthaginian holdings in Spain and went on to threaten Carthage itself.  Hannibal was forced to return to Carthage to gaurd against Scipio.  Hannibal was at last defeated at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC.  Carthage sued for peace, and Rome imposed harsh conditions on Carthage which included reparations payments, loss of colonies and was not allowed to build a significant navy.  Hannibal fled to Asia Minor in 195 BC and served local Kings as a military advisor.  He later committed suicide in 183 BC to avoid being captured by Roman agents.

    With Carthage crushed, Rome could now concentrate on its ongoing war with Macedon. 

(To be contunued later when I have time.)