Biographies and Primary Sources

General Biographies

Augustus (Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus)

(63 bc-ad 14)

Caesar’s nephew and adopted son, he became Rome’s first emperor following the defeat of his last rival,

Mark Antony, at Actium in 31 вс. During his reign he presided over the last intensive period of Roman expansion. Not an able soldier himself, he had the knack of appointing capable subordinates, notably his friend, Agrippa, and later younger family members.

Belisarius (ad 505-565)

An Eastern Roman general of considerable ability, especially gifted in the use of cavalry, Belisarius achieved notable successes on the Persian frontier and in Africa and Italy. His success earned him the enmity of the Emperor Justinian.

Gaius Julius Caesar (с. 100-44 вс)

Probably Rome’s most successful general, he conquered Gaul (58-50), twice bridging the Rhine and leading expeditions to Britain. The decision of his former ally. Pompey, to side with his political enemies, led to the Civil War (49—5 вс), during which he won victories at Pharsalus, Thapsus and Munda.

Appointing himself life dictator, Caesar was murdered by a conspiracy led by Brutus and Cassius.

Constantine I (ad 285-337)

The first Christian Emperor, Constantine spent nearly half his reign as a usurper, before establishing himself as sole ruler. His greatest military successes occurred in civil wars, notably the defeat of Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge in 312.

Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo (d. ad 67)

One of the most famous Roman commanders of the Cist ad, who famously remarked on the lack of freedom of Imperial Governors to wage war compared to their Republican counterparts. A strict disciplinarian, he fought in Germany and Armenia.

His reputation was such that Nero ordered him to commit suicide as a potential rival.

Marcus Licinius Crassus (115-53 вс)

A skilled politician, Crassus was also an able commander, who systematically destroyed the slave armies led by Spartacus (71 вс). Later he led the invasion of Parthia, but a series of mistakes led to his defeat and death at Carrhae (53 вс).

Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus (ad 245-313) Diocletian was the creator of the Tetrarchic system, dividing the empire into an eastern and western half, each ruled by an Augustus and his deputy or Caesar. Much of his career was spent in fighting domestic rivals, but he also fought a successful Persian War.

Quintus Fabius Maximus ‘Cunctator’ (c. 275-203 вс) Fabius was renowned as the man who saved Rome by delaying, avoiding direct confrontation with Hannibal’s victorious army. Elected dictator at the age of 58 in 217, he held the consulship three times during the Second Punic War and exercised a great influence on Roman strategy for over a decade.

Hannibal Barca (c. 247-188 вс)

Hannibal was the personification of the ideal Hellenistic general. Throughout his campaign he dazzled his opponents at the strategic and tactical levels, repeatedly achieving the apparently impossible. A leader of genius, he was able to inspire his own senior officers as much as the various races who fought in the ranks of his army. His ultimate defeat in the war with Rome has more to do with the Romans’ relentless determination than his own failings.

Gaius Marius (c. 157-87 вс)

Traditionally believed to be the man who converted the citizen militia into a professional army, he was a strict disciplinarian and an able commander. However, his career was unorthodox and after victories over Jugurtha and the migrating Cimbri, Marius was one of the leaders in Rome’s first Civil War.

Narses (ad 478-573)

An imperial eunuch who was given military command late in life, Narses achieved several successes in Italy when he first supported and then replaced Belisarius, winning victories at Taginae in 552 and Casilinium in 553. He made more effective use of infantry than Belisarius, using them to support his cavalry.

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (106-48 вс)

Pompey’s career was extremely unorthodox, commanding armies in Sicily, Africa and Spain under Sulla, whilst still a private citizen. He completed the defeat of Mithridates (66-63 вс), but political failures led to his alliance with Crassus and Caesar (the first triumvirate). After Crassus’ death, this broke down and led to the Civil War in which Pompey was defeated at Pharsalus (48 BC) and later murdered in Egypt.

Publius Cornelius Scipio 'Aericanus' (236—c. 184 вс)

The greatest Roman commander of the Second Punic War, he evicted the Carthaginians from Spain and finally defeated Hannibal at Zama.

After the war he fought in Gaul and under his brother’s command against Antiochus. An inspirational leader, his well-trained legions allowed him to experiment with variations on traditional Roman tactics.

Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus (185-129 вс)

A skilled commander, Scipio was the adopted grandson of Africanus. After distinguished service in Spain and the first years of the Third Punic War, he was given the command in Africa and presided over the destruction of Carthage in 146 вс. In 133 вс he captured the Celtiberian stronghold of Numantia.

Lucius Septimius Severus (ad 145-211)

The eventual victor of the Civil War that followed Commodus’ murder, Severus spent much of his reign on campaign. He led a highly successful expedition against Parthia and established a new province in Mesopotamia. He died in Eboracum (York) in northern Britain, having spent the last three years fighting the Caledonian tribes.

Publius Cornelius Sulla (138-78 вс)

Initially an associate of Marius, Sulla turned against him when the latter tried to rob him of the command against Mithridates of Pontus, and became the first Roman general to march on Rome (88 вс). After defeating the Pontic invasion of Greece (86—4 вс), Sulla returned and defeated his Roman rivals with great bloodshed (83-2 вс). Appointing himself dictator, he later retired to a life of debauchery and died soon afterwards.

Marcus Ulpius Trajanus (ad 52-117)

Adopted by the aged Emperor Nerva, Trajan ascended to the throne in ad 98. During his campaigns he conquered Dacia after two fierce wars(AD 101-2, 105-6). He died during his massive Parthian expedition (113—7) and many of his eastern gains were abandoned by his successor, Hadrian.

Titus Flavius Vespasianus (ad 9-79)

Vespasian commanded Legio II Augusta during the invasion of Britain and was later sent to suppress the rebellion in Judaea. In the Civil War that began after Nero’s death, he gained support of all the Eastern armies and eventually defeated all his rivals, later proving to be one of the better emperors.

Primary Sources

Chapter 1

Diodorus Siculus (c. 30s вс) wrote a universal history in Greek, part of which covering the period 486-302 has survived and includes some details of Roman history.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus (late first century вс) was a Greek scholar working in Rome who produced a History of Rowe, which survives for the period to 443 вс.

Livy (59 вс—ad 17) produced a Latin history of Rome From the Foundation of the City (ab urhe condita) in 142 books, most of which have been lost. The first ten books cover the period up to 293 вс;. Fiercely patriotic, Livy’s military descriptions can be unreliable.

Plutarch (c. ad 46-120) was a Greek Biographer who produced a series of Parallel Lives pairing notable Greek and Roman figures. He is only ever as good as these sources, many of which no longer survive. For this period we have Lives of Romulus, Coriolanus, and Camillus.

Chapter 2

Appian (c. ad 95-c. 170) was an Alexandrian Greek writing in Rome under Antoninus Pius. Books survive from his Roman History covering the Punic, Macedonian and Syrian Wars.

Livy — Books 20-30 cover the Second Punic War, whilst 31—45 deal with the years up to 167 вс.

Plutarch - Lives of Pyrrhus, Fahius Maximus, Marcellus, Flamininus, and Aemilius Paullus.

Polybius (c. 203—c. 120 вс) served against the Romans in the Third Macedonian War after which he went as hostage to Rome where he became a close associate of Scipio Aemilianus. Originally covering 264—146 вс, he is the best source for Roman warfare in this period, but unfortunately much of his work has been lost.

Chapter 3

Appian provides detailed accounts of the campaigns in Spain and the Mithridatic Wars. The four books of The Civil Wars provide the only continuous account of the series of conflicts which caused the fall of the Republic.

Caesar (c. 100-44 вс) wrote Commentaries which, with the additional books written by some of his officers, cover the operations in Gaul (58-51 вс) and the Civil War (49-45 вс;). Skilfully written pieces of

propaganda, these remain an invaluable portrait of Rome’s army on campaign.

Cicero (106—43 вс) was a famous orator, statesman, and prolific author, but saw very little military service. His posthumously published Letters to Atticus and Letters to his Friends include accounts of his minor campaign in Cilicia in 51—50. Letters to his Friends 10. 30 contains Sulpicius Galba’s eye-witness account of the Battle of Forum Gallorum in 43.

Plutarch - Lives of Marius, Sulla, Sertorius, Pompey, Crassus, Caesar, Antony, Brutus, and Lucullus.

Sallust (86-34 вс) served under Caesar in Gaul, but was later forced from public life following a scandal during his governorship of Africa and turned to writing history. His Jugurthine War and Catilinarian Conspiracy survive along with fragments of his Roman History.

Chapter 4

Arrian (born c. ad 90) was governor of Cappadocia under Hadrian and produced two brief works in Greek dealing with the army’s training and tactics, the Tactica concerning cavalry training and the Battle Order against the Alans describing operations in Cappadocia.

Dio Cassius (c. ad 163—c. 235) was a Roman senator from the Greek East who produced a Roman History which ran up to his own times. Large sections of the work, including all of the late first and second centuries ad, survive only in later epitomes.

Frontinus (ad 40-103) governed Britain in ad 74-78 and later produced a book of Strategems describing ploys used by commanders of the past to gain victory.

Josephus (born c. 37) was a Jewish general who fought against Rome in ad 66-7, before surrendering and changing sides. His Jewish War provides by far the most detailed account of the first century army on campaign. However, he tends to exaggerate his own deeds and those of his patron, the Emperor Titus.

Pseudo-Hyginus (second century ad) is the name conventionally given to the unknown author of On the laying-out of camps.

Suetonius (born c. ad 69) was a palace official at Rome who wrote Biographies of Rome’s rulers from Caesar to Domitian.

Tacitus (born c. ad 56) was a Roman senator who wrote a biography of his father-in-law, Agricola (who campaigned in Britain from ad 77 to 84), and an ethnographic work, the Germania, describing the tribes of Germany, with some mention of their military practices. Substantial fragments of The Histories and The Annals give much detail of the period ad 14—70. Tacitus was more interested in politics than war, but does provide good accounts of many conflicts.

Vegetius (late fourth/very early fifth century ad) produced an Epitome of Military Science, arguing for revival of traditional military drill and training. It contains many interesting comments about the earlier army, but it is often difficult to know which period he is referring to and whether he reflects the theory or actual practice.

Chapter 5

Ammianus Marcellinus (c. ad 330-c. 395) was a Roman officer from the Greek East who served in the army in the middle of the fourth century. The surviving books of his Latin History deal with the years 353—378. Ammianus’ narrative provides us with a highly detailed picture of the later Roman army in operation.

Herodian (died c. ad 250) was a senator who produced a history of the Roman emperors from ad 180-238. Although often unreliable or vague, Herodian is our fullest source for this period.

The Historia Augusta (probably late fourth century) is a collection of biographies of most of the emperors from Hadrian to Carinus and Numerian, almost certainly the work of a single author. Its reliability is highly questionable.

The Notitia Dignitatum (c. ad 395) is an illustrated manuscript listing the officers of the later army, the units they commanded, and their stations. A valuable source, it presents many problems of interpretation.

Chapter 6

Maurice's Strategikon (trails G.T. Dennis (Philadelphia, 1988)) is a sixth-century Military Manual describing in detail the formation and tactics to be employed by Byzantine armies.

Procopius (mid sixth century) was a civil servant who served on the staff of Belisarius for several campaigns. He wrote The Wars, an account of the campaigns of Justinian’s reign to 550/1, including conflicts with the Persians, Vandals and Goths, and the Secret History.

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